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Trial delayed until April

BY KEITH LACEY klacey@northernlife.ca Brian Laughlin?s working partner, the day he was exposed to high levels of the toxic substance that killed him, testified Tuesday. Inco Ltd.
BY KEITH LACEY

Brian Laughlin?s working partner, the day he was exposed to high levels of the toxic substance that killed him, testified Tuesday.

Inco Ltd. and supervisor Ted Callaghan are on trial on charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act in relation to Laughlin?s death.

Gary Graham testified he saw Laughlin lift his mask and repeatedly wipe his nose.

Workers know they should never lift their mask or should replace any breathing apparatus when there?s any risk to exposing themselves to nickel carbonyl, said Graham, who worked alongside Laughlin in draining some pipes near high-pressure storage tanks at Inco Ltd.?s Copper Cliff nickel refinery March 19, 2002.

Laughlin died six days later at his home.

Three doctors have said Laughlin died as a result of lung damage caused by exposure to high levels of nickel carbonyl, a toxic and potentially lethal substance that can be a liquid or gas used as part of the nickel refining process.

Laughlin and Graham were both reactor operators at the nickel refinery called in to work overtime.

Inco is charged under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act with failing to properly maintain a respirator used by Laughlin; failing to provide proper information and supervision; failing to ensure a pail of water needed for the draining procedure was properly placed; and failing to meet measures for the breathing apparatus Laughlin was using.

Callaghan is charged with failing as a supervisor to take reasonable precautions of providing information, instruction and supervision to Laughlin.

The trial that started two weeks ago, which was originally scheduled for seven days of court time, likely won?t conclude until the beginning of 2006.

Three more days of court time have been set aside for the trial to continue in late April. Another two days have been secured in May and several more days for late November.

When asked if he would ever lift his mask and wipe his nose, Graham said he wouldn?t.

?All I remember is him lifting his mask and wiping his nose,? Graham testified. ?I just happened to glance up and see him doing this.?

Graham said he was contacted by Inco officials after learning about Laughlin?s death. He was immediately tested to ensure he hadn?t been exposed to any significant dosage of nickel carbonyl. The test showed Graham had no exposure.

Dr. Martin Queen, who performed the autopsy on Laughlin, said the veteran Inco worker was in fine physical condition.

?There was nothing out of the ordinary except for the lungs,? said Queen. ?They were three times the normal weight...normal lungs are usually light and puffy...his were dense and tough...which tells you something abnormal had happened.?

?There doesn?t appear to be any doubt in my mind that carbonyl was the cause,? said Queen.