City, contractor defend safety record on Ottawa LRT line

LRT tunnel
A section of Ottawa's light-rail tunnel, west of Rideau Station. For illustrative purposes only.

The City and its LRT contractor are defending the safety record of the Confederation Line, as the president of the city's labour council raises concerns the project is being rushed.

Sean McKenny, president of the Ottawa and district labour council, said he is hearing from many workers who feel unsafe working on the giant project.

“The feeling by many of them is that, in their view, there is a constant push on the project in respect to getting work done,” he said.

McKenny’s comments come as a worker injured in an incident on Saturday rests at home. Not including that incident there have been 11 loss-time injuries on the project to date.

McKenney said there have been more injuries than those ones however and workers are worried about their safety, but also scared to talk about the issues.

“They’re reluctant to step forward making complaints for fear of reprisals,” he said.

The city’s general manager of transportation John Manconi said on the scale of the project, there have been few injuries.

“There have been almost five million hours of work on this project. It’s a massive complex project to date there have been 11 minor injuries,” he said.

That number includes work on the project dating back all the way to 2013, when it began with the widening of Highway 417.

Manconi said there is no reason for workers to fear coming forward and he couldn’t comment on rumours about concerns.

“If those employees have those concerns they should escalate them. I deal in facts”

Tim Stewart, Rideau Transit Group’s construction director, echoed those comments and said there is no reason not to come forward.

The project suffered a major setback when a sinkhole opened up on Rideau Street last year. Stewart said the company has added extra shifts and workers to make up the time, but is not rushing or compromising safety.

“We’re three of the industry’s biggest constructors. Our first priority is safety and that comes before schedule,” he said. “We would never put safety ahead of schedule.”

This story originally appeared in Metro News.