Crew workers testify at inquest

Young workers and their training orientation were the focus of much of the final witness testimony into the mill death of Lumby teen in 2013

Young workers and their training orientation were the focus of much of the final witness testimony into the mill death of an 18-year-old Lumby man in 2013.

Bradley Haslam was killed during the early morning hours of June 15, 2013, in an accident inside Tolko’s Lavington mill.

Haslam had been employed with the mill since March of 2013.

Colton Thibault was the last of the younger workers employed as the mill’s clean-up crew to testify Thursday at a four-day coroner’s inquest into Haslam’s death, being held at the Vernon Courthouse.

Thibault, now 19, told inquest counsel John Orr that he was hired by Tolko in May 2013, and that his orientation happened on his first day of work.

“I got called during school to come to the mill so I went after school,” said Thibault. “I was given a booklet and watched a WorkSafe B.C. video, and another video. Then I went home and got some rest because I was told to show up for work.”

Thibault said he was taken around the mill and shown how to do a lockout of the equipment. His first shift was working with Haslam on the No. 3 chipper, the same machine where Haslam’s body was discovered.

“At the beginning of the night, we met to see where we would be working. I was told I was going with Brad who was cleaning the chipper,” said Thibault. “All Brad made me do was blow down (dust) and sweep. I can’t tell you what he was doing because I was concentrating on my job.

“After that night, I never worked there (chipper) again.”

Asked if he ever saw Haslam climb over the conveyor belt near the chipper, Thibault answered “no.”

Asked by Orr if he felt he had sufficient training and was prepared for the job, Thibault answered “yes.”

“It was just general clean-up using an air wand, sweeping and picking up dirt,” he said. “It was self-explanatory.”

Thibault, who said he “never worked alone” during his time at Tolko, admitted under questioning that things became more clear for him when he was given a tour of the mill as opposed to reading information in the booklet.

“There was mill terminology that I had no idea what was being talked about, but when I saw it in person, it made perfect sense,” he said.

Also on the witness stand Thursday was Rick (Boots) Bouthillier, a 26-year Tolko employee and a member of the mill’s safety committee.

Bouthillier said safety talks and tours are regular mill components, but said demonstrating safety features, rather than having them be read, resonated more with the young workers.

“I find it’s better to have demonstrations and tell anecdotal stories about injuries, they carry more weight,” said Bouthillier, who later added that he read statistics that young workers are more likely to be injured on the job than seasoned workers.

“I think it’s generally the inexperience of young workers who are not attentive to the inherent dangers in the work place,” he said “It’s not a lack of training, but an inherent lack of awareness as a younger person.”

The final two witnesses Thursday were scheduled to be senior management from Tolko.

At the conclusion of witness testimony, the six-man, one-woman jury will convene in closed quarters to fully ascertain how Haslam came to his death and to make any recommendations arising out of the inquest with the aim of preventing future loss of life in similar circumstances.