WorkSafeBC has cited several times a government-owned addiction rehab facility’s operator for workplace safety infractions involving asbestos, safety checks and respirators.
Recovering addicts living at Baldy Hughes Therapeutic Community (BHTC) near Prince George to this day receive intensive addictions counselling, health and fitness instruction, vocational and agricultural instruction and leadership skills lessons. Some 1,200 men have been through the facility.
However, studies from 1987 to 2018 of the property on which they live for a year indicate the presence of hazardous materials dating back to the Cold War.
The allegations were revealed in investigative articles published by Glacier Media April 27.
A May 2015 WorkSafeBC inspection report released to Glacier Media April 28 said an inventory of asbestos was done and abatement has taken place “over the years.”
However, the inspector found installation of new windows in the administration building was done without consulting the inventory and without taking precautions in case building material did contain asbestos.
“No risk assessment was conducted prior to cutting into the wall with a power tool,” the report said, adding those doing the work had not been given “adequate instruction or training about the potential of encountering asbestos dust.”
WorkSafeBC has long identified asbestos as a carcinogen.
“Asbestos exposure remains the number one killer of workers in B.C.,” the regulator’s website said. “Whether you’re a general contractor, an abatement contractor or a demolition contractor, you are responsible for the health and safety of workers, and that includes protecting them from asbestos exposure.”
Samples of dust were taken by inspectors but came back negative for asbestos.
The report said B.C.’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulation requires that a qualified person assess such a situation and provide a risk assessment.
“There is no evidence of coordination or planning of this project,” the report said.
Further, the report said the law requires development of an asbestos exposure plan if someone could be exposed to potentially harmful levels of asbestos.
“A (sic) exposure control plan has not been fully developed,” the report said.
The staff member present for the inspection and receiver of the report was then BHTC executive director Roger Travale.
A follow-up inspection said the employer committed to providing asbestos awareness training for staff and that an asbestos control plan would be developed. The Prince George office of DWB Consulting Services did the compliance work.
Glacier Media’s investigations found multiple contracts for work at BHTC went to BC Liberal Party supporters.
A subsidiary of DWB Consulting Services, DWB Forestry Services, gave the Liberals $875.
BHTC cofounder Lorne Mayencourt has said B.C. New Hope Recovery Society did not award contracts, explaining that work was done through BC Housing.
However, the DWB Consulting July 2015 notice of compliance on the asbestos issue describes the company as the society’s occupational health and safety contractor.
Mayencourt, though, had left BHTC by that time.
In May 2019, an inspector found respirators had been issued to people without a program in place for use and care of the equipment in contravention of regulations.
Further, the report said workers had not been doing or documenting worksite inspections as assigned, another regulatory contravention.
The inspection report went to then-executive director Bill Pavich while the employer representative present for the inspection was Robert Hall.
The identities of employees doing work has been redacted from the WorkSafeBC documents.
Former patient Mark Harris is 11 years clean from drugs, an achievement for which he partially credits Baldy Hughes. He said patients were involved in removal of asbestos tiles during building renovations under expert supervision. He said patients wore protective suits and tiles were put into heavy bags.
“Everything was done legitimately,” Harris said.
BHTC is 35 kilometres southwest of Prince George. The society leased the land in “as is” condition in 2007 before Premier Gordon Campbell’s Liberal government bought it in 2010 for $2.2 million over the assessed value.
BC Housing’s real estate arm, the Provincial Rental Housing Corporation, bought the land for the government.
However, in two sets of inspection reports, the employer is listed as BC New Hope Recovery Society, the organization that continues to run the facility.