Abbotsford taxpayers will be on the hook for a large WorksafeBC fine, after two workers at a water treatment plant were exposed to chlorine gas last June.
WorksafeBC has levied a fine of nearly $320,000 related to both the incident and what it says were repeated failures on the part of the city to guarantee the safety of workers at water treatment facilities.
Previous violations had taken place at other locations, and WorksafeBC found risk assessments, procedures and plans were not in place prior to the June incident.
Although Abbotsford and Mission jointly fund the system that provides water for both municipalities, only Abbotsford will pay the fine, a city spokesperson says.
According to a WorksafeBC report on the incident, the safety agency was called on June 6 to the Norrish Creek Water Treatment Plant, where two workers had been “performing upgrades at maintenance” when they found themselves “exposed to a residual amount of chlorine gas, a toxic process gas, which remained in the line the workers were isolating from the main chlorine source at the facility.”
While both workers wore breathing apparatus, neither of their regulators were “connected to their full facepieces.” One of the workers was a supervisor.
In handing down a fine of $318,707, WorksafeBC cited a number of protocols not in place and other requirements that had gone unheeded.
“The employer failed to develop an exposure control plan for chlorine gas for this facility,” the agency declared in its magazine, where it regularly publishes lists of companies and organizations that have been penalized. “It failed to conduct a risk assessment and did not prepare written safe work procedures for the handling of chlorine in relation to the hazardous tasks being performed. The employer also failed to provide its workers with the information, instruction, training, and supervision necessary to ensurer their health and safety, a repeated violation based on prior violations that had occurred at another of the employer’s locations.”
In an emailed statements, a City of Abbotsford spokesperson wrote: “The City of Abbotsford worked closely with the Workers Compensation Board in addressing the issues identified. Since this incident, the City has maintained an excellent record with respect to health and safety, notably, with the City achieving and maintaining WSBC’s Certificate of Recognition (COR) and developing and more robust overall Safety Management System.”
The News has also requested further details on the violations and those that preceded the June incident.
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