Union files grievance over removal of lead based playground equipment

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BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) The president of AFSCME Local 1095 has filed a grievance against Erie County citing concerns that parks department workers may be in danger now that they’re removing some of the 66 pieces of playground equipment that tested high for lead based paint.

“Their main concern is the safety and well being of their employees,” said Stefan Mychajliw, the Erie County Comptroller who sounded the alarm last month about old playground equipment which tested high for levels of lead based paint.

Although four workers went through lead safety training last Friday before they began cutting through the metal to remove the pieces this week, the union president sent a letter to the administration noting that, “over the years hundreds of pieces of equipment have already been removed by my members who were unaware of the risk of lead particles in the air and not trained for the work,” said Canazzi in the letter to the administration of Mark Poloncarz, Erie County Executive.

“I would strongly encourage the Poloncarz administration to work collaboratively with the union to alleviate their concerns and their fears, but at the end of the day, to make sure that their employees are not exposed to dangerous levels of lead paint,” said Mychajliw.

The administration has responded to a list of questions from the union. Commissioner of Labor Relations for Erie County, Gary Wilson noted that the training on Friday was conducted by lead experts with help from the Lead Poisoning Prevention Resource Center of Western New York. When they remove the equipment, the workers are wearing goggles, Tyvec suits, latex gloves and respirators over their faces.

Troy Schinzel, the commissioner of the Erie County Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry, said last Thursday, “We do not want to rush and then put our staff in a safety situation as well, so we want to follow the right protocol. We’re working with the professionals in the Health Department to move forward.”

The removal or refurbishment of 66 pieces of playground equipment is expected to be completed by September.

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