The firm performing blasting at Colwood’s Allandale pit has received three penalties from WorkSafeBC within three years for violations related to fly rock propelled beyond a planned blast area.
The current owner of the property, located on the west side of Veterans Memorial Parkway at Allandale Road, started blasting on the site in August in order to prepare it for development. At the time, nearby residents complained of blasts that shook their homes as well as not being able to hear the blast warning horns clearly.
At the beginning of January, homeowners near the property received a notice from Little Rock Drilling and Blasting Ltd. that said another round of blasting would be starting in the area and would continue for another six months or so.
WorkSafeBC oversees blasting work practices in the province and issues penalties when safe blasting practices are not followed.
A spokesperson for WorkSafe BC, Ralph Eastman, said Little Rock Drilling and Blasting Ltd. was issued a $53,326 penalty in October for an incident in Colwood on Aug. 14.
According to the penalty, fly material was propelled in excess of 120 metres and landed near homes and on an “uncontrolled, unguarded roadway.”
“The firm’s principal had determined the drill layout, borehole size and depth of hole for the blast but did not have a blasting certificate issued by or acceptable to WorkSafeBC,” the penalty says.
Written work procedures or a documented blast design were not available at the worksite at the time of the incident either.
In addition, the penalty says the firm’s blasting operation was directed by someone who does not hold a valid blaster’s certificate and that “the firm did not provide adequate instruction and supervision to its workers.” The penalty says the firm’s violations were “high risk.”
Eastman said WorkSafeBC received some calls last week regarding vibrations from the blasting work but noted the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation on blasting operations does not cover vibrations resulting form the work. He said callers were informed to raise the issue with the company and their local municipality.
In October 2017, Little Rock Drilling and Blasting Ltd. received a $23,110 penalty for not using blast mats to control the fly rock in Langford. In August of that same year, the firm received an $11,555 penalty for the same reason at a work site in Kelowna.
Chris Conley, owner of Little Rock Drilling and Blasting Ltd. said all of the drilling and blasting work that is being performed in Colwood is done with certified people through WorkSafeBC.
“We have monitors to control vibrations for the resident’s houses,” Conley said.
Conley said he is disputing the most recent penalty with WorkSafeBC. When asked if he has a message for nearby residents, Conley said he does not but said he speaks with them regularly.
Blasting can be expected for another two months, not six, Conley said.
A nearby resident, Ingrid Thorleifson, said she and her neighbours are growing sick of the blasting and drilling work.
“To me the bottom line is residents close to the site are in a very vulnerable state,” Thorleifson said.
She said residents are worried about their homes as well as infrastructure such as plumbing that may be affected since they’re on a septic system.
“We never have a moment of quiet,” Thorleifson said. “We feel, as homeowners, quite helpless in this situation.”
Thorleifson also said she would like to see more regulations from the City of Colwood regarding blasting.
The City of Colwood’s blasting bylaw says a person requires a permit from the City’s municipal engineer in order to engage in blasting operations. The permit can also be revoked by the municipal engineer. In addition, the bylaw says a person cannot engage in blasting without covering the blast with blasting mats or clean, rock-free fill or sand.
Colwood Mayor Rob martin said the bylaws are in place to “guide development and limit work to specific hours, while other regulators like WorkSafeBC are responsible for ensuring safe work practices at construction sites.”