School district fined

School district fined

School District No. 83 (North Okanagan-Shuswap) has been fined by WorkSafe BC as it determined an SD83 contractor, who installed security shutters at Bastion Elementary, did not follow an agreed to work plan and breached a WorkSafe work practice for handling asbestos.

SD83 management is asking for a review of this decision and wants to assure the public that the district is committed to providing a safe and healthy learning and working environment for its students and staff. Superintendent of Schools Donna Kriger wants to reassure the Bastion School community that there was no potential threat to students and school-based staff as the work was being done over Winter Break.

Due to repeated vandalism at the Bastion Elementary School, the SD83 Operations Department determined that protective security shutters would be installed to mitigate further damage.

A contractor for the project was selected based on the selection criteria of experience and price to supply and install the security shutters. Part of the contract award process was a full review of the hazardous materials survey including information regarding the potential presence of asbestos. The work was contracted out, and due to the potential presence of asbestos, a hazardous material survey was conducted in accordance with District policy.

During the pre-work planning meeting between district staff and the contractor, and after completion of the hazardous material survey, the district management team developed and communicated the specific work plan the external contractor was to follow during the installation. Regrettably the external contractor did not adhere to the agreed work plan and undertook unauthorized work, which involved drilling three small holes (three-eights of an inch in diameter) in areas that were not properly assessed.  As a result, a potentially serious incident occurred, and SD83 safe work procedures were not adhered to.

A district trades person who had been assigned to the project immediately identified that the contractor had deviated from the agreed to work plan. Senior Management was notified, immediate steps were taken to secure the area (including engaging a qualified hazardous material remediation contractor), and WorkSafe BC was informed.

Samples were taken from the disturbed area and forwarded to a qualified laboratory to determine if asbestos was present.  Laboratory reports have confirmed that no asbestos was disturbed during this event. As an added precaution, both areas of potential exposure were contained and thoroughly cleaned by the qualified hazardous material remediation contractor.

After conducting an investigation, WorkSafe BC assessed a significant penalty of $204,814.95 against SD83.  It should be noted that the district has requested WorkSafe review this decision due to concerns regarding accuracy of evidence relied upon to determine the penalty. 

SD83 is committed to providing a safe environment for all staff and students. After a similar incident occurred at a different facility several years ago, the Board of Education and senior leadership demonstrated their commitment to Health and Safety by creating and funding the position of a Health and Safety Coordinator with Canadian Registered Safety Professional (CRSP) designation, which came into being in 2019.

“It is clear additional steps are necessary to prevent any future contractor noncompliance with district policy.  District leadership has engaged a review of our safety management system specifically focused on contractor adherence to SD83 policy as well as our asbestos management program.  We apologize for any angst this has caused and intend to learn from this experience and improve our safety management systems,” adds Kriger.