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Veolia Canadian subsidiary and manager acquitted of criminal negligence charges over fatal 2014 explosion

08 January 2018

Veolia Environmental Services and one of its managers have been acquitted of criminal negligence charges over a 2014 workplace explosion at a plant in Sarnia, Ontario, that killed one worker and injured five others. The manager concerned is Anthony Lavoratore, Industrial Services Area Manager at the company.

In her decision, Justice Deborah Austin said there were mistakes, errors and omissions attributable to the defendants that clearly constituted negligence but it was not proven to the high degree required for criminal negligence.

The trial began last January and evidence had been presented during many days spread over the past year. Company workers were spraying melted aluminum wire on pipes as an anti-corrosion treatment. Combustible aluminum dust was ignited by a fireball rolling into the shop from a dust collector parked outside.

A worker had testified the amount of dust in the air made it impossible to see from one end of the shop to the other. The dust was combustible but safety data for the wire being used cited no explosive hazard.

A risk assessment done by Veolia identified the need to clean equipment regularly and remove dust. Cleaning was done as time permitted rather than in a regular routine fashion and this haphazard approach did not correlate to the Veolia's in-house recommendations, said Austin.

Defence lawyers said at the beginning of the trial reasonable steps were taken by the company and there was no marked departure from reasonable standards of care.

The evidence demonstrated workers at the plant lacked a reasonable level of training or knowledge about the risks associated with aluminum dust, said Austin.

Charges laid by Ontario’s labour and environment ministries against Veolia relating to the same incident are still outstanding.

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