Come by Chance return to work pushed to Sept. 19

·2 min read
An explosion at the refinery in Come By Chance on Friday has halted construction until at least Sept. 19.  (Sarah Sears/CBC - image credit)
An explosion at the refinery in Come By Chance on Friday has halted construction until at least Sept. 19. (Sarah Sears/CBC - image credit)
Sarah Sears/CBC
Sarah Sears/CBC

The company that owns the Come By Chance refinery has announced Sept. 19 as the tentative date for construction to resume, after an explosion at the facility sent eight people to hospital on Sept. 2.

In a statement Friday, Braya Renewable Fuels, the owner of the refinery, said it plans to hold employee information sessions at the end of next week, with workers returning to "light duties" the following Monday. The company had previously stated it planned to reopen the refinery on Monday.

"We are confident that we can facilitate a phased and safe transition back to work at the refinery that prioritizes the health, safety, and well-being of our workers," said Jim Stump, the company's president of refining.

Braya Renewable Fuels is converting the refinery into a biofuel operation that will make aviation fuel and diesel from used cooking oil, corn oil and animal fat. The explosion, which the company on Friday referred to as a "flash fire," happened in Unit 13.

Eight workers were sent to hospital in Clarenville. Five of them were then airlifted to the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's. According to the company, three workers have now been released from hospital.

Earlier this week, Glenn Nolan, the president of the union that represents most workers at the refinery, said members won't return to work until an investigation is completed.

"They won't go back on that site until we know what caused [the explosion]," he said.

Friday's statement from Braya said the company's return to work plan is tentative, based on feedback from Occupational Health and Safety and information from the investigation.

In a video message to employees the company shared with CBC News, Braya CEO Frank Almaraz said the company has been working with Occupational Health and Safety to determine the nature and cause of the explosion.

"Though we now have a good understanding of the nature of the incident, it may be some time before the formal investigation is complete," he said.

Almaraz said the company will conduct "focused refresher training" for employees next week to help ensure a safe workplace.

In the statement, Stump said the company has an "open-door policy" regarding safety.

"Our approach focuses on engagement with our workers ahead of easing back into our regular construction schedule to ensure they are prepared to resume work safely," he said.

CBC News has asked Braya Renewable Fuels for interviews with Stump and Almaraz. A week after the explosion, no company leaders have done media interviews or spoken publicly about it.

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