A man who used to operate an auto repair shop in Dartmouth has been charged under the so-called Westray Bill, marking the first time the law — named for a Nova Scotia disaster — has been used against an employer in this province.
Elie Hoyeck, who used to run Your Mechanic Auto Corner, has been charged with criminal negligence causing death in connection with an explosion that killed Peter Kempton, a mechanic, two years ago.
Kempton, 58, died of his injuries after he accidentally sparked the fire while dismantling a minivan with a torch on Sept. 20, 2013.
His daughter, Shannon Kempton, said her father would be glad about the latest developments.
"I think he'd be glad that his accident and his death didn't go unnoticed," she told CBC News on Thursday. "I think he'd be glad that I'm fighting to make sure other people don't die the same way he did."
The Westray Bill, used to charge Hoyeck, targets employers in cases where workers have been killed or injured.
The bill took its name from the Westray Mine disaster in which 26 coal miners died in an underground explosion. Nova Scotia tried — but failed — to prosecute the mine owners for the serious safety deficiencies in the mine.
12 charges under Health and Safety Act
Hoyeck, a 41-year-old man from Milford, is also facing a myriad of charges under the province's Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Among the 12 charges, he's accused of failing to ensure the health of people at or near the workplace, and failing to provide and maintain equipment, machines and materials that are properly equipped with safety devices.
Your Mechanic Auto Corner had been in business for at least seven years, but the shop had never been inspected by provincial labour investigators.
A CBC Investigation last year revealed the conditions there were "deplorable" and a "ticking time bomb," according to an expert hired by the province after Kempton's death. David Giles pointed out the yard was jammed with boats, cars, oil and gas containers and garbage.
"I knew from the beginning that things weren't right were dad worked," Shannon Kempton said.
"I knew that there was a lot of blame placed on him. I think I said from the beginning, I don't say that dad didn't play some part. But there are other people who need to take responsibility for what they did or didn't do."
'Long time coming'
Hoyeck was hit with more than 20 workplace safety orders after Kempton's death.
Hoyeck later relocated his auto repair business to the Halifax Stanfield International Airport. The business shut down without any explanation late last year.
Kelly Regan, Nova Scotia's Labour Minister, said the charges have been a "long time coming."
"I think it's significant because it shows that we take workplace safety seriously here in Nova Scotia," she told CBC News.
"I think most Nova Scotians who are of a certain age know where they were when they heard about the Westray disaster. And I think, here in Nova Scotia, it's something we don't want to see repeated again."
Hoyeck is scheduled to appear in Dartmouth provincial court on Oct. 6 to face the criminal charge. Two days later, he's expected to face the Occupational Health and Safety Act charges.