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Thursday, March 23, 2023

British Columbia Safety Agency issues flood hazard warnings to workers

VICTORIA. Restoration companies and contractors in British Columbia who are going to help with large-scale flood relief and repair work need to be aware of the risks and hazards that their work can pose to employees, according to the province’s workers’ protection agency.

Risks vary with flooding and landslide damage, but potential problems include asbestos-laden building materials, chemical or biological contamination, structural or electrical damage, and animal carcasses, Barry Nakahara, senior field manager for Prevention Services at WorkSafeBC, said Tuesday.

Numerous homes, farms and infrastructure in southern British Columbia were damaged or destroyed in a series of so-called atmospheric rivers that caused floods and landslides, blocked transport routes, flooded agricultural work and forced thousands of people to flee their homes.

“Employers have a responsibility to provide a healthy and safe workplace,” Nakahara said in an interview. “As we embark on these clean-up, recovery and recovery efforts, it will be very important for them to really think about what the risks are and what the dangers my workers will be exposed to as I continue with this work. … “

Employers must conduct risk assessments to identify workplace hazards and how they could put employees at risk, WorkSafeBC said in a press release on Tuesday.

Public Safety Secretary Mike Farnworth said the flood waters are receding and repairs will begin with contractors, non-governmental organizations and specialized teams from the British Columbia Forest Fire Service.

Farnworth was scheduled to visit Merritt on Tuesday but canceled the trip due to weather issues. Merritt’s 7,000 residents were ordered to evacuate the city last month after its sewerage and plumbing systems went down.

Farnworth was in and around Princeton last week, overseeing flood damage and initial clean-up and remediation efforts.

Later on Tuesday, the Department of Transportation announced the full reopening of Highway 1 between Abbotsford and Hope.

The ministry said in a statement that there are two spaced-apart traffic lanes in each direction, which improves traffic flow from the Lower Mainland to Highway 3 and into the province’s hinterland.

The ministry said the road was fully reopened following a cleanup, repair and engineering assessment of the road. It also means that control of the oncoming traffic through the Bridal Falls area is no longer required, the statement said.

Nakahara said he could not estimate the amount of work ahead, but suggested that recovery companies and contractors have many examples of post-disaster recovery efforts, including Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005.

“We have the opportunity to know in hindsight how everything worked there collectively, so I think that in fact the messages we are promoting are based on the experiences of others in the past,” he said.

TO Dirk Meissner

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