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WorkSafe defends its actions

Provincial agency has fined the Vernon School District over safety infractions

A provincial agency is taking aim at the Vernon School District.

WorkSafeBC is countering comments from the school district over a $628,034 fine for violating the occupational health and safety regulation.

“This penalty is the result of a repeat, high-risk violation for exposing workers to asbestos, which is a known carcinogen,” said Scott McCloy, media relations director.

The penalty is linked to work done on a leased property renovated in May 2016 for the district’s Open Door Learning Centre.

District officials insist they didn’t know there was asbestos in the building but WorkSafeBC says the penalty relates to an inspection June 21, 2016 at the Open Door centre.

“A prevention officer issued three orders to the district for allowing workers to perform work that could or did disturb asbestos-containing material, or potentially asbestos-containing material, without necessary precautions to protect workers and failure to ensure that a qualified person inspected the worksite to identify hazardous materials,” said McCloy.

“These orders resulted in a recommendation for a penalty due to the repeat and high-risk nature of the infractions.”

McCloy also defends the size of the $628,034 penalty, pointing out that the district was also fined $75,000 in 2016 for asbestos violations.

“When certain factors are present, including violations that are high risk in nature or that represent repeat violations of a similar nature, such as what happened in Vernon, the resulting penalty calculations can now be at or near the statutory maximum,” he said.