A story has surfaced in the BC media of allegations that safety may have been compromised for workers hired to clean ash that was generated in the Fort McMurray wild fires. The allegations of one employee from BC are of great concern.
According to news reports, the man was hired by a cleaning company to remove ash from inside apartments, after which he became ill with “inflamed bronchi.” Symptoms included coughing, spitting up ash and sweating. He believes that workers may have been exposed to dangerous materials like ozone gas, asbestos and arsenic. The gas was allegedly generated by ozone generators during the operation.
He says that the employer did not provide any safety directions nor was any safety equipment advised such as a respirator, gloves or face mask, although apparently masks were sitting on tables without instructions for use. Apparently he engaged in an argument about work conditions with the employer, which ended with law enforcement intervention. The worker has since filed a complaint with Alberta Occupational Health and Safety, known as OHS, the provincial government agency responsible for work safety law enforcement.
Canadian employers are required to provide safe workplaces by federal and provincial work safety laws. The Alberta OHS recommends that employers involved in Fort McMurray fire cleanup provide commonsense safety equipment like “respirators, coveralls, gloves and protective eyewear, depending on the nature of the work,” according to the Vancouver Sun.
Any worker facing these conditions in a Fort McMurray cleanup job or in any other potentially dangerous workplace should speak with an employment lawyer to understand what legal processes are available to remedy the situation and potentially to recover damages, including a possible workers’ compensation claim.
Likewise, any employer that wants to comply with federal and provincial health and safety laws should seek legal counsel for guidance and to understand the legal safety requirements. Similarly, a lawyer can conduct a workplace investigation on behalf of an employer if necessary or help the employer to respond to any health and safety complaints, including a workers’ compensation or other legal claim, or to a government inquiry.