Blog Post #274 – Enbridge Gas Distribution Inc., the Utility Locator and Excavator Fined in Excess of $1.1 Million Total after Explosion

Excerpt from the Government of Ontario’s Newsroom’

Enbridge Gas Distribution Inc., of North York, was fined $350,000 for a violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act after an explosion near a construction site.

Precision Utility Limited, a Mississauga provider of underground pipeline location services, was fined $200,000 in relation to the same incident. In addition, Enbridge pleaded guilty to charges under sec. 9(2) of Ontario Regulation 210/91 under the Technical Standards and Safety Act, 2000 and was fined an additional $350,000. Furthermore, the excavator on this project, Warren Bitulithic Ltd. pleaded guilty in October of 2006 under the same regulation and was fined $225,000.

During the spring of 2003, a construction company was performing road work in Toronto along Bloor St. W. between Kipling Ave. and The East Mall. This project included excavation work on Bloor St. W.

In March 2003, the company requested that underground natural gas pipelines in the construction area be located and marked. Enbridge Gas, the natural gas distributor, had a contract with Precision Utility to locate and mark their gas lines. Precision Utility sent a worker to identify and mark all underground natural gas pipelines along the construction area on Bloor St. However, the worker did not locate a natural gas line leading into the plaza at Bloor St. W.

On April 24, 2003, a backhoe struck and damaged the gas line not located by the Precision Utility worker. This caused gas to escape into the basement of the building. The gas was ignited and the resulting explosion killed seven people, some of whom worked in the plaza, destroyed the plaza and damaged several nearby buildings.

A Ministry of Labour investigation found that the Precision Utility worker did not use all available records while in the field. Also, the worker did not act on visual clues to the presence of natural gas.

Enbridge Gas Distribution Inc. pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that gas services in and near the area to be excavated were accurately located and marked before the excavation began.

Precision Utility Limited pleaded guilty to failing to adequately supervise an employee in the implementation of the locate process.

The fines were imposed by Justice Robert Bigelow. In addition to the fines, 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:

Enbridge Gas Distribution Inc. was found guilty of a contravention of section 228(1) of the Ontario ‘Construction’ regulation 213/91 which states,

“Before an excavation is begun,

a) The employer excavating shall ensure that all gas lines, electrical or other services in and near that area to be excavated are located and marked;
b) The employer and worker locating and marking the services described in clause (a) shall ensure that they are accurately located and marked; and
c) If a service may pose a hazard, the service shall be shut off and disconnected.”

Precision Utility Limited was found guilty of a contravention of section 25 (2)(a) of the Ontario OHSA which states,

“An employer shall,

a) Provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health and safety of the worker.”

It is a sad day when anyone dies on the job but the media has a field day when collateral damage occurs. Here we find 7 people die when all procedures are not followed and it looks like Precision Utility Limited was negligent because they did not properly supervise the location and marking process and obviously did not provide the worker with enough information to do his/her job.

Enbridge needs to better review all their contractors and ensure that they understand, fully, the need to cover all bases prior to excavation. The dangers were there and the worker would have been deemed incompetent as described in the ‘Definitions’ section of the ACT.

The location process would have been better served if the supervisor had gone with the worker OR had reviewed his selection of lines to see if any were missed. I hope that Precision Utility Limited uses this type of approach as part of the permanent corrective action plan required by the MOL.

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’, ‘Standard Operating Procedures’ and ‘Construction Safety Awareness’. 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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