On August 10, 2008, an explosion occurred at the Sunrise Propane facility in Downsview.
This was a tragic event and our government feels great sorrow for the families who lost loved ones.
The causes of the explosion continue to be investigated by the Office of the Fire Marshal. Nevertheless, and building on the existing propane regulatory framework, the Government of Ontario and the Technical Standards Safety Authority (TSSA) have acted to further improve safety standards in this province.
On August 21, 2008, the TSSA issued a Notice of Proposal to Sunrise Propane that immediately revoked its authorization to operate all three of its facilities.
On August 28, 2008, the government established an expert Propane Safety Review Panel and appointed two independent experts, Dr. Michael Birk and Ms. Susana Katz, to this panel. The panel was asked to conduct a comprehensive safety review of Ontario’s legislative and regulatory framework for the storage, handling, location and transport of propane.
The panel received submissions and suggestions from a wide range of participants, including the propane industry, municipalities, ratepayers, emergency responders and the insurance industry.
In November 2008, the panel issued a report which concluded that the building blocks for propane safety that are in place in Ontario have served the people well over the years. At the same time, the report made 40 recommendations to further enhance propane safety in this province.
As well, the TSSA issued its action plan to respond to the panel’s recommendations outlined in the report. The plan is posted on the TSSA’s website.
In December 2008, the TSSA completed the re-audit of all propane filling facilities in the Province of Ontario. The re-audit did not identify any trends or systemic safety issues.
In addition, the government put in place new regulations to further improve the safety of Ontario’s propane system.
With the regulatory changes put in place, more than 30 of the panel’s 40 recommendations have now been acted on. These regulatory amendments, designed to enhance safety, include:
To respond to the panel recommendations that fall under the Government of Ontario’s jurisdiction, the province has taken the following steps:
Recommendation: The province should amend planning rules to require municipalities and local appeal bodies to notify facility operators of applications for official plan amendments, plans of subdivision, rezoning and minor variances where the facility’s defined hazard distance extends into the area under consideration for change.
Status: The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has posted a notice on the Environmental Registry advising of the government’s intent to amend Planning Act regulations and including a description of the proposed change. The public is invited to comment.
Recommendation: The Office of the Fire Marshal should enhance its training for fire department personnel in the areas of prevention, mitigation and suppression of propane explosions and fires.
Status: The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services and the Office of the Fire Marshal are working to develop enhanced training for fire department staff.
Recommendation: Fire services should have clear authority to enter licensed propane facilities for familiarization purposes and/or verify proper maintenance of fire protection equipment.
Status: The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services and the Office of the Fire Marshal have confirmed that fire services currently have clear authority to enter propane facilities. The Office of the Fire Marshal will circulate an advisory to fire service departments to remind them of their authority to enter licensed propane facilities.
Recommendation: The Minister should ask Transport Canada to examine the potential benefits to public safety of thermal protection requirements for highway tank trucks, similar to those for railway tank cars, and regulations for safe parking of trucks, including such factors as setback and security.
Status: The Minister of Small Business and Consumer Services wrote to the federal government last year to ask it to examine the benefits to public safety of thermal protection requirements for highway tank trucks. The ministry is continuing to follow up with them on this issue.
Recommendation: The Minister should ask the Canadian Standards Association to review and update relevant sections of the Propane Installation Code (B149.2 and B149.5) with a focus on setback distances, categories of installations, emergency response plans, maintenance, special fire protection and to ensure the Code aligns with international best practices.
Status: The Minister of Small Business and Consumer Services wrote to the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) last year. The ministry continues to monitor the CSA for updates to the Propane Installation Code.