Walmart was fined $120,000 ($100,000 plus $20,000 victim fine surcharge) on Tuesday, March 20, 2012 in connection with a death of a teenage employee last year in Grand Falls, New Brunswick. The civil lawsuit filed by Patrick Desjardins’ family was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
Patrick Desjardins, 17, was electrocuted while buffing a floor in the garage at the Grand Falls store. Walmart pleaded guilty on Tuesday, March 20, 2012 to three (3) charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) while the garage supervisor, Mr. Denis Morin, pleaded guilty to two charges under the OHSA.
At the plea hearing, crown prosecutor Karen Lee Lamrock stated that the death was not a result of Walmart putting profits ahead of safety concerns, but was an accident resulting from imprudence. Walmart agreed and has taken several remedial steps to ensure that this type of accident never happens again. Justice Paul Duffie of the Provincial Court of New Brunswick stated on the record that he was impressed that Walmart had admitted guilt and worked to find a resolution with the Crown.
Before this case, the highest fine ever imposed in New Brunswick for a violation under the Act was $30,000.00. However, the increased fine may in part be due to the fact that the New Brunswick OHSA was amended in 2008 to increase the maximum fine per count to $250,000.00 for a corporation.
Mr. Morin, the supervisor, who makes roughly $36,000.00 a year, was fined $880.00 plus a $176.00 victim fine surcharge as recommended in the joint submission.
The remedial steps taken by Walmart to prevent similar accidents that were communicated to the court at the plea hearing included:
- Launching a nationwide search for similar unauthorized equipment, and ensuring its immediate removal
- Amending a daily checklist to direct inspectors to place a greater emphasis on looking for tools that are not authorized to be in Walmart stores
- Placing greater emphasis on looking for any defects in equipment that is authorized for use
- Retraining all tire and lube express employees on safety procedures
- Removing all extension cords in tire and lube shops
- Adding the removal of extension cords to the daily, monthly checklist
- Permanently wiring in any equipment
- Repairing and replacing any outlets that do not have ground fault interrupters
This case serves as a reminder to employers to ensure that supervisors and workers are properly trained to identify hazards in the workplace.