Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut February 17, 2014 - 1:49 pm

Safety charges laid against Qikiqtani hospital contractor

Charges revolve around improper handling of asbestos

DAVID MURPHY
Rocks and other rubble are scattered in front of the old hospital building in Iqaluit. The $32.3 million renovation project came to a halt in April 2013 when contractor NCC-Dowland Construction Ltd. went into receivership. (FILE PHOTO)
Rocks and other rubble are scattered in front of the old hospital building in Iqaluit. The $32.3 million renovation project came to a halt in April 2013 when contractor NCC-Dowland Construction Ltd. went into receivership. (FILE PHOTO)

An Alberta-based company that helped renovate the Qikiqtani General Hospital has been charged with failing to prevent the release of asbestos at the work site, related to an incident alleged to have occurred in January 2013.

The Worker’s Safety and Compensation Commission charged Arctic Environmental Services Ltd. and its supervisor, Robert Valleau, with six counts of breaching the Nunavut Safety Act, General Safety Regulations, and Asbestos Regulations.

“We’ll let it play out and see. I guess both sides think the other side are being rather ignorant. But we’ll see. We’ll play it out,” Valleau, president of the company, told Nunatsiaq News from his Yellowknife headquarters.

The WSCC said the “alleged breaches stem from an incident involving asbestos remediation at a work site in Iqaluit,” according to a Feb. 10 press release.

The WSCC charged Arctic Environmental Services for “failing to take all reasonable precautions to ensure the health and safety of persons on a work site, specifically failing to ensure the adequate instruction of each worker in the safe performance of their duties.”

The case was set for a first appearance at the Nunavut Court of Justice Feb. 17. Both Crown and defence lawyers, however, adjourned the matter to March. 17.

The WSCC’s chief safety officer, Judith Kainz, laid the charges against Arctic Environmental Services on Jan. 14, 2014.

Charging documents obtained by Nunatsiaq News reveal the alleged incident occurred between Jan. 12 and Jan. 16 of 2013.

Valleau is a co-accused with Arctic Environmental Services on five charges. Valleau is also charged with one separate count: failing to give proper instruction to workers under his direction and control.

On the Arctic Environment Services website, the company says it specializes in hazardous material removal, demolition, site remediation and wastewater treatment.

The charges against Valleau and Arctic Environmental Services include:

• failing to prevent the release of asbestos, endangering the health and safety of persons in the establishment;

• failing to carry out precautionary techniques and procedures to prevent the release of asbestos;

• failing to ensure adequate instruction of each worker in the safe performance of his or her duties;

• failing to provide each worker exposed to asbestos with dust-proof coveralls, gauntlets, eye protection and headgear; and,

• failing to enclose the work area to prevent the escape of asbestos. 

Arctic Environmental Services began renovation work at the hospital, alongside NCC Development Ltd, after a different firm, NCC-Dowland Construction, defaulted on a $32.3 million renovation contract for the hospital.

In May of 2013, the GN said Arctic Environmental Services worked on the site to remove hazardous material from the hospital.

Valleau would not comment specifically on the charges, but he did say his company had finished work on the site before Iqaluit’s last sealift was completed in 2013.

Valleau said waste is still “sitting in the back right now waiting to be transported to the US,” but the company is finished work on the site.

“So the project was finished, the physical work on the hospital site, our complete contract was finished within terms of site work. And everyone was really happy,” Valleau said.

“We haven’t been fully paid out on it. But we’re not actively there,” Valleau said.

Valleau said the company, established 1991, had done “lots and lots” of projects in Nunavut before this project.

The company, however, is not currently working in Nunavut right now.

The Department of Community and Government Services announced in a Feb. 17 news release that a new company has been selected to take control of the Iqaluit-based hospital project from NCC Development Ltd., which had stepped in as a temporary caretaker.

Quinan Construction Ltd., based in Orillia, Ont., is expected to complete the next phase of the project, which involves adding a new entrance to the building and an additional 26 clinical spaces for patient care and community wellness.

The renovation is supposed to be completed by the end of 2015.

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