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Statement from BC Hydro President and CEO Chris O’Riley on Third-Party Report to BC Utilities Commission

Earlier this year, we shared the results of our third-party investigation into what caused the fire and explosion in the underground electrical vault in downtown Vancouver in February. It was determined the fire and explosion were caused by a build-up of combustible gases from a leaking gasket in the lid of an oil-filled switch. The leak was caused using incompatible materials when the gasket was repaired and maintained over time. Through our own investigation, we also uncovered that the serious public and worker safety risks associated with this piece of equipment in the event of a failure had been identified in 2016.

This incident should not have happened, and we take full responsibility for what occurred. We sincerely apologize to the individuals who were injured and to the businesses that were impacted, as well as those who live or work nearby and our employees.

In July, the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) directed us to proceed with an independent third-party report examining the root cause of the fire and explosion, our safety and asset management practices as well as work procedures and quality control processes. We were fully supportive of this direction and worked to ensure we provided the panel with access to interviews with members of our executive team, senior leaders and other employees, and transparent access to all information required to complete its report.

The Independent Panel recognizes BC Hydro’s commitment to safety; however, it is clear from its findings that we have more work to do. This incident provides an opportunity for internal learning, change, growth and re-evaluation. The Independent Panel’s report provides valuable insights into the conditions that allowed this incident to occur and practical recommendations. We will be developing a plan to implement the recommendations which will be overseen by myself and the Chair of BC Hydro’s Board of Directors.

The Independent Panel’s Report is part of a larger response that BC Hydro has initiated in response to the incident. Since the incident occurred, BC Hydro has:

  • Decommissioned the remaining underground vaults with oil-filled equipment that were identified as risks in 2016.
  • Immediately stopped the use of silicone on the gaskets of insulating equipment and we have since procured replacement gaskets and sealant that have been tested to ensure compatibility.
  • Completed a review of our distribution street vault equipment including a risk assessment, mitigation plans to address any identified priority risks and an update to our asset management strategy. This was conducted by BBA Engineering Ltd, an independent consultant with a wide breadth of relevant experience.

We also intend to produce semi-annual progress reports, which we will file with the BCUC to provide updates on our progress until implementation of the recommendations is complete.

As an organization, we are committed to fully learning from this incident so that we can improve and prevent such an event from ever happening again. Public and worker safety has and always will be our top priority. And, while the incident in February does not reflect that, we are committed to making sure public and employee safety come first.

BC Hydro Media Relations
p. 604 928 6468