Ex-Iqaluit firefighter says new work schedules may jeopardize public safety

Tim Woodhouse says changes management has made to emergency personnel's work schedules could be dangerous.

Tim Woodhouse cites fatigue, high number of vacancies as possible problems

One ex-Iqaluit firefighter is saying changes management made to emergency personnel's work schedules could be dangerous.

"Working this schedule is really going to draw on the firefighters and make them fatigued," said Tim Woodhouse, who recently quit his job as an Iqaluit firefighter.

Ex-Iqaluit firefighter Tim Woodhouse says changes management have made to emergency personnel's work schedules could be dangerous. (submitted)

"[It] could possibly make them make a critical error on call because they are tired, they are working weird hours, they are going from day shifts to evening shifts to night shifts, not working all one or the other."

The new schedule has emergency personnel working five eight-hour day shifts with two days off, then five eight-hour night shifts with two days off, followed by five eight-hour overnight shifts and then three days off. Woodhouse says that's not enough time for members to properly rest.

The old schedule was four days on and then four days off, with two 10-hour day shifts, followed by two 14-hour overnight shifts.

The new schedule also calls for mandatory overtime for some staff, a situation that has been exacerbated by the department's current vacancies.

On top of all this, there is the expectation that all staff will respond to critical emergency situations. 

Woodhouse maintains that the workload is burning firefighters out. 

The department has lost three full-time employees in the last two months, including Woodhouse. He says he was already thinking about moving on from Iqaluit, but the change in schedules pushed him to make the move sooner.

He says more firefighters are also thinking of quitting.

"I know a few [firefighters] that are actually looking to leave now," said Woodhouse.

"I don't think they are going to keep too many people there long term. . . I think the Iqaluit Fire Department is going to be become very inexperienced."

We 'depend on them'

Woodhouse says that inexperience will mean slower response times and an even greater workload for the experienced members.

He says because all the department's training is on the job, when new staff are hired they are placed in a platoon with experienced firefighters that help train them.

Woodhouse says he has complete trust in the ability of the department's captains and lieutenants to properly train new staff but says with four or five vacancies all needing to be filled at the same time, it could jeopardize public safety.

"If they get in the first day and their training starts and then they get a fire call, we need to depend on them to do their job right away so the safety [for the public] for the first little while might be reduced," he said.

Woodhouse says management should listen to staff, see the problems in the schedule and back them up in demanding a return to the old schedule rather than "throwing us under the bus."

City officials say they have no comment on the concerns raised by Woodhouse.


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