Gas station worker’s death being probed by Ministry of Labour

“We need to understand this is a serious thing and attendants tend to be the most vulnerable,” he said. “We need to protect the vulnerable and send the message this is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

A similar incident happened in Mississauga in May 2011, when gas attendant Hashem Atifeh Rad, 62, died while trying to stop a driver who had not paid for fuel. Abdullahi Mohamoud, 22, was charged but failed to appear in court. A bench warrant has been issued for his arrest.

North York Mirror
September 19, 2012

Gas station worker’s death being probed by Ministry of Labour
Fannie Sunshine

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Gas station worker’s death being probed by Ministry of Labour

The Ministry of Labour has launched an investigation into the death of a gas station attendant who died after being hit and dragged Saturday, Sept. 15 in an alleged “gas and dash” incident at Marlee and Roselawn avenues.

Ministry spokesperson Matt Bajer said all critical injuries or fatalities in the workplace are investigated under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The ministry is also looking into whether the Ontario Employment Standards Act had been followed, as allegations of violations have surfaced, he said Wednesday. The Ministry of Labour has one year to conclude their investigation.

Jayesh Prajapati, 44, died while trying to stop a driver from leaving after allegedly failing to pay $112.85 in fuel at the Shell station around 9 p.m. The attendant was hit and dragged before dying in hospital. He leaves behind a wife and an 11-year-old son.

Police are looking for Max Edwin Tutiven, 39, of Toronto. He is described as white with a dark complexion, 5’5” tall, 220 to 230 pounds, with dark brown hair.

Police believe Tutiven, who may have fled to Montreal, is driving a 2000 to 2003 silver or beige, four-door Isuzu Rodeo. The vehicle may have stolen plates.

Allegations against the Shell station owner where Prajapati worked claim employees had to pay for lost revenue during their shift. The owner has denied these allegations.

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) has set up an anonymous hotline to report gas stations that are “ripping off employees,” president Sid Ryan said in a release Tuesday, Sept. 18.

“We believe that at far too many gas stations in Ontario, after a thief drives off with stolen gas, the company turns around and steals the money back from vulnerable workers,” Ryan said. “This practice puts workers’ lives at risk and could have played a role in the death of an innocent gas station attendant. We want anyone with information on gas stations ripping off employees to call our anonymous hotline to help identify bad bosses and offending companies.”

Complaints to the Bad Gas Rip-Off Hotline can be made at 1-800-668-9138.

Responding to the OFL’s claims, Shell Canada Limited said in a statement it does not condone the practice of employers deducting wages from employees for lost revenue.

“The Ontario Employment Standards Act prohibits employers from deducting wages because the employer had property stolen and any person other than the staff member has access to the property,” the statement said. “Shell requires each of its retail operators to comply with all laws and regulations, and therefore we do not endorse or support any practice that contravenes this provincial statute…we have reminded our operators that it is illegal to charge sales associates for drive-aways, and that there will continue to be zero tolerance for this in the Shell network.”

Though Shell does not dictate what the terms of employment are between retailers and their employees, the company does require retail operators to comply with all laws and regulations, the statement said.

In the case of a drive-away, Shell’s procedures state: “Under no circumstances should site staff try to stop the vehicle from leaving the site. Never stand in front of a vehicle with the driver in the seat.”

“Shell is saddened by this senseless loss of life at one of our retail sites,” the statement said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the victim.”

Eglinton-Lawrence MPP Mike Colle, who represents the area where the incident happened, plans to put forth a private member’s bill calling for mandatory gas pre-payment.

“I’m getting a lot of feedback and doing research into this now,” he said. “I am proposing mandatory pre-payment for gas, especially at night time, and pay before you pump. A lot of people do transactions in cash so they would have to give the money to the attendant before they pump.”

While some gas stations in the city have pre-payment methods in place, Colle would like to see that extended to all stations, he said.

“It seems to be working,” he said.

Colle is also calling for licences to be suspended if drivers are convicted of gas theft, sending the message that type of stealing is not a victimless crime.

“We need to understand this is a serious thing and attendants tend to be the most vulnerable,” he said. “We need to protect the vulnerable and send the message this is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

A similar incident happened in Mississauga in May 2011, when gas attendant Hashem Atifeh Rad, 62, died while trying to stop a driver who had not paid for fuel. Abdullahi Mohamoud, 22, was charged but failed to appear in court. A bench warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Colle said he and his wife were heading home Saturday when he saw police cruisers at the Shell station.

“I knew the attendant,” he said. “He was a very courteous, local guy. If you were short 50 cents he would tell you to come back tomorrow to pay it.”

A vigil was held Monday, Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. where Prajapati’s body was found on the road.

Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to call police at 416-808-7400 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-8477.

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