The Ontario Ministry of Labour has issued 23 orders to the Amherstburg Fire Department stemming from complaints filed earlier this year with the town stating work is already underway to comply.
The Ministry of Labour states it received two health and safety complaints with respect to Amherstburg Fire Department. Those complaints were originally filed Feb. 4.
Ministry spokesperson William Lin said that following an investigation, a Ministry of Labour inspector issued 23 orders to the Amherstburg Fire Department June 23.
Lin stated via e-mail that the orders include a need to update the workplace violence and harassment policies, conduct a risk assessment related to violence, post the policies and to provide appropriate information and instruction to employees in this regard; to establish a Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) with workers selected by their peers representing at least half of the members; to maintain Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), with specific reference to firefighter pants and firefighter jacket turnout coats; to provide training regarding Workplace Hazardous Materials (WHMIS training); and to provide training regarding the duties of a supervisor, the Occupational Health and Safety Act and with respect to Fire Department Operational Guidelines
The investigation is ongoing, the ministry added.
In a report to town council, acting CAO Tony DeThomasis broke down the orders with five pertaining to personal protective equipment (PPE), one pertaining to the training of workers on duties of a supervisor and knowledge of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, three pertaining to training on operational guidelines, one pertaining to WHMIS training, one order requiring the town to submit a compliance plan of how and when the town plans to comply with PPE, seven orders pertaining to Joint Health and Safety Committee in terms of establishing committees at each workplace and five orders pertaining to workplace violence and harassment in terms of reviewing the policy, risk assessment and training.
“Administration has taken all necessary steps since in receipt of the orders in an effort to mitigate further risk and liability to the volunteer firefighters, Town of Amherstburg and the surrounding community,” DeThomasis stated in the report. “Council can be assured that administration has taken a proactive and aggressive approach in bringing all three fire stations into compliance.”
DeThomasis, who is filling in for the vacationing John Miceli, said the Ministry of Labour did not impose any fines with the 23 orders. He added that administration has prioritized the purchase and replacement of bunker gear, with the operational and capital budgets being reviewed to find where the necessary costs can be absorbed.
The town has also hired consultant Rick Taggart to work with interim chief Al Reaume “to provide inspections and guidance through the process to ensure that the town is meeting or exceeding the requirements of the Ministry of Labour.”
Reaume told town council Monday night that orders with a July 9 deadline have already been completed with those with a July 29 deadline being worked on. He said he is confident all orders will be addressed by that time and council has requested a progress report from him at the July 13 meeting.
Councillor Diane Pouget sad she was grateful to the ministry for giving the orders so that the fire department could be in compliance and “the two firefighters who brought it to the ministry’s attention.” Councillor Leo Meloche asked if lessons learned through these orders could translate to other departments to ensure all of the town’s operations are running as they should.
Manager of human resources Michelle Rose noted that workplace violence and harassment policies as well as JHSC policies could be used in other areas as well.
“Definitely, the recommendations we are carrying out can be used town-wide,” she said.
Reaume added that 23 sets of bunker gear need to be replaced and the exact cost of that won’t be known until all firefighters have been measured and the equipment ordered. New bunker gear needs to be ordered with rental sets costing $85 per week. The 23 new sets are unbudgeted, he told council.
“Those quotes will be in U.S. dollars,” he added.
Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said the town is always looking for ways to comply with health and safety regulations and the orders help clarify weaknesses and help make changes with regards to health and safety.
DiCarlo added Reaume had already been working to resolve many of the orders when he met with him last week.
“He continues to move quickly,” said DiCarlo.
The town now understands there are issues surrounding documentation and they have learned from that. Having human resources more involved and the restructuring of administration to have the chief report to the CAO helps address other issues, DiCarlo stated.