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Workers fired over toppled crane at Muskrat Falls

A fallen crane at the Muskrat Falls construction site. —
A fallen crane at the Muskrat Falls construction site. - Contributed

Astaldi managers upset by Nalcor’s response to 2018 safety incident

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

It was widely reported this past summer: a 250-ton crane toppled onto its side near the dam at Muskrat Falls.

New information on the “crane incident” has come forward through the Muskrat Falls Inquiry, through both testimony and documents.

On Thursday morning, Astaldi project manager Don Delarosbil offered a summary of events. He said there was a lift required for Astaldi in taking down a tower crane structure that was out of reach of the mobile cranes Astaldi had. A subcontractor working for Andritz had a suitable crane for the job. An arrangement was made for Astaldi to borrow it. During the work that ensued on June 12, with the arm on the mobile crane close to fully extended, the individual operating the crane overrode the limits and the mobile crane fell over.

Apart from being a major safety incident, Delarosbil said the mobile crane was ultimately scrapped. And the event temporarily shut down ongoing work by Astaldi Canada.

However, there was also fallout ending in another dispute between Astaldi and Nalcor Energy’s project teams.

By July 7, Nalcor’s management were ordering people off the project site in relation to the crane tip.

Three, matching letters were issued — one each for three, Astaldi employees, including Astaldi safety manager Brian Chaput. In each case, a single paragraph said simply that following Nalcor’s review of the crane incident, Nalcor (specifically the Muskrat Falls corporation) “hereby revokes site access” for the individual. They were all signed by Scott O’Brien, with Nalcor’s project management team.

Don Delarosbil at the Muskrat Falls Inquiry on Wednesday.
Don Delarosbil at the Muskrat Falls Inquiry on Wednesday.

The next day, Astaldi project manager Don Delarosbil was formally taking issue.

There was a lack of explanation, he stated in an email. He told his superior the letters were “intimidating.”

“Attached is three letters that were hand delivered to Georges (Bader, an Astaldi manager) on site yesterday. Georges was told he had no choice he had to get the people off site,” a fired-up Delarosbil reported to Francesco Rotundi.

“This is a deliberate move on their part to destroy our team,” Delarosbil wrote. “The fact that they did not inform us and totally bypassed us to reach this decision is rude and humiliating and the way they have done this is totally intimidating. These letters are personal attacks on our people with no consideration for what we have done or the measures we have put in place.”

He said the entire workforce was affected by the effective dismissals. He said Astaldi’s people were now worried that if they said something or did something to upset Nalcor Energy’s people they would have their site access revoked and lose their jobs as a result.

Delarosbil found a sympathetic ear in his superior, Rotundi, who in turn wrote to Muskrat Falls project management team member Lance Clarke.

“Even a murderer is entitled to a regular trial and in this case seems that with no anticipation Scott decided who was guilty,” Rotundi wrote. “I’ll not manage my team with this action not removed.”

“Basically all I was looking for was an explanation,” Delarosbil said at the Inquiry.

He said there were talks at a higher level, from what he heard later from Rotundi. He claimed there was assurance given that Chaput in particular, with a depth of experience, would be cleared to return to the site. Delarosbil couldn’t explain exactly what happened after that, but Chaput did not return.

“They just got rid of a top safety manager in Canada with no reason, no explanation,” Delarosbil said on the witness stand, reiterating a chill within the workforce over Nalcor Energy’s use of their right to remove workers.

He said he similarly lost his head structural manager about a month later.

In that case, Delarosbil said, the worker was advised to make a particular change (advised, “not told”). Delarosbil said he wasn’t notified of an issue before the individual was effectively dismissed.

Testifying beside Delarosbil, Bader – another senior manager on site for Astaldi - described a time where his own site access was revoked, then restored in short order.

Some of the Nalcor representatives involved will have an opportunity to speak to the crane event and dismissals when they are called later in the Inquiry hearings.


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