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Nova Scotia Power among companies in court facing labour charges in 2020 workplace death


Twenty-six year-old Andrew Gnazdowsky’s obituary from October of 2020 describes a vibrant young man, building a life for himself with a new job and plans to get engaged.

But Gnazdowsky drowned while working for a subcontractor at the site of Nova Scotia Power's hydroelectric dam at Marshall Falls, near Sheet Harbour, before those plans were realized.

Ever since, his sister has been on her own quest for answers.

“It's disheartening that it took me to put my grief on the side,” says Nicole Gnazdowsky, “to try to fix this problem, that nobody else was looking at.”

Almost three years after his death, three companies -- Nova Scotia Power, along with Brunswick Engineering and Consulting and Gemtec Consulting Engineers And Scientists Ltd. -- are all in provincial court facing multiple Occupational Health and Safety Act charges, for “failing to comply with a code of practice.”

The question is whether proper company safety protocols were presented and followed when a floating sonar rig operated by remote control, known as an ARV, malfunctioned while surveying waters near the Marshall Falls dam.

Monday’s testimony included a former employee with Brunswick Engineering, the same company Gnazdowsky was working for at the time of his death.

Caleb Parker described to the court the safety procedures and equipment used in similar work he did for the company at other sites, including N.S. Power’s Ruth Falls dam in 2019.

Parker testified life jackets were typically worn by staff when working on or near water while deploying the ARV, along with insulated boots.

He also described the typical plan for recovering the unit should it malfunction away from shore, which he said involved having another vessel such as a boat (with a licensed operator) or a kayak available nearby to use if the need arose.

Gnazdowsky has spent the past several years doing her own digging into her brother’s death and believes the investigation immediately after her brother's death there, and since, is flawed.

For example, she says she believes the RCMP released the scene of the incident over to Nova Scotia Power prematurely.

She believes the Westray law, the federal amendment to the Criminal Code which sets the rules for assigning criminal liability in workplace injuries or death, isn't being applied enough in Nova Scotia.

“We've never used the right laws, we've never used Westray, besides one time,” she says, “having that lack of safety standards and that lack of enforcement has just created this culture that's not good.”

According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, the only use of the law so far in the province was in the 2013 death of a mechanic killed while removing a gas tank from a van at a Cole Harbour garage. The owner of the garage was ultimately found not guilty of criminal negligence causing death by the Nova Scotia Supreme Court in 2019.

The province's special workplace safety prosecutor – Alex Keaveny - didn't want to comment on the Gznazdowsky case today.

Neither did Nova Scotia Power, which would only say in a statement by email:

“On behalf of the team at Nova Scotia Power we extend our sincere condolences to Andrew Gnazdowsky’s family. Safety is at the core of everything we do,” wrote Jacqueline Foster, N.S. Power’s senior communications advisor.

“Out of respect for the court process, we won’t be commenting further at this time,” Foster added.

The OH&S charges faced the companies carry a fine of up to $500,000 dollars.

Nine days have been set aside for the trial.

Gnazdowsky says she hopes her fight leads to change in how workplace fatalities in the province are investigated.

“I don't think there's anybody else in this world that I would put up a fight for like I put up a fight for Andrew,” she says. Top Stories

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