Inquest into Kitchener house explosion makes recommendations on handling dangerous chemicals November 30, 2010 Record staff KITCHENER — A subcontractor who died following a 2008 explosion at a Kitchener house highlights the need for workers to ensure they are safely handling dangerous chemicals, a coroner’s inquest ruled Monday. That was one of five recommendations handed down by a jury probing the death of Ron Pilon, the sole employee of his son’s flooring and installation business. The inquest was mandatory as it was a work-related death. “The issue here is not a lack of regulation or education,” coroner Dr. David Eden told the five jurors looking into Pilon’s death. “The issue here is the need for heightened awareness by workers that these regulations and education exists,” Eden said at the end of the one-day inquest at Kitchener’s Superior Court. Pilon, 59, died on July 29, 2008, a day after he was severely burned in an explosion at 94 Gatewood Rd. Fighting back tears, Cory Pilon, the victim’s son, told the jury what happened that day when a routine flooring job turned tragic. The pair followed their normal routine that day. Cory Pilon, 36, unloaded the truck while his father ensured that there were no pilot lights on in the house as the floor-finishing chemicals they used on the floors were highly flammable. This was a routine they had followed for the 12 years they worked together. Cory was owner of Encore Flooring and Installation. The company was hired by Rooms in Bloom Home Staging to get the house ready for sale. The homeowner was away at the time of the explosion. Cory told the jury that he learned everything about the trade from his father and received no formal training. He said he hadn’t refreshed himself about the dangers of the lacquer he was using for about two years. He said they couldn’t open any windows because they were painted shut. Ron Pilon was in the midst of applying a second coat of the floor sealant when his cellphone sounded out on the front porch, his son said. His father went out to answer it and returned inside after a short telephone conversation. Cory said he was outside when he heard what sounded like doors slamming. Then the windows blackened before exploding and the garage door buckled. Glass from the main-floor windows was blown across the street. “I went to the back door and kicked it open and I brought him out,” Cory said. Ron was transferred to Hamilton General Hospital, where he died. Jeff Minten, investigator with the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office, testified that the blast was caused by the ignition of vapours from the floor-refinishing product and fuelled by oxygen, which may have been provided when Ron went outside to answer his cellphone. Minten said three possible sources of ignition were static electricity, an electric air cleaner on the furnace, or a refrigerator motor. His advice to the jury was to recommend that it be mandatory that all power to a house be turned off prior to chemicals being applied and that only non-flammable materials be used. Explosions caused by volatile floor-refinishing chemicals are something fire investigators have seen before. As a result, the Ontario Fire Code was amended to address potential dangers of finishing floors with flammable or combustible liquids. The code now stipulates that there must be proper ventilation and that all ignition sources must be removed for at least an hour after the work is done. Allen Cesenas, an inspector with the Ontario Ministry of Labour, said the ministry has issued many alerts and advisories about the dangers of using floor-finishing chemicals, and this information is readily available on many websites and is often posted at work sites. In his closing statements to the jury, assistant Crown prosecutor Mike Townsend said it is incumbent on workers to educate themselves about the dangers of chemicals to ensure they are using them safely. “It is like old hat to a lot of these tradespeople and may be they are not being 100 per cent safe with these materials,” he said. The jury’s other four recommendations are: • Workers should ensure all utilities to a site are off prior to working with highly flammable or combustible materials. • Joint health and safety committee should be available to all businesses regardless of number of employees. • Employers should provide proper ventilation when using flammable materials. • Suppliers should provide and workers should read safety data sheets pertaining to dangerous chemicals prior to purchasing materials each time.
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