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.
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