VANCOUVER — BC Hydro has announced it is modifying its work activities on the Site C project near Fort St. John in response to the increasing escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“BC Hydro’s top priority is the health and safety of its employees, contractors and the public,” read a statement from BC Hydro. “Focusing only on essential work and critical milestones will help reduce the number of workers staying at the worker accommodation lodge and result in fewer workers travelling to and from Fort St. John and the Peace Region.”
Over the coming days, BC Hydro will work with project contractors and unions to safely scale back certain construction activities at the project site. One of the areas the project will continue to make a priority is the work required to achieve river diversion in fall 2020.
BC Hydro officials explained that other essential work, such as keeping the site secure and meeting the project’s environmental commitments, will continue as planned. In addition, work will continue in areas off-site, including the realignment of Highway 29, work on the transmission line and reservoir clearing, as most of these workers do not stay in the worker accommodation lodge.
The provincial utility noted that it has been monitoring COVID-19 closely since January and implemented several measures early on to protect its employees, contractors and facilities. This includes working closely with the Northern Health Authority on its protocols at the worker accommodation lodge and to ensure the on-site health clinic is fully-stocked with the supplies needed to protect workers in the event of an outbreak.
Additional measures that were taken include more frequent cleaning and disinfecting, restricting non-essential travel, postponing all on-site tours and meetings, eliminating self-service stations in the dining room and restricting access to common areas.
BC Hydro state it is continuing to monitor the situation closely and will implement new measures as the situation progresses based on information and advice provided by health authorities.
The announcement came after a public call from the BC Building Trades Council to wind down operations.
“We are calling for remote-camp megaprojects in B.C. to be tooled down to all but essential or critical-path work,” said Andrew Mercier, executive director of the B.C. Building Trades Council in a media release. “We need to flatten the curve and alleviate pressure on the rural health care systems.”
Mercier said safety of workers is critical.
Muskrat Falls, a hydro project in Newfoundland and Labrador, has also begun worker reductions.
“We realize that there will be a financial consequence to our members, but the health and safety of our workers is paramount. Once we get through this, we have no doubt that construction work will form part of the stimulus to get this province back on its feet—but we are going to need safe and healthy workers for that.”