Ministry issues direction to Ssonix following fatal January explosion


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Jul 11, 2023

Ministry issues direction to Ssonix following fatal January explosion

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In the months following an explosion at a Port Weller hazardous materials facility that killed one of its workers, Ontario's Ministry of Labour has issued one order and 11 requirements to Ssonix Products.

On Jan. 12, St. Catharines emergency crews were called to 20 Keefer Rd. just after 6:30 a.m. An explosion heard kilometres away ripped through the facility, with flames spreading to an industrial building next door, setting off a series of explosions.

Ryan Konkin, a 37-year-old Ssonix employee, was the only person inside the building at the time of the explosion. He was transported to hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries the following day.

In an email Monday, ministry spokesperson Anuradha Dhar said the investigation remains ongoing into the fire at the Port Weller workplace. In addition to the requirements and order issued to Ssonix, the ministry also issued one requirement to a supplier, Nalco Canada.

Following a workplace incident, the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development is notified and an investigation conducted to determine whether there has been a violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The ministry inspector may issue orders to ensure the workplace party — an employer or worker — follows rules as stated in the act. Orders may include installing a guardrail on a mezzanine level floor, or clearing debris to prevent tripping hazards.

Requirements are orders issued when an inspector needs to gather information to verify compliance, such as documents or records, or keeping employees away from the scene.

Dhar said the ministry is unable to share any specific details as to the requirements and order issued "to protect the integrity of the investigation."

Reached by phone Tuesday morning, Ssonix Products owner Steve Baker said he is not in a position to comment at this time.

In an email while out of the country, Ryan's sister Nicole Konkin said her family has never received any updates or information from the ministry regarding the investigation, despite numerous attempts.

Learning about the order and requirements issued to Ssonix, Konkin said "this is the first we’ve heard of anything" but without further details — which she hopes to get upon her return to Canada — was unable to provide comment.

The cause of the fire is still unknown. The Office of the Fire Marshal said it has no updates as the investigation remains ongoing, and was unable to estimate when it may be completed.

During a community meeting in March, fire Chief Dave Upper said the on-site investigation took about four weeks, with the structural integrity of the building lost and with labelling destroyed in the fire, crews unsure what chemicals they were dealing with.

Following the explosion, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks attended the scene to assess the extent of the impact and collect samples.

Ministry spokesperson Gary Wheeler said Monday he is unable to provide additional details as the matter continues to be under investigation by the ministry's environmental investigations and enforcement branch.

"The ministry will continue to monitor activities at the site to ensure that appropriate actions are taken to address any environmental impacts and that applicable regulations and guidelines are followed to protect human health and the environment," he said in an email.

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