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North Vancouver’s Neptune Terminals fined $250K for worker’s death

Company was warned of safety issue before longshoreman Don Jantz was killed
Donald Jantz, 53, died in a fall at North Vancouver's Neptune Terminals. The company has now been fined for his death.

North Vancouver’s Neptune Terminals has been fined $250,000 for the workplace death of longshoreman Donald Jantz.

Jantz, 53, was performing maintenance on the coal terminal’s stacker reclaimer in October 2018 when a metal grate beneath his feet came loose from its clips and he was killed in a 17-metre fall.

The company had been warned several times by engineers and employees years before that the clips were unsafe and would have to be replaced with a new design. The work was never done, though.

“This was a tragic loss of life compounded by being completely preventable,” said Judge Joanne Challenger at Neptune’s sentencing in North Vancouver provincial court on Friday. “There can be no greater harm caused by a breach of duty than the preventable death of an employee. Neptune bears a high degree of blameworthiness as it had been alerted to the risks, well before the fatal accidents occurred.”

In September 2020, the company was charged with 10 counts under the Canada Labour Code. The federal Crown and Neptune agreed the company would plead guilty to one charge of failing to ensure employee health and safety is protected and, in a joint submission, recommended a fine of $250,000 as an appropriate penalty.

In deciding how large a fine should be, the courts take into consideration, among other things, the company’s blameworthiness, their size and ability to pay, their safety record and actions taken to prevent further deaths.

The amount of $250,000 is among the largest fines faced by a company in Canada for similar offences, and it should serve as a deterrent to others, Challenger said.

Challenger, however, acknowledged no fine will assuage the grief of Jantz’s family.

At a sentencing hearing in March, Jantz’s son Jonathan, a fellow longshoreman, told the court the trauma of his father’s death has left him with debilitating nightmares, panic attacks and phobias that have left him unable to return to work on the kind of heavy equipment his father died on.

Challenger was in tears as she reflected on the victim impact statements delivered by Jantz’s son and extended family.

“The time they should have had to spend with Don has been stolen from them. A preventable death is much more difficult to process and come to terms with. Simply put, Don Jantz need not have died. He did not deserve to die as he did. He should be alive today. Regrettably, it is far too often the circumstance that apparent risks are not properly and fully addressed until some dreadful tragedy occurs,” she said. “The entire family has been traumatized by the nature of Don’s passing. They mourn the loss of a person who was kind, loving, generous, interesting, and engaged.”

If there is any comfort at all that can come from the case, it is that Jantz’s death did result in numerous changes being made to improve worker safety at Neptune, Challenger said. Several employees who should have been responsible for improving the safety of the grate were dismissed and the company and International Longshore and Warehouse Union local 500 have established new procedures to make sure safety concerns are addressed immediately.
The company has also given direct and indirect financial support to Jantz’s family and its seniors executives expressed remorse directly to them in court, Challenger added.

“I hope they are instructive to other companies and businesses as a potential model of how to collaboratively address issues related to the safety of employees in a timely fashion,” she said.