WorkSafe fines Golden Eagle farms $53,690

Farm vehicle was at risk of ‘brake failure:’ decision

Fines were issued to Pitt Meadows berry farm. (THE NEWS/files)

Fines were issued to Pitt Meadows berry farm. (THE NEWS/files)

A WorkSafeBC’s review decision has told “Golden Eagle farms” that it will have to pay a fine of $53,690 levied in October, following an inspection last summer of a bus used to carry workers.

The vehicle was checked at a farm in Pitt Meadows in August, by both a WorkSafe officer and Commercial Vehicle Safety Enforcement officer.

The officers found a leak in the compressor discharge line, a deteriorating front airbag and a loose rear battery. They determined the vehicle, “described as a bus,” was unsafe and ordered it removed from service, said a decision by WorkSafe’s review division.

“The deficiencies identified by the … inspection of the employer’s vehicle supports a finding that the employer was not maintaining the vehicle that transported its workers to a level where it could be operated in a safe manner,” review officer Seeley Brocklebank wrote in her decision upholding the fine.

She considered the violation to be high-risk because the vehicle was used to transport workers, adding there was a “reasonably high likelihood of an incident occurring … with the potential for brake failure.”

Golden Eagle contended that the violation was not of a high-risk nature and warranted a lower fine, Brocklebank noted in her decision.

Golden Eagle also said a third party inspects its vehicles annually to ensure they’re safe and that the vehicle had been checked six weeks before the August inspection and that the defects were not found, she noted.

Brocklebank disagreed with the company’s contention that the discharge line wasn’t broken, but was only loose, and cited a copy of the repairs made to the vehicle to back up her opinion.

She also pointed out that during the inspection, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Enforcement officer showed the WorkSafe officer the back of the vehicle. The WorkSafe officer described hearing “a very large rushing of air,” saying that the leak was significant. If there were no repairs, there could have been brake failure, said the WorkSafe officer.

Brocklebank said, as well, that vehicle inspections are required before every trip under Motor Vehicle Act Regulations.

And she noted that there was a previous, similar violation in August 2017, resulting in a warning letter.

The fine was issued to “Golden Eagle farms,” Francesco Aquilini, Roberto Aquilini, and Paolo Aquilini, according to WorkSafe’s penalty summary webpage.

Golden Eagle Farm Group is part of the Aquilini Investment Group, which owns the Vancouver Canucks.

In May 2011, Francesco Aquilini, Roberto Aquilini and Elisa Aquilini, doing business as Geri Partnership – Golden Eagle Ranch, were fined a total of $125,402 for two previous WorkSafeBC violations in Pitt Meadows.

An appeal in 2012 of those fines was unsuccessful, WorkSafe said in a 2012 e-mail.

Dula Badesha, production manager with Golden Eagle Farm Group, said via e-mail that the company strives continually to maintain a safe working environment and that doing so is a core value.

Drivers are also told that they can’t drive a vehicle if there is a mechanical problem, he said.

“Unfortunately, this particular driver did not follow our policy, and his supervisor was not made aware there was a mechanical problem until after the inspection,” Badesha said.

The company has reiterated that drivers must do pre-trip inspections before driving vehicles, Badesha said, adding that the company has taken other measures to ensure such an incident doesn’t happen again.



pmelnychuk@mapleridgenews.com

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