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

Donated sculpture in Sidney’s Beacon Park a testament to perseverance

Victoria artist Armando Barbon picked up sculpting 22 years ago

Sidney builds community resilience through neighbourhood gatherings

Meet Your Street needs residents to create gatherings, safe interactions

Greater Victoria businesses come together to help Island kids

Langford Lowe’s raises funds for youth mental health all month

Langford racing enthusiast back in driver’s seat of life after surviving aggressive cancer

70-year-old David Smith finishes mid-pack in Canada 200 race at Western Speedway

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

POLL: Do you plan on allowing your children to go trick or treating this year?

This popular annual social time will look quite different this year due to COVID-19

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Comox Valley protesters send message over old-growth logging

Event in downtown Courtenay was part of wider event on Friday

Application deadline for fish harvester benefits program extended

Those financially impacted by the pandemic have until Oct. 5 to apply

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

Most Read