A Nova Scotia dealership was fined $38,750 this week for failing to ensure a safe workplace in connection to an explosion and fire that killed an employee in 2008.
The Canadian Press reported yesterday that O'Regan Chevrolet Cadillac Ltd. was fined far less than the $150,000 requested by the Crown during sentencing arguments in October.
According to the news agency, provincial court Judge Pam Williams said there was no evidence that the company's infractions caused the death of Kyle Hickey.
Hickey, 22, was burned in a fire in the Dartmouth shop on March 13, 2008 and died in hospital the next day. A 15-month investigation by the provincial Labour Department followed before the shop was charged with five offences under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The judge ordered $5,000 of the fine to go to Threads of Life, a group that helps families that have lost relatives in workplace accidents.
The company, part of the O'Regan's Automotive Group, pleaded guilty in July to one charge of failing to take every reasonable precaution to ensure the health and safety of people in a workplace.
According to an agreed statement of facts reported on by the Halifax Chronicle Herald, the explosion and fire started in a barrel holding solvents used to wash paint guns. The exact cause was “indiscernible.”
O'Regan admitted that barrels containing the chemicals were not properly labelled and grounded and that it failed to provide Hickey with any “site-specific safety training.”
The $150,000 penalty requested by the Crown would have been the largest ever for a health and safety violation in Nova Scotia, surpassing a $125,000 fine imposed on Kent Building Supplies after a worker died at its Halifax store in 1998. Defence lawyer Don Murray recommended a $30,000 fine, the paper reported.
The judge accepted the defence's portrayal of the case, saying there was no proof that the three safety shortcomings acknowledged by the dealership contributed to Hickey's death, it continued.
“Having said that, it is important to stress that the potential is ever-present for harm to occur when employee hazard-awareness training is not undertaken or refreshed, and when flammable liquids are not properly labelled or stored in the workplace,” Williams said.
She noted that the company spent about $19,000 on safety improvements after the incident and another $9,000 on services for the Hickey family and O'Regan employees and a commemorative bench and plaque on a walking trail in Timberlea.
Sean O'Regan, president and CEO of the automotive group, said the company's thoughts and prayers continue to be with Hickey's family and friends.
“O'Regan's will always remember Kyle and the tremendous loss his loved ones have suffered,” O'Regan said in a release.
- With files from The Canadian Press and the Halifax Chronicle Herald