TORONTO — A worker succumbed to fatal thermal injuries they suffered after becoming trapped in an operating wood-drying kiln at the Satin Finish Hardwood Flooring Ltd.’s (now known as Prodtor Inc.) leased industrial manufacturing facility in Toronto.
The offence occurred Dec. 13, 2017. The company was convicted and fined $225,000 Jan. 9 by Justice of the Peace Lynette Stethem.
The company’s factory has three large wood-drying kilns made of sheet metal capable of holding large quantities of wood while it is dried with high heat from a gas-fired appliance.
The kilns are equipped with large, hanger-style doors that open to load and unload wood and two ‘man doors’ on each kiln — one at the front and one at the rear of each kiln — through which workers enter or exit.
On the day the incident occurred, two workers were asked to fix a malfunctioning damper on one of the kilns. The workers determined that the damper was frozen open and the best course of action would be to let the heat from the kiln melt the ice on the damper, states to a Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development court bulletin.
Later the same day, the two workers met at the kiln to check the status of the damper and they turned off the kiln but it would remain hot for some time.
The workers opened the rear man door that leads to the heated wood-drying area in the kiln to assess if they could see sunlight through the dampers on the roof and thus determine the functioning of the frozen damper. They were unable to see due to the steam in the kiln and the overcast day.
One of the workers went up to the roof of the kiln to check the damper, while the other went into the kiln’s control room. The worker returned to the ground level from the roof but could not locate the other worker.
The worker and a supervisor opened the front man door of the kiln, which was operating at a temperature of 149 degrees Fahrenheit with very high humidity, and found the worker lying on the floor unresponsive with vital signs absent, the bulletin indicates. Emergency services were called and attended the scene but were unable to save the worker.
The Ministry of Labour investigated with the assistance of a ministry engineer who examined the front man door where the worker had been found.
The front man door had a door lock assembly designed to be used to open the door either from inside or outside the kiln. While it was functional from outside, which allowed workers to enter the kiln, on the inside there was a push bar used to release the door latch. Corrosion was observed under the push bar and cracks seen in the body of the man door on the kiln-facing side so the door could not be opened from the inside.
The engineer noted that an internal component known as a “push pin” was corroded and seized, which prevented the door from being opened with the push bar from inside the kiln once the door was latched in the closed position, states the release, adding the engineer concluded that this was the direct cause of the fatal event, as the worker was unable to open the latched man door and leave the operating kiln.
The engineer also concluded that maintenance would have prevented malfunctioning of the door lock assembly.
According to the bulletin, the defendant failed as an employer to ensure that a man door to the kiln could be opened by a worker from inside the kiln once the door latched closed and failed to ensure that the man door to the kiln and its door lock assembly were maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.