B.C. ambulance service reacts to inquest

Jury makes eight recommendations to make job safer
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 09/27/2007

In light of an inquest into the deaths of four people, including two paramedics, at a mine in Kimberley, B.C., the British Columbia Ambulance Service (BCAS) is soundproofing the dispatch centre and educating staff on what constitutes a confined space, according to the emergency service's chief operating officer.

Last year, two Teck Cominco Sullivan mine workers and two paramedics, who were trying to rescue the workers, died in a small shed, which had become oxygen deprived because of gas leaking from the floor.

The coroner’s inquest was held in Kimberley, about 330 kilometres east of Vancouver, from July 9 to July 13. The jury brought down 16 recommendations, eight of which applied to BCAS, and recommended mine-safety regulations governing confined spaces be brought in line with WorkSafe BC rules.

“The B.C. Ambulance Service has taken the jury recommendations very seriously,” said Sue Conroy, COO of the BCAS. “We started our review immediately following the end of the inquest and have made good progress on many of them.”

Paramedics and dispatchers have been provided with the WorkSafe BC definition of a confined space and an update on the enhancements that will be made to training programs later this year.

“Our policy has not changed over the years and, following an assessment of the scene, paramedics are not to enter confined spaces,” said Conroy. “Search and rescue crews are called in first to ensure the scene is safe for paramedics to provide emergency medical services.”

Renovation work at the Kamloops dispatch centre will include adding sound proofing materials to the walls and ceiling to help address concerns over ambient noise, which made it difficult for dispatchers to accurately assess the situation at the Sullivan mine.

“This recommendation is timely as staff in the Kamloops dispatch centre were relocated to a temporary site four months ago when the permanent facility had to be evacuated due to a sewer problem,” said Conroy.

“The move has allowed BCAS to do a more comprehensive review and we are now developing plans to renovate the former area. In addition, we are also looking at options to add sound proofing material to the temporary dispatch centre, which will continue to be used while extensive renovation work is carried out in the main facility.”

BCAS will continue to work through the jury recommendations as well as the 42 recommendations that followed its internal investigation and the two from the chief inspector of mines, said Conroy.

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