(Canadian OH&S News) — A construction safety specialist has claimed that he was dismissed from a project in Muskrat Falls, Labrador after he shut down production temporarily during a lightning threat.
Douglas Lyons, president and lead consultant of Toronto-based Ontario CORe Consultants and a safety manager with 24 years’ experience, was working on a contract basis for the Nalcor Energy hydroelectric megaproject, which includes construction of a dam over Churchill River. According to CBC News, the shutdown occurred on the afternoon of July 2, after one of Lyons’ safety coordinators saw lightning in the north sky. Lyons’ lightning detection system went into full alarm mode, so he immediately enacted the “40-30 lightning action protocol,” a well-known industry standard in which construction workers take cover from a storm.
Lyons told the CBC that a construction manager from Astaldi Canada, the company in charge of the worksite, had phoned him about 10 minutes after the protocol and angrily castigated him for the work stoppage. The same manager then berated Lyons in person, and at the end of the work day, the Astaldi project manager fired Lyons and shuttled him to a plane home.
Lyons later confirmed to COHSN that the CBC and other media had reported the incident accurately, but he declined to comment directly about it. “I’ve said pretty much all I’m prepared to say at this point in time,” Lyons said.
Nalcor could not be reached for comment. But Larry Pittman, human resources manager with Astaldi Canada, told COHSN that the company does not speak to the media regarding employee-employer relations. “That’s a confidential matter between us and the individual,” he said.
But the company, which is the Canadian branch of a major Italian construction corporation, did release a press statement about the alleged incident on July 14.
“It causes us great concern when our safety culture is brought into question,” the company said. “Whenever an employee takes appropriate action related to the safety and security of our workplace, we support those actions unequivocally.”
Lyons, who has been involved with large-scale project work across the country throughout his career, has speculated that cultural differences between him and Astaldi caused his termination. “There is a very serious disconnect in terms of comprehension as to what the Canadian culture is and what the Canadian safety expectation is,” he told the CBC, adding that a language barrier had been another issue, as many of the Astaldi employees were not fluent in English.
Despite this, he said he still didn’t fully understand why he had been fired. “I deserved to be told a full explanation of the reasons why, and I didn’t feel that I was,” Lyons said.