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3 Electrical Incidents in 24 hours in Ontario

Ontario, Canada- September 19th was Black Thursday in Ontario’s electrical sector with three separate incidents of workers contacting overhead wires causing two electrocution deaths and injuring two others.

The spate of mishaps left construction, electrical and health and safety stakeholders upset, frustrated and searching for answers.

“The Electrical Safety Authority is very saddened to hear any time there are incidents of an electrical nature,” said Dr. Joel Moody, the ESA’s chief public safety officer. “Our thoughts are with the families who have experienced loss.”

Two of the three involved construction work. The third, in Kawartha Lakes, was at a private home where workers trimming a hedge on an elevated work platform contacted a powerline. One worker died and the other was injured.

In Vaughan, a Ministry of Labour report said a worker employed by Pontil Drilling Services sustained fatal injuries when a drill boom made contact with overhead power lines.

In Scarborough, east Toronto, a worker for Darcon was injured when a tower crane hit an overhead powerline. The job site constructor is Paramount Structures.

“This is a stark reminder of the dangers of working near electricity and clearly shows there is a need for more to be done to keep workers safe,” said James Barry, executive chairman of the IBEW Construction Council of Ontario, in an online statement.

There have been 1,250 reported overhead powerline contacts in Ontario in the last 10 years with an average of two deaths per year, making the pair of fatalities on Sept. 19 a full year’s worth statistically. The ESA says construction workers are at especially high risk with 60 per cent of powerline contacts occurring with dump trucks on construction sites.

The ESA responded to the mishaps with a statement urging awareness of the specific hazards related to working near wires. It’s a message that echoes those of the ESA’s Powerline Safety Week awareness campaign that’s launched at the start of construction season each May in Canada.

The ESA also works with utilities, haulers and arborists on a regular basis, Moody said.

“We urge situational awareness with a hazard assessment being the first thing they should do,” he said. “Be aware of your surroundings.”

“All of these incidents are preventable. Electricity is very lethal and unforgiving and having safe work practices every day is very important.”

“For the most part, if you look at the utilities, they live and breathe health and safety,” Kelusky said. “These weren’t utility workers, the guys dealing with the live stuff, they deal with it with great respect and understanding. That is a cultural thing from top to bottom.”

Despite the incidents of Sept. 19, Kelusky said, the statistics show construction is getting safer and that the construction sector in the province is developing a more integrated safety culture.

Responding to the comment urging that more be done, Kelusky said a major focus of his office is linking the diverse efforts of the health and safety community. His office has recently pledged to work with Ontario’s Industrial Health and Safety Association to undertake more research to be able to provide stronger tools to employers.

The approach to falls across the province in the last decade is a good example of how research can lead to program development and working with employers and employees to deliver results, Kelusky explained.

“What we want to do is supply labor and employers with more information other than, if you touch that it will hurt you,” he said, referring to electrical hazards. “We did that with falls and touch wood that seems to be going well.”

Looking ahead, Kelusky said, there are positive signs from Queen’s Park with the auditor general conducting a much-needed review of health and safety programs, the government reviewing the WSIB and signals from the new Minister of Labor, Monte McNaughton, that he is keenly interested in health and safety and working collaboratively with stakeholders. That’s on top of the WSIB’s new Health and Safety Excellence Program and the continuing growth of COR.

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Three Workers Burned in Arc Flash at Ontario Mall

workers burnedLondon, Ontario – O’Connor Electric Ltd was fined $60,000 this week as a consequence of a Jan 2018 arc flash incident which burned three electrical workers at an Ontario shopping mall. The company plead guilty to failing to establish and implement written measures and procedures to ensure that its workers were adequately protected from electrical shock and burn.

At the time of the arc flash incident, a crew of six were upgrading the service in an electrical room at the mall. The workers were planning on installing a new disconnect switch and wiring. Three O’Connor Electric employees has started installing the disconnect when an arc flash occurred. Canadian Occupational Health and Safety officials determined that the existing service had not been shut down when work began. Mistakenly working on an energized electrical system lead to the arc flash which burned the employees.

In Canadian court proceedings this week, O’Connor Electric Ltd. and one supervisor plead guilty. The supervisor was charged with failing to ensure workers followed OHSA guidelines for properly disconnecting the power supply. The company was charged $55,000 in penalties, and the supervisor was fined $5,000.

Ontario Construction Regulations dictate that power supply “to the electrical equipment, installation or conductor shall be disconnected, locked out of service and tagged … before the work begins, and kept disconnected, locked out of service and tagged while the work continues.” Accordingly, the Ministry of Labour found that O’Connor Electric failed to establish working conditions compliant with that regulation, and that the supervisor failed to ensure that workers followed the regulations.

Arc flashes are violent and lightning-quick. They can cause electrical equipment to explode, resulting in injury or death to workers and destruction of electrical equipment. There are many avenues to mitigate or reduce the risk of arc flash incidents and their threat to electrical and maintenance workers. Contact a member of our Electrical and Industrial Safety team today to discuss Arc Flash Assessment and Labeling, Compliance, and/or Training needs of your staff and facility. At Martin Technical, our goal is always to provide practical safety and efficiency services that make industrial plants and facilities better, safer, and more efficient.

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Temp Worker Crushed by Machine in Toronto

Toronto, CANADA – Last week, emergency crews were called to the Fiera Foods Company and Bakery factory. There they found a 23-year-old woman in life-threatening condition after being crushed by a machine. The worker was a part-time employee hired from a temp agency, and had been working at the factory for less than a month. A co-worker anonymously reported that the woman was injured after her hijab was caught in a conveyor belt. She died after being transferred to a local hospital.machine crushes worker

The Ontario Ministry of Labour has since issued six orders for health and safety violations against Fiera Foods including requirements for assessing the conveyor line where the accident occurred, an order to provide an emergency control on the machine, and four other orders around the location and equipment involved in the woman’s death. Fiera is planning to initiate a review of their policies, procedures and safety systems.

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