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Local industry proceeds, making continuity plans

Trans Mountain and West Fraser adapting operations to COVID-19 pandemic

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

During public updates on the impact of COVID-19, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has mentioned different industries that will feel the effects.

There are several major industries – forestry, coal and oil and gas – that are working to navigate the shifting operating realities presented by the pandemic.

In Hinton, West Fraser employees are provided flexibility around working arrangements while the organization implements continuity plans to support continued operations.

The company, which employs hundreds of people directly and through contractors, says it is closely monitoring information regarding official guidelines for the coronavirus, and acting to protect the safety, health and well-being of its employees, the community and anyone at their sites.

James Gorman, vice president of external and government affairs for West Fraser, said that ongoing response will be informed by the guidance from The World Health Organization, Health Canada and local health authorities.

“We have eliminated international and domestic travel, increased health
education, cleaning and frequency of disinfection and hygiene activities, and our divisions are in the process of implementing social and physical distance activities to reduce exposure risks,” Gorman said.

“This is an unprecedented situation and we are providing employees flexibility around working arrangements while implementing continuity plans to support continued operations.”

Trans Mountain, which is expected to create about two years of economic benefit for the West Yellowhead, has taken similar actions to maintain a safe work environment, minimizing the spread, and ensuring safe operations and construction of the pipeline expansion project.

Currently, Trans Mountain has not experienced any delays to construction or impacts to pipeline operations, according to the Trans Mountain media relations team, and the company plans to continue operations on the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

Actions taken to date include implementing control measures at control centres, suspending all non- essential travel, safely operating facilities and construction sites, and transitioning to a work-from-home environment, where practicable.

All cross-border business travel has also been suspended.

While in close communication with their construction contractors, Trans Mountain is following advice from the government and health officials, including social distancing protocols.

“This is a dynamic situation and we will continue to respond in a thoughtful, balanced and disciplined way and consider all new and emerging guidance coming from government and health officials,”
stated the Trans Mountain media relations team.

While Teck didn’t comment on what impacts this would have on the pending shutdown of the Cardinal River operation, they have also put similar safety measures in place.

In a statement, Teck stated that its operating sites are very large, employees are widely distributed, and typically do not work together in large groups.

“We are focused on continuing to ensure the health and safety of our employees and the communities in which we operate, while maintaining employment to the extent possible through this evolving challenge,” said Robin Sheremeta, senior vice president of coal for Teck.