A Halifax-area auto dealership has been fined $38,750 for failing to ensure a safe workplace in connection with an explosion and fire that killed an employee in 2008. The fine imposed Wednesday on O’Regan Chevrolet Cadillac Ltd. was well below the $150,000 requested by the Crown during sentencing arguments in October. Provincial court Judge Pam Williams said there was no evidence that the company’s infractions caused the death of Kyle Hickey. The 22-year-old from Timberlea was badly burned in a fire in an O’Regan’s body shop in Dartmouth on March 13, 2008. He died in hospital the next day.
The provincial Labour Department investigated the incident for 15 months before charging O’Regan with five offences under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Williams ordered that $5,000 of the fine go to ‘Threads of Life’, a group that helps families that have lost relatives in workplace accidents. The $5,000 is to be used to pay for a safety presentation at a Nova Scotia Auto Dealers Association conference.
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, the explosion and fire started in a barrel holding solvents used to wash paint guns, but 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 maximum fine for the offence is $250,000.
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 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. “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. “Great care and attention must be given to these issues at all times.”
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. “This sentence illustrates the diligence with which employers must act to ensure workplace safety is, and remains, a priority at all times.” 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. “We will comply fully and promptly with the decision. Nothing takes away from our sorrow at this tragedy happening to Kyle Hickey and his family, our accepting full responsibility for the charge brought forward or our resolve to make further improvements to workplace health and safety.”
Remember In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”
‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.
Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Foundation Level
VP & Senior Trainer