City of London fined $55,000 after firefighters injured

Convicted: Corporation of the City of London, 300 Dufferin Avenue, London, Ontario.

Location of Worksite: Lake Fanshawe, part of the Fanshawe Conservation Area, located at 1424 Clarke Road, London, Ontario.

Description of Offence: Two firefighters were injured while trying to re-inflate part of an inflatable boat that was being used during a training exercise.

Date of Offence: June 15, 2018.

Date of Conviction: November 7, 2019.

Penalty Imposed:

  • Following a guilty plea, the Corporation of the City of London was fined $55,000 in provincial offences court in London by Justice of the Peace Kristine M. Diaz; Crown Counsel Judy L. Chan.
  • 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 June 15, 2018, four firefighters (“workers” as defined by the Occupational Health and Safety Act) from the London Fire Department’s water team were participating in a training exercise on Lake Fanshawe. The purpose of the training exercise was to acquaint the firefighters with the lake and the trails surrounding it, in the event of an emergency rescue. The water team was using one of three Zodiac Grand Mark III inflatable rafts owned by the department in the exercise.
  • Prior to the four firefighters/workers boarding the raft, it had been used to set up the exercise on the lake.
  • One of the workers was told by another worker that the keel of the raft was low and that it would need to be topped up with air. The compressed gas cylinder that would be used to fill the keel was already in the boat. No other means of inflating the keel was in the boat.
  • After completing the exercise, the group was called back to shore by radio. At that time, two of the four workers in the boat noticed that the keel of the boat was low in the water. They decided to stop the boat and top up the keel.
  • One of the workers unscrewed the keel valve, but accidentally removed the whole valve instead of just the cap. This let out any remaining air in the keel bladder.
  • One of the workers replaced the valve, and then held the tip of the compressed gas cylinder against the valve, while another worker held up the bottom end of the cylinder. The worker holding the tip of the cylinder cracked it open and a few seconds later, the keel exploded.
  • The worker holding the bottom end of the cylinder was struck by an equipment bag at the front of the boat and was injured but was able to return to work immediately. The other was injured after being struck by plywood flooring that came loose as a result of the blast and required medical attention. The remaining two workers were not injured as they were at the back of the boat.
  • The (then) Ministry of Labour investigation into the cause of the incident determined that none of the four workers on the boat had been trained in the operation or inflation of the Zodiac raft. There were no procedures in place for operation or inflation of the boat.
  • A Zodiac technician retained by the MOL determined that the keel had exploded due to over-inflation, and that a foot pump, not a compressed gas cylinder, should have been used for inflation.
  • Section 25(2)(h) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act states that an employer shalltake every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker. The City of London failed to take the reasonable precaution of providing a foot pump to inflate the keel on a Zodiac Grand Mark III. This is an offence pursuant to section 66(1) of the act.

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