TORONTO – An industry group says charges against a Toronto propane company where a huge explosion killed two people last summer are a good indication the blast was specific to that site, and not a reflection of the whole industry.
The head of the Ontario Propane Association says he hopes an investigation will bring some answers about what happened almost one year ago at the Sunrise Propane facility.
The early-morning blast killed two people and left thousands temporarily homeless.
The Ontario Ministry of Labour has laid two charges against the company under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Rene Chartier, president of the association representing propane retailers, transporters, producers, wholesalers and suppliers in Ontario, says “propane, when handled properly, is very safe.”
He says the industry emphasizes accident prevention and adheres to strict safety procedures.
“We do not support any company disregarding our industry’s established procedures and regulations, such as the violations alleged by the Ministry of Labour’s charges,” Chartier said in a statement Wednesday.
The ministry’s charges cite the company’s failure to protect the health and safety of a worker and to ensure the propane facility was operating in accordance with industry regulations.
If convicted, Sunrise could face maximum fines of $500,000 per count.
The two dead were a night-shift worker who was killed in the explosion and a firefighter who died in the blaze that followed on Aug. 10, 2008.
The ministry alleges Sunrise failed to provide instruction and supervision on “safe work practices and recognition of hazards associated with propane storage, dispensing and handling, and on appropriate emergency response to propane leaks.”
The company also “failed to take the reasonable precaution of ensuring that a propane facility was installed and operated in accordance with regulatory requirements and safe industry practice,” according to the charges laid by the Labour Ministry, which investigates workplace injuries and fatalities.
The Ontario Fire Marshal’s office is still investigating the inferno.
A $300 million class action lawsuit, representing 3,000 residents affected by the explosion, against Sunrise Propane and landowner Teskey Concrete Co. Ltd. is awaiting certification by a judge.