Fatal Smelter Explosion Report Recommends Changes

Oct. 6, 2000
Water should not be used to clean a smelter furnace that is still\r\nhot, said a Manitoba Labour report into a fatal summer blast at the\r\nHudson Bay Mining and Smelting Co. in Manitoba, Canada.

Water should not be used to clean a smelter furnace that is still hot, said a Manitoba Labour report into a fatal summer blast at the Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Co. in Manitoba, Canada.

The 710-page report released Wednesday confirms that a series of explosions were set off at the company''s Flin Flon plant in August when water being used during a scheduled maintenance shutdown came into contact with heated material.

One worker died in the hospital after the accident and 13 other workers were injured.

The Labour Department report makes nine recommendations to prevent a similar tragedy.

It is also being forwarded to the Justice Department to see whether charges should be laid under Manitoba''s Workplace Safety and Health Act.

Topping the list of recommendations is a call for the shutdown procedure of the furnace to be changed to ensure there is an adequate cooling period after the burners are switched off.

Union memebers have previously said they believe water was applied too early and mixed with still-molten metal at the base of the furnace.

The report said water should be kept out of the furnace until it is safe to use it and then only under "closely controlled conditions."

It also suggested finding another method of cleaning the equipment than water.

The report also urged the company to better train its employees and managers.

Some workers had trouble escaping because exits were blocked or they were tethered to equipment and those practices should stop, said the report.

Also, when first aid was being offered to the burn victims, a knife was needed to open some of the burn blankets available at the mine. That too should change, said the report.

"The Workplace Safety and Health Division has conducted a very comprehensive investigation," said Labour Minister Becky Barrett. "We will now be working with the joint safety and health committee at the plant, with the company and with the employees to ensure that this kind of accident does not happen again."

Union officials have been pressing for federal legislation that would make corporate executives and managers liable for criminal or negligent acts that happen under their watch.

Stephen Hunt of the United Steelworkers of America has said that negligent bosses should share the same liability as people who drink, then get behind the wheel to kill someone.

"It''s time Hudosn Bay Mining and Smelting and regulators in Manitoba got serious and started considering it''s real people that work there and real people that get injured or killed," said Hunt.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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