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Algoma Steel charged in death of Sudbury contract worker

Three Ministry of Labour charges allege Algoma Steel failed to protect the health and safety of the 21-year-old GFL employee who was killed at the plant last year

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been clarified to reflect that Algoma Steel faces three charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. A previous version this story said the company was charged with one offence.

Algoma Steel has been charged by the Ministry of Labour in relation to the events surrounding last year's death of a contract worker, 21-year-old Damien Bryant of Sudbury.

Three charges were laid on May 2, 2024 in connection with the June 15, 2023 incident that resulted in the death of Bryant, who was working at the plant as a contract worker employed by GFL Environmental Inc.

Laid under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the three charges allege that Algoma Steel failed "as an employer to provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health and safety of a worker," and failed to ensure that two specific regulations regarding "confined space entry" were "complied with."

The charges have yet to be tested in court. When contacted about the charge on Thursday, the company declined to comment.

"At this time I am going to decline to comment on any matter that is before the court," said Laura Devoni, Algoma Steel's director of Strategy, Corporate Affairs, and Sustainability.

The company and its CEO had more to say about the incident shortly after it occurred.

"It was a young gentleman who was working for a contractor that we brought in for a specialized maintenance job that involved cleaning out a gas line that runs coke oven gas from our coke ovens to our plate mill furnaces and provides energy to the furnaces to reheat our steel slabs before we roll them into plates," said Algoma Steel CEO Michael Garcia, while addressing city council a few days after Bryant's death.

"We know the gentleman entered into the gas line, we don’t know exactly how far or for how long or for exactly what reason. That is where they were overcome and had to be rescued from...I can’t speak to the details of this accident, but I know any accident that results in a fatality in this industry is completely unnecessary."

The gas line Bryant entered was not currently in operation at the time of the incident, Algoma Steel said at the time.

The specific charges are:

  • Count 1: provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health and safety of a worker, at a workplace located at 105 West St., Sault Ste. Marie Ontario, contrary to s. 25(2)(a) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, R.S.O., c.O.1., as amended.

Particulars: confined space entry.

  • Count 2: ensure that the provisions of s. 4(2) of Ontario Regulation 632/05 were complied with at a workplace located at 105 West St., Sault Ste. Marie Ontario, contrary to s. 25(1)(c) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, R.S.O., c.O.1., as amended.
  • Count 3: ensure that the provisions of s. 17 of Ontario Regulation 632/05 were complied with at a workplace located at 105 West St., Sault Ste. Marie Ontario, contrary to s. 25(1)(c) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, R.S.O., c.O.1., as amended.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Labour declined to comment "as these matters are before the courts."

Algoma Steel has been given a summons to appear at Provincial Offences Court on June 17.

If convicted of an offence under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, a company can be fined up to $2 million.

Bryant was not a member of United Steelworkers Local 2251, but in the interest of advancing safety at the plant its president Mike Da Prat told SooToday that a grievance has been filed to arbitration in this matter. 

”Full and transparent investigations did not take place and the union's complaints regarding process and management of the job in whole have not been addressed,” said Da Prat.

A GoFundMe page for Bryant, with proceeds to go to his mother to help support his daughter, raised over $88,000.

According to the GoFundMe, $25,000 was pledged to the crowdfunding effort by Patrick Dovigi, the founder of GFL Environmental Inc.

Reached by email for comment on Thursday, Dovigi said he was unaware of the charges being faced by Algoma Steel.


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Kenneth Armstrong

About the Author: Kenneth Armstrong

Kenneth Armstrong is a news reporter and photojournalist who regularly covers municipal government, business and politics and photographs events, sports and features.
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