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Paving company owner OHS fine for death of teen

canadian-cashOn Monday November 29, 2010, a Manitoba business owner was fined $33,500 for numerous workplace and safety violations which contributed to the death of a 15-year-old boy who was buried in burning asphalt.

We blogged about this case last September, and Gerald Shepell, owner of Interlake Paving, admitted in November to breaching both the Workplace Health and Safety Act and Employment Standards Code in connection with the July 2008 tragedy just north of Winnipeg.

Shepell pleaded guilty to charges under the Manitoba Employment Standards Code for employing two workers under the age of 16 and for failing to keep proper records relating to the young workers; and under the Workplace Safety and Health Act for failing to keep the 15-year-old safe by allowing him to be near the hot asphalt.

When handing down the fine, provincial court judge Kelly Moar said the tragedy was entirely preventable: “(Shepell) ignored the potential risks and, unfortunately, that cost Mr. James his life.”

The Crown was seeking significant fines against Shepell, who has owned the business since 2005 after taking it over from a family member. The maximum penalty could have been $180,000. However, Shepell’s lawyer asked for a penalty not exceeding $30,000, saying anything more would likely put Shepell and his employees out of business.

Thus, the fine of $33,500 is payable in monthly instalments of $500 until the fine is totally paid off.

What does this mean for employers?

Employers need to pay special attention to the orientation and training of young and new workers as they are at greater risk of injury than their older, more experienced counterparts.

Also, employers should educate themselves on the minimum age of employment in their jurisdiction and their industry sector. The minimum age is an age below which no young person is allowed to be employed.

Some elements to consider:

  • Before employing a young or new worker in a workplace, an employer must conduct a hazard assessment to ensure that any hazards to which the young or new worker might be exposed have been mitigated to the degree possible, through such means as elimination, substitution, administrative controls, engineering controls and/or selection and provisioning of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • An employer must ensure that before a young or new worker begins work in a workplace, he or she is given health and safety orientation and training specific to that worker’s workplace and job tasks.
  • Employers must ensure that supervisors of workers (this includes young and new workers) are competent to train these workers and to supervise their work.
  • An employer must keep records of all orientation and training provided

The information and resources found in The Human Resources Advisor and on HRinfodesk will help employers better understand how to fulfil their legal obligations.

Yosie Saint-Cyr
First Reference Human Resources and Compliance Managing Editor

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Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B. Managing Editor

Managing Editor at First Reference Inc.
Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B., is a trained lawyer called to the Quebec bar in 1988 and is still a member in good standing. She practiced business, employment and labour law until 1999. For over 18 years, Yosie has been the Managing Editor of the following publications, Human Resources Advisor, Human Resources PolicyPro, HRinfodesk and Accessibility Standards PolicyPro from First Reference. Yosie is one of Canada’s best known and most respected HR authors, with an extensive background in employment and labour across the country. Read more
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