Pandemic restrictions hit mega-projects in BC

Henry’s order also affects a tunnel twinning project at Rio Tinto’s aluminum smelter in Kitimat.

“There has been a rapid increase in the number of persons infected with covid-19 associated with large scale industrial projects employing high numbers of workers which are located within the Northern Health Authority region,” the order, issued December 29, states.

The provincial health officer has set out schedules for how many workers can be recalled over the coming weeks

“This increase has resulted in increased numbers of clusters of people with covid-19, outbreaks of covid-19, the transmission of covid-19 to surrounding communities, including Indigenous communities, increasing the risk of hospitalizations, intensive care admissions, and deaths in the Northern Health Authority region.”

Site C dam is already facing some fairly serious potential cost increases as a result of both geotechnical issues and pandemic restrictions earlier in 2020 that BC Hydro has warned will add delays and costs to the project. Pressure is mounting on the John Horgan government to cancel the project altogether. Horgan’s response to a review that he ordered on Site C dam is expected in the coming days or weeks.

Henry has ordered the major projects to scale back their work forces to skeleton crews. In total, the five projects must scale back their work forces to no more than 1,460.

The Site C dam project and Coastal GasLink projects will have to scale their work force back to 400 workers each. The LNG Canada project will be allowed to have 450 workers. The Trans Mountain project will be allowed only 50 workers.

The provincial health officer has set out schedules for how many workers can be recalled over the coming weeks. Between late January and mid-February the total workforce for those five projects will be slightly more than 5,000 – less than half the work force that was employed in the summer.

Some of those projects would have seen a shrinking of its work force as winter set in. Trans Mountain had already issued a tools-down order in mid-December, as a result of a series of workplace injuries.

“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,” the public health order states.

(This article first appeared in Business in Vancouver)

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