BRACEBRIDGE - The Ministry of Labour laid charges on Monday against the Town of Bracebridge and a town employee for failing to protect a summer student who was injured in a tractor rollover last summer.
Town of Bracebridge charged in workplace accident.
CEO John Sisson
Rachel Cockburn was one of three summer students conducting maintenance work on the Wilson’s Falls Trail on Aug. 31 last year, when a tractor rolled over her. She received 22 fractures and three dislocations in her foot.
The students were performing trail maintenance with no supervisor on scene, when they decided to fill in ruts at the bottom of a hill, said Cockburn, adding they were taking turns driving the tractor, and it was her turn.
“My co-worker (asked me) if I wanted to do it or if he should do it, so I told him no it’s OK, from the knowledge he gave me I’m pretty sure I’d be OK doing it. I felt pretty confident driving it,” she said.
As she started driving the tractor with a load of gravel down the hill, she said the tractor slipped, lost control, and tipped over onto her. She was taken to Bracebridge hospital, and three weeks later needed surgery to reshape her foot.
This week, on August 13, the Ministry of Health and Safety laid charges against the Town of Bracebridge for “failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health and safety of the worker.” A supervisor is also facing charges for “failing to take every precaution reasonable to the circumstances for the protection of a worker.”
According to a report by the Ministry of Labour last fall, Cockburn had received training on operating the tractor from another summer student who received basic instruction on the tractor from another summer student three years before.
The report concluded no records of the tractor operation could be found and that the training had taken place without supervision by the employer. Students were also not evaluated on how well they could operate the equipment.
John Sisson, CEO for Bracebridge, confirmed there was a charge, but would not reveal any details.
“The town is currently reviewing the matter,” he said.
At the time of the accident, the town said they are very careful about properly training their summer students, who are required to do the same health and safety training as full-time staff.
Cockburn said she took the blame personally after the incident.
“I was pretty angry, I was kind of shocked that it happened. I was a little upset and I had the feeling of it’s my fault,” she said.
Following the incident, the report said the supervisor directed the students to drive Cockburn to the hospital in their vehicle instead of calling an ambulance, as health and safety requires.
The report also said after the town learned of the critical injury, workers were directed to remove the tractor and some of the gravel from the scene.
At the time of the report in September 2011, the town was directed to train workers who used the town’s front-end loader tractor and establish a program to provide supervision for summer staff.
By October 5, 2011 the town said it had completed the requirements, but more staff training still needed to take place.
This summer the town created a summer job for Cockburn, a third-year university student, doing office work since she is still only able to walk for certain periods of time without the use of a cane and can only wear running shoes.
The case will appear in court on Sept. 25.