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Worker killed while disassembling valve; company, supervisor fined


January 12, 2016
By Ontario Ministry of Labour

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Jan. 12, 2016 – Professional Valve Service and a supervisor pleaded guilty and were fined a total of $130,000 after a worker was killed while disassembling a valve for routine cleaning and maintenance.

On February 10, 2014, a worker was given the task of performing maintenance on a Fort Vale vacuum valve at the company’s premises in Sarnia, Ont. The company is in the business of repairing and maintaining vacuum valves for industrial applications.

The shop’s procedure for disassembling the valve required decompression of an internal spring, which was done by the insertion of a threaded rod through a hole in the valve cap. The procedure utilized by Professional Valve differed from that recommended by the Fort Vale manufacturer, according to the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL). The Fort Vale procedure involved the use of a drill press to remove the valve cap so if pressure was suddenly released, the equipment would be contained by the press and the operator’s body would not be above the threaded rod, according to the MOL investigation. The hole in the top of the valve is there to allow internal adjustment and not for disassembly purposes, it added.

The investigation found that on the day of the incident, the worker was alone and there were no witnesses as the worker proceeded to disassemble the Fort Vale valve. At some point in the disassembly process, the threaded rod released from an internal nut and under pressure was driven through the worker’s head, according to the investigation; the worker was found by a co-worker and died two days later.

MOL notes that the worker assigned to the tasks had only worked on one Vale valve before this, and worked at Professional Valve for fewer than six months and did not have prior similar experience at other employers. According to MOL, “no formal training on Fort Vale valves had been provided, and the supervisor, Joe Heynsbergen, assumed that the worker had training on the hazards associated with the company’s procedure for disassembling Fort Vale valves, with no basis for that assumption.”

The company pleaded guilty to failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the safety of the worker, and was fined $125,000. The shop co-ordinator, Joe Heynsbergen, pleaded guilty to failing to take the reasonable precaution of ensuring that the worker was sufficiently trained and/or supervised to perform the task safely, and was fined $5,000.

In addition to the fine, the court imposed 25-per-cent victim fine surcharges as required by the Provincial Offences Act. The surcharges are credited to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime.