·  media release

Fatality at Rio Tinto Alcan Plant Was Preventable: Report

Alma, Que. - An official report shows the April 30, 2013 death of Cyndie Lavoie at Rio Tinto Alcan's aluminum refinery in Alma was preventable and attributable to a mismanagement of health and safety risks.

United Steelworkers Local 9490 is demanding corrective measures at the plant, following today's report on the fatality by the CSST, Quebec's workplace health and safety commission.

The report identifies three causes of the fatality: unsecured access to a hazardous area, a flawed process used to unblock machinery while it is in operation, and the mismanagement of health and safety risks.

The report notes that supervisors ignored the recommendation made by a health and safety consultant that the shot blasting machine in question should be locked, in such a way as to prevent access to the machine unless the power was completely switched off.

"The company has all these health and safety programs, but their application is arbitrary," said Steelworkers Local 9490 President Hugues Villeneuve.

"Here, the risks had been identified and management knew that workers were having to intervene directly on the machine in question more frequently, but the supervisors chose to ignore all that. And this cost our sister her life."

The company announced a series of measures have been undertaken since the tragedy. However, the union points out that, several weeks before the fatality, it had insisted on a meeting of the health and safety committee, but the meeting did not take place until several months later.

"To this day, lockout procedures are still being circumvented when interventions are needed on machinery that is running," Villeneuve said.

"The CSST's message today is clear: a zero tolerance policy must apply in areas that have been identified as hazardous. Rio Tinto Alcan needs to review its procedures, communicate them better and ensure stricter monitoring. The company also needs to assess risks more carefully and effectively. When it comes to life and health, one should never take chances," he said.

"This report will not bring Cyndie back to us. But it needs to be taken seriously to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again. We owe it to the memory of our colleague and friend."

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For further information:

Clairandrée Cauchy, USW Communications, 514-774-4001, ccauchy@metallos.ca
USW Local 9490 office: 418-662-7055

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Clairandrée Cauchy
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