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Construction company fined for 2018 death on Trans-Labrador Highway

Johnson's Construction was fined $25,000 relating to the death of Roy Toope, 41, of Pond Cove on the Great Northern Peninsula. Toope died after being run over by an excavator on the Trans-Labrador Highway near Mary’s Harbour. - GOOGLE MAPS
Johnson's Construction was fined $25,000 relating to the death of Roy Toope, 41, of Pond Cove on the Great Northern Peninsula. Toope died after being run over by an excavator on the Trans-Labrador Highway near Mary’s Harbour. - GOOGLE MAPS

A Corner Brook-based construction company has been fined $25,000 after admitting negligence that led to the death of an employee in Labrador in 2018.

Johnson’s Construction Ltd. was sentenced in Wabush Court recently after pleading guilty to three charges under the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act, including failure to provide and maintain a safe workplace and necessary equipment, systems and tools, and failure to provide written work procedures appropriate to the hazards and work activity.

In 2014 Johnson’s also pleaded guilty to two OHS charges relating to the death of a worker in Labrador in 2010.

The incident that led to the most recent charges happened between 8:30 and 9 a.m. on June 22, 2018. Roy Toope, 41, of Pond Cove on the Great Northern Peninsula, died after being run over by an excavator on the Trans-Labrador Highway near Mary’s Harbour.

According to an agreed statement of facts filed with the court, five employees of Johnson’s Construction were assigned to attach two trailers to a transport truck and move them to a new camp near Port Hope Simpson.

The first trailer was attached without incident. Blocking was removed from the second trailer, and the trailer was suspended by a chain connected to the excavator bucket in preparation for the truck to back up into position to receive the trailer onto it.

“At this point, although nothing was communicated by any crew member, Roy Toope, the excavator operator, got in the transport truck to operate it,” the statement reads.

When Toope switched roles, the original transport truck operator began to operate the excavator, despite not being qualified or having the necessary licence.

They had trouble connecting the trailer, so Toope got out and went to the rear of the truck near the hitch.

“The excavator’s track ran over Roy Toope and made contact with the driver’s side rear wheels of the transport truck,” the statement reads. “This contact caused the transport truck to be moved sideways and the tracks to spin while on top of Roy Toope.”

According to the court documents, there was no written safe-work procedure developed for the procedure to break down or set up mobile camp trailers, there was no toolbox talk carried out for this task and the supervisor was not on site when the work started, and arrived on site approximately 10 minutes before the incident occurred.

Johnson’s Construction originally faced six charges, but three were withdrawn. In addition to the $25,000 fine, the company was ordered to pay $7,500 as a victim fine surcharge.

Evan Careen is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering Labrador for SaltWire Network

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