A rare prosecution involving a small Ontario (Canada) town's volunteer fire department has ignited concern among firefighters that legal hazards may now be among the dangers they must deal with in responding to emergencies, according to a report from The Canadian Press.
The case is the result of an early morning restaurant fire when volunteer firefighters arrived to the frantic screams of a woman claiming her boyfriend was trapped in the apartment upstairs. (WCxKit)
A pair of firefighters from Meaford entered the building. One finished his shift at another job the evening before and went inside. As the building burned, one of them ''lost air,'' although it has not been determined why.
In the ensuing mayhem, they were unable to get out and, with one near death, had to be rescued by colleagues.
The department is now on trial on a trio of charges the provincial Ministry of Labour laid under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
In essence, the ministry asserts that Meaford did not take reasonable measures to ensure the safety of the duo.
Now that the prosecution has made its case in Ontario court in Owen Sound, Ont., the defense was set to call for the judge to throw the case out for lack of evidence. A decision was under review.
The defense argues the safety guidelines Meaford allegedly failed to follow are not legally binding, and says the ministry gave a no-prosecution promise at the start of the investigation.
More than 3,000 communities across Canada rely on volunteers to drop what they are doing and rush to a fire or rescue scene. In most cases, they get an honorarium that ranges from around $14 to $35 an hour when dealing with what can be high-risk scenes. (WCxKit)
Without the resources and full-time professional firefighters of larger centers – there are fewer than 100 of those in the country, smaller departments may have difficulty accessing training, equipment and manpower.
Author Robert Elliott, executive vice president, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. has worked successfully for 20 years with many industries to reduce Workers Compensation costs, including airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing. He is an editor and contributor to Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.
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