Ferry trestle collapse leads to safety steps

NANAIMO – Investigation cites lack of communication, risk assessment in trestle collapse.

B.C. Ferries has taken steps to ensure the collapse of a trestle at its Nanaimo Harbour terminal never happens again at any of its operations.

Nanaimo’s Royal Paving was working on the timber trestle at the terminal at 3:15 a.m. Aug. 12 prior to the first sailing to Gabriola Island, when a tandem-axle dump truck backed onto the cantilevered portion of the passenger walkway, causing the trestle to collapse and dropping the truck into the water.

The driver, a B.C. Ferries employee in a workboat below, and the operator of an asphalt machine all escaped injury.

Vehicle traffic to and from Gabriola Island was rerouted to the Duke Point ferry terminal until Sept. 1, while foot passengers used water taxis between Gabriola and the Nanaimo Boat Basin.

Damage to the trestle exceeded $300,000 as well as additional costs for the water taxis and extra staff at Duke Point.

A B.C. Ferries investigation notes a lack of direct communication and risk assessment analysis of the site between B.C. Ferries workers and the contractor on safety concerns led in part to the incident.

The report produced nine recommendations including: all contractors shall conduct a safety audit prior to starting work; a review and risk assessment of all trestles managed by B.C. Ferries; and where warranted following a risk assessment,  a B.C. Ferries employee and contractor employee will remain on the work site at all times to communicate safety concerns and monitor work progress.

Deborah Marshall, B.C. Ferries spokeswoman, said in an e-mail that all nine recommendations were implemented at no additional costs, except when a staff member must be on the work site at all times.

A WorkSafeBC inquiry found the B.C. Ferries investigation and recommendations comply with the Workers Compensation Act and no enforcement action is required.

Marshall said no disciplinary action is expected against any employees, with B.C. Ferries using the incident as a learning opportunity.

Legal action between B.C. Ferries and Royal Paving is ongoing, but  neither Marshall or Royal Paving owner Jeff McDonald had further comment. Royal Paving did not take part in the investigation.

“What I can say is we’re pretty proud of our 23-year safety history,” said McDonald. “It’s one of the best in the province.”

For the complete B.C. Ferries report, please go to www.bcferries.com/files/PDFs/DI8151101_Nanaimo_Harbour.pdf.