Blog Post #851 – Resolute FP Canada Inc. Fined $150,000 After Worker Burned in Dust Explosion

Excerpt from the government of Ontario’s ‘Newsroom’

Resolute FP Canada Inc., operator of a paper mill, pleaded guilty and has been fined $150,000 after a worker was burned following an explosion of wood dust.

The paper mill, located at Mowatt Avenue and Sinclair Street in Fort Frances, was idled in 2014 but its bio mass boiler was still in operation to provide heat for the mill through the winter months. It was expected that the boiler would be idled after the winter when heating was no longer required.

The boiler was capable of running on either natural gas or bio mass. In 2008 an engineering assessment of the conveyor system for the boiler concluded that the system did not present a dust explosion hazard, owing to the particle size and moisture content of the fuel being used as bio mass.

In the days before the incident, workers had been doing a cleanup of the plant in anticipation of its closure. Up to 15 wheelbarrow loads of fine, dry wood dust that had been swept up from around the plant were dumped into the conveyor system. At that time, the boiler was running on natural gas.

On February 27, 2014, it was Resolute’s intention to switch the boiler over to bio mass to burn off remaining fuel stock. On that day, a maintenance worker was checking on a plug-up of material in one of the conveyors and was near the operating controls at the head of the conveyor. The worker had cleared the plug-up and was looking into the conveyor to check whether it was going to plug up again.

As the dry wood dust that had been dumped into the conveyor was travelling on the conveyor, it was ignited by an undetermined source and a dust explosion occurred. A fireball travelled through the conveyor and out the end where the worker was standing. The worker received burns to the body.

Because the boiler system had not been designed to burn only fine, dry wood dust, but rather fuel with a certain moisture content and particle size, the protective measures of Section 63 of the Regulation for Industrial Establishments dealing with explosive hazards were not in place. That section regulates processes that could create an explosive mixture with air in industrial workplaces.

The company was fined $150,000 in Fort Frances court by Justice of the Peace Ron Beck on January 29, 2016.

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:

Resolute FP Canada Inc., was found guilty of a contravention of the Ontario ‘Industrial’ regulation 851/90, section 63 which states,

“A process that is likely to produce a gas, vapour, dust or fume, to such an extent as to be capable of forming an explosive mixture with air shall be carried out in an area which has provision for safe disposal by burning under controlled conditions or in an area which,

(a) is isolated from other operations;
(b) has a system of ventilation adequate to ensure that the gas, vapour, dust or fume does not reach a hazardous concentration;
(c) has no potential sources of ignition;
(d) has provision for explosion venting; and
(e) has, where applicable, baffles, chokes or dampers to reduce the effects of any explosion.”

Resolute FP Canada Inc., was also found guilty of a contravention of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) section 25, subsection 1 (c) which states,

“An employer shall ensure that,

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

I guess the hazard assessment on the proof of explosive dust was not one with someone “competent” to do so. The term “competent” can be found in the ‘definitions’ section of the OHSA which states,

“competent person” means a person who,

(a) is qualified because of knowledge, training and experience to organize the work and its performance,
(b) is familiar with this Act and the regulations that apply to the work, and
(c) has knowledge of any potential or actual danger to health or safety in the workplace.

This is the first place that a mistake was made. The second would be that a set of written step-by-step instructions should have made the operation cover all aspects including safety PPE. As well, where was the supervisor in all this?

So many steps that were not in place and the worker has to suffer.

Ensure your workplace is a safe place.

Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

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