A company and its two directors must pay $5.3 million in fines for a deadly 2008 propane explosion that killed one worker and forced local residents to flee their homes.
The employer, Sunrise Propane Energy Group Inc., was found guilty in 2013 of two violations of the Occupational Health & Safety Act (the Act)
including failure to provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker [s25(2)(a)] and failing to take every reasonable precaution for the protection of a worker [s25(2)(h)]. The company was sentenced this week and fined $280,000, plus a victim fine surcharge of $70,000.
Parminder Saini, 25, a new Canadian who juggled part-time at the plant with college studies, was killed during the explosion. Firefighter, Bob Leek, who rushed to the scene on his day off, suffered a fatal heart attack battling the blaze.
A preventable disaster
An Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office investigation into the explosion and fire did not determine the ignition source, but did conclude that a propane leak resulting from a hose failure occurred during a “truck to truck” transfer from one cargo truck to another. This type of transfer is illegal in Ontario.
Early in the morning of August 10, 2008, a dangerous and illegal “truck to truck” transfer was happening prior to several explosions which rocked the Sunrise Propane facility in north Toronto and forced more than 12,000 area residents to evacuate their homes. Two years before the explosion, the Technical Standards & Safety Authority (TSSA)
issued orders to the company to stop the dangerous transfer practice, but the practice continued. The TSSA revoked Sunrise Propane’s license 11 days after the explosion. The TSSA is mandated by the Ontario government to enforce a number of provincial safety regulations including those for fuels.
Environmental and community impact
The impact of the explosion was widespread and devastating. Local residents suffered injuries and burns and area businesses forced to close during the clean-up lost revenue. Area residents have filed a class- action law suit against the company. Costs to the City of Toronto for the clean-up were more than $2 million.
The company and its directors were found guilty of seven provincial environmental offences related to discharging contaminants and failing to comply with clean up orders, including for asbestos debris. For these offences Sunrise Propane, was fined $2,820,000 plus a victim fine surcharge of $705,000. Company directors, Shay Ben-Moshe and Valery Belahov, were fined $100,000 each, plus a victim surcharge of $25,000 each for not complying with a Ministry of Environment order. 1367220 Ontario Inc. was fined $2,000,000, plus a victim surcharge of $500,000 for discharging a contaminant that caused adverse effects.
Sunrise Propane is no longer operating, but the company and its directors have been given two and three years respectively to pay the fines.
Following the explosion and after the report of a provincial Propane Safety Review Panel several propane safety improvements have been made including more frequent inspections of propane facilities and introduction of risk and safety management plans.
Learn more about the Ministry of Labour charges against Sunrise Propane
Learn more about Ministry of Environment charges against Sunrise Propane
Download and read the Propane Storage and Handling Regulation
WHSC offers several propane training programs for workers including both awareness and competency-based training on propane handling, storage and use. WHSC’s recently revised program for construction heater operators (Propane for CH-02 ROT) is also available and meets TSSA accreditation standards.
Check out WHSC’s wide range of training programs
to help workplace parties understand their legal duties and responsibilities related to many workplace hazards including propane safety. Many of these resources also offer essential insight into the information and tools needed to eliminate or reduce harmful workplace and environmental exposures.
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