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WHMIS Violations Result in Big Fines

The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) is the standard in Canada for workplace hazard communication and safety. The legislation addresses material safety data sheets, worker education and site-specific training programs. Cautionary labeling for hazardous products had previously been outlined by WHMIS, but will now fall under the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) label requirements.

While both WHMIS and OHSA are overseen by the Ministry of Labour, it is the responsibility of each province or territory to enforce and monitor compliance in their respective jurisdictions. As WHMIS violations often carry a high human cost, the Ministry of Labour takes violations very seriously.

March 2003 – Explosion Results in $1.1 Million in Fines

Three companies received one of the largest WHMIS fines in the last 10 years for an explosion that resulted in the death of seven people. The companies were performing construction in the area and assigned a worker to identify and mark all the underground natural gas pipelines. As determined by the Ministry of Labour’s investigation, the worker did not use all the available records nor act on visual cues to the presence of gas, which resulted in a backhoe damaging a gas line. The gas then leaked into the building and was ignited.

August 2012 – Classroom Explosion Results in $275,000 fine

A Catholic District School Board received a $275,000 fine for failing to educate a teacher on safe practices and recognition of chemical hazards associated with a class project. The project, which involved students making barbeques out of steel barrels, led to the death of a student when the barrel exploded while being cut with a hand grinder The investigation found the barrel used had been washed with a flammable cleaner and then stored with its caps closed, allowing the cleaning vapors to accumulate. Resulting sparks from the hand grinder ignited the vapors, causing the explosion.

May 2011 – Fireball Results in $250,000 fine

Workers preparing to pour liquid steel from a large vessel into a ladle were burned when an unexpected reaction occurred during the pouring. The reaction caused molten steel and a fireball, resulting in extensive burns to the workers. The investigation found the company had not protected workers at risk of exposure with a barrier, such as a shield or screen. The resulting $250,000 fine also included two other OSHA violations on behalf of the company.

May 2009 – $150,000 Fine for Lack of Training on Leak

A worker attempting to determine the cause of a leak in a machine received electrical burns when he entered an area with electrically charged exposed parts. The worker was unaware the area contained an electrical charge exposed parts as the company did not provide proper signage. Additionally, the investigation determined the worker had not received proper training on safety procedures for dealing with a leak.

March 2012 – $70,000 Fine for Chemical Burns

Three workers were performing maintenance on an ore crusher in a mill and were working in an area where cyanide solution was present. While washing the ore crusher, a worker inadvertently stepped into a hole that was not visible. The hole contained water, as well as sodium cyanide and sodium hydroxide, which filled his boot. The mixture caused the worker to suffer chemical burns and cyanide poisoning. The investigation found the company had failed to have an alarm installed to warn workers of the presence of poisonous cyanide gas which could result during overflows and spills.

As you can see, it pays to protect your employees and your company with proper WHMIS and OSHA training. Check out our Course of the Week deal, “Workplace Safety: WHMIS Certification” or any of our hazardous materials courses to ensure your employees go home safely each and every day.

Image Credit: Jonathan Perera via Flickr

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