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Explosion kills 19-year-old welder at worksite in Saskatchewan

Teen worker was opening barrel with torch


(Canadian OH&S News) — A teenage worker was killed by an explosion that occurred at his worksite about two kilometres south of Kinistino, Sask. on the afternoon of Nov. 3.

A news release from the Melfort, Sask. detachment of the RCMP stated that the 19-year-old male victim had been performing welding work at the scene at the time of the incident. Police arrived at the scene at about 2:30 p.m. after receiving a report that a firearm had probably been discharged. Upon their arrival, they determined that an explosion had occurred.

“He was cutting open a barrel with an — I think it’s called an oxy-acetylene torch,” said Constable Lorne Bennett of the Melfort RCMP. The barrel contained a type of spray foam, he added, “and they all believed it was water-based, and it exploded. He was cutting the barrel, and boom.”

The worker, whose name has not been publicly released, was pronounced dead at the scene. Police immediately determined that there was nothing suspicious or criminal about the fatality.

“We left oh&s with the scene, and they were just going to be looking at the barrel, I believe, and the contents,” said Const. Bennett.

The occupational health and safety division of Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety sent representatives to investigate the scene. A communications rep with the Ministry told COHSN that the accident had not involved an employer-employee relationship — meaning that the incident was outside of the oh&s department’s mandate and the Ministry did not have the authority to investigate it.

The Melfort RCMP has continued its own investigation of the accident, according to the news release. An autopsy of the victim was scheduled as well.

Although the victim’s employer has not been deemed at fault for this incident and the specific cause is yet to be determined, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) in Hamilton, Ont. offers some advice on its website for welding safely. CCOHS says that welding near flammable material is a kind of “hot work”, meaning work with ignition sources near materials that could cause a fire or explosion. The Centre suggests inspecting a work area and removing all combustible materials from it before beginning the task if at all possible; alternatively, one may try mechanical bolting as a substitute for welding when feasible.

“Post a trained fire watcher within the work area during welding, including during breaks, and for at least 30-60 minutes after work has stopped,” CCOHS advises. “Depending on the work done, the area may need to be monitored for longer (up to three hours) after the end of the hot work.”