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Metro Vancouver hit with $637,000 WorkSafeBC fine for ‘high risk’ sewer work

Workers could have been exposed to hydrogen sulfide gas

Metro Vancouver has been hit with a $637,415 penalty from WorkSafeBC for unsafe sewer work on the Highbury sewer.

The penalty, issued in December and posted to the regulatory body’s website, stated that the regional district had installed siphon gates inside a sewer line without following procedures for confined space entry. It also did not “adequately control” for hydrogen sulfide, a toxic and flammable gas, associated with the work.

The penalty specifically relates to work done at the Highbury Interceptor Diversion Chamber, Metro Vancouver spokesperson Don Bradley said. The chamber is located near the south end of Highbury Street in the Dunbar-Southlands area of Vancouver. The sewer was built in the 1960s and carries most of the sewage from Vancouver and adjacent parts of Burnaby to the Iona Island Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Bradley said the penalty is for work that began in 2017 and required approvals that Metro Vancouver did not get at the time.

In its penalty decision, WorkSafeBC said the district didn’t develop, review, or update a permit for confined space entry, did not show records of any tests, and did not have a trained supervisor watch over the confined-space work.

“The employer failed overall to ensure the health and safety of its workers. These were all high-risk violations,” the penalty summary reads. No one was hurt during the work done on the sewer.

Bradley said that in the years since, the regional district has taken “significant steps” to address issues identified by WorkSafeBC, an internal Metro Vancouver investigation and an external audit.

READ MORE: B.C. recycler fined $23,000 for workplace violations


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