Edmonton

OHS gets inside Nisku welding shop after deadly blast

Occupational Health and Safety officials have gained access to a welding shop south of Edmonton where a Thursday morning explosion killed a man and seriously injured two others.

'You know in the back of your mind that someone is going to be hurt'

A Thursday morning explosion inside Ja-Co Welding at 1304 8th St. in the Nisku Business Park remains under investigation. (CBC)

Occupational Health and Safety officials have gained access to a welding shop south of Edmonton where an explosion Thursday killed a man in his 40s and seriously injured two others.

Provincial investigators took possession of the work site at Ja-Co Welding in the Nisku Business Park Friday morning, OHS spokesperson Gurshan Dhillon told CBC News Friday.

The cause of the blast remains under investigation, Dhillon said.  As of Friday morning, no work or compliance orders had been filed against the company.

The Leduc County fire department had possession of the scene overnight after a decision was made to let burning acetylene tanks in the welding business vent their contents before crews moved in.

Police said one man was dead when emergency crews arrived at the scene. Dhillon said the medical examiner will determine if an autopsy is necessary.

A middle-aged man was transported to hospital in Edmonton in critical, life-threatening condition. Another middle-aged man was transported to hospital in stable condition.

'It shook the walls in here'

Dean Critch, co-owner of R.S. Machine & Manufacturing, a Nisku business less than 140 metres away from Ja-Co Welding, said the force of the blast rocked his shop and sent managers running from their morning meeting.

The blast shook the building around 8:15 a.m.

"We were sitting there having our morning coffee at our management meeting and heard the bang," Critch said Friday. "It shook the walls in here. Some of the pictures came off.

"It was so loud that we thought it was one of our shops so automatically, you go running."

Critch said it was immediately clear that damage to the Ja-Co shop building was extensive.

You find out it's somebody else and then you pray no one is hurt.-Dean  Critch

The blast, which was felt in Beaumont, about 10 kilometres to the east, had pierced open one of the building's exterior walls.

"There's a relief and then you find out it's somebody else and then you pray no one is hurt," Critch said.

"You see across the street and hope that no one is hurt but you know in the back of your mind that someone is going to be hurt."

Critch said his business and Ja-Co are among the longest-standing tenants in their small stretch of the industrial park. Ja-Co has been operating for decades. Until recently, the two businesses would collaborate on jobs.

'It happens in an instant'

Critch doesn't know what went wrong inside the neighbouring shop Thursday morning but said welding can be dangerous.

"If something is not completely shut off or properly bottled and it's been bleeding gas for a few days because of the Christmas break, you can get a buildup of gas inside the building and then all it takes is a spark and it can go off.

"All it takes for someone to come in and even turn the furnace on and it can go off.

"It happens in an instant."

The Nisku explosion was the second recent fatal industrial accident in the area.

Three men were killed Nov. 15 in nearby Leduc at Millennium Cryogenic Technologies, an oilfield equipment supplier. That accident is also being investigated by OHS authorities.