Blog Post #172 – Ministry Of Natural Resources Fined $300,000 After Worker Killed

Excerpt From the Ontario Government’s ‘Newsroom’

The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) was fined $300,000 for a violation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) after a worker was killed.

On May 9, 2008, firefighters employed seasonally by the ministry went to Killarney Provincial Park to burn a “slash pile” consisting of fine brush material and other debris. Workers mixed some fuels and ignited the pile. A crew leader then conducted a training exercise involving a “drip torch” used in fire suppression. When the fire started to die down, another crew leader began pouring more fuel on the pile. The fuel flared and engulfed the crew leader in flames. Two workers who tried to put out the flames suffered minor burns. The crew leader suffered severe burns and died.

A Ministry of Labour investigation found that personal protective equipment (PPE) had been issued to all the workers, but none of them were wearing full PPE at the time of the incident.

The Ministry of Natural Resources pleaded guilty to failing, as an employer, to take the reasonable precaution of ensuring the use of personal protective equipment as appropriate to the task for mixing fuels, using a drip torch and burning a slash pile.

The fine was imposed by Justice of the Peace Kathleen Bryant. In addition, 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:

The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) was found guilty of section 25, subsection 2(h) of the OHSA which states,

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

The MNR should have developed a policy and procedure to deal with this type of exercise. If the public was involved, you know that provisions would have been made to protect the public and a few firefighters would have been in full gear in an emergency backup role. Why would the MNR not do the same thing for themselves! Every type of hazard has to be identified, even if the hazard has not happened and may never happen. The hazard should be identified and controls put in place JUST IN CASE. The crew leader would have been alive today and, at worst, had only suffered minor burns instead.

Complacency wins again.

We always believe that it will never happen to us because, well, it hasn’t happened before. If the MNR had incorporated safety into the planning stage of the exercise then this type of accident event would happen less and less. The health and safety coordinator needs to take a more proactive approach and lead the way for health and safety in the workplace. Think about what might happen and attempt corrective action. It is a better approach than one of reaction. Protect your workers with a proper set of occupational health and safety procedures for your company and your employees.

Remember — In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

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

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