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B.C. safety agency issues worker hazard warnings for flooding cleanup

Risks may include asbestos and chemical or biological contamination, among others
Properties on Hatzic Lake are surrounded by high water after floodwaters began to recede, near Mission, B.C., on Sunday, December 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

British Columbia’s worker protection agency says employers and employees should be aware of the hazards at job sites as the massive repair and recovery work begins after a series of torrential storms.

WorkSafeBC says while the hazards may be different depending on the area, potential problems include building materials with asbestos, chemical or biological contamination, structural or electrical damage and animal carcasses.

Barry Nakahara, the agency’s senior prevention services field manager, couldn’t estimate the size of the job ahead, but says restoration companies have many examples of post-disaster cleanup to refer to, including hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005.

Numerous homes, farms and infrastructure sites were damaged or destroyed in the series of atmospheric rivers causing flooding and landslides, crippling transportation routes, swamping agricultural operations and forcing thousands of people to evacuate their homes.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says floodwaters are receding and repair work is starting with contractors, non-governmental organizations and specialized B.C. Wildfire Service teams.

Farnworth was to visit the damaged Interior community of Merritt today but was forced to cancel due to weather problems.

—The Canadian Press

RELATED: B.C. local governments need help with flood control, Horgan says