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Toxic waste fire, faulty brakes earn companies big fines from WorkSafe BC

WorkSafe hands out $126,000 in fines to companies in northeast

Two workers were injured in oilpatch accidents in Northeast B.C., according to newly released information from B.C.'s workplace safety regulator.

WorkSafeBC fined five companies in the Peace Region more than $126,000 for worker safety incidents this summer.

Those incidents include a sour gas leak that left a man unconscious, and a flash fire at a hazardous waste disposal facility that injured a truck driver.

While the fines were issued in June and July, the incidents themselves happened between February 2014 and March of this year. The penalties were released publicly in WorkSafeBC's November/December magazine.

Vac truck driver injured in fire

Tervita Corp., which operates a hazardous waste disposal facility 40 kilometres north of Fort St. John, was fined $75,000 for a flash fire that injured a vacuum truck driver on Sept. 10, 2013.

A worker for the firm was directing the unloading of flammable liquid waste from the truck tank, according to the report.

When a valve on the tank was opened, "the waste sprayed out and vapours from it entered the truck's engine, igniting a flash fire and spot fires." The truck was idling at the time.

Tervita's Silverberry facility was evacuated and the driver seriously injured.

An investigation into the incident found the company "knowingly or with reckless disregard" allowed a buildup of flammable vapour in the unloading site.

The company also failed to keep an eye on ignition sources, WorkSafe found. The regulator also dinged Tervita for "insufficient" safety inspections.

WorkSafe levied the fine July 14. The company says it has changed how it handles waste from vacuum trucks to avoid future incidents.

Faulty brakes endangered worker, public

A worker for a Fort St. John trucking company drove a pickup with faulty brakes for more than two hours on busy winter roads, WorkSafe found.

WorkSafe fined Darryl Peters Trucking & Repair/DP Timber Services $27,785 for the high-risk violation, which endangered "not only the (firm's) worker but other workers and the public."

"The firm's supervisor knowingly permitted its worker to operate mobile equipment that could have created a health and safety hazard," WorkSafe writes in the report.

The rear wheel brakes were disabled by a damaged rotor, according to WorkSafe, while the brake line to the rotor was "pinched off" and not functioning. The violation happened Feb. 2. 

"The firm failed to ensure that each piece of equipment in its workplace was capable of safely performing the functions it was used for."

WorkSafe fined the company on June 17. Peters declined comment when reached by the Alaska Highway News.

Worker gets face full of H2S

When a worker pried open a flange on a natural gas well's venting line near Fort St. John on Nov. 12, 2014, he got a face full of sour gas.

The worker was "overcome" by the poisonous vapour, collapsed and was taken to hospital.

WorkSafe fined operator Terra Energy Corp. $9,728 on July 13 for the violation, which it "committed knowingly or with reckless disregard."

The regulator blamed the incident on the company's failure to provide the worker—a supervisor—with "task specific training, nor had it trained him on any of its safe work procedures."

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

Fourplex a fall risk

Heartbeat Homes Ltd. was dinged with a $11,826 fine for safety risks on a housing development in Dawson Creek in March 2015.

Two young employees were working on the roof of a fourplex without fall protection  when they were spotted by a WorkSafe employee.

The employees were at risk of tumbling 30 feet, the regulator found. They had not received orientation and training, and a supervisor was on site.

The firm had earlier been cited for similar offences, including failure to submit a notice of project to WorkSafe. The company declined comment.

Log load lands company in a jam

A truck driver drove an improperly secured load of logs to a mill in Fort St. John, even after being told to reload the logs by a WorkSafe officer.

The company, Spruceland Trucking, was find $2,500 on June 10 for the Feb. 6, 2015, violation.

WorkSafe inspected three loads of logs, all of which were not secured properly. An officer ordered the driver, a representative of the firm, to reload the logs.

The officer later discovered the driver had driven the truck anyway without reloading.

"These were high-risk violations committed knowingly or with reckless disregard," the report notes on the June 10 fine. Spruceland could not be reached for comment.

Clarification: the dates of the incidents involving Terra Energy, Tervita Corp. and Spruceland Trucking have been changed. Due to a communication error, the dates that were initially reported were the dates on which WorkSafeBC began its investigation—not the dates of the incidents themselves. The lede of the article has been updated to reflect this.

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