Employer guilty after worker found dead under asphalt paver

Company admits to three charges under Occupational Health and Safety Act

Employer guilty after worker found dead under asphalt paver

Newfoundland and Labrador employer Paradise Paving Ltd. has pleaded guilty to three charges under the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act relating to the death of one of its workers. The Crown withdrew three other OHS charges.

The charges stem from a May 2019 incident, when 54-year-old worker Gerald Hiscock was driving an asphalt paver at the New Harbour worksite.

Hiscock – a long-experienced asphalt paver operator – was part of a crew tasked with paving two residential driveways on a street in the Trinity Bay community. While his colleagues were finishing up work on the first driveway, Hiscock drove the asphalt spreader to the second residence to prepare the job.

However, as he was backing down the driveway, Hiscock fell from the spreader. One of the homeowners was at a window watching Hiscock work while another was raking out topsoil nearby. They called 911 after the incident, according to a report from Saltwire.

When Hiscock’s colleagues saw him, he was trapped under the spreader. They used a mini-excavator and a Bobcat loader to get the spreader off him ut found him dead.

Paramedics, firefighters, RCMP officers and Occupational Health and Safety officers attended the scene. “It was confirmed that Mr. Hiscock’s injuries were consistent with falling from and being run over by an asphalt spreader,” prosecutor Renée Coates told the court.

Previously, British Columbia employer Rebo Beton Pumping Ltd. was fined $14,868.51 for an incident that left one of its workers seriously injured. A scaffold failed and the worker fell into the excavation, sustaining serious injuries.

Hiscock had just begun his seasonal position with the paving contractor three days before the accident. After the incident, a technician tasked to inspect the spreader and found numerous issues with it.

The technician said that he was unable to start the machine without maneuvering. This is because the neutral switch had been “tie-wrapped to the side close to the ignition.” The neutral non-creeping switch was broken, and it caused the spreader to move in reverse when the operator was not on it.

Also, the backup alarm was broken, the catwalk on which the operator would stand was in poor shape and tilted backward and the throttle for the engine RPM had been disconnected, causing the engine to be stuck at full speed, he wrote, according to the Saltwire report.

Coates suggested a total fine of $45,000 for Paradise Paving, given the acknowledging the company had no prior health and safety convictions. Coates also described Hiscock’s death as “every kind of tragedy.”

However, Gregory Kirby, the lawyer representing the employer, suggested a fine of $25,000 would be enough, owing to the business’ clean history, small size, and quick rectification of issues identified in several stop-work orders and inspections after the incident.

However, Paradise Paving hadn’t properly maintained its equipment in an effort to work efficiently, Kirby said.

“No matter how high the fine may be, it can never replace the life that’s been lost or the injury that’s been suffered, nor will it benefit (Hiscock or his family),” he told the court. “It’s not about retribution, it’s about deterrence.”

Judge David Orr asked counsel for their submissions on a potential probation or compliance order for the company in addition to the fine. Orr will return May 10 with his sentencing decision.

A brake failure on a dump truck resulted in injuries to one worker, according to WorkSafeBC.