Monday, April 27, 2009

Workers at risk in Vancouver's Olympic stadium

January 5 was the first Friday of 2007. Canada was winning the world junior hockey championship, live on TSN. B.C. Place Stadium operations manager Brian Griffin was under the big top.

Before the noon hour was over, the roof ripped under an avalanche of heavy, wet snow and ice and collapsed. Controlled deflation was the euphemism du jour. Kind of a wardrobe malfunction, but for a stadium. The images were seen around the world. International media noticed because it's the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics opening and closing ceremonies. You can still see eyewitness video on YouTube.

A week later, general manager Howard Crosley continued to deny snow was a factor.

A year later, he had to eat his words when Geiger Engineers and the stadium's Joint Health and Safety Committee confirmed what I reported from day one: the stadium's snow melting system was not employed on Jan. 5, 2007, despite several alarms that snow was piling up on the air-supported fabric roof.

The Joint Health and Safety Committee Investigation Report; B.C. Place Roof Deflation Incident of Jan. 5, 2007 said "a general 'blindness' and lack of understanding and training related to the roof support systems, operating within an environment where policies and procedures were full of holes, had allowed snow accumulation to go unnoticed. Poor or very little roof‐in crisis identification, assessment and training along with conflicting control room systems all came into play to cause the damage to the west triangle panel."

Geiger's Oct. 12, 2007 Roof Deflation Incident Investigation Engineer's Report said:
Operating staff should receive additional training in the behaviour of air-supported roofs structure under various loads and conditions; Instruction on the behaviour of the roof in response to various commands to the control system; and regular refresher courses should be given.

Fast forward to April 9, 2009, two years and three months after the incident... one year and three months after the reports were published...

A WorkSafe BC investigator found B.C. Place Stadium in violation of the Workers Compensation Act because "The employer has not provided the control room operators, responsible for the air supported roof, with adequate information, instruction, training and supervision to ensure the health and safety of those workers in carrying out their work and to ensure the health and safety of other workers in the workplace."

The investigator also found the Joint Health and Safety Committee defied the Act by not meeting in February, March and December 2008.

It's all in a nine-page report that arrived via a plain brown envelope.

This is the Olympic Stadium for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Will the roof fall again before or during the Olympics?

This is the property of the people of British Columbia, operated by the B.C. Pavilion Corporation whose chairman is David Podmore, friend of Premier Gordon Campbell and president of Concert Properties, whose chairman is VANOC chairman Jack Poole.

This is the building that is undergoing $365 million in renovations, apparently without a funding formula and business plan. I have sought it via Freedom of Information. I wonder if it exists? All we have, so far, are these three-and-a-half pages.

Will this be the west coast's version of Montreal 1976's Big Owe?

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