23 staff members discharged from hospital after acid leak at THK facility

Photo by JF Martin on Unsplash

A chemical spill at the THK Rhythm automotive facility sent 23 workers to the St. Catharines General Hospital on Tuesday, Sept. 27, with three workers having been directly exposed to hydrochloric acid.

According to St. Catharines Fire Chief Dave Upper, a third-party contractor working at the facility accidentally hit a valve, opening it in the process. Approximately five litres of hydrochloric acid spilled out of the valve before it was quickly closed by staff members, and the hazardous chemical quickly vapourized within the room where the leak took place.

Upper explained emergency crews used a decontamination facility at THK before staff members were sent to the hospital for inspection. He assured community members that the vapour cloud was completely contained inside the facility, posing no threat to the public.

Three workers who suffered direct exposure to the acid leak were rushed to the hospital as CTAS 2 (Canadian Triage Acuity Scale) patients, said Bryce Brunarski, a spokesperson for Niagara EMS Operations. In a statement to Narcity, Brunarski added that “[the affected workers] were decontaminated by facility staff with support from our CBRNE paramedics and St Catharines fire.”

Alongside the three individuals who made contact with the acid, 20 more workers made their way to the hospital as a precautionary measure. Nine of these workers were brought to the hospital to evaluate the risk and severity of their potential injuries with minor exposure to the leak. 10 of the staff members, none of whom suffered symptoms but were still at potential risk, used the St. Catharines Transit bus system to get to the hospital. One more worker made it to the hospital alone.

Niagara Health warned citizens to refrain from visiting the Emergency Department at the hospital unless absolutely necessary, citing a “hazardous incident” that had occurred in the city. Normal operations resumed at the hospital shortly after at 1:30 p.m., with regular citizens welcomed into the hospital at a usual rate from that point onward.

“Our healthcare teams are under more pressure than ever before, but this response shows why we say our people are our greatest asset,” said Niagara Health President and CEO Lynn Guerriero in a press release. “I’m proud of our frontline staff and everyone who played a role in today’s response.” 

All 23 patients impacted by the acid leak were assessed by hospital staff and discharged later in the day.

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