Two companies involved in construction of the Canada Line transit system have been hit with a record penalty of $315,343 following an investigation into the death of a crane operator in January 2008.

WorkSafe BC said it has imposed a fine of $233,535 against the crane operator's employer SNC-Lavalin, Constructors (Pacific) Inc. & Rizzani de Eccher Inc., which operates as the RSL Joint Venture.

Prime contractor SNC-Lavalin Constructors (Pacific) Inc. has also been fined $81,808.

"No penalties are adequate when a life is lost, but we hope that they can serve to motivate these employers and others to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, particularly as it applies to training and supervision,'' said Roberta Ellis, vice-president of the WorkSafeBC's investigation division.

WorkSafeBC said the penalties are two of the highest that it has ever imposed, and reflect the seriousness of the violations and the resulting fatality.

The criteria for a discretionary penalty -- a fatality arising from a high-risk violation committed willfully or with reckless disregard -- were met in this case, allowing for the larger penalty amount, WorkSafe noted in a release.

Andy Slobodian was killed instantly when the crane he was operating tipped over onto the deck of the North Arm Bridge, between Vancouver and Richmond. He was 22 when he died.

According to an inspection report by WorkSafe BC, (formerly known as the Workers' Compensation Board of B.C.) the operator was not sufficiently trained or experienced in crane operations to be placed in an operator's position on this bridge.

The report also said that the requirements to estimate load weights and lifting radius, and the additional hazards and considerations involved in lowering blind loads over the side of a suspended guide-way were beyond his skill level.

Steve Crombie, a spokesman for InTransit BC, a company that is managing the Canada Line construction project, said SNL is reviewing the decision.