Blog Post #768 – Digital Specialty Chemicals Ltd. Fined $65,000

Excerpt from the government of Ontario’s ‘Newsroom’

Digital Specialty Chemicals Ltd., a Scarborough manufacturer of specialized chemicals to pharmaceutical, semiconductor and specialty markets, has been fined $65,000 after an explosion injured a worker.

On February 16, 2014, workers at the company’s plant at 470 Coronation Drive in Toronto were preparing to re-start a chemical process in the distillation room, which had been shut down the day before due to a planned power outage. The chemical process was usually done in two stages; chemicals are used to create an intermediate product known as mono cyclopentadiene and deposited into a 10-gallon storage canister; the resulting product is normally processed immediately through a second set of equipment to obtain a new chemical compound that is the final product.

However, because of the power outage, some of the cyclopentadiene could not proceed to the second stage, so it was stored in a stainless steel canister placed inside a pail filled with dry ice to maintain a low temperature. Unless a low temperature is maintained, there is a spontaneous exothermic reaction (heat is given off); as the temperature rises, the pressure inside a sealed container will also rise and the resulting pressure can build to an explosive level.

Because of the power outage, the storage was for a longer period than usual (overnight). Workers did not ensure that sufficient dry ice was provided in order to maintain the necessary low temperature. As a result, the temperature of the material rose inside the canister and the pressure also increased.

Returning the next morning, a worker heard a hissing noise and observed smoke coming from the canister. As the worker approached the canister to inspect it more closely, the canister exploded. The explosion damaged the distillation equipment in the room as well as the eight-inch concrete blocks that formed the room’s walls, and blew the room’s double-insulated doors off their hinges. The worker was thrown back by the explosion and suffered second-degree burns.

The subsequent Ministry of Labour investigation found that the canister was not equipped with a pressure relief device that would have slowly released pressure, thus preventing a container from exploding.

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:

Digital Specialty Chemicals Ltd. was found guilty of a contravention of section 25, subsection 2(h) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) which states,

An employer shall,

“Take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.”

Did you, the ready feel that Digital Specialty Chemicals Ltd. took every precaution reasonable? I would say not!

At the very least, they should have contacted the Supplier or manufacturer for further information and clarification of long term storage. There should have been better monitoring of the containers due to the long term power outage.

The company’s chemical engineering department should have been contacted for further instructions.

I bet they have everything place now! Too bad for the employee.

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’, ‘Chemical Safety Awaress’ 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 – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

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