Blog Post #667 – Terrace Bay Pulp Inc. Fined $275,000 after Worker’s Death

Excerpt from the government of Ontario’s ‘Newsroom’

Terrace Bay Pulp Inc. has been fined $275,000 for an explosion that killed a worker at its mill in northern Ontario in 2011.

On October 31 of that year, a hairline crack in the wall of a steel tank known as a blow tank was being welded by workers employed by a subcontractor. The tank was about 70 feet tall and 21 feet in diameter and was normally used to contain hazardous substances.

An explosion caused the top section of the tank to be driven upward into the steel beams supporting the roof of the facility, creating a 30-foot hole in the roof and a debris field with a radius of about 300 feet.

A worker employed by the mill who was involved in cleaning the tank was killed and the sub-contractor workers required medical attention.

An investigation conducted by the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office confirmed the explosion originated within the tank as a result of existing hazardous substances being ignited. An investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Labour also confirmed that welding repairs to the tank had been allowed to proceed before the tank had been rendered free of any hazardous substances.

The ministry’s investigation also concluded that reasonable precautions relating to the planning and co-ordination of activities in preparing for the welding work on the tank were not taken by the mill.

At Thunder Bay provincial court on April 4, Terrace Bay Pulp Inc. pleaded guilty to failing to take reasonable precautions in the circumstances and failing to ensure a tank was drained and cleaned or otherwise rendered free from any explosive, flammable or harmful substance before repairs or alterations were made.

The $275,000 fine was imposed by Justice Joyce Pelletier.

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:

Terrace Bay Pulp Inc. was found guilty of a contravention of section 25, subsection 1 (c) of the Ontario ‘Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) which states,

“An employer shall ensure that,

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

Terrace Bay Pulp Inc. was also found guilty of a contravention of section 25, subsection 2 (h) of the OHSA which states,

“An employer shall,

(h) Take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker; and finally

Terrace Bay Pulp Inc. was finally found guilty of a contravention of section 78 of the Ontario ‘Industrial’ regulation 851/90 which states,

“Where repairs or alterations are to be made on a drum, tank, pipeline or other container, the drum, tank, pipeline or other container shall,

(a) Have internal pressures adjusted to atmospheric pressure before any fastening is removed;

(b) Be drained and cleaned or otherwise rendered free from any explosive, flammable or harmful substance; and

(c) Not be refilled while there is any risk of vaporizing or igniting the substance that is being placed in the drum, tank, pipeline or other container.”

The term ‘Confined Space’ has quite a different set of rules dealing with any work being done in or around it. In fact, Ontario regulation 632/05 covers all confined space entry issues in Ontario and should have been used instead of the Ontario ‘Industrial’ regulation. Air monitoring and ventilation are a large part, along with purging, when eliminating atmospheric hazards. Mandatory in 632/05.

By the way, a 4-gas monitor would have been an extra precaution and regulation 632/05 states that hot work cannot be initiated above 5 LELs. If the worker was wearing one, and was trained in its use, then this type of accident would not have happened.

Section 78 of the ‘Industrial’ regulation was used but 632/05 should have been considered in this case. A ‘Confined Space’ permit should have been issued as well as one for ‘Hotwork’ making the operation completely monitored.

Too late for the worker!

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 Spaced Entry’, ‘Due Diligence’ 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.

Leave a Comment