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Workers on Pitt Meadows film set fall ill because of heat

Last year, WorkSafeBC accepted 115 claims from workers related to heat stress
Some of WorkSafeBC tips for employers during extreme heat events is: to monitor heat conditions and ensure workers do not work alone; make sure there is first-aid coverage and that emergency procedures are in place; and to determine appropriate work/rest cycles. (WorkSafeBC/Facebook)

A production company filming in Pitt Meadows had to make some serious changes to their exposure control plan after a number of crew became ill due to the heat.

According to WorkSafeBC, a number of workers on location along Middleton Road in Pitt Meadows in late July became sick and needed medical aid because of exposure to the extreme heat conditions. The workers were on the set of Number 18 Productions’ show called Snowpiercer.

“When these workers became ill, they could not continue their duties, some of which were to help other workers manage heat exposure,” said Jackie Law in a report for the provincial workplace inspection agency.

On July 28, there were around 276 workers on site, explained Law, and they had filmed from morning until early evening.

The production company told Law they had a number of controls in place to help their workers deal with the heat including cooling tents, air conditioning units, cooling/water stations, three registered nurses who actively assessed and looked for heat stress signs in workers, multiple Level 3 first aid attendants, transport drivers who delivered ice and water, assistants and managers who helped deliver water, workers who walked around to offer water, staff rotation and staff addition, ice packs, and they offered 15 minute breaks for every hour of work.

They also removed the inner lining and stuffing from some costumes. The company told Law they had meetings on how to implement their emergency control plan, and communicated the plan to their workforce.

However, Law found, there was a lack of site-specific monitoring and hourly recordings of measured parameters like the air temperature, air velocity, and air humidity. There was no numerical accounting in their humidex method for long sleeved costumes or wardrobe, in addition to radiant heat from filming outdoors; and the company failed to identify vulnerable groups of workers like those who spend more time in the direct sunlight, older workers, less experienced workers, or those who have a more physically demanding job.

Filming for the television series restarted on Tuesday, Aug. 2, along Rannie Road, with additional staff in place, hourly monitoring of the temperature and humidity, 15-30 minute breaks every hour of work, and with the requirement for staff to wear hats and appropriate clothing on extreme days.

WorkSafeBC returned to the site on Thursday, Aug. 4 and found that the company had complied with their orders.

RELATED: Heat warning in effect for Metro Vancouver as temperatures climb above 30 degrees

ALSO: Heat warnings issued across B.C. as highs threaten to hit 40 C

Law spoke with multiple staff at the worksite and found there was proactive monitoring of workers and clear authority to intervene where needed. Law also noted there was additional staff support to rotate for rest breaks, and a nurse was on site who would monitor and record temperature and relative humidity and adjust the humidex measurement to account for external factors as required by WorkSafeBC. The company also had additional cooling equipment on site and there was a thorough daily communication with staff on the exposure control plan.

Snowpiercer is a television sci-fi, action series starring Jennifer Connelly, Daveed Diggs, and Sean Bean that is set seven years after the world becomes a frozen wasteland. What remains of humanity now lives in a perpetually-moving train that continuously circles the globe – where class warfare, social injustice and the politics of survival play out.

Currently seasons three and four are being filmed.

Last year, WorkSafeBC accepted 115 claims from workers related to heat stress. The data on heat stress claims for 2022 is not available yet.

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Colleen Flanagan

About the Author: Colleen Flanagan

I got my start with Black Press Media in 2003 as a photojournalist.
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