Sat. May 21st, 2022

Six employees were killed in a massive explosion and fire that tore through the Merivale Road building on January 13th. Another worker was seriously injured.

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The son of an explosion victim from Eastway Tank urges the province to conduct more random, unannounced random sampling at workplaces using hazardous and combustible materials.

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“Explosions like this should never happen, period,” said Josh Bastien, arguing that more lightning inspections were needed to make jobs safer.

Bastien, 39, worked at Eastway Tank for three years with shipping and receiving. During his time at the Nepean company, Bastien said he never saw a health and safety inspector show up unexpectedly.

His father, Rick Bastien, 57, a mechanic and welder, was one of six Eastway employees killed in a massive explosion and fire that tore through the Merivale Road building on the afternoon of January 13th. Another worker was seriously injured.

Josh Bastien is the son of Rick Bastien, a mechanic and welder who was one of six Eastway employees killed in the massive explosion and fire on January 13th.
Josh Bastien is the son of Rick Bastien, a mechanic and welder who was one of six Eastway employees killed in the massive explosion and fire on January 13th. Photo by Josh Bastien /Distribute

Bastien’s call for more surprise inspections came when the fire marshal’s office on Friday announced that it had completed the on-site part of its investigation into the cause of the explosion. The Ottawa Police Service and other agencies are conducting parallel investigations.

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Overhead photos of the wrecked building suggest the explosion was centered in Eastway Tank’s main store, where custom-built fuel trucks were assembled. Trucks in that area of ​​the building were to be empty of fuel.

This is a photo illustration of Eastway Tank. Zoom in to take a closer look. To view the photo without annotations, click the arrow above to view page 2.

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A spokesman for the Ontario Ministry of Labor on Friday could not say how many “proactive inspections” – random, unannounced inspections – were conducted at Eastway Tank in the past decade. However, Ciara Nardelli noted that the ministry had not received any safety complaints from employees, former employees or members of the public about Eastway Tank since 2018.

Nardelli said the government now employs 507 health security inspectors, more than ever before in its history.

Sean McKenny, president of the Ottawa and District Labor Council, said he was saddened and frustrated by the news of the Eastway tragedy. “It did not have to happen,” McKenny said in an interview Friday. “It could have been prevented. These six people should have gone home by the end of their day.”

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McKenny said random job inspections were only part of the response to tragedies like the one on Eastway, as there would never be enough inspectors to cover tens of thousands of Ontario jobs.

Sean McKenny, chairman of the Ottawa and District Labor Council, says random workplace inspections are only part of the answer to tragedies like the one at Eastway, as there will never be enough inspectors to cover tens of thousands of Ontario jobs.
Sean McKenny, chairman of the Ottawa and District Labor Council, says random workplace inspections are only part of the answer to tragedies like the one at Eastway, as there will never be enough inspectors to cover tens of thousands of Ontario jobs. Photo by Tony Caldwell /Postmedia

McKenny argued that the province also needs tougher sanctions against companies that override health and safety rules.

He wants the Eastway Tank explosion carefully investigated for criminal liability in accordance with the federal government’s Westray Act of 2004.

This law imposed a legal obligation on companies for health and safety at work and provided for penalties in the Penal Code for violations that result in serious personal injury or death.

In May 1992, 26 miners were killed when underground methane gas combined with coal dust to fuel a massive explosion in Nova Scotia’s Westray mine. A public inquiry heard that safety issues raised by staff and inspectors had been ignored.

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McKenny said prosecutions under Westray law remained rare, even though deaths in the workplace were all too common.

According to a study by the University of Regina, 925 Canadian workers died due to work-related causes in 2019: 335 of them due to work-related injuries. The other deaths were related to occupational diseases.

An aerial view of Eastway Tank Pump & Meter Ltd.  taken earlier in the week.
An aerial view of Eastway Tank Pump & Meter Ltd. taken earlier in the week. Photo by Errol McGihon /Postmedia

Former Eastway Tank employees continue to give differing opinions on the relative safety of the manufacturing company’s workplace.

Three former employees, including Josh Batien, have said they felt insecure on Eastway due to problems related to fuel storage, stain fires and a faulty drainage system.

Eastway Tank owner Neil Greene has called these allegations unfounded and has said his company “has always worked to maintain the highest safety standards.”

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Two other former employees, Chris Buffington and Steve Wakely, have also defended Eastway’s safety record.

In an interview, Wakely, 43, said his experience at the company was positive. As a welder, he worked more than a year for Eastway for two periods.

“I think the only thing uncertain about the place was that the building was quite old,” Wakely said. “It was a great place to work. Neil (Greene) treated people really well, like family.”

Wakely said weekly meetings were convened near the toolbox to allow employees to raise health and safety issues.

“There are some companies where the management, if you mention something about safety, does not take it so seriously. But on Eastway, I never found it. Neil was part of the meetings. And the foreman, when I was there, wanted to take things seriously. ”

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A memorial on the fence of the Eastway Tank Company on Monday, January 17, 2022.
A memorial on the fence of the Eastway Tank Company on Monday, January 17, 2022. Photo by Errol McGihon /Postmedia

Eastway built, renovated and serviced fuel and water tankers. That work included welding, sheet metal, painting, measuring, electrical work and repeated handling of flammable liquids.

“It’s inherently not a safe place to work: I mean, it’s not a library,” Wakely said.

Labor Department records show inspectors visited Eastway on five occasions. Four injunctions were issued by the Ministry on 13 June 2017. The executive orders included the repair and maintenance of an exhaust pipe ventilation system, the preparation of a written workflow for safe welding and work to ensure that employees were protected from exposure. to hazardous chemical substances. The company complied with all these orders.

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