Company fined $80,000 after worker suffers fractures, burns in explosion

Thursday March 03, 2016
Written by Ontario Ministry of Labour
Mar. 3, 2016 - Precision Technologies, a division of Magna Powertrain, pleaded guilty and has been fined $80,000 after a worker suffered fractures and burns in a workplace explosion.

The company produces various aluminum automotive parts at two operations located at the same Mississauga address, comprising a foundry and a computer numerical control (CNC) machining facility.

On July 4, 2013, a worker who usually worked at the machining portion of the facility was asked to work at the foundry; the worker had worked in the foundry area only about a half-dozen times before, notes the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) investigation. The worker was tasked with examining whether two propane-fueled torch wands were lit, a procedure known as the “pre-heat pump well procedure.”

For this task, wands were used to heat a pump well, a small cube-like structure facilitating the outflow of molten metal from an aluminum melter. Lit torch wands were typically placed in the pump well to prevent solidifying and build-up of molten metal that can impair the proper functioning of the pump or the melter, it notes.

The worker performed the task as it had been seen performed by other foundry workers. The worker climbed on the pump well and perched atop its surface. The top of the pump well is mostly a flat surface and it accommodates a hatch; when opened, the hatch allows for lit torch wands to heat up the inside of the pump well. According to the investigation, the worker was wearing safety glasses and gloves but not a face shield.

While checking the wands, there was an explosion and the force and heat generated by the explosion knocked the worker back and caused the worker to jump six feet to the concrete ground below. As a result of the fall, the worker sustained fractures requiring surgery and burns from the explosion, says the MOL.

The ministry found that the worker had not performed the task before, had not received any related training before attempting the task, and there was no written or other procedure to refer to in order to determine a safe way to completed the assignment on the day of the incident.

Following the incident, the company developed a safe procedure for the pump well pre-heat process that includes use of a dome mirror to make flame detection easier, and also installed a step platform so that standing on top of the pump well is no longer necessary, says the MOL.

Precision Technologies pleaded guilty to failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker on the measures and procedures to follow when performing the pump well pre-heat task, and was fined $80,000.

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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