Edmonton

Stop work order in place for Valley Line LRT site due to safety concerns

The order has been in place since Dec. 4 and means there can be no tunnelling work in the 95th Street area in the riverbank around Grierson Hill. it was put in place during a spot check when Occupational Health and Safety officers found safety issues.

'There has to be some safety standards in place for the workers in case of an emergency,' Alberta Labour says

Construction of the Valley Line LRT, seen Tuesday at 102nd Avenue and 95 A Street. (Gareth Hampshire/CBC)

A stop work order is in place for Edmonton's Valley Line LRT project due to safety concerns. 

The order has been in place since Dec. 4 and means no tunneling work can be done in the 95th Street area, in the riverbank around Grierson Hill.

The order was put in place during a spot check by Occupational Health and Safety officers.

Alberta Labour spokesman Trent Bancarz said one problem is that there's only one way in and out of the tunnel under construction, and there isn't a "practical way" to provide a second exit.

Extra measures need to be put in place to ensure worker safety in the event of a fire or a tunnel collapse, said Bancarz.

"There has to be some safety standards in place for the workers in case of an emergency," he said.

"Those things were lacking when we inspected the site so that's why a stop work order was put in place. Until the conditions and the order are complied with, the order will stay in place."

Bancarz said a solution to the issue could be to create what's known as a safe area, a secure spot where workers can take shelter in case of an emergency.

"There may be things like ensuring that there's air supply down there in case of a cave in where it may take a while to rescue people and dig them out," he said. "They need to be able to breathe for a certain amount of time."

Crews have dug 300 metres already

The stop work order took Dean Heuman by surprise.

Heuman is the stakeholder relations manager for TransEd, the company constructing the line. He said he understands the stop work order, but the company already has many safety procedures in place from "some of the leading tunnellers around the world."

"We're using their standards, including fire suppression, external breathers that people could be using, lots of fresh air intake, extra fire extinguishers, all kinds of things," he said. "We felt we were doing some of the leading things that can be done in tunnelling in order to make it safe for the workers, first and foremost.

"We're looking at ways to find something that will work and that will satisfy their concerns, as well as allow us to continue to dig."

We're looking at ways to find something that will work and that will satisfy their concerns as well as allow us to continue to dig.- Dean Heuman, TransEd

The tunnel is being dug slowly to prevent any cave-ins, and all crews are training on working in confined spaces, he said. 

The tunnel starts on 102nd Avenue and curves along 95th Street to the riverbank at Louise McKinney Park. It's about six-and-a-half metres by six-and-a-half metres and there's machinery inside the tunnel, he said. Workers are more than three-quarters of the way through digging the 400-metre tunnel, he said. 

The stop work order so far has had no impact on the timeline of the project because crews were working ahead of schedule before the order, Heuman said. The LRT line is set to open in December 2020.

City of Edmonton spokesman Quinn Nicholson said he is confident that TransEd will be able to resolve any issues so OHS can lift the stop work order, and is pleased to hear the company does not believe this will lead to any delays.

He said the city is getting updates from the company on its progress.

The Valley Line LRT is a $1.8-billion project. 

The route for the first phase of the Valley LRT Line. (TransEd)

With files from Gareth Hampshire

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