Blog Post #313 – Aecon Construction Group Inc. Fined $225,000 after Explosion

Excerpt from the Government of Ontario’s ‘Newsroom’

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.

My opinion

The law(s) in contravention:

Aecon Construction Group Inc. was found guilty of a contravention of section 228(2) of the Ontario ‘Construction’ regulation 213/91 which states,

“Before an excavation is begun,

a) The employer excavating shall ensure that all gas, electrical and other services in or near the area to be excavated are located and marked.”

The world never changes now does it? Again, we see a company not understanding that all things MUST be considered prior to any work being done. The idea that someone would be killed on a job site is reprehensible to me. In this case, it is much worse because it was actually a customer was the person that was killed.

I also noticed that the supervisor was not charged. He/she should have been charged, fined to the max ($25,000 per violation) and I believe jail time is called for here. I guess the life of a customer was not worth the court’s time.

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’, ‘Construction 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 

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

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

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