Wednesday, September 01, 2010


No one can accuse the "justice" system of being in undue haste over this one. Two years after 3 workers were killed and two others injured at an industrial accident on a Langley BC mushroom farm charges against the companies involved and their officers have finally been laid. Here's a statement form the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) on the charges.
Charges laid in deaths of mushroom farm workers
Two companies and four corporate officials face a total of 29 charges for failure to protect the safety of employees.

Vancouver (1 Sept. 2010) - Charges have finally been laid after two years in the deaths of three mushroom farm workers at a Langley, B.C. mushroom farm. Two others were seriously hurt.

The Crown says the two companies, A-1 Mushroom Substratum Ltd. and H.V. Truong Ltd., are charged as employers, while the four individuals are charged as either directors or officers of the companies or workplaces. They face a total of 29 charges.

The offenses all fall under the province’s worker safety laws and can result in fines of up to $619,721 and six months in jail. The charges allege failure to protect workers from “reasonably foreseeable health or safety hazards.”

The workers were overcome by gas in an enclosed space at the mushroom farm and composting plant on Sept. 5, 2008.

Donna Freeman of WorkSafe BC said at the time that it was one of the most complex investigations the agency had conducted, with more than 25 investigators on the file.
Here's a larger overview of the case from the Vancouver Sun.
29 charges laid in 2008 mushroom farm deaths
Three men were killed, two suffered brain damage at Langley facility
By Doug Ward, Vancouver Sun August 31, 2010

Relatives of three men who died and two others who were severely disabled in a gas leak two years ago on a Langley mushroom farm are pleased that charges have been laid in the case -- but said even the maximum penalty of six months against the farm operators wouldn't be enough to end the pain caused by the tragedy.

Family members thanked government for proceeding with charges under the Workers' Compensation Act and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, but during brief comments at a news conference broke down as they told of the outrage and loss they continue to endure.

Tracey Phan, a 14-year-old student at Winston Churchill Secondary, said it's heartbreaking for her and her sister to visit their father Michael Phan, who suffered irreversible brain damage and remains in hospital.

'It's hard on us. We don't know if he recognizes us or not. Or if he understands what we are trying to tell him. I would like to get justice back."

A-1 Mushroom Substratum Ltd. and H.V. Troung Ltd., along with four individual employers and supervisors, could face a range of penalties, up to a maximum fine of $619,271 for a first offence and six months in jail.

For Phan and other relatives who spoke, the maximum penalties aren't enough.

"I know that the law says that under that charge six months is the maximum. But I feel that six months is not enough because people that you love will never be given back to you. And six months sitting in that jail cell will never return any of the ones who you loved or cared about."

The charges laid Monday stem from a 20-month investigation by WorkSafeBC into what went wrong at the mushroom composting facility at 23751 16th Avenue in Langley.

"We are pleased that the charges are proceeding," said WorkSafeBC spokeswoman Donna Freeman. "This was a very serious incident in which three people lost their lives, two others were severely injured and the lives of all the family members were changed forever."

Freeman described the agency's probe as the "most complex investigation in WorkSafeBC's history."

Twenty-nine counts have been filed, including several alleging that the companies and their officials failed to ensure the health and safety of its workers and failed to remedy hazardous workplace conditions.

Freeman said the investigation report included tens of thousands of pages of documentation. She said the mushroom composting operation ceased after the accident but that the mushroom farm still operates at the same location.

The probe was delayed initially because of the presence of hazardous materials in the composting operation for seven months following the tragedy, she added.

Ut Tran, Jimmy Chan and Ham Pham died in the incident. Their colleagues, Phan and Thang Tchen, suffered irreversible brain damage after breathing in hydrogen sulphide and ammonia.

In addition to A-1 Mushroom Substratum Ltd. and H.V. Truong Ltd., Ha Qua Truong, Vy Tri Truong, Van Thi Truong and Thinh Huu Doan were charged in the information sworn in Provincial Court in Surrey.

B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair said he hopes the charges will force other farm operations to fix unsafe conditions.

"Perhaps these charges will result in some other employers understanding that unsafe work conditions are not acceptable in B.C.," said Sinclair.

The B.C. Fed president said that inspections on farm sites need to be stiffened to stop fatal accidents before they happen.

"The problem is that people think they can get away with this," he added.

Labour Minister Murray Coell said he hopes the charges in the case will lead to an appropriate resolution, especially for the families of those who died.

"I understand how the families feel. I've met with them," Coell told reporters in Victoria.

"I think what we want to see is to make sure that due process and justice is done and that's best done through the courts," he added. "I think due process is now moving forward." with files from Jonathan Fowlie
Read more:
And here is how the BC Federation of Labour views these charges.
Long-awaited charges positive news in mushroom farm deaths but questions remain
September 1, 2010
The BC Federation of Labour is welcoming news that charges have finally been laid against two companies and four individuals in the deaths of three workers at a mushroom farm in Langley on September 5, 2008.

"The families of the men who were killed and injured have waited a long time for news that charges have been laid," says Jim Sinclair, President of the B.C. Federation of Labour. "This is a step in the right direction and sends a message to employers that they face potential jail time if they fail to provide safe workplaces."

The owners of the mushroom farm are facing sweeping charges that include failure to provide adequate training, supervision, safety programs, identification of hazards and confined space precautions.

"We hope that justice will be done, but given the fact that three men were killed and two grievously injured, and the sweeping nature of the 29 charges laid by the Crown, we must question why criminal charges were not laid in this case," Sinclair says.

The Federation also questions the length of time it took for the WCB to complete its investigation and the laying of charges.

"It has taken two full years for charges to be laid and it is entirely possible that this case will not go to court for many more months. This is far too long in a situation where lives have been lost and other farmworkers lives could be at risk. These investigations and prosecutions need to be completed faster in order to make workplaces safer."

The Federation is also calling for the release of the WCB investigation report into the mushroom farm incident. The WCB is withholding the report until the prosecution is complete.

"The families of the men killed and injured at this mushroom farm are entitled to see the WCB report. They should not have to wait months or years to find out what happened that day," Sinclair says.

"These charges attest to the fact that too many farmworkers face unsafe working conditions every day in our province," Sinclair added. "We need a full public inquiry into working conditions in the agricultural sector to ensure that farmworkers aren't treated like second class citizens."

For more information: Evan Stewart Director of Communications (604) 430-1421.

No comments: