Two workers were injured overnight from Thursday to Friday at the Horne Foundry, including one who was in critical condition after being intoxicated while vacuuming dust. The Commission for Standards, Equity, Health and Safety at Work (CNESST) has opened an investigation.

The information first reported by Radio-Canada was confirmed to La Presse at the start of the day on Sunday. CNESST spokesman Nicolas Bégin says two inspectors were dispatched to the Foundry site on Friday morning, a few hours after the accident that occurred overnight.

“We are talking about two workers who were injured during dust vacuuming work in confined spaces. Our teams are doing checks right now to try to better understand what happened, “says Bégin, adding that the organization should have a” more complete picture “of the situation at the beginning of the week, Monday.

The two men, subcontractors of the Foundry, were taken care of by paramedics and taken to hospital. One of the two has since been released – he had minor injuries – but the other is believed to be in a more serious condition.

According to our information, the worker in critical condition initially lost his protective mask after being hit by a piece of equipment. It was at this time that he allegedly suffered dust poisoning, which is made up of several heavy metals that are harmful to respiratory health.

An investigation report is expected to be made public in the coming days. “We want to understand what happened, but especially why it happened, in order to determine what we will have to do eventually for a similar situation to happen again”, explains Nicolas Bégin of the CNESST.

This all comes as the Horne Foundry is currently in “shutdown” with maintenance work being carried out on several units at the facility, a source familiar with the situation said.

Result: several “regular” or permanent employees of the company are not present on the premises. Many subcontracted employees are hired on a temporary basis instead. Such a process occurs on a loop every 18 months, as a rule.

According to information from Radio-Canada, the two victims work for a company from the Montreal region that specializes in industrial cleaning and pumping of hazardous materials.

In a study published in June 2022, the National Institute of Public Health (INSPQ) noted that air emissions of metals in Rouyn-Noranda “are at the origin of fallout which can then represent a potential risk [carcinogenic ] when ingesting soil and dust”. “The assessment of the carcinogenic risk resulting from the ingestion of contaminated soil and dust has also made it possible to illustrate the fact that there is a large margin of uncertainty as to the risks resulting from soil contamination”, asserted therein besides the organism.

In early March, La Presse reported that the concentrations of toxic contaminants such as lead, cadmium and arsenic far exceeded Quebec standards last year in the air of Rouyn-Noranda, near the Horne Foundry, aggravating health risks.

Quebec soon after tightened the screws on the Horne Foundry by requiring it to comply within four years either with the standards in force or with the thresholds deemed acceptable by the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec. In particular, the company will have to reduce the concentration of arsenic generated by its activities to a maximum annual average of 15 nanograms per cubic meter (ng/m⁠3) by 2027, in addition to submitting a plan to reach the Quebec standard for 3 ng/m⁠3 before the end of that same year.