By Jeff Sanford
Halifax, Nova Scotia — September 13, 2015 — A former Halifax shop owner has become a part of legal history for being the first person charged under the so-called Westray Law, Bill C-45.
The law was passed in March of 2004. It came about after the province of Nova Scotia failed to prosecute the owners of the Westray mine where 26 workers died. A lack of work place safety practices led to the deaths of the miners. Citizens were outraged to find that the owners could not be held accountable under existing laws. Bill C-45 was passed in 2004 and put new obligations on workplace owners to provide a safe working environment. The owner of Your Mechanic Auto Corner, Elie Phillip Hoyeck, has been the first to be charged under the law in relation to a September of 2013 incident in which Peter Kempton died while working under a car at the shop.
Kempton was a licensed mechanic. He was using a torch to get a gas tank off a car. While working under the vehicle it caught fire. Kempton couldn’t get out from underneath and later died in hospital.
In the ensuring investigation it was found the car should have been on a hoist. The unorganized lot also made it difficult to get out from under the car. The Labour Department also alleges the shop didn’t provide flashback arrestors between the torch and the fuel source. Hoyeck is accused of “failing to ensure the health of people at or near the workplace, and failing to provide and maintain equipment, machines and materials that are properly equipped with safety devices.”
The investigator, David Giles, visited the shop three days after the accident. He found the yard was jammed with “boats, cars, oil and gas containers and garbage.” He is quoted as saying the shop conditions were “deplorable” and a “ticking time bomb … If that was an automotive business, I’ve never seen something that bad,” he said.
The business has since shut down. Hoyeck will appear in Dartmouth provincial court on Oct. 6. He has been charged with criminal negligence causing death, with 12 charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.