Prison sentence for workplace death sends message to all employers: UFCW Eastern Provinces Council

Fredericton, N.B. – Sept. 14, 2023 – On September 12th, members of the UFCW Eastern Provinces Council (EPC) attended the sentencing of Jason King to a three-year prison sentence for criminal negligence causing the death of 18-year-old worker Michael Anthony Henderson. King was the supervisor forSpringhill Construction Ltd. on August 16, 2018, when Henderson was killed on the job.

The EPC supports the sentence and hopes that it sends a strong message to employers across the country that all workplace parties, including supervisors and managers who direct work, must fulfill their obligations under the Criminal Code and workplace health and safety legislation. Criminal sentences serve as a deterrent to employers who continue to evade or minimize their responsibilities, to the detriment of worker safety.

There has yet to be full accountability for Henderson’s death, as a trial is pending for Springhill Construction on the criminal negligence charge it faces, said Daniel Légère, President of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour.

While King was negligent in his duties as a supervisor, evidence already accepted in court demonstrates that Springhill Construction was also negligent in failing to provide King with sufficient training on critical health and safety issues.

Michael Henderson’s death was, like every death on the job, a preventable tragedy. Workers don’t die when those responsible for workplace health and safety live up to their legal obligations. This case is a clear reminder of how necessary it is for more frequent and forceful prosecution of employers who fail in their responsibility to protect workers and prevent workplace injuries and death.

Despite nearly 1,000 workplace-related deaths in Canada each year, there are incredibly few criminal prosecutions of employers. For example, of the thousands of workplace deaths across the country between 2004 and 2022, there have been only nine successful prosecutions under the Westray provisions of the Criminal Code, and sentences have been relatively minor.

Related links:

USW Westray Legal Brief

Westray: 30 years

USW campaign: Stop the Killing, Enforce the Law