Ontario school board fined $275,000 after fatal classroom explosion

Though student killed wasn’t an employee, board was charged for improper instruction to teacher, creating dangerous circumstances in the workplace

The Ottawa Catholic District School Board has been fined $275,000 after an explosion in a school classroom killed a student.

On May 26, 2011, students in a Mother Teresa High School classroom were making barbeques out of steel barrels. As a student was cutting a barrel with a hand grinder, the barrel exploded. The student was killed.

An Ontario Ministry of Labour investigation found that the barrel the student was using had been washed out with a flammable cleaner. The barrel had been stored with its caps closed prior to the class project, allowing flammable cleaning vapours to accumulate inside the barrel. When the student was cutting the barrel, a spark from the grinder ignited the vapours, causing the explosion.

The investigation also found that the school board did not have adequate review and assessment procedures in place to ensure hot work on drums or containers could be carried out safely.

Though no employees were injured in the explosion, the Ottawa Catholic District School Board pleaded guilty to failing, as an employer, to provide information, instruction and supervision to the teacher concerning safe work practices and recognition of the hazards associated with the class project, as required under the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act.

In addition to the fine, the Ontario Court of Justice 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.

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