Work on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project is shutting down temporarily for the next two weeks as the project assesses recent safety lapses.
In a news release issued Thursday night, Trans Mountain said it is enacting “a voluntary project-wide safety stand down” effective Friday until Jan. 4, 2021.
“Over the past two months, we have seen safety incidents at our worksites that are unacceptable to Trans Mountain. This is inconsistent with Trans Mountain’s proud safety culture,” said Ian Anderson, president and CEO of Trans Mountain, in the release.
The statement didn’t specify what those safety incidents were, but the Canada Energy Regulator says a contractor was seriously injured Tuesday at a Trans Mountain construction site in British Columbia. An investigation is underway that will conduct an assessment of the risk and the potential non-compliance.
In October, a worker was killed while working on the pipeline in Edmonton. Samatar Sahal, 40, was struck and killed by a piece of equipment. Sahal worked with SA Energy Group, a general contractor hired to construct portions of the pipeline.
“Trans Mountain is proactively taking the step to temporarily stand down construction on the expansion project to review, reset and refocus our efforts, and those of our contractors and their workers,” Anderson said.
“The critical success of any organization is its ability to self-reflect – to honestly and courageously ask the question, ‘Where can we improve?’ This is non-negotiable; we must improve the safety culture and performance on our project.”
Trans Mountain declined CBC’s request for an interview.
Construction is ramping up on the Trans Mountain expansion in the Edmonton area and across British Columbia. So far, 20 per cent of the pipeline is complete, the Crown corporation said in its statement Thursday. The project will see peak construction in 2021, and “during this time when one of the greatest risks to the project becomes worker safety.”
The federal government purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline and its expansion project in 2018 for $4.4 billion and twinning the Alberta-to-B.C. line is expected to cost $12.6 billion.
Finance Canada said it supports Trans Mountain’s decision to suspend construction and it expects the incident to be thoroughly investigated and addressed.
“The Canadian government expects the Trans Mountain Corporation to adhere to the highest safety standards and at all times prioritize the safety of its workers,” said Katherine Cuplinskas, the press secretary to Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland. “Any incident is one too many. Every day, on every work site, workers must feel safe.”
When the Trans Mountain expansion is finished, the project will boost the pipeline’s capacity from about 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day. Trans Mountain said Thursday it remains committed to “the safe, timely and efficient completion” of the project.