Growing calls for action following two workplace deaths in seven months at Saint John recycling plant

There are growing calls for action at a Saint John, N.B., recycling plant after two workplace deaths in seven months, with the most recent occurring last week.

Darrell Richards died on July 1, a day after being injured while working at the American Iron and Metals facility.  

In November 2021, an unidentified worker died from injuries sustained at the same location.

WorkSafeNB has released limited information about both incidents, saying it could take at least a year to complete each investigation

In a statement, WorkSafeNB said a stop-work order had been issued for the piece of equipment related to last week’s incident -- a press roller for the preparation of recycling.

WorkSafeNB also confirmed this week the fatal injuries from November’s injuries were the result of a worker being hit by an attachment on the end of an excavator boom.

Saint John city councillor Gerry Lowe said a motion would be presented at Monday night’s council meeting, asking the provincial government and WorkSafeNB to “speed up” the timelines for both investigations.

“I was shocked this place had started back up again,” said Lowe in an interview Wednesday.

American Iron and Metals did not respond to a request for comment.

Port Saint John holds the lease agreement with American Iron and Metals for the facility sitting on federal property.

“Unfortunately for (the city) we have absolutely no control over federal land, and that’s what this is,” said Lowe in an interview Wednesday. “The province controls the operating licence and WorkSafeNB controls the accident scenes.”

In a brief statement Wednesday, Port Saint John said it was awaiting the outcome of both investigations.

Saint John-Rothesay MP Wayne Long said the provincial government should exercise its authority to revoke AIM’s operating licence.

“When you have two deaths in seven months, it’s unacceptable and we need to step in as a community and say enough is enough,” said Long on Wednesday. “The lever that has to happen is the Department of Environment needs to revoke or suspend the operating permit either permanently or until AIM can prove that there’s not going to be a continued loss of life.”

The provincial government referred all comments to WorkSafeNB regarding both investigations. Transport Canada didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

In recent years, a string of explosions at the AIM recycling plant has resulted in debates about the facility’s future.