COVID-19 scare at oil­sands camp ends on pos­i­tive note

Bo­re­alis Lodge ‘did it right’ by fol­low­ing pre­pared­ness pro­to­cols, union head says

Edmonton Journal - - CITY -

A COVID-19 scare at an oil­sands staff lodge north of Fort Mcmur­ray last week tested the pan­demic pre­pared­ness of one of the many busi­nesses that house, feed and trans­port work­ers at re­source ex­trac­tion sites.

Civeo Corp., which runs the Bo­re­alis Lodge by Sun­cor En­ergy’s base mine, in­di­cated Fri­day that a worker staying there was taken to hospi­tal with novel-coro­n­avirus-like symp­toms. On Tuesday, the com­pany added that the test was neg­a­tive.

Ian Robb, Cana­dian direc­tor of the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try union Unite Here, said Civeo and other work-camp oper­a­tors are tak­ing the pan­demic threat se­ri­ously.

“I have to com­mend the Civeo pro­to­cols. Yes, that in­di­vid­ual came back neg­a­tive. But noth­ing would have been han­dled dif­fer­ent if he’d come back pos­i­tive,” said Robb, also ad­min­is­tra­tor of Unite Here Lo­cal 47, which rep­re­sents Al­berta work-camp clean­ers and cooks.

“We did it right. We did it fol­low­ing those di­rec­tives and the work­ers lis­tened.”

Oil­sands mines rely on thou­sands of work­ers from across the coun­try who fly to sites and stay there for sev­eral days or weeks at a time.

Com­pa­nies have sent non-es­sen­tial staff home, but some are al­low­ing work­ers who don’t want to risk trav­el­ling to hun­ker down in lodges on their days off, Robb said.

He said lodges these days gen­er­ally have pri­vate rooms, but spe­cial care is be­ing taken in com­mon ar­eas such as din­ing rooms, where staff are work­ing 10-hour days wip­ing and san­i­tiz­ing.

He said as soon as the worker at Bo­re­alis fell ill, the din­ing room was closed and re­san­i­tized. Din­ner was served as take­out.

“Their pro­to­cols and their readi­ness was tested that day,” Robb said. “It was pretty much flaw­less.”

Di­ver­si­fied Trans­porta­tion, which buses work­ers to oil­sands sites, said it is lock­ing down wash­rooms, sup­ply­ing more dis­in­fec­tant wipes and hand san­i­tizer, boost­ing clean­ing, and car­ry­ing fewer pas­sen­gers so they can sit fur­ther apart.

Cana­dian North is con­tin­u­ing to fly work­ers to and from their jobs, but with ex­tra pre­cau­tions.

Ear­lier this month, one of its oil­sands-bound planes turned back to Ed­mon­ton be­cause one of the crew got word that a fam­ily mem­ber had tested pos­i­tive for COVID-19.

Lewis said Cana­dian North started track­ing the emerg­ing COVID-19 threat in Jan­uary and formed a com­mit­tee to pre­pare.

Blan­kets, pil­lows and in­flight mag­a­zines have been taken away. Fre­quently touched sur­faces are be­ing sprayed down with a bleach so­lu­tion.

Work­ers trav­el­ling to or from sites are pre­sent­ing pa­per board­ing cards in­stead of re­us­able plas­tic ones. Pas­sen­gers are be­ing spaced as far apart as pos­si­ble.

Scott Davis, direc­tor of emer­gency man­age­ment for the Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Wood Buf­falo, said the mu­nic­i­pal­ity has a mu­tual aid agree­ment with oil­sands oper­a­tors, but gen­er­ally com­pa­nies have the re­sources and abil­ity to han­dle sit­u­a­tions them­selves.

“I feel they’re tak­ing great steps,” Davis said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.