Winnipeg is moving closer to imposing tougher inspection rules for hazardous industries.
On Monday, a civic committee approved a package of inspection changes that were prompted by the massive fire and explosion at a plant in a St. Boniface industrial park on Oct. 1, 2012.
"It's definitely a step in the right direction," said Coun. Dan Vandal, the area councillor who urged city hall to take action to prevent a repeat of the 2012 fire.
"Ideally, in the long term, we want to put distance between where people live and where the high-hazard industrial sites are."
The new procedures, which were outlined in an administrative report to the protection and community services committee, must still be approved by city council.
As first reported Friday by the Free Press, the report recommends the start of regular annual inspections of 300 businesses across the city to seek out operations that pose serious safety threats, bringing them into compliance or shutting them down.
"It's important for us to take a look at new measures to ensure we have inspections... and are able to identify these hazardous types of properties before another (fire) occurs," said Janet Bier, an assistant chief with the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service and director of fire prevention.
Right now, the fire department only inspects hazardous plants when it receives complaints or an issue is raised by firefighters after making a call.
In addition to the annual inspections, the report recommends hiring an additional full-time inspector within the fire department, whose job would be to carry out the inspections.
Even though the city had been reviewing the Speedway International fire for more than a year, the hiring of the additional inspector was not proposed in the 2014 budget. The report proposes the salary and benefits for the new inspector would be covered by a new inspection fee charges to hazardous businesses, which would typically generate $450 from each inspection.
It was early in the evening when the St. Boniface neighbourhood was rocked by a series of explosions after a tanker truck containing 75,000 litres of methanol exploded at the Nicolas Avenue site.
The explosion sent a fireball and thick black smoke 800 metres into the sky. Nearby residents were evacuated. No one was hurt.
A subsequent report and review by the city's planning department found Speedway International had 16 bylaw infractions. It also concluded many other hazardous industries in the area were likely avoiding provincial licensing and inspections and probably breaching city bylaws.
Bier told reporters she believes the Speedway fire was an isolated incident, adding most industries are in compliance.
"Generally, business owners want to be in compliance," Bier said.
Vandal said the tougher inspection procedures will help prevent another recurrence of the Speedway fire.
"What we've approved today is much improved over where we were a year ago," Vandal said.
Bier said giving the businesses notice about the inspections would likely ensure they bring themselves into compliance with existing regulations.
Businesses found breaching regulations will be given time to make the necessary changes, Bier said.
"We will work with the building owner to come into compliance, work on what they need to correct... and give them enough time to make that correction," she said.
Bier said the inspections will help detect those firms that are improperly using rail cars to store hazardous materials, adding those businesses will be forced to find alternative storage.
The city has identified more than 250 plants and businesses across the city that have been issued high-hazard permits and those would be subject to the new inspection process.