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'Systemic non-compliance' of COVID-19 rules at Trans Mountain sites: CER

Russell Hixson
'Systemic non-compliance' of COVID-19 rules at Trans Mountain sites: CER
TRANS MOUNTAIN — An aerial photograph shows work on the Westridge Marine Terminal in B.C. for the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project. A report from the Canada Energy Regulator revealed that recent inspections showed some workers were not following COVID-19 protocols.

Documents from a Canada Energy Regulator (CER) inspector following visits to Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project jobsites in the Lower Mainland have revealed “systemic non-compliance” of COVID-19 protocols.

In the report, the inspector told those in charge to temporarily shut down the site so the entire project team can be addressed regarding the seriousness of COVID-19, the behaviour that is expected and the consequences of non-compliance.

According to a CER report, an inspection officer visited the Trans Mountain project locations in Burnaby, B.C., including its Westridge Marine Terminal and Burnaby Terminal. Trans Mountain’s contractor for all of these sites is Kiewit-Ledcor Trans Mountain Partnership (KLTP).

Trans Mountain representatives explained to the inspector the project’s COVID-19 response plans, including physical distancing, face coverings, supervision and rule enforcement.

When asked about disciplinary actions taken when workers are non-compliant with the COVID protocols, Trans Mountain representatives stated that the KLTP had a disciplinary ladder that ranges from a verbal warning up to and including termination.

However, the CER report noted that over the course of three days, the inspector found 37 instances of workers not following COVID-19 protocols, including not wearing masks and not keeping a safe distance from others.

“These observations were not limited to a specific work site, rather the non-compliances were observed throughout the Lower Mainland region,” reads the report. “Based on the inspection officer’s observations, there are systemic non-compliances with respect to implementing measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 across worksites in the Lower Mainland region which are not being effectively addressed by Trans Mountain.”

The report laid out three specific measures for Trans Mountain to do. The first was to tell two workers who were seen not wearing masks and gathering closely to put on a mask and leave the site for the rest of the day. The inspector recorded this as being completed.

The second was for Trans Mountain to do a “safety stand down” as soon as possible to address all Trans Mountain employees, contractors and subcontractors currently working on any Trans Mountain Expansion Project worksite within the Lower Mainland region. During the stand down, Trans Mountain must inform them about COVID requirements, the impact COVID is having on the community, the importance of compliance and the consequences for not complying. The CER also asked for the inspector to be given the full agenda for the safety stand down 24 hours prior. The inspector also asked for a copy of everything that will be covered during the stand down and how it will be presented to the project team.

Finally, the inspector asked Trans Mountain to provide a plan outlining the project’s disciplinary ladder for not complying with COVID-19 protocols and how it will ensure that employees and contractors consistently take disciplinary action when non-compliance is found.

The reported concluded that compliance with inspector orders is mandatory.

On Dec. 17, Trans Mountain announced it would be shutting down all construction on the pipeline until after the new year (Jan. 4) for a “voluntary, project-wide safety stand-down.”

Ian Anderson, president and CEO of Trans Mountain, said in a statement there have been safety incidents over the past two months that are unacceptable to the company.

“This is inconsistent with Trans Mountain’s proud safety culture,” he said in the release.

“Trans Mountain is proactively taking the step to temporarily stand down construction on the expansion project to review, reset and refocus our efforts, and those of our contractors and their workers.”

In addition to the issues with COVID-19 compliance, WorkSafeBC and CER are investigating an incident from this month that put a contractor employee at the Burnaby Terminal site in the hospital.

“The individual remains in hospital in stable condition and our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family,” said Trans Mountain in a statement to media. “All construction operations in the Lower Mainland have been immediately suspended and Trans Mountain is fully co-operating with WorkSafeBC and the Canada Energy Regulator.”

WorkSafeBC told the Journal of Commerce that the incident is under investigation and declined to provide any more details.


Follow the author on Twitter @RussellReports.

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