WorkSafe fines Vernon School District
The Vernon School District has been handed a hefty fine for failing to keep its workers safe.
WorkSafe BC has fined the district $75,000 following an investigation into asbestos management.
“This employer failed to ensure that its workers were made aware of potential health and safety hazards to which they were likely to be exposed by their work,” states the WorkSafe notice. “The employer failed to effectively identify asbestos-containing material (ACM) in its workplaces with signs, labels, or other means. It also allowed workers to work in areas contaminated with ACM or potential ACM without taking necessary precautions and without providing training in how to recognize these hazards. These were high-risk violations.”
According to Superintendent Joe Rogers: “The school district has an employer’s responsibility for maintaining a safe workplace and is committed to conducting its operations and managing its facilities in a manner that protects health and safety. As stated in the Worksafe BC penalty, the district has failed in a number of areas. The district is working to address all of these deficiencies.”
Since 2015, the district has added a new Health and Safety Officer position. The district has completed asbestos assessments of all of the district owned facilities and has identified areas containing asbestos. The district has prepared and implemented an asbestos exposure control plan which includes training for employees and processes to ensure a healthy and safe workplace.
The school district has a number of older and aging facilities. As it continues to maintain, renovate, or replace these buildings, it needs to ensure the asbestos control plan is followed. Ideally the district will eliminate all ACM from its facilities as buildings are renovated or replaced. Anyone repairing, renovating or demolishing older buildings is at risk if asbestos is touched or moved and the fibres are released into the air.
“While the district’s priority is on student learning, the district needs to ensure we have healthy and safe learning and working conditions. The district is working to control the risks and hazards in our workplaces and working to improve health and safety overall,” said Rogers.
All employees have a right to a healthy and safe workplace, a right to safety training and orientation, and the right to refuse unsafe work, the district states. Employees also play an important role and have a responsibility to make sure they, and their fellow workers, stay healthy and safe on the job. Everyone has varying levels of responsibility for workplace health and safety.
“The district is striving to minimize any health and safety risks through effective engineering, management controls, and health and safety programs,” said Rogers. “While the district has been improving our health and safety programs and processes, we still have areas for improvement. By everyone working together, we can achieve our district’s commitment to maintain healthy and safe learning and working conditions.”