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Construction halted at Vancouver site where woman died, as workers say safety concerns went unaddressed

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Stop-work orders have been issued for a Vancouver construction site where a worker died Wednesday, according to officials.

WorkSafe BC, in an email, said two separate orders have been issued – one for the crane involved in the fatal incident and another for the entire Oakridge Park development site.

"WorkSafeBC is now actively working to understand the cause of this tragic incident, as well as any contributing factors, so that a similar incident can be prevented from happening in the future," the agency said in a statement.

"While we are unable to discuss specific details of the investigation, any findings that would improve workplace safety will be incorporated into our educational materials and our inspections."

Workers at the scene say the crane was being used to move fly tables – large wooden forms used to pour concrete.

According to witnesses, the fly table hit the building and broke into pieces as it fell to the ground where part of it hit and killed the woman, who sources say was a mother of two.

ONGOING SAFETY CONCERNS 

In the aftermath of the fatal incident, a number of people who work at the site have reached out to CTV News to say multiple complaints they have made about ongoing safety issues have routinely gone unaddressed.

The people who reached out with safety concerns work in a variety of trades for a number of different sub-contractors on the site.

Fearing professional repercussions from their employers, they did not want to be identified.

“The safety officers on site do not care about worker safety, only that the job is done,” one said.

Another said they have routinely seen safety rules around crane operations ignored.

“We have had issues from crane operators dropping loads to workers carelessly walking under suspended loads through danger tape,” they said.

Another worker said some people have grown so frustrated they’ve stopped reporting safety concerns.

“We’ve made multiple complaints but they don’t get followed up on,” they said.

EllisDon, the Richmond-based contractor for the project, did not respond to a request for comment on the safety concerns raised by workers at the Oakridge project.

MINISTER, UNION RESPOND 

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains weighed in on the tragedy Thursday.

"It's not acceptable to me. I know it's not acceptable to workers, their representatives, that workers don't go home at the end of their shift safely,” he said.

The union representing crane operators wants the province to tighten regulations – in particular around people being allowed to operate cranes with provisional licenses.

“It is possible today for a construction company to lease a tower crane and to sub-contract out the operation of that tower crane to an operator who has a provisional license,” said Josh Towsley with IUOE Local 115. “The requirement to get that provisional license is an online multiple choice exam. And then they get to work in a tower crane making lifts.”

Bains said WorkSafeBC is looking to make regulatory changes for construction site tower cranes and he expects those could be announced as early as this spring.

There have been three recent incidents involving cranes on Lower Mainland construction sites, WorkSafe BC noted in Thursday's statement.

"Preliminary evidence, at this time, suggests there are few, if any, similarities between the three incidents, or the equipment involved," a spokesperson for the agency said.

"However, the three incidents demonstrate that workplace safety can never be taken for granted, and while each of the three recent incidents appear to be unique, employers are reminded of the need to be vigilant in ensuring the maintenance of their equipment and the safe working procedures of their staff."

The BC Coroner’s Service and VFRS are also involved in the investigation, along with Vancouver Police – which said it is not considered a criminal investigation at this time. 

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