By Laura Keil

The anticipated restart date for Trans Mountain pipeline work has been pushed back from Jan 4th to sometime between mid January and early February, according to information given to local workers.

Workers have been off since before Christmas. A Trans Mountain spokesperson said that Trans Mountain’s voluntary project-wide safety stand-down that suspended construction December 18, 2020, remains in place. The safety stand-down came in the wake of two safety incidents the last being a Burnaby incident where a man was seriously injured.

B.C. public health officials have also extended a holiday season slowdown on major northern B.C. construction projects, including Trans Mountain, to help minimize COVID-19 infections at large work camps after several outbreaks in December. Two workforce accommodation sites on the Coastal Gas Link  project were affected and as of Dec. 31st there were 53 laboratory-confirmed cases associated with the outbreak at 7 Mile Lodge (Burns Lake Local Health Area), and Little Rock Lake Lodge (Nechako LHA).

“The risk of an outbreak of COVID-19 arising from the mass return of large numbers of workers to worksites and industrial camps associated with the projects constitutes a health hazard under the Public Health Act,” the public health order says.

BC’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s new order enforcing a slow return to work applies to the Trans Mountain expansion project, LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink pipeline works, the Site C dam and Rio Tinto project.

The order required Valemount’s Trans Mountain operation to reduce its workforce to 50, increasing to 150 in early January and up to 600 by early to mid-February.

Ali Hounsell, media spokesperson for Trans Mountain, confirmed that all workers would require a COVID-19 test before returning to work.