Overheated kitchens on new BC Ferries ships a concern for union

The union representing workers on BC Ferries vessels says the galleys, or kitchens, of the new Salish-class vessels are dangerously hot and working in them could be hazardous.

BC Ferries says fix is coming as ships go out-of-service for scheduled maintenance

The union for BC Ferries employees has concerns about working conditions on three new vessels, including the Salish Orca. (Remontowa Shipbuilding)

The union representing workers on BC Ferries vessels says the galleys, or kitchens, of the new Salish-class vessels are dangerously hot and working in them could be hazardous.

Graeme Johnston, president of the B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers' Union, says there have been "significant" concerns about heat-related health issues while working in the galleys and he wants management to find a solution.

"Temperatures are far in excess of what we would consider normal conditions," he said.

Johnston says crew members working in the Salish-class vessels are exposed to heat stroke risks and also greater fatigue.

That, he says, could increase the chance of a workplace accident.

Johnston says he could not say exactly how hot the kitchens were becoming, citing confidentiality of ships' log books.

"What I will say is temperatures did touch into extreme conditions," he said.

'Major' design flaw

Johnston attributes the problem to a "major" design flaw in the air conditioning systems.

Over the hot summer, and in the absence of a permanent solution, crews would rotate the equipment used and serve a restricted menu: sometimes grills would not be used, other times deep fryers.

He says his members worked with management to develop a heat stress management plan to minimize risks, but he wants a permanent fix in place before next summer when temperatures rise again.

BC Ferries says food service is now back to normal on Salish-class vessels.

Plans for fix in place

BC Ferries vice president of engineering Mark Wilson also said the overheating is related to air conditioning.

"There was some deficiencies, basically in the amount of cooling that was being supplied to the galley," he said.

Wilson agrees the galleys were not meeting workplace safety standards but says things were worse over the hot summer and some work has been done to "dramatically" improve the situation.

Still, more will need to be done and he says the problem will be fixed at no cost to BC Ferries as the vessels are still under warranty.

"We hold our ship designers to account when it comes to delivering on the specifications," he said.

Wilson said the vessels will be rotated out of service for one-to-two-week periods, beginning in October, to dock and fix the air conditioning, among other issues.

He says those service periods have been planned in advance and the work will not impact scheduled service.

About the Author

Liam Britten

Digital journalist

Liam Britten is journalist for CBC Vancouver. You can contact him at liam.britten@cbc.ca or follow him on Twitter: @liam_britten.