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Steel manufacturer fined $290K after two workplace safety incidents


January 21, 2020
By Ministry of Labour, Training & Skills Development

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ArcelorMittal Dofasco MP Inc., a manufacturer of steel products for the automotive and other industries, has been fined a total of $290,000 in Ontario provincial court following two incidents involving worker safety.

ArcelorMittal along with ArcelorMittal Canada Inc. are the partners which form ArcelorMittal Dofasco G.P.

In two separate incidents at ArcelorMittal’s Hamilton manufacturing plant, two workers were exposed to carbon monoxide, and another was injured after a hand was drawn into the pinch point of a machine.

Following guilty pleas, ArcelorMittal Dofasco MP Inc. was fined $170,000 for an incident on May 23, 2018 when two workers were exposed to carbon monoxide, and $120,000 for an incident on December 6, 2018 when a worker was injured after their hand was drawn into the pinch point of a machine.

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The court also 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.

According to an investigation by the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, on May 23, 2018, two workers were cleaning a platform on the outside of a blast furnace located at the workplace. While sweeping this area, the blast furnace valves malfunctioned, causing the gases and dust contained in the furnace to erupt and to engulf the workers.

The workers were wearing carbon monoxide detectors which began sounding alarms to a point beyond the detectors’ ability of 1,000 ppm (parts of gas per million parts of air). They were not wearing their self-contained breathing apparatuses but put them on later.

The workers attended the employer’s medical facility, where they were placed on oxygen therapy for carbon monoxide exposure; they were subsequently treated at hospital.

In Ontario, occupational exposure limits (OEL) are regulated under Ontario Regulation 833 (Control of Exposure to Biological or Chemical Agents). The regulation restricts the amount and duration of workers’ exposure to hazardous workplace substances. To comply with the OEL, the employer must ensure that workers’ exposure to hazardous substances is below these limits.

The regulation specifies OEL for carbon monoxide (CO) at 25 ppm as an eight-hour and 40-hour time-weighted average (TWA) limit.

Additionally, the exposure to CO must not exceed three times the TWA (75 ppm) for any period of 30 minutes and five times the TWA (125 ppm) at any time; these limits are called excursion limits, and are intended to minimize the potential of neuro-behavioural changes upon exposure.

A Ministry of Labour hygienist calculated that the CO concentrations in the air inhaled by these two workers at the time of incident was at the range of 1,137 to 6,237 ppm – significantly higher than the limit of 125 ppm under the regulation.

In the second incident, on December 6, 2018, a worker was working on the coil prep line. The worker was attempting to feed flat stock material into a pair of rollers.

The worker used a control switch with one hand while trying to guide the steel between the two rollers with the other hand. The worker accidentally moved the switch in reverse instead of forward, which resulted in the worker coming into contact with the pinch point of the two rollers. The worker suffered critical injuries.

The ministry investigation found that there were perimeter gates, access panels and guardrails on the north side of the roller that prevented access from that side. However, there were none on the south side, where the worker was standing, and therefore access was available to the pinch point. There was a shield present, but it was inadequate as the worker was able to gain access to the pinch point by reaching across it.

The ministry found that on the dates of the two incidents, ArcelorMittal failed as an employer to ensure that the measures and procedures prescribed by the regulations in the Occupational Health and Safety Act were carried out in the workplace.