One day after work at the B.C. endpoint of the Trans Mountain pipeline was suspended due to a workplace injury, construction on the entire expansion project has been suspended for nearly three weeks.
“Over the past two months, we have seen safety incidents at our worksites that are unacceptable to Trans Mountain,” Ian Anderson, president and CEO of Trans Mountain, said in a statement Thursday.
“This is inconsistent with Trans Mountain’s proud safety culture.”
On Tuesday, a worker was seriously injured during an on-site incident at the Burnaby Terminal, where the 1,150-kilometre long pipeline ends.
Trans Mountain did not elaborate on the nature of the incident or what injuries were suffered by the contracted employee, other than to say that the individual remained in hospital in stable condition.
That injury comes seven weeks after an employee of SA Energy — the contractor leading the pipeline expansion work in the Edmonton region — died at a work site on the outskirts of the Alberta capital.
Samatar Sahal, 40, was caught and pinned under a crossbeam of a trench box that was being disassembled at a Trans Mountain site on Oct. 27.
As of this past weekend, that part of the work site was still taped off.
On Thursday, Trans Mountain said it was proactively taking the step to temporarily stand down construction on the expansion project “to review, reset and refocus our efforts, and those of our contractors and their workers.”
“We are committed to a strong culture of safety above all else and insist that our project contractors and subcontractors are equally committed,” Anderson’s statement said, adding the critical success of any organization is its ability to self-reflect: “To honestly and courageously ask the question, ‘Where can we improve?’
“This is non-negotiable, we must improve the safety culture and performance on our project.”
Trans Mountain said the stoppage will allow it to dedicate time to ensure all safety management systems are in place, including COVID-19 protocols, to ensure everyone returns to work safely.
The temporary shutdown will be in effect Friday, and last until Jan. 4, 2021.
The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project is designed to triple the capacity of the existing 1950s-era pipeline between Edmonton and a shipping terminal in Burnaby, B.C., to about 890,000 barrels per day of products including diluted bitumen, lighter crudes and refined fuels such as gasoline.
Construction in the Edmonton region has been ongoing for about a year.
Anderson said the expansion work is about 20 per cent complete.
“Next year, 2021, will see peak construction for the project, with thousands of people working in hundreds of sites across Alberta and British Columbia. It is during this time when one of the greatest risks to the project becomes worker safety.”
— With files from John Copsey, Global News