Nfld. & Labrador

'Extremely close call': Earle McCurdy says concrete accident sign of bigger problems at Muskrat Falls

Serious issues at Muskrat Falls need to be resolved, in light of the accident overnight Sunday that sent concrete pouring over workers, according to NDP leader Earle McCurdy.
This is a before and after comparison of the powerhouse site at the Muskrat Falls project (CBC has agreed to withhold name of photographer)

Serious procedural issues at Muskrat Falls need to be resolved, according to NDP leader Earle McCurdy, particularly in light of the accident overnight Sunday that briefly buried workers in wet concrete.

Seven workers received first aid treatment at the site in Labrador when formwork gave way, sending wet concrete pouring out. One of the injured was hospitalized in Happy Valley-Goose Bay until Monday morning. 

"It was a major incident. This is not just a kind of well somebody got banged up a little bit and had to get a bit of first aid. This was much more serious than that, McCurdy told the St. John's Morning Show on Thursday.

"The people involved, I understand, were very shaken up by the whole thing. They had an extremely close call."  

McCurdy said he understands from talking to workers at the site that it was lucky more people were not in the area when the accident happened. 

"Almost any other time, my understanding is, it could have had tragic consequences."

'Push, push push for production'

McCurdy said there should be a review of all contractors at Muskrat Falls and all of the employees overseeing work there to make sure they are doing what they should be doing, particularly when it comes to safety. 

The hydroelectric megaproject is behind schedule and over budget. 

"There's a push, push, push for production and a lack of a kind of safety-first basis for doing things. And people have said they feel it's only a matter of time before someone is killed down there, which is a pretty serious statement. Too many shortcuts," he said. 

Astaldi is the contractor responsible for the powerhouse, where the formwork collapsed. The company issued an emailed statement on Monday that said the health and safety of its employees is a number one priority, and Astaldi is working with Nalcor and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) officials to determine what went wrong. 

The NDP leader also said the controversy over former Nalcor CEO Ed Martin's severance is diverting the government's attention, and the public's too, from the accident at Muskrat Falls.

"I think this illustrates the problem when you have poor crisis management in government ... it's not good for the province when we have a matter of the nature of that whole controversy just dominate everybody's time."

While OHS investigates, McCurdy would like to see workers consulted on what happened and what problems exist at Muskrat Falls, as he said that's the best way to really find out what is going on. 

With files from the St. John's Morning Show