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Multiple Burnaby refinery workers sought first aid for injuries after smoke incident: WorkSafeBC

Nine workers at Parkland Refining's Burnaby facility sought first aid for several injuries after an incident Sunday that sent heavy smoke and odour across Metro Vancouver. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Nine workers at Parkland Refining's Burnaby facility sought first aid for several injuries after an incident Sunday that sent heavy smoke and odour across Metro Vancouver. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Nine Parkland Refining workers sought medical attention for injuries on Sunday after an issue at the company's Burnaby refinery caused the release of heavy odorous smoke that day, according to a WorkSafeBC report.

The issue with a unit stack on Sunday around 8 a.m. sent nine employees to first aid and caused four others to evacuate, according to WorkSafeBC, which adjudicates and provides compensation for workers who get ill or injured on the job.

"Because this incident resulted in injuries to several workers that required first aid, it would qualify as a major release of a hazardous substance," states the WorkSafeBC report, dated Wednesday.

Parkland Refining violated the Workers Compensation Act for failing to immediately report the incident until after 7 p.m. Sunday evening, according to the report.

By that time, the company told WorkSafe the refinery had been shut down due to cold weather. The act requires the major release of a hazardous substance to be reported immediately.

In a statement to CBC News, a Parkland spokesperson said the company continues to work with WorkSafeBC and met with the provincial agency on Thursday.

The spokesperson said nine people reported to first aid on Sunday, as stated in the initial WorkSafeBC report, and another seven people reported to first aid in the days that followed. Two people who reported to first aid later visited their family medical provider. 

"Reporting to first aid allows individuals to be assessed and determine whether medical attention is needed," the statement said. "Reporting to first aid is a precautionary measure, and we encourage our team to do so."

The company's website had a statement saying they're carrying out a procedure as the first step toward safely restarting the refinery. "Our goal is to have minimal impact on our neighbours and nearby communities. However, you may notice increased odour, flaring, and visible smoke over the next few days."

A special air quality statement from Environment Canada on Friday warned of moderate health risks for much of northern Metro Vancouver until Monday due to activities at the refinery.

Both the refinery and Metro Vancouver will be closely monitoring air quality, according to their statements.

The WorkSafeBC inspection report does not say how many of the nine workers who sought first aid needed medical attention or the nature of their injuries.

Two ambulances attended the scene but no one had to go to the hospital, B.C. Emergency Health Services spokesperson Jasprit Khandal said in a statement to CBC News.

WorkSafeBC issued a compliance order to Parkland refinery over the violation, but it has been marked as closed because the reporting timeline has passed. The company does not face any financial penalties for the order.

Parkland must submit the full incident investigation report to WorkSafeBC by Feb. 20, according to the report.