Tally Ho housing facility found to have ‘unacceptable’ amounts of illicit substances in the air

Tally Ho housing facility found to have 'unacceptable' amounts of illicit substances in the air
New fencing is being put up in front of the Tally Ho supportive housing building after air quality testing found

Air testing done at the Tally Ho supportive housing facility in Victoria has found “unacceptable” levels of illicit substances, according to a letter circulated to staff.

The letter by Cool Aid, which operates the building, says a number of safety measures are being implemented at Tally Ho to protect staff and reduce the amounts of illicit substances in the air.

As of Nov. 22, no visitors are permitted until further notice, no smoking is allowed on the entire property except in designated smoking areas, residents smoking in their units will be given a final caution notice that will lead to eviction, security has been hired to help prevent non-residents from entering, and all Cool Aid staff and contractors are to wear respiratory protection.

“As you have likely seen, fencing is being installed in front of the building as well to deter non-residents hanging around,” the letter says. “The amount of smoke coming in from the front vestibule is highly contributing to the air quality inside the building.”

These measures are a result of the illicit substances in the air exposing staff and residents who don’t smoke to the substances on multiple occasions.

“Again, we need to continue to take significant measures to ensure we can operate and keep everyone safely housed,” the letter says. “To put it bluntly, if we don’t have staff, we don’t have a building.”

“We genuinely care about the health, safety, and wellbeing of all residents at the Tally Ho. Please do not take this out on staff who are just doing their jobs.”

Don McTavish, Cool Aid’s director of housing and shelters, says the method of drug use has shifted from injection to smoking over the past three years, and staff started reporting symptoms of exposure so the company ordered air quality tests to get to the bottom of the issue.

“While you’re not really supposed to smoke in your unit, there’s a lot of people that occasionally do, or people might come into the building and smoke in the hallway or the stairwells or what have you,” McTavish said.

“We have a dedicated smoking area outside but people do occasionally smoke inside even though we discourage it for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is fire and health and safety.”

Now Cool Aid is working with WorkSafeBC, Island Health and BC Housing to address the issue.

WorkSafeBC says it is aware of the issue and is working with Cool Aid on the issues.

“WorkSafeBC advises that employers must take steps to protect their workers from exposure to second-hand smoke, whether from unregulated drugs or any other source,” WorkSafeBC says in an email to CHEK News Thursday.

“Employers are responsible for ensuring a risk assessment is conducted by a qualified person to determine what the exposure levels of unregulated substances are at their site and putting controls in place.”

“Workers in B.C. have the right to refuse unsafe work.”

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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