Safety first
PCB site a safe work environment

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

IQALUIT (Oct 04/99) - It's easy to draw the conclusion that, based upon its location and the level of on-site contaminants, Resolution Island is a dangerous place to work.

But, that's simply not the case.

Situated 310 kilometres south of Baffin Island in an extremely foggy patch of the North Atlantic Ocean, highly trained island medical staff -- which include a site medic and a safety officer -- can competently treat injuries and illness, should they occur, on site.

All staff are taught from the get-go how to recognize hazards and how to avoid them.

"People pay attention to safety and are proactive in that area," said Bob Eaton, the site safety officer who oversees all safety issues and training on Resolution Island.

Along with ensuring that everyone has the basics of First Aid and CPR, Eaton said that all of the employees and management had also participated in a 40-hour contaminated sites training course.

"We don't allow anybody to work with dangerous equipment until we're confident they're properly trained," said Eaton, who just finished his second year with the PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) clean-up project.

The absence of a profit motive has also helped because both the funder, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and the site contractor, the Qikiqtaaluk Corp., are more concerned with safety than earning money.

"If we were in a situation where it was dollars versus safety, usually safety suffers in an industrial setting. But here, they just throw money at it so we've got a real good safety program with all kinds of excellent safety equipment," said Eaton.

In the case of an emergency that can't be fully treated on site, the patient is stabilized and, once the weather has cleared, is flown off the island and treated in Iqaluit at the Baffin Regional Hospital.

But, the weather being what it is in the middle of the ocean, the medical team has the ability to treat someone on site for a number of days.

"It took us six days last year to get the person with the broken ankle out. If it had been any more serious, the weather still would have kept us in," said Eaton.

Andre Lissansky, the site medic, explained that because of the remote location, his medical room was equipped with simple first aid materials and medical technology advanced enough to be able to temporarily care for a person who had been severely burned, suffered a heart attack or had broken bones.

Further, to ensure that workers are treated immediately in the case of an emergency, many employees have also received quick response training.