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ArcelorMittal Dofasco Fined $290,000 After Two Workplace Incidents in Hamilton

Court Bulletin

ArcelorMittal Dofasco Fined $290,000 After Two Workplace Incidents in Hamilton

Convicted: ArcelorMittal Dofasco MP Inc., 1330 Burlington Street East, Hamilton, Ontario, a manufacturer of steel products for the automotive and other industries. ArcelorMittal along with ArcelorMittal Canada Inc. are the partners which form ArcelorMittal Dofasco G.P.

Location of Workplace: 1330 Burlington Street East, Hamilton, Ontario.

Description of Offence: In two separate incidents, two workers were exposed to carbon monoxide, and another was injured after a hand was drawn into the pinch point of a machine.

Date of Offences: May 23, 2018 and December 6, 2018.

Date of Conviction: January 16, 2020.

Penalty Imposed:

  • Following guilty pleas, ArcelorMittal Dofasco MP Inc. was fined $170,000 for the May incident and $120,000 for the December incident ($290,000 total) in provincial offences court in Hamilton by Justice of the Peace Glen G. Peace; Crown Counsel Alicia Gordon-Fagan.
  • The court also imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. The surcharge is credited to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime.

Background:

  • On May 23, 2018, two workers were cleaning a platform on the outside of a blast furnace located at the workplace. While sweeping this area, the blast furnace valves malfunctioned, causing the gases and dust contained in the furnace to erupt and to engulf the workers.
  • The workers were wearing carbon monoxide detectors which began sounding alarms to a point beyond the detectors' ability of 1,000 ppm (parts of gas per million parts of air). They were not wearing their self-contained breathing apparatuses but put them on later.
  • The workers attended the employer's medical facility, where they were placed on oxygen therapy for carbon monoxide exposure; they were subsequently treated at hospital.
  • In Ontario, occupational exposure limits (OEL) are regulated under Ontario Regulation 833 (Control of Exposure to Biological or Chemical Agents). The regulation restricts the amount and duration of workers' exposure to hazardous workplace substances. To comply with the OEL, the employer must ensure that workers' exposure to hazardous substances is below these limits.
  • The regulation specifies OEL for carbon monoxide (CO) at 25 ppm as an eight-hour and 40-hour time-weighted average (TWA) limit.
  • Additionally, the exposure to CO must not exceed three times the TWA (75 ppm) for any period of 30 minutes and five times the TWA (125 ppm) at any time; these limits are called excursion limits, and are intended to minimize the potential of neurobehavioural changes upon exposure.
  • A (then) Ministry of Labour hygienist calculated that the CO concentrations in the air inhaled by these two workers at the time of incident was at the range of 1,137 to 6,237 ppm - significantly higher than the limit of 125 ppm under the regulation.
  • Accordingly, ArcelorMittal failed as an employer to comply with section 4 of Regulation 833/90 which states that "every employer shall take the measures required by that section to limit the exposure of workers to a hazardous biological or chemical agent."
  • In the second incident, on December 6, 2018, a worker was working on the coil prep line. The worker was attempting to feed flat stock material into a pair of rollers.
  • The worker used a control switch with one hand while trying to guide the steel between the two rollers with the other hand. The worker accidentally moved the switch in reverse instead of forward, which resulted in the worker coming into contact with the pinch point of the two rollers. The worker suffered critical injuries.
  • The ministry investigation found that there were perimeter gates, access panels and guardrails on the north side of the roller that prevented access from that side. However, there were none on the south side, where the worker was standing, and therefore access was available to the pinch point. There was a shield present, but it was inadequate as the worker was able to gain access to the pinch point by reaching across it.
  • This is contrary to section 25 of Ontario Regulation 851 (the Industrial Establishments Regulation), which states that "an in-running nip hazard or any part of a machine, device or thing that may endanger the safety of any worker shall be equipped with and guarded by a guard or other device that prevents access to the pinch point." 
  • Accordingly, on the dates of the two incidents, ArcelorMittal failed as an employer to ensure that the measures and procedures prescribed by the regulations were carried out in the workplace. This is contrary to section 25(1)(c) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act

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