Waste disposal company pleads guilty to 2 charges after worker killed

·2 min read
Ryan Durling, pictured here during his last year of high school, was 21 when he died while working for EFR Environmental doing solid waste pickup in Port Williams. The volunteer firefighter had recently earned his taekwondo black stripe, loved 4H and was proud to be Mi'kmaq.  (Submitted by Pamela Durling - image credit)
Ryan Durling, pictured here during his last year of high school, was 21 when he died while working for EFR Environmental doing solid waste pickup in Port Williams. The volunteer firefighter had recently earned his taekwondo black stripe, loved 4H and was proud to be Mi'kmaq. (Submitted by Pamela Durling - image credit)

A waste disposal company in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley has pleaded guilty to two Occupational Health and Safety Act charges in relation to a worker's death two years ago.

Ryan Durling died on May 10, 2018, after being struck by a compactor blade inside a garbage truck in Port Williams, N.S. The 21-year-old had been working as a waste collector during the spring cleanup, helping pick up large household items.

He was hit after entering the body of the truck through an access door to relieve himself, something workers did on their collection routes when there were no other washroom options.

In provincial court Monday in Kentville, N.S., Brad Proctor, a lawyer representing Durling's employer, EFR Environmental, which used to be called EFR Disposal Ltd., entered guilty pleas to two counts.

They include that the company failed to ensure an access door on the garbage truck had an interlock system that would have prevented the door from opening when the compactor was running and, in the event that someone did open the door, would have disconnected the power.

The second count related to how the company's inspections failed to detect that the lock system was not in place and posed a safety hazard.

Prosecutor Alex Keaveny said the truck involved in the incident had previously been used in Ontario, where operators had installed a padlock on the access door, but that system was not used when it came to Nova Scotia. He said other trucks in the EFR fleet did have an electronic interlock system installed.

EFR and RE Group, the parent company that owned the truck, had both initially pleaded not guilty to four occupational health and safety charges and a trial was scheduled to start Monday.

Keaveny said the Crown will not be proceeding with the other charges. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for April 28.

Documents obtained by CBC in 2019 through a freedom-of-information request showed that immediately after Durling's death, the provincial Department of Labour ordered the garbage truck be taken out of service while it investigated.

A month after Durling's death, the department ordered EFR to install interlocks on the truck and ensure they were installed on all other vehicles with garbage compactors and access doors.

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