The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure failed to take adequate steps to ensure the safety of people during repairs to the covered bridge in French Village last fall, WorkSafeNB alleges in charges laid earlier this week.

A contractor's overweight excavator crashed through the decking of the century-old covered bridge spanning the Hammond River on Oct. 5, 2016.

Contractor Gary McKinney, the excavator operator, was transported to hospital but told CBC News at the time he was uninjured.

The department is accused of failing to take every reasonable precaution to ensure the health and safety of its employees, as well as the the health and safety of anyone having access to the project site on Route 860 at the end of French Village Road in southwestern New Brunswick.

WorkSafeNB laid the two charges under the New Brunswick Occupational Health and Safety Act in Saint John provincial court on Wednesday.

The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure has not entered any pleas yet. Judge Marco Cloutier set the matter over until Dec. 11 at 9:30 a.m.

Department spokesperson Tanya Greer declined to comment.

"As this is a matter before the courts, it would be inappropriate," she said.

WorkSafeNB officials did not respond to a request for an interview.

Hired to fix decking

The department hired the contractor to conduct repairs to the decking of the Hammond River No. 2 Bridge, which was built in 1912.

The excavator was carrying a heavy load of wood when it crashed through and got stuck, suspended between the deck and the embankment below.

The bridge had a weight limit of 12 tonnes, according to a posted sign. The 312C L excavator is listed as weighing more than 13 tonnes on the manufacturer's website.

Beyond repair

After consulting the community, the province initially agreed to repair the bridge rather than replace it.

But significant wood rot was discovered after steel was removed from the bottom of the bridge structure.

The structural integrity of the bridge was deemed no longer safe and the department announced in July it would be replaced with a modular bridge instead.

The new bridge is expected to be open to traffic in January 2018, the department has said.