Blog Post#540 – Collapsed Roof Kills Two

Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine

Grief seized a small Ontario town where two volunteer firefighters died in the line of duty on March 17, 2011, while battling a blaze downtown.

Emergency responders from across Canada turned out for the March 24 funerals of Raymond Walter, 30, and Kenneth Rea, 56, in Listowel, west of Toronto.

The two members of the North Perth Fire Service (NPFS) died after becoming trapped by a collapsed roof at the Dollar Stop, says Constable Kees Wijnands, a spokesperson for the Perth County detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police. The fire at the discount store was reported to local police at about 3:30 pm.

While battling the blaze, firefighters noticed Walter, a member of the NPFS since 2008, and Rea, a 37-year veteran volunteer, were unaccounted for, prompting a search. “They were located and had succumbed to their injuries while fighting the fire,” Wijnands says.

“It was a tragic event,” adds Darren Storey, a member of the Fire Fighters Association of Ontario. The incident is a grim reminder of the ever-present dangers that are associated with firefighting, suggests Storey, co-chair of the association’s oh&s committee.

The deaths mark the province’s first multiple, line-of-duty fatalities since 1978, notes the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association in Burlington, Ontario.

“This is a terrible tragedy,” Ontario fire marshal Ted Wieclawek says of the recent deaths. The Office of the Fire Marshal (OFM) and the Ministry of Labour (MOL), both based in Toronto, are investigating. The MOL probe is focusing on any possible contraventions of Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act and its associated regulations, says ministry spokesperson William Lin.

As of March 21, six compliance orders had been issued to the Municipality of North Perth and two to the Dollar Stop. Among other directives, the municipality was required to provide a written account of the incident and a copy of the event’s chronology and dispatch times; the store was to ensure precautions were taken to prevent injury that could result from the demolition of the store.

Preliminary information from the OFM indicates the roof collapse was caused by contractors repairing the structure. In an April 13 statement, it notes the work “led to the ignition of interior combustible components of the roof structure.”

The OFM reports that “responding crews indicated that since there was an absence of significant smoke or flame in the building, they entered to confirm no one was inside” and to investigate the source of the fire. While inside the building, the sudden “collapse of the lightweight wood truss roof structure resulted in the deaths of the two firefighters.”

My opinion

A collapsed roof kills two! A terrible tragedy. Our thoughts go to the families.

I really think that there are exceptions to almost every rule. Mind you, the contractors should have taken into consideration all possible hazards during an assessment of the area, and then consider the controls necessary to protect all workers, including, in this case, the firefighters. Consider this, the recognition of ignitable material in a hot work operation is a no-no in any sector. The necessity of the identification, assessment and controls in any job and procedure, in the province of Ontario, is mandatory.

The fines should be aligned with sections 23, 25 and possibly section 27 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Section 23 covers responsibilities of the constructor, section 25 covers the responsibilities of the employer and section 27 covers the requirements for the supervisor.

In closing, the employer has one main requirement on the jobsite. Section 25, subsection 2(h) states,

“The employer shall take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of the worker.”

Says it all!

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’ 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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