The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project is being limited to just 150 employees on site as of Monday in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The limit is part of an order from public health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, who targeted several major projects, including the Trans Mountain expansion (TMX), the Coastal GasLink natural gas line, the LNG Canada gas line and the Site C dam.
According to the order, TMX is limited to a baseline of 50 people onsite, with the ability to add another 100 people by Monday, Jan. 4. That’s a limit of 150 people onsite at this point, with aims to increase that by another 450 people after Feb. 1, reaching a total of 600 people by early- to mid-February.
“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,” Henry wrote in her Dec. 29, 2020 order, specifically referencing projects in north and central B.C.
Henry noted the virus has begun to transmit to surrounding communities, including Indigenous communities, increasing the risk of hospitalizations and deaths in remote areas with little health-care coverage.
“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,” Henry’s order reads. “A rapid return to full operating capacity on the part of large-scale industrial operations … will likely further fuel and accelerate the cycle of transmission of COVID-19 among the workers and the surrounding communities.”
The move comes nearly a month after Trans Mountain was censured by the Canada Energy Regulator for “systemic non-compliances” of COVID mask rules at its Lower Mainland worksites.
Over the course of a three-day inspection, regulators found 37 instances of contractors not following COVID protocols. Four workers were sent home as a result of the inspections.