Blog Post #270 – Caterpillar Tunneling Canada Corp. Fined $130,000 after Worker Injured

Excerpt from the Government of Ontario’s Newsroom

Caterpillar Tunneling Canada Corporation, a Toronto-based company that designs and builds tunnel boring machines (TBMs) used to dig underground circular tunnels, was fined $130,000 on December 22, 2011, for violating the Occupational Health and Safety Act after a worker was injured.

On September 15, 2010, the TBM involved in the incident had been hydraulically pressurized to ensure its components and functions were working properly. The TBM contained a safety device called an accumulator, which remains pressurized even when the rest of the machine is not pressurized or otherwise operational. The accumulator must be depressurized separately prior to its disassembly. That afternoon, the company failed to confirm that the accumulator had been depressurized, as that person responsible for this task had been directed to help with other work.

Later in the evening, a worker was directed by a supervisor to help two other workers to disassemble and prepare the TBM for shipment. When the crew unscrewed a hydraulic hose that was connected to the accumulator, a jet of hydraulic oil hit the worker in the face and neck. The worker then fell and suffered head injuries.

A Ministry of Labour investigation found that Caterpillar Tunneling Canada Corporation, as an employer, failed to ensure the pressure inside the gas compartment of the accumulator was adjusted to atmospheric pressure before a hydraulic fitting was removed.

Caterpillar Tunneling Canada Corporation was fined $130,000 by Justice of the Peace D. Keith Currie. 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:

Caterpillar Tunneling Canada Corp. was found guilty of violating section 25, (1c) of the OHSA which states,

“An employer shall ensure,

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

Caterpillar was also found guilty of violating 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 pressure adjusted to atmospheric 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 filled while there is any risk of vaporizing or igniting the substance that is being placed in the drum, tank, pipeline or other container.”

One would think that Caterpillar Tunneling Canada Corp. would have had a set of written safety work instructions covering the many details in the assembly and disassembly of the tunneling machine. As a specialized company, Caterpillar Tunneling Canada should have been well versed in the procedures covered by section 78 of the Ontario ‘Industrial’ regulation 851. As described earlier, the experts in their field probably would have been consulted prior to enacting the legislation. In other words, Caterpillar Tunneling Canada Corp., should have been the first ones to know the proper procedures and worked accordingly.

The company could have also been charged with section 25, 2(c) which states,

“When appointing a supervisor, appoint a competent person.”

If they had followed this crucial piece of legislation, the worker would have been doubly protected. I was surprised the supervisor was not charged.

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 ‘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 – Foundation Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

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