WCB issues orders following FRCC fire that injured 19 officers

The Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) has issued three orders after a WCB Occupational Safety Officer found serious violations of health and safety regulations at the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre (FRCC). 

The WCB inspection was conducted following a fire at the prison on January 20. The WCB officer found health and safety violations concerning equipment, training and procedures. 

Equipment: the WCB officer found the employer failed to provide appropriate personal protective clothing and equipment appropriate to the hazards. The protective masks provided by BC Corrections did not meet the required standard, and made it unsafe for Correctional Officers to enter the scene of the fire.

Training: The WCB inspection found the employer failed to train workers effectively on fire rescue and evacuation procedures. As a result, Correctional Officers entered the fire zone without the required training to protect themselves and the inmates.

General Duties of Employers: Health and safety regulations require employers to provide workers with the information, training and supervision necessary to ensure the health and safety of workers. This was not the case at FRCC. The investigation by the WCB officer found:

  • Workers were permitted to enter a fire or smoke affected area without proper respirators
  • Workers were permitted to enter a fire or smoke affected area without appropriate training
  • Breathing respirators are no longer available at this workplace. Instead, cheap non-form fitting masks are provided by the employer. These masks are not appropriate and created a false sense of safety for the workers
  • The local fire department will not enter a non-secured building where the potential of injury is presented by unsecured inmates
  • The employer’s procedures for evacuating inmates does not prioritize different methods for evacuation or provide a contingency plan in case other hazards are present at the time of evacuation (for example: another fire, unruly inmates, a gas leak).

BC Corrections has been given until April 21, 2016 to comply with the orders written by the WCB.  The employer must:

1.    Have an assessment conducted by a qualified person to determine the effectiveness and limitations to the one fire extinguisher rule. 
2.    Amend their written procedures for the use of fire extinguishers to address the outcome above, and to provide workers with appropriate training on the new procedures.
3.    Amend procedures for the evacuation of inmates from a fire or smoke affected area, and provide the workers with proper training and instruction on the amended procedures.

“The WCB has uncovered significant violations that put the health and safety of our members at risk,” says Dean Purdy, BCGEU vice president Corrections and Sheriff Services – Component 1. “We will wait for the report from BC Corrections to see what they have done to ensure that FRCC has addressed these violations and that the prison’s equipment, training and procedures are in full compliance with health and safety regulations.”

If you require any further information on this incident, or have some personal OHS concerns please contact your OHS department at ohs@bcgeu.ca

Click here to read the full WCB Inspection Report on the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre.