Blog Post #1161 – Worker’s Death in Tank Container Results in $105,000 Fine for Oakville Company

Excerpt from the government of Ontario’s ‘Newsroom’

A worker was found unconscious inside a tank that carried nitrogen. The worker died from asphyxiation.

The accident/incident happened at the Prokleen Washing Services Inc., 2378 Royal Windsor Drive, Oakville, Ontario and they are a company that provides washing services for trucks and trailers, petroleum tankers and fuel delivery trucks, highway tractors, chemical tankers, flatbeds, semi-trailers, light-duty trucks, reefers (refrigerated trucks) and dump trucks.

On January 27, 2017, two workers were performing the wash of a customer’s tank container that carried nitrogen. Nitrogen displaces oxygen and can be an asphyxiation hazard in an enclosed space. Neither worker was required to enter the tank to complete the wash. One of the workers briefly left the workplace and returned. The worker who had remained was found unconscious in the tank.

Emergency medical services were called but the worker could not be revived. The cause of death was determined by the coroner to be inert gas asphyxiation. There were no eyewitnesses to the incident. The worker was an experienced worker.

The Ministry of Labour’s investigation found the company’s written plan did not adequately identify certain workplace hazards. In particular, an access point of a customer’s container was not equipped with warning signs as to the oxygen-depleted atmosphere of the tank.

Prokleen Washing Services committed the offence of failing as an employer to ensure the measures and procedures prescribed by section 7(1) of Ontario Regulation 632/05 (the Confined Spaces regulation) were carried out in the workplace, contrary to section 25(1)(c) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Following a guilty plea, Prokleen Washing Services was fined $105,000 by Justice of the Peace Margot McLeod in Milton court; Crown Counsel Wes Wilson.

The court also 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:

Prokleen Washing Services was found guilty of a contravention of the Ontario Confined Space regulation 632/05, section 7.1which states,

“Before any worker enters a confined space, the employer shall ensure that an adequate written plan, including procedures for the control of hazards identified in the assessment, has been developed and implemented by a competent person for the confined space.”

Prokleen Washing Services was also found guilty of a contravention of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act, section 25, subsection 1(c) which states,

“An employer shall ensure that,

(c) the measures and procedures prescribed are carried out in the workplace.”

The first problem here, I see, is that the company did not know the space as Confined in nature.

“A “confined space” means a fully or partially enclosed space,

(a) that is not both designed and constructed for continuous human occupancy, and

(b) in which atmospheric hazards may occur because of its construction, location or contents or because of work that is done in it.”

Once they start down the road to confined space safety then they realize a plan must be developed and training is a large part of the plan.

Here are some of the questions that needed to be asked and answered:

  1. Where was the attendant?
  2. Was the attendant properly trained?
  3. Was there a first aid person nearby?
  4. Were there air monitoring protocols? All protocols MUST be in place before and during the operation;
  5. Was a JHA completed before hand?
  6. Was proper PPE made available and, if so, was the worker(s) trained in its use?

All good questions that would have gone a long way in the protection of the worker. All hazards MUST be recognized, assessed and controlled, prior to entry. THAT IS THE LAW! Prokleen never received the memo.

Ensure your workplace is a safe place.

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 ‘Confined Space Entry’ and ‘Lockout and Tagout’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.

We can also be reached at 

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal

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



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