Gibraltar Mines workers lend skills to protect Carboo Memorial Hospital’s staff from COVID

Haley Ramier, loss prevention summer student at Gibraltar Mines Ltd., left, fit tests the respiratory mask of Rod Randel, general forman, mill ectrical, (Gabrielle Pierce photo)
(Gabrielle Pierce photo)
(Gabrielle Pierce photo)

Sandra Harnish

Special to the Tribune

The health and safety of our workforce is more than a priority, it is a core value. Priorities change, our commitment to safety doesn’t. During these unprecedented times, Gibraltar remains committed to the safety of our employees, their families, and the communities in which we operate.

In March 2020, COVID-19 began to impact Canadians and British Columbians. In response, Gibraltar immediately enacted additional mitigation measures to be proactive in reducing the risk of the virus spreading in the workplace. Safety protocols at site were enhanced, even more than typical.

Prior to COVID-19, Gibraltar enforced a policy that required all staff and visitors to wear respirators in the mill. Typical in industrial settings, respirators protect users from airborne hazards that may be present — dust, silica, chemicals, gases, or vapors. These same respirators are also effective against airborne illnesses — such as COVID-19.

In order for respirators to be as effective as possible, proper fit testing is required. In late 2018, the method of fit testing performed at Gibraltar changed. The site moved from qualitative fit testing, which relies on the wearer’s sense of taste or smell, to quantitative fit testing, using a device which measures the particles inside and outside of the mask to measure the exact fit. This new approach allows multiple masks be tested for each worker and provides the most reliable protection.

Read more: GUEST COLUMN: Take care with non-medical cloth masks during COVID-19

Gibraltar’s fit testing process is very reliable.

Cariboo Memorial Hospital requested Gibraltar’s assistance with their respiratory protection program. COVID-19 presented the dual challenge of having to protect both the patient and the health care professional.

Gibraltar’s safety team was pleased to provide fit testing equipment and a qualified trainer for two days of testing with doctors, surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, and COVID-unit personnel.

A total of 41 tests were performed for full face and half mask respirators, as well as education about the care and maintenance of tight-fitting respirators. In addition, Gibraltar donated additional face masks to the Cariboo Memorial Hospital.

Later in the spring, when dental surgeries resumed, the dentists and staff from Cariboo Dental Clinic and Dr. Dickens’ office requested fit testing for full-face respirators. Once again, Gibraltar’s team set up at the Cariboo Memorial Hospital and performed 10 more fit tests.

Gibraltar is proud of the robust Respiratory Protection program we have in place for our workforce, and proud to share it with the healthcare workers that take care of our families.

Read more: COVID-19 infection rate among B.C. paramedics almost zero

Sandra Harnish is the coordinator, loss prevention at Gibraltar Mine