Terrace Bay Pulp pleads guilty, fined C$275,000 by Ontario Ministry of Labour for 2011 explosion that killed worker; investigation found welding repairs to blow tank had been allowed to proceed before it had been rendered free of any hazardous substances

THUNDER BAY, Ontario , April 4, 2014 (press release) – Terrace Bay Pulp Inc. has been fined $275,000 for an explosion that killed a worker at its mill in northern Ontario in 2011.

On October 31 of that year, a hairline crack in the wall of a steel tank known as a blow tank was being welded by workers employed by a subcontractor. The tank was about 70 feet tall and 21 feet in diameter and was normally used to contain hazardous substances.

An explosion caused the top section of the tank to be driven upward into the steel beams supporting the roof of the facility, creating a 30-foot hole in the roof and a debris field with a radius of about 300 feet.

A worker employed by the mill who was involved in cleaning the tank was killed and the sub-contractor workers required medical attention.

An investigation conducted by the Ontario Fire Marshal's Office confirmed the explosion originated within the tank as a result of existing hazardous substances being ignited. An investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Labour also confirmed that welding repairs to the tank had been allowed to proceed before the tank had been rendered free of any hazardous substances.

The ministry's investigation also concluded that reasonable precautions relating to the planning and co-ordination of activities in preparing for the welding work on the tank were not taken by the mill.

At Thunder Bay provincial court on April 4, Terrace Bay Pulp Inc. pleaded guilty to failing to take reasonable precautions in the circumstances and failing to ensure a tank was drained and cleaned or otherwise rendered free from any explosive, flammable or harmful substance before repairs or alterations were made.

The $275,000 fine was imposed by Justice Joyce Pelletier.

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.

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