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Report: Fatal scaffold collapse at Domtar facility in Quebec's Eastern Townships due to design flaw

WINDSOR, Ontario (From news reports) -- The fatal scaffolding collapse in 2021 at the Domtar facility in Windsor, Que., about 120 kilometres east of Montreal, could have been prevented, according to a report by the province's workplace safety board.

The report, released Wednesday by the CNESST, says the scaffolding's load was underestimated and there was an absence of vital bracing on the seventh level that would have ensured the structure's stability.

Yan Baillargeon, 39, and Hugo Paré, 22, died in the collapse and about 10 other workers were injured.

The scaffolding was constructed inside a silo at the Domtar pulp and paper plant. It fell during maintenance work just after 1:30 a.m. on Oct. 26.

The CNESST says it contacted families and the affected companies, including subcontractors connected to the accident, on Tuesday. It says it also filed the report with several construction organizations and civil engineering firms to raise awareness of the risks.

However, Baillargeon's half-sister, Kim Baillargeon, said she was notified of the results of the investigation at the same time as the media. Regardless, she was not surprised by the report, she said.

"Honestly, I suspected it, but the emotions rose to see [the results]," she told Radio-Canada.

"I don't really have anything to say yet other than it's unfair that two lives have been stolen by a lack of judgment by supposed professionals. My brother paid with his life"

Inspector faced challenging investigation

According to the CNESST inspector, Marilyn Boulianne, the investigation was difficult to conduct because of the disordered state of the site when her team arrived.

"It is therefore impossible to determine if the structure had been modified," said Boulianne, noting that would include the addition or removal of components.

That's because there was no inspection when the work started, but such an inspection is not required under current regulations, she said.

Weak points in the scaffold design were detected in the plans, such as the missing bracing which would have made the structure safe, said Boulianne. The importance of that bracing on the seventh level was confirmed through simulations, she said.

Quebec's order of engineers, the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec, released a statement Wednesday that says it takes the CNESST's findings seriously and will make its own verifications to determine if further actions should be taken.

The CNESST has already proposed several ways to prevent such a tragedy. For example, it recommends that scaffolding assembly plans be signed and sealed by an engineer, in addition to being inspected before authorizing use.

*****

Domtar Takes Note of the CNESST Investigation Report

WINDSOR, Ontario (News release) -- Domtar has received a copy of the investigation report issued by the Commission des normes de l'équité de la santé et sécurité au travail (CNESST) concerning the scaffolding collapse that occurred in the digester on October 26, 2021 at its Windsor mill.

"Eleven months after the accident, our thoughts continue to be with the families and loved ones affected by this unfortunate event," said Sylvain Bricault, General Manager of the Domtar Windsor mill. "At Domtar, health and safety is one of our core values and we will continue to make every effort to ensure a safe work environment," added Mr. Bricault.

Domtar contracts the engineering design, assembly, inspection, and regulatory certification of this kind of scaffolding work to specialized scaffolding companies. Domtar hopes that the findings of the CNESST will serve to improve practices in the scaffolding industry in order to prevent such events from reoccurring in the future.

Domtar would like to thank once again all those who worked tirelessly to provide aid, as well as those who assisted in the investigation process.

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