Corp Comm Connects

Ontario looks into rules for safety training
March 11, 2015
By Paola Loriggio

The Ontario government says it will look into regulating companies that provide safety courses for firefighters and other first responders following the death of a firefighting student during a training exercise last month.

The companies, which offer non-mandatory specialized courses such as ice or rope rescue, aren't currently under government oversight, nor are they required to follow best practices established for firefighters.

The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities said Wednesday it is now reviewing the Private Career Colleges Act, which regulates vocational training, and will consider proposing amendments to include private safety courses.

The ministry said it will be working closely with the Office of the Fire Marshal and other stakeholders before coming up with a list of recommendations this fall.

Some, including an Ontario fire chief and a New Democrat MPP, have called for government regulation to help ensure those taking such courses aren't putting themselves unnecessarily at risk.

The industry has been under scrutiny since Adam Brunt, 30, was trapped under the ice and died during a rescue exercise in Hanover, Ont.

His father has said Brunt took the course in the hopes it would help him find a job once he completed his firefighting program.

The Ministry of Labour is investigating.

"I was very saddened by this incident and our thoughts continue to be with Adam Brunt's family and friends during this difficult time," Reza Moridi, the minister of training, said in a statement.

"After incidents like this, it is important to take a hard look at any potential improvements that could help prevent future accidents in programs that are currently exempt from regulatory oversight under the Private Career Colleges Act, like single-skill firefighting courses."

The course Brunt took was run by Herschel Rescue Training Systems, a Toronto-area company whose owner and master instructor was acquitted after being charged under the Occupational Health and Safety Act in the training death of a volunteer firefighter near Sarnia, Ont., in 2010.

Court documents show a judge ruled Terry Harrison had not officially been designated as incident commander for the exercise, and thus could not be held responsible for the safety of firefighters.

Harrison has said he was invited to take part in the 2010 exercise but was not hired to lead it.

He has also called for coroners' inquests in both fatal incidents and said there should be a review of current rules to make sure rescue workers get the education they need.