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HomeBusinessCOVID Exclusive: WorkSafeBC found mask, glove problems at coronavirus-closed Coquitlam chicken plant a year ago

COVID Exclusive: WorkSafeBC found mask, glove problems at coronavirus-closed Coquitlam chicken plant a year ago

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Bob Mackin (updated April 27)

One of the two poultry processing plants shut down because of coronavirus outbreaks was cited for multiple health and safety violations after an inspection one year ago today, theBreaker.news has learned.

Thirty-five people tested positive for coronavirus earlier this week at United Poultry on the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver and 25 others caught the virus at Superior Poultry in Coquitlam. Both plants are owned by Clifford Murdie Pollon, whose companies are major players in poultry processing, farming and hatching in B.C. Pollon also owns Church’s Chicken franchises across B.C.

Poultry tycoons Clifford (left) and Ron Pollon

WorkSafeBC’s April 29, 2019 inspection report, obtained by theBreaker.news, came five days after inspector Ferdinand Wuensche found problems at Superior with personal protective equipment, among other things.

The inspection resulted in a total 15 violation orders at the plant, where 280 workers were on-site.

Superior had ignored the statutory annual fit test for those workers required to wear a respirator mask. Additionally, Wuensche spotted a worker wearing gloves that would not protect against punctures or cuts.

“I observed a worker sharpening knives at the knife sharpening station located immediately out side of the maintenance shop,” Wuensche wrote. “The worker was observed cleaning the knife by swiping the knife through a paper towel held in the workers hand. The worker was wearing latex gloves. This exposes the worker to the potential of serious injury.”

Superior was unable to show records about orientation and training for new or young workers and did not have any policies, procedures or training to prevent or mitigate bullying and harassment.

Regular safety inspections of the workplace were not conducted and the joint management-staff health and safety committee had not held its required monthly meeting since February 2019.

Meanwhile, WorkSafeBC ordered Superior to immediately stop using an oil sac machine after a Jan. 8, 2020 worker injury. The nature of the injury was censored from the documents provided to theBreaker.news by WorkSafeBC.

The inspection report said the machine did not have adequate safeguards after a product had not been secured adequately to the evisceration conveyor.

United Poultry (Google Streetview)

“The worker then followed the product to the head end of the evisceration conveyor work station where the worker encountered a rotating piece of equipment on the Oil Sac Machine,” the report said. “The worker’s (censored) was caught by this rotating equipment causing injury to the worker’s (censored). The worker was treated by the on-site first aid attendant. The RCMP and Emergency Services were notified of this incident and responded to the workplace.”

A Jan. 24, 2018 inspection by occupational hygiene officer Janet Lee found the rooftop area did not have guards or guardrails installed, putting workers at risk of fall to the floor or open clarifier.

Lee attended the plant the day after Metro Vancouver investigated odours. Lee’s report said the company said odour would likely be from the clarifier section of the waste treatment system and the bin that contains solid waste, such as manure, fats and egg yolks.

Pollon has yet to respond to theBreaker.news after a call to his office at Hallmark Poultry.

The website for United Poultry states that there are “doctors and inspectors on site at all times.” Vancouver Coastal Health spokesman Matt Kieltyka said he was unable to comment on that claim, but said the health authority believes the doctors reference to mean veterinarians.

Superior’s website says it exports various chicken parts to Russia, Cuba, South Africa, Taiwan, Philippines, Jamaica and the People’s Republic of China.

The plants rely on a workforce that is mainly ethnic Chinese or recent immigrant.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency has not recalled chicken products from United or Superior, because it has received no reports of contamination or illness associated with the products.

Elections BC records show $84,710 in donations from Clifford Pollon or his companies to the BC Liberals from 2007 to 2017.

In 2017, Pollon donated $5,000 to the winning leadership campaign of Andrew Wilkinson.

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