Excerpt from the government of Ontario’s ‘Newsroom’

Ontario Power Generation has pleaded guilty to failing to follow notification procedures required under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and fined $75,000.

Between August 20 and August 31, 2011, three workers were assigned the task of dismantling shielding canopies and other equipment at the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station on Holt Road South in Bowmanville. One of the workers was cutting the frame of the canopies with a torch when he saw a liquid substance emerge along with white smoke. It was later learned that the frame contained lead shots and that the worker had melted one or more of those shots. Neither the supervisor nor the workers were aware of the presence of the lead shots prior to beginning the work.

Lead exposure in concentrations that exceed the prescribed occupational exposure limits for lead can be hazardous to a person’s health. The workers were wearing face shields appropriate for torch-cutting activities but because the supervisor was not aware of the presence of lead shot in the frame, the workers were not wearing respiratory protection required for use when exposure to lead is possible. As a result of the lead content in the lead shot and the lack of respiratory equipment in use at the time of the work, the workers were potentially exposed to lead-containing particles.

On or about October 11, 2011, two of the workers filed claims with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board in respect of an occupational illness potentially resulting from their possible exposure to lead that August. Ontario Power Generation was advised of the claim at that time but OPG did not, within the required four days, provide the required notice to the Ministry of Labour, contrary to section 52(2) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

OPG pleaded to failing to comply with the required notification and was fined $75,000. The fine was imposed by Justice of the Peace Allison Forestall.

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.

My opinion

The law(s) in contravention:

OPG was found guilty of a contravention of section 52, subsection (2) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) which states,

“If an employer is advised by or on behalf of a worker that the worker has an occupational illness or that a claim in respect of an occupational illness has been filed with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board by or on behalf of the worker, the employer shall give notice in writing, within four days of being so advised, to a Director, to the committee or a health and safety representative and to the trade union, if any, containing such information and particulars as are prescribed.”

I guess OPG did not feel they had to live up to the same standards all other employers have to. This is sure not the first time they have been lacking health and safety concerns. Did they not realize that lead is a designated substance?(regulation 490/09) and that the safe exposure level is 0.05mg/m³?

Now I realize the supervisor did not know about the lead and that ensures that section 27 of the OHSA (supervisor responsibility) was not violated but the company did not properly instruct the supervisor and therefore section 25, subsection 2 (c) of the OHSA was violated or contravened. (when appointing a supervisor, appoint a competent person)

I would be interested in seeing if there are any long term issues? I do hope not! All workers are entitled to a safe work area. Here a mistake was made and I do hope OPG has completed a hazard assessment to ensure there are no more of the lead shots on their site.

I know that OPG is an essential service but all workers deserve a safe and healthy workplace. Rules should still apply to them.

Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Due Diligence’, ‘Designated Substance Safety Awareness’ and ‘Standard Operating Procedures’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.

We can also be reached at info@hrsgroup.com

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.