Diversion tunnels have been completed to redirect the Peace River during low water this summer, in one of the most critical steps to completing the Site C dam, March 2020. (BC Hydro)

New rules issued for B.C. construction projects, work camps for COVID-19

Coastal GasLink, LNG Canada, Trans Mountain and Site C carry on

As protest groups use the COVID-19 pandemic to renew their fundraising and calls for pipeline projects and the Site C dam to be stopped, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control has issued new guidance to employers managing industrial sites and camps during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Construction has been designated an essential service by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry as of March 26, as part of a lengthy list of activities ordered to continue by Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth.

The BCCDC advises hand washing and cleaning supplies, and disposable gloves and masks (or tissues if masks not available) to be issued to suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 who are isolated.

Henry has noted that it isn’t safe or practical to simply shut down large ongoing projects like Site C, which is preparing to divert the Peace River this summer in a critical phase of completing BC Hydro’s third dam in the region. The Coastal GasLink pipeline and the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion are continuing with reduced work-forces as they prepare for the spring thaw that results in soft, wet conditions for heavy machine work.

“Construction sites are not as high a risk an environment, as we know, because they’re mostly outdoors so there are ways of mitigating risk in those sites,” Henry said in her daily briefing March 25.

The BCCDC rules for prevention and control in work camps call for any employee showing symptoms to be separated from others and isolated, “unless they are within close driving distance of their home and are able to safely drive home without using shared transportation.”

It also advises employers with camps to check with the local medical health officer on whether to conduct testing of suspected cases in camps.

The essential service designation is a significant responsibility for the industry, says Chris Gardner, president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association.

“Many construction companies have gone beyond those measures and put even more stringent safety protocols in place,” Gardner said in a statement March 31, referring to measures outlined by WorkSafeBC and the B.C. Construction Safety Alliance. “These measures are not optional – they are the rules of doing business in the new reality we face today.”

The rival B.C. and Yukon Building Trades Council, representing traditional construction unions, has called for remote camps to reduce activities to essential and “critical-path work.” It has praised WorkSafeBC’s efforts to respond to worker complaints as construction around the province adapts to COVID-19 precautions.

“We’ve been heartened by contractors like Oceanview Mechanical in Victoria, where workers built, installed and plumbed in water for their own hand-washing stations at six residential condominium sites,” said Andrew Mercier, executive director of the B.C. Building Trades.

RELATED: Rest stops barring access to truckers ‘a huge problem’

RELATED: ‘This is no joke’ says B.C. woman in Alberta hospital

As of March 30, BC Hydro reports there were no confirmed COVID-19 cases at the Site C camp. The camp is currently housing 819 workers with four in isolation for 10 days after reporting any of the following symptoms: sneezing, sore throat, muscle aches, headaches, cough, fever or difficulty breathing.

“BC Hydro is being very cautious with our application of the guidelines and asking people to self-isolate with any slight symptom,” says the daily update on the Site C project website.

In mid-March, contractors working at Site C were directed to use the province’s online self-assessment tool to examine their health conditions. That advice is also part of the latest BCCDC directive.

On March 16, LNG Canada said it is reducing its Kitimat workforce by half, where construction is underway for a liquefied natural gas export facility connected to the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Trans Mountain has suspended all non-essential business travel and is incorporating the latest BCCDC and WorkSafeBC protocols.

“We are committed to maintaining the uninterrupted operation of the Trans Mountain pipeline and continuing construction of the expansion project while taking a number of steps to help flatten the curve and slow the spread of the virus,” the federally-owned company said March 19.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureCoronavirusSite C

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

West Kelowna Fire and Rescue gear up for annual ‘Fire in the Mountains’ initiative

WKPF is offering one individual the opportunity to spend up to 3 days with their firefighter hero’s hiking or paddling in one of BC’s pristine wilderness environments

Kelowna’s Sutherland Salvation Army thrift store closes permanently

The location has been facing challenges amid COVID-19

QUIZ: Do you know the truth?

In what has been described as a post-truth era, how much do you know about truth and lies?

Drowning incidents increase in Okanagan as summer picks up

There are now 23 drownings in the province to date, with four from the Okanagan

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

NHL playoffs: Canucks to meet St. Louis Blues in Round 1

Vancouver takes on defending champs beginning Wednesday

Local state of emergency declared near Okanagan home

Slope failure cited as City of Penticton issues notice at home in 600 block of Heather Road

Simon Cowell breaks his back falling from electric bike

Incident happened at his home in California

Therapeutic art for sale at Okanagan show

17th annual Awakening the Spirit Art Show and Sale presented by Vernon Canadian Mental Health Assoc.

VIDEO: Internet famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer explores Vancouver Island

Gurdeep Pandher spreads joy through dance, forms cross-cultural connections amid pandemic

Tech mogul growing North Okanagan’s wine industry

The founder of online dating site Plenty of Fish is developing 900 acres in Vernon

Fentanyl-laced powder being sold as cocaine in Kamloops

Interior Health has released a warning about very strong fentanyl in Kamloops

Unofficial holidays: the weird and wonderful things people celebrate around the world

On any given day of the year, there are several strange, silly or serious holidays to observe

Most Read