Aquilinis fined $125K again

For the second time in a year a $125,000 fine has been levied against the Aquilini family by WorkSafe B.C. for unsafe maintenance of a farm vehicle at its Pitt Meadows berry operation.

Francesco, Roberto and Elisa Aquilini (Geri Partnership – Golden Eagle Ranch) received the fine of $125,277 in February following a WorkSafe BC inspection the previous summer.

A green 1998 Safari van used for carrying farm workers was inspected July 27, 2011 at Lougheed Highway and Dewdney Trunk Road. It was found without enough brake fluid in the reservoir, “as a result of a broken brake line,” says a WorkSafe report.

It notes the RCMP had also issued an unsafe ticket on the vehicle.

There was a tire and rim, a propane cylinder and another large steel object stored loose in the back of the van, as well.

According to occupational health and safety regulations, items or equipment in vehicles must be “secured to prevent injury to operators or workers.”

The report also notes no pre-trip inspection of the van took place, nor was there a written vehicle maintenance log available for inspection.

WorkSafe sent correspondence to Golden Eagle in November, indicating it was considering the penalty, then received a response from Golden Eagle early this year. But WorkSafe decided to stick with its penalties.

The amount of the fine was determined by the overall payroll of the employer, the nature of the violation and because a previous penalty was imposed for similar violations within the past three years.

The fine follows two previous penalties to Golden Eagle that added up to $125,402 from a year earlier for similar reasons.

Those were issued May 11, 2011 for failing to keep farm vehicles in safe, failing to ensure a driver was properly licensed and not providing an effective means of communication between first-aid attendants and workers.

The fines were levied following an inspection in September 2010 and after an accident in which a worker seriously injured his leg. The worker had to wait a long time for first aid, WorkSafe said.

Golden Eagle appealed those fines to WorkSafe’s review board, but the fines were upheld. However, Golden Eagle had planned on appealing a second time, to Workers Compensation Appeal Tribunal. It’s not known whether the 2011 penalties were upheld by the tribunal. According to WorkSafe’s review division, there’s been no appeal of the most recent fine.

However, Golden Eagle still could have appealled its  latest fine to the tribunal, although that hasn’t been confirmed.

A media report however, said the company is appealing the fine.

Company spokesman John Negrin didn’t return phone calls.

The Golden Eagle Group is a partnership formed by the Aquilini Investment Group, owner of the Vancouver Canucks. Golden Eagle Ranch isn’t listed on the company’s website, but it has the same address as Golden Eagle Blueberries, part of the Golden Eagle Group.

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