January 23, 2015 - 4:29 PM
VERNON — Interior Health Authority is fighting a $75,000 fine imposed by WorkSafe B.C. for exposing its workers to toxic substances.
The fine was issued Sept. 19, 2014, three years after WorkSafe first inspected the Vernon Jubilee Hospital diagnostic laboratory and deemed its ventilation system inadequate. Workers were exposed to formaldehyde and other toxic substances, and suffered a variety of adverse health effects due to working in the lab, WorkSafe stated in a recent penalties report.
WorkSafe ordered a complete overhaul of the ventilation system, but as of Jan. 2014, following repeated inspections, Interior Health had not completed the necessary work. WorkSafe called the health authority’s failure to maintain the ventilation system a repeated and high-risk violation. Interior Health is appealing the fine.
Terry Brent, director of lab operations, says a number of short and long-term changes were implemented to ensure the lab was safe for employees.
“The long-term plan was to upgrade the ventilation system,” Brent says. “While we were going through that process, we moved part of the work to another lab to ensure there were fewer chemicals on site and less risk of exposure. We provided additional personal protective equipment to employees.”
She says regular testing—at least annually and whenever a change is made—always came back showing the lab was safe.
Renovations to the lab were completed as of November 2014, with the last of the upgrades wrapping up this January, Brent says.
While she’s aware of an undisclosed number of reports filed by employees expressing safety concerns, Brent says to her knowledge, none suffered adverse health effects. Due to the appeal process, she wouldn’t say how many employees came forward.
“The workers are working in a safe environment and the safety of our workers is very important to us,” Brent says.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015