A stop-work order is in effect at a White Rock construction site after workers reported “severe signs and symptoms consistent with overexposure to airborne contaminants such as benzene.”
According to a WorkSafeBC Report, the symptoms presented in late July during excavation work at the 1588 Johnston Rd. site, and resulted in one worker sent to hospital.
The stop-work order was issued July 24. As of Friday morning (Aug. 14), signage remained posted and no work was underway.
Benzene, the report notes, is a carcinogen. Its presence at the site – which historically was home to a gas station – was identified in an environmental report that had been prepared by a third party consultant. That report stipulated that the soil be removed and remediated off-site.
Subcontractors working in the excavation exhibited symptoms “consistent with overexposure to hazardous substances” in the week prior to the WorkSafeBC inspection, prompting the employer to direct that all workers entering and working in the excavation wear additional equipment, including air-purifying respirators fitted with organic vapour cartridges, the report states.
“This employer made the decision to allow excavation work to continue,” the report continues, adding that real-time monitoring of airborne contaminants detected “a number of instances” of elevated readings.
It was determined that the employer had not developed and implemented an exposure control plan for benzene, as required by the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation.
“Based on these facts, this officer determined that there were reasonable grounds to believe that the conditions on site posed a high risk of serious injury, illness, or death to workers at this workplace due to potential for overexposure to contaminants contained in the soil and the lack of effective controls in place,” the report states.
White Rock council in May 2018 approved the development permit for a 26-storey mixed-use project at the site, which is located immediately north of the 23-storey Oceana PARC Retirement Living highrise. Plans include four levels of underground parking, plus a ‘mid-rise’ portion along North Bluff Road.