FORT SASKATCHEWAN, Alta. (Canadian OH&S News)
At about 4 p.m. on July 5, workers were installing insulators on the new Heartland Transmission Project when the helicopter went down near Township Road 554, northwest of Fort Saskatchewan. Insulators connect the conductor, or wire, that carries electricity to the transmission structure, explained Scott Schreiner, director of external engagement with Altalink, Alberta’s largest transmission company, supplying electricity to more than 85 per cent of the province’s population. Altalink is working with EPCOR Utilities Limited on the project.
Following the crash, a lineman in the helicopter was transported to hospital by STARS Air Ambulance. The pilot was taken to hospital by ground ambulance. Schreiner said that both contract workers remained in Edmonton-area hospitals in stable condition as of July 10.
“Our first concern is the health of the worker and the pilot injured in this incident,” noted Johanne Picard-Thompson, senior vice president of projects for AltaLink, in a statement. “We will begin an investigation immediately to learn what may have caused the helicopter to fail.”
Schreiner said that investigation is ongoing, adding that Altalink and the Heartland project team are cooperating with the investigations by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) and the occupational health and safety branch of Alberta Human Services.
“TSB has authority here,” said Brookes Merritt, a spokesperson for Alberta Human Services. “We may investigate when they have wrapped up their end. For the time being, we are standing back.”
Schreiner said that the transmission line was not energized at the time of the accident, as it is under construction and power lines have not yet been strung on the structures. While the investigation continues, Altalink has suspended helicopter work on the power line, but continues to conduct work using cranes or linemen climbing towers, Schreiner reported.
The Heartland line is a 500-kilovolt, double-circuit transmission line with an associated substation and an 18-kilometre, 240-kilovolt transmission connection. The 66-kilometre transmission line connects a substation in south Edmonton to the Heartland region near the city of Fort Saskatchewan.
Project construction began in February
Information from the Heartland Transmission Project’s website says that construction began in February, and that the line is expected to be in-service by the fall. The helicopter began assisting with construction in late April to string rope lines between each on-site tower and install equipment at the top of each tower.
“The use of a helicopter reduces the amount of construction traffic and environmental impacts along the transmission line right-of-way,” the information said. “Using a helicopter to install equipment at the top of each tower is significantly faster than other construction techniques.”
During the construction process, workers will deliver materials and construction tower foundations at each work location; assemble and erect towers on foundations; string and attach wire to each structure; complete inspections and energize the line; and clean up and restore workspaces’ right-of ways the physical space a transmission line encompasses, including areas on either side of the line.