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Huge fine for Vernon school district upheld

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October 19, 2018 - 11:00 AM

VERNON - School District 22 in Vernon's reserve will remain depleted by a $628,000 fine by WorksafeBC, after losing an appeal last month.

The fine is the result of charges filed by WorksafeBC over the lack of proper safety precautions in dealing with asbestos while renovating of the building now housing the Open Door Learning Centre on 30 Street in downtown Vernon.

“We have paid the fine to Worksafe and we can ensure that all student are staff are in a safe environment,” Maritza Reilly, executive assistand and communications coordinator for the school district said this week.

A Sept. 27 decision upheld by the Workers' Compensation Appeal Tribunal upheld the fine. The tribunal heard that facilities managers did consider asbestos in the 2016 renovations but relied on incomplete information to presume all asbestos was removed in a previous renovation. They didn't test for asbestos and it was discovered, leading to the fine for breaching safety obligations.

The district appealed both the fine and the amount of the fine but couldn't establish that it "took all reasonable care to ensure that the worksite was free of asbestos" before work began and the fine amount was appropriate. 

In an earlier story, it was reported that the district had $1 million in reserves.

While paying this fine drew down those reserves significantly, “we’re certain we’re OK,” Reilly said.

Reserves are built up if there are annual surpluses so the time it takes to replenish those reserves will depend on future surpluses.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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