Safety training is paramount in high-risk jobs, but the hope is that the training will never be needed.
Steel bridge workers and inspectors with the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Active Transit depot in Hebbville took part in a five-day refresher course last week at sites in Mill Village and Lunenburg.
Fourteen employees took part in the week-long exercise that is held every six years and is part of ongoing training. New hires with the bridge crews receive two weeks of safety training, and once a year a one-day refresher course is held.
“We’ve never had to actually use the training, so that’s a good thing. But if it was to happen, we would have the right training and equipment to be able to address it,” said Don Coulter, a district bridge engineer.
The five-day course includes rescue scenarios from a steel truss bridge, a timber bridge, from an aerial boom lift, a suspended basket, from an under-bridge inspection vehicle, ladder training, building scaffolding and rescue, rigging and signalling and water rescue.
The training is provided through the Nova Scotia Community College and instructors from RuSafe Inc., a South Shore safety training company.
Coulter explained that the steel crew that was being trained last week is the only one that works on steel bridges in the western district that includes Lunenburg, Queens, Shelburne, Yarmouth, Digby, Annapolis and Kings counties.
Within that district, there are also four bridge maintenance crews who work on timber and concrete bridges. They are based in Hebbville, Yarmouth, Middleton and New Minas.
Coulter said more intensive safety training began in 2007.
“The department hired a lot more crews to do bridge work as opposed to just having regular highway works do bridge work,” he said. “Once they started that, we then got into the rescue training in a much bigger way because now the crews are on bridges all the time, so it’s a higher risk job than other work might be.”
Coulter also mentioned in an email that Mill Village is “the ideal location to do the training since it has a steel truss bridge (Mill Village bridge) and a long span timber bridge (Pond Bridge) located close together on lower volume roads.”
The bridges were closed to motor vehicle traffic during the training. Crews from Yarmouth, Annapolis and Kings Counties were scheduled to train at the bridges July 12 to 16.
Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin