Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Workplace safety and the Vancouver Olympics

Whenever it trotted out one of its Sustainability Reports (produced in-house, not independently), Vancouver's Olympic organizing committee boasted about its commitment to worker safety.

Its record was far from spotless. One cannot expect such a big event as an Olympic Games to be built, staged and dismantled without incident. It's just that VANOC always did a lousy job of owning up to mistakes when challenged by reporters. To err is human. To deny, delay, defer and distract is VANOC.

I learned that on Sept. 20, 2010, WorkSafeBC levied a $75,000 fine for putting workers in danger on March 24, 2010 at the Cypress Mountain temporary snowboard stadium. Workers dismantling the structure had no suitable ladders, so they had to scale poles and use the rosette connector rings as footholds. No injuries were reported, but it was enough for an inspector to recommend a category A fine. See the report below.

VANOC fined $75,000 by WorkSafeBC

VANOC distanced itself from any incidents involving other parties on projects it was not directly controlling. One of those was the Feb. 15, 2010 barrier collapse at City of Vancouver's LiveCity Yaletown in David Lam Park moments after Alexisonfire arrived on stage. One person was seriously injured.

Another happened in 2006 when a B.C. Place Stadium janitor with contractor Modern Cleaners collapsed on the job in the future Olympic stadium. She was taken to hospital where she later died. B.C. Place management did not do their duty to inform WorkSafeBC.

At least two notable deaths occurred in the lead-up to the Games on two important construction projects that were necessary to host the world.

WorkSafeBC fined Murrin Construction $216,000 after 45-year-old blaster Gary Michael Greer died during the construction of the Callaghan Valley road on June 12, 2006. Greer may have been impaired when he used improvised equipment.

Andy Slobodian, a 22-year-old apprentice, died when the overloaded mobile crane he operated toppled on the Canada Line's bridge over the Fraser River on Jan. 21, 2008. Slobodian had only 20 to 90 minutes of training. SNC-Lavalin Constructors (Pacific) and Rizzani de Eccher -- the partners in RSL Joint Venture -- were fined $233,535.58. SNC got an additional $81,808.13 fine.

Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died Feb. 12, 2010 at the Whistler Sliding Centre on a training run, but he was an athlete, not a worker.

Were you a VANOC employee or contractor who suffered a job-related injury or illness? Did you witness an incident? Contact

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