Some Come By Chance workers likely won't return to work when refinery reopens: union

·3 min read
An explosion at the refinery in Come By Chance on Friday has halted construction until at least Monday.  (Sarah Sears/CBC - image credit)
An explosion at the refinery in Come By Chance on Friday has halted construction until at least Monday. (Sarah Sears/CBC - image credit)
Sarah Sears/CBC
Sarah Sears/CBC

A manager of a union that represents some employees at the Come By Chance refinery says he believes that after Friday's explosion, which injured eight people, some workers won't return to work when it reopens.

Mike Williams, regional manager of the Atlantic Canada Regional Council of Carpenters, Millwrights and Allied Workers, said Tuesday that workers were shaken by the explosion.

"Mentally they were affected by what they had seen and what happened. It was just such a terrible day for everyone in the province, who work construction in the province, for the workers, for the families," said Williams.

"Incidents such as this, they stay with people a long time. The eight workers that were injured, they all will have a fairly long road to recovery."

Eight workers were sent to hospital following Friday's explosion, with five of them airlifted to St. John's. As of Monday, two had been released from hospital. The union says about 30 members were on site when it happened.

A union member was a direct victim of the blast, said Williams, while others were nearby and witnessed the explosion and its effects.

On Monday the union held an open house at its offices in Paradise, with counsellors on hand to help workers and their families in dealing with the traumatic experience.

Williams said some workers who saw Friday's explosion were also part of a similar incident at the refinery in 1998.

"They talked about that yesterday and how they never really forgot about it. Every now and then it comes up, it brings them back to what happened in '98 and now they're going to go through something similar again," he said.

"The mental wellness part of this could last for years."

On Monday, Braya Renewable Fuels, which owns and operates the refinery, said in a statement the plant would remain closed until at least Monday while Occupational Health and Safety officials examine the work site.

The company said while the stop-work order is in place, it's planning a safe return to construction. The resumption of work at the refinery will be re-assessed by the provincial Occupational Health and Safety division and Braya Renewable Fuels next week. Braya is also offering counselling services to its employees.

Malone Mullin/CBC
Malone Mullin/CBC

Williams said his union office fielded calls over the weekend from members working at the plant.

"We have had some members call over the weekend expressing their concerns about going back to work," said Williams.

"I'm sure there's people out there that are glad they're only going to miss a week's work and then I'm sure there's people out there that are probably not going to back to work."

Confident in return: mayor

Come By Chance Mayor Carol Molloy said the community has come together to support the workers, their families and the first responders involved on Friday.

"Come By Chance is a small part of the refinery, based on the location. There are many residents in our town that work in the refinery but certainly from all over.… There are workers from all over that travel daily to and from the refinery," she said.

"Everybody is concerned. Incidents can happen anywhere at any time. It's an unfortunate event that occurred."

As for Monday's possible resumption of work, Molloy said it was great to give the workers time to take for themselves and get counselling if needed while the company works on a plan for a safe return.

"I'm confident many of them will certainly return," she said.

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