Ontario Construction News staff writer
An order by British Columbia’s provincial health officer restricts the number of workers allowed to return to jobs at five major construction projects in the Northern Health region in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Dec. 29 order by Dr. Bonnie Henry says rising case counts related to the projects have led to transmissions in nearby communities, while straining the capacity of local health-care systems.
“The current seasonal slow-down in large-scale industrial operations provides an opportunity to help break the cycle of transmission of COVID-19 associated with them,” Henry said in her order.
“A rapid return to full operating capacity on the part of large-scale industrial operations, with the attendant rapid return of large numbers of workers to the worksites and industrial camps, will likely further fuel and accelerate the cycle of transmission of COVID-19 among the workers and the surrounding communities.”
The directive from Henry covers two projects in Kitimat on B.C.’s north coast: LNG Canada’s construction of its liquefied natural gas export terminal and the twinning of a water tunnel that feeds Rio Tinto’s aluminum smelter.
Henry’s order also includes construction on the Site C dam near Fort St. John, and the Coastal GasLink and Trans Mountain pipelines.
All five projects are large scale industrial operations that employ large numbers of workers, many of whom are housed in industrial camps.
An outbreak of COVID-19 at two Coastal GasLink workforce accommodation sites declared on Dec. 19 includes six active infections among 53 confirmed cases. Northern Health said it’s working with the company and the prime contractor at the two worksites to ensure enhanced infection prevention and control measures are being followed.
“I have reason to believe and do believe that the risk of an outbreak of COVID-19 arising from the mass return of large numbers of workers to worksites and industrial camps associated with the projects constitutes a health hazard under the Public Health Act,” Henry concluded.
The order includes:
- LNG Canada’s construction of its liquefied natural gas export terminal and the twinning of a tunnel for Rio Tinto’s aluminum smelter.
- The directive from Henry also includes construction on the Site C dam and the Coastal GasLink and Trans Mountain pipelines.
- Henry’s order limits the number of staff allowed to return to each site and outlines steps the employer must take before more workers are allowed.
“The risk of an outbreak of COVID-19 arising from the mass return of large numbers of workers to worksites and industrial camps associated with the projects constitutes a health hazard under the Public Health Act,” the order reads.