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Canadian refinery facing OHS charges over 2011 explosions and fire

17 September 2013

Consumers' Co-operative Refineries Ltd. is facing five Occupational Health and Safety Act charges over a series of blasts and a fire at its Regina, Saskatchewan, refinery nearly two years ago. The fire injured 52 workers, some seriously. When the explosion happened on October 6, some 450 refinery employees and 1,000 contractors were working in the area. 

A huge fireball rose 250 feet in the air, according to observers.

The contractors were working on a $1.9-billion renovation and expansion of the refinery. The fire damaged an 11,700-square-foot area of the refinery and resulted in $100 million in property damage and production loss.

Municipal and provincial authorities released the findings of their investigation on August 16, 2012. They found the series of four explosions was caused by a "catastrophic failure" of a pipe thinned by corrosion.

Investigators concluded the incident was accidental, and that the fire and explosions occurred in a diesel-processing area called the middle distillate unifiner - a unit that was scheduled for refurbishment.

After the August 2012 findings were released, the Occupational Health and Safety division of the provincial government's Labour Relations and Workplace Safety Ministry continued its investigation. The results were sent to the Ministry of Justice for review in August and September of 2012.

Court documents allege that on or about Oct. 6, 2011, the refinery failed to take a number of steps, including:
*Implementing a regular general corrosion monitoring program for the 15-centimetre reactor effluent line on the middle distillate unifiner.
*Ensuring that all equipment at the middle distillate unifiner was maintained at intervals that were sufficient to ensure the safe functioning of the equipment.
*Providing the provision and maintenance of a plant, systems of work and working environment that ensured the health, safety and welfare of workers, by failing to adequately monitor and maintain the 15-cm reactor effluent line on the middle distillate unifiner.
*Ensuring that all work was sufficiently and competently supervised.
*Ensuring the health, safety and welfare of workers at its Regina plant.

On Thursday, Vic Huard, vice president of corporate affairs at Federated Co-operatives Ltd., said the company was waiting for the first court date, "We know the Crown is bringing charges, but there are so many details that we don't know yet. Until we get into the process, we won't know those details."

The company will appear in Regina provincial court for the first time on September 24.

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