CS Wind, the site of an industrial accident this week, has had almost 100 government work orders issued against it since starting production in 2012.
The Ontario Ministry of Labour just issued 10 orders against CS Wind – such as requiring training, new protocols and guardrails – after a worker’s feet were pinned by a sheet of metal Tuesday.
A report obtained by The Windsor Star shows that the Ministry of Labour issued more than 80 orders between September 2012 and February 2014. The Star also requested records for February to November of this year but has yet to receive them.
Orders range from minor to major. Complaints which resulted in orders, according to Ministry of Labour records, include:
• “Lack of protection from radiation from plasma cutters.”
• “Magnets on crane failed causing 2-ton piece of steel to fall.”
• “Turbine section crashed off roller,” “Paint fumes causing difficulty breathing.”
• “Slipped/dropped turbine tower.”
• “Poor ventilation and cold workplace.”
• “Fire in truck.”
The report also shows that the Ministry of Labour investigated accidents resulting in injuries, such as a fractured leg in one case, and an amputated tip of a finger in another.
The ministry determined that a number of complaints had no merit. CS Wind nevertheless complied with all orders.
CS Wind management did not return calls from The Star on Thursday.
Ministry of Labour spokesman Bruce Skeaff said he cannot comment while an investigation is ongoing.
Joel Thibodeau, a saw welder at CS Wind who has been trying to organize fellow workers through Ironworkers Local 721, praised CS Wind for producing quality wind turbine towers and providing a great place to work – though he’s nevertheless concerned about safety.
“I absolutely love working at CS Wind,” Thibodeau said. “I love the people. I love the job we do. I love the fact that it’s a green energy industry. Unfortunately, I’m not so happy with the company in terms of safety.”
For instance, Thibodeau said overhead cranes that carry 10-tonne tower pieces have different panels, which he feels increases the risk that a worker could push the wrong button.
He also said that until recently, temporary foreign workers from South Korea, Vietnam and China were making lower wages than their Canadian counterparts at the plant, but a recent ruling required the company to pay everyone the same.
Thibodeau said the company has also been improving working conditions, including installing a new ventilation system.
CS Wind, an award-winning affiliate of South Korean tech giant Samsung, employs more than 500 people at its plant at 9355 Anchor Dr. The non-unionized workers earn between $17 and $25 an hour.
Dino Chiodo, president of Unifor Local 444, said manufacturing plants don’t typically have as many ministry orders as CS Wind.
“I think that’s a lot,” Chiodo said. “You never want to get an order from the ministry because that basically says you’re not doing what’s in the best interest of a worker.
“So that’s definitely a concern.”
Chiodo said that in unionized workplaces, joint health and safety committees help identify possible issues early on, which often means improvements can be triggered before accidents happen.
The City of Windsor helped lure CS Wind to town in part by assembling land to create a rail line and provide tower storage at a cost of $12.3 million.
The Windsor wind tower plant was part of a $7-billion investment by Samsung and its partners in Ontario, announced in 2010, though the provincial contract has since been significantly scaled back.
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