Gas worker’s death prompts two Labour Ministry probes

ANNA MEHLER PAPERNY

September 19, 2012 – Globe and Mail

Ontario’s Labour Ministry has launched two investigations after a Toronto Shell station employee was killed trying to stop a driver from absconding without paying.

Shell is doing an internal investigation of its own.

Jayesh Prajapati, 44, was dragged to his death Saturday night, caught on an SUV as it barrelled westward along Roselawn Avenue in the city’s northwest. Max Edwin Tutiven, 39, is wanted on charges of second-degree murder. Police say they fear Mr. Tutiven, whose prior convictions include gas theft, has fled to Montreal.

The Labour Ministry conducts an occupational health and safety investigation whenever there’s a death or critical injury at a work site. But this incident has prompted a second investigation, this one under the province’s employment standards act. Mr. Prajapati’s friends and family have alleged that he and his colleagues were responsible for covering the cost of gas stolen on their shifts out of their own pockets. This is prohibited under Ontario law. The manager of the gas station where Mr. Prajapati works has denied this is the case.

“There have been claims that the gas station employee had to pay for gas that was stolen, and we’re just making sure that wasn’t the case, because that’s illegal,” said Labour Ministry spokesman Matt Blajer.

Maz Alibhai, manager of the gas station where Mr. Prajapati worked, told The Globe on Monday that employees are never expected to cover the cost if a driver leaves without paying. “They’ve all been trained not to chase after cars, they’ve all been trained to take plates,” he said at the time.

Local MPP Mike Colle plans to bring forward a private member’s bill Thursday calling for “severe penalties” for any employer trying to dock employee pay over gas theft. He also wants Ontario gas stations to make customers pay before they pump, and to suspend the licences of convicted gas thieves.

While the employment standards investigators will make sure all employees were reimbursed correctly and weren’t docked pay or hours because of thefts, the occupational health and safety investigators will make sure the work site was as safe as possible. This includes the protocol for dealing with violent situations.

Shell is conducting a full investigation of its own – something that happens whenever there’s an incident involving health, safety, security or the environment, a spokesman said Wednesday.

 “We are interviewing individuals, reviewing security footage and files and this does take some time. Most importantly we want to take what we learn from this tragedy and incorporate what we learn for the future,” the e-mailed statement read. “Any findings will be shared with the relevant regulatory authorities and police personnel where appropriate.”

Mr. Prajapati, a chemist from Gujarat, came to Toronto with his wife and son six years ago. He started working at the gas station because he had trouble getting a Canadian chemistry job with his Indian credentials. But his brother-in-law, Hemant Kumar, said he’d been hopeful he could get certified and hired in Canada.

“He has been applying to a few pharmaceutical companies, but with no luck,” Mr. Kumar said. “He was hopeful that one day he would get a job in his field and from then on everything would be fine.”

With a report from Kim Mackrael

 

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