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Lack of training, poorly maintained equipment led to railing collapse at Vancouver UFC event

Fans tumbled as much as 13 feet onto staff below, who were struck by the railing.
A railing collapsed at UFC 289 in Vancouver when fighter Mark Malott walked out.

A WorkSafeBC investigation into the guardrail failure during UFC 289 found the Aquilini company that operates Rogers Arena contravened B.C.’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. 

Three railings on a retractable seating unit at section 120 collapsed just before 9 p.m. on June 10, 2023 when mixed marital arts fans leaned over the railing to greet Canadian welterweight fighter Mike Malott as he left the tunnel en route to the octagon.

Fans tumbled as much as 13 feet onto staff below, who were struck by the railing. No serious injuries were reported. 

“The employer failed to ensure that a temporary or permanent structure (stadium guardrails) in a workplace was capable of withstanding any stresses likely to be imposed on it,” said the July 18, 2023 inspection report, released under the freedom of information law.

Retractable bleachers were returned the morning after UFC 289 to “concert mode” and temporary guardrails were not required, so WorkSafeBC rescinded the order.   

The full investigation report by Vancouver Arena General Partnership Inc. (VAGP) to WorkSafeBC, submitted on June 26, 2023, admitted the security guards were inadequately trained and instructed. They were deployed to the floor level under the railings, tasked with fighter watch, instead of preventing fans from leaning on the railings.

The investigation also found the railings were vulnerable. The steel pocket assemblies that support the railings were attached with two bolts each instead of four. 

“The stress exerted on the railing from guests leaning over it caused the two bolts on the steel pocket assembly to tear through the aluminum structure, with no support remaining, the railings fell,” the report said. 

Additionally, a drape attached to all three railings contributed to a domino effect. When one railing failed, it added stress to the other two.   

A team of seven venue managers responded to the incident along with St. John’s Ambulance first-aid personnel. Two of the workers were employed by contractor Genesis Security Inc. and one by VAGP. The investigation report said one suffered a “minor crush injury,” but the details were censored. WorkSafeBC also received an incident investigation form from the B.C. Athletic Commissioner that indicated a staff member escorting Malott to the octagon was knocked to the ground. 

Three members of the public were assessed by paramedics, but continued to watch the event. 

Fans were relocated and the seats at the incident site were tied-off, with security personnel situated in each row to prevent access. 

Malott won his bout, the eighth on the 11-bout card. 

The full investigation report listed 16 corrective actions, six of which were completed by June 23. Five of the corrective actions directly relate to equipment and five are about safe work procedures, job safety assessments and inspection checklists. Corrective actions included posting signage on tunnel railings to discourage leaning, removing seating or rows directly beside railings for any events that guests pose a higher risk of wanting to interact with talent, and deploying a heavier security presence in sections where talent arrive or depart.

WorkSafeBC censored names of Rogers Arena personnel, including those that corresponded with WorkSafeBC occupational hygiene officer Sanjesh Roop. 

“We want to ensure we do everything we can to prevent this from reoccurring, thanks for your support,” read a June 16 email from someone with a address.

“In our full investigation, this will be an action for creating and updating our [safe work procedures], and we will ensure that that step/process for closing off the area is accounted for if/when it is needed moving forward, along with training of all the different departments that may need to be in the bowl.” 

WorkSafeBC fined the Aquilini company behind the Abbotsford Canucks of the American Hockey League, Canucks AHL General Partner Inc., $5,431.22 in June 2022. A worker at Abbotsford Centre was seriously injured by a plexiglas unit that fell from a lift truck after the employer failed to provide information, instruction, training, and supervision necessary to ensure worker health and safety.