Vernon school district fined $75K for failed asbestos management

John Hernandez - CBC News, October 21, 2016

Vernon school district fined for improper asbestos management

The Vernon's School District has been fined $75,000 for exposing workers to asbestos without training and without their knowledge.

An investigation launched by WorkSafeBC found School District 22 failed to effectively identify asbestos-containing material in the workplace and allowed work to be performed in contaminated areas without providing the necessary training.

Following the year-long investigation, WorkSafeBC levied fines after citing several incidents related to poor asbestos management.

"There were a number of deficiencies in our asbestos control management plan," secretary treasurer Sterling Olsen told host Chris Walker on CBC's Daybreak South.

Olsen says prior to the investigation, the district didn't have a health and safety issue and there wasn't enough focus and priority on its asbestos management.

"We just weren't taking care of business the way that we should have," he said, adding he's unsure at this point whether there were any long-term health effects endured by either students or staff.

According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, long-term exposure to the hazardous fibre can increase risks of lung cancer and lead to the development of asbestosis - a chronic lung disease.

Un-budgeted Loss​

Olsen says the district has responded by hiring a health and safety specialist and will continue to work with WorkSafeBC to develop adequate asbestos training for employees.

The fine will come out of the school's yearly operating budget.

"It's an expense that will need to be covered," said Olsen. "That means we don't have that money to spend on something else."

School District 22 is the third school district since 2011 to be fined for its asbestos management program.

WorkSafeBC says the $75,000 fine will be directed to the province's Workers Compensation Fund.

To learn more about the health risks associated with asbestos exposure, visit the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety's guide on asbestos

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