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A former SaskEnergy employee who claimed his cancer was linked to gas exposure has died

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A former SaskEnergy employee who spoke out about the risks of exposure from carcinogenic compounds in natural gas has died of complications from leukemia and stomach cancer.


Brian Hodgkinson, 69, spent 40 years working with natural gas while employed with SaskPower and SaskEnergy. He retired in 2014 and discovered he had leukemia — blood cancer — one year later.


It wasn’t until 2022 that his wife Josie learned of the elevated risk of leukemia from exposure to benzene, a compound found in natural gas. She started researching, and even convinced one university research group to share their raw data with her so they could bring it to an occupational medicine specialist in Saskatoon.


The doctor was convinced. In November, 2022, he wrote a letter to their family doctor supporting their claim that his leukemia was work-related.


“As I noted in my first letter dated Sept. 27th, benzene is a known (Group 1) carcinogen causing leukemia,” Dr. Niels Koehncke of the Occupational Medicine Clinic at the University of Saskatchewan wrote in his support letter.


“I realize we don’t have accurate exposure information for Mr. Hodgkinson specifically during his time with SaskEnergy. Nevertheless, I feel these potential exposure levels, particularly over the course of a working lifetime, represent a risk of developing leukemia and support the work-relatedness of his leukemia.”


Last year, Brian told CTV News he looks back on his 30 years of fieldwork with new eyes. He said workers were constantly exposed to gas and weren’t given appropriate protective gear — they were even required to perform “sniff tests” to measure odorant in the gas.


“It’s where you go up to the gas meter in the house and you, you sniff natural gas and compare it to a machine.”


When called to the site of a ruptured gas line, they worked unprotected, he claims.


“No respirator, no nothing. Just a pair of goggles on.”


The couple filed suit against SaskPower and SaskEnergy in November 2022. In a statement of defence, both provincial Crown corporations denied any wrongdoing.


They denied Hodgkinson suffered any loss or injury and say — even if he did — it was caused by his own negligence, claiming he failed to follow safety procedures.


Josie, a former SaskEnergy employee herself, says the lawyer for the Crowns later filed to have the lawsuit barred because Brian’s injury was covered under WCB.


Josie says the sheer number of workers she knows, just from the Saskatoon office, who have contracted blood cancer should be a major red flag.


“Since 2020, Brian is the third worker to die from leukemia. There are three other workers that have or had leukemia or are currently in remission,” she said.


Josie claims management at SaskEnergy have told workers not to speak with her.


“The job killed Brian, yet we are the bad guys because we have been educating others about safety,” she said.


Brian died on March 5 while in palliative care. His funeral was held on March 15 at the Holy Family Cathedral in Saskatoon.

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