Seatbelts might have saved three farm labourers

Three farm workers who died in a van accident near Chilliwack last year might have lived had their employer been complying with simple safety regulations, according to WorksafeBC’s final report released yesterday.

A combination of passenger overloading, bad tire maintenance, lack of seatbelts and inadequate driver qualification, compounded by bad road conditions, contributed to the March, 2007 accident.


The 15-passenger van, owned by RHA Enterprises Ltd., was carrying 16 farm workers plus the driver to a local greenhouse when it crashed on Highway 1 in Chilliwack.

The van collided with two transport trucks, rolled and landed on its roof on the highway median. Three people died and 14 others were injured.

Only the driver and passenger had seatbelts, and had "all the workers worn seat belts, the number of fatalities and severity of injuries might have been reduced," the report said.

The report also found that the 15-person van was made unstable because it carried 17 people — two more people than it was designed for.

Roberta Ellis, a vice president with WorksafeBC, said the labour contractor could face a fine up to $500,000.

"We’ve been participating in roadside inspections with the RCMP and the provincial ministry of transportation (and) have significantly raised the enforcement activities in this sector," she said.

NDP Labour Critic Chuck Puchmayr said the Campbell government needs to put forward legislation to immediately restore protection to farm workers.

"Roadside inspections just don’t cut it," he said.

further scrutiny

  • The report has also been submitted to the B.C. Coroner’s office, which is expected to conduct its own inquest later this year.

  • It’s up to the Crown to decide whether charges should be laid.

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