Fernie Memorial Arena closed off during the winter. File photo                                Fernie Memorial Arena closed during winter following the deadly ammonia leak. File photo

Fernie Memorial Arena closed off during the winter. File photo Fernie Memorial Arena closed during winter following the deadly ammonia leak. File photo

Employer fines still possible after Fernie arena tragedy

WorkSafeBC considers enforcement action against City of Fernie, CIMCO Refrigeration

Six months after releasing a damning report into the Fernie arena tragedy, WorkSafeBC is yet to decide whether to take enforcement action against two employers found to have broken workplace health and safety laws.

On August 29, 2018, the statutory agency released its investigation incident report, which aimed to identify the cause and contributing factors in the deadly ammonia leak at Fernie Memorial Arena on October 17, 2017.

LOOK BACK: WorkSafeBC releases damning report into Fernie arena tragedy

It confirmed Technical Safety BC’s findings that the leak was caused by a hole in the curling rink chiller, which was past its life expectancy.

WorkSafeBC also determined that occupational health and safety systems did not mitigate risks to workers, incident-response measures were not present, and the manufacturing process of the chiller tubes fostered corrosion.

LOOK BACK: City of Fernie responds to investigation report

The report identified eight violations of the Workers Compensation Act and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Regulation by the City of Fernie.

These included failing to conduct regular inspections of the workplace to prevent unsafe working conditions and failing to develop, and implement an exposure control plan for ammonia in the workplace.

WorkSafeBC also identified two violations by Toromont Industries Ltd. (CIMCO Refrigeration) for failing to protect the health and safety of CIMCO workers, including allowing maintenance work to be performed prior to ensuring the effective mitigation and control of all workplace hazards present.

At the time of the report’s release, WorkSafeBC said it was considering whether to impose penalties on the City and CIMCO. Not much has changed in six months.

“WorkSafeBC is currently considering the findings of the incident investigation report to determine appropriate enforcement action,” said a WorkSafeBC spokesperson in a statement to The Free Press.

According to the WorkSafeBC website, employers who commit health and safety violations may receive administrative penalties (monetary fines).

The amount of a penalty is based on the nature of the violation, a company’s history of violations and the size of the company’s payroll.

WorkSafeBC’s penalty policy states the maximum OHS penalty is $662,102.49.