Blog Post #435 – Ottawa Catholic District School Board Fined $275,000 after Classroom Explosion

Excerpt from the Government of Ontario’s ‘Newsroom’

The Ottawa Catholic District School Board was fined $275,000 today for a violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act after an explosion in a school classroom that killed a student.

On May 26, 2011, students in a Mother Teresa High School classroom were making barbeques out of steel barrels. As a student was cutting a barrel with a hand grinder, the barrel exploded. The student was killed.

A Ministry of Labour investigation found that the barrel the student was using had been washed out with a flammable cleaner. The barrel had been stored with its caps closed prior to the class project, allowing flammable cleaning vapours to accumulate inside the barrel. When the student was cutting the barrel, a spark from the grinder ignited the vapours, causing the explosion.

The investigation also found that the school board did not have adequate review and assessment procedures in place to ensure hot work on drums or containers could be carried out safely.

The Ottawa Catholic District School Board pleaded guilty to failing, as an employer, to provide information, instruction and supervision to the teacher concerning safe work practices and recognition of the hazards associated with the class project.

The fine was imposed by Justice of the Peace Claudette Coulas. 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:

The Ottawa Catholic District School Board was found guilty of violating section 25, sub-section 2(a) of the OHSA which states,

“An employer shall,

(a) Provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health or safety of the worker.”

All the potential hazards, of any particular task, needs to be identified, assessed and controlled prior to any work is being done. How can this have had happened with all the potential safeguards in place? Why was a student’s life put into danger? Why was the teacher not competent to organize the work? All these questions were there for the asking but it is only after a lift is lost that change is made.

Same story, different day!

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 ‘Chemical Safety Awareness’ and ‘WHMIS’. 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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