A Saskatchewan dairy farm has been fined $80,000 after the 2020 death of a worker from Mexico.
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Jimlee Farms Ltd. of Summerberry, Sask., pleaded guilty in February after an occupational health and safety investigation into the Nov. 19, 2020, death of Jesus Heinar Zavala Guevara. | File photo

Jimlee Farms Ltd. of Summerberry pleaded guilty in February after an occupational health and safety investigation into the Nov. 19, 2020, death of Jesus Heinar Zavala Guevara.

The temporary foreign worker’s clothing became caught in an unguarded power take-off shaft, and he was found dead.

According to the provincial court decision, Jimlee Farms employs nine people, milks about 230 cows twice a day and has a herd of 100 dairy breeding cows. It also produces feed and cash crops.

Guevara, 34, was from Veracruz and had worked at the farm since June 2020. His wife and two children remained in Mexico.

“Findings of an autopsy determined that the likely cause and mechanism of death was asphyxiation secondary to chest compression by entrapment in the farm equipment,” the decision noted.

Guevara was processing barley with a tractor and grain mill. Although he was working with another person, that person was elsewhere at the time of the incident and there were no witnesses.

“It appears that while Jesus was attempting to visually inspect the rolling process, his clothing became snagged by the unguarded p.t.o. shaft running between the tractor and the mill. His clothing was wrapped around the p.t.o. shaft several times. His hands and face had come into contact with the chain and the gears driven by the p.t.o. shaft. When Jesus was found, the tractor powering the mill was no longer running and may have stalled.”

The documents said the equipment was originally manufactured with a guard over the gears, chains and p.t.o. shaft, but it had been removed when the rollers on the mill were replaced in July 2020 and not replaced.

The court examined several previous cases of work-related fatalities in coming to its decision on the fine. It also received a victim impact statement from Guevara’s widow.

The maximum possible penalty was $1.5 million, representing a large company operating under “highly egregious circumstances.”

Jimlee was deemed to be a small to medium sized business, and the lack of a guard considered an “oversight” rather than deliberate.

The crown and defence counsel agreed on the $80,000 fine, which they said would have a significant impact on Jim lee’s business. The dairy is also temporarily prevented from participating in the temporary foreign worker program.

However, the court also noted that Jimlee took full responsibility for the incident, paid for Guevara’s body to be flown home and paid for all of its foreign workers who knew Guevara to be flown home as well.

Jimlee’s insurers also made an ex gratia payment of $20,000 to Guevara’s family to help with immediate economic hardship.

The company established an occupational health and safety committee that meets regularly, developed an emergency response and first aid plan, translated all safety notices and warnings into Spanish and conducts hazard assessments for farming operations.

“Assessing the proper amount of a fine in a situation such as this is not an easy task,” said the decision.

“It needs to be stressed that determining the proper amount of the fine should in no way be confused with placing a value on human life. If that were the case, no amount would ever be enough.”

Jimlee has two years to pay the fine.

“New Zealand farmers will be happy with this result,” said NZX dairy analyst Alex Winning.

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