Ottawa Catholic board fined for explosion that killed student

  • August 23, 2012

OTTAWA - The Ottawa Catholic District School Board has been fined $275,000 for its role in a 2011 classroom explosion that killed student Eric Leighton.

“As a school board ultimately we’re responsible for what happens in the schools,” said Julian Hanlon, director of education. “We’ve accepted that responsibility all along and this process will hopefully help bring some closure to the case, in particular for the Leighton family themselves.”

When Leighton tried cutting a 55-gallon drum in half with an angle grinder during his morning shop-class on May 26, 2011, the steel barrel exploded. The blast sent five students and A teacher to hospital, all of whom left with minor injuries except for Leighton. The Grade 12 student later passed away. He was 18.  

Charged in January under the Occupational Health and Safety Act with failing to provide instruction or supervision, failing to take every reasonable precaution to protect the workplace and failing to properly acquaint a supervisor with the handling of equipment, the board faced up to $500,000 in fines.

A media release from the Ministry of Labour stated that “the barrel the student was using had been washed out with flammable cleaner ... the barrel had been stored with its caps closed prior to the class project, allowing flammable cleaning vapour to accumulate.”

The family has called for a coroner’s inquest which is still being considered according to Dr. Roger Skinner, regional supervising coroner for Ontario east.

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