Concerns regarding the level of dust in the air at a construction site in Langford resulted in at least three visits by WorkSafeBC in recent weeks. Preparation work by Vimex Contracting Ltd. has been ongoing at the site of a project for 27 townhouses on Happy Valley Road near Braeburn Avenue since 2016.
Matt Banner, president of Vimex, said the company is continuing to work with WorkSafeBC to implement all requirements. “We invited WorkSafeBC back to the site the day after the July 26 visit because we wanted to be crystal clear on what was required,” he noted.
WorkSafeBC initially attended the site on July 21.
Following another site visit on July 26, an inspection report cited concerns about the amount of fine silica dust in the air.
The report noted that Vimex did not have a silica risk exposure assessment done by a qualified person prior to beginning the road work and was in contravention of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation section 6.112(2). New regulations regarding respirable crystalline silica and rock dusts went into effect on May 1.
The report noted, however, that Vimex did have a written plan that was completed for the company’s Alberta operations. Although, controls to effectively manage the work activity related to construction dusts (silica) had not been planned or implemented, other than the periodic use of a water truck, according to the report.
The WorkSafe inspector provided the names of qualified consulting firms to conduct a silica exposure risk assessment. The report stated that effective methods to control worker exposure to silica dust must be planned for and implemented before work could resume. At the time, however, the report noted that there was no evidence of airborne construction dusts containing silica of sufficient quantity to pose a risk to workers.
The report indicated any resumption of work that could result in significant amounts of dust related to silica-related occupational disease would result in a stop work order. Only low dust producing activities were permitted until Aug. 4 pending the risk assessment by a qualified person and implementation of dust management controls.
“We are abiding by all of the regulations,” Banner said. “We are monitoring the site hourly during this extremely hot dry weather, and will continue to work with WorkSafeBC and our neighbours.”
Vimex has added three workers employing hoses for eight hours a day to mitigate dust, and is revamping its existing policy to meet the new regulations. Activities currently underway on the site produce considerably less dust, he added.
Following the inspection on July 27, a WorkSafeBC inspector wrote that the employer is working toward compliance, had stopped all work that generated significant amounts of dust and was in the process of hiring a qualified person to conduct a risk assessment.
An environmental health officer with Island Health also went to the site on July 24 in response to a complaint from a nearby resident. He spoke with WorkSafeBC and the City of Langford, which indicated there was little that could be done, other than to direct the contractor to use water trucks to mitigate the dust problem.
Matthew Baldwin, Langford’s director of planning, said the City expects work to be conducted to WorkSafeBC requirements.
Any failure to do that would be an issue between the developer and WorkSafeBC, he added.