Former Eastway employees allege lax safety standards before deadly Ottawa explosion

Former staff of Eastway Tank Pump & Meter Ltd. have come ahead to allege a historical past of protection lapses on the Ottawa company previous to ultimate Thursday’s explosion that killed six workers and left a 7th severely injured.

The allegations come with no less than 3 earlier fires, incorrect storage of flammable chemicals, and “scorching” vehicles — tankers that also contained gas or flammable residue — being uncovered to sparks from welding and different activities at the Merivale Street facility.

CBC Information spoke with three former staff who corroborated details of every different’s accounts of the operating stipulations at the tanker truck manufacturer, to boot as an business skilled without a connection to the company.

Everyone idea it used to be a death trap.- An allegation by means of Josh Bastien, former Eastway Tank worker

In a press release attributed to Eastway Tank president and proprietor Neil Greene, despatched to CBC News on Wednesday evening, he called the allegations “unfounded.”

“We are all mourning the loss of our pals and circle of relatives, and that i share the tremendous pain, sadness and anger being felt. 

“With respect, those allegations are unfounded. Eastway Tank has always labored to keep up the top protection requirements. we’re running closely with investigators and are cooperating absolutely to get to the ground of what came about.”

The cause of the explosion and fireplace is still beneath investigation via a number of companies. Eastway Tank builds and products and services tankers capable of carrying a wide range of fuels.

CBC News has also got details of orders from the Ministry of Labour stemming from a 2017 investigation that originated with a grievance about working stipulations at the facility. 

Former Eastway employees allege lax safety standards before deadly Ottawa explosion

Josh Bastien, right, and his father Rick Bastien prepare a meal at the same time as camping. Josh Bastien left Eastway Tank in 2021. Rick Bastien died in the explosion on Jan. 13. (Submitted by way of Josh Bastien)

‘Alarm bells’

Josh Bastien left Eastway in the spring of 2021 over what he alleged was once an dangerous running surroundings. Bastien’s father Rick, a senior employee of the corporate, was once amongst those killed in the Jan. 13 blast.

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“My dad rang alarm bells for a protracted time and he’s gone now, and that i really feel like he would want the truth advised in the end. His death, it has to intend something. As A Result Of this cannot keep happening,” Bastien informed CBC.

WATCH | Former Eastway Tank employee says close calls led to safety considerations:

Bastien, who worked at Eastway for roughly three years, described a significant fireplace that broke out within one among the service bays about a yr and a half in the past whilst a spark from a welding torch landed in a tray of oil.

“The carrier bay gave the impression of it used to be a portal of hell. i’ll see like flames in the distance and smoke just billowing out and filling the main keep,” he mentioned.

Bastien mentioned he grabbed a hearth extinguisher, positioned a rainy rag over his mouth and entered the provider bay to place the hearth out, but his father shoved him out the door to complete the process himself.

Bastien stated the fire was once out by means of the time firefighters arrived, but no longer earlier than the flames damaged tools and blackened the ceiling.

Former Eastway employees allege lax safety standards before deadly Ottawa explosion

This photo submitted by way of former Eastway Tank electrician Chris Collins shows the aftermath of a fireplace concerning a side road sweeper in March 2021. Collins told CBC the photograph was taken via Danny Beale, who died within the explosion on the Merivale Highway facility on Jan. 13. (Submitted by Chris Collins)

Another former employee, Chris Collins, mentioned a hearth very similar to the one cited by means of Bastien and described another fireplace all through his personal tenure at Eastway that started within the save’s boiler room, near containers of flammable liquid.

Collins also shared a photograph appearing the aftermath of a 3rd hearth in March 2021, simply after he left the company. 

Collins mentioned the picture was despatched to him by way of former colleague Danny Beale, who also died in remaining week’s explosion. It shows a tanker truck with a blackened underside in front of a carrier bay entrance, with a firefighter standing nearby.

Former Eastway employees allege lax safety standards before deadly Ottawa explosion

Chris Collins labored as an electrician at Eastway Tank for about three years. He left in March 2021. (Submitted by means of Chris Collins)

Collins, an electrician who left the corporate last March after about two years, stated that following the fires he noticed little concrete action taken via Eastway control to prevent identical incidents.

“It wasn’t till after the fires that I noticed, and searching at the responses that happened, where i began to question and significantly contemplate that the response wasn’t anyplace near what you would suppose a proper hearth response used to be,” he mentioned.

CBC has requested for a record of earlier fireplace calls to 1995 Merivale Rd., however the Town of Ottawa has refused to offer it, mentioning the current investigation.

‘A constant battle’

Bastien stated smaller fires were commonplace at Eastway Tank and had been frequently ignited while welding used to be being performed near open boxes filled with oil-soaked rags.

“You’d have an oily trashcan stuffed with rags, and a man can be welding on a tank and a spark could fly down and land throughout the trashcan. Now you’ve got smoke billowing in all places and there’s a fireplace inside the keep,” stated Bastien, adding he witnessed that occur no less than two dozen times.

“It used to be a continuing fight with sparks and flames as a result of the store used to be so constrained.”

Bastien also described open buckets of flammable liquid being saved close to a boiler.

“it could be jet fuel, it may well be fuel, it could be diesel,” he stated.

Former Eastway employees allege lax safety standards before deadly Ottawa explosion

This diagram of the Eastway facility displays the explosion seems to have taken position in the production house on the left, at the same time as the provider house on the right is still status. (CBC)

Former Eastway employees allege lax safety standards before deadly Ottawa explosion

This drone image presentations the entrances the place vans entered the manufacturing house and paint retailer. (CBC)

Some Other former worker whom CBC has agreed not to name as a result of he fears reprisal stated he used to be “repeatedly” last the metal door of a chemical storage closet because it used to be right beside a welding station.

“There May Be sparks flying in all places, actually five ft clear of there … so all it could take is simply one among those sparks to only hop into that room,” mentioned the previous employee, who mentioned he used to be laid off early final year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and refused to return when requested due to his protection issues.

“The scent could go with the flow out of it, and there would be open flame constantly in that weld room. Everyone concept it was once a demise trap,” Bastien alleged.

The unnamed former employee used to be additionally fascinated by staff smoking near entrances, especially within the winter when it used to be tricky to achieve a picnic desk beside the development.

“All it might take is somebody throwing a butt onto the ground and it being blown into the building,” the person said.

‘Hot’ trucks a danger

a number of the other critical protection lapses Bastien alleged he witnessed had been so-called “sizzling” trucks being brought into the carrier and manufacturing areas of the plant before having their tanks moderately steam-wiped clean and examined for flamable fuel or gasoline residue. 

“There’s many times i will be able to guarantee a truck with product got here inside and nobody discussed anything or said anything,” Bastien alleged.

Collins stated he also witnessed scorching vans being brought into the shop.

“We did have cars with are living fuel, now and again fuel, diesel or different house heating oils that had been brought into the store to be labored on,” he stated.

“In Most Cases we had been advised, ‘Don’t do any type of sparks or welding on it.’ However for essentially the most phase, jobs were given done.”

Former Eastway employees allege lax safety standards before deadly Ottawa explosion

Sufferers killed within the Jan. THIRTEEN explosion and fireplace at Eastway Tank, clockwise from top left: Matt Kearney, Etienne Mabiala, Danny Beale, Rick Bastien, Russell McLellan and Kayla Ferguson. (Submitted pictures)

Bastien mentioned he was once often tasked with riding tanker trucks in and out of the ability, despite the fact that he wasn’t approved. He alleged other unlicensed Eastway staff did the same.

“My dad used to hate it when he came upon i was doing that,” Bastien said. “Here I’m using round in bombs within the backyard, and that i could have performed something flawed. One Thing will have came about.”

Gas spills

The unnamed former worker additionally defined an ongoing downside with the pumping system used to flush contaminated liquid from the pits beneath the provider bays.

He mentioned the harmful soup of gas and water might steadily bubble up and threaten to spill down a ramp top earlier the paint shop into the production space.

“The pits might flood up and it could be a mess, and it happened the entire time,” mentioned the man, who labored at Eastway for about three years.

He said gas spills could additionally occur while workers have been draining the vehicles to be serviced.

“I Have noticed men in there come out after operating … and they are soaked in gasoline, these guys. Like, totally soaked in fuel.”

Former Eastway employees allege lax safety standards before deadly Ottawa explosion

Chris Lawson of the Place Of Business of The Hearth Marshal speaks to reporters someday after the deadly explosion and fire at Eastway Tank. A Number Of companies are investigating the incident. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Gas additionally “repeatedly” ran across the unpaved yard into a ditch that ran alongside the rail tracks at the back of the property, the person mentioned.

Bastien alleged he used to be now and again tasked with draining the service pits by pumping the tainted liquid via a hose underneath the again fence and directly into the ditch.

“that’s what we had been advised to do,” he stated.

Labour ministry investigated proceedings

Ontario’s Ministry of Labour has showed an inspector issued four orders to the corporate after a June 2017 seek advice from to the site discovered problems related to ventilation, welding protection and training, and exposures to unsafe chemical compounds.

the sector talk over with was made in reaction to a office health and safety grievance, a ministry spokesperson said by way of e-mail Thursday.

Rising tangle of companies looking into deadly Merivale explosion

“Concerns were raised approximately exposure to fuel, ventilation and training,” the spokesperson mentioned. 

All of the 2017 orders — written by a labour inspector to an agency to either comply with well being and safety rules or prevent work — had been complied with, the spokesperson stated.

The ministry visited the corporate’s worksite once more in September 2018 after a public grievance approximately employees not dressed in non-public protecting equipment, but discovered Eastway to be in compliance, a spokesperson mentioned.

Town of Ottawa told CBC it was once now not interested by analyzing the facility.

‘Going throughout the motions’

In the company’s preliminary observation to CBC after the explosion, Eastway president and owner Greene said: “We remain in close touch with investigators, and we can co-perform with authorities on all resulting investigations. we wish to get to the bottom of what happened.”

“i don’t assume there has been ever any push to the culture to make that protection switch. i believe it was extra of, ‘We took care of it. these items can occur. Be smarter next time,'” Collins mentioned.

“But that should not be your only protection precaution.”

You Would nonetheless see workers welding four or 5 ft away from a gas box.- Chris Collins, former Eastway Tank employee

Collins said he served on Eastway’s health and protection committee for roughly months, but it surely finished little.

“It in reality appeared like we were extra or much less simply going in the course of the motions,” Collins said. “You Would still see workers welding four or 5 feet clear of a gas box.”

Each Bastien and the unnamed employee echoed Collins’s account, saying they often felt uncomfortable approximately elevating their considerations with supervisors. 

Former Eastway employees allege lax safety standards before deadly Ottawa explosion

a photograph of welder Kayla Ferguson, certainly one of the six sufferers of the deadly explosion and hearth at Eastway Tank, is noticed amongst plant life left close to the ability’s gate in advance this week. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Dangerous paintings

Eastway Tank is qualified via Transport Canada to manufacture and inspect tanks capable of wearing mild crude, fuel, diesel gas, aviation fuel and methanol.

Chris Revers, plant manager at Jasper Tank close to Edmonton, mentioned his first response upon listening to of closing week’s explosion was once shock, then worry.

“i know what kind of unhealthy paintings that is, development those devices and maintaining them. Bad stuff happens each day, and it is just the character of the process,” said Revers, whose corporate has been production and servicing tanks for the oil and gasoline business considering 1947.

“What we strive to do is do the most productive we can to mitigate the ones dangers and make sure that our individuals are secure.”

Revers, who has no direct knowledge of Eastway Tank or what caused the explosion, mentioned rigorous trying out and protection precautions are a will have to within the business.

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Each tank that enters a facility must undergo careful inspection including a visible assessment, leakage test, drive check and a “sniff” test with a gasoline detector, he stated.

Tanks that contained gas need to be tired and steam cleaned for hours, Revers stated, and even then there’s the danger of gas residue or vapour becoming trapped in lap seams.

“Before a tank must be coming right into a keep, you want to make sure that that tank is protected, and it’s not a hot tank,” Revers said.

He brought that welding and other paintings that may throw sparks should not be performed near risky materials.

“None of these issues will have to happen near a sizzling tank or product that’s getting used,” he mentioned.

Some tank manufacturers exceed government requirements to verify a safe administrative center, Revers said, including he hopes Delivery Canada heeds whatever comes out of most of the investigations into the Eastway crisis.

“they are going to want to be sure that that this doesn’t happen again,” he mentioned. “and they will have to.”

should you need to get in touch with a reporter about this tale, please touch CBC Ottawa.

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