Federal agency orders Trans Mountain to halt use of trench boxes after worker killed in Edmonton

Phil Heidenreich

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Three days after a worker died on the job at a construction site in west Edmonton, the Canada Energy Regulator has issued a number of directives to Trans Mountain Corp., including one calling for it to suspend the use of a piece of equipment.

The incident on Tuesday unfolded at a Trans Mountain pipeline route work site on the northwestern corner of the intersection between Whitemud Drive and Winterburn Road.

In an order issued Friday, the CER said based on a preliminary investigation of the incident, the agency “has reasonable grounds to believe that there is or is likely to be a contravention” of parts of the Canadian Energy Regulator Act.

READ MORE: Worker killed at Trans Mountain pipeline job site in west Edmonton 

The CER said it was notified by the Transportation Safety Board of the workplace death on Tuesday at 4:31p.m. About an hour later, Trans Mountain provided the CER with its preliminary report of what happened.

“Trans Mountain reported that a contract worker from SA Energy Group, or worker employed by the contractor on the project, succumbed to their injuries as a result of being caught and pinned under a crossbeam of a trench box that was being disassembled by a side boom operator and three other labourers,” the agency said.

SA Energy is the contractor leading the pipeline expansion work in the Edmonton region, and a trench box is a safety device meant to protect people working in trenches.

Emergency crews were called to a workplace incident near Winterburn Road and Whitemud Drive in west Edmonton on Tuesday, October 27, 2020.
Emergency crews were called to a workplace incident near Winterburn Road and Whitemud Drive in west Edmonton on Tuesday, October 27, 2020. Global News

The CER’s order says it has directed Trans Mountain “to immediately cease all use and operation of trench boxes by SA Energy Group until it can be demonstrated to the undersigned inspection officer that they can be assembled, deployed and disassembled in a safe manner.”

The order also calls on Trans Mountain to confirm once its inspectors have developed and implemented a process for “competency and training for those with responsibility for oversight to ensure they have sufficient expertise, knowledge and training required to exercise the requisite level of oversight to ensure safe operations.”

All workers using a trench box will need to be “adequately trained” on the devices as well.

The CER said it has requested that Trans Mountain further probe how the deadly incident unfolded and to submit a report and action plan to the agency before Nov. 13.

“This is a tragic incident and I know that staff and contractors at both SA Energy and Trans Mountain join me in extending our deepest sympathies to the worker’s family,” Ian Anderson, president and CEO of Trans Mountain, said in a statement on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Father of 4 identified as worker killed at Trans Mountain pipeline site in west Edmonton 

Family have identified the worker who died as 40-year-old Samatar Sahal, who leaves behind a wife and four children.

Work at the construction site was halted immediately and Alberta Occupational Health and Safety is investigating.

The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project is designed to triple the capacity of the existing 1950s-era pipeline between Edmonton and a shipping terminal in Burnaby, B.C., to about 890,000 barrels per day of products including diluted bitumen, lighter crudes and refined fuels such as gasoline.


— With files from Karen Bartko, Global News