Worksite of explosion previously investigated by OHS
Published Tuesday, February 12, 2019 6:26PM MST
The worksite west of Edmonton where three people were hospitalized after an explosion Monday afternoon has been the subject of workplace safety concerns previously.
Fire crews in Parkland County were called to the Pinnacle Renewable Energy pellet plant in Entwistle around 2 p.m. when workers reported hearing a blast. An employee told CTV News her son was airlifted to Edmonton with serious head injuries. County officials said two others were sent to hospital via ground ambulance.
The British Columbia-based company told CTV News the fire and subsequent explosion on Monday were a first for the Alberta plant, which opened in September 2018.
“The Entwistle facility has a strong safety record to date,” said Andrea Johnston, the company’s chief financial officer.
She called the incident “upsetting for all Pinnacle employees.”
However, Monday’s fire was not the first at the plant, according to Alberta Labour. A fire was reported there on Jan. 2. No one was injured, but the company had to submit its investigation report to Alberta Labour.
Alberta Labour also told CTV News two Occupational Health and Safety inspections were conducted following complaints from workers. The first was in December, and the second last month.
A government spokesperson said the inspections resulted in one work order regarding the safeguarding of equipment.
Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc. manufactures and distributes industrial wood pellets, which are burned by utilities for home or industrial heating. It has seven locations in British Columbia, four of which have attracted attention from provincial inspectors in the past. Between 2013 and 2015, the company received 10 monetary fines from the B.C. government totaling $280,393.
In eight of the 10 cases, inspectors found a “hazardous accumulation of combustible dust” measuring, in one case, 12.7 centimetres deep.
On Oct.9, 2014, three employees were seriously injured when gases caught fire inside a dryer, causing an explosion at the company’s Burns Lake plant. An investigation conclude there were multiple violations regarding equipment maintenance, training and use.
Since the Burns Lake incident, Pinnacle says it has adhered to “strict cleanliness standards” and held a clean safety record in B.C.
The company was even featured in a Work Safe B.C. promotional video in 2017.
Pinnacle has not yet determined the cause of the fire in Entwistle. Occupational Health and Safety is investigating the incident.
The 28-year-old man who was hospitalized Monday remains in hospital, while the other two victims were released, according to Johnston.
With files from Dan Grummett