Canada Company fined $75K for explosion that destroyed Canmore home

00:25  25 january  2020
00:25  25 january  2020 Source:   cbc.ca

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a double decker bus driving down a street: This house in Canmore exploded when gas travelled into the basement from a ruptured pipeline. © Jennifer Lee/CBC This house in Canmore exploded when gas travelled into the basement from a ruptured pipeline.

A company has been fined $75,000 after an explosion that destroyed a Canmore house and forced some nearby residents from their homes for months.

The incident took place in 2015, when workers struck a pipe and then failed to call either the police or the fire department but did contact ATCO Gas.

Shortly after the pipe was struck, the gas travelled into the basement of a nearby home and exploded.

APM Construction, the company responsible for the rupture, pleaded guilty to charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act for endangering its employees. The fine was handed down in provincial court on Wednesday.

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"Miraculously, no deaths or injuries resulted as the interior of the home was unoccupied at the time," Judge L.W. Robertson said in his written sentencing. "This was through pure luck, not good management."

The incident

The existence of the gas line was known to the company, but there was no emergency response plan in place.

According to the sentencing, APM Construction did not take immediate action when the gas line was struck and allowed its workers to "continue to be exposed to the hazard" rather than evacuating the scene.

"The potential for multiple fatalities was real," wrote the judge.

An ATCO technician who attended the scene decided not to shut off the gas flow and instead asked workers to help him expose the rupture to vent the gas, according to the agreed statement of facts submitted in court.

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Hours after the explosions , the utility’s parent company issued a brief statement saying its crews were still performing safety checks in the area. Aerial footage of the area showed some homes that appeared to be torn apart by blasts. At one, the upper portion of a brick chimney crushed an SUV

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"None of the parties called the Canmore Fire Department or police to assist, although several workers, at the request of the ATCO technician, encouraged local residents who were outside of their homes to go inside and not to smoke," reads the statement.

Several APM personnel asked for the gas line to be shut down, but that did not happen for over 30 minutes as workers continued to dig out the rupture. The technician was able to shut down only one valve out of two before the explosion occurred.

The fine

In handing down the penalty, which could have been as high as $500,000, the judge said he accepts that the company is remorseful for its actions and has taken responsibility by pleading guilty. He also noted this is the first offence for APM.

The prosecution and defence submitted a joint proposal for the $75,000 penalty, which includes a victim surcharge.

"The fine is sufficiently large to express denunciation of the conduct APM Construction is responsible for," wrote the judge.

"It also serves to specifically deter this corporate accused. Finally, it stands as an appropriate deterrent to other parties who are involved in similar industries."

There is also an outstanding civil suit related to the explosion.

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