Inspector orders Ottawa's detention centre to clean up air system



By Neco Cockburn, The Ottawa CitizenJune 24, 2009 6:01 PM
OTTAWA — The Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre has been ordered to clear some of its air intake equipment and remove pipe insulation after mould and clogged screens were found during a recent inspection.


A Ministry of Labour inspector visited the jail two weeks ago to investigate a pair of concerns regarding air quality and poor maintenance of the ventilation system.


Working and living conditions have long been sources of dissatisfaction for employees and inmates at the chronically overcrowded jail on Innes Road.


Over the past two or three years, some correctional officers have complained about dry, itchy eyes, nasal irritation and other allergy-like symptoms that they believe are linked to poor air quality.


Dave Lundy, an official with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, said he was glad the issue is being addressed.

“It’s important that people work in safe and healthy work sites,” said Lundy, whose union represents correctional officers at the jail.


The inspector gave four orders after visiting the jail on June 11 and issued a report stating that workers with specific health symptoms should consult their doctors.


The jail was ordered to ensure that the screens for the intake of fresh air for the female unit and the kitchen and corridor, as well as a vent for the pod entrance, are “maintained in good condition,” after the inspector saw they were clogged.


The jail was also ordered to remove mould-contaminated insulation seen on pipes in a basement corridor.

Jail management was told to submit to the inspector the steps taken to address workers’ concerns regarding air quality. Management reported during the inspection that ongoing actions had been taken to respond to the concerns, but the actions were not documented at the time of the visit.


The jail is expected to comply or take steps to comply with the orders by July 13.

The maintenance work being called for is expected to start today and management is compiling information about previous steps that have been taken, said Stuart McGetrick, a spokesman for the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.


“In the meantime, health and safety of the staff is a serious concern for us,” he said.

The inspector’s report also noted that some symptoms reported by workers, such as dry or irritated eyes, are typical of dry air, or low humidity — something that is considered a comfort issue, not a health issue, and is outside the ministry’s jurisdiction.