The Regional District of Central Kootenay may be fined by WorkSafeBC unless it picks up the pace of hazardous materials assessments on its buildings

Hurry up risk assessments, RDCK told

WorkSafeBC is concerned the Regional District of Central Kootenay is dragging its feet on assessing its buildings for hazardous materials.

WorkSafeBC is concerned the Regional District of Central Kootenay is dragging its feet on assessing its buildings for hazardous materials following an order issued in early 2012.

Regional district administrator Brian Carruthers told the board Thursday that although a four-year inspection plan was developed, very little has been done with it.

He said the workplace safety watchdog appears to be on the verge of fining the local government unless assurances are provided that action is being taken.

“They are aware we have a long-term plan, but we’re already a year and a half into it with nothing done,” Carruthers said. “I get the sense if we don’t move forward in a demonstrative fashion we could be issued a penalty that will not be small.”

He added the lack of assessments was due to “apprehension or reluctance by the board” that filtered to down to staff. At the time, concerns were raised over whether the regional district was being singled out, and at the potential costs of remediation work.

WorkSafeBC ordered the RDCK to prepare an asbestos inventory of all its buildings after vermiculate was discovered in the walls of the Castlegar recreation complex during a boiler upgrade. Although the RDCK outlined in writing how it intended to comply with the order, no money was budgeted for it and only a few assessments have been carried out.

In the case of the Nelson and District Community Complex, that lack of knowledge delayed repairs when a portion of the aquatic centre’s ceiling collapsed in January.

Although no asbestos exposure was found, “we are closed longer than we need to be,” recreation commission chair Ramona Faust said. “Haz-mat removal takes more time and money than simply ripping down the tiles and putting up a new ceiling … The assessment is key to knowing your risks and what kind of operation you’ll need if you modify a building.”

The pool isn’t expected to reopen until June at the earliest.

Assessments have also been done on the North Shore and South Slocan halls, where renovations are underway, on the Creston recreation complex before the WorkSafe order was issued, and at several transfer stations, landfill sites, and water utility buildings.

The biggest outstanding reviews are on the Castlegar rec complex, where the drywall, flooring, and insulation can’t be altered without further violating WorkSafeBC rules, and the regional district’s Nelson headquarters.

The board heard last week that risk assessments wouldn’t all require drilling into walls or other physical analysis — they could be based on a building’s age or construction methods — nor would the discovery of hazardous materials automatically trigger remediation work.

Directors passed a resolution asking staff to provide a report next month outlining the outstanding requirements and budget implications to comply with WorkSafeBC’s order.

“I’d like to know what the potential costs are going to be, what the timeline may be, and where we’re vulnerable,” said chair John Kettle, who previously expressed concern that ripping into old buildings could expose problems that would cost millions to fix.

The issue cropped up after Carruthers and RDCK health and safety officer Ann Fisher met last month with WorkSafeBC. Fisher wrote “the officers focused on the assistance they could provide, working with us to achieve compliance and reiterating compliance is not optional.”

She also noted the number of orders being written for RDCK worksites is increasing. Recently they have been issued in Riondel, Yahk, and Nelson.

However, WorkSafeBC’s Megan Johnston told the Star there “has been no consideration of a penalty or other sanction,” over the slow pace of hazard assessments. “This is an ongoing compliance matter,” she said.

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