Only weeks after being compelled to move staff out of the fire hall due to air quality concerns, the Town of Creston has been cited with three violations of the Occupational Safety Regulation by WorkSafeBC.
In a letter to Fire Chief Mike Moore, a WorkSafeBC official wrote:
“Further to our meeting on February 20, 2018, please find attached an Inspection Report and a Notice of Compliance. You will note that the Town of Creston has been cited for three violations of the Occupational Safety Regulation and for a violation of the Workers Compensation Act. A Notice of Compliance must be submitted to my attention on or before June 4, 2018.
“The Occupational Health & Safety Regulation requires that one copy of the attached inspection report remain posted in a conspicuous place at or near the operation inspected for at least seven days, or until compliance has been achieved, whichever is the longer period.”
“The issues about the facility aren’t really a surprise,” Mayor Ron Toyota said on Thursday. “The simple fact is that we have an inadequate fire hall and we had a plan in place to construct a new one that would meet all of the current regulations and standards. The defeat of the borrowing referendum has delayed our ability to resolve these issues.”
“The ‘detriments’ were known and this was the rationale for proposing a borrowing bylaw to address the requirement for upgraded facilities,” Town Manager Lou Varela said on Thursday morning. “While the borrowing referendum failed, the requirement to provide a safe and healthy working environment remains. The Advisory Select Committee is currently working towards recommendations for short and long term solutions. In the interim, the Town will be proceeding based on the 19 recommendations contained in the FireWise consulting report.”
The three orders issued under the Occupational Safety Regulation all relate directly to the antiquated facility:
• The employer has not ensured that a sufficient number of plumbed washroom facilities are readily available for workers.
This is in contravention of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation Section 4.85(1).
Except as provided by subsection (2), the employer must ensure that a sufficient number of plumbed washroom facilities are readily available for workers.
• The employer has failed to provide adequate wash facilities for a work process (firefighting) which could result in harm to a worker from contamination of the worker’s skin or clothing by a hazardous substance.
This is in contravention of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation Section 5.8] 2(1)(c).
If a work process may result in harm to a worker from contamination of the worker’s skin or clothing by a hazardous substance, the employer must provide adequate wash facilities.
• The employer has failed to provide firefighters with adequate change areas.
This is in contravention of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation Section 4.86.
If the employer requires the worker to change into protective work clothing at the workplace, the employer must ensure that adequate change areas are provided.
The fourth citation involves a requirement to have a health and safety committee specifically for fire department employees. The Town of Creston has a committee that includes all of its operations, but a specific committee is required for the fire hall:
• This employer has not established and maintained a joint health and safety committee in each workplace where 20 or more workers of the employer are regularly employed.
This is in contravention of the Workers Compensation Act Section 125 (a). An employer must establish and maintain a joint health and safety committee in each workplace where 20 or more workers of the employer are regularly employed.
Pursuant to Workers Compensation Act Division 4, the employer must post any order written under Division 4 and keep it posted for 12 months.
The Town of Creston must respond to the citations by June 4, 2018, with “a plan of what will be done to comply and when compliance will be achieved.
“Staff are currently working with an estimate of between $70k and $100k for temporary solutions,” Varela said. “This amount will be adjusted, as necessary, as work proceeds. Fiscal prudence will be balanced with the fact that solutions have a cost – this challenge is significant given we need to address this in a facility that is simply too small and not functional in terms of space requirements.”
Toyota said that is unlikely that Creston is unique in having an old fire hall that does not meet current standards.
“I think that these citations could do to fire halls around the province what the Fernie ice plant disaster did for hockey arenas—every community in BC has been scrambling to do inspections of their ice plant facilities and there will be a huge cost to taxpayers. This could open a huge can of worms. We live in a highly regulated world and that’s just something we taxpayers have to live with—there are no cheap shortcuts or quick fixes.”