A Whitehorse construction company was slammed with a $15,000 fine on Tuesday after putting its workers’ lives at risk.
Golden Hill Ventures pleaded guilty to charges it employed an unlicensed bus driver and that another driver lacked the proper air brakes certification. The charges stemmed from a
Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board investigation.
The unlicensed bus driver sparked the case after he collided with a transport truck while merging onto the Alaska Highway near Kluane Park. The bus was carrying five workers.
“The fellow who was driving the bus for Golden Hill did not have a licence for the bus,” Valerie Royle, president and CEO of the board, said on Thursday.
The bus was leaving a camp near Sheep Mountain on September 13, 2007, between Haines Junction and Beaver Creek on the Alaska Highway.
“(The driver) came off a camp road near Sheep Mountain onto the highway,” said Royle. “He didn’t stop and, fortunately, the transport truck driver saw him out of the corner of his eye and geared down his truck.”
The transport slowed down just as it hit the 28-passenger bus on a back side panel.
No one was injured.
“If (the transport truck driver) had been looking at an animal on the side of the road, it would have been a different situation and we could have had five fatalities or five very serious injuries, potentially,” said Royle.
When the board looked up their past dealings with Golden Hill, they found a history of the company ignoring health and safety laws.
“We had issued hundreds of orders in the past and really felt that it was important in this case that we prosecute because of the seriousness of what could have happened,” said Royle.
When the board investigated, they found more infractions.
“We did spot checks of their other workers and found another fellow who was driving a rock truck who didn’t have an air brake endorsement,” said Royle.
Golden Hill was charged $10,000 for the bus driver incident and $5,000 for the air brake infraction.
The charges were laid in 2008, said Royle, and the case was heard last Tuesday.
Golden Hill Ventures pleaded guilty and agreed to pay the fines within six months.
Employers must report serious incidents to the board immediately, said Royle, even if no one is hurt.
“In this case no one was injured, but it had to be reported to us because it was a serious incident that could have caused serious harm or death,” she said.
The board brings any possible infractions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act to the attention of the Yukon’s Department of Justice, which pursues the cases.
Taking a company to court happens pretty rarely, said Royle. She could only remember the board bringing companies to court once in 2002 and again in 2006.
“It doesn’t happen that often, but I think it’s going to happen more often because, over the last three and a half years, we’ve taken a very helpful approach,” said Royle, explaining that there was little room for excuses nowadays.
If the board finds a company has breached the Yukon Occupational Health And Safety Act, it has a number of options. The board can order the company to comply; it can issue fines on the spot; it can pursue charges, and it can even shut down a company’s operations.
Golden Hill Ventures would not comment for this article.
The Whitehorse-based company works on highways, bridges and dams. It also provides contract work for mines.
Contact James Munson at firstname.lastname@example.org.