Hospital bends safety rules

The company that builds a $16-million residence for Whitehorse General Hospital won't have to meet the Yukon government's health and safety requirements.

The company that builds a $16-million residence for Whitehorse General Hospital won’t have to meet the Yukon government’s health and safety requirements.

As of Monday, contractors who bid on government projects worth more than $500,000 must have a Certificate of Recognition to show the company meets workplace safety standards.

To obtain the certificate, a company must send workers to six days of training, develop a safety plan and successfully pass an audit.

But contractors who build the hospital residence won’t need to have this certificate, because the project is not under direct government control.

Instead, it belongs to the government-owned Yukon Hospital Corp.

The exception had been made because companies have had “some difficulties” obtaining the certification, Health Minister Glenn Hart told the legislature on Monday.

But whoever wins the contract will need to have a safety plan in place, said Craig Tuton, chair of the hospital corporation.

Other safety programs exist other than the Certificate of Recognition, he said.

“Since we’re not government, we’ll recognize all of them,” said Tuton.

These are strange words to come from Tuton, who, as chair of the Yukon Workers’ Health and Safety Board, has promoted the Certificate of Recognition for at least four years.

“With one hand (Tuton is)… raising the safety bar; with the other, he is lowering it,” Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell told the legislature on Monday.

Not so, said Tuton.

“One way or another, we’re going to be covered at the hospital,” he said.

The project is still in its early days, Tuton added. The territory recently hired a project manager and asked for expressions of interest.

But a request for proposals won’t be ready until next week, said Tuton.

That means a contractor will have to be hired in a hurry if the project is to be kept on schedule. Ground is to be broken in May and doors are expected to open by January of 2011.

The new building will include 32 residential units for visiting doctors and nurses. It will replace an existing residence, which is known to health staff as “the gulag” because of its age and dilapidated state.

The handling of the hospital contract isn’t the only example of the territory bending its contracting rules, Mitchell told the legislature on Tuesday.

He pointed to work on the Carmacks wastewater treatment plant, which was recently awarded to a company that does not have its Certificate of Recognition.

On April 2, Ketza Construction Corp. of Whitehorse won the contract for $1.3 million.

It’s true that the company did not have its certificate at the time of bidding, said Matt King, a spokesman with Community Services.

But it didn’t need it.

At the time of bidding, the company was only required to commit to obtaining the certificate before it starts work. It’s committed to do so.

Stiffer requirements for the certificate will continue to be introduced over the next two years. By January 1, 2010, companies will need the certificate to bid on work worth $100,000 or more. And by January of 2011, companies will need the certificate to bid on any government work.

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