B.C. farm company investigating carbon monoxide exposure that affected 43 workers

A man walks outside buildings at Windset Farms in Delta, B.C., on Sunday December 10, 2017. A company says it is investigating to determine if changes are needed in its operations after dozens of workers were exposed to carbon monoxide at one of its farm in Delta, B.C., on the weekend.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

DELTA, B.C. - A company says it is investigating to determine if changes are needed in its operations after dozens of workers were exposed to carbon monoxide at one of its farm in Delta, B.C., on the weekend.

Windset Farms says workers were using gas-powered pressure washers in a greenhouse on Saturday when an employee reported feeling unwell.

It says in a statement that 43 workers received medical evaluation and treatment, and everyone was released from hospital by Saturday night.

Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless gas that's produced when fuel is burned, and can cause health problems or death when inhaled.

Fire battalion chief Neil Shuster said the greenhouse did not have adequate ventilation.

Windset Farms says it will review what happened and consider if changes need to be made, and all of the workers will receive whatever follow-up care they need.

"Annually at this time of year, as part of our preparation for the new crop, we wash and disinfect the greenhouse with gas-powered pressure washers, which is considered a standard practice in our industry," the company says.

"Our people and their health and safety in the workplace is our top priority. We will be reviewing what occurred, and considering what changes to our protocols must be enacted, working with both public and private agencies to fully understand and further strengthen our response and programs."

Provincial workplace safety officials are also investigating the incident.

The company's website says it has greenhouses in Delta and Abbotsford in B.C., as well as Santa Maria, Calif., and Las Vegas. It says it ships tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and specialty produce around the world.

B.C. Emergency Health Services said 13 ambulances responded to what it called "a major incident'' at the farm in Delta on Saturday.

Linda Lupini, the executive vice-president of emergency health services, said on Sunday the response followed protocols for mass casualty events with those most seriously injured receiving priority care.

Those exposed to carbon monoxide were treated with oxygen and given blood tests to ensure they were recovering, she said.

"The entire event as we know could have had a very different ending,'' she said. "There's no doubt this was an incredibly well executed response.''


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