WHEREAS the New Code of Practice for Fire Fighters is very unclear as to the responsibility of municipalities as employers for volunteer fire fighters, even possibly including members of the public who show up to assist with fire fighting;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the AAMDC engage a law firm to review the employee/employer relationship between municipalities and volunteer fire fighters and the general public who show up at fires to assist, and see whether the legislation is too onerous on municipalities to meet OHS, WCB and other safety issues.
Some time ago the government released a Code of Practice for fire fighters that according to the Fire Commissioner’ representatives makes volunteer fire fighters employees of the municipalities while engaged in emergency services activities. One of the questions that needs to be clarified is whether the Act/Code of Practice can actually create an employee/employer contract when neither party has entered into that arrangement. It seems almost unbelievable that an employer can be forced into this arrangement through legislation.It has been suggested that even when the general public come to assist in grass fires they could be subject to the same employer/employee relationship. While this doesn’t generally happen in urban settings, structure fires, or motor vehicle collisions, it happens in grass and wild fires and has for longer than Alberta has been a province. If municipalities tried to tell farmers, ranchers or anyone from the general public they could not assist, the County would be highly criticized, not to mention it is almost physically impossible to control.So implying these people become the responsibility of the municipality is totally unmanageable and unreasonable. The OHS Act requires municipalities to train people to ensure they do not get hurt. While this might be possible for volunteer and paid fire department members, it is impossible for the general public.Municipalities need some direction and assurance just exactly what the legal situation related to employer/employee relationships are for bonafide volunteers and the general public who come to assist. This should be a serious concern for municipalities and our insurers.
Please reference the pending resolution at the Fall 2007 Convention entitled Elimination of Liability for Firefighting Operations. There are no currently endorsed AAMDC resolutions that pertain to this issue.
The AAMDC initiated discussions with legal counsel to analyze and provide clarity on this issue. The results of this analysis were outlined at the Spring 2008 Convention and a subsequent member bulletin on the issue was released.