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WorkSafeBC slaps Rio Tinto with $680K fine for high-risk violation caused by airborne contaminants

Rio Tinto claims control measures were cleared by WorkSafe BC after inspection
WorkSafeBC said in a statement they have issued previous orders regarding the control of harmful airborne dust and accumulations. (Rio Tinto photo)

WorkSafeBC has handed Rio Tinto a $678,889 fine after the aluminium giant was repeatedly warned of a high-risk violation caused by air contaminants.

The fine was imposed on Dec. 16, 2021, following a WorkSafeBC inspection of a building used for cleaning and servicing equipment at Rio Tinto’s aluminum smelter in Kitimat.

The inspection was a follow-up from a recommendation relating to controlling workers’ exposure to process dust that contained toxic and carcinogenic substances such as beryllium.

WorkSafeBC said in a statement it had issued previous orders regarding the control of harmful airborne dust and accumulations.

The statement goes on to say Rio Tinto used air pressure for cleaning, which then created a significant amount of process dust with no way to capture the dust.

In imposing the current fine, WorkSafeBC said the control measures in place at the smelter facility did not include more effective engineering or administrative controls as required.

Rio Tinto failed to implement a plan to keep workers’ exposure as low as possible, said WorkSafeBC.

Rio Tinto claimed they have yet to receive the full report on this violation and are tracking it down to better understand the context.

In an email statement, Rio Tinto said following inspections from WorkSafe BC, improvements have, and continue to be made to the building.

“On October 5, 2021, WorkSafeBC issued a notice of compliance confirming our control measures were adequate,” said a Rio Tinto spokesperson.

Black Press Media has reached out to WorkSafe BC to verify the company’s claims.

This is also not the first time Rio Tinto has faced fines. In 2019, the company was fined over $660,000 after two workers were trapped inside the reactor and sustained exposure injuries.

However, the original amount imposed was varied to $463,472 after review by the Review Division, and then the penalty was cancelled after an appeal to the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal (WCAT).

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Christian Aspostolovsky

About the Author: Christian Aspostolovsky

Born and raised in Kitchener Ontario before I found my way up to northwest B.C. working at a small radio station as a news reporter.
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