Ottawa's English Catholic school board no longer allows shop projects involving closed containers since the explosion at Mother Teresa High School that killed student Eric Leighton, a coroner's inquest heard Thursday.

Leighton was attempting to cut into a closed drum with a hand grinder tool on May 26, 2011 when sparks from the tool ignited a cleaning solvent inside the barrel and exploded. Leighton suffered severe head trauma and was later pronounced dead in hospital.

Ottawa Catholic School Board safety official John Spencer told an inquest looking into Leighton's death that since the incident, a number of new board policies were put in place, including the requirement that the board must sign off on all special projects and on any hot work, such as the use of hand grinders or any tool that might create sparks.

Leighton was cutting into the barrel to make a barbecue as part of a special project in his automotive shop class.

"There should never be another incident like what happened to Eric," said Spencer.

Ministry conducted safety blitz across province

Leighton's death also led to a blitz of inspections at Ontario schools, according to Ontario ministry of labour official Vivian Wharton-Szartan.


Leighton, 18, died after an explosion in his automotive shop class in 2011. (Photo courtesy of Leighton family)

Wharton-Szartan said the ministry issued 283 "stop work" orders in 2011-2012 across 900 schools in the province after they found issues with training or a lack of posted safety materials.

While they issued only 38 such orders in a similar blitz in 2013, Wharton-Szarton said the ministry recognizes its job is not done.

"There is still lots of work to do in this sector," she said.

Earlier at the inquest, shop teacher Scott Day had said Leighton cut into the barrel without his permission and that he did it in a tool room where such work is not permitted.

Leighton's parents, Sheri and Patrick, said Wednesday they felt their son was being blamed for the explosion.

The inquest, which began Monday, is expected to hear from 14 witnesses.

At the end, a jury will make recommendations but will not assign blame.