Speaker workplace safety conference shares story of recovery after son's death
When Tami Helgeson heard about the fatal workplace accident that took Vale millwright Paul Rochette's life Sunday, she could relate.
In 1999, Helgeson's son Eric was killed while working on a construction site in Winnipeg.
The crane toppled over and took the entire building with it. The boom struck Eric and he was killed instantly. He was 20.
“He was wearing all his protective gear,” said Helgeson, who was a keynote speaker at Workplace Safety North's provincial Mining Health and Safety Conference Wednesday. “He did everything right.”
After lengthy court proceedings the crane operator was fined $10,000 – the maximum possible at the time.
“There's no amount of money, or no charge, that could have ever given me back the one thing I wanted,” said Helgeson. “You never get the all the answers you want. In the end it comes down to one thing, my son went to work and he never came home.”
Helgeson later became involved with a national organization called Threads of Life, created to help families heal through a community of support and to promote the elimination of life-altering workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths.
As a volunteer, Helgeson meets with other families who have lost loved ones to fatalities in the workplace, and offers them emotional support.
She said it is normal for Rochette's family to feel angry and helpless so soon after his death.
“I would probably tell them that it feels like there's nothing that anybody can say or do right now to make you feel any better,” Helgeson said. “It's a very raw, devastating tragedy.”
There are people out there that can help them when they're ready.”
Helgeson works for mining giant Goldcorp in Red Lake, Ontario, and has a deep understanding of the mining industry.
She said safety standards in the sector have improved, but more needs to be done to protect workers and ensure they arrive home alive.
On Saturday, May 3, Threads for Life will host its annual fundraising walk at Minnow Lake Place on Bancroft Drive.