Nunavut contractor fined after explosion injures worker

·2 min read

Nunavut contractor Tower Arctic has been fined $75,000 by the Nunavut Court of Justice, following a Nunavut Safety Act breach that led to an employee being injured in September of 2018.

After a steel barrel he was cutting open exploded in his face, the Tower Arctic worker had to be medevaced out of his community of Pond Inlet, first to Iqaluit and then to Ottawa, according to a court decision released to the public last week.

The barrel was scavenged from the community dump and had residue inside from hazardous waste, the decision stated.

The man suffered lacerations to his face, burned hair and he lost teeth. An agreed statement of facts says he was new on the job, hadn't been given a safety orientation and wasn't being supervised.

A supervisor was present when the barrels were scavenged and when cutting the barrels started, but was not present during the accident.

Nunavut Justice Susan Cooper called it a "matter of luck" that the injuries were not more serious.

"While he was cutting the barrel, sparks from the grinder ignited combustible gases in the barrel, causing an explosion," the decision states. "The force from the explosion blew the top off the barrel, breaking his face shield before continuing upward and damaging the tent roof of the sea can shop."

The man was knocked over and left semi-conscious, it said.

Safety Act violations from the incident included failing to perform a hazard assessment before starting work, not knowing what the barrels had been used for previously, not cleaning the barrels and failing to provide safety training and supervision to the new worker.

The construction company pled guilty in October to failing to keep its Pond Inlet workshop safe.

Tower Arctic must also pay a victim surcharge of $11,250. Both fines are to be paid by the end of March.

It is the company's only conviction for a safety violation, Cooper said.

"Following the incident, the corporation undertook immediate and significant steps to address safety issues and attitudes in the workplace," she said. "The supervisors who were responsible for the workplace at the time of the incident either resigned or were replaced by individuals with more safety experience."

A safety agent was also hired and all managers received safety training, the decision said. The company also stopped repurposing old barrels. In this case, the barrel was being turned into a sign for its work site.

The Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission says it is an employer responsibility to train employees in how to use safety equipment and how to identify hazards. It adds that employers should educate workers to understand their rights when it comes to safety.