Hamilton, ON – U.S. Steel Canada Inc./Acier U.S. Canada Inc. pleaded guilty and has been fined $75,000 after a worker lost consciousness and suffered fractures and burns after being caught and pinned by a hydraulic ram.
The incident took place on July 5, 2013, at the company’s Hamilton Works facility located at 386 Wilcox Street in Hamilton.
The company uses coke in blast furnaces to convert iron ore to iron, which is further refined to produce steel. The conversion of coal to coke is performed in coke oven “batteries” which consist of a group of ovens connected by common walls. Coal is converted to coke in a process where coal is heated in the absence of air to drive off volatile compounds.
At the Hamilton Works facility the coke ovens are filled with coal from the top of the oven by a piece of equipment known as the charge car. The oven is ‘charged’ with coal by a control device known as the aspirating liquor valve. Usually, the charge car automatically connects to the oven by extending a hydraulic arm or ram from the charge car which makes contact with a paddle that controls the aspirator valve.
At the time of the incident, the operator of the charge car observed that the drive ram had failed to make contact with the paddle that controls the aspirator valve. The operator asked another worker to manually pin the paddle down to engage the aspirator valve.
That worker went to the side of the car to pin the valve; at the same time, the operator pulled the ram back. The injured worker was caught and pinned by the hydraulic ram when it was drawn back. The injured worker lost consciousness for several minutes and sustained fractures, bruises and burns.
The Ministry of Labour investigation revealed that due to the proximity of the charge car to the aspirating valve, a worker engaged in manually pinning the valve was in the path of travel of the hydraulic ram. This violated Section 185(5)(b) of Ontario Regulation 854 — the Regulation for Mines and Mining Plants — which requires clearance sufficient for the safety of a worker be provided from the path of travel of a moving part of a machine. In addition, Section 25(1)(c) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act requires an employer to ensure that the measures and procedures prescribed by section 185(5)(b) of Regulation 854 are carried out in the workplace. As such, the company failed to ensure that there was clearance sufficient for the safety of a worker from the path of travel of a hydraulic ram on the machine known as a charge car.
The company pleaded guilty and the fine of $75,000 was imposed by Justice of the Peace Jerry S. Woloschuk in Hamilton court on April 5, 2016.