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Opinion: Workers caught (again) flouting mask rules at Burnaby TMX site

A 2020 report found multiple violations of COVID-19 protocols
00tmx no masks trans mountain
Workers at the Trans Mountain site near North Road in Burnaby with masks pulled down around their chins.

When Trans Mountain halted work across the path of the pipeline expansion project back in December 2020, it was called a “safety stand down” by president and CEO Ian Anderson.

The work stoppage, which lasted into early 2021, was supposedly a reset in the wake of a worker’s death in Edmonton and another worker’s injury at one of the Trans Mountain sites in Burnaby. But COVID-19 protocols not being followed was another reason cited by Anderson.

Here is part of his statement: “A safety stand down will provide an opportunity for Trans Mountain to engage with its contractors, their staff and Trans Mountain’s employees. Trans Mountain remains diligently focused on the safety of our people and our contractors. We will dedicate this time to ensure all safety management systems are in place, including COVID-19 protocols, to ensure everyone returns to work safely.”

Perhaps Trans Mountain needs more time to ensure these protocols are being followed.

I say this after the group Coast Protectors posted a photo online (see the photo above) of some workers at the Trans Mountain site in Burnaby near North Road in close contact with each other despite their masks being pulled down around their chins - dudes, that’s not how you’re supposed to wear them.

“Pic taken today at TMX work site - the men are clearly not wearing their masks,” reads a tweet from the Coast Protectors. “This project is a disaster. TMX can't manage pandemic protocols pre-schoolers have mastered, never mind industrial work sites.”

This follows a troubling report by Canadian Energy Regulator staff, which conducted a compliance inspection in 2020 at the Westridge Marine Terminal (Dec. 1) and the Burnaby Terminal (Dec. 2) on Burnaby Mountain. The inspection also focused on “Spread 7,” the section of the pipeline expansion construction being done in the Lower Mainland, on Dec. 3. Work at each of these sites is contracted out to Kiewit-Ledcor Trans Mountain Partnership (KLTP).

The report found “systemic non-compliances” of COVID-19 rules. Over the course of those three days, the inspector found 37 violations of three COVID protocols set out by Trans Mountain’s COVID-19 response plan.

Those protocols include mandating that physical distancing of two metres must be followed when possible, and when it isn’t possible, workers must wear face masks that completely cover the nose and mouth. Supervisors and health and safety officers are expected, per the protocols, to monitor the effectiveness of the plan and enforce the protocols.

“At each site, workers … were observed not adhering to the requirements outlined in the COVID protocols, despite the company messaging and signage around sites,” reads the report.

Trans Mountain officials told the CER inspector the contractor’s disciplines for violating the protocols range from a verbal warning up to termination, according to a CER report.

Four workers were sent home following an inspection that found more than three dozen violations by contractors in three days.

In Anderson’s previous statement, he says the safety stand down would ask, “where can we improve?” He added that the company “must improve the safety culture and performance on our project.”

Clearly more work needs to be done to meet these goals.

  • With files from Dustin Godfrey

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.