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Inadequate silica dust exposure control plan results in $310K fine

Workers using inappropriate respiratory protection

Peace River Hydro Partners (PRHP) of Fort St. John, B.C. has been fined $310,339 by WorkSafeBC.

This firm was building a drainage tunnel at a hydro dam construction project in the spring of last year. Work at the site involved bulk excavation, blasting and crushing of materials, all activities that generate large amounts of silica dust.

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. Subsequent sampling identified high levels of crystalline silica in the tunnelled material. In addition, the type of respirators workers were using provided insufficient protection for the level of occupational exposure, said WorkSafeBC.

Following the inspection, Peace River Hydro Partners 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, said the company’s spokesperson Megan Adams.

"Since that time, PRHP has developed an appropriate silica exposure control plan, which has been reviewed by WorkSafeBC, and a respiratory protective equipment program has been implemented,” she said. “We are continuing to ensure we remain compliant with silica exposure guidelines and are reviewing our options to appeal the financial penalty."

Ultimately, WorkSafeBC said the firm failed to ensure its exposure control plan met the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, a high-risk violation. 

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