Inquest recommends emergency system improvements after mine worker’s death

Coroner’s jury finds PotashCorp. had good safety record and had already made safety improvements since accident so no compulsory changes ordered

A coroner's jury is recommending a series of reforms to make a New Brunswick mine safer after an inquest into a 2009 accident that killed a worker.

Vincent Mitton, 56, worked for PotashCorp., an Allan, Sask.-based fertilizer company. Mitton was killed when a heavy pipe he was installing in a Penobsquis, N.B., mine struck him on Nov. 21, 2009. Mitton was tying off sections of the pipe with chains for machinery to lift it and push it down a hole. When a section began sliding down the hole, Mitton tried to hook a chain onto it. The pipe section turned and hit Mitton, propelling him into a wall three metres away. The elevator entrance for the emergency vehicle was some distance away and by the time Mitton was brought to the surface close to an hour after the accident, he was nonresponsive.

A coroner's jury was assigned to conduct an inquest into the accident, which wrapped up the investigation on March 25.

The jury found PotashCorp hadn’t waited for the inquest and already made safety improvements on its own in the wake of the fatal accident and the company had a history of a relatively safe work environment compared to others in the mining sector.

The jury recommended PotashCorp consider a better emergency alert system that featured flashing lights, an alarm and a two-way public address system. It also recommended a second rescue vehicle for the Penobsquis mine.

The recommendations aren’t binding, but PotashCorp agreed with them and indicated it would follow through on them.

"We'll do our best, absolute best, to implement the recommendations as they are, once we fully understand what's involved," Doug Morrison, the mine’s general manager, told CBC News.

PotashCorp indicated it had added more supervisors and it also now requires workers to fill out a safe work plan before doing any high-risk work.

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