Response and reporting woes lacking from gym investigation report: union

Cory Hurley
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A basketball scrimmage takes place Thursday on the newly-refurbished gymnasium floor at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Gerard Curtis said there were many positives in the report released on what led to people being exposed to fumes at Grenfell last fall, but it was lacking in some key areas.

The representative of The Memorial University Faculty Association had raised several concerns after volatile organic compounds were released throughout the west coast campus of Memorial University during the surfacing of its new gymnasium. The results of the university’s department of health and safety investigation were recently published online.

One of the key areas of concern from the faculty association standpoint was the response of Memorial administration in notifying the faculty, staff, students and the public of the problem. The report failed to address that, which is disappointing to Curtis who hoped this would lead to better communication and public relations if anything like this was to happen again.

“There were some core health and safety failings, but then there’s the larger (public relations) failing,” he said. “There is nothing mentioned in this report about why it took until December to be informed about it, and how can that be addressed in the future.”

He would like to see Memorial issue follow-up statements to the public now, and notify people of where the report can be read.

“There is a key need for the university to come really clean on this,” he said. “Put out a significant ad stating they screwed up, and here is the problem, and this is how we are trying to address these issues.”

Curtis also feels the report falls short of addressing ventilation issues pertaining to the second incident whereby fumes were expelled outside — leading to the exposure of some faculty working in nearby offices.

He would like to have received more information about the impact on people who were exposed. The report did state there have been cases whereby people have been seriously injured or killed — primarily due to fires caused by these type flammable vapours being ignited. It also stated products in the floor-finishing process contain substances that can cause adverse health effects such as central nervous system or reproductive system effects or trigger allergies and/or asthma.

Curtis would like to have seen more on whether there was any specific issues pertaining to such potential risks.

“There seems to be a number of human failings as to what went on,” he said. “I have a feeling, if there were problems here, there were problems in St.John’s. But, nothing was reported or mentioned about that.”

There is a grievance filed on this mater, which Curtis said is ongoing.

The faculty association representative said there are other issues not addressed in the report that are external to Memorial. The issues with the material safety data sheets provided by the contractor and its non-compliance with Health Canada regulations.

“I think there is also a large issue involved here about government’s involvement and health and safety, and why are these things getting by,” he said.

For a company with experience and a good reputation for such work, Curtis said these things should be covered.

“It’s not just Memorial,” he said. “This happens in schools right across the country in different situations.”

A request to the contractor for an interview was not returned as of deadline.

Organizations: Memorial University Faculty Association, Health Canada

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Recent comments

  • george p b
    March 21, 2014 - 08:23

    If the contractor is non-compliant with Health Canada regulations, IMHO the police need to become involved...