The Northwest Territories government has been fined $115,000 after workers contracted to do repairs at Yellowknife's museum were exposed to asbestos without proper protection.
At one point a government supervisor held a meeting about the possibility of asbestos contamination in the room where the asbestos contamination was suspected, and none of the people in attendance was wearing protective clothing.
This is the second time in a year the territorial government has been fined under the Safety Act. In July 2014, the government was fined $75,000 and one of its contractors $7,500 in relation to a 2012 workplace accident on the Abraham Francis ferry near Fort McPherson, N.W.T.
The territory pleaded guilty to one charge under the Safety Act in relation to the incident at the museum. Charges against a supervisor with the Department of Public Works and Services were withdrawn.
The charges stemmed from repairs done after a December 2011 fire caused extensive damage to the kitchen and boiler room at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. A local company, Wilf's Renovations, was contracted to repair some of the damage.
The company sampled some of the drywall in some of the affected areas and found asbestos. In January 2012, the company removed that asbestos.
Later that year, the Department of Public Works and Services hired Central Mechanical Systems to replace the chimney that caught fire.
'Are you 100 per cent sure there is no asbestos?'
Before any work was done, Public Works tested a part of the chimney for asbestos and found none. But when CMS employees began removing parts of the old chimney, they suspected some of the drywall contained asbestos.
Court documents state that one employee wrote an email to a supervisor with Public Works stating "I know this was discussed before, but are you 100 per cent sure there is no asbestos on the chimney? The boys are bringing it up to us and really wondering and we really can't tell from just looking at it."
It was later confirmed that a part of the chimney contained insulating mud made of 75 per cent chrysotile asbestos. The CMS employees handling it were not wearing protective clothing or using safety equipment associated with asbestos removal.
Court documents state, "There was asbestos debris on the floor and other surfaces of the boiler room. The boiler room was contaminated with asbestos-containing material."
A supervisor with Public Works also held a meeting about the possibility of asbestos in the boiler room. That meeting was held in the boiler room at a time when asbestos-contaminated material lay on the floor. None of the people in attendance was wearing protective clothing.
The territorial government has 30 days to pay the fine.