City fined $55K after firefighters injured during boating exercise

The City of London has been fined $55,000 by the province after two firefighters were injured during a training exercise on Lake Fanshawe on June 15, 2018.

One firefighter suffered minor injuries, while another required medical attention

Two firefighters were injured during an exercise on the lake in the Fanshawe Conservation Area in northeast London. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

The City of London has been fined $55,000 by the province after two firefighters were injured when their inflatable boat exploded during a training exercise on Lake Fanshawe in June of last year.

An investigation by the Ministry of Labour determined the city failed to provide the proper inflation device on board, which led to the over-inflation of the vessel.

According to the court bulletin, four firefighters were taking part in a training exercise at Lake Fanshawe in northeast London on June 15, 2018. The purpose of the exercise was to acquaint the firefighters with the area in case of an emergency.

As part of their training, the firefighters were using one of the department's Zodiac Grand Mark IIIs, an inflatable vessel that's about 4.5 metres long and 2 metres wide.

The ministry's report noted that one of the firefighters told another that the bottom of the boat was low and that it would need to be topped up with air. There was a compressed gas cylinder in the boat that would be used to inflate it.

When the group had completed their training exercise, they were radioed back to shore. That's when two of the firefighters noticed the bottom was low in the water and they decided to stop and inflate it. When trying to open the valve, they removed it completely, causing the bottom to deflate. The valve was replaced and they used the compressed gas to reinflate it, causing the bottom to rapidly fill and explode.

The explosion caused the plywood floor of the boat to become loose and struck one firefighter, resulting in an injury that required medical attention. Another firefighter was struck by an equipment bag, but was not seriously hurt. The other two other firefighters were unharmed.

An investigation into the incident revealed that none of the four firefighters had been trained on the operation or inflation of the water vessel. A Zodiac technician was brought in as part of the investigation and it was also determined that a foot pump should have been instead of a compressed gas cylinder.

The ministry's investigation found the city in violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act section 25(2)(h), which states that an employer shall take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of the worker. They were also in violation of section 66(1), failing to take the reasonable precaution of providing a foot pump to inflate the keel of the boat.