Ontario Propane Safety Panel Report Released
McGuinty Government Commits to Further Improve Safety at Propane Plants
TORONTO, Nov. 7 /CNW/ -
New standards will be implemented to improve Ontario's safety as a result of recommendations from an independent expert panel on propane safety in Ontario.
The expert panel of Dr. Michael Birk and Ms. Susana Katz found that Ontario has a strong propane safety system in place with multiple safeguards, but recommended ways to further improve safety and enhance transparency and accountability.
The report contains 40 recommendations in three broad categories:
- New obligations for propane facility operators
- Stronger enforcement capabilities for the Technical Standards and
- Improved training, accountability and transparency
"I would like to acknowledge the quality of the work done by Dr. Birk and Ms. Katz," said Minister of Small Business and Consumer Services Harinder Takhar. "Our government is committed to seeing that Ontario has the highest standards and best systems in place and I will move quickly to implement recommendations that will further enhance safety."
"Having looked at the propane safety system, we conclude that the building blocks for propane safety are in place in Ontario and have served the people of this province well over the years," said Ms Katz. "But improvement is always possible and our recommendations address possible ways to achieve this."
"The OFM has had a preliminary look at the Propane Safety Review Report and we are supportive of the direction the report has taken," said Ontario Fire Marshal Pat Burke. "We believe that it is a good step forward in improving safety related to propane facilities in Ontario. We want to recognize the hard work of the Safety Review Panel and their efforts to improve public safety in the province."
On August 28, 2008, the Minister of Small Business and Consumer Services, Harinder Takhar, appointed Dr. Michael Birk and Ms. Susana Katz, independent experts to look at the storage, handling, location, and transport of propane in Ontario and report to him.
The review started on September 8, 2008, and panel members received submissions and suggestions from a wide range of participants including the propane industry, municipalities, ratepayers, emergency responders and the insurance industry.
The McGuinty government has already taken additional measures to enhance safety. In August, the Minister of Small Business and Consumer Services asked the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) to audit propane facilities.
Phase 1 of the plan involved a re-audit of all propane facilities with permanent storage capacity in excess of 5,000 U.S. water gallons. TSSA's audit of these large facilities was completed by the end of August 2008.
Phase 2 involves an audit of propane facilities generally storing less than 5,000 U.S. water gallons and should be completed by December 31, 2008.
More than 300,000 businesses and households in Ontario, many in rural areas, consume roughly 650 millions kilograms of propane every year to fuel barbecues and vehicles, and provide heat for construction sites, farms, and rural homes.
For a copy of the Propane Safety Review Report, click here:
Disponible en français
ONTARIO PROPANE SAFETY REVIEW REPORT
On August 28, 2008, Minister Takhar appointed Ms. Susana Katz and Dr. Michael Birk to do a comprehensive safety review of legislative and regulatory framework for the storage, handling, location and transport of propane in Ontario. The independent experts worked with the government, the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA), the propane industry, the municipal sector, other provinces, first responders and other stakeholders to review the current propane-related regulatory environment. Their review focused on the Technical Standards and Safety Act, 2000, and Ontario's regulations compared with internationally recognized best practices.
The independent experts found that propane is a safe fuel when properly handled. Ontario's propane regulatory environment has many safeguards in place designed to prevent problems from occurring and limit the consequences if they should occur. However, regulatory improvement in some areas could further enhance safety.
Propane industry in Ontario
In Ontario, more than 300,000 businesses and households, many in rural areas, use propane as a fuel on a permanent basis. In urban areas, the last stop before consumption is often a filler station that provides propane to barbecue cylinders and vehicle fuel tanks. In recent years, cylinder exchange facilities - cages containing filled barbecue tanks - where consumers swap empty tanks for full ones have become increasingly common.
This makes for a large and varied distribution network. In all, roughly 5,800 storage facilities are licensed for propane storage in Ontario, ranging in size from small cylinder exchanges to large installations storing more than 100,000 U.S. water gallons (USWG). It is estimated that about 5,000 people are employed in the propane industry in Ontario at the retail level alone.
The province delegates the responsibility for day-to-day enforcement of propane regulations to the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA). The Ministry, however, retains authority for the Act and regulations.
TSSA is a not-for-profit corporation that regulates a number of industries on behalf of the Province. TSSA was formed in 1997 and carries out its delegated responsibilities under an agreement with the Ministry.
Although TSSA has the largest role in propane safety in Ontario, other regulatory bodies are also involved, such as:
- Ontario municipalities determine the uses of land within their
boundaries through such instruments as zoning bylaws and official
- The Transport of Dangerous Goods Directorate within Transport Canada
regulates the transport of propane and other hazardous substances in
- Regulations under the federal Canadian Environmental Protection Act
require operators of facilities storing or using large amounts of
propane to file information about the facility with Environment
Canada and to prepare an environmental emergency plan.
The independent experts determined that Ontario compared favourably with other provinces. For example, Ontario's setback distances exceed those found in the rest of Canada and follow common technical standards found in the Canadian Standards Association's model national Propane Safety Code. However, the independent experts noted that there are other jurisdictions ahead of Canada in several areas that touch on propane safety, and made recommendations in that regard.
The independent experts have submitted 40 recommendations.
Overall, they found that propane is safe when properly handled, stored, transported and used, but because of its physical characteristics all of these activities involve risk. In this respect, propane is similar to many other products we use on a daily basis.
To help the industry ensure a high level of safety, the propane safety system provides requirements and guidance in many areas: the design and installation of facilities, training and certification of workers, and inspection and enforcement. Together, these functions create multiple safe guards - a system with back-ups and extra layers, so that small problems do not escalate into major incidents.
To enhance propane safety in Ontario, the independent experts are recommending the following improvements.
1. TSSA should continue to build on its existing risk-based enforcement
model by introducing a more rigorous, statistical approach for
2. TSSA should inspect facilities annually until it has gathered the
required data, and has developed and is applying a comprehensive
risk-based approach to regulation.
3. For the purposes of licensing a facility, the total capacity should
include both fixed and transient storage, with the second element
defined as the combined capacity of the maximum number of stored
cylinders and tanks, and of tanker trucks and/or rail tank cars that
might stay at the facility at any given time for longer than it takes
them to complete a transfer.
4. A limit should be set on the maximum transient storage at a facility.
5. The facility operator should be required to designate the parking
spaces for transient tanker truck storage at a facility.
6. Every facility at which transfer of propane takes place should have a
risk and safety management plan as a condition of licensing.
7. Certification by a professional engineer should be required for all
risk and safety management plans for facilities of more than 30,000
USWG in total capacity.
8. When reviewing an operator's risk and safety management plan, TSSA
should verify that it includes all relevant requirements.
9. TSSA should continue to invest in the technology needed to improve
the quality and value of data on the location of propane facilities
and those handling other volatile fuels, with a specific goal of
allowing these facilities and related defined hazard distances to be
mapped using geographical information system (GIS) technology.
10. TSSA should make available to municipalities and planning boards the
locations of facilities and the defined hazard distance around each,
either as maps or, if the community prefers, GIS data.
11. TSSA should make publicly available sections of the risk and safety
management plan dealing with emergency response for facilities of
more than 30,000 USWG in total capacity.
12. As a condition of licensing, the operator should be required to
review the risk and safety management plan on the same cycle as
TSSA's inspection cycle. This review should assess whether land
development within the defined hazard distance has increased the
risks relating to the facility and the plan should be upgraded as
13. When a licence is first issued for a facility, the licence approval
should state specifically that if land development around the
facility changes so as to increase risk, it is the responsibility of
the operator to reassess and, if necessary, upgrade special
14. The Province should amend planning rules to require municipalities
and local appeal bodies to notify facility operators of applications
for official plan amendments, plans of subdivision, rezoning and
minor variances where the facility's defined hazard distance extends
into the area under consideration for change.
15. An application to TSSA for a licence for a new or expanded facility
should not be considered complete until the fire service has received
and approved all components of the risk and safety management plan
that address fire safety, protection and emergency considerations.
16. Before commissioning a new or expanded facility, the proponent should
be required to contact the local fire service for a walk-through with
the aim of familiarization.
17. An application to TSSA for a licence for a new facility or an
expansion should not be considered complete until the proponent
receives and includes the comments of the relevant local planning
18. Training requirements should be extended to include at least one
officer, director or partner of every propane operator and licence
19. Certificate holders should have to produce proof of their training on
20. Certificate holders should receive site-specific training when
starting work and after changing employers or facilities, and should
be re-certified after being away from the job for a significant
period of time.
21. Every person who works at a facility should be trained in the
facility's emergency procedures.
22. The training curriculum for certificate holders should cover the
consequences of incorrect handling, storage or transport of propane,
including the impact of major fires and explosions. It should also
cover emergency procedures.
23. TSSA should set a three-year review schedule for training providers
and as part of this process the training provider should review the
curriculum, update it if necessary and submit it to TSSA.
24. Trainers should be required to have hands-on, practical experience as
well as theoretical knowledge of the subject areas they teach.
25. The Office of the Fire Marshal should enhance its training for fire
department personnel in the areas of prevention, mitigation and
suppression of propane explosions and fires.
26. Propane facility inspectors should be trained in all aspects of
propane safety, including how to recognize and respond to imminent
27. TSSA, Office of the Fire Marshal, industry and others with an
interest in the industry's safety should work together on a public
safety and awareness program.
28. As part of the code adoption process or if considering changes to
other regulatory instruments, TSSA should consult with the Office of
the Fire Marshal and Ontario municipalities.
29. There should be formal agreements in place so that such authorities
as the Province's Office of the Fire Marshal, Office of the Chief
Coroner for Ontario, Ministry of Labour, and TSSA share information,
findings and any recommendations with all parties with an interest in
30. TSSA and provincial, municipal and other investigative authorities
should create a cross-jurisdictional incident database, aggregating
information on causes of incidents, lessons learned, and recommended
31. Propane operators should be required to carry insurance as a
condition of licensing.
32. When there is an imminent hazard to safety, and the facility operator
will not or cannot act to correct it, TSSA inspectors should have the
full and clear authority to ensure that the installation is made safe
and to charge back the costs to the operator.
33. Operators should be required to keep records to demonstrate on-going
maintenance and operational testing of fire safety equipment and
34. Fire services should have clear authority to enter licensed propane
facilities for familiarization purposes and/or to verify proper
maintenance of fire protection equipment.
35. In light of these recommendations, TSSA should review its current
code adoption document, directors' orders and branch standards, with
a view to updating these as necessary.
36. The Ministry should consider approaches similar to those recommended
here for propane for all liquid and gaseous fuels in use in the
province to ensure that they also are covered by a best-practices
37. The Ministry should review the progress of adoption and
implementation of these recommendations within 18 months and report
to the public, including the members of the Propane Safety Review.
38. Once recommendations have been implemented, the Ministry and TSSA
should review their impacts on a periodic basis with a view to making
any further changes, if necessary, to improve propane safety and
should inform the public, including the members of the Propane Safety
39. The Minister should ask Transport Canada to examine the potential
benefits to public safety of thermal protection requirements for
highway tank trucks similar to those for railway tank cars and
regulations for safe parking of tank trucks, including such factors
as setback and security.
40. The Minister should ask the Canadian Standards Association to review
and update the relevant sections of the propane installation code
(B149.2 and B149.5) with a focus on setback distances, categories of
installation, emergency response plans, maintenance, and special fire
protection and to ensure the code aligns with international best
For a copy of the Propane Safety Review Report, click here:
For further information: Sarbjit Kaur, Minister's Office, (416) 326-1939; Christian Bode, Ontario Propane Safety Review, (416) 212-8850