Health and safety consultant laments losing son in tragic workplace incident

Journal of Commerce | Angela Gismondi | April 28, 2022

In recognition of the National Day of Mourning today (April 28), the Daily Commercial News and Journal of Commerce worked with Threads of Life on a two-part series featuring families directly impacted by a workplace tragedy. They tell their stories of loss, grief and hope. Here is part two, Fred and Eva’s story.

On June 28, 2006, Fred and Eva Broughton were expecting a phone call from their son Bruce but instead they got a knock on the door that changed their lives forever.

They remember it like it was yesterday.

“At 10 to 12 that evening is when a knock came at the door. There was a police officer there who wanted to talk to my wife and I and I couldn’t figure out why but I let him in,” recalled Fred. “He came in and sat down on the couch. I said to him, ‘in about 10 minutes my son is calling me to let me know when to pick him up at the airport on Sunday.’ The look on that guy’s face was priceless.

“He informed us that there had been a workplace tragedy and that our son Bruce had died as a result of his injuries,” Fred said. “Bruce had fallen 60 feet while working on the roof of a building.”

Bruce, who was 22 years old at the time, was attending college in London, Ont. studying construction engineering.

He got a job as an ironworker at an Ontario-based construction company. In March 2006, the company decided to do a job in Alberta.

“On Father’s Day I flew to Grand Prairie on my way to a client’s site in British Columbia and Bruce and I went for lunch,” said Fred.

“On my return Bruce told me he wanted to come home for good. He was to call on Wednesday close to midnight to let us know what time to pick him up at the airport the following Sunday… He came back on Sunday but it was in a body bag.”

Bruce was planning to work through the summer and return to school in the fall to complete his diploma. He also had other plans, his father said.

“He was going to ask his girlfriend to marry him,” he said.

The incident made Fred, who is a health and safety consultant, question why he does his job, despite the incident resulting in an investigation and charges.

“I train people how to work safe, but I couldn’t even do anything to save my own son,” he said.

Two positive things came out of the incident, Fred said. The couple received the contact information for Threads of Life from the funeral director and have become a part of the organization, speaking to groups, companies and schools about their loss.

“I make it a part of my speech to make sure you are aware of the training that’s required and the responsibilities of the company and yourself to look after each other,” Fred explained.

They also share personal stories of their son.

“One of the bad things was he was an avid Toronto Maple Leafs fan,” Fred joked. “He loved hockey. He played hockey his whole life. He was on the Niagara Falls midget AAA hockey team in 2001-2002 and they won the Ontario championship.”

He also played rugby and enjoyed fly-in fishing, something the family, which also includes two other sons, did together.

The second positive thing that came out of the incident is that a safety program called Safety in Schools has been started in Alberta.

“They flew me to Calgary for a video-taped interview and Bruce’s story is in the foundation of the program,” Fred explained.

“This past year they have issued over 100,000 certificates of completion for school age children. The course makes up part of their year’s mark and is mandatory for them to take. This program has now spread to other provinces too, our hope it will become mandatory right across Canada.”

The National Day of Mourning is a day to remember all those affected by work-related fatalities, injuries and occupational disease.