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HomeMiscellanyExclusive: TransLink division changes name in the wake of huge WorkSafeBC fine

Exclusive: TransLink division changes name in the wake of huge WorkSafeBC fine

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Bob Mackin 

Three months after WorkSafeBC slapped TransLink with a whopping six-figure fine that led to an executive shakeup, the TransLink division that operates SkyTrain has rebranded. 

Cake served at TransLink staff lunch on March 13 (TransLink)

An internal video leaked to theBreaker shows a March 13 lunch for SkyTrain and West Coast Express staff at the Burnaby Firefighters’ Hall. Executives gave away coffee mugs and pieces of cake while outlining a communications plan rife with slogans, icons and ads. 

B.C. Rapid Transit Company, the name of TransLink’s rail division, has been rebranded as “SkyTrain Delivered by B.C. Rapid Transit Company.”

Last Dec. 19, WorkSafeBC fined TransLink $607,497.56 after a May 26, 2017 incident during passenger operating hours at Nanaimo Station. Two electricians were working on an energized electrical panel when an arc flash occurred. One of the workers was seriously burned. According to WorkSafeBC, TransLink has paid the penalty, but it is under appeal. 

Coffee mugs from gift bags for SkyTrain staff (TransLink)

“WorkSafeBC’s investigation determined that the panel had not been completely locked out before work began,” said the WorkSafeBC log entry for the province’s fourth-biggest fine of 2017. “The employer failed to ensure energy sources were isolated and effectively controlled, and that energy isolation devices were secured using appropriate locks. These were high-risk violations. The employer also failed to provide its workers with the information, instruction, training, and supervision necessary to ensure their health and safety.”

The incident happened almost three years after a five-hour outage on the Expo and Millennium lines caused by an unsupervised electrician using a non-insulated screwdriver on a panel. A report on the July 21, 2014 incident stated that: “Although standard operating procedures did not restrict this from occurring during operating hours, they also did not state that it could occur during operating hours.”

The presentation — at least the version that made the cut for the slick, 12-minute video — does not mention the hefty fine or appeal. 

The fine led to the Jan. 8 departure of health, safety, training and environment director Natalia Skapski. Her interim replacement, Eva Kaczmarczyk, told the March 13 meeting that an environmental and emergency management system would be developed by the third quarter of 2018 and a new safety management system would be phased-in starting in the fourth quarter. 

SkyTrain GM Vivienne King (TransLink)

General manager Vivienne King vowed her division will “go from good to great,” by emphasizing a new “safety first” slogan on internal and external posters, banners and billboards. She stressed a five-year plan to encourage teamwork, support and excellence. 

Operations vice-president Mike Richard said training for supervisors would be established in the fourth quarter, while maintenance vice-president Richard Sykes said the two-week planning window for rail network access to perform maintenance would be extended by two weeks by the fourth quarter. 

“That’s a big ask, but be happy if we can move from two weeks to four weeks, and maybe have a six or an eight week outlook in a couple of years time,” Sykes said. “It will take time. State of good repair will take time, change takes time. What I need you all is to come with me on the journey.”

Sajeeta Saroop, the customer experience and public support director, said another round of focus groups is being conducted, to find out what passengers want, need and expect for system cleanliness and communications. She suggested TransLink examine the cleaning contract and station announcements. 

“Let’s do an audit of all of our train announcements and see if they’re the right ones,” Saroop said. “Do we need to add more to it?”

The event was emceed by consultant Karen Elliott, who is, coincidentally, a Squamish city councillor. 

The former BCRTC seems to be in major catch-up mode, having a better-late-than-never epiphany about the vital importance of safety. After all, it has been in business since the December 1985 launch of SkyTrain’s Expo Line. It expanded with the Millennium Line (2002), Canada Line (2009) and Evergreen Line (2016).

The B.C. NDP government is on the verge of green-lighting the Broadway subway and Surrey light rail. TransLink has not publicly updated cost estimates since 2014, but has conceded that prices have ballooned because of escalation in land, labour and materials costs. 

UPDATE (April 17): TransLink staffers were informed in a memo from King that Sykes is no longer with the company. “I would like to thank him for his service and contributions,” King wrote in a mass email to “all users” at SkyTrain. 

Chun Ho Lau, the director of asset management and engineering, was immediately named as Sykes’s interim replacement. No reason was given. Neither King, nor CEO Kevin Desmond nor anyone in TransLink’s media relations department responded to theBreaker

Ex-SkyTrain VP Richard Sykes (TransLink)

Despite the recent rebranding, King started the email with the salutation “Hello BCRTC” and her email signature remains the organization’s old logo. 

Geoff Morbey, director of assurance in the maintenance division, wrote in a memo to Sykes’s ex-subordinates that the division would “continue as before, along the same path towards the overall vision and strategy as you have all heard Richard discuss.

“I reallize that some of you have built a strong working relationship with Richard and this has come as a shock.” 

Sykes came to TransLink in 2014 from London’s Docklands Light Railway, where he was general manager of rolling stock during a period that included the London 2012 Olympics. Lau also worked at the Serco-owned operation, as the senior project engineer of rolling stock engineering.

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