A Burnaby medical mask and respirator manufacturing business has yet to pay a $13,154.99 fine it was issued this fall after repeated incidents of workers getting caught in mask-making machinery not properly equipped with safeguards, according to WorkSafeBC.
Vitacore Industries Inc. was incorporated in May 2020, just two months after the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic.
The company currently operates two manufacturing facilities in Burnaby, one at 5085 North Fraser Way and another at 8518 Glenlyon Parkway.
“The company is committed to keeping Canadians safe by creating a new standard of PPE products and is constantly innovating to develop best in class, ethical products for the health and safety of our communities,” stated a September 2020 Vitacore news release.
When it comes to worker safety, however, reports obtained by the NOW through a freedom of information request outline numerous violations in the company’s past.
On June 28, 2022, a machine operator was working at a mask manufacturing machine when they tried to pull and adjust the material between two rollers, according to a June 30, 2022 WorkSafe report.
The worker was caught between the rollers and sustained “serious injury,” but the specific nature of the injury or the part of the worker caught between the rollers was redacted for privacy reasons, according to WorkSafe.
A WorkSafe investigation into the accident found the machine’s moving parts hadn’t been properly covered.
“Based on the preliminary investigation, the rollers on the mask manufacturing machine were not adequately safeguarded and easily accessible by a worker,” states the report. “In addition to the unguarded rollers, I also observed gears and sprockets that were also easily accessible to the workers.”
It wasn’t the first time a worker had been caught in one of the company’s machines or the first time Vitacore had been warned about inadequate safeguarding.
Within one six-month period in 2021, at least six workers had been caught in machinery and injured at the company’s Glenlyon plant, according to another WorkSafe report.
An inspector found numerous contraventions of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation at the Glenlyon facility, including inadequate safeguarding on machines, inadequate lockout procedures for workers who have to clear jammed materials and no orientation or training for new and young workers on safeguarding or un-jamming machines.
The inspector who investigated the June 28, 2022 incident at Vitacore’s North Fraser facility noted similar machines were used at both plants.
In September, WorkSafe issued the company a $13,154.99 fine for “repeated violations.”
The fine has not yet been paid, but WorkSafe said Vitacore has since complied with all the orders it made to remedy the safety problems.
Vitacore has not responded to multiple requests for comment.