Excerpt from the government of Ontario’s ‘Newsroom’
Pembroke Regional Hospital Inc. was fined a total of $60,000 for violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act after workers were not adequately protected against asbestos exposure.
On October 26, 2011, maintenance workers at the hospital drilled holes into a wall that was assumed to have asbestos in its drywall joint compound. The drill was not equipped with a HEPA filter, and while the workers were wearing masks, no other precautions were taken to protect them and other workers in the area from asbestos exposure. Also, the workers were not told they would be working in an area containing asbestos and they were not trained on the hazards of asbestos, the personal hygiene to be observed around the substance, or the care and disposal of protective equipment to be worn when doing the work.
Upon investigation, the Ministry of Labour also found that the supervisor who assigned the task did not have the required knowledge, training, or experience to identify work that could expose workers to asbestos or ensure the required safety measures and procedures were followed.
In a separate incident at the hospital between March 1 and April 15, 2012, workers drilled into a ceiling and removed ceiling tiles where friable material could have been laying. The workers were not given notice that the area they worked in could have asbestos-containing material and they took no precautions to protect themselves or other workers in the area.
Pembroke Regional Hospital Inc. pleaded guilty, as an owner, to failing to ensure that:
• workers were provided with information about the presence of asbestos
• workers were properly trained to work in an area containing asbestos material
Pembroke Regional Hospital Inc. pleaded guilty, as an employer, to failing to ensure that:
• A competent supervisor was appointed, with respect to the workplace, and
• Appropriate measures and procedures were used to protect workers from possible contact with asbestos-containing materials.The hospital was fined $15,000 for each violation.
The fines were imposed by Justice of the Peace Logue. In addition to the fines, the court imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge, as required by the Provincial Offences Act. The surcharge is credited to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime.
The law(s) in contravention:
Pembroke Regional Hospital was found guilty of a contravention under Ontario ‘Asbestos’ regulation 278/05, “Designated Substance — Asbestos On Construction Projects And In Buildings And Repair Operations.” (2 violations)
Pembroke Regional Hospital was also found guilty of violating section 25, subsection 2(c) of the OHSA which states,
“The employer shall,
(c) When appointing a supervisor, appoint a competent person.”
If only the hospital had read the competency standards as defined in the OHSA.
As a refresher for the readership I will review those standards and see why the hospital was at fault.
Under ‘definitions’ at the beginning of the OHSA we find,
“Competent person” means a person who,
(a) is qualified because of knowledge, training and experience to organize the work and its performance,
(b) is familiar with this Act and the regulations that apply to the work, and
(c) has knowledge of any potential or actual danger to health or safety in the workplace.”
Asbestos is a ‘Designated Substance’ in Ontario and has to be dealt with accordingly. In fact, Asbestos, in its natural form, can be dealt with under Ontario regulation 490/09, “Designated Substances” and in the construction, destruction, and demolition of buildings and sites, there is another Ontario regulation 278/05, ‘Asbestos on Construction Projects, in Buildings and Repair Operations.’ I guess because of possible asbestos violations it was decided to be dangerous enough to have two regulations. Either way, the hospital did not see fit to train their supervisor or research enough about the possibility of asbestos contamination.
Considering the high cost of healthcare with: Asbestosis, Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma, one wonders what the hospital was thinking.
Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”
HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Due Diligence’, ‘Asbestos Safety Awareness’ and ‘Standard Operating Procedures’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.
‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.
Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.