Sunday, May 29, 2011

Does Someone Have to Die...

Good morning everyone. For those of you that read my blog as part of your normal routine I must apologize. I will not be funny (at least funny HaHa) nor will it be about World of Warcraft. I promise I will write something lighter next week. For those that know me in real life, it will be about my pet peeve. Over the last two days this topic has been keeping me up at night. I no longer can keep it in.

I usually start this rant with the question - In Ontario what do you think are the most dangerous jobs? After some guiding I usually get them to say miner, steel worker, high altitude construction worker. Yes they are dangerous jobs, however; there are rules and regulations that police these occupations and violating these rules can get an individual person a fine of up to $100,000 and a couple years in jail.

"No", I say, what I was looking for was "High School Teacher". Their faces tilt like a Doberman Pincher. I give them a moment to try and figure it out. I then help them out by saying, "It is the occupation that routinely ignores all of the various safety legislations and inserts untrained individuals into situations because they feel they are above the law." "The occupation that feels that nothing bad can ever happen to them because they are in a school and that their Union is awesome."

I have touched on schools before in my blog, if you cannot remember my pearls of wisdom you can re-read them. My suggested order is 'What a Week', The Title', 'Smouldering' and finally 'Statement of the Day'.

I have been in the environmental manangement industry for 24 years and my job function has evolved to where for the past 10 years or so I have been consulting with customers on health & safety matters, fire code concerns and yes even environmental management legislation. Over the past 5 years I have been working with a couple of school boards because they realized that they were so far behind. The problem is the teachers are fighting any proposed changes to make them compliant tooth and nail. "Why?" they ask, "We shouldn't be subject to this." "We are teachers, this is outrageous."

Wow, what I have seen would get a normal business fined and potentially shutdown, but in a school it will go totally undetected. Why? Because the Ministry of Labour or the Ministry of Environment won't go into a Ministry of Education governed institution. That would make the government look bad.

Christ, I have even been reading a document from the Science Teachers Association of Ontario that blatantly tells teachers they can dump hazardous waste down the drain. Any other company caught doing this would be crucified. But it's ok you see. They have a disclaimer stating that all of the opinions are those of the writers and not the association and you shouldn't necessarily follow what they are saying. I have witnessed it, I was at a school picking up some other waste when I saw a teacher pouring a tray of liquid down the drain. I asked what he was doing and he replied, "The STAO guide tells me this is OK."

We have tried to get into other school boards to handle their hazardous wastes and are told they don't create any. That they treat it and pour it down the drain. Hmmm, any other company that does that needs a Certificate of Approval (license) for both the treatment of the waste and the discharge of the resultant material to the sewer. Why are they any different? They are not. They are governed by regulations. They are considered an industrial establishment. They consider themselves - above the law.

Why now? Why am I ranting again on this subject? Oddly enough last Friday I was at my favourite school board for an update. My contact is valiantly fighting what I think is a losing battle. She wanted to implement some more procedures and the teachers are saying, 'no'. God, I feel like I am the Jamie Oliver of safety. I am trying so hard but nobody gets it. She said I will have to go back into the schools in the fall to do another inspection. She then says, we will probably have to extend the inspections to the shop and art departments.

"Why?", I ask. She tells me about the death in Ottawa of the shop student. She says, "You were right." I hadn't heard, I have been so busy the last week or so I usually do my news catch up on weekends. My heart sinks. I remember last summer in the midst of the threats from the teachers regarding my reports on their unsafe practices, I told my contact, "Does someone have to die before they will change?" Now someone has. My heart goes out to the family and friends of the student that passed away. To the other students that witnessed the incident and were hurt.

So now the Ministry of Labour is involved. However; my gut feeling is that nothing will become of this tradegy. They will chalk it up to an unfortunate accident. The chance to send a message lost. That poor student will have died in vain. Sure the Board will say it is going to review procedures and nothing will change.

From what I have seen in some schools, this is what should happen.

The teacher should be charged with criminal negligence causing death. Cutting into a used drum is one of the stupidest acts on the planet. However; instructing someone to do it is negligent and criminal.

Then the Ministry of Labour should inspect every school in the province and fine the teachers, the Union and Boards like they would any other business in Ontario. The debt of the province would be gone with all this extra cash. Oh wait, my tax dollars would most likely be paying these fines and I think this is an election year. So again I fear - Nothing will change.

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