Aecon Construction Group Inc. was fined $225,000 on March 7 for a violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act after an explosion that killed a homeowner.
During the summer and fall of 2008, Union Gas Ltd. started providing natural gas service to residential neighbourhoods outside of Owen Sound. Union Gas contracted Aecon to install the natural gas lines. One of the homes being serviced, on Front St. in East Linton, had a private propane service on the property. This included a storage tank and buried supply lines.
On September 25, 2008, Aecon arrived at the home to begin installation of the natural gas line. The propane line had not been marked and was still in service that morning. The natural gas line was installed using an underground plough. During the process, the blade of the plough severed the unmarked propane line. Propane leaked through the soil and foundation of the house into the basement. The next day, one of the homeowners entered the basement and lit a candle. The propane that had accumulated in the basement ignited, which caused an explosion and a fire. The homeowner was blown out of the house and suffered third-degree burns leading to death.
A Ministry of Labour investigation found that the Aecon supervisor was aware of the propane service, but assumed the propane line would not be in the path of the natural gas line. The homeowners had not been present to supervise the location and excavation of the existing service lines.
Aecon Construction Group Inc. pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the owner of the propane service was requested to locate and mark the service prior to the excavation.
The fine was imposed by Judge Gary F. Hearn. In addition to the fine, the court imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge, as required by the Provincial Offences Act. The surcharge is credited to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime.
The company was in violation of 213/91, of the construction regulations, regulation 228, which states,
228. (1) Before an excavation is begun,
(a) the employer excavating shall ensure that all gas, electrical and other services in and near the area to be excavated are located and marked;
(b) the employer and worker locating and marking the services described in clause (a) shall ensure that they are accurately located and marked; and
(c) if a service may pose a hazard, the service shall be shut off and disconnected. O. Reg. 443/09, s. 6.
(2) If a service may pose a hazard and it cannot be shut off or disconnected, the owner of the service shall be requested to supervise the uncovering of the service during the excavation. O. Reg. 443/09, s. 6.
(3) Pipes, conduits and cables for gas, electrical and other services in an excavation shall be supported to prevent their failure or breakage. O. Reg. 443/09, s. 6.
How could the supervisor be so careless? How can the company even attempt to plough through the area without any lines being located? How could a company, with a positive safety record as Aecon, miss one important step such as this one? Does the supervisor even keep his/her job after this?
Section 25 of the ACT, instructs the employer on its responsibility to its employees. In this case, the home owner can sit in as an employee.
Section 25, sub section 2(c) states,
“The employer shall when appointing a supervisor, appoint a competent person.”
At the beginning of the ACT, in the definitions, is refers to competency as;
(a) Someone who has the knowledge, training and experience to organize the work,
(b) Is familiar with the ACT and regulations that apply to the work,
(c) Is familiar and knowledgeable of any potential or actual danger to health and safety in the workplace.
It is hard to imagine that, in this day and age, we still hear about accidents such as this one. There always should be written work instructions outlining a procedure such as this and some one should make sure it was followed to the letter.
Remember — In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”
‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.
Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Foundation Level
VP & Senior Trainer