RDOS opens up on safety

Key documents, meant to address shortcomings discovered during a local government’s safety audit, have finally been made public.

Key documents, including a 58-point action plan meant to address shortcomings discovered during a local government’s safety audit, have finally been made public.

The action plan was created by Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen staff after learning in May the organization did not meet the requirements to renew a Certificate of Recognition that triggered $31,000 in savings on WorkSafeBC premiums over three years.

The COR program is voluntary and goes beyond minimum safety regulations established by law.

RDOS administrators told elected officials about the audit results in August, and later released only copies of the audit report’s executive summary from which names of peripheral organizations, such as volunteer fire departments and recreation commissions, had been redacted.

Newspapers  were advised to file freedom of information requests for the full report.

The executive summary cited the lack of a single safety management system across all RDOS operations as the main reason for not renewing the certificate, and was the basis for articles in the Western News and the Keremeos Review.

Tom Siddon, the director for Okanagan Falls-Kaleden, told colleagues at a committee meeting Thursday the articles prompted calls from members of peripheral organizations who complained they only learned of the audit results through the media.

“The two headlines were: ‘RDOS fails safety audit,’ and secondly, ‘RDOS official blames voluntary groups for the shortcoming.’ I know that’s not what happened, but that’s the perception that a simple headline can produce,” Siddon said.

The RDOS scored 55 per cent on the audit, but needed 80 per cent to achieve recertification.

Earlier this month, Siddon urged RDOS administrators to release the full report to set the record straight.

The document and its accompanying action plan were finally released Thursday.

The to-do list includes ensuring first-aid attendants write reports after treating workers, creating safe work procedures for all pieces of equipment like sweepers and mowers, and numerous suggestions relating to the functioning of safety committees.

Penticton Mayor Garry Litke, also an RDOS director, noted it’s “a very ambitious action plan,” but “it obviously can’t happen without resources.”

Chief administrative officer Bill Newell said directors might need to consider hiring someone to help with implementation.

“Everyone’s struggling for resources. To fulfill the requirement for record-keeping and statistics-keeping and meetings… is onerous,” he said.

“And while we strive to do that, in some of our completely volunteer or independent parts of our operations, it’s not quite as high a priority or they don’t have quite the same capabilities of doing that.”

Newell also explained that although the RDOS was told by the same auditor in 2010 that it needed to establish a comprehensive safety system, it decided to skip that recommendation.

“We didn’t want to impose our rules on really volunteer fire departments and employees of recreation commissions that had other priorities, he said, before reiterating that the auditor placed blame with RDOS administrators, not the peripheral departments.

“He’s saying, administratively we did not do our job imposing a single safety management system throughout the organization. We take that personally,” Newell said.

Check the Western News next week for a full story on the report from the safety audit.