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Alberta’s creative sentencing options explore ‘restorative justice’

Jean Sorensen
Alberta’s creative sentencing options explore ‘restorative justice’
GOVERNMENT OF ALBERTA FLICKR — Alberta has updated its Occupational Health and Safety Act to push forward more innovative creative sentencing options to the courts when dealing with injury or fatal incidents. Many of those options suggest funding safety courses through various associations.

The second and final part of this two-part series pertaining to changes to Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Act takes a look at the various initiatives associations have undertaken as a result of creative sentencing as well as other 2017 convictions where this method was used.


Ryan Davis, manager of course development for the Alberta Construction Safety Association (ACSA), says when trying to find positive outcomes from a tragic incident, creative sentencing can often lead to funding for safety courses, which in turn can impact the industry.

For example, the ACSA is currently developing a best practices and online course for working with propane, while a second course in development with other stakeholders involves the tragic death of a 15-year-old who was pulled into a crusher.

Davis said one of the advantages of working with stakeholders such as Safety in Schools is the ability to ensure safety messages land before the correct audience. A fourth initiative is currently under discussion but is not firmed up. 

Paul Cashman, a spokesperson for the Alberta Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association (ARHCA), said the creative sentence imposed in 2017 in the case involving the 15-year-old youth’s death was the first time his association has participated in creative sentencing.
The ARHCA sees the benefit in using this option, he added.

“There are a lot of safety programs and safety resources available but in every industry they can always be improved upon to cover a broader range,” he said. 

Cashman said the judgement that came down after the incident involved a number of stakeholders as it had a “three tier” approach. The judgement called for the establishment of best practices for gravel companies, a part of which was updating the safety training module, updating the ARHCA’s online training courses with incident prevention material and a safety campaign directed at 230 high schools where students would go into the workplace.

Other examples of 2017 convictions involving creative sentencing convictions are as follows:

  • In January 2014, an upgrade supervisor at Suncor Energy Inc. in Fort McMurray checking out a leak near a tailings sand dump fell through an undercut hole 10 to 12 feet deep and died. Suncor was fined $15,000 inclusive of the 15 per cent victim fine surcharge (VFS) and a creative sentence was given to pay $285,000 in favour of the Lynch School of Engineering Safety (at the University of Alberta) for a two-year research project into safety hazards related to tailings storage facilities.
  • In April 2015, a labourer in a trench connecting a sewer line was fatality injured when a wall collapsed. Haya Homes Ltd. was fined $111,250 and placed on a two-year corporate probation. Haya was ordered to pay $50,000 in favour of the Bissell Centre to support safety training workshops for their employment services clients.
  • In 2014, a worker fell and sustained serious injuries when the rolling ladder he was on tipped over. Tarpon Energy Services Ltd. pled guilty and was fined $5,000. In addition, Tarpon was ordered to pay $75,000 in favour of the Safety in Schools Foundation of Canada and the ACSA for prevention material.
  • A South Wood Trucking worker in 2014 was badly burned when a fire resulted in a manhole while the worker was inside. Rock Hard Excavating Ltd. and South Wood Trucking Ltd. pled guilty to failing to protect a worker. Rock Hard Excavating was fined $115,000 plus a 15 per cent VFS. South Wood Trucking Ltd. was fined $30,000 plus the 15 per cent VFS and a creative sentencing fine of $50,000 to fund two new trauma rooms at the QEII Hospital Foundation
  • In 2016, two workers, a gas fitter apprentice and labourer, were inside a cargo trailer attempting to light a propane space heater using a handheld torch for ignition when a flash fire and explosion occurred resulting in serious injuries. Tarpon Energy Services Ltd. was fined $5,000. In addition, the company was ordered to pay $95,000 in favour of the ACSA and Safety in Schools to fund training materials for working safely with propane.

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