Blog Post #621 – Ottawa Catholic District School Board Charged in Blast

Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine

Charges have been laid following an explosion that claimed the life of an 18-year old student at Mother Teresa High School in Ottawa.

On May 26, 2011, Eric Leighton was welding or grinding a 250-litre drum in a shop class when vapours inside the container ignited, causing an explosion.

Emergency personnel managed to resuscitate the teen and transport him to hospital, but he died approximately 10 hours later. Four other students and a 33-year old teacher were also taken to hospital for possible concussive injuries.

MOL spokesperson Matt Blajer reports that the drum contained peppermint oil. Considered a class B-3 substance under the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS), the oil is flammable and combustible.

Ottawa Catholic District School Board faces three charges, as an employer, under the Ontario Occupational health and Safety Act. (OHSA) The charges cite the following alleged failures: provide information on safe work practices and recognition of hazards linked to hot work, including grinding on drums or containers; take the reasonable precaution of ensuring that where a drum or container is altered, it is drained and cleaned or otherwise rendered free from any explosive or flammable substance; and ensure a worker and his supervisor are acquainted with the hazards of performing hot work on drums or containers.

My opinion,

Hot work has many issues and any welder worth his/her weight in salt would be aware of the potential and protect him/herself when actually doing th work. If the drum was much bigger, this may have been deemed a ‘Confined Space’ and then all procedures would have to be part of a ‘Confined Space’ permit which, in this case, would have included a ‘Hot Work’ permit.

The teacher MUST treat the situation like the supervisor of any company. The worker MUST receive all information necessary to work safe. If the worker does not understand all the hazards of the work prior to the start of it, then the employer will always be at fault.

Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”


‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal – CHSEP – Advanced

VP & Senior Trainer

HRSGroup Inc.

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