British Columbia

Site C dam's main builder fined almost $1M for 'high risk' worker safety violations

The violations include a worker shocked with 1,000 volts of electricity, and the possible exposure of workers to dangerous silica dust.

1 worker shocked with 1,000 volts, others exposed to silica dust

B.C. Hydro is building the $10-billion Site C dam near Fort St John, B.C. Peace River Hydro Partners is the main civil works contractor. (CBC)

The main contractor building the massive Site C Clean Energy Project near Fort St. John, B.C., has been fined almost $1 million for safety violations deemed "high risk" by WorkSafeBC.

The violations include a worker shocked with 1,000 volts of electricity, and the possible exposure of workers to dangerous silica dust. 

WorkSafeBC levied just over $972,000 in two penalties against Peace River Hydro Partners Construction Ltd (PRHP). 

The agency said the incidents had "a high risk of serious injury, illness or death."  

In the first incident, in 2018, WorkSafeBC found "high levels of crystalline silica", a potential carcinogen that can cause serious and irreversible lung disease, in material that workers had excavated, blasted and crushed.

According to WorkSafeBC, workers were provided with respirators that "provided insufficient protection for the level of exposure."

Diversion tunnels will temporarily re-route the Peace River for Site C dam construction. WorkSafeBC says two 'high risk' worker safety violations took place during tunnelling in 2018 and 2019. (BC Hydro)

The agency's investigation determined PRHP hadn't kept plans for silica exposure, control, testing, and dust suppression up to date.

In the second case, in 2019, a worker was shocked with 1,000 volts of electricity from a circuit breaker in a high-voltage electrical cabinet on tunnelling equipment. 

These repeated, high-risk violations resulted in the ... maximum penalty being imposed.- WorkSafeBC

WorkSafeBC's inspection determined the cabinet's door was malfunctioning and had been rendered ineffective by cable ties. Isolation covers were also missing from the main circuit breaker switch box.

WorkSafeBC also raised concerns about PRHP's training and supervision of the worker, who hadn't been taught the lockout procedure. 

"These repeated high-risk violations resulted in the statutory maximum penalty being imposed," said Ralph Eastman of WorkSafeBC media relations. 

The safety violations occurred during tunnelling work on the Site C project, a $10-billion hydro dam under construction on the Peace River.

B.C. Hydro's proposed Site C dam project includes tunnelling work on the Peace River. (BC Hydro)

In addition to tunnel construction, PRHP is laying Site C's concrete foundation and building a 60-metre-high earthfill dam one kilometre long as part of its $1.75-billion civil works contract.

PRHP currently employs about 1,900 workers on the project. 

PRHP communications manager Jamie Bodnarchuk said the company has "addressed all penalties ... and met all the WorkSafeBC requirements. This matter has been reviewed and closed by WorkSafeBC."

Two 'high risk' worker safety violations involved the Site C dam's tunnelling work. (BC Hydro)

Penalty appealed

BC Hydro's Site C community relations manager Dave Conway says safety is a high priority. 

"We are committed to ensuring our contractors have the proper safety projects and procedures in place," said Conway. 

WorkSafeBC records show PRHP appealed the $310,339.36 penalty levied for the 2018 silica dust incident. 

But a spokesperson for the Workers' Compensation Appeal Tribunal told CBC News it could not provide any information about the appeal or its outcome, due to privacy issues.


  • A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the earthfill dam being built by PRHP will be one kilometre high. In fact, it will be 60 metres high and one kilometre long.
    Feb 04, 2020 9:14 AM PT