Skip to content

Malfunction, inadequate training behind fatal Baldy Mtn. incident: WorkSafe BC

The 70-year-old worker had become trapped under a Snowcat’s treads after it suddenly moved forward
An equipment malfunction and lack of training contributed to the death of an employee at Baldy Mountain in 2021 in a workplace accident. (Photo contributed by Wikimedia Commons)

WorkSafe BC’s investigation into the fatal death of a 70-year-old employee of Baldy Mountain Resort in 2021 found an equipment malfunction and inadequate training to be factors in the workplace incident.

Oliver RCMP and BC Coroners Service also conducted separate inquiries into the incident that occurred on Feb. 26, 2021.

According to WorkSafe, the victim and another worker had travelled up the ski hill in one Snowcat groomer to do repairs on a second that had broken down.

The resort owned three different Snowcats, each of which was a different model and each had different layouts for their controls and mechanics, which contributed to the incident.

After arriving at the site of the broken down machine, one worker exited the cab and stood on the track, while the Snowcat operator failed to realize he had gotten out of the cab. The operator was then focused on trying to sort out an issue he had discovered with the Snowcat they drove up the hill.

When the operator turned in his seat to get a better view of the rear of the machine, according to WorkSafe, he hit the controls with his elbow, causing the first worker to be thrown underneath the tracks as the machine lunged forward.

READ MORE: 70-year-old man killed in workplace accident at Baldy Mountain

In addition to the unintended activation of the controls, the second main cause of the fatal incident, according to WorkSafe, was the fact the machine’s parking brake wasn’t activated.

“When Snowcat 1 arrived at the incident scene, the operator stopped the machine, did not apply the parking brake, and sat stationary for about 30 seconds while trying to diagnose the tiller malfunction as the other worker sat in the passenger seat,” WorkSafe wrote. “The operator’s manual for Snowcat 1 and the employer’s third-party slope grooming manual stated that when the snow grooming machine is stopped, entered, or exited, the parking brake must be set.”

According to the WorkSafe report, the operator wasn’t experienced with that model of Snowcat, in particular the fact that it did not possess an automatic interlock that would activate the parking brake if the cab door opened, unlike others he had more experience with.

The machine was also apparently dealing with an issue with the tiller at the back of the machine where it was not lifting properly. Due to this malfunction, the operator couldn’t simply reverse, as the tiller would jam into the snow.

The report notes that the worker who died was a new employee with no record of orientation or other required training and that WorkSafe’s investigation found no evidence that workers were provided with training on how to operate or troubleshoot the snow grooming equipment.

According to WorkSafe, Baldy violated two sections of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, one regarding making safeguards for workers ineffective and the other stating that a person must not operate equipment unless they receive adequate training.

The latter violation was due to the discovery of an unrelated issue during the investigation where a safety mechanism on the Snowcat had at some point been disabled.

In addition, Baldy violated two sections of the Workers Compensation Act; 21.1.a, an employer must ensure the health and safety of all workers working for that employer, and 21.2.e an employer must provide to the employer’s workers the information, instruction, training, and supervision necessary to ensure the health and safety of those workers in carrying out their work and to ensure the health and safety of other workers at the workplace.

Under the WCA, an administrative penalty of up to $783 068.26 can be leveled if the WorkSafe board determines that Baldy failed to take sufficient precautions, failed to comply with an OHSA regulation, or if their working conditions are unsafe.

According to the WorkSafe BC website, no administrative penalty has been filed against the ski resort as of May 23.

Brennan Phillips

About the Author: Brennan Phillips

Brennan was raised in the Okanagan and is thankful every day that he gets to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
Read more