Mine Shaft Deaths Lead to Warnings From Expert Witness

Marshal Denhoff, a confined-space expert witness, testified this week that the small water-sampling shed where four people suffocated and tumbled into a mine shaft should have been clearly marked as a confined space. Denhoff said the shed at the Sullivan Mine in southeastern B.C. requires a sign under WorkSafeBC regulations. According to the Vancouver Sun,

Water sampler Doug Erickson, Teck Cominco worker Bob Newcombe and paramedics Shawn Currier and Kim Weitzel died between May 15 and 17, 2006, when they suffocated in the shed. Expert witness Denhoff said “It does take some expertise to recognize a confined space.” He also said confined spaces should be monitored continuously for changes in atmosphere and everyone entering a confined space should have a monitor. Denhoff had several recommendations he hoped the jury would consider, one being that mine regulations need to match WorkSafe BC standards. Mine safety regulations do not require a sign. A five-person jury has been listening to testimony this week and will be able to make recommendations on how a similar tragedy could be avoided.