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Ornge’s lack of training endangered pilot’s safety: report

November 19, 2013  By The Globe and Mail

Nov. 19, 2013, Mississauga, Ont. - Ontario’s air-ambulance service endangered the health and safety of pilots by failing to educate them on the hazards of operating helicopters in remote locations or adequately train supervisors.

In the first official report since a deadly helicopter crash on the
James Bay coast of Northern Ontario last May, the federal government
says a number of activities at the Ornge air-ambulance service
constitute “a danger to an employee at work.”

The report, prepared by Human Resources and Skills Development
Canada, cites six areas where Ornge broke federal labour laws, including
failing to adequately educate pilots on the hazards associated with
operating helicopters in northern Ontario, especially when flying for
nighttime emergencies. A copy of the report dated Nov. 14 was obtained
by The Globe and Mail.

The federal government launched an
investigation into Ornge after the fatal accident on May 31 involving a
Sikorsky S-76A helicopter, which hit the ground shortly after takeoff
from the Moosonee airport south of James Bay. No patients were on board,
but all four crew members perished in Canada’s first fatalities
involving a helicopter air ambulance. The Transportation Safety Board of
Canada is also conducting an investigation.

Operational problems
have dogged Ornge since it became embroiled in controversy two years ago
over private, for-profit ventures created by former chief executive
officer Chris Mazza.


The Ontario government created Ornge as a
not-for-profit entity in 2006 to co-ordinate all aspects of the
province’s air-ambulance service. Ornge then set up for-profit entities
and got into the aviation business by purchasing and operating its own
fleet of airplanes and helicopters.

Progressive Conservative MPP
Frank Klees said the health and safety problems highlighted in the
federal report reveal that Ornge should get out of the aviation business
and hand responsibility to a private-sector company with expertise in
that area.

“We cannot continue to perpetuate this scheme dreamed up by Chris Mazza,” Mr. Klees said.

has until Dec. 31 to bring its practices in compliance with the Canada
Labour Code. Ornge chief executive officer Andrew McCallum said in a
statement on Monday that it is addressing the health and safety concerns
raised by Ottawa.

The air-ambulance provider says it has made
several changes to enhance the health and safety of its crews, including
installing solar-powered lighting to illuminate helipads at rural
locations across Ontario and revising its standard operating procedures
for night operations.

“Ornge is committed to taking all necessary
steps to ensure the safety of our staff, both on the ground and in the
air,” Dr. McCallum said.


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