The largest private-sector union in North America is calling for the release of the now-completed WorkSafeBC investigation into the July 2021 crane collapse in Kelowna that killed five people.
Last week, WorkSafeBC announced it had completed its investigation into the July 12, 2021 crane collapse in downtown Kelowna that killed four workers and one bystander.
But while the WorkSafe investigation has wrapped up, the RCMP's criminal investigation remains ongoing, and the WorkSafe report report won't be released until the RCMP finish their investigation.
Wednesday morning, the United Steelworkers union issued a press release, calling for accountability.
“The families of the victims and the public deserve to know what happened and if any criminal elements were present,” said Ed Kent, USW Health, Safety and Environment representative for Western Canada.
“If there were such elements, there needs to be accountability. If there weren’t, then we need to know what happened, so tragic accidents can be prevented in the future.”
The crane was operated by Stemmer Construction. Two of the victims, brothers Eric and Patrick Stemmer, were part of the Stemmer family.
The United Steelworkers union – which represents 225,000 Canadians and 850,000 people across Canada, the United States and the Caribbean – notes that 1,000 workers are killed on the job in Canada every year.
“Our union has been fighting long and hard to have workplace fatalities and injuries investigated as criminal events, but convictions are too few and far between. It’s quite simple, really – if you kill a worker, you go to jail,” said Kent.
He adds that if the Kelowna crane collapse is found to be a result of negligence, those responsible should be prosecuted.
“There seems to be an eye on the criminal aspect of these devastating fatalities. We need to know what the report found and if employer negligence was to blame,” said Kent.
“If employer negligence was found, then it’s time to enforce the law. There need to be serious consequences for killing workers, more than just fines. Death cannot be a cost of doing business.”
While no information has been publicly released about the RCMP investigation, last summer, a Kelowna Supreme Court judge ordered the further detention of 112 items the RCMP has seized during its investigation, despite a lawyer for Stemmer Construction arguing against it.