SAINT JOHN (GNB) – A jury has made recommendations to improve the safety of people working in sawmills.

A mandatory coroner’s inquest into the death of William Douglas Gregg was held July 6-7 in Saint John. Gregg died on Feb. 29, 2016 from injuries sustained during his employment at the J.D. Irving Sawmill in Sussex.

The five-member jury heard from 12 witnesses during the inquest and made the following recommendations:

  • It should be clear on roles and responsibilities of who is responsible for start up and shut down of equipment.
  • Clear and defined handoff procedures should be established between production mode versus maintenance mode when equipment is being shut down or locked out.
  • Training plans, safety observations and audits should be used to ensure employees remain proficient and that work practices remain safe.
  • Emergency response plans should include instructions on communication to local authorities and instructions for site access. Response plans could be enhanced through the use of mock drills.

The chief coroner will forward these recommendations to the appropriate agency for consideration and response. The responses will be included in the chief coroner’s annual report for 2021.

The inquest was held pursuant to Section 7(b) of the Coroners Act, which states a coroner shall hold an inquest when a worker dies as a result of an accident occurring in the course of his or her employment at or in a woodland operation, sawmill, lumber processing plant, food processing plant, fish processing plant, construction project site, mining plant or mine, including a pit or quarry.

An inquest is a formal court proceeding that allows for the public presentation of all evidence relating to a death. It does not make any finding of legal responsibility nor does it assign blame. However, recommendations can be made aimed at preventing deaths under similar circumstances in the future.