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Employer Fined $85,000 for Failing to Maintain Vehicle’s Brakes

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There may be many good reasons for employers to maintain their vehicles, but one reason not often considered is avoidance of occupational health and safety charges and fines.

A mining company has been convicted in the Yukon of occupational health and safety charges and fined $85,000.00 for failing to maintain a special driveshaft brake on a vehicle.

An apprentice mechanic was asked to transport a piece of mining equipment into the underground shaft at the mine.  He drove a Toyota Land Cruiser into the mine shaft, which had a steep 15 degree slope.  A tractor parked in the shaft blocked his way.  He stopped the Land Cruiser and pressed a dashboard button to engage a special driveshaft “park brake” that was added to the Land Cruiser.  He did not engage the regular park brake.  After he got out and walked ahead of the Land Cruiser, it rolled down the slope and struck him; he was seriously injured and later died.

The employer pleaded guilty to failing to maintain the Land Cruiser and failing to ensure that the employee was competent to drive the Land Cruiser. 

The court noted that one of the brake linings on the driveshaft brake was worn and made insufficient contact to stop the vehicle on a 15 percent slope.  That problem had not been detected by the company, and the vehicle was overdue for a mechanical inspection.  Even though the mechanical inspection, which was based on the vehicle’s operating hours, was required by a company policy but was not specifically required by the manufacturer or by government regulation, there was a clear failure to ensure that the vehicle was maintained in a safe operating condition.

The court also decided that the employee was insufficiently familiar with the vehicle and the hazards associated with operating it on a steep slope in an underground mine environment.

This tragic case is another example of the far-reaching nature of occupational health and safety laws, which extend to the maintenance of the employer’s vehicle fleet.

R. v. Procon Mining & Tunnelling Ltd., 2012 YKTC 100 (CanLII), http://canlii.ca/t/fvbtb