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Transportation workers have been off the job due to air quality issue at TIR base in Yarmouth

Signs have been posted on entry ways to the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal base in Yarmouth due to a cleanup required over air quality issues. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
Signs have been posted on entry ways to the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal base in Yarmouth due to a cleanup required over air quality issues. TINA COMEAU PHOTO - Tina Comeau

YARMOUTH, N.S. – Employees of the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure base in Yarmouth have not been allowed in the building for much of this month due to a required cleanup after sandblasting work stirred up air quality issues.

On Monday morning, Oct. 15, ‘Danger Restricted Area’ and ‘Keep Out’ signs were still posted on entry ways of the provincial department worksite building located on the Hardscratch Road in Yarmouth. Those signs were there all of last week and part of the week before.

A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (TIR) says the issue stems from work carried out weeks ago in which a contractor was working on a door replacement project at the transportation department base.

The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal base in Yarmouth on the Hardscratch Road. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal base in Yarmouth on the Hardscratch Road. TINA COMEAU PHOTO

“Part of this work included structural steel repainting and sandblasting. The sandblasting process did not properly contain the material, which led us to do some precautionary testing,” said TIR spokesperson Marla MacInnis. “During this time we moved employees out of the building, ceased work on the site, and brought in an environmental consultant to complete the testing.”

MacInnis said the results took about a week to come in and that there were low levels of lead found in the paint that had been sandblasted.

A hazmat team was brought on site to conduct testing of the building. Part of that work occurred on Saturday, Oct. 6.

A worker at the transportation base, who asked not to be identified, said they had concerns about being in the building following the sandblasting work, saying it had stirred up a lot of dust. That person said they had experienced headaches after the sandblasting work.

About the levels of lead that had been disturbed as a result of the sandblasting, MacInnis said on Oct. 12, “The consultant helped us to understand the risks and create a cleanup plan. We have now begun the cleanup. Employees have been off site for approximately two weeks and we hope to have them back as soon as possible."

“No one has presented any health concerns associated with the test findings,” she said.

Asked about the building, given its age – it was built in the mid-1960s – and whether there are other issues employees should be concerned about, MacInnis said, “There are no further issues with the building and it does not contain asbestos. It continues to serve its purpose and there are no replacement plans at this time.”

Work that takes place at this base includes work to the department’s local fleet of plow trucks, graders and other road equipment.

The provincial labour department was also involved in this matter earlier in the month.

“The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (TIR) asked the Labour and Advanced Education (LAE) Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) division to make a site visit to this TIR building in Yarmouth,” said labour department spokesperson Shannon Kerr. “On Oct. 3, the LAE OHS division attended the site, where it was noted that TIR had already begun taking the appropriate action by hiring an occupational hygienist and developing a safer means to complete the project.”

Kerr said the labour department and Occupational Health and Safety did not issue any orders or enforcement actions.

“Our follow-up is complete,” Kerr said on Oct. 12.

Meanwhile, TIR was asked if – and if so when – the results of the testing that was carried out will be shared with employees of the TIR base so they are aware of what was detected prior to the cleanup, and the air quality after the cleanup, as they will likely have concerns and questions over air quality. MacInnis said on Oct. 15, "We have a project manager who has, and will continue to, manage the communication of the test results and follow up plan with the District Director, Area Manager and impacted staff."

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