Blog Post #393 – Enbridge Gas Company, Utility Locator and Excavator Fined in Excess of $1.1 Million Total after Explosion

Excerpt from the government of Ontario’s ‘Newsroom’

Enbridge Gas Distribution Inc., of North York, was fined $350,000 for a violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act after an explosion near a construction site. Precision Utility Limited, a Mississauga provider of underground pipeline location services, was fined $200,000 in relation to the same incident. In addition, Enbridge pleaded guilty to charges under sec. 9(2) of Ontario Regulation 210/91 under the Technical Standards and Safety Act, 2000 and was fined an additional $350,000. Furthermore, the excavator on this project, Warren Bitulithic Ltd. pleaded guilty in October of 2006 under the same regulation and was fined $225,000.

During the spring of 2003, a construction company was performing road work in Toronto along Bloor St. W. between Kipling Ave. and The East Mall. This project included excavation work on Bloor St. W.

In March 2003, the company requested that underground natural gas pipelines in the construction area be located and marked. Enbridge Gas, the natural gas distributor, had a contract with Precision Utility to locate and mark their gas lines. Precision Utility sent a worker to identify and mark all underground natural gas pipelines along the construction area on Bloor St. However, the worker did not locate a natural gas line leading into the plaza at Bloor St. W.

On April 24, 2003, a backhoe struck and damaged the gas line not located by the Precision Utility worker. This caused gas to escape into the basement of the building. The gas was ignited and the resulting explosion killed seven people, some of whom worked in the plaza, destroyed the plaza and damaged several nearby buildings.

A Ministry of Labour investigation found that the Precision Utility worker did not use all available records while in the field. Also, the worker did not act on visual clues to the presence of natural gas.

Enbridge Gas Distribution Inc. pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that gas services in and near the area to be excavated were accurately located and marked before the excavation began.

Precision Utility Limited pleaded guilty to failing to adequately supervise an employee in the implementation of the locate process.

The fines were imposed by Justice Robert Bigelow. In addition to the fines, 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:

Enbridge Gas Distribution Inc., of North York, was found guilty of violating section 228(1) 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 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.”

Precision Utility Limited was found guilty of violating section 25, subsection 2(a) which states,

“The employer shall provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health and safety of the worker.”

Enbridge Gas Distribution Inc. and Warren Bitulithic Ltd. were also found guilty of violating section 9(2) of the Ontario regulation 210/91.

I do not think we need to hear from me on this issue. The accident killed seven people and destroyed several properties. All safeguards have to be in place prior to any work being done. This is true for any sector in Ontario, be it Industrial, Healthcare, Mining or Construction. Too bad, though. All it would have taken was a little preparation and the accident would have been avoided.

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’ 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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