Canadian Manufacturing

Regina refinery pleads guilty to safety charge after 2011 blast

There have been four fires at the Regina refinery since 2011, including an explosion last Christmas Eve

REGINA—A Regina refinery has pleaded guilty to one of five charges in a 2011 explosion that sent several workers to hospital and injured 52 people.

Consumers Co-operative Refineries Ltd. admitted that it failed to sufficiently and competently supervise work at the site.

The province charged the company in July 2013 with offences under Saskatchewan’s Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The government alleged the refinery didn’t have a general corrosion monitoring program, failed to adequately maintain equipment and didn’t ensure worker safety.

The Crown has agreed to withdraw four other charges when Co-op is sentenced May 12.

Co-op spokesperson Cameron Zimmer said the company won’t comment because the case is an ongoing legal matter.

An investigation found that the explosion was caused by a ruptured pipe thinned by corrosion.

In a separate lawsuit, several workers are suing Co-op as well as associated companies that were involved in the plant’s refurbishment, alleging that negligence put workers at risk.

A statement of claim filed last April alleged there were known safety concerns before the explosion, including possible gas leaks, lack of alarms and an inadequate emergency medical plan.

Tavengwa Runyowa, who is representing the workers, said he’s “very disappointed” by the plea deal.

“I will qualify it to say if the purpose of the settlement was to say Co-op might have been responsible for something but there’s someone else responsible for the rest of the pie … that’s fair,” he said, adding that he wants to see the associated companies held accountable.

An adjudication process through the Workers’ Compensation Board will determine whether the workers’ lawsuit can move forward.

Saskatchewan law is based on a “no-fault” system, whereby workers aren’t allowed to sue their employers for workplace injuries.

“If there is a level of misconduct that has been established and admitted, then this rises above and beyond what Workers’ Compensation is supposed to cover, so an admission of wrongdoing is a significant step in that direction in terms of adding to our case,” Runyowa said.

Since 2011 there have been four fires at the Regina refinery, including an explosion last Christmas Eve.

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