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)

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

Nanaimo city council voted unanimously Monday to pass a bylaw establishing the foundation for a new downtown business improvement association. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
City of Nanaimo adopts bylaw to create new downtown business improvement association

Chamber of commerce says next steps will be a board of directors and five-year strategic plan

Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district teachers’ union, and its counterparts from Mount Arrowsmith district, seek stricter COVID-19 rules. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith teachers’ union asks health authority for stricter COVID-19 measures

Teachers ask for vaccine, more online learning, mask mandate for primary students

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
Island Health seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

VIHA says Chakalaka Bar and Grill also violating water and sewer regulations with RV hook-ups

Nanaimo Fire Rescue investigator Mark Jonah probes the scene of a blaze that destroyed two apartments on Sunday, April 18. The cause of the blaze has not been determined. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
UPDATE: RCMP say Wakesiah Avenue fire was arson, suspect has been arrested

35-year-old man arrested for allegedly starting fire lived in the complex

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

The City of Nanaimo will further investigate an initiative to set up two 12-cabin sites to create transitional emergency housing for people experiencing homelessness. (Black Press file photo)
City of Nanaimo will ask for expressions of interest to operate tiny cabin sites

Staff expresses concern about workload, councillor says sheltering people must take priority

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

Police executed a search warrant at the Devils Army Clubhouse on Petersen road in Campbell River on August 10, 2017.
Murder trial into 2016 Campbell River killing underway in Victoria

Ricky Alexander is charged with the first-degree murder of John Dillon Brown

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Housing crunch or not, it’s illegal to live in an RV in Nanaimo

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

Most Read