Roofing company fined after teen fell

Company committed numerous safety infractions related to July 2014 fall of underage worker

An Airdrie roofing company and its representatives were fined $90,000 after a 14-year-old fell at a Lacombe job site in 2014.

Now-defunct Vital Contracting Ltd., Lee Northrup and his daughter Kalika Northrup entered guilty pleas in Red Deer provincial court on Tuesday to a number of charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Employment Standards Code.

The company and the Northrups were charged in 2014 after a 14-year-old was illegally hired for a roofing job. He was working alone on the roof in July 2014 when he fell more than three metres.

Luckily, the teen landed on the grass and was not injured. He had been wearing a safety line, but it was not adjusted properly and had far too much slack when he fell.

Charges were related to not ensuring the health and safety of a worker, not keeping proper employment records and employing someone under 15 without the approval of a parent and guardian.

Special Crown prosecutor Karen Hewitt hopes the case sends a message to employers about the risks of not checking workers’ ages and ensuring employment records are complete.

Under provincial law, 14-year-olds are not allowed to work on high-risk jobs such as roofing.

Hewitt asked Red Deer provincial court Judge Jim Hunter for significant fines as a general deterrence to other companies.

“These are vulnerable workers, sir,” she said.

As summer job season approaches, parents and teens should also be aware of the regulations, which are available by checking with Employment Standards through Alberta Labour, she said later outside court.

Court duty counsel Murray Shack said Lee Northrup was in bankruptcy and suffering from alcoholism at the time of the incident. He is now sober and is employed as a roofer for another company.

His daughter, who was 22 at the time, had signed on as a director of Vital Contracting as a favour to her father during his financial struggles and had no role in the company.

Shack said Northrup feels awful for putting his daughter in the position he did.

The judge told him he put the 14-year-old in an even worse position, one that could have cost him his life.

“Your daughter’s predicament pales in comparison to that,” he said.

Lee Northrup was fined $4,000 personally and his daughter $1,000. About $80 in unpaid wages are also owed to the teen who fell. Since Vital Contracting no longer exists, the bulk of the fines will go through a collection agency.

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