C A N A D A’ S O C C U PAT I O N A L H E A LT H & S A F E T Y M A G A Z I N E JU NE 2013
C A N A D A
SHELTER The ins and outs of mine rescue
LATENT HAZARD Bull’s eye on asbestos
Bringing interns out of the shadows
Clearing the air on public workplaces
A FRESH START
Scoring a first in the construction sector
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C A N A D A’ S O C C U PAT I O N A L H E A LT H & S A F E T Y M A G A Z I N E
AS B ES TOS 22
CC A A NNA AD DA A
J U N E 2013 Vo l u m e 2 9, Nu m b er 4
British Columbia is setting its sights on asbestos exposure in the construction sector and beefing up enforcement against firms that flout safe work regulations. BY PETER KENTER
IN TER N S HIP S 28
Passing the Torch
Internship is a means to gain work experience, but it can also raise the spectre of exploitation. What are employers’ obligations towards interns? BY SABRINA NANJI
M IN E R ES C UE
Underground mines present a myriad of hazards, but mishaps in these subterranean worksites need not be life-threatening if risks are properly managed. BY RIVA GOLD
A good fall arrest system is essential in protecting those who work at heights. So is having a rescue plan to bring a worker who has fallen back from the edge. BY GREG BURCHELL
AC C ID EN T P R EV EN TION
Corrosive substances are used in many industries. Understanding the proper handling and storage of these materials goes a long way in ensuring worker safety.
The fatal collapse of a privacy wall in a washroom has re-ignited the debate over the definition of a workplace with public access.
ED IT O R IA L
L ET T ER S
PA N O R A MA
O H&S U P D AT E
British Columbia officer injured; Alberta worker crushed by wall; power stretcher pilot launched in Manitoba; sewer explosion in Ontario injures four; injury rate drops in Nova Scotia; and more. D IS PAT C HES
App brings wind of change; excess luggage cited in crash; changing culture; and more. PA RT N ER S IN PRE V E NT I O N P R O FES S IO N A L DI RE CT O RY P R O D U C T S HO W CAS E A D IN D EX
LAW F ILE
Redefining the Workplace
IN THIS ISSUE Numbers Game
BY JEAN LIAN
WOR KER S ’ C OM P EN S ATION
Changing the Landscape
Mandatory coverage in Ontario’s construction sector is seen by some as a step forward for worker safety. Others are concerned that this will put smaller firms at a disadvantage. BY SABRINA NANJI
TIM E OUT
You’ve got mail; police-on-wheels; browsing verboten; wrestling with stress; pink cake; and more.
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Working safely may get old, but so do those who practice it.
– AUTHOR UNKNOWN
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S AF ETY GEAR
Easy as ABC
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A D I NDE
C A N A D A’ S O C C U PAT I O N A L H E A LT H & S A F E T Y M A G A Z I N E
Numbers Game F
or journalists, numbers are often a lifeline, lending credence to some stories while disproving others. So when an eight-storey garment factory building collapsed in Savar, Bangladesh on April 24 — with thousands of workers toiling away inside — the sheer number of workers in the building became crucial from a rescue and recovery standpoint. The problem was compounded when it was discovered that among the five garment factories in the Rana Plaza building, there was disagreement as to the total number of workers inside at the time or how many even worked there. This much seems accurate — just two weeks after the collapse, the number of people rescued alive was close to 2,500, with the number of bodies recovered from the rubble standing at a little more than 1,000. By mid-May, that number was at 1,100 — and rising every day. As well, while hundreds of bodies have been turned over to relatives, more than 200 remain unclaimed. Miraculously, seventeen days after the collapse, a seamstress was pulled out of the rubble alive and with no serious injuries. It was a glimmer of hope that more might follow, but without an accurate number of people inside, rescuers don’t know how many they should be looking for. From a workplace safety perspective, the dismal working conditions of employees in these garment factories is nothing new. In this particular case, there were also structural concerns with this building; reportedly the owner of the building illegally added three floors to the five-storey structure to allow the factories to install heavy machines and generators, even though the building was not designed to support such equipment. Five days after the incident, the president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association issued a statement telling association members to have their factory buildings examined by a recognized structural engineer or firm and to shift all generators onto the ground floor — if they are not there already — within 30 days. While this after-the-fact response may help to some degree, it’s anybody’s guess how many workers and employers this association reaches. The association estimates that as of last year, there were about 4 million workers employed in 5,400 factories across the country. But structural concerns were not limited to improperly installed generators. It was also reported that deep cracks visible in the walls of the building had compelled police to order the occupants to evacuate the day before it collapsed. Factories there ignored the order and kept people working. If this is true, I don’t know of a clearer case of criminal negligence causing death. It makes me think of our own Westray Bill, otherwise known as Bill C-45, which amended the Criminal Code of Canada to hold corporations, their representatives and those who direct the work of others criminally liable for violations that result in injuries or death. Although the Westray Bill has been law for nearly a decade, there have been only two successful convictions here in Canada — and both in Quebec. There have been several other charges laid, but they were either dropped or set aside for lack of evidence. One of the most recent cases involves Metron Construction, which was criminally charged after six workers fell after a scaffold collapsed on Christmas Eve 2009. Five workers were not wearing fall protection; four died and the fifth was seriously injured. A supervisor will be facing a criminal trial, a judge ruled in January. While the Westray Bill was seen as historic and groundbreaking, sometimes it takes a tragedy half a world away to realize changes are needed here at home. Jason Contant Acting Editor
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C A N A D A
Vol. 29, No. 4 JUNE 2013
EDITOR JEAN LIAN firstname.lastname@example.org MANAGING EDITOR JASON CONTANT email@example.com GREG BURCHELL ASSISTANT EDITOR firstname.lastname@example.org SABRINA NANJI EDITORIAL ASSISTANT email@example.com ASSOCIATE EDITOR WILLIAM M. GLENN Hazardous substances ART DIRECTOR PRINT PRODUCTION MANAGER PRODUCTION MANAGER MARKETING SPECIALIST CIRCULATION MANAGER ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER PUBLISHER PRESIDENT, BUSINESS INFORMATION GROUP
ANNE MIRON PHYLLIS WRIGHT GARY WHITE DIMITRY EPELBAUM BARBARA ADELT firstname.lastname@example.org SHEILA HEMSLEY email@example.com PETER BOXER firstname.lastname@example.org BRUCE CREIGHTON
EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS
DAVID IRETON, Safety Professional, Brampton, Ont. ALLAN JOHNSON, Director of Construction, Hospitality, Oil and Gas, Workers’
Compensation Board of B.C., Vancouver, B.C. JANE LEMKE, Program Manager, OHN Certification Program, Mohawk College, Hamilton, Ont. DON MITCHELL, Safety Consultant, Mississauga, Ont. MICHELE PARENT, National Manager, Risk Management and Health and Wellness, Standard Life, Montreal, Que. TERRY RYAN, Workers’ Compensation and Safety Consultant, TRC Group Inc., Mississauga, Ont. DON SAYERS, Principal Consultant, Don Sayers & Associates, Hanwell, N.B. DAVID SHANE, National Director, Health and Safety, Canada Post Corporation, Ottawa, Ont. HENRY SKJERVEN, President, The Skjerven Cattle Company Ltd., Wynyard, Sask. PETER STRAHLENDORF, Assistant Professor, School of Environmental Health, Ryerson Polytechnic University, Toronto, Ont. JONATHAN TYSON, Association of Canadian Ergonomists/Association canadienne d’ergonomie, North Bay, Ont.
OHS CANADA is the magazine for people who make decisions about health and safety in the workplace. It is designed to keep workers, managers and safety professionals informed on oh&s issues, up to date on new developments and in touch with current thinking in the oh&s community. WEBSITE: http://www.ohscanada.com INFORMATION AND RECOMMENDATIONS contained in this publication have been compiled from sources believed to be reliable and to be representative of the best current opinion on the subject. No warranty, guarantee, nor representation is made by Business Information Group as to the absolute correctness or sufficiency of any representation contained in this publication. OHS CANADA is published eight times per year by BIG Magazines LP, a division of Glacier BIG Holdings Ltd., a leading Canadian information company with interests in daily and community newspapers and business-to-business information services. The yearly issues include: January/February, March, April/May, June, July/ August, October/November, and December. Application to mail at P eriodicals Postage Rates is pending at Niagara Falls, N.Y. 14304. U.S. Postmaster, Office of Publication, send address corrections to: OHS Canada, 2424 Niagara Falls Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY 14304-0357. ADDRESS: OHS CANADA MAGAZINE, 80 Valleybrook, Toronto, ON, M3B 2S9. TELEPHONE: Customer Service: 1-866-543-7888; Editorial: 416-510-6893; Sales: 416-510-5102; Fax: 416-510-5171. SUBSCRIPTIONS: Canada: $110.50/year; USA: $132.50/Year; foreign: $137.50. (Prices include postage and shipping; applicable taxes are extra.) SINGLE COPIES: Canada: $6.00; USA: $8.00; foreign $10.00 Bulk subscription rates available on request. Indexed by Canadian Business Periodicals Inc. ISSN 0827-4576 OHS Canada (Print) • ISSN 1923-4279 OHS Canada (Online) Printed in Canada. All rights reserved. From time to time we make our subscription list available to select companies and organizations whose product or service may interest you. If you do not wish your contact information to be made available, please contact us via one of the following methods: Customer Service: (Tel) 416-510-5189; (Fax) 416-510-5167; (E-mail) email@example.com; (Mail) Privacy Officer, Business Information Group, 80 Valleybrook Drive, Toronto, ON M3B 2S9 Canada. The contents of this magazine are protected by copyright and may be used for your personal, non-commercial purposes only. All other rights are reserved and commercial use is prohibited. To make use of any of this material, you must first obtain the permission of the owner of the copyright. For further information, please contact the editor. “We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canadian Periodical Fund (CPF) for our publishing activities.”
POSTAL INFORMATION: Publications mail agreement no. 40069240. Postmaster, please forward forms 29B and 67B to Business Information Group. 80 Valleybrook Drive, Toronto, ON, M3B 2S9, Canada. Date of issue: JUNE 2013
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Recent issues of ohs canada and our website, www.ohscanada.com, have provided readers with plenty to chew on.
self-reporting methods contain by their very nature wide variability in accuracy. Laurence Svirchev Certified Industrial Hygienist
ON ALERT High cancer rates among mill workers in northern Ontario have prompted a paper mill to launch an investigation. (canadian occupational health and safety news (cohsn), April 15, 2013)
In the 1980s and 1990s, the Division of Epidemiology and Cancer Prevention, British Columbia Cancer Agency in Vancouver, British Columbia conducted a series of case control and cohort studies looking at occupationallyinduced cancers. We examined general industry (hypothesis-generating) and case-control/ cohort studies for particular industries including pulp and paper. Any study of cancer among workers should start not only with questionnaires, but should also be founded on a complete search of the medical and industrial hygiene literature. The advantages that we had in conducting these studies were: • British Columbia has a populationbased cancer registry; cancer site and pathology was confirmed by the provincial pathologists; • The occupational studies were largescale and conducted over a long period of time, unprecedented in North America; • We followed up all cases with personal phone interviews to validate questionnaires; Smoking and other common-risk factor history was included in many of the studies; • We tied job-exposure matrices into the epidemiological studies with a view to determining which exposures were related to specific cancer sites (such as lung, kidney, NonHodgkin Lymphoma) and cancer sub-type. I strongly suggest the use of Certified Industrial Hygienists when examining retrospective exposures as well as validation of employment history, since
I believe these recommendations should be applied to all of Canada, employers and workers. If people are treated differently at a workplace or anywhere for that matter, it could be considered harassment. I am a safety officer where I work and we employ a few immigrants in our shops and warehouses. These people have the right to be treated fairly just as ours do. Equal pay should be applied as well. It also has been proven that those minority people work harder than most of the rest of us everyday. It is sad that we have to involve occupational health and safety in something that some Canadians take for granted. Again, every one has the right to be treated fairly. Welcome to our country, you deserve it.
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Duane Forth Project Manager Veolia Water Canada
FLYING HIGH LINGERING DOUBTS The April/May issue of ohs canada ran an editorial on the possible link between food intolerances and environmental or occupational factors.
An investigation report by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada has cited cannabis use as a factor in the deadly plane crash in Northwest Territories in 2011. (cohsn, April 1, 2013)
Meanwhile, 12 people died in ResoI recently read your editorial in the lute in August 2011 because their 747 OHS Canada magazine regarding the crashed for totally acceptable causes. food allergies that have begun to plague your daughter. I can empathize with Noel Roger Follow us on Twitter @OHSCanada you as I have seen the struggles that my three grandchildren are going through. The oldest has recently been diagWould you like to share a comment? nosed as having ADHD (attention defSend an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. icit-hyperactivity disorder), the second Letters may be edited for style, grammar has a blood disorder and the youngest is and length. lactose intolerant with a heart murmur.
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e at E ca d qu to o tiv t an
The Law Commission of Ontario has recommended better protection of vulnerable workers. (cohsn, April 8, 2013)
I recently attended the WEAO (Water Environment Association of Ontario) technical Symposium which had Bruce Lourie as the opening keynote speaker. He spoke about his book, “Slow Death By Rubber Duck.” In his speech, he references the book which contains years of research regarding toxins in our bodies. The fact is he states “most of the toxins in our bodies come from our homes and most of them have lasting effects on our endocrine system. In fact, most of the toxins are linked to most of the diseases we currently have in society; asthma, allergies of all kinds, cancers, diabetes, obesity, ADHD and so on.” He also states that our homes are more toxic than being exposed to the outdoors, scary isn’t it? I know in my field, there is [research] being conducted on endocrine disrupting toxins in our water resources. They are finding interesting things which does not look good for our future health conditions. Unless governments can force manufacturers to change the way products are made, we will continue to see increases in health problems.
compliant with EH&S laws is no trivial matter.
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panorama $2.6 million
The value of brake pads containing asbestos imported into Canada in 2011. A hazard alert from the Ontario Ministry of Labour says that at least half of the brake pads ended up in the province.
Source: Ontario Ministry of Labour
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1. TAKE A BRAKE: Insufficient braking applied to rail cars led to a collision near Hanlon, Alberta last January, notes a report released by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada on April 24. On January 18, 2012, 13 loaded coal cars rolled and collided with a stationary train, injuring two crew members. The investigation found that only one hand brake had been set to secure the coal cars instead of two as required.
Source: Transportation Safety Board of Canada
2. WALK OUT: Members of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees walked off the job as part of a fiveday wildcat strike beginning on April 26, contending that conditions inside the new maximum-security Edmonton Remand Centre put workers at risk of injury. The province and the union reached a deal on May 1, with employees returning to work and the province agreeing to a new oh&s review of the facility.
Source: Canadian Occupational Health and Safety News (COHSN)
Manitoba Family Services and Labour has proposed amendments to the Workplace Safety and Health Act that would, among others: provide immediate fines for activities presenting an imminent risk to workers or for backsliding to unsafe conditions after an improvement order has been issued; requiring a safety representative in every workplace with five or more workers; and strengthen protections when a worker refuses Source: Manitoba Family Services and Labour unsafe work. The amended legislation would take effect in the fall of 2013.
$300,000 The estimated amount in gains over a four-year period for a clothing company in Ontario after it invested $65,000 in a participatory ergonomics program in 2001. The company applied 58 changes, such as adjusting chairs and tables on seated sewing machines. Source: Institute for Work & Health
3. SAFETY REVIEW:
The Infrastructure Health and Safety Association in Mississauga, Ontario now offers a webbased tool to manage recurring safety processes such as training requirements, inspections and corrective actions. The tool, launched on April 2, consists of an oh&s essentials course to help companies build and maintain a safety Source: COHSN program, and an online safety management system. 4. SAFETY 2.0:
5. INNOVATION ON DISPLAY: Quebec’s workplace safety regulator, the Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail, handed out awards for innovation and leadership at its national gala on April 24. Recipients included a jackhammer support with wheels to increase mobility of heavy tools and a remote-controlled hydraulic Source: COHSN drilling platform for working underground. 6. CHARGES LAID: The Iron Ore Company of Canada and one of its supervisors are facing six oh&s charges following the death of a worker at a mine in Labrador City two years ago. A contract employee, hired to install poles and related equipment for a new power line at the mine on April 19, 2011, was killed while working in close proximity to an existing energized power line. The company and supervisor were scheduled to appear in court Source: Service NL on May 23.
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DEATH TOLL RISING The death toll from the collapse of an eight-storey building in Savar, Bangladesh on April 24 has surpassed 1,100. Two weeks after the incident, rescuers reported that about 2,500 people have been pulled out alive. Police say that cracks in the building led to an evacuation order the day before the collapse, but the order was ignored and factories in the building continued operating when the structure collapsed. Source: CNN
The number of days in a jail sentence handed to a director on April 8 for failing to ensure that a company paid wages to 68 employees. A probe by the Ontario Ministry of Labour found that lifeguards employed by the company in Mississauga, Ontario, were owed wages ranging from $80 to $3,100. Source: Ontario Ministry of Labour
The number of workers evacuated from a food-handling warehouse in Calgary following an ammonia leak on the morning of April 19. Source: COHSN
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FEDS INVEST IN AIRPORT SAFETY FEDERAL — The federal government has announced that it will be earmarking more than $1 million to improve safety at a northern British Columbia airport. On April 15, Transport Canada revealed that it would invest $1,331,000 into the Campbell River Airport, located northeast of Vancouver Island. The money will go towards an airfield electrical rehabilitation project, which will provide airfield visibility and safe runways and taxiways for travellers, notes information from a Transport Canada press release. “The City of Campbell River has been working with Transport Canada to secure a funding grant to upgrade the airport’s lighting system for reduced visibility departures,” Walter Jakeway, the city’s mayor, says in a statement. “These welcome improvements will increase safety and the number of aircraft takeoffs from the [airport] runway in foggy weather, or other low-visibility situations.” Because ice, slush, rain and snow are common, particularly in northern Canada, pilots must calculate the exact landing distance in order to land smoothly. Surface conditions can sometimes hinder
these calculations, so it is imperative that they receive timely information. “The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has investigated a number of landing accidents and incidents that highlight the need for runway surface condition reporting and safety areas,” says a statement from the board. Since the transportation agency first highlighted the issue on its Watchlist —a round-up of priority problems it says needs to be addressed — the number of accidents of this type each year has not significantly decreased.
OFFICER SUFFERS MINOR INJURIES VANCOUVER — A police officer and his K9 partner were sent to hospital after a crash in Vancouver on April 21. While responding to a 911 call at about 4 pm, the officer’s car smashed into another vehicle. The two cars sustained heavy damage, but the officer, the dog and the other driver escaped with only minor injuries. A media statement from the Vancouver Police Department reports that the dog was riding in the rear kennel area
and was protected by the vehicle’s side curtain airbags.
FORESTRY WORKER IDENTIFIED VICTORIA — A 59-year-old forestry worker has died while working at a log-sorting operation on West Thurlow Island, British Columbia on April 8. The BC Coroners Service reports that Mark Dube was employed on a dry-land timber sorting operation at Knox Bay on the island east of Campbell River when he was struck by the log just before 5 pm. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The coroner’s service and WorkSafeBC continue to investigate.
WORKER HIT WITH PEPPER SPRAY SPRUCE GROVE — A 74-year-old Walmart employee was hit with pepper spray after trying to stop two shoplifters from leaving a store in Spruce Grove, Alberta. Corporal Colette Zazulak of the local RCMP department reports that the female greeter was pepper sprayed on April 4 when trying to stop two men from walk-
BARBECUE EXPLODES INSIDE SHIPPING CONTAINER SAANICH – An early-morning explosion at a condominium development has landed one worker in hospital. The 49-year-old employee of Searidge Properties, based in Victoria, arrived at the Saanich, British Columbia jobsite shortly after 6 am on April 26. He was working inside a shipping container set up as an office space when a 20-pound propane container, hooked up to a barbecue stored in an adjacent shipping container a couple metres away, exploded. The blast put a massive dent in the container. “He had just sat down at his desk to check some emails and such, and there was an explosion,” says Sergeant Steve Eassie of the Saanich Police. “It’s surprising that something as relatively small as a propane canister could cause that much damage.” Megan Johnston, communications officer for WorkSafeBC, confirms that the burner on the barbecue had been left on and the propane tank was not completely sealed off, but the ignition source had not been determined. The worker, who suffered only minor cuts and bruises, was taken to hospital and released later in the day. Glen Wilson, project manager and owner of Searidge Properties,
news June 2013.indd 10
says they were back on site working that day. “People were pretty shocked about the whole thing,” Wilson says, adding that the superintendent was the only person on site at the time. “If the labour foreman had come in 10 minutes earlier, which he often does, he could’ve been caught in the explosion.” It was the second propane explosion this year in Saanich. On January 9, crews used a grinder to remove a lock from an unmarked box containing a torch and small propane tank, which had not been completely closed. Sparks from the grinder caused an explosion that sent several workers to hospital, the BC Construction Safety Alliance reports. The incident prompted the alliance to issue a hazard alert encouraging employers to ensure that they have a policy and procedures in place relating to containers for flammable products, including how to mark and ventilate them. “These incidents serve as important reminders about the risks workers can face working on construction sites and the dangers this work can also pose for the surrounding public” says Mike McKenna, executive director of the safety alliance. — By Greg Burchell
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tempting to lift a wall that proved to be too heavy, Alberta’s occupational health and safety department has determined. At about 8:45 am on April 11 in the rural community of Priddis, workers were trying to raise one wall of a house on a rural property. Four construction workers were attempting to raise up one wall, but were not able to muster the strength to get it all the way up. “They weren’t able to support the weight of the wall,” says Brookes Merritt, spokesperson for Alberta Human Services in Edmonton. “Three of the workers stepped away from the falling wall, and one worker was trapped underneath as it fell.” The worker succumbed to her injuries and died on site. Alberta Human Services also issued an immediate stop-work order to the framing company, 938769 Alberta Limited. Rick Bonneau, a spokesperson for the prime contractor involved — Calgarybased Brad-Mar Homes — says the company will continue to co-operate fully with oh&s officials. Merritt adds that the next steps are to question those workers who were at
ing out with a stereo and a vehicle battery, which set off the store’s alarm system. The greeter asked to see a receipt, but was hit with the chemical agent before the shoplifters fled the store. Jennifer Hetherington, the city’s manager of corporate communications, confirms that the Spruce Grove police department was called to the scene. The two suspects were screaming and swearing, making it easy for witnesses to notify police, who arrested the pair. The two suspects — aged 24 and 32 — were charged by the RCMP. The first suspect is charged with assault with a weapon, possession of a weapon dangerous to public peace and theft under $5,000. The second man has been charged with theft under $5,000. The greeter did not suffer any serious injuries and was treated by emergency medical services on the scene.
WORKER CRUSHED BY WALL PRIDDIS — Just shy of her 30th birthday,
a construction worker was killed after at-
the scene. The interview process was initially held off because witnesses were shaken up.
HOWARD’S LAW SET TO PASS REGINA — Saskatchewan’s Public Health Amendment Act, also known as Howard’s Law, passed its third reading on April 18, paving the way for the province to become the first in Canada to require mandatory reporting of asbestos in public buildings. Any buildings owned by health regions, certain crown corporations, the government and those used by or connected to schools must provide information for the public record — available online and on-site. “People want and deserve to have easier access to information about the presence of asbestos in public buildings,” Health Minister Dustin Duncan says in a statement. “A public registry will help provide residents with relevant information about this important issue.” The province launched a voluntary
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registry in November in response to efforts from Howard Willems, an asbestos reporting advocate who died from inhaling the fibres last November.
COMPANY RECEIVES HEFTY FINE REGINA — A Saskatchewan company was fined $12,600 in connection with a serious injury to a worker. Saskatoon-based company CDK Holdings Ltd., operating as Koby Masonry Construction, pleaded guilty to failing to use a fall protection system, says the Ministry of Labour and Advanced Education in a statement from April 19. In October of 2010, a worker was seriously injured while dismantling scaffolding. Two charges, as well as charges against an employee, were stayed.
UNSAFE WORKSITE IDENTIFIED REGINA — A Winnipeg-based company
was fined after pleading guilty to one count of failing to ensure that a worksite
was under the direct or complete control of the employer and safe for employees. McDiarmid Lumber Ltd. was fined $2,800 on April 10 in connection with the incident in Saskatoon in December of 2010. The incident occurred on a residential site at which McDiarmid Lumber was the contractor. A news release from the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety says that a worker employed by a subcontractor was injured when he fell off a roof onto an air compressor.
OH&S INVESTMENTS DOUBLED WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s new safety
action plan will double the province’s investment in preventing workplace injuries and illness, the province said in a media release from April 26. In addition to doubling funding for prevention services, the five-year plan calls for the following measures: — More protection for a worker who refuses unsafe work; — Ensuring that all high school students
have access to oh&s information in the classroom or online; and — A mobile lab to bring safety awareness training and tools to rural worksites. It also includes plans to increase support for workers in high-trauma jobs, reviewing every workplace fatality and mandatory new worker training, amongst others. “[The action plan] strengthens our safety and health laws and will ensure employers are rewarded for practices that make their workplaces safer and healthier,” says Family Services and Labour Minister Jennifer Howard in a statement.
STRETCHER PILOT LAUNCHED WINNIPEG — A power stretcher pilot
program was launched in Winnipeg to help ease the strain on the backs of the paramedics in the city. On April 5, two ambulances in the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS) fleet were fitted with the power stretchers, the provincial government announced in a statement.
MANITOBA WCB TO TACKLE CLAIM SUPPRESSION WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is taking aim at em-
ployers who intimidate workers from reporting injuries to the provincial workers’ compensation board. The Fair Compensation report, released on April 3, looked at the province’s experience rating system and found it problematic in terms of claim reporting, claim suppression and overly-aggressive return-to-work practices by employers attempting to keep their assessment rates low. The study also notes that overall assessment rates in Manitoba are among the lowest in Canada. “Employers focus on managing reported claims rather than controlling the hazards that cause those injuries. Financial incentives focusing solely on claims cost may encourage employers not to report all injuries and put those employers who do report at an economic disadvantage,” writes study author Paul Petrie, a workers’ compensation systems researcher based in Richmond, British Columbia. Petrie interviewed workers who reported being forced into “demeaning and unpleasant” light-duty work and feelings of punishment and intimidation from supervisors for being unable to perform their regular duties after an accident. He also heard from employers who offered incentives to departments with the lowest number of claims, which could lead to oppression of injury reporting through peer pressure. Jean-Guy Bourgeois, special projects co-ordinator at the Manitoba Federation of Labour in Winnipeg, says the independent report serves as a validation of their concerns. The federation released the findings of an investigation into claims suppression in June of 2010, which concluded that
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the experience rating was flawed. “More and more employers are hiring claims management specialist firms to come in and help them manage their claims to keep their costs down instead of investing in health and safety,” Bourgeois charges. “When claims are suppressed, injured workers don’t get compensation and the hazards don’t get fixed, and more injuries happen.” Warren Preece, director of communications for the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba, says the board has been asked by Family Services and Labour Minister Jennifer Howard to develop a plan to curb claims suppression by the fall. It is also working to develop a compliance unit that will focus on issues raised in Petrie’s report. “Whatever is done to the rate model will affect a lot of people,” Preece says, adding that overhauling the rate model, which has been in use for about 10 years, will involve extensive consultation with employer and worker stakeholders. “The Petrie report makes it clear we can do more for employers who are committed to preventing injury in their workplaces by providing them lower [workers compensation board] rates, but there are better ways to measure that commitment than only counting the number of compensation claims submitted,” says Howard in a news release. “An incentive program should encourage employers to reduce costs by making work places safer, not hiding injuries.” The report was released as part of a trio of papers commissioned by the labour ministry that will form the basis of a new oh&s action plan. — By Greg Burchell
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AGRICULTURAL WORKER AWARDED HUMAN RIGHTS HEARING BRANTFORD — The death of a Jamaican farm worker more
than a decade ago is headed for a human rights hearing. Ned Livingston Peart, who came to Ontario from Jamaica as part of Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, was hired by a tobacco farm near Brantford, Ontario. He was killed in August of 2002 after a skid fell on him. The province’s Coroner’s Act investigates any death as a result of a workplace accident in the construction and mining sectors. While the family had requested a coroner’s inquest into his death, an inquiry of this nature is typically not extended to foreign workers. The group Justicia for Migrant Workers, based out of Toronto, is advocating on behalf of the Peart family. It says that temporary and seasonal workers should be protected under the same laws as the rest of the workers in Canada and argues that they are in fact entitled to those same protections as part of the Ontario Human Rights Code. “The Peart family still has a lot of unanswered questions about how Ned passed away,” says Tzazana Miranda Leal, an organizer with Justicia for Migrant Workers. “They are
“These power-loading systems represent a significant financial investment and it is our hope that the trial of this equipment will result in measurable improvement in the injury rates associated with the lifting and handling of patients in the pre-hospital setting,” says WFPS chief Reid Douglas. The new program came into effect just weeks after emergency services crews in Stonewall, Manitoba received new crew quarters and a training area on March 19. The facility, which is attached to the existing two-bay ambulance garage, includes work and rest areas for paramedics in the town, located about 25 kilometres north of Winnipeg. “On-call work is demanding and this is especially true for our paramedics,” John Stinson, chief executive officer of the Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority, says in a release. “This new work space provides our EMS team with an environment that ensures they are at their best when responding to emergency calls in our communities.”
DRIVERS URGED TO SLOW DOWN WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s annual SAFE
Roads campaign kicked off in June by reminding drivers to remain cautious when travelling through construction zones and sharing the road with emergency workers.
not satisfied with the police investigation and claim to have heard conflicting stories on what happened. They also want to ensure that preventable accidents like the one that took Ned’s life don’t happen again, and that no more families have to go through what they have gone through.” According to data from Justicia for Migrant Workers, about 19,000 workers come to Canada from the Caribbean and Mexico each year to work in the agricultural industry. Human Resources and Skills Development Canada reports that 17 seasonal agricultural workers were killed between 1996 and 2002. “We have a responsibility to demand justice for my brother,” Wilbert Peart says in a statement. “We must ensure that his death was not in vain, and that changes must occur to improve the conditions of migrant farm workers in Canada.” The Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario declined to comment out of respect for the family and the human rights tribunal process. The final hearing date is slated for June 28. — By Sabrina Nanji
With increased lane closures and other construction-related delays, one in three Manitobans say they get frustrated when driving through road construction, the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba said in a statement on May 6. Over the summer, billboard ads will encourage speeding motorists to reduce their speeds around construction zones.
CANCER CONCERNS SPUR PROBE THUNDER BAY — High cancer rates in Thunder Bay, Ontario have sparked concerns among mill workers — both past and present — that there might be a connection to their paper plant. As a result, they have enlisted an occupational health clinic to determine if workers might have contracted cancer from the chemicals or processes at the northern Ontario paper mill, owned by Resolute Forest Products Inc. A joint committee was formed between management and labour representatives from the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) to address the occupational health and safety concerns of workers, who have shown a high risk of cancer. Bob Hoffman, CEP’s representative on the oh&s committee, says he has been approached by workers who fear that conditions at the mill could still be contributing to their health concerns. Workers were worried that some chemi-
cals used on a machine may have contributed to cancer, particularly in instances where two chemicals are combined, says Hoffman, who is also the local CEP chapter’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board co-ordinator. He reports that they have circulated a survey asking past and present workers whether or not they have cancer, what type of cancer and if they can provide a medical history. “We could do an inventory of the possible carcinogens in the mill and get rid of them,” he suggests. After the preliminary data is collected, it will be sent to the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers, where it will remain confidential.
COMPANY, OWNER FINED KITCHENER — A sub-contractor hired to
install street lighting and the owner of the subcontracting firm have been fined a total of $48,000 for violating the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). Sub-contracting company Network Site Services Inc. and its owner, Donald Medeiros of Cambridge, Ontario, were fined $40,000 and $8,000 respectively on April 16, notes a statement from the Ministry of Labour (MOL). Both defendants had prior convictions. On October 4, 2010, workers were installing street lamp posts on a project in Cambridge. Two workers were placing a lamp post into an excavation when
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the post struck overhead power lines, causing the system ground neutral conductor to be burned and severed. Neither worker was injured. An MOL investigation found that there were no written procedures for the placement of the posts. The workers also did not receive adequate training about working with overhead power lines, which must be free from objects for a distance of at least three metres. The statement also notes that employers are required by OHSA to ensure that regulations are followed and that every officer of a corporation takes all reasonable care to ensure that the corporation complies with the act and its regulations.
SEWER EXPLOSION INJURES FOUR PICKERING — An explosion at a multi-
million dollar sewage construction project in the York-Durham region of Ontario has landed four employees in hospital. On April 10, a pocket of methane sparked an explosion in an underground sewer system in Pickering. Four workers nearby were taken to hospital, with one treated for second-degree burns. The explosion occurred about 45 metres below the surface of the $570-million tunnel mining project where the sewer is being twinned for future growth, reports Patrick Casey, York Region’s di-
rector of corporate communications. After methane detectors sounded, workers began standard evacuation procedures “and then there was some sort of ignition or small explosion,” Casey says. The contractor, Strabag Inc., has launched an investigation into the cause of the explosion. The Ministry of Labour was also notified and issued orders halting all work at the site. Matt Blajer, a labour ministry spokesperson, says the stop-work order was issued in relation to the tunneling work itself, including any boring machinery. “The employer shall ensure that an adequate written assessment of the hazards related to the tunneling operations be carried out, and to provide a plan for tunnel operations to proceed in a safe manner,” Blajer writes in an email. He adds that the ministry has asked the employer to provide its plan regarding worker training before tunneling work and the use of tunnel boring machines is resumed on the project. Until those concerns are addressed with written documentation from the company, no further work of any tunneling operations can continue, Blajer adds. There was also a “do not disturb” order issued on the elevator shaft number 10, where the event occurred. “What we want to find out is the reason for the incident to begin with, because I’m certain that there are lessons
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to be learned. If anything is required to be put into place, we’ll ensure that our contractor complies,” Casey says.
RUN OF MUCK CLAIMS WORKER WAWA — A worker was killed in a gold
mine accident in northern Ontario. On the afternoon of April 30, a supervisor employed by Dan Boychuk Mining became buried in a muck pile at the Eagle River Mine, operated by Wesdome Gold Mines Ltd. and located about 60 kilometres west of Wawa, Ontario. The worker was in the process of constructing a raise for a mining sublevel when the incident took place, says George Mannard, vice-president of exploration for Wesdome. The company shut down underground operations on its night shift and the day shift on May 1. “We’ve been mining for 26 years and that’s our first underground fatality. It makes me feel really bad, I hired a lot of those guys. A lot of our miners, I’ve got their kids working for us now,” Mannard says. The Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) issued a stop-work order and has two inspectors on site, reports ministry spokesperson Matt Blajer. The MOL confirms there were two prosecutions ongoing against Wesdome, both involving incidents at the Eagle River
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Mine. In June of 2011, a worker slipped and fractured his leg. Last March, a worker stepped into a hole filled with water and cyanide, suffering cyanide poisoning and burns to both legs.
LOW BOAT RAILINGS POSE FALL HAZARD GASPÉ — The Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CSST) has renewed its lobster fishing safety action plan for 2013. The organization found in a series of surveys that the railings on lobster fishing boats are not high enough to keep workers from falling overboard, and that work areas are crowded with ropes that created fall hazards. Coupled with workers not wearing life jackets and a lack of means to bring a worker back on board, two workers died over the last three lobster seasons in the Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine region, where the heaviest lobster trapping takes place, the CSST reported in a press release on April 8. The commission says that lobster boat owners and workers must now wear a lifejacket any time they are on deck, and must have the means to rescue overboard workers. There are about 1,300 lobster boat workers on 640 boats in Quebec.
QUEBEC ELECTROCUTION SPARKS PROBE LAVAL — Quebec’s oh&s regulator, the Commission de la santé et de la sécurité (CSST), has identified a lack of planning while working near power lines as a contributing factor in the electrocution of a young worker in October last year. Pierre-Luc Chalifoux, a roofer and foreman for PL Nepveu Roofing Inc. in Mirabel, was working at a residential construction site laying asphalt shingles with two other workers. He was on the ground, attempting to move an aluminum ladder when it came into contact with a 14,400-volt line. He was taken to hospital and died a few days later, the CSST says in an accident report released on March 13. The safety regulator has asked provincial roofing and contracting associations to inform their members about the conclusions of the investigation. The CSST notes that an average of three workers are killed every year by contact with an electrical source.
ANNUAL REPORT SHOWS SAFETY IMPROVEMENT FREDERICTON — WorkSafeNB released its 2012 annual report on April 5, touting a reduction in workplace injuries, a 96.5 per cent return-to-work rate, a drop in assessment rates and full-funded status. The $101-million surplus — the result of lower claims and administration costs and higher investment returns than expected — has led to an average assessment decrease from $1.70 to $1.44 for 2013. “Fewer workplace injuries is good news for New Brunswick workers and their families,” says Sharon Tucker, chair of WorkSafeNB’s board of directors in Saint John. “Since 2001, injury rates are down by more than 30 per cent. These statistics are evidence that our prevention strategies are working and that attitudes are changing.”
FIRE CHIEF APOLOGIZES FOR DISCRIMINATION HALIFAX — A group of black firefighters in Halifax has received a public apology from the fire chief for instances of racism throughout the department. Racial discrimination amongst the central Nova Scotiabased firefighters has been prevalent for approximately five years. The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission first heard complaints of racism and discrimination within the fire department in 2008 from the Halifax Association of Black Firefighters (HABFF). In 2011, the human rights complaints were forwarded to a public board of inquiry, but both the HABFF and the fire department agreed on a resolution. The official apology, delivered by chief Doug Trussler on April 25, was the first step towards the resolution of what he called a disappointing and painful chapter in the fire department’s history. In addition to making amends, the fire chief also launched a restorative plan to help combat racism. That includes giving public recognition to black firefighters, and acknowledging the contribution of blacks, women and First Nations. The municipality also agreed to review their corporate policies, provide appropriate training to directors in diversity, inclusion, workplace rights and conflict resolution, among others. “The action plan we’ve created gives those most intimately affected a say in what in what is needed for change and heal-
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ing,” Jermaine Mombourquette, acting president of the HABFF, says in a statement. “Crafted by members of the fire service, it’s a vision that reflects a commitment to diversity and inclusion within the municipality.” The president of the local chapter of the Halifax Professional Firefighters union says the resolution provides closure. “Our organization has dealt with contentious issues over the years, and it
is nice to see this one come to a final conclusion,” Paul Boyle says in a statement. “Harsh words and racist comments cut deeply, leaving lasting marks on the soul of those who have endured them. As the employer, we owe everyone who works for Halifax Regional Municipality and Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency a workplace that is free from language and behaviours designed to wound, belittle or discriminate,” Trussler adds.
BOARD HEARS COMPLAINT HALIFAX — The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission’s board of inquiry heard a complaint on April 8 from an employee of an organization in Halifax regarding discrimination against a pregnant employee. Complainant Tammy Quilty-MacAskill alleged the not-for-profit Community Justice Society refused to renew her contract position because she would be on leave for pregnancy. The society defended its decision, citing performance issues, a statement from the Nova Scotia government notes. “Pregnancy and hiring for short-term contracts are important issues,” says commission director and chief executive officer David Shannon in a media release. “Sometimes, both employees and employers find this to be a challenging issue,” he adds.
INJURY RATE DROPS
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HALIFAX — Nova Scotia can add 2012 to its streak of declines in workplace injuries, now sitting at eight years straight. The Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia’s annual report, released on April 10, notes that the workplace injury rate — the number of people per 100 covered workers who are injured on the job seriously enough to lose three or more days of work — dropped to 1.96 from 2.02 in 2011. It is the first time the number has fallen below two since 1995, when the board began to measure time-loss claims in that way. Additionally, there has been a 30 per cent decline in time-loss injuries since 2005 and the province also saw a dip of 52 working years — or 19,000 days — in time lost to injury last year. “But there is still a lot of work to do. Nova Scotia will face significant workforce challenges in the years to come,” the board’s chief executive officer Stuart McLean says in a statement. He notes that there were 32 workplace fatalities last year — five more than the year prior.
BOARD TARGETS FALL PROTECTION CHARLOTTETOWN — The Workers Com-
pensation Board (WCB) of Prince Edward Island has re-launched its fall protection campaign to prevent injuries
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NOVA SCOTIA PROPOSES DAY TO REMEMBER WORKERS LOST AT SEA HALIFAX – Those who have lost their lives sailing the high seas will have a day dedicated to their memories, if a proposal from the Nova Scotia government is approved. In his throne speech on March 26, Premier Darrell Dexter proposed that the provincial government devote the Mariners Day Act in part to those lost after the Miss Ally crew went missing at sea after the vessel sank in a storm in February. “Communities like Wood Harbour know that the ocean provides bountiful abundance but can exact a terrible toll,” Dexter told the legislature. “Just 40 days have passed since five young fishers — Katlin Nickerson, Billy Jack Hatfield, Joel Hopkins, Steven Cole Nickerson and Tyson Townsend — were lost when the Miss Ally capsized in the stormy sea. Those young men sought only to make a living and support their families.” The fisheries and aquaculture minister, Sterling Belliveau, says the day would serve as a reminder of the dangers of the high seas. “Fishing is one of the most dangerous occupations in Nova Scotia. Crews often find themselves far out at sea when a storm or rogue wave hits,” Belliveau says. “In addition to working in a small space with fast-moving equipment, fishers are used to battling cold weather, high winds and
caused by falls at work. The campaign, launched last July, aims to address repeated violations of fall protection requirements in the Occupational Health and Safety Act. A statement from the board reports that three employers, two supervisors and nine workers were charged and fined for noncompliance this year. Each charge represents an unsafe situation that could have resulted in a serious or fatal fall. Health and safety officers will inspect Island workplaces during the campaign. Job sites that fail to comply with safety regulations run the risk of being issued stop-work orders, fines and prosecutions.
MINE REGISTRY COMPLETED ST. JOHN’S — Service NL announced on April 10 that the registry of health information about former employees and contract workers of the Baie Verte asbestos mine is complete. The information is secured in a confidential electronic database which includes the work and health history of former mine workers, says a Service NL statement. The Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission of Newfoundland and Labrador collaborated with the United Steelworkers union and the Baie Verte Peninsula Miners’ Action
high seas in order to make a living.” Belliveau says as of April, 2013, ten lives have been lost to workplace accidents, with seven of those being fishermen. Working in the northern Atlantic, especially during the winter months, comes with inherent risks, says Stewart Franck, the executive director of the Fisheries Safety Association, in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. That includes heavy manual lifting, wet and slippery conditions, fast-paced work, moving equipment, sharp edges, ropes, lines, cables, hoists and pulleys that carry the risk of entanglement, fatigue, the risk of falls from heights and into water, ergonomic issues, and risks of strains, sprains and fractures. “Imagine working in this environment while standing on a moving Tilt-a-Whirl at the local carnival in gale force winds and you will come close [to a fisher’s job],” he notes, adding that he hopes the day will prompt change and a call to action to implement improvements. The Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture has started to work with those in the fishing industry to tackle safety concerns, such as improving personal flotation devices that can be worn while working long hours on a vessel. — By Sabrina Nanji
Committee to establish the registry to assist former workers who may have developed asbestos-related diseases. Work on the registry began in 2008 and included identifying former mine employees, their general state of health and how many may have contracted an asbestos-related disease. Approximately 1,000 people have consented to be part of the registry. All registrants will be advised on how they can access their registry information and how their health care providers may also access this information. A final report on the registry is expected to be finalized and released
soon, the statement adds. Follow us on Twitter @OHSCanada Many of the preceding items are based on stories from our sister publication, canadian
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New safety app blows into construction worksites
wind action on swing-stages and insufficient advance warning for emergency managers. Jason Contant is managing editor of
By Jason Contant
new app is taking aim at blustery conditions in Calgary that pose a risk to worker and public safety alike. Available in late April for iPhone and iPad and in early May for BlackBerry and Android devices, the Calgary Wind Warning App offers the following features: • Quadrant-specific warnings for home builders (two storeys or less) and low-rise buildings (four storeys or less); • Weather forecast conditions that are displayed hourly and updated every three hours; • Indications when there is the potential for strong winds related to thunderstorms; • Site-specific forecasts for high-rise construction and building maintenance for registered users of the app; • A list of construction items that are at risk of becoming airborne; and • Weather alerts from Environment Canada. “A review of the last four years of gust speeds from the Calgary Airport shows that gust conditions exceed 60 kilometres per hour over 20 per cent of the time,” says Cliff De Jong, senior special projects officer with The City of Calgary, in a statement. The results have shown that gust conditions vary greatly at differing heights and also from site to site. De Jong notes that the new system uses multiple high-resolution weather forecasts to provide warning of wind gusts up to 48 hours in advance, as well as showing adverse weather conditions that may cause wind gusts. “The system is intended to be used in conjunction with other site safety procedures to prevent unsecured materials being blown from structures and falling to the ground, loose materials being blown into and damaging nearby buildings, and structural damage caused by wind loads on tarps and other coverings,” he says. Information from Guelph, Ontario-based consulting engineer company RWDI notes that high winds can be very disruptive to construction sites, causing many injuries and millions of dollars in property damage every year. Damage and injury can occur as a result of crane fatigue and failure, 18
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Nova Scotia focuses on cultivating a safety culture By Greg Burchell
After a 10-year run, Nova Scotia has retired its old workplace safety strategy and launched the next iteration. The initiative, which includes social media marketing and raising the profile of the internal responsibility system, was announced on March 20 at the Health, Safety and Environment Conference in Halifax. The initiative from the province and the Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia (WCB) will run from 2013 to 2017, and will push the need for a culture of safety. “When Nova Scotians move from knowing about safety to caring about safety, we elevate the culture of workplace safety,” Stuart MacLean, WCB chief executive officer, said. “It’s in everyone’s best interest to keep safety a top priority at all times. This new strategy will help guide us as we work towards eliminating injuries and become a leader in workplace safety.” Workers on the ground should feel a safety culture difference by the end of five years, says Laura MacEachern, senior executive director of safety at the provincial Department of Labour and Advanced Education in Halifax. In addition to a safety culture focus, initiatives aimed at leadership, small and medium-sized businesses, education and training, inspection and enforcement, and performance management and measurement will also be incorporated over the five-year strategy. As part of the strategy, the province is developing free online safety training as well as consolidating all oh&s regulations. The province will also be looking to adjust its administrative penalties in an effort to make the system more consistent, a news release from the labour department says. “There was a feeling the last strategy was impactful. However, there is still lots of work to do in ensuring workers are safe and coming home safe,” MacEachern says. “We thought it was important to have a new five-year strategy and have a lot of consultation with Nova Scotians around what it is that strategy should look like.” Consultations on the strategy began in March of 2012 and solicited input from more than 400 stakeholders, including 30 in-person sessions, she adds. The workplace injury rate in the province decreased by about five per cent each year since 2005. In 2010, the number
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of lost-time injuries fell below 7,000 for the first time in more than a decade. Greg Burchell is assistant editor of health and safety news.
Excess baggage, too little fuel cited in helicopter crash By Jean Lian
n investigation report cited the loss of visual reference and control — along with the reduction of fuel load to accommodate excess baggage — as among the factors that led to the August, 2010 crash of a helicopter north of Sept-Îles, Quebec. The report, released by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) on March 26, concluded that the pilot continued flying in weather conditions that were inadequate for visual flight rules, as specified in the Canadian Aviation Regulations. As a result, the pilot lost sight of the landscape and control of the aircraft before crashing into the ground. The pilot and three passengers were fatally injured. The report also highlighted how operational pressures can increase the risk of an accident. Héli-Excel Inc. received a charter request from Hydro-Québec for an AS350-B2 helicopter to transport four passengers and 300 pounds of baggage from Sept-Îles to Poste Montagnais, Quebec for inspection and maintenance of utility installations. As that model of aircraft was not available, Hydro-Québec agreed to use an AS350-BA, which had a 150 kilogram lower maximum take-off weight than the requested craft. While it was agreed that only some of the 130 kilograms of baggage would be transported to Poste Montagnais and the remainder would be sent by plane, the report said that agreement was not documented. “When the passengers of a large client show up with excess baggage, they exert implicit pressure that could lead the carrier and pilot to allow an overloaded flight,” the report notes. Carrying a large amount of baggage that has not been weighed makes it impossible to precisely calculate take-off weight, the TSB adds in a statement. The pilot had also reduced the fuel load to accommodate the large amount of baggage, leaving him with less fuel to deal with any unforeseen circumstances. The decreased range could explain why the pilot attempted to take a shortcut through the mountains, even when flying in marginal weather conditions. “When inexperienced pilots face operational pressures alone without support from the company, they can be influenced to make decisions that place them and their
passengers at risk,” the report adds. Since the accident, Héli-Excel has built an outdoor scale on the tarmac at Sept-Îles to better control the weight of goods being loaded. Every aircraft is also equipped with a portable hanging scale. Surprise audits are conducted to ensure that pilots complete and respect the weight and balance forms and fly according to company standards. Other changes include the following: • Introducing training on the ground and in-flight to reduce the risks of flying in bad weather conditions; • Adding unannounced audits to its helicopter provider evaluations, particularly at job sites serviced by charters to ensure, among other things, that loads do not exceed aircraft weight limits; • Requiring providers to implement a safety management system; and • Amending clauses in contracts to ensure that weight and balance forms are completed for all Hydro-Québec flights. “Hydro-Quebec regrets this situation and does everything it can to ensure that all operations carried out with airlines are done safely,” Hydro-Quebec press officer Marie-Élaine Deveault, said from Montreal. Jean Lian is editor of
Study probes cost of workrelated injuries in mining By Jason Contant
he average estimated cost of an occupational injury in Quebec’s mining industry is more than $100,000, suggests a study released in April by the Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST), a Montreal-based scientific research organization. Researchers at the IRSST tested the feasibility of developing oh&s indicators by producing a picture of the costs of occupational injuries in the mining industry from 2005 to 2007. The researchers applied two scientific methods: the human capital method was used to estimate productivity losses, while a health status index was used in combination with the willingnessto-pay method to evaluate the human costs in monetary terms. The estimates were made using data from Quebec’s workplace safety regulator, participating companies, published reports and government data. The study estimates that occupational injuries in mines cost about $130 million a year, $80 million of which can be attributed to human costs and $50 million to financial costs. “Methodological limitations mean that the cost of occupational injuries in the mining industry is probably underestimated,” IRSST economist and main study author Martin Lebeau says in a press release. Analysis of the results also revealed that the workers assume nearly 67 per cent of the total costs, largely in the form www.ohscanada.com
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of human costs. For their part, employers assume nearly 64 per cent of the financial costs. Lebeau notes that the study demonstrates that it is possible to estimate the financial and human costs associated with mining injuries. However, it would be difficult to prepare as exhaustive an estimate of the costs for all industries due to the limited availability of data, especially companyspecific data. “Nonetheless, even limiting ourselves to the available data, it would be possible to develop an indicator that is representative of the total costs of occupational injuries per industry,” he concludes.
Magazine launched for Mexican foreign workers
The free magazine, funded through Caropresi’s savings, advertisements and investors, is delivered to the Mexican ministry to be made available to workers before they come to Canada. It is also being promoted online to farmers hiring Mexican workers. Caropresi hopes the farmers will print it off and give it to their workers upon their arrival. In 2011, almost 29,000 temporary foreign worker positions were issued under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, which brings in workers from Mexico and other Caribbean countries to work across Canada, except in the territories and Newfoundland and Labrador. “When you are helping workers, you are helping farmers as well as authorities so they are more knowledgeable of their situation, their rights, how to communicate better, where to go in case they have any needs while in Canada,” Caropresi says. She adds that Mexican workers can also spread the knowledge they learn from the magazine to others at home.
By Greg Burchell
igrant farm workers put in long hours performing some of the most physically-demanding labour in the country — but one of the most challenging aspects of working in Canada could be the culture shock. A new magazine, Atoctli, seeks to address these issues by providing Mexican workers with a resource to improve their communication when it comes to issues such as language and cultural barriers, work safety and overall well-being, says director Margarita Caropresi in Toronto. The name of the magazine is from the Aztec word for fertile soil, says Caropresi, who used to work for the Mexican consulate in Toronto before doing her master’s degree in teaching Spanish as a second language. Caropresi said the idea for the magazine, available in Spanish and English, came about after her thesis project on communication between Mexican migrant workers and the farmers who employ them, and a follow-up study on how migrant workers communicated outside of work. “Through the research, I found there are these big issues that, to me, nobody had identified in the first place,” she says, noting that things like saving water, using pesticides and even paying taxes were all knowledge gaps that needed to be addressed. “This will help to ease all the misunderstandings that people interpret to [be] bad relationships or mistreatment,” she goes on to say. “Sometimes, it’s just a matter of not being able to communicate properly.” Caropresi says the magazine currently focuses on Mexican migrant farm workers, and she has had a lot of support from Mexican authorities, including the country’s Ministry of Labour and Social Well Being. That said, she is hoping to expand its scope and has travelled to Guatemala to spread awareness of the magazine. She has also been in contact with the Honduran embassy in Canada. 20
Young worker blitz points to training, knowledge gaps By Greg Burchell
indings from the Ontario Ministry of Labour’s (MOL) latest workplace blitz in mid-March have prompted the safety regulator to plan a repeat this year. Focusing on new and young workers, the ministry blitzed more than 4,600 workplaces with 5,452 visits from May to August last year. It resulted in a whopping 14,498 orders — more than three per visit, including 553 stop-work orders. The blitz targeted the construction and service sectors, transportation, logging, farming operations, municipalities, longterm care homes, retirement homes, nursing homes and group homes. Inspectors zeroed-in on the following: • Orientation, training and supervision; • Minimum age requirements; • An internal responsibility system, such as a joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative; and • Safety measures in place to prevent injuries and occupational illness. The industrial sectors, which represented more than 2,600 workplaces in diverse categories such as retail, food services, tourism, government, vehicle sales and service, and chemical, rubber and plastics, took the lion’s share of the orders with 64 per cent — compared to the construction sector (30 per cent) and health care (five per cent). The service sector had the highest number of violations of any sector visited, with the most common contraventions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act relating to the failure to take precautions to protect worker health and safety, maintain equipment and post a copy of the act in the workplace, the ministry reports. New and young workers in the construction sector were
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also exposed to many of the same hazards at projects in all construction sectors, regardless of the size or nature of the construction activity. “This could be due to a high turnover rate of staff or lack of training and supervision,” the ministry suggests in the report. In the health care sectors, 130 of its 780 orders (17 per cent) came from the Health Care Regulations. The most common violation cited was the failure to keep work surfaces free from obstructions. The MOL says that from 2006 to 2010, 34 workers between the ages of 15 to 24 died in work-related incidents and 46,000 suffered injuries that resulted in lost time.
WorkSafeNB provides update on West Nile Virus By Jason Contant
orkSafeNB is reminding workers to protect themselves from mosquito bites due to the rapid spread of West Nile Virus (WNV) in North America. The virus is contracted from the bite of an infected mosquito, with senior citizens and those with weakened immune systems at higher risk for serious illness from infection. WorkSafeNB reports that mild cases of WNV infections may include a slight fever and/or headache. More severe infections are marked by a rapid onset of a high fever with head and body aches, disorientation, tremors and convulsions. In extreme cases, it can lead to paralysis or death. WorkSafeNB recommends the following steps to protect against WNV: • Minimize time outdoors at dawn and dusk when mosquitos are most active; • Whenever possible, wear pants and long-sleeved tops when outside. As well, lightcoloured clothing is less attractive to mosquitos; • Use an insect repellent containing DEET; • Ensure screens on doors and windows are free or holes and fit tightly; • Take steps to reduce mosquito populations by eliminating standing water in the work area; and • Report any dead bird sightings to the relevant authority. First detected in the West Nile district of Uganda, the virus took root in North America soon after it was discovered in New York City in the summer of 1999, says a risk alert from WorkSafeNB. Since then, it has spread to many other states and into Canada. In 2003, there were 1,388 human-infected cases and 14 deaths in Canada as a result of the virus. These numbers dropped to 26 human cases and no deaths the following year, but by last year, WNV had returned, WorkSafeNB points out. “Since the spread of WNV is not well understood and the
possibility that the number of affected persons may increase, WorkSafeNB maintains that workers and the general public should take measures to minimize mosquito bites,” the information says.
Trees left out in the cold when nursery roof collapses By Sabrina Nanji
The battle between winter and spring in mid-March may have been the cause of a roof collapse at a forestry company’s nursery in Prince George, British Columbia. At about 7:30 am on March 15, the roof of Canfor Corporation’s J.D. Little Tree Nursery buckled under a buildup of heavy ice and snow, causing the roof to cave in and two walls to collapse. The building served as a cold storage which housed millions of Canfor’s seedlings, estimated to be worth about $3 million. WorkSafeBC was called in to investigate. Alexandra Skinner-Reynolds, a WorkSafeBC representative in Richmond, says there were no injuries and the regulator was working with Canfor to ensure that the demolition of the building is done to code and in the safest manner possible. Tom Lewis, vice-president of Canfor, says that although there were no injuries when the roof collapsed, the incident still represents a serious setback for the company. “The roof of our cold storage facility — which is attached to the nursery — collapsed and it impacted on the integrity on two of the walls, so one of the walls came over and the other one is partially over,” Lewis says. The potential loss of the tree pods is what is particularly concerning, Lewis stresses. “Right now, stored inside that cold storage unit, are 16 million seedlings. So that’s about a third of the seedlings we’re going to plant this year as part of our reforestation efforts. Our focus is on saving those trees.” Further complicating the matter is the fact that the buildings were designed to sustain and hold under heavy snow loads, as per the province’s building regulations. British Columbia’s Office of Housing and Construction Standards says that all structures must comply with the minimum standards for health, safety, accessibility, and fire and structural protection of buildings. Therefore, the building was engineered to withstand a snow build-up. WorkSafeBC has commissioned the demolition of the Canfor nursery and will monitor the process to ensure that it is done in a safe manner. The investigation into the cause of the incident is ongoing. Sabrina Nanji is editorial assistant of canadian occupational health and safety news. Follow us on Twitter @OHSCanada
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Fibre optics BY PETER KENTER
In British Columbia, the provincial occupational health and safety regulator likely knows where to look to uncover asbestos-related violations — the construction sector. With about 70 per cent of violations occurring in five construction industry classes in recent years — including a number of repeat offenders — WorkSafeBC has its work cut out for it. By using every tool at its disposal, such as enforcement, education and training, the province is taking aim at this latent hazard, which can rear its ugly head decades down the road.
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ver the past few years, there has been considerable press coverage in the province regarding occupational exposure to asbestos, punctuated by two high-profile cases involving employers who repeatedly exposed workers to asbestos. One case involves employer Skylite Building Maintenance and its successor company Seattle Environmental Consulting in Richmond. Between 2009 and the summer of 2012, WorkSafeBC issued 237 orders and assessed more than $280,000 in fines against the employer for violations involving worker exposure to asbestos. In another case, WorkSafeBC took an individual, Arthur Moore — doing business as AM Environmental in Surrey and other cities — to court for continuing to operate an asbestos and drywall removal business in 2010, despite a court order demanding that he cease operations. The Supreme Court of British Columbia heard evidence that the company had employed workers as young as 14 and provided them with little instruction, training or personal protective equipment regarding asbestos exposure. The provincial appeal court ruled in 2011 that Moore was in contempt of court and sentenced him to 60 days in jail. Between 2007 to 2012, WorkSafeBC issued nearly 4,600 orders to employers for asbestos-related violations in all industries, with more than 70 per cent of violations occurring in five industry classes within the construction sector. Last year, 40 of the 260 penalties that WorkSafeBC handed out were to 24 firms performing demolition and renovation work for violating provincial asbestos regulations. Asbestos exposure continues to be the leading cause of occupational death in the province. Statistics for 2011 — the most recent year available — show that 59 of 129 occupational deaths, or 46 per cent, were related to asbestos exposure. Inhalation of loose asbestos fibres is linked to a host of diseases, including asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma, pleural plaque and pleural effusion. Symptoms can take decades to manifest, with some workers reporting exposure as many as 50 years prior to diagnosis.
ines the number of Canadians exposed to substances associated with cancer, estimates that 152,000 Canadians are exposed to asbestos in the workplace, with more than one-third of that exposure occurring in Ontario. In British Columbia, which has a population only one-third that of Ontario, CAREX estimates that more than 25,000 workers are exposed. However, the level of knowledge and willingness of workers to report symptoms, seek a diagnosis and apply for compensation makes comparison between Canadian jurisdictions difficult. Studies conducted by the University of British Columbia (UBC) for WorkSafeBC indicate that of 148 workers who applied for compensation for occupation-related mesothelioma from 2007 to 2010, 144 were compensated. However, a paper appearing in the January, 2011 issue of Occupational and Environmental Medicine concludes that, despite the high likelihood of being compensated, mesothelioma is probably significantly under-reported. That study, Surveillance of Mesothelioma and Workers’ Compensation in British Columbia, Canada, followed up on 391 mesothelioma cases found in the BC Cancer Registry of the provincial cancer agency from 1970 to 2005. Initial results indicated that only 33 per cent of those cases had been compensated. However, subsequent research extending the study through 2009 demonstrated that some of the cases were being compensated by jurisdictions outside of the province, including Veterans Affairs Canada. “This means that for 100 mesothelioma cases, approximately 50 per cent are not captured in the compensation statistics,” says Mieke Koehoorn, associate professor with the School of Population and Public Health at UBC, and one of the paper’s researchers. “Some small portion of these are due to exposure that is not captured or compensated by the system, for example spouses and children exposed at home via a worker, or individuals environmentally exposed as a result of living near an asbestos mine. But we do not feel this explains away the number of cases not captured in the compensation statistics,” Koehoorn suggests. Statistics will also likely change with the passage of time, the method in which occupational illnesses and fatalities are reported and the ability to diagnose asbestos-related diseases.
“He had to shake me to make me aware of asbestos exposure hazards.”
BAD LEGACY However, these fatality statistics are by no means unique to British Columbia. All asbestos mines in Canada are currently shuttered, with the last one in Quebec closing in September of 2012. Still, workers across the country continue to be exposed to millions of tonnes of legacy asbestos incorporated into products such as fire retardants; fire-resistant fabrics; fire barriers; building, pipe and boiler insulation; concrete; roof sheeting; ceiling, floor and wall tiles; texture sprays; drywall; joint compound; and plaster. A November of 2012 study published by Vancouver-based CAREX Canada, a national surveillance project that exam24
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CLOSER SCRUTINY In British Columbia, the number of fines and violations handed out for asbestos-related violations represent a poor metric for measuring the gravity of the problem. There is no indication that the province’s employers are more likely to violate regulations and laws related to asbestos exposure than employers in other provinces. In fact, it may be an increased
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emphasis on enforcing existing laws — not a greater number of offences — that has resulted in a large number of work orders being issued. “The number of orders reflects the inspectional focus,” says Megan Johnston, a communications officer with WorkSafeBC in Richmond. “As part of WorkSafeBC’s High Risk Strategy, the safety regulator focuses on inspectional resources in construction — one of five high risk sectors — and on high-risk activities within that sector. Renovation and demolition of older residential and commercial buildings are among those high-risk work activities because of the presence of asbestos in these work sites and the links between asbestos exposure and occupational disease.” WorkSafeBC has issued more than 2,500 orders against construction companies for asbestos-related violations since 2010. Some of those orders are the work of a team of eight WorkSafeBC officers — established in 2011 — to police the residential demolition and renovation sector. The team conducts planned, targeted inspections and tries to identify and track problem employers. A contractor must, for example, file a notice of project for asbestos with WorkSafeBC at least 24 hours before any asbestos removal, demolition, renovation or salvage work can begin. The team works with some municipal governments to identify demolition and renovation permit applications for buildings likely to contain asbestos where it is not clear that the applicant has tested for its presence. “WorkSafeBC had also identified a network of residential asbestos removal and demolition contractors and consultants utilizing substandard asbestos testing, removal, and disposal practices,” Johnston says. “Traditional inspection processes
had not been successful with these employers and workers continued to be at risk,” she adds. Johnston points out that there has been an increase in stop-work orders issued to employers in this sector, as well as administrative penalties. However, the asbestos team does not have more authority beyond those invested in other inspectors, she says. WorkSafeBC’s recent enforcement effort is combined with an increased emphasis on education. In 2011, it launched a website on asbestos hazards at www.hiddenkiller.ca. While critics want to see the province push harder to root out violators, set more stringent standards for worker training and establish clearer certification guidelines for professionals working in the field, there is little doubt that British Columbia is ramping up the war on asbestos exposure. Regarding the high profile cases involving Skylight Building Maintenance and AM Environmental, WorkSafeBC explained that business licensing is not within its jurisdiction and that it can only issue stop work orders for as long as unsafe conditions exist. The incidents also spurred questions about the tools available to the province to put flagrant repeat offenders out of business for good. BLACK SHEEP Shane Simpson, MLA for Vancouver-Hastings and New Democratic Party labour clinic, describes a sense of frustration among some stakeholders that more cannot be done to shut down the business of a repeat offender. “I think there’s a hope on the part of some people that the Westray laws would be capable of dealing with ongoing negligence and empower an authority to prevent such a business
The Last Breath After a century of vigorous activity, the Canadian asbestos mining industry ceased to operate last September, with an announcement in 2012 by then Premier-designate of Quebec, Pauline Marois, that the province would pull the plug on a proposed $58-million loan to the country’s two remaining asbestos mines. The cancellation effectively ensured that the mines would not reopen after closing in 2011. Following that decision, the federal government announced it would withdraw its opposition to listing chrysotile asbestos as a toxic substance among Annex III Chemicals listed in the Rotterdam Convention. The end of future occupational asbestos exposure problems in Canada? Not by a long shot. Marois has so far stopped short of a promise to prohibit asbestos mining in Quebec. “The stoppage of asbestos mining is not the same thing as a ban,” says Fe de Leon, a researcher with the Canadian Environmental Law Association in Toronto. “Unless a legal ban is imposed, there is always the possibility that
a proposal can be submitted to open an asbestos mine.” Chrysotile, or white asbestos, is found in more than 95 per cent of asbestos products and may be legally imported into Canada. Under the Asbestos Products Regulations (SOR/2007-260), asbestos may legally be used in a host of products ranging from fireproof clothing to drywall joint cement, spray coatings, brake linings and children’s toys — provided the products meet certain guidelines. For example, some products may require that the asbestos not become separated from the product; is encapsulated with a binder during spraying; the materials that result from the spraying are not friable; and the product provides protection from fire or heat hazards. Statistics Canada reports that more than $2.6 million worth of brake pads containing asbestos were imported into Canada in 2011 alone. “The federal government has the legal authority to ban asbestos under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act,” says de Leon. “If it chose to, asbestos wouldn’t need to be banned at the individual provincial or territorial level.”
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from doing ongoing harm to workers,” Simpson says, referring to federal legislation that amended the Criminal Code of Canada to impose criminal liability on organizations and their representatives. “Reputable and upstanding companies in the asbestos removal business would probably be the first to want to see those bad actors put out of business, although we would need to put some thought into establishing a threshold beyond which someone would no longer be allowed to proceed with a business,” he adds. In addition to businesses that actually advertise asbestos removal services, workers in dozens of other businesses are likely to encounter legacy asbestos on a regular basis. These include roofers, plumbers, renovators, drywallers, pipefitters, construction workers, demolition workers and HVAC workers. However, companies dealing with asbestos are not required to join a professional association and there is no body or organization that currently licenses asbestos removal businesses in the province. John Preston, executive director of the 140-member BC Association of Restoration Contractors in Vancouver, says professional organizations are attempting to bridge the regulatory gap. “WorkSafeBC is regarded within North America as fairly proactive regarding enforcement of regulations around asbestos and I would ascribe the large number of work orders to that activity,” Preston says. “Any contractor who does restoration and abatement work is aware of the regulations governing that activity and understands what’s required to achieve compliance. There are a few companies who are renegades who should not be in business.” Preston adds that the association’s focus on safety has inspired a significant improvement in the safety records of member companies. In order to proceed safely and according to regulations, any renovation or demolition work requires either the employer or the owner of a facility to conduct a designated substance survey (DSS) prior to the commencement of work or upon discovery of asbestos on a job site. “When it comes to deciding who has the greatest responsibility for obtaining a DSS, we would go with the party that has the greatest knowledge of the situation and the greatest reason to do so — protection of its own workers,” says Bruce Stewart, vice-president of indoor air quality and microbial contamination with Pinchin Environmental Ltd., which provides services in British Columbia through its associated company, PHH ARC Environmental Ltd. “The contractor needs to take responsibility or if the work is being done through a designer or architect, they may need to take responsibility as well,” Stewart adds. According to provincial regulations, the survey “must locate all asbestos materials in the building or structure before any work commences, including materials that are hidden or normally inaccessible.” The survey must be conducted by a qualified asbestos 26
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surveyor who is able to provide an asbestos exposure control plan, a respiratory protection program and a safe work procedure for bulk sample collection. The surveyor must also provide proof of training, experience, evidence that their laboratory is qualified to analyze asbestos samples, and a survey report template. Trevor Getty, an occupational hygienist and owner of Antiquity Environmental Consulting Ltd. headquartered in Langley, British Columbia, notes that there is no formal qualification awarded to surveyors. Instead, they receive Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) certification in the United States, or seek equivalent training now offered at a few locations in the province. “Asbestos is perhaps 10 per cent of our business right now,” Getty estimates. “But awareness is growing here and that need has come out of the efforts of WorkSafeBC, who has been clamping down on improper abatement procedures.” The company’s clients range from employees of established firms to people who want to enter the asbestos abatement market and those who have been instructed by WorkSafeBC to upgrade their skills following enforcement activity. TAKING SHORTCUTS “Anyone can start up an abatement company,” Getty says. “There’s a lot of malpractice in the market, including people who do surveys in residential homes for next to nothing, people who don’t take enough samples so they can undercut prices, or people who simply knock a building down fast enough that they hope nobody will notice. But the word is out and Big Brother is watching — even residential neighbours are now reporting unsafe asbestos practices.” Some of the clients have been instructed by WorkSafeBC to seek an AHERA or equivalent-certified mentor to shadow them through a series of designated substance surveys. A typical residential home requires 18 to 25 samples, but Getty notes that some companies he has mentored take as few as six. “After four or five inspections we do together, they’re toeing the line,” he says. “After a dozen inspections, the difference is like night and day.” David Hamilton is a 42-year-old plumber and gas fitter
Orders issued against construction companies by WorkSafeBC by industry class, 2007-2012 • H ouse or other wood frame general contracting, construction or renovation work (1653 orders) • Asbestos abatement or mould remediation (943 orders) • Industrial, commercial, institutional or highrise residential general contracting or construction (585 orders) • Building demolition (482 orders) • Excavation, or private landfill or transfer station operation (452 orders)
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who lives in the city of Vancouver. He has been employed in the field for about 15 years and has spent much of that time fighting to ensure that occupational asbestos hazards are recognized, mandatory training is established and that workers can report asbestos-related violations without fear of reprisal from employers. Hamilton says that none of his original plumbing and pipefitting education included mention of asbestos exposure or what might be required if one encountered the substance on the job site. He adds that he clued in to asbestos hazards a little more than five years ago by a veteran worker who had already contracted asbestosis. “He had to shake me to make me aware of asbestos exposure hazards,” Hamilton recalls. “A lot of the exposure to asbestos in this field is related to a general attitude of ignorance. Once I was made aware of the problem, I became self-educated to protect myself.” While acting on that awareness brought him greater peace-of-mind regarding health and safety, he also paid a price by refusing to work in situations where he identified the potential for asbestos exposure. He says he has been fired from four positions in the last five years over asbestos, twice in 2012 alone. “I came across a boiler that had its asbestos insulation stripped off it and fibres all over the floor,” he cites as an example. “When I told the employer I refused to work in those conditions, they would send me home for the day. These employers were either ignorant or wilfully blind to the dangers. They would bring in a younger worker or someone who didn’t care or didn’t know what they were up against. Eventually, I would be let go.”
are now experiencing symptoms associated with disease resulting from that exposure, accessing workers’ compensation benefits remains a complex task. A 2010 report, Workers’ Compensation for Asbestos Related Disease in Five Canadian Provinces, by Professor Katherine Lippel, Canada Research Chair in Occupational Health and Safety Law at the University of Ottawa, outlines some of the issues regarding compensation. Some provinces differ in their recognition of asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer, cancer of the larynx and gastrointestinal cancers and their relationship to work involving exposure to asbestos. In the case of lung cancer, they may also differ in the level of proof required to indicate that the cancer was caused by asbestos exposure. Some provinces are not explicit with regards to the exposure and latency requirements, evaluating each case individually. “Each province is different in the way they deal with some issues,” Lippel says. “In British Columbia, they go out of their way to get doctors to report cases of mesothelioma to WorkSafeBC,” she cites by way of example. “In Newfoundland, it may be more difficult for asbestos-related diseases to be recognized, not because the rules are stricter, but because they don’t have enough specialized doctors who can make the diagnosis.” Bob Katzko is the founder of the Canadian Society for Asbestos Victims in Squirrel Cove, British Columbia, an organization that assists victims of occupational asbestos exposure in their pursuit of compensation. His father developed mesothelioma and died in 2004 — 62 years after being exposed to shipboard asbestos insulation during his term with the Royal Canadian Navy in 1942. “We need to develop a cross-Canada approach to compensating victims of occupational asbestos exposure,” Katzko stresses. “The individual compensation boards are hit-andmiss. With a latency period lasting this many decades, it isn’t right that some workers might receive compensation after age 65, while others have to try to claim against United States bankruptcy trusts from defunct asbestos companies.” Katzko wants to see the establishment of a national asbestos awareness campaign and a federal registry to ensure that doctors properly diagnose and report asbestos-related deaths and conditions. “Someone needs to be really brave provincially and federally and do what’s right,” Katzko says. “WorkSafeBC sends a representative to all of our town hall meetings and they’ve taken some flak for it, but they’re putting it on the table and making baby steps to correct a historic oversight. If Canada as a whole would move this issue to the front page, I would be happy to get out of the way and let the compensation boards do their jobs.”
“There are a few companies who are renegades who should not be in business.”
THE RIGHT PATH Hamilton estimates that his conscience has cost him some $100,000 in lost wages and legal fees seeking damage for wrongful dismissal. He says the whistleblower protection did not appear to apply to him. “I’m now working for a smaller company who does things right,” he says. “But even if I came across a situation now, I’m not sure I would call WorkSafeBC to report it. I simply can’t afford it.” And while Hamilton recognizes that WorkSafeBC is doing more to recognize asbestos hazards, he contends that it is not quite living up to its mandate. “Its job is to prevent workplace injury and disease, but without more of an emphasis on workplace training, you can’t report or walk away from what you don’t recognize,” he contends. “Most of their effort concentrates on waiting until the worker has been exposed,” he argues. For those workers who have been exposed to asbestos and
Follow us on Twitter @OHSCanada
Peter Kenter is a writer in Toronto.
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Passing Torch the
BY SABRINA NANJI
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IMAGE: STEVE DININNO / ILLUSTRATION SOURCE
Scrubbing the toilet is probably the last task a fresh post-secondary graduate would expect to do right out of school. But for many young workers, bottom-rung positions are par for the course. The internship â€” a position that is equally as dreaded as it is coveted by those just entering the labour market â€” can serve as a bridge to full-time employment in a specific field. However, in many cases, the regulations are ambiguous, leaving both the employer and the intern confused as to their respective occupational health and safety obligations.
nter the Canadian Intern Association, an advocacy group formed in 2012 to standardize, regulate, and improve internships for green staffers. For the association’s founder, Claire Seaborn — who has been an intern on more than one occasion — “intern” is often used as a blanket term and one which many employers have yet to fully grasp. Despite what stereotypes would have us believe, an intern is not someone who goes on coffee runs. Because of their ambiguity, internships exist in somewhat of a legal grey area. The Employment Standards Act (ESA) guarantees certain inherent rights for most workers, and in the province of Ontario, that includes the right to be paid the minimum wage, which currently sits at $10.25 per hour. However, the title of intern does not necessarily mean that one is considered an employee under the ESA. “Generally speaking, if you perform work for another person or a company or other organization and you are not in business for yourself, you would be considered to be an employee and therefore entitled to ESA rights, such as the minimum wage,” notes information from the labour ministry. “There are some exceptions, but they are very limited and the fact that you are called an intern is not relevant.” SMELL THE ROSES An intern by any other name might still qualify as an intern, provided the following conditions laid out by Ontario’s labour ministry are met. These include: 1. The training is similar to that which is given in a vocational school; 2. The training is for the benefit of the intern, such as new knowledge or skills; 3. The employer derives little, if any, benefit from the activity of the intern while he or she is being trained; 4. The intern does not displace employees of the person providing the training. In other words, the intern’s training doesn’t take someone else’s job; 5. The intern is not accorded a right to become an employee of the employer (your employer is not promising a job at the end of the training); and 6. The intern is advised that he or she will receive no remuneration for the time spent in training. Once all of the above conditions are met, the intern is legally considered to be an intern. For many recent graduates considering taking on an internship, they need to weigh their options and evaluate whether or not this is the right path for them. While an internship can be an opportunity for a recent graduate or young worker to gain experience and network in a field that might otherwise be difficult to break into, they run the risk of creating a position that has yet to be fully regulated by the government, beyond those six requirements outlined by the Ministry of Labour. While basic labour laws require employers to run safe workplaces, when it comes to occupational health and safety, an intern exists in relatively new territory. Unless they meet their provincial labour requirements defining what an internship is, many cases are illegal, suggests Matt Blajer, a spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Labour in Toronto. As far as the labour ministry is concerned, 30
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most interns are actually employees and are protected under the ESA. “The employer shouldn’t use the word intern as a mask for labour that is unpaid,” Seaborn advises. “Just because you call someone an intern, doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay them — and it doesn’t mean that they’re any different than a temporary employee or a contractor or something of that sort.” LEGAL QUANDARY Despite the Ministry of Labour’s requirements that must be met to legally qualify an intern as one, Seaborn contends that the word does not have any legal meaning. “If you’re going to pay your interns, make sure they meet the minimum wage, and if you’re not going to pay your interns, then make sure you meet the requirements of the Employment Standards Act. The point of the internship is to benefit the intern, not to be labour for your company.” Andrew Langille is a Toronto lawyer specializing in youth employment law and is based out of Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Toronto. He is of the mind that when it comes to internships, the bad trumps the good. “I don’t really see many (advantages), as they’re currently positioned,” Langille argues. “Internships in theory aren’t a bad learning method. It’s quite clear that a person can derive a great deal of benefits from it — whether that’s skills, learning opportunities, gaining experience in a new field, acquisition of networks, and overall learning.” Langille adds that the way an internship is designed, it skews both the economy and society. First of all, he points out that unpaid internships are often directed at positions that are historically dominated by females. For instance, indus-
GIVE IT BACK Krystal Yee in Vancouver, British Columbia, is the author behind the blog, Give Me Back My Five Bucks. It offers the following tips to maximize the internship experience: • Be punctual. Make sure you are always early to the office and to meetings. The week before the job begins, practice the commute during rush hour; • Do not get discouraged. Filing paperwork might not seem very exciting, but a positive attitude in the workplace will go a long way; • Ask questions. An internship is not just about what your employer expects out of you — it is also about what you expect from your manager and your job. Ask somebody if you do not know the answer and do not be afraid to speak up if you have a good idea; • Be friendly and network. If you are asked to go to a client meeting, attend a conference call, or tag along on a business meeting, try to say yes as often as often as possible. The more involved you are, the more likely it is that you will be noticed for all of your hard work; • Set goals. Talk with your manager about what you hope to get out of the job, whether it is learning new skills, understanding the industry, creating a portfolio, or networking within the company.
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tries which typically hire a high number of females include non-profit organizations, fashion, public relations, communications, marketing, journalism, and film, amongst others. As an example, InternMatch, a job board website designed to connect internship-seekers with socially-responsible employers, analyzed their statistics and identified the nine most sought-after internship positions. These include marketing and business at the top of the list, followed by design, event planning, finance, journalism and art. Canadian Intern Association founder Claire Seaborn agrees, adding that the gender bias spans beyond Canada’s borders. She points to a study from the College Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University in East Lansing, in partnership with Intern Bridge Inc. The results of the study indicate that about 77 per cent of the almost 30,000 unpaid interns recruited for the survey, The Debate Over Unpaid College Internships, were women. As well, researchers discovered that 67 per cent were Caucasian, more than 70 per cent were receiving some sort of financial aid from the government and their average age was 23-years-old (80 per cent were under the age of 25). Seaborn adds that internships often attract those people at
safety is protected. There are certain provisions in Part II for persons granted access to a workplace where an employer has the obligation to inform individuals of known or foreseeable hazards, provide necessary protective equipment and provide them training on how to use the equipment, and ensure that those granted access do not pose a hazard to others.” Moreover, many unpaid internships are done as part of a college or university credit. In those cases, typically the postsecondary institution will be responsible for any injuries or claims the student might have under their provincial workers’ compensation board. One example is Humber College, located in Toronto. If one of its students takes on a paid internship, the employer must, by law, provide coverage under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. If an intern is not paid, the intern’s insurance is covered by the college’s work placement agreement insurance. Langille says in the event that interns become injured or are put into a situation where their health an safety is at risk, then they are typically covered under workers’ compensation and workplace safety laws. However, because interns could be considered a novel type of work, Langille says that leaves some wiggle room.
“The employer shouldn’t use the word intern as a mask for labour that is unpaid.” the middle or upper echelons of the economic scale, despite being relatively new to the workforce. “Unpaid internships are really only available to those who can afford it,” she explains. “So as a result, we’re going to see a barrier or a glass ceiling for young people or immigrants who don’t have access to not being paid and break into industries. And the industries are not representative of the Canadian people.” She cites journalism as one example where, if only those in the established middle class are breaking into the field, it does not adequately reflect their audiences. Financial instability and having to break into competitive industries have the potential to create a situation in which an intern might be taken advantage of. If this is the case, Langille suggests that launching a human rights complaint can be another option. ON THEIR OWN When it comes to workplace health and safety in the federal jurisdiction, employment law dictates that interns are in their own categories. Eric Morrisette, a media relations spokesperson for Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, in Gatineau, Quebec, says that Parts II and III of the Canada Labour Code establishes occupational health and safety requirements. These sections also outline basic provisions with respect to hours of work, overtime pay, holidays, protected leave of absences, vacation pay, and other federally-regulated rights. Morrisette notes that individuals on job placements such as internships, training and volunteers, are not considered employees and as such, aren’t covered under Parts II and III of the code. “However, under Part II, even if an intern is not considered to be an employee, his or her basic health and
“In virtually all circumstances, nonstudent unpaid ‘interns’ are misclassified ‘employees’ who enjoy the full protection of ameliorative workplace laws,” Langille opines. “That being said, with internships being a relatively new type of employment, there could well be situations where gaps in coverage appear, particularly in relation to inter-jurisdictional migration by students and within the federally-regulated sphere.” He suggests that each individual employer do their due diligence in ensuring that they have discharged their obligations with regards to the occupational health and safety of their interns. For the employer, the benefits of hiring an intern are, for the most part, plentiful, based on a symbiotic relationship. Plamen Petkov, the director of provincial affairs for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) — which represents more than 100,000 small companies across the country — disputes the notion that an unpaid internship is just free labour for an employer. Petkov helms the CFIB’s internship program, which is now in its third year, and spans eight positions across the country. He explains that the internship is a paid position — estimated to be about $1,000 per week — offered www.ohscanada.com
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to current students and recent graduates from May up until the end of August. Petkov adds that a CFIB intern’s paycheque has the same deductions as any regular employee, such as those for Employment Insurance and the Canada Pension Plan. He notes that interns at the CFIB office are treated just like any other employee. For instance, they are assigned a major project to work on, which will then be published by the federation. Having a competitive edge also allows the CFIB to choose from the cream of the crop. Petkov estimates that, for the two positions available in the CFIB office in Ontario, he received more than 200 resumes. “There’s no universal standard of what an internship looks like. And from our perspective, I think it really depends on the employer to attract a really talented intern,” he says from his Toronto office. “For us, as an employer, we benefit from the fact that we have a bright young person here as a resource. It’s a win-win, because it is work done on a file that is of importance to the CFIB, and the intern has an opportunity to produce publishable material and raise their profile.” UP TO SPEED One challenge which Petkov says many employers might not foresee is the training process. Because they are only there for a short period of time, it is vital to get them up to speed as quickly as possible, since interns come with an expiration date. “Most are short-term — one employer, one team. That’s why it’s important to have this structure, because
tive advantage,” he contends. “You will strive to provide the best internship opportunity because you will get the best candidate, and not because the government tells you how to do it,” he suggests. While regulation will probably help with transparency, it comes with additional red tape and a whole new compliance process, which may deter some good opportunities, he says. “Employers might say it’s really not worth my time to go through all this paperwork. And that’s a lost opportunity — for both the employer and potential intern as well.” When it comes to entering the workforce, whether transitioning from student life or charting unknown territory, the key to a safe, healthy workplace is communication and education, says Trudi Rondou, senior manager of industry and labour services at WorkSafeBC in Richmond, British Columbia. In British Columbia, it is mandatory for all Grade 10 students to take a workplace health and safety course. WorkSafeBC also facilitates an annual health and safety video contest directed at youth, and organize young injured worker speakers to share their stories with thousands of students. “I think we tend to stereotype youth as risk-takers, and [think] that they’re afraid to ask questions,” Rondou says. She notes that the research she has seen across Canada speaks to the fact that young workers often get the more dangerous tasks in high-hazard industries. “It’s not that they’re afraid to ask questions, it’s just that as the new person on the block, they tend to get the other tasks that some of the people who have been there for a while don’t necessarily want to do, or the dirty and dangerous ones,” she contends. “I always look at young worker safety to be everybody’s responsibility, not just the employer,” Rondou says, adding that
“There’s no universal standard of what an internship looks like.” you don’t have that much time from when the intern starts to revise your project plan or to move them on to something else,” Petkov says. He adds that interns are often required to get up to speed quickly. “If you hire a full-time employee, you can spend the first two or three months to get them up to speed. Obviously, with an intern that is intensified — you pretty much have to do orientation and initial training in the first week,” Petkov says. While some argue that an increase in standardized regulation would help to clarify some of the ambiguities surrounding employers’ obligations relating to interns, Petkov is of the mind that this might only complicate matters and turn off potential employers candidates. “It’s important to have clarity, but most employers would view that as that as a competi32
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employers really need to be aware of what tasks they are assigning to youth and make sure that they are trained and supervised. Ongoing supervision and routine follow-up conversations to check in with a young worker’s progress are vital to a smooth shift into the world of work, she adds. In a perfect world, Langille believes that moving into the world of work would be a much more fluid process — starting with hiring interns who are part of a post-secondary coop program. “If you’re not in a field that traditionally has co-op programs, the best practice would be to run a paid internship program. As a means to develop new talent and bring them into the organization, it’s a talent retention exercise,” Langille says, adding that if an employer is not paying an intern but training in the field, there is nothing protecting them from your competition or going over to another employer. “In a perfect world, I think we would have a more humane way to transition young people from school into the labour market. You simply cannot sign away somebody’s rights by calling them an intern.” Follow us on Twitter @OHSCanada
Sabrina Nanji is editorial assistant of ohs canada.
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R EF U G
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BY RIVA GOLD In September of 2012, wooden cable frames at a potash mine in Rocanville, Saskatchewan, caught fire, trapping 20 workers underground. From inside the mine, the workers were able to communicate with the outside world and stay safe, despite being trapped in smoky conditions for a day. No one was injured. Six years earlier at a Mosaic Company potash mine in Esterhazy, Saskatchewan, 72 workers were trapped underground for 32 hours. A fire had burnt the communication lines, so this time the workers could not be reached. “We anticipated it would go bad,” recalls Neil Crocker, Saskatchewan’s chief inspector of mines with the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety in Saskatoon. Remarkably, after the fire was put out, the workers resurfaced safely without injury. How did so many workers, trapped underground in such dangerous conditions, manage to evacuate and stay safe? The answer lies in
the sophisticated — if not delicate — system of mine rescue and mine emergency response.
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orking in mines can be a dangerous business. Alex Gryska, manager of mine rescue at Workplace Safety North in Sudbury, Ontario, says underground mines can be particularly unforgiving. Each mine carries the potential for a myriad of hazards, such as rock bursts, ground collapses and asphyxiation. In Canada, ground collapses may be the most dangerous of all. “You’re working under rock,” Crocker says. “It’s not a homogeneous, consistent medium like concrete. You can’t predict rock all the time.” Providing access to clean air can also be a challenge, as underground air supplies can be easily contaminated. James Baumgartner, who works in mine safety with The Mosaic Company, says ensuring effective ventilation can be especially complicated in potash mines, which tend to be much bigger than other types. “You’re in a really large confined space,” he says, likening the area to “a paper bag with two straws.” Fresh air is circulated in one mine shaft, while exhaust comes out the other. Underground mines also contain large, mobile equipment, some of which can pose electrical hazards. “Last year, we had some equipment fires underground,” Gryska recalls. The fires were caused by massive rubber tires or by diesel fuel, and could have threatened the safety of every worker, he says. Coal mines in particular pose additional risks, since they feature what Crocker calls “an explosive, burnable” atmosphere. Michael Nelson, chair of the Department of Mining Engineering at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, explains that if minerals are exposed to air, coal can release methane or hydrogen sulphide. This can be toxic to workers and even lead to explosions. At uranium mines, Nelson adds, miners can be exposed to radioactive particles in the air. Despite all these risks, Nelson says mine safety is better managed compared to many other industries. The rate of serious injuries and fatalities in mining accidents has declined in many provinces. According to the Ontario Mining Association, the mining sector in the province has improved its lost-time injury rate by 91 per cent over the last 20 years. Some of these risks have been mitigated by relatively new technologies that can help prevent disasters. Consider that carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen in the air quickly trigger alarms. Today, nearly all mines are equipped with sophisticated phone and radio systems to keep workers — both in-
side and outside the mine — in contact with one another. Employees going into dangerous areas might also wear tracking devices, which can facilitate a quick rescue effort in the event of a rock fall. Other mines, including the Mosaic potash mine in Esterhazy, now include a card-tracking system which requires workers to swipe in every time they go underground, documenting their name on a computer for dispatchers off site. In other cases, mining equipment has been automated or remote-controlled to reduce the number of workers entering perilous areas. In some mines, a new device has been employed which can even determine whether or not an equipment operator is falling asleep by measuring their eye direction and blinking rates, reports Al Hoffman, chief inspector of mines for British Columbia. If an operator is deemed to be sufficiently tired, an alarm may sound to alert the worker and the pit control operator of his or her condition.
“Instead of being on the outside looking in, I’d rather be inside looking out.”
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PLANNING AHEAD Despite these advancements, mining disasters can and do continue to happen across the country, and when they do, every site has a plan. Mine safety regulations vary slightly from province to province, but their procedures are fairly consistent. When employees spot problems, they are instructed to first protect themselves. If the issue is minor, they might fix it themselves, whether that means putting out a small rag fire or turning off a vehicle with an electrical problem. But if the issue cannot be addressed or contained by workers in the immediate area, Crocker says “their job is to retreat to a place of safety” and start the emergency warning system. To alert workers to emergencies, these systems take several forms, including flashing lights, phones, horns and sirens. Sometimes, workers are informed of emergencies by ethyl mercaptan injected into a mine, giving off a rotten egg smell. “It is distinctive, you can’t miss it,” Crocker says with a laugh. The goal is to ensure that all workers, regardless of whether or not they are using loud equipment or working in low-light, get the message. Once workers are alerted to an emergency — be that a fire, ground collapse or a gas leak — their re-
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sponses will vary depending on the type of emergency and the type of mine. In coal mines, Crocker says workers are evacuated immediately since there is a risk of explosion. If they must stay in a safe area within the mine, it must be one without electricity. In most other underground mines, employees are typically directed to their nearest refuge stations — self-contained units where they can go to stay safe until they can be retrieved by a mine rescue team. These units usually contain air masks, breathable air, first aid equipment, potable water and any other equipment workers may need to survive for days. Some even contain toilets, food and entertainment, such as playing cards or board games. Refuge stations vary in form depending on the size of the mine and the risks it poses. Some are permanent structures, a number are excavated out of rock while others are fully mobile — “like a big CN box[car] on skids,” says Jay Dooley, mine rescue coordinator at Grande Cache Coal in the Alberta town of the same name. While they cannot be entirely explosion-proof, the majority are fire-resistant and located far from combustible materials. According to Randy Waylett, Winnipeg-based manager of sales for RANA Mine Refuge Systems, most stations feature a double-entry door system so that dangerous gases cannot enter the area. Some also have air conditioning, since body heat alone can bring the temperature in a station up to 38 degrees Celsius. The number and location of refuge stations varies from province to province. Saskatchewan, for one, requires refuge stations to be present in all active areas of a mine. This requirement can be particularly challenging for potash mines, where work areas can be separated by thousands of feet vertically or miles underground, necessitating 10 or 15 refuge stations, Crocker says. The Esterhazy site, for instance, is the largest potash site in the world, and covers as much area as Winnipeg. At any given time, there might be 200 to 300 workers underground. Workers must be within 10 minutes of a station by vehicle or 15-20 minutes on foot, Baumgartner says. Although refuge stations are used infrequently, mine personnel inspect them regularly to make sure that supplies are in good condition, the air system is adequate and the fire extinguishers and other devices are functioning and up-to-date, he adds. OUTSIDE THE BOX Baumgartner says workers are also trained in constructing their own makeshift refuge stations in the event that they cannot get to an established one safely. For instance, if a worker’s vehicle has broken down or if they are facing smoke, they can use equipment in a nearby lunchroom or vehicle to construct their own
safe, smoke-free place and wait for assistance. In an even less likely scenario, workers can take cover in dead-end areas using plastic and respirators to protect themselves from smoke. Once they reach a refuge station safely, workers can usually communicate with above-ground operators who can direct them on what to do next. The next step, which is often at the same time that workers report to refuge stations, involves highly specialized rescue teams. When disaster strikes, a mine rescue team — rather than local emergency personnel such as police and firefighters — will handle the crisis. “A lot of people just assume that if you call 911, they can do anything for you,” Gryska says. “What we tell people is if you’re relying on 911, you better call them and find out what they can and can’t do.” Generally, he says fire services will not go underground as they lack training and equipment for the unique hazards associated with underground mines. Instead, emergencies are handled by specialized mine rescue teams composed of on-site mine workers who voluntarily undergo additional training. “There isn’t a higher risk job,” Gryska argues. In some cases, such as underground fires, “the situations you’re confronted with are extraordinarily unforgiving.” Mine rescue teams typically consist of five or six miners, including a supervisor or captain and vice-captain. Before the first team on active duty can begin to assess the situation, a backup team must be ready to go at the surface of the mine with a third team en route. “I cannot send anybody underground in a mine unless I have a minimum of 15 mine rescue personnel,” Dooley says. The teams are often composed of active mine workers with wide-ranging skills such as mechanics, electricians, miner operators, and engineers. The goal is to have a team that can handle any emergency. “It’s handy to have an electrician,” Crocker says. “They can do things others shouldn’t.” “Personally, I like to be involved and always thought I could help in a way,” says Rick Kretzschmar, safety co-ordinator at Nyrstar Myra Falls on Vancouver Island. “Instead of being on the outside looking in, I’d rather be inside looking out.” Kretzschmar, his safety manager and fellow mine rescue worker Rory McFadden both come from families with a long tradition in mine rescue. When selecting new mine rescue volunteers, the Nyrstar team looks for people who are medically cleared, fit, competent, levelheaded and have a history of being good employees. “If you have a perforated ear drum, you can’t join mine rescue,” says
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op w opy
Dooley, adding that rescue workers also need to be able to handle stress well and think on their feet. In an emergency situation, “you need the total commitment of the gentleman beside you,” he says. “If one of those individuals is taken over by fear... the whole mission is scrapped and we all must return to surface together.” In view of the high-risk nature of the task, joining a mine rescue team is voluntary. The number of mine rescue personnel required at a given site is often dictated by the number of workers in the mine. For example, Hoffman says British Columbia requires three people to be trained in mine rescue if there are less than 20 people in the mine. Once rescue personnel are selected, all team members undergo a standardized training course, where they learn basic first-aid and mine rescue standards. In the initial training program, which can take up to 80 hours, Crocker says the volunteers learn about safety procedures, fires, mine gases and other dangers. Over two weeks, they learn basic mine rescue and how to use a four-hour self-contained breathing apparatus. Otherwise, in some scenarios involving smoke or toxic gases, the “outside air would kill you within a minute,” Dooley cautions.
THINKING INSIDE THE BOX Randy Waylett, Winnipeg-based manager of sales for RANA Mine Refuge Systems, says that virtually every underground mine in Canada provides refuge stations to protect workers during emergencies, whether it is a fire or explosion underground, a partial ground collapse, contaminated gas in the air or another hazard. His company’s Refuge One Air Centre, for example, purges carbon dioxide by passing the chamber’s air through carbon dioxide scrubbers and replenishes oxygen from a high-pressure cylinder at a metered rate, based on the number of occupants, a product information sheet notes. “It is compact, sturdy, easy to operate and can work independently despite the loss of the mine’s electrical power or compressed air supply,” the information says. It adds that the units offer a ten-year underground expectancy; a heavy-duty steel base to accommodate forklift use; skid mounting for portability between or within refuge chambers; a battery indicator light and alarm; and easy-to-use controls, making them simple to operate under stressful emergency conditions. The single bed unit (for 15 people) and the double bed unit (for 30 people) provides oxygen for a minimum of 30 hours and battery capacity for 36 hours, with longer duration options available.
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Once they have learned to use the equipment, workers get a chance to use it underground. In that training, they work as a team on the surface and undergo a simulation such as an underground fire. Following that, teams will receive refresher training. Using sophisticated simulations, the team runs through specific operations designed to make sure that they know how to use their equipment in the face of different disasters. To stay qualified, the rescue teams then practice and continue training anywhere from 40-80 hours a year, depending on the province. “I’ve been in mine rescue 31 years and called to active duty three times,” Dooley states. “One guy did 43 years and was never called to active duty. But we train once a month. It’s law, in case of such an emergency.” PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT In Dooley’s view, camaraderie and trust in the safety devices they are equipped with are very important to rescue teams. The other mantra, he says, is “practice, practice, practice.” A more experienced rescue worker may eventually become the rescue team captain, who supervises the other workers. As a final precautionary measure, rescue teams and workers alike are subjected to regular emergency drills, where the entire rescue team is put to the test. If there is any problem or a worker cannot be accounted for within about half an hour, the emergency procedures at a mine are revised, Crocker says. During an emergency, the rescue team’s task can vary greatly. A surface mine team might work and train with
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fire trucks and emergency vehicles, and may need to extricate people from their trucks. Other situations might call for high-angle rescue where ropes, baskets and other tools are lowered down the walls of a pit, cliff or waste dump to pull out trapped employees. “Often, you can’t just use a ladder, because the distances are too great,” Hoffman notes. In smoke-filled areas in underground mines, rescues can be particularly challenging. “There was a fire at Smoky River Coal [near Grande Cache] in 1991, going on for five days,” McFadden recalls. “You couldn’t see anything. You could see your finger if you touched your mouth,” he says, noting that he and Kretzschmar, the safety co-ordinator at Nyrstar Myra Falls on Vancouver Island, took six trips each underground. Though no one was injured, the teams faced hazards from built-up methane, smoke and fire in a coal mine. Today, some teams may use infrared cameras to locate workers in such conditions. Specific tasks aside, the fundamental principles remain the same. The team’s first mandate is to protect itself and do everything in its power to ensure its own safety as it navigates potentially dangerous situations. Then, rescue workers do whatever they can to ensure the safety of all workers. “If you know someone is in trouble, that’s the first point you go to,” Crocker says. After they have been rescued and their safety is assured, the team can address the disaster directly and protect the mine from further damage. “If everyone is accounted for, the team goes and looks for the problem. If not everyone is accounted for, they look for that person or crew at last site known,” Baumgartner explains. As a final step, the team helps return the mine to safe conditions so that operations can resume.
Plant near Cache Creek, British Columbia. An excavator operator was buried by a rock fall, Hoffman recalls. The team travelled to Graymont, took over the situation and dug the worker out 12 hours later. “He walked away with virtually no injuries. It saved his life.” Hoffman says the incident command system, which outlines roles and responsibilities for responders, has been a helpful catalyst for these kinds of partnerships. “We all train to the same standards now, so larger mines can help smaller mines,” he says, adding that despite facing several emergencies, the pair has never had a rescue team member injured. “It’s a brotherhood,” says Kretzschmar, noting that he and McFadden partner with a nearby coal mine and even practice mine rescue together at times. “In the past we saw each other as competition,” he says. “Now, we practice, and know we’ve got each other’s back.” Even without agreements, when someone calls for help, McFadden says they never refuse a call for assistance. “If there are people at risk and we can help them, it’s hard to say no.” Of course, a little inter-mine competition never hurt anyone. To keep mine rescue teams in top shape, teams from across the country participate in regional, provincial and national mine rescue competitions. “You can’t get into a more realistic environment,” Gryska says. In competitions, rescue teams fight live fires, perform high-angle rescue on “injured” workers, and often work in makeshift tunnels filled with smoke and fire obstacles. The competitions — held across the country and open to the public — also often include a written exam and a machine check test where competitors have 15 minutes to check machines from top to bottom, while judges evaluate the 100 or so checks on the machine. “They encourage people to train harder, study harder,” McFadden says, stressing that the competitions play an important role in sharing expertise across mines. “It keeps every company fresh and upto-date with technology.” At the end of the day, “there are a lot of hazards in underground mines,” Nelson concludes. “They’re only dangerous if not properly managed.”
“If there are people at risk and we can help them, it’s hard to say no.”
LENDING A HAND In more protracted operations, multiple rescue teams may need to be called to the site, with mines often pairing up with neighbouring mines to assist each other in the event of an emergency. These mutual aid agreements are typically written documents, identifying who would do what and how, Gryska notes. In these cases, rescue personnel could come from local communities, neighbouring mines or even be flown in from other sites. Smaller mines in particular do not require full mine rescue teams on site and may be dependent on these partnerships with larger sites. In 2007, there was an incident where a mine rescue team from Highland Valley Copper, southwest of Kamloops, British Columbia, provided assistance at Graymont Pavilion
Follow us on Twitter @OHSCanada
Riva Gold is a writer from Toronto.
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Easy as ABC By Greg Burchell
hen it comes down to it, Fall Protection 101 is really just knowing your ABCs — the Anchor that attaches to the structure; the Body support; and the Connecting device that holds the anchor and the body support together. Sounds straightforward enough, but it is not quite as simple as a few nails in a wall and a length of rope tied to your belt. And with the number of injuries that Canadian workers still suffer from falls from heights — more than 14,000 in 2011 — it is a lesson that is not being learned by enough workplaces fast enough. It is not for lack of trying though. For example, Ontario’s Ministry of Labour offers interactive tools on its website to help workers and supervisors identify fall hazards in the construction, health care, food service and mining industries — not to mention the fines that are handed out for fall protection infractions around the country.
TESTING 1-2-3 Like all safety systems, a fall protection system is only as good and reliable as the gear itself. And with a problem as prevalent as fall injuries, it is easy to see why the industry offers a dizzying array of equipment — from rescue ropes to self-retracting lanyards to guard rail systems — all made with the purpose of keeping those who work at heights from taking a plunge. John Fuke, technical services manager for Capital Safety Group Canada Ltd. in Mississauga, Ontario, says a lot of workers incorrectly believe that they will be able to catch themselves in a fall. “The forces that are exuded on the body are relatively high,” he stresses. “A four-foot free-fall, on a webbed lanyard, can generate more than 4,000 pounds.” To keep workers from having to rely on their (non-existent) superhuman strength, safety equipment providers put their equipment through rigorous testing. While fall protection gear can see thousands of hours of wear — which Fuke says necessitates testing in all manner of harsh weather conditions — it is often only put to the test for a split second in its entire lifetime. The rigorous testing it goes through ensures that it will hold up when it becomes the last line of defence between a worker and gravity’s pull. The systems have to be tested for a full range of body types to make sure that they can grab the lightest employees to those who weigh upwards of 300 pounds, says Marc Harkins, fall protection product group manager at MSA in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania. Harkins explains that the company has a test tower for its full-body harnesses in which a harness is strapped onto a dummy, then dropped in every way the team can imagine — including head first, which Harkins says is always a worst-case scenario. The goal is to ensure that the harness holds onto the dum40
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my and does not rip, tear or break any latches and that the straps, padding and energy-absorbing lanyards can keep the forces exerted on the body to a minimum. “A pass would be OK, the product held up, it kept the fall forces on the body to a certain amount,” says Harkins, adding that when it comes to testing lanyards, “we’re going to focus on what is the total distance before the fall is arrested… and what would the energy be on the body.” He says about 400 kilograms of force on the body is acceptable under most standards, including guidelines from the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). But when the forces get to about double that, they could create real harm when the body slams into the strapping. The energy-absorbing lanyards and retractable devices that hook into a worker’s harness play a major role in mitigating those forces. The devices are equipped with energy absorbers which can include a pouch that, in the event of a fall, will open up when the lifeline locks into place, allowing the A fall user to drop an extra short distance at a protection slower pace. Many of the lanyards are also made of a webbing material that is system is only stitched together and, when stressed, stretches out. as good and “That will extend over a period of a couple feet depending on the fall or the reliable as user’s weight, and it essentially takes the force over that fraction of a second the gear itself. fall and decreases those forces,” Harkins explains. He adds that retractable cable devices would not have the same stretch but instead, the mechanical components inside the device deploy in such a way that they keep the forces generated in the fall from becoming too intense. Despite what may seem to be common sense, a heavier worker being snagged from a potentially fatal fall by an energy-absorbing lanyard will not actually experience more forces on his body than a 150-pound worker. Harkins points out that the heavier worker will trigger the energy absorber further from his fall point. This means there is a longer span for the energy to dissipate. DECISIONS, DECISIONS While fall arrest systems are the go-to failsafe when it comes to protecting workers should they fall, applications such as guardrails and restraints — which limit a worker’s range of motion and make it impossible to get to an area where they could fall — are other options. Fuke warns that choosing between a barrier and a restraint for workers depends on the skill and knowledge of those using the product, as well as the job at hand. For example, a worker putting in roof or floor decking in a
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PHOTOS: CLOCKWISE FROM TOP - 3M CANADA, MSA, CAPITAL SAFETY GROUP
building will want to be tied off behind themselves and away from the edge. “The product that you’re going to want to use is one that’s going to keep you from getting to the edge and falling off. So you’d go for a perimeter limiting system,” Fuke says. On a sloped roof where there is a greater chance of falling off, Fuke says a worker may opt to choose a rope-grab arrest system “that will also provide you a semblance of restraint to keep you from getting down to the extreme edge.” Because just about every industry will need fall protection at one point or another, a number of specialty harnesses and lanyards have been developed to ensure there is one that fits workers and is comfortable regardless of the task performed. “Comfort is the big thing. If it’s not comfy to wear it, people aren’t going to wear it,” says Chuck Roberts, fall protection marketing supervisor at 3M Canada in London, Ontario. “It’s matching the harness that you have to the application [where] you need it.” While 99 per cent of tie-offs will be on the back D-ring, a Dring on the front of a harness would be suitable for any applications where a worker needs to climb, Roberts suggests, adding that any job where the harness and lanyard are used for work positioning would use a side D-ring. Finally, two D-rings can be located on the shoulders for workers in confined spaces, should they need to be hauled out. FULL STOP Wearing a harness can become like a second skin, meaning that it can come into contact with any hazard the worker is exposed to. Utility workers and welders for example, often need a harness that is able to protect against every danger the rest of their protective wardrobe covers, such as arc flash and flash fires. “If I was making a recommendation for a welding application, that material would be a Kevlar or Nomex; some kind of aramid fibres,” Harkins says. During welding, he says these fabrics are more durable against the damaging effects of weld splatter, noting that a nylon or polyester harness could burn from any welding kick-back, making the product ineffective. Other considerations include what the specific application is, the frequency of use, if it is going to be used outdoors and exposed to ultraviolet rays, and whether or not it will be involved in welding or potentially exposed to arc flash. Add to that lanyards, where the free-fall distance needs to be scrutinized to make sure that a worker will not hit the ground even if he is tied off properly. Harkins cites the example of working 10 feet off the ground. A six-foot lanyard that deploys in an extra three feet is not going to stop and secure a worker, so a more mechanical system that can hit the brakes more abruptly would be necessary.
“If I’m on a brand new construction site and I’m 30 feet in the air, I have more options available to me because of the total fall distance that would be needed to secure the person,” Harkins says. With the various fall protection options available, it only makes sense that it is now mandatory for any worker in Canada who works at height to obtain and carry with them at all times a certificate of completion for fall protection awareness. This is a separate module from the standard oh&s orientation all workers go through when they start a job. “The idea is they have some type of knowledge or understanding on how to properly wear the harness, properly inspect the harness, properly put the harness on, properly use the harness in the different configurations they would be using it with other There are many equipment to save them in case options available of a fall,” Roberts says. for anchoring deThe increased weight and vices, such as the I-beam bulkiness of harnesses and lanconnector (top). A twinyards can often create a greater leg tie-back personal fall trip hazard than not wearing limiter (bottom) connects any gear at all, while the presdirectly to a harness (left) ence of lifelines can also make so that workers can mainmovement more precarious. tain a constant connec“When you’re up working at tion to an anchor while height, you’ve got lifelines runmoving locations. ning all over the place. If you’re on a roofing application with three or four other guys, you’ve got three or four different lifelines and lanyards that are in the way as opposed to just five guys walking around free,” Roberts notes. But he is quick to explain that the consequences of these spin-off hazards are much less dire than not wearing fall protection. “With proper training and understanding, you can get around pretty safely and pretty easily. The idea is either you trip on a lifeline and fall on the roof, or fall off the roof if you don’t have anything else on.” TOP TIER The high standards that each product has to meet gives manufacturers little wiggle room in making their products function better than the next company’s, Roberts notes. In fact, “over the last 10 to 15 years, you’ve had the same equipment — just in different colours being produced.” Recently though, companies have begun to compete on features, and each manufacturer has its own options and opinions on how a premium harness compares to a barebones model. “It’s like if you were to look at a car. It will still get you from point A to point B; it just doesn’t have the heated seats and the air conditioning,” Harkins compares. “If you’re looking at the lower end, you’re looking at a product that’s compliant to the standards out there… but it’s going to be a very basic product. It’s not going to have the bells and whistles, but it gets the job done.” The higher-end products will offer value-adding features such as extra padding in the shoulders and straps, belt attachwww.ohscanada.com
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ments, come in a wider variety of colours and are often easier to don and doff, he adds. “Some people have a hard time getting over why they would spend $400,” Roberts says. “But the difference between a good-better-best scenario is obviously the buckles that you use; they’ll allow for easier adjustments, there is different comfort padding — whether it’s on the waist or the shoulders or the leg straps.” For example, a residential roofer may need to invest only $150 for a very basic product, “but you can easily get up to $1,500 for an individual worker depending on the set-up he or she wants,” Roberts adds. Fuke says Capital Safety’s high-end Next harnesses are made to be worn for an eight- to 10-hour period, thanks to the extra padding and softer webbing. The aluminum hardware the company uses instead of steel also helps to keep weight down. The company also builds in Camelbak water packs, cellphone holsters and tool lanyards, he adds. While the lumbar support and shoulder padding is a nice touch, workers will likely get by just fine without it if the equipment is only being worn for an hour every month, Harkins opines. The ability to adjust a harness to one’s body has a major impact on how comfortable the gear is when worn for an extended duration. While lower-end harnesses aim for a more universal fit, higher-end models tend to be more granular when it comes to sizing. They run from extra small to extra large sizes, coupled with materials that make adjustments easier. “People will be willing to spend a little bit more to get the kind of fit and the comfort they want,” Fuke suggests. He adds that the higher-end safety gear typically goes to utility workers, the oil and gas sector and maintenance, repair and overhaul work, while Higher-end the lower-end is often used in construction and contracting work. products Furthermore, cheaper harnesses are typically shared, while more expensive will offer products are considered personal because they are worn more often, Fuke value-adding goes on to say. For its part, Roberts says 3M shies features. away from the add-ons because if workers start adding keys, cellphones or pens into their pockets, those items are also subject to the same forces during a fall. “You don’t want to see the end result of what that does. The general rule is to not have anything in your pockets. That’s something 3M considers an additional hazard [and] we don’t want to integrate into our harnesses.” ON THE HORIZON Any major changes to the function of fall protection harnesses are dependent on changes by the CSA or the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), but this has not stopped manufacturers from evolving to anticipate where the market is headed next. “We are starting to develop products for up to 420 pounds. We realized there has been a growth on the human side and we’ve responded to it,” Fuke says, adding that the company is also looking at connectors made out of composites instead of metal in an effort to further reduce weight. Harkins says mechanical devices are a growing trend 42
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CROSSING T’S AND DOTTING I’S Megan Johnston, communications officer with WorkSafeBC, says that health and safety officers look for several things when visiting a worksite where fall protection is required, including the following: • are written programs or policies on the use of fall protection systems in place? • is the plan specific to each job site? • are weather conditions, tasks and working surface conditions (such as tripping hazards) taken into account? • is the plan communicated to supervisors and workers before work starts? • are supervisors monitored to ensure they require workers to use safe means to access work areas at heights, and to use fall protection systems and equipment? and • is documentation maintained to indicate that workers and supervisors were provided with adequate instruction, training, supervision and corrective action to work safely at heights? “As the list indicates, planning and supervision are vital to working safely at elevation,” Johnston says. “Key to planning and supervision is communication: do the workers understand the plan; and is the supervisor monitoring and correcting as needed to ensure the plan is well-understood and followed?”
down south, especially self-retracting twin leg personal fall limiters. These devices hook onto a harness’s D-ring and allow a worker to stay tied off while moving from one location to another and minimizing or eliminating any trip hazards a lanyard-based system could create. “As you might imagine, you’re climbing a ladder and that lanyard might get caught in your foot, but that’s no longer an issue because it’s mounted to your back and out of the way. It could also be that if I’m involved in a fall event, a mechanical device will typically arrest the fall in a shorter amount of time or distance,” Harkins says. The Canadian standards are similar, but not identical, to those in the United States. This means that in Canada, CSA is enforceable and included in the legislation in some provinces and territories, while ANSI is a voluntary standard that some major companies require as a best practice on site. As an example, since 2007, ANSI’s requirement for lanyard snap hook gates is a minimum strength of about 1630 kg, while the CSA is now adopting this standard. But even with all of the best gear and certified fall protection training, it is crucial that workers are prepared for the worst. Once a fall has been arrested, a co-worker is still left dangling over the edge. Harkins stresses that a job safety analysis needs to be done to address issues such as whether or not the safety product is used in the correct way and what is the rescue plan in the event of a fall. “Are you going to raise them up or lower them down, do you have access to get to them?” Harkins asks. “The last thing you want to do is start thinking about that when someone’s hanging.” Follow us on Twitter @OHSCanada
Greg Burchell is assistant editor of health and safety news.
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Slow Burn FAR-REACHING: Corrosive materials like acids, bases and chemicals can be found in almost every workplace — either by themselves or contained in other products. Section 2.40 of Transport Canada’s Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations says that substances are classified as corrosive if they are “known to cause full thickness destruction of human skin, that is, skin lesions that are permanent and destroy all layers of the outer skin through to the internal tissues.” Materials can also fall under a corrosive designation if they do not cause full thickness skin destruction, but exhibit a corrosion rate that exceeds 6.25 millimetres per year at a test temperature of 55 degrees Celsius.
TWO-FOLD: There are a variety of industrial processes that use acids, says a guidebook from the N.C. Department of Labor in Raleigh, North Carolina. These include metal cleaning, pickling and etching; electroplating; paper making; electrolysis; and battery making. Corrosives, whether used directly or indirectly pose two major hazards. First, they corrode metal containers and equipment, causing containers to become weak and leak or collapse, spilling the contents into a workplace. Corrosives can also damage metal equipment and building components, which may lead to injuries and the collapse of structures. Second, they can burn human tissues on contact and cause permanent scarring, blindness, lung injury and even death in the case of severe exposures, notes information from Health Canada in Ottawa. These materials may also have additional hazards such as reactivity, flammability and toxicity.
A TO B: The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) in Hamilton, Ontario, says that most corrosives are either acids or bases. Common acids include hydrochloric, sulphuric, nitric, chromic, acetic and hydrofluoric acid, while common bases are ammonium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide (caustic potash) and sodium hydroxide (caustic soda).
BURNING FACTOR: The stronger or more concentrated the corrosive material is and the longer it touches the body, the more severe the injuries. The CCOHS notes that corrosives can inflict the following injuries: • Burn the eyes, resulting in scars or permanent blindness; • Severely irritate, burn and blister skin; • Irritate or burn the inner lining of the nose, throat, windpipe and lungs. In serious cases, this results in pulmonary edema, a potentially fatal buildup of fluid in the lungs; and • Destroy the sensitive lining of the mouth, throat, esophagus and stomach if swallowed. In non-fatal cases, severe scarring of the throat may occur and can result in the loss of the ability to swallow.
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HANDLE WITH CARE: In order to protect against corrosive substances, material safety data sheets should be reviewed for information about the hazards and necessary precautions that should be taken. Health Canada says the appropriate personal protective equipment needs to be worn, including respiratory protection, safety glasses or goggles, a face shield, safety gloves and chemical protective clothing such as an apron. Special handling measures should also be considered when dealing with corrosive chemicals, notes information from the Department of Environmental Health and Safety at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts: • Never store corrosive liquids above eye level; • Always add acids or bases to water — not the reverse, as adding water to corrosive materials can cause a violent reaction. If absolutely necessary, add cold water to the corrosive in small amounts and stir frequently; • Segregate acids and bases in storage; • If there is a possibility that a significant amount of dust may be generated, conduct work in a fume hood; • If the potential exists for explosion, additional shielding should be utilized. This may involve the use of shielding in a glove box or in the case of a fume hood with the sash in the lowest possible position. Portable shields may be used for additional protection; and • Store corrosive material away from heat or flames, oxidizers and water sources. Ensure that the manufacturer’s labels remain intact.
PROTECTIVE FACTORS: Information from Brandeis University recommends that all exposed skin be protected from contact with corrosive or irritating gases and vapours. Gas regulators and valves need to be closed when the cylinder is not in use, and cylinders should be properly purged and cleaned with dry air or an inert gas such as nitrogen. Workers should also perform manipulations of materials that pose an inhalation hazard in a chemical fume hood to control exposure or wear appropriate respiratory protection. Finally, when corrosive gases are to be discharged into a liquid, check that the valve or vacuum break device is employed to prevent a dangerous reverse flow.
CONTROL MEASURES: Administrative controls can also be used in addition to engineering controls such as local exhaust ventilation (hoods or process enclosures), dilution ventilation or a combination of both. For example, the N.C. Department of Labor says the use of one particular corrosive can be eliminated; a corrosive substance can be replaced with a less toxic one; and employees’ exposure time to vapours, mists and dusts can be limited. Apparatuses for handling corrosive liquids include manual drum or carboy pumps, dispensing aids such as small bottle or carboy tilters, and drum tilters and dollies.
DO’S AND DON’TS: Health Canada offers the following safety precautions when working with corrosive materials: • Use corrosive materials only in well-ventilated areas; • Use the smallest amount necessary; • Inspect containers of corrosive material for leaks before handling; • Use corrosion-resistant equipment such as pumps, scoops or shovels to handle corrosive materials; • Know where the closest eyewash station and safety shower are located and how to use them. Flush contaminated eyes or skin with water for at least 20 to 30 minutes in case of accidental contact; • Never handle drums that appear to be swollen; • Never return unused material to the original container as this may contain traces of contamination and could cause a chemical reaction to occur; and • Do not reuse empty containers as they may contain residual hazardous corrosive material.
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Redefining the Workplace By Jean Lian
ore than three years after a washroom privacy wall collapsed and killed a teenager, the Ontario Court of Justice has found the City of Guelph not guilty of a workplace safety infraction. The Ministry of Labour charged the city with failing to provide a safe workplace by ensuring that every part of the structure could resist all loads to which it was subjected, under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). A student was killed on June 16, 2009 when a concrete block privacy wall in the women’s washroom at South End Community Park — owned and operated by the City of Guelph — collapsed as she boosted herself up onto a change table. “Neither the City nor the community will forget the tragic incident that claimed the life of 14-year-old Isabel Warren,” said Ann Pappert, the city’s chief administrative officer, in a statement following the ruling on February 12. “We hope the court decision offers some closure and our thoughts are with Ms. Warren’s family and friends.” The decision Although the deceased teenager noted that was not a worker and no worker was present at the time of the incident, the decision noted that the washroom was the washroom a workplace at all times. was a “Employees of the City of Guelph would clean the washroom facilities workplace at and therefore, it was for all times and for all purposes, a workplace,” says all times. Norm Keith, a lawyer and partner at Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP in Toronto, who represented the Corporation of the City of Guelph. He adds that an employer must consider the safety of both workers and the public if the latter has access to any part of a workplace. William Lin, a spokesperson for the labour ministry, adds that the Crown is appealing the earlier dismissal of charges against the architect and the engineer. “The matter is still before the courts and we cannot comment further.” BURDEN OF PROOF One central issue in the case revolves around who is responsible for ensuring that the wall was properly designed and constructed. In 2003, the city engaged the services of a consulting firm for the design, tender and contract administration of the park project, which included the women’s washroom. The consulting firm then subcontracted the project to Grinham Architect. The city also entered into a contract with a construction and infrastructure development company, which subcontracted the project to Harrington Construction Inc. that, in 46
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turn, hired masonry contractor, J.D. Masonry Inc. to construct the wall. Evidence heard in court revealed that the wall, which was put up some five years before it collapsed, was improperly constructed. The privacy wall extended less than two metres from the exterior wall into the washroom. The wall, which was just over two metres high and did not reach the ceiling, had a change table bolted to it through brackets. One end of the wall abutted the exterior wall, but the other end that extended into the room was freestanding. It was apparent after the collapse that the wall had not been tied into the exterior wall or to the floor of the change room. Keith says the Ontario Building Code sets out proper requirements, including those for a privacy wall like the one in question, to be connected to the exterior wall. “And that is the problem — it wasn’t.” The decision points out that the drawing — stamped with the professional seals and signatures of the engineer, the architect and the City of Guelph’s building division — did not detail any anchors, tie-ins or other mechanical support needed for the privacy wall. Keith thinks that the ruling is “fair and proper” on the facts of the case. “If there had been a conviction of a corporation, then it would mean that first of all, you could not rely upon an engineering or architect stamp. Secondly, there is a much higher standard on municipal building departments to review drawings and buildings,” he suggests. “I don’t think it is unfair to rely upon designers with professional qualifications, especially when they represent as they did, that the construction met those requirements.” SAFE TO ASSUME Kelvin Teepell, senior mason and founder of Ontario Masonry Restoration Ltd. in Mississauga, agrees. “As long as it has got the engineering stamp on it there, he is like God. That is supposed to be fine and really, nobody can overrule him.” Justice Michael Epstein, who presided over the hearing, came to the same conclusion, noting that the stamping of drawings by a professional architect or engineer indicated an assumption of responsibility “that could be relied upon by others, including the City of Guelph.” The applicable standards, published by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) that are pertinent to the wall that collapsed are S304.1-94 Masonry Design for Buildings and A371-94 Masonry Construction for Buildings. The former sets out the standards for masonry design while the latter stipulates the requirements for construction. The S304.1-94 standard states that in addition to the information required by the National Building Code of Canada, the drawings and related documents for structures designed in accordance with this standard shall include, where appropriate: the material to be used in masonry; position, location,
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type, spacing and size of ties, anchors, lifting devices and other supports; and details of bonding, tying and anchorage of masonry, amongst other things. Dr. Robert Drysdale, professor emeritus with the Department of Civil Engineering at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, was retained by the labour ministry to provide an opinion in this case. He was critical of the drawings, which showed no reinforcement of the privacy wall and did not specify the method of attachment to the floor or to the exterior wall. “In the event that the information required was not contained in the drawings, then one would expect to find such information in the specifications,” writes Justice Epstein in the decision. But “the specifications provided no indication to the masons as to how the wall was to be built and secured.” Dr. Drysdale believes that faced with such circumstances, a masonry contractor could — but is not required to — bring this omission to the designer’s attention. The defence called a professional engineer — identified only as J. Wilkinson — who argued that the notes on the drawing clearly indicated that any ambiguity in the drawings, specifications or details is to be reported to the landscape architect for direction. “In the absence of such a note, then it should have been clear to the masonry contractor that ties should have been installed in conformance with the CSA standards,” Wilkinson argues. “It is clear to me on the evidence in this case that there was an outright failure on the part of the masonry subcontractor to properly construct the privacy wall,” Justice Epstein writes. “Through training and experience, it should have been obvious to the masons that this wall had to be connected to the exterior wall or supported in some other fashion.” Technical engineering information and evidence is important in cases of this nature, Keith observes. The requirement in the OHSA that was alleged to have been breached was a requirement for a provision of the structural building code to be complied with. “When you have technical obligations under the OHSA, you need technical expertise to confirm compliance and hopefully, compliance confirmed by engineering is reliable. It certainly was relied upon in this case” — even if it was improperly assessed, he suggests. DUE DILIGENCE Another issue that was considered in court was whether or not the City of Guelph exercised due diligence in ensuring that workers are provided a safe workplace. Crown counsel David McCaskill took the position that the city failed to live up to its core function as a municipal regulator to ensure that it provides building permits only for safe construction projects. He argued that the city was negligent in issuing a building permit when the structural integrity of the privacy wall as shown in the drawing was deficient. As such, he claimed the city failed in its role as an employer to ensure that a workplace was safe when it permitted a privacy wall so lacking in structural integrity to be built. The city was aware that the structural engineer who designed the privacy wall was involved in an earlier project on which there had been a wall collapse. McCaskill argues that that knowledge should have served as an alert, prompting the city to question the engineer’s competency and exercise greater scrutiny before issuing the building permit.
Justice Epstein reasoned that there is ample evidence to show the city has insulated itself from liability by contracting out the project from the outset and taking no part in the design or construction of the project. It also reasonably relied on the consulting firm’s expertise to oversee the project. Letters from the engineer and architect confirming that the structural work was satisfactorily completed in general compliance with construction documents served as further proof that the city has acted reasonably — in accordance with provincial legislation and in a manner consistent with the practice of other municipalities in Ontario — in setting up and staffing its building service. “I am satisfied on a balance of probabilities that the city reasonably believed in a mistaken set of facts, rendering any act or omission on its part innocent,” he concludes. Keith says having a joint health and safety committee inspect the workplace is important in demonstrating that an employer has done its due diligence and is compliant with the oh&s requirements. “I think the regular inspection of a workplace by the joint health and safety committee is a key party of the due diligence defence.” CONFLICTING FINDINGS He adds that the ruling also “places all employers under some responsibility for the health and safety of the public who uses a workplace facility.” It also gives a broader and more liberal interpretation of the meaning of workplace than the Blue Mountain resort decision. In that case in 2007, a guest drowned in a swimming pool at the resort in Collingwood, Ontario. The labour ministry was of the view that the incident was reportable, but Blue Mountain argued that the pool was not a workplace and no workers were present when the drowning occurred. In February, the provincial Court of Appeal overturned previous rulings and found that the OHSA only requires employers to report critical injuries or fatalities at a workplace with a connection to a realistic risk to worker safety. “Both cases involve a fatality of a member of the public at a place where workers work,” Keith notes. However, he says there are some arguable inconsistencies between the two cases relating to whether or not the place where the accident occurred is governed by the OHSA. In the Blue Mountain decision, the ruling found that there was not a sufficient connection to workers’ risk since the drowning occurred in a swimming pool. As such, it was not a reportable incident. However, the City of Guelph case says the change table and the unstable wall posed a hazard to city employees who regularly went in to clean the washroom. Keith takes note of the different findings on the question of whether or not a workplace is governed by OHSA. “In the Blue Mountain case, the court said no and in the City of Guelph case, the court said yes,” he says. One lesson that employers can take away from this case is to be mindful of the safety of both the public and workers — especially if the former has access to any part of a workplace, Keith advises. “Employers should be aware that their goal should not be, in my opinion, just to be able to win a prosecution. Their goal should be to attempt to prevent these fatalities in the first place.” Follow us on Twitter @OHSCanada
Jean Lian is editor of
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Changing the Landscape By Sabrina Nanji
his year, the building blocks of the construction industry in Ontario are undergoing fundamental changes. As of January 1, 2013, the provincial government implemented new legislation that made it mandatory for all key players in the construction sector to have Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) coverage. While employers were previously required to purchase WSIB coverage only for their employees, Mandatory Coverage in Construction — first introduced in 2008 and commonly referred to as Bill 119 — requires business owners to be covered as well. According to Christine Arnott, the public relations specialist at the WSIB, that category includes most independent operators, sole proprietors, partners in a partnership and executive officers in a corporation working in construction. In addition, executive officers and partners whose businesses were already registered with the WSIB are now required to reEssentially, port their earnings and pay premiums. Any third-party coverage from anyone who a private insurance company that a business owner had does not replace steps foot onto the legal requirement for additional a construction WSIB coverage, Arnott adds. Under the new law, employers — site must have owners, principals, contractors and sub-contractors — must also obtain coverage. clearance certificates to indicate that they have paid premiums for coverage. Without one, it is illegal for the employer to conduct any work whatsoever. Essentially, anyone who steps foot onto a construction site must have coverage under the WSIB. “The WSIB will be providing valuable workplace coverage for people in the construction industry who previously didn’t have coverage,” Arnott says. “If they do get injured at work, they will have access to the broad range of benefits and services that the WSIB provides.” Ontario labour minister Yasir Naqvi says the bill seeks to reduce underground economic activity. Prior to implementation, the WSIB and Ministry of Labour met with businesses, employers and labour organizations to solicit their advice and feedback. “They repeatedly heard about the need to eliminate the underground economy, which puts businesses that play the rules at a competitive disadvantage,” Naqvi says. “This legislation helps level the playing field. At the end of the day, Bill 119 is about protecting Ontario workers and building a stronger economy that benefits us all.” Naqvi adds that the labour ministry launched an education awareness program to ensure both employers and employees understand their new responsibilities and protections. “Once enrolled, workers will receive education and health 48
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and safety supports from the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association,” Naqvi says. “As well, once they come under WSIB coverage, injuries are more likely to be reported, which will help the Ministry of Labour track and enforce safe workplace practices in the construction industry.” UNDUE BURDEN While lawmakers have steadfastly claimed that having universal coverage will even the playing field and improve the health and safety of everyone involved in the construction sectors, others in the industry have denounced the so-called ‘steep premiums’, saying they will put smaller operations at a competitive disadvantage. For some of the smaller companies, these premiums can be too much to fork out — a cost more easily absorbed by larger competitors who have access to more resources. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which represents more than 100,000 small businesses across the province, has consistently pushed for a repeal of Bill 119. Plamen Petkov, the federation’s director of provincial affairs in Toronto, argues that the new law tacks on premiums that make it hard for already-struggling businesses to keep their heads above water. Petkov says this will significantly increase the cost of doing business for a small construction company or independent operator as companies will now have to fork out an additional $5,000 to $10,000 dollars for mandatory premiums. “When you introduce a new premium or a new tax, you’re not going to flush out the underground economy; you’re actually going to push businesses to go underground. And that’s exactly what I think is happening right now. It’s extremely difficult for businesses to compete and comply [with] Bill 119 at the same time,” Petkov contends. He also disagrees with the assertion that the bill is meant to improve health and safety in the construction industry. “There are other ways of improving health and safety, by investing in training and education and prevention strategies,” Petkov says. “But certainly imposing a new premium or a new tax is not really achieving that objective.” After Bill 119 was introduced at Queen’s Park in Toronto, the Ontario Contractor and Small Business Association was formed to represent the smaller players, says its spokesperson Ron Theriault, who believes that insurance coverage should remain competitive. “I think everybody should be covered, open it up to all the insurance companies that can compete, see who can offer us the best rate,” suggests Theriault, who also runs Elicor Developments Inc., a home renovation and building company out of Ottawa. Both Petkov and Theriault think that one course of action that can improve workplace health and safety in the construction industry is to have the government adopt a preventive approach and invest in educational and training programs.
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ALL CLEAR To make the transition as smooth as possible for those who must comply with Bill 119’s new mandatory insurance for the construction industry, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board has launched a website, BeRegisteredBeReady. ca. Employers seeking to find out if they need to comply and workers eager to know how they are protected can check it out for details. The site explains what a clearance would mean: “No coverage means no clearance. No clearance means no
Currently, those who work exclusively in home renovations and partners in an incorporated construction business are exempted from mandatory coverage. Jack Siegel, a Toronto-based lawyer at Blaney McMurtry LLP, says the former exemption has a loophole. For instance, if a homeowner hires a contractor to do a home renovation and the contractor in turn hires a sub-contractor, the exemption would no longer apply. Though Siegel strongly advocated that the bill become law while it was being debated in the legislature, he says that this is more of a risk prevention issue, rather than a direct influence on health and safety improvements. “Logically, it doesn’t impact safety at all,” Siegel argues. “It will impact the coverage that those workers have, should they be injured at work.” Unlike workers who had no coverage in
work. It’s just that simple.” That said, the contractor must have an open account with the WSIB; be in the appropriate classification unit; report all required premium amounts to the WSIB; and pay all premiums and other amounts owing. Once those are met, the WSIB coverage will provide nofault collective liability insurance, access to industry-specific oh&s information for employers, and provide loss of earnings benefits and health care coverage to workers.
the past, construction workers who are injured at work will now be entitled to WSIB benefits, 85 per cent of their net pay, and additional medical supports, he notes. Arnott and Naqvi say there will be a ramped up public awareness campaign to foster awareness of the bill, which is currently in its pilot year. Launched in 2012, the WSIB facilitated speaking engagements, print advertisements, radio spots, and an online eServices program, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The board has also initiated a grace period with no fines or penalties applied for the remainder of 2013 to ease employers through the transition. Follow us on Twitter @OHSCanada
Sabrina Nanji is editorial assistant of health and safety news.
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Canada’s largest health and safety event, the Partners in Prevention 2013 conference and trade show, was held on April 30 and May 1 in Mississauga, Ontario. The show brought together more than 4,500 health and safety professionals and featured more than 60 sessions, workshops and professional development courses.
“One of the most challenging things about this job is that every time there is a workplace fatality, I get direct notification of it on my BlackBerry.” — Ontario labour minister Yasir Naqvi
“In the face of significant economic pressures and a transforming workforce, employers are feeling increasing pressure to keep their employees, customers and businesses protected,” says Elizabeth Mills, president and chief executive officer of Workplace Safety & Prevention Services.
The Healthy Living Centre features interactive demonstrations and various stations on how to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.
Six-time Olympian Clara Hughes spoke about her personal battle with depression while competing in the games.
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Jane Riddell, chief operating officer of GoodLife Fitness (left), and Greg Nordal, president and chief executive officer of Nelson Education, discussed the role of a company leader in creating a culture of safety in the workplace.
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CRIMINAL AND REGULATORY LAW TRIAL AND APPEAL LAWYER (over 27 years of experience) FORMER O.H.S.A. PROSECUTOR (2004-2007): • Prosecuted Industrial, Construction and Mining cases, primarily fatalities and some critical injury cases (including Inco, Cementation Skanska, EllisDon, Shiu Pong, Enbridge, Great West Life, Lee Valley Tools & Clean Harbors)
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Sheila Hemsley , ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Tel: 416-510-5105 Fax: 416-510-5140 Email: email@example.com
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PRODUCT SHOWCASE an advertising feature
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THE HATSCAN HANDI-GUIDE SERIES The leading source of expertise on occupational health and safety law in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Atlantic Canada (new). Each title in this series provides quick, reliable access to the law plus the expert insight that helps you interpret the law. Powerful safety tools for you and your employees! Carswell, a Thomson Reuters business Order your copies today! www.carswell.com Toll free 1-800-387-5164 In Toronto 416-609-3800
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GLOVE RINGS Reduce suit up time while increasing wrist and hand mobility with the Glove Rings® accessory! Made from a strong, flexible plastic they provide a firm surface for taping that makes a better and more consistent seal. Perfect for hydro-blasting, industrial cleaning, hazmat, raingear, asbestos abatement and much more!
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A D V E R T I S I N G D I R E C T O RY C A N A D A
Industrial Scientific Corp
www.3M.ca/safety For ad see page 56
A-Med www.a-medsupply.com For ad see page 15
Carswell www.carswell.com For ad see page 11
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Lakeland www.lakeland.com For ad see page 49
Miller Fall Protection/Honeywell www.millerfallprotection.com For ad see page 55
Masterlock www.masterlock.com For ad see page 9
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So, what’s on your mind? JUNE 2013
Does arming employees offer better protection or introduce risk of violence on the job? Offers better protection
Would you try yoga as an alternative therapy for chronic neck pain?
Introduces risk of violence 77%
Go on — have your say. Check out www.ohscanada.com to vote in our latest poll.
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BUSTED: It is a common belief that taking a swig or two of coffee while working a long night shift can help keep workers on their toes. A 56-year-old employee of the City of Timmins took that one step further on the night of March 26 while operating a backhoe to clear snow from city streets. Not only was he caught sipping vodka from a thermos, he was also taking unusually long pauses while responding to police questions, the Daily Press (Timmins) reports. The 24-year city employee, who had nearly three times the legal limit of alcohol in his system, lost his job, driver’s licence and was sentenced to 30 days in jail. He pleaded guilty in provincial court on April 30 to impaired driving and is prohibited from operating a motor vehicle for the next 18 months. DO NOT REPLY: Hitting the “send” button on an email only to realize that it was delivered to the wrong person may be a common mistake for many. For an employee of a healthcare communications company in Mississauga, Ontario, she was the one on the receiving end of an unwanted message — whether or not she should be fired. The Toronto Star reported on May 7 that the company’s director of operations, who intended to send the email to the firm’s lawyers, inadvertently sent the email to the worker meant to be fired. The unintended recipient took the email as constructive dismissal and launched a suit against her former employer. The judge dismissed the company’s argument that the intended recipients of the email were the company’s lawyers and therefore privileged communication, likely because mind reading is not an accepted legal defence. UNWANTED VISITORS: Staff and patients at a hospital
in Saskatchewan found themselves dealing with more than just cuts, contusions and bruises. It started when a snake was seen slithering down a hall at the Herbert Health Centre in the town of the same name, the Canadian Press reported in April. Others soon followed — a half dozen in all. It turns out that garter snakes had turned a crawl space beneath the hospital into a warm den for the winter and began to emerge as spring approached. Hospital officials say the crawl space has been sealed off and about 100 were captured in traps.
WHEELS OF STEEL: Police officers in Edmonton will
soon be chasing criminals through downtown streets on twowheeled Segway scooters. The police service will get six of the machines — which do not have sirens, but do have a bell and red and blue lights — to help officers roll over potholes and down curbs, the Edmonton Journal reports. Although the scooters were originally cited as impractical and of no operational use, the machines are seen as extremely versatile and mobile, providing sightlines above crowds and creating positive lasting impressions on members of the public.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Ever notice how being treated
unfairly at work makes food taste better? No? Well, a new study out of the University of British Columbia says that injustice at work can sharpen the tastebuds. In one experiment, the authors of the study had participants watch scenes from
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a TV show involving clearly unjust versus neutral situations. On second viewing, the participants reported food tasting as much as 10 per cent stronger. The study authors concluded that experiencing or observing injustice led to feelings of moral disgust, which subsequently related to a stronger sense of taste. So being stressed at work can actually leave a good taste in your mouth.
STOP THE PRESS: Not that one would be able to tell
from reading a high-quality occupational health and safety magazine, but reporting has been ranked as the worst job of 2013 due to low pay, high stress and instability, according to a study of 200 jobs by CareerCast.com. The good news is that online reporting has comparatively better prospects, if employees do not mind lower pay, higher stress and being on call at all times, the Toronto Star reported on April 23. The study ranked farmers, dishwashers and waiters higher than reporters. Even lumberjacks, who regularly face dangerous working conditions, fare marginally better on the list. Clearly, those in the health and safety writing business missed the memo.
ICING ON THE CAKE: Most of us want to leave a job
on good terms, but an airport worker in the United Kingdom took it to new heights when he iced his resignation letter onto a cake. The employee of Stansted Airport in Essex decided to leave his job on his 31st birthday to devote more time to his newborn son and his cake business, the Daily Mail reported in April. The image of his 114-word resignation cake, which took two hours to complete, went viral. He reportedly had to turn down orders from as far away as Sweden as he delivers each cake personally from his home in Sawston. How sweet.
CAUGHT ON TAPE: Employees on sick leave would be well-advised to not follow in the footsteps of a British man caught on video wrestling a shark away from kids on an Australian beach while off on work-related stress leave. The 62-year-old man made the daring rescue at Australia’s Bulcock Beach in Queensland in late January while he was on a two-month break from his job at a children’s charity in Wales, the Huffington Post reported in March. But when charity trustees saw the video, they questioned their confidence and trust in the worker and he was fired for taking a vacation abroad when on sick leave. The employee insisted that the stress was real and he went to Australia on the advice of his doctor. No word on whether wrestling sharks was part of the prescription. JUST LOOKING: A store owner near Brisbane, Australia
has decided to exact her own form of revenge on customers who browse and then leave empty-handed. The owner of Celiac Supplies, which sells gluten-free products, made the controversial decision to charge a $5 “just looking” fee to penalize browsers who use the store as a reference and then purchase goods elsewhere. The store owner defended her contentious store policy, saying that she is not running a charity service for larger retail chain stores. Happy shopping. Follow us on Twitter @OHSCanada
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Visit www.3M.ca/Safety *Based on both 2012 customer survey and comparative testing. **Based on research study by Burke, Inc. 2/2012 of 200 Safety Managers that used both 3M brand and other respirators.
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OHS CANADA is the leading Canadian occupational health and safety magazine. We publish eight issues per year: Jan/Feb, March, April/May, Jun...
Published on May 21, 2013
OHS CANADA is the leading Canadian occupational health and safety magazine. We publish eight issues per year: Jan/Feb, March, April/May, Jun...