Seaspan fined $710K after worker suffers carbon monoxide poisoning at Victoria Shipyards

Seaspan fined $710K after worker suffers carbon monoxide poisoning at Victoria Shipyards
Photo: Seaspan
File photo showing the North Star undergoing conversion by Seaspan Victoria Shipyards at federally-owned and operated Esquimalt Graving Dock.

A B.C.-based shipbuilder has been fined more than $710,000 following an incident at its shipyard in Esquimalt, where a worker suffered carbon monoxide poisoning, according to WorkSafeBC.

The worker safety agency says Seaspan’s $710,488.79 fine follows an inspection that identified “multiple deficiencies with the firm’s confined space entry program.”

The incident happened on July 12, 2023, at Seaspan’s Victoria Shipyards on Admirals Road. Paramedics were called to the scene and transported the worker to the hospital.

BC Emergency Health Services tells CHEK News they received the call around 9 a.m.

A WorkSafe report summary says the worker was inside a confined space on the ship conducting arc gouging work, which is a process that removes metal using heat generated from a carbon arc.

The agency says Seaspan “failed to ensure a hazard assessment considered the conditions of the confined space’s design, use, and work activity inside the space.”

The full report from an Aug. 2023 follow-up inspection notes that a gas monitor alarm sounded just two minutes after the worker entered the confined space.

They continued working for 40 minutes until they exited the space, but the report says any alarm should have led to an evacuation. It says Seaspan “assessed the workspace’s atmospheric hazard should have been assessed as ‘high’ rather than ‘moderate.'”

WorkSafe goes on to say the company “also failed to ensure confined space testing was carried out by a qualified person, that adequate test records were kept, and that additional testing was conducted while a worker was inside the confined space.”

Additionally, the agency says Seaspan did not have a standby person stationed outside a confirmed space and failed to ensure adequate personal protective equipment was selected and used.

“These were all high-risk violations,” it said.

Seaspan improving safety: vice president

Seaspan tells CHEK News it remains “committed to maintaining a safe workspace” for all employees, contractors and visitors across its three shipyards and onboard its vessels.

Along with one in Greater Victoria, it has two shipyards in Vancouver.

“Following the incident at Seaspan Victoria Shipyards last July, we have taken a number of actions to evaluate and improve our processes and safety culture,” the company’s vice president and general manager, Tony Winter, told CHEK News in an email Tuesday.

“We constantly review our safety programs and hold ourselves accountable to achieve a safety culture across our organization,” said Winter.

WorkSafe says the maximum occupational health and safety penalty is $783,068.26 — about $72,000 more than Seaspan’s fine.

“The amount of a penalty is based on the nature of the violation, a company’s history of violations, and the size of the company’s payroll,” the agency added.

Earlier this year, the B.C. government was fined more than $710,000 for unsafe wildfire mitigation work.

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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