WorkSafeBC has fined Peace River Hydro Partners $310,000 for silica dust exposure at the Site C work site.
The company was fined May 8 following an inspection of drainage tunnel construction.
"Work at the site involved bulk excavation, blasting, and crushing of materials, all activities that generate large amounts of silica dust," WorkSafeBC writes in a report.
"WorkSafeBC inspected the site and determined that the firm's exposure control plan was not up to date, and did not include occupational exposure testing or effective dust-suppression systems."
Tunnelling operations had begun before samples of the tunnelled materials had been taken and analyzed, the agency said. Respirators given to workers were insufficient for the level of exposure, and a high-risk violation, it added.
Silica is one of the most common hazards on a worksite, particularly in the construction, oil and gas, manufacturing, and agriculture industries, according to WorkSafeBC. Silica dust can cause silicosis, a serious and irreversible lung disease, as well as lung cancer.
The total fine was $310,339.36.
Megan Adams, spokeswoman for Peace River Hydro Partners, issued the following statement on Thursday:
"The health and safety of our employees is Peace River Hydro Partners’ (PRHP) number one priority. We take incidents like this very seriously and are committed to ensuring our employees have the proper safety programs and procedures in place.
"In the spring of 2017, issues were raised following an inspection by WorkSafeBC related to the management of silica dust for work happening in the right bank drainage tunnel. We stopped the work in the tunnel so that the safety issues could be addressed and did not proceed until an acceptable safety plan was in place.
"Since that time, PRHP has developed an appropriate silica exposure control plan, which has been reviewed by WorkSafe, and a respiratory protective equipment program has been implemented. We are continuing to ensure we remain compliant with silica exposure guidelines and are reviewing our options to appeal the financial penalty."
Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Updated with Peace River Hydro Partners statement.]