Thunder Bay, Ont.'s Northern Sawmills fined C$80,000 for violations that resulted in burns to two employees

THUNDER BAY, Ont. , April 25, 2007 (press release) – Northern Sawmills Inc., a company which owns and operates a sawmill in Thunder Bay, was fined $80,000 on April 19, 2007 for two violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act that resulted in burns to two employees.

On February 17, 2005, two workers were investigating smoke coming from a "baghouse" (a building that collects dust in bags from planer machines used in the processing of forest products) when a dust explosion occurred. Both workers were taken to hospital with minor burns. The Ministry of Labour determined the fire had started on a planer machine and was put out, but a spark somehow travelled to the baghouse through the dust collection system. The incident occurred at the company's sawmill at 490 Maureen Street in Thunder Bay.

Following a trial, Northern Sawmills Inc. was found guilty, as an employer, of:

1. failing to take reasonable precautions to protect the two workers' health and safety by failing to ensure there was a spark detection or spark suppression system in the dust collection system between the planer and bag house; and failing to ensure the workers were not working at or near the baghouse's blast doors. This was contrary to Section 25(2)(h) of the act; and

2. failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to the two workers to protect their health and safety in dealing with a possible explosion in the baghouse. This was contrary to Section 25(2)(a) of the act.

Justice of the Peace Marcel Donio, of the Ontario Court of Justice in Thunder Bay, fined the company $60,000 on the first count and $20,000 on the second count. 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.

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