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Naramata fire chief questions shortcomings in safety audit
Naramata’s new fire chief is puzzled by a lack of paperwork that was partly responsible for a local government not making the grade on a voluntary safety audit.
The third-party audit of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen in April included interviews with 25 employees, plus site visits to eight peripheral organizations like the Kaleden and Naramata fire halls and the Keremeos recreation centre.
The auditor’s report notes the RDOS scored most poorly on overall safety program administration, including a finding that “although regular meetings and safety discussions are scheduled, an average of only 53 per cent are completed as required.”
At the Naramata fire hall, the auditor discovered “a critical lack of documentation of equipment maintenance.”
“Maintenance logs for seven vehicles ... were reviewed and no entries had been made since 2011. Ladder certifications expired in March 2012 and were not yet scheduled for 2013,” the auditor wrote.
Naramata fire chief Tony Trovao disputes the findings.
“There definitely was some documentation that they said wasn’t provided, but it was here. It was just a matter of asking for it,” said Trovao, who was named chief in September and wasn’t present for the audit.
“With regard to trucks, they’re government-inspected every year. They don’t get insured unless they’re road-worthy,” he continued, noting their upkeep is “mechanically perfect.”
Auditor Dean Sinclair said in an interview he could only score the department based on the paperwork presented to him.
“I’m not saying those records didn’t exist; I’m just saying I didn’t see them,” said Sinclair.
Karla Kozakevich, the RDOS director for Naramata, said despite the documentation issues, she has confidence in the fire department.
“It isn’t a concern to me in that I know we have a very safe and dedicated group of volunteers there,” Kozakevich said.
“Yes, in some categories we didn’t do a good enough job with record-keeping, so they do need to have some assistance from the RDOS.”
The report did note, however, that 24 of 25 workers interviewed were able to describe their health and safety responsibilities, while 22 of them also said supervisors lead by example. Site visits confirmed that.
“A supervisor at the water treatment plant and the OK Falls parks supervisor were observed wearing correct (personal protective equipment) and using seat belts while driving. At the fire departments, captains were wearing correct turn-out gear during the practice,” the report said.
“No supervisors were observed not leading by example.”
The voluntary audit cost the RDOS $10,815 and was a follow-up to one completed in 2010 through a program offered by the B.C. Municipal Safety Association.
The successful audit granted the RDOS a Certificate of Recognition that saved it $31,000 on WorkSafeBC premiums over the next three years. It was the first local government in B.C. to earn the distinction.
On the 2013 audit, however, the RDOS scored just 55 per cent, below the 80 per cent threshold for re-certification.
The RDOS initially refused to release the full audit report, but relented last week. Spokesman Andrew Stuckey then arranged to make administrators available for interviews Friday, but later rescinded the offer.
“Upon review of the article placed on the Western News website yesterday and published (Friday), I see little value in participating in (a) joint interview exercise this morning. I have conferred with my colleagues and they concur,” Stuckey wrote in an email.
He did not return calls seeking further explanation.
RDOS board chairman Mark Pendergraft acknowledged some staff and directors were upset by news articles stating the organization failed the voluntary audit.
“I guess it’s not totally inaccurate to say the RDOS failed the safety report, but it by no means portrays the regional district isn’t a safe place to work. It’s just that we haven’t met that extra standard, is all,” he said.
Pendergraft said staff are working on a 58-point action plan to address shortcomings identified by the audit, and the board will consider additional measures to support that work and its peripheral groups during budget deliberations this winter.
“The regional district does truly value all the volunteers in all the organizations that are out there and helping us,” Pendergraft added.
The audit report is available with the online version of this story at www.pentictonwesternnews.com.