Workplace Snowmobile Accident – Serious Injury

There is an unconfirmed report of a serious workplace accident occurring at Sunshine Village on the evening of November 16 – the day before opening the 2011/12 season.

The information provided to Sunshine Village Watch is that at around 7:30 PM that evening a new security employee working alone was operating a snowmobile on the ski-out near Goatseye when the snowmobile left the ski-out and plummeted over a bank.  The employee was reportedly seriously injured.  Initial attempts to find the patient were apparently hampered by poor communications.

The after-hours first aid responder was a new ski patroller in his first weeks on the job.  Normally after-hours first aid is assigned to experienced staff due to the remote location and reduced back-up capability however at least half the ski patrol staff are new this season.  Reports indicate that extraction and transport of the patient took an extended period of time – possibly hours.

All information is subject to confirmation and further updates when available.

Update: Nov 18, 2011 – 11:25 pm 

Additional information has been obtained that confirms that an employee was severely injured at Sunshine Village.  The employee is receiving treatment at Foothills Hospital in Calgary.  Exact injuries and condition are unknown at this time.

An unconfirmed report from one source indicates that there was no group snowmobile safety orientation this season.  This orientation is normally held each year before the season starts and is a mandatory pre-requisite for obtaining a snowmobile licence at Sunshine Village.  The worker’s supervisor is new in the position and has one season of previous experience with the security department.

During the past summer, Sunshine Village was investigated and cited for deficiencies in its workplace health and safety program.     Sunshine Village has had a previous workplace fatality and previous snowmobile accidents, some serious.  There are specific hazards associated with snowmobile operations especially at night on the ski-out which is a 5km long access route to the upper village.  To what extent were these hazards identified and communicated to the injured employee and was his training sufficient for legally-required competency to operate a snowmobile alone on the ski-out after-hours so early in the job?  An investigation will answer these questions and the results should be made public.  Workplace safety, especially in a national park is a matter of public interest.

At the beginning of 2010/11 season a new employee was injured when thrown from a gondola platform, and then falling from height to the ground outside, after being hit by an accelerating gondola cabin.  This season has only just begun and already a young Sunshine Village worker is severely injured in hospital.  When is enough, more than enough!

The Government of Alberta and new Minister of Human Services Dave Hancock have promised to hold employers accountable for the effectiveness of their health and safety programs and in particular to protect young new workers on the job at the time when they are most vulnerable and inexperienced. 

They say they will step it up in the new year.  Why wait?? Let’s see some action!  Start with Sunshine Village.  Start NOW!

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