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Labour Ministry probing death of experienced dairy farm worker who fell into holding tank

Dale Carruthers

By Dale Carruthers, The London Free Press

The Ontario Ministry of Labour is investigating the death of a 58-year-old worker Tuesday at Wicketthorn Farms on Woodhull Road in Middlesex County, southwest of London. (MORRIS LAMONT, The London Free Press)

The Ontario Ministry of Labour is investigating the death of a 58-year-old worker Tuesday at Wicketthorn Farms on Woodhull Road in Middlesex County, southwest of London. (MORRIS LAMONT, The London Free Press)

A man whose body was pulled from a manure pit at a London-area farm had worked there for 16 years, the farm’s owner says.

Ontario Provincial police were alerted after a worker at Wicketthorn Farms on Woodhull Road, southwest of London, went missing Tuesday afternoon.

Police confirmed Wednesday the body of Carl Gregg, 58, of Middlesex Centre, had been retrieved from the manure holding tank.

Staff at Wicketthorn Farms were grieving Gregg’s death.

“It’s a tragedy. He will be missed,” said Craig Connell, one of the owners of the dairy farm.

Gregg had worked at the farm for 16 years and was a valued employee, Connell added.

Police have turned over the investigation to Ontario’s Labour Ministry, which investigates workplace deaths.

“There’s no foul play suspected from our end,” said Middlesex OPP Const. Liz Melvin.

An employee was working alone when he fell through an opening into a manure pit, ministry spokesperson Janet Deline said.

A ministry inspector issued a requirement to secure the scene.

“We’re still waiting for the cause of death from the coroner,” Deline said, adding that finding will ­determine whether the

death is ruled a workplace fatality.

The number of farming-related deaths in Canada has been falling in recent decades, but between 2002 and 2012 still averaged about 85 a year, according to the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA), a non-profit organization.

Canada averaged 116 farm deaths a year in the decade before 2002, the CASA says in its latest report.

Ontario, with Canada’s largest farm population, typically accounts for the highest number of deaths.

If charges are warranted under Ontario’s workplace safety law, they must be laid within a year of a death.

Penalties can range to fines as high as $25,000 — up to $500,000 for corporations — and as long as a year in jail.

dcarruthers@postmedia.com

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