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The Extending protections to Alberta’s farm workers


The complicated world of prescription opioids


Ontario arrests falls through new training standard


Skin cancer linked to Agent Orange exposure


Managing anxiety through meditation

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© 2014 Workrite Uniform Company

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Road to Recovery

A P RI L / M AY 20 1 4 Vo l u m e 3 0, Nu mb e r 3

While prescription opioids are widely used to manage chronic pain, mounting evidence shows that long-term use of narcotic painkillers can be more harmful than helpful. BY JEAN LIAN


Greener Pastures

In Alberta, farm workers are not covered by workplace safety legislation. Is it time for the province to bring these workers into the fold of occupational health and safety laws? BY CARMELLE WOLFSON




On the Line

Ontario’s introduction of a fall-protection training standard for the construction sector is the province’s latest move in arresting the risk of those who work at heights. BY DONALEE MOULTON





Taming the Monkey Mind

When it comes to calming your nerves at work, research indicates that quieting the mind through meditation can alleviate depression and anxiety. BY SAMUEL DUNSIGER



Dressed for Fire

From caps to coveralls, industries that work with flammable substances can avoid going up in flames by outfitting employees in proper fire-retardant apparel.




The “Lucky” Ones

Beyond Skin-Deep

4 6



Ottawa gets safety advisory letters; Yukon fatality prompts charges; British Columbia launches safety association; Alberta workers killed; Saskatchewan city fined; Ontario engineer charged; and more.



Invisible Threat

Carbon monoxide is present in many industries. Equipping workplaces with proper monitoring devices can prevent the silent killer from taking a toll on employees. TIM E OUT

A purrfect cat-astrophe; mayoral antics; one-cent cheque; taking a leak; nuts about chocolate; doped out; and more.




52 53

Police work sedentary; office romance can hurt productivity; mood influences food choices; and more.

The legacy of exposure to dioxin-laden herbicides continues to haunt workers in Canada, as a recent study links skin cancer to Agent Orange exposure. BY CARMELLE WOLFSON






There is no safety in numbers, or in anything else.




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The “Lucky” Ones S

eventeen days — that was how long it took the families of the passengers on board flight MH370 to find out that the plane, which vanished from radar on March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, had crashed in the Indian Ocean in the remote waters off Australia’s west coast. For the Austin, Texas-based company Freescale Semiconductor Inc., this incident is personal. Twenty of its employees — 12 from Malaysia and eight from China — were on the ill-fated plane. The crushing conclusion has extinguished hopes of finding any survivors, which the company has been embracing by wearing orange ribbons as a symbol of hope while the search was underway. As the international search-and-recovery effort enters a new phase, a different kind of journey deep in the souls of the families, friends and co-workers of those on the flight has barely begun. For many people, survivor guilt is real — regardless of whether that mental condition is a result of surviving layoffs in tough economic times or being the lucky one who got away while a colleague did not in a workplace accident. Lucky — that is precisely the cornerstone of survivor guilt — the burden of being the one who got out alive by sheer chance. It stings when life and death seem to be determined in such a random, cavalier fashion; a baggage that those who unfortunately “got lucky” had to carry with them for a long time. Survivor guilt, characterized by a deep sense of remorse for surviving a catastrophe that took the lives of many others, was first noted in the 1960s among Holocaust survivors. Listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a significant symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder, the condition derives in part from a feeling that one did not do enough to save the others who perished and in part from feelings of being less worthy than those who died. This condition can arise in combat soldiers, law enforcers who witnessed the death of a fellow officer while on duty or employees who have seen a fatal workplace accident. Nightmares, flashbacks, angst, increased irritability, disrupted relationships and even inclinations to hurt oneself are among the associated symptoms. G.R.I.E.F., or Guided Response, Intervention and Evaluation for Fatalities, is a pocket response guide that outlines a six-phase plan to help an organization’s employees recover from a traumatic workplace incident. The first three phases involve finding out what actually happened, conducting debriefings to allow employees to share their feelings, and letting them express reactive feelings during the debriefing process. Clinical symptoms pertaining to employees’ emotional, cognitive, behavioural and physical states are likely to emerge during the fourth phase, before progressing to the fifth stage of dealing with the trauma cognitively instead of emotionally. In the final phase of readjustment or recovery, employees should be able to summarize the critical incident and determine an action plan for moving on. Cantor Fitzgerald’s chief executive officer Howard Lutnick, who was delayed from getting to work on time the day when the Twin Towers fell and killed 68 per cent of the staff at the financial services firm located on the 101st to 105th floors of the World Trade Center, has this to say when people call him lucky: “If luck is defined by I get to live, but all my friends, my brother and everyone gets killed, that’s a very strange sort of luck.” Strange as it may be, it is a privilege to be alive. And while we may never understand why some people got lucky while others did not, the only thing we can do is move on, live well and do justice to the luck that we have all been given. Jean Lian

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DAVID IRETON, Safety Professional, Brampton, Ont. AL JOHNSON, Vice President, Prevention Services WorkSafeBC, Richmond, 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: 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, September, October/November, and December. Application to mail at ­Periodicals 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 Drive, 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); (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: APRIL/MAY 2014

ohs canada 9015



Vol. 30, No. 3 APRIL/MAY 2014

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panorama $380 million 1

Estimated cost of repetitive strain injuries in Ontario. Between 1996 and 2004, the province averaged 42,500 lost-time claims per year, which translates into three million lost work days.


Source: Toronto RSI Committee

5 4 3

Employment Standards Review: Alberta’s Ministry of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour has begun consultations on the Employment Standards Code, which sets out the minimum employment standards in the province. Minister Thomas Lukaszuk says the work environment has “changed a great deal” and that feedback from Albertans on the laws governing their workplaces will shed light on where improvements Source: Alberta Ministry of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour can be made. The deadline for feedback is April 11. 1.

Safety First: The Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba announced on February 24 that it has awarded $1 million to 10 recipients as part of the Research and Workplace Innovation Program, which funds initiatives that improve workplace health and safety. The province’s agricultural sector and Aboriginal workforce are among the areas covered in this year’s grants, which range from $7,420 to $200,000.


Penalty issued to J.R. Contracting Property Services Limited in Woodbridge, Ontario on March 6. A worker was paralyzed after falling off a roof in Toronto in 2008. Source: Ontario’s Ministry of Labour


Source: Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba

3. Creeping Up: Salaries paid for sick days in the federal public service were $871 million in 20112012— 68 per cent higher than the estimate for 2001-2002, after accounting for inflationary factors. The report, released on February 6 by financial analyst Erin Barkel with the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, says the data do not differentiate between sick days taken for regular illness and those taken as part of disability leave. Source: Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer

4. Man

Overboard: A fisherman in Nova Scotia died on March 3 after falling overboard while lobster fishing off the coast of Port Mouton, Queen’s County. The Department of Labour and Advanced Education’s occupational health and safety division is investigating the fishing industry’s first workplace fatality this year. Source: Government of Nova Scotia

5. A Higher Bar: The Workers Compensation Board of Prince Edward Island announced on February 5 that it has amended its “deliberate misinterpretation” policy to enhance the checks and balances protecting the integrity of the workers’ compensation system. The revised policy, which has been renamed Fraud Prevention and Investigation, sets out the measures in place to prevent fraud in all areas of the organization and defines the Source: Workers Compensation Board of Prince Edward Island appropriate investigation activities.

360° 6

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A track worker at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia broke both legs after being hit by the “forerunner” — a bobsleigh that is sent down the track ahead of the official competitors to check for safety. The incident, which delayed the competition by 35 minutes, sent the Olympics employee to hospital for operation on February 13. A warning shot was fired before the bobsleigh was sent down the track, and game organizers say they are trying to determine why the worker did not move out of the way. Source: Reuters


Fine slapped on manufacturer Agora Manufacturing Inc. in Mississauga, Ontario on March 11 over a worker injury on December 14, 2012. Several of the worker’s fingers were severed while he was changing a die on a large press used to bend metal sheets. Source: Ontario’s Ministry of Labour


Number of positions that Nova Scotia has added to its oh&s division. The positions, along with a new outreach unit, will focus on education, enforcement and compliance. Source: Government of Nova Scotia

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Recent issues of ohs canada and our website,, have provided readers with plenty to chew on.

recorder to show whether or not the operator complied with safety requirements to avoid a more serious issue. Eric A. Tuttle

USE OF FORCE PROBED Ontario’s Office of the Independent Police Review Director will conduct a review on the Toronto Police Service’s use of force, de-escalation techniques and approaches to dealing with people with mental health issues. (canadian occupational health and safety news (cohsn), March 3, 2014)


It is high time to dismantle the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I am a civil liberties advocate. From what I have seen, there are very few protections in place to safeguard capable citizens who are not a risk to self or others from being unlawfully arrested by police under a provincial mental health act and railroaded into a psychiatric institution without the necessary protections. Criminals and police who are charged with criminal activity demand and get to use the “Charter” even if they are guilty! Capable citizens have no chance whatsoever if someone “acting in bad faith” slaps a mental health label on them. The Charter is too little, too late for a capable citizen drugged and locked inside an institution.

Are there any plans to institute preventive measures? We know the two main causes of cancer among firefighters are exposure to diesel emissions from idling fire trucks in the fire halls and the outgassing of combusted materials after a fire has been extinguished, when the firefighters think it is safe to remove their self-contained breathing apparatuses. Both of these exposures to carcinogens are relatively easy to control.

Gordon W. Stewart

DANGEROUS CARGO The 72-car freight train carrying petroleum crude oil that derailed and exploded in Lac-Mégantic has prompted calls to beef up safety. (ohs canada, March 2014) Secondary containment systems should be used in the transportation of all hazardous materials, not only by rail, but over the road and via pipelines. With pipelines, breaches — when detected — could be auto-diverted through a parallel system, closing off the affected line. This is not true of rail or over-theroad transport, though alarms could be activated and recorded in a black-box 8

A P R I L / M AY 2 0 1 4

The Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission in Newfoundland and Labrador has recommended that cancer be considered a workplace hazard for firefighters. (cohsn, March 3, 2014)

Wayne Wood

MENTAL HEALTH STAFF NEEDED The federal government is hiring mental health professionals following numerous suicides in the Canadian Armed Forces. (cohsn, February 3, 2014) The move to hire mental health professionals is a great first step. Certain questions arise about what processes will be used to triage military clients, how that information will be used and stored, how privacy will be handled, how soldiers will gain access to highly specialized services and how the whole process will be monitored and managed for quality outcomes. Dr. Raymond Rupert

MINER HIT BY ORE A worker was killed after being hit by ore in a potash mine in Saskatchewan. (the

canadian press,

February 17, 2014)

So sorry to hear about this. There are several safety blogs coming out of Australia’s mining industry that rip into “zero target” safety goals. The reason is that companies end up putting all their resources into preventing all the “small” stuff, and ignore strategies that deal with how to prevent death in complex, dynamic, high-risk work environments. The mining industry Down Under is experiencing similar trends: reduced lost time, but consistent fatality rates. At some point, we have to say to ourselves as safety professionals, is all this zerotarget and culture stuff really working? Suzanne Jackson

POLICE BLITZ CRITICIZED Organizations representing sex workers contend that a recent police operation targeting human trafficking threatens sex worker safety. (cohsn, February 3, 2014) Wow, I don’t know how some people get so delusional. The police attempt to cut down on the despicable act of human trafficking, and the prostitutes that are inconvenienced condemn the police?... How about the increased safety risks to all of the families around you...? I literally laughed out loud reading this. Steve

Legalize, just like what you did with gambling! Our society did not fall apart then, and the benefits far outweighed the downsides. It would not fall apart if prostitution was legal either. It is always the vocal minority that gets in the way of the majority with common sense. John Doe

Follow us on Twitter @OHSCanada

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Tracing the safety steps of uranium mining

BRIDGING THE DIVIDE Stun guns spark concerns



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Shoring up safety in excavation work

Teachers at higher risk of speech and language disorders



Piecing together an ammonium nitrate explosion

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Workforce challenges in the oil and gas sector


Guarding against cyber-breaches


On the defensive against influenza


Wellness indicators for healthcare workers


Getting a handle on workplace disability


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LOSS OF AWARENESS CITED FEDERAL — Loss of situational awareness

has been determined to be a contributing factor in an aircraft crash in Ontario two years ago, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) concludes. On October 16, 2012, the Aerofab Inc. Lake 250 aircraft was on a flight from Lac La Biche, Alberta to Trois-Rivières, Quebec, with planned stops in The Pas, Manitoba and Pickle Lake. While it was conducting a visual-approach landing in Pickle Lake, the aircraft entered into a steep descent and struck terrain approximately one nautical mile east of the railway, fatally injuring both pilots and one of two passengers on board. The investigation report, released on February 27, found that the dark environment east of the airport, the lack of visual cues and the low-intensity runway light setting had contributed to a loss of situational awareness regarding the aircraft’s relative position from the runway and the rate of descent. This loss likely

led to the pilots not taking measures to correct the aircraft’s high rate of descent prior to its collision.

CRASH CLAIMS TWO, HURTS ONE FEDERAL — A helicopter crash that claimed the lives of two people and seriously injured a third was due to the loss of tail-rotor effectiveness, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) said in a report released on February 5. On May 29, 2013, a Bell 206B helicopter operated by Wood Buffalo Helicopters was conducting wildlife survey work approximately 75 nautical miles north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. The helicopter was identifying a landing site when it entered an uncommanded rotation and descended into a swath of trees before colliding with terrain, killing the pilot and rear-seat passenger and seriously injuring the front-seat passenger. The helicopter, chartered by Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, had entered a flight condition that resulted in

a loss of tail-rotor effectiveness, causing a loss of control at an altitude that made recovery impossible. “The damage to the under-surface of the main rotor blades indicated that the pilot attempted to increase his collective control input in an effort to power out of the area,” the report says, noting that the helicopter flew as low as 100 feet above ground level. “The application of power in this particular flight regime would have exacerbated the yaw tendency and aggravated the loss of control.” An examination of the helicopter and the data collected did not find any mechanical issues that would have led to the loss of control and subsequent crash. There was also no indication that physiological factors played a role in the crash. Following the incident, Wood Buffalo Helicopters made changes to its pilot training forms to document that “loss of tail-rotor effectiveness” be completed during the technical-ground and flighttraining programs, the TSB notes. The company also conducted an internal awareness campaign on the phenom-

CITY ISSUED SAFETY ADVISORY LETTERS OTTAWA — Five months after a transit bus collided with a passenger train at Fallowfield bus station in Barrhaven, Ottawa, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) has sent the capital’s mayor two safety advisory letters regarding recent occurrences at the rail crossing where the accident happened. The TSB issued the advisory letters to mayor Jim Watson on February 25, after reviewing several safety incidents at the crossing. Copies of the letters were sent to other municipal managers in Ottawa and officials with Transport Canada and VIA Rail Canada Inc. The board is investigating the crash at Fallowfield on September 18, when an OC Transpo double-decker bus collided with a VIA Rail train, claiming six lives and injuring 35 others. “There is a considerable amount of public concern here,” says Ron Johnston, the TSB’s investigator in charge of the accident. The first letter details four cases that took place between October of 2013 and January of 2014, in which OC Transpo buses crossed the tracks while the crossing lights were flashing, even though the gates had not been lowered. The TSB observed that vehicles sometimes failed to slow down when they approached the crossing. “Similar situations can happen anywhere in Canada,” the first letter to Watson warns, adding that trains have the right of way at rail crossings. “To reduce crossing accidents, it is


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News ApMa2014.indd 10

imperative that all roadway vehicle drivers slow down when approaching any railway crossing, look both ways, be prepared to stop and yield the right of way to a train.” The second letter relates to an incident involving the malfunctioning of a gate on February 11. While the gate remained down after a train had passed, three buses drove over the crossing by swerving around the stuck gate. Although the letter acknowledges that the parties involved took reasonable steps to minimize the risk, “drivers are expected to be patient and not take things into their own hands,” Johnston says. “While there might be some service disruption, the safe course of action is to stay away from the crossing while the crossing protection is activated.” He adds that the TSB has advised the City of Ottawa to implement appropriate safety measures at Fallowfield. According to a memo that city manager Kent Kirkpatrick addressed to the mayor, the city council and the transit commission, the City of Ottawa says it has begun plans to address the issues raised in the advisory letters. They include installing an amber early-warning signal for southbound traffic at Fallowfield, possibly reducing speed and reviewing the bylaw that governs the operations of vehicles on the road at the crossing. The city also plans to meet with VIA to discuss how to improve communication between the two entities. — By Jeff Cottrill

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enon through a company safety meeting and distributed an operations bulletin on the hazards of slow and low flight.


a tire shop, a trucking company and a supervisor guilty of one workplace health SPIN BROUGHT DOWN PLANE and safety charge each, in connection with a worker fatality in 2011. FEDERAL — An aircraft spin has been Territorial Court of Yukon judge John cited as the cause of a crash in 2012 in Faulkner found Yukon Tire Centre Inc. Moorefield, Ontario. On August 24, 2012, the Cessna guilty of failing to develop safe, effective 172S, owned by the Waterloo-Welling- lockout procedures and train workers on ton Flying Club (WWFC), was in flight the use of those procedures. North 60° when it crashed into a field, killing the Petro Ltd. and supervisor Frank Taylor were found guilty of failing to adequatepilot and three passengers on board. A report by the Transportation Safety ly train a worker on the safe operation of Board of Canada (TSB), released on a truck. Ten other charges, including four February 20, determined that “the air- against Paul Bubiak — part-owner of Yucraft entered a spin in a weight and bal- kon Tire — were stayed or dismissed. The charges stemmed from the death ance configuration for which spins were not authorized” and that the pilot could of 34-year-old Yukon Tire technician Denis Chabot on November 15, 2011. On not recover prior to ground impact. The WWFC has since made changes the day of the incident, a truck operated to its flight program, including re-empha- by North 60° Petro was driven to Yukon sizing policies regarding air manoeu- Tire’s shop for siping, a process whereby are1made across the tire treads to vres, strengthening ground school pro- AM cuts NL-Ad:Layout 1 its 06/02/2014 8:47 Page grams and installing GPS trackers and improve traction in slippery conditions, the decision noted on January 29. cockpit voice recorders in its aircraft.

That afternoon, Chabot informed Bubiak that work on the truck was almost finished, but he still needed to torque the wheel nuts. Bubiak got into the truck and started it up so that it would be warmed up and ready to go when the customer arrived. Allan Lelievre from North 60° Petro was assigned to drive the truck back to the company yard. As Lelievre climbed up on the running board, leaned out and looked towards the back of the truck, the view of the passenger side of the truck was partly blocked by the sleeper unit. The view of the ground underneath the truck was obscured by the truck frame, the drive axles, the wheels and the mud flaps. Lelievre saw nothing unusual and drove off. But a short distance later, he looked back in the driver’s side mirror and saw Chabot lying face down on the ground on the passenger side of the truck. The truck had driven over Chabot’s head and upper chest, causing fatal injuries. “Since the vehicle had been started previously and was already running, Mr. Chabot was not alerted to the danger that the truck was about to be put in mo-

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tion,” Faulkner wrote. Surveillance cameras revealed that Chabot was not under the truck when Lelievre had gotten into it, but had gone under the truck shortly afterwards to retrieve jacks and a torque wrench. Faulkner noted that Yukon Tire had no lockout procedures in place. He added that if Lelievre had conducted a walkabout, “he would have seen the jacks and the torque wrench.”


firmed that it is investigating the West Vancouver Police Department (WVPD), following media reports of workplace bullying and harassment. Megan Johnston, spokesperson for WorkSafeBC in Richmond, British Columbia, says occupational safety officers

will visit the workplace to determine if the police force is in compliance with new anti-bullying and harassment policies that came into effect last November. She adds that WorkSafeBC became aware of concerns about workplace health and safety issues through media reports. The retirement announcement of Chief Constable Peter Lepine has raised concerns about the WVPD’s recent survey on employee engagement and satisfaction, and allegations of sexual and racial harassment, bullying and retribution against those who bring forth such allegations. On February 17, Lepine emailed all staff in the police department regarding his impending retirement when his contract ends in September. He clarified that while many would link his decision and his note to a news article on the WVPD’s employment engagement survey and the anonymous comments regarding harassment in the workplace, his succession planning process had been in the works since November. Detective Corporal Tom Wolff Von Gudenberg, president of the West Vancouver Police Association, says he is concerned about the employee engagement survey and allegations, but that he thinks many of the comments that former employees have made in the media are not indicative of the current conditions at the police department. West Vancouver Mayor Michael Smith says the WVPD will commence its search for a new chief.


tablished a new association to reduce worker injuries in the province’s longterm care sector. SafeCare BC was launched in Vancouver in February as a joint project by WorkSafeBC and the BC Care Providers Association (BCCPA). The non-profit, industry-funded initiative focuses on mitigating the severity and frequency of injuries in the long-term care industry. It will also provide education and information on workplace health and safety and costeffective training in injury prevention. “The long-term goal is to see a decrease in the injury rates in British Columbia among long-term care workers,” Jennifer Lyle, SafeCare BC’s executive director, says from Vancouver. While she notes that the industry does not have the type of severe injuries


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REPORT YIELDS MIXED RESULTS RICHMOND — WorkSafeBC has released a report on its re-

cent sawmill inspections across British Columbia. The inspections, which ran from November 1 to January 31, found that while approximately 57 per cent of locations were in compliance with combustible dust regulations, the remaining mills had unacceptable dust-accumulation levels. The inspections were part of WorkSafeBC’s combustible dust strategy, initiated in 2012 to evaluate compliance with combustible-dust management requirements and ensure that every sawmill has an effective and sustainable plan for the management of wood dust. The report notes that WorkSafeBC conducted a total of 249 inspections, including multiple inspections at individual locations, at the 144 active sawmills in the province. Eightythree locations were in compliance at the time of inspection and received no orders related to combustible dust; many had dust control plans incorporating significant engineering controls to augment and mitigate the amount of manual dust cleanup required. “Inspection results indicate that many sawmill operators have put significant efforts into improving the management and control of combustible dust, with a substantial number of employers found to be in compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety combustible dust regulations,” states the

such as those reported in the forestry, construction or manufacturing sectors, “what we are seeing is an extremely high volume. And that has big implications for everything, from the financial operations of a facility right through to the quality of life for the staff, and then also to the quality of patient care received.” Lyle says the founding of SafeCare has been in the works for years. Stephen Symon, public sector manager of industry and labour services for WorkSafeBC in Richmond, says the annual injury rate in British Columbia’s long-term care industry is more than four times higher than the average annual injury rate for all sectors. “So it is considered an at-risk group,” he adds. Symon reports that more than half of time-loss claims for injuries in the longterm care sector are due to overexertion. Violent acts account for 11 per cent of time-loss claims for injuries in long-term care, while falls on the same elevation account for 10 per cent. “They also have significant exposure to infectious agents,” Symon adds. WorkSafeBC and the BCCPA modelled SafeCare BC after a similar association in Alberta, the Alberta Healthcare Industry Health and Safety Initiative, which is credited with reducing the province’s injury claims in the continu-

report, which was published on March 4. “Over the past two years, many employers have invested in improved engineered controls, in addition to manual dust-cleanup efforts. It is apparent that in most mills demonstrating robust combustible-dust programs, cleanup crews are utilized in support of effective dust collection at source and are not the primary control measure.” Despite the improved efforts over the previous two years, 61 employers received a total of 93 orders, with the majority of them relating to unacceptable levels of dust accumulation outside normal production areas, such as basements, crawlspaces, overhead areas, areas hidden behind motor control centres or cabinets and outside areas. Eleven employers were issued a total of 13 stop-work orders due to unacceptable accumulations of secondary dust and other violations that posed an immediate hazard to workers. In most cases, the areas were cleaned on the same day. WorkSafeBC spokesperson Megan Johnston says the regulator is planning the next phase of inspections. She adds that WorkSafeBC met with the Manufacturer’s Advisory Group, which represents employers from the sawmill industry, on March 6 to discuss the findings of the inspections and to solicit the Group’s input. — By Jason Contant

ing care sector by one-fifth since 2005. The Alberta initiative has also decreased long-term disability claims by more than a quarter and back injury claims by 36 per cent in the same industry over the past nine years, WorkSafeBC notes.

FIRE PROMPTS EVACUATION CALGARY — A fire at a manufacturing plant in Alberta has resulted in the evacuation of more than 60 workers. The incident occurred on March 11 at the IKO Industries asphalt shingle plant in southeast Calgary. A contractor, Quantum Murray LP, was demolishing a section of the plant when a fire broke out. “No injuries occurred, and that portion of the facility was unoccupied at the time of the fire, as it was an inactive portion of the facility,” spokesperson for Alberta Human Services (AHS) Brookes Merritt says from Edmonton. A spokesperson for the Calgary Fire Department reports that fire crews were dispatched to the scene of the threealarm blaze at about 10:45 a.m. Crews used aerial platforms to fight the fire from several elevated angles and put the fire under control by about 2 p.m. Some sections of the building had collapsed, and fire crews remained onsite until the

following morning to deal with hot spots that had flared up during the night. Merritt says IKO Industries will bring in structural engineers to assess the affected area of the facility before any demolition work can continue. Although no workers were injured in the blaze, the worksite remains on the radar of AHS due to IKO’s lost-time claim rate, which rose from 3.12 in 2007 to 5.26 in 2011. The industry average for roof manufacturing was 2.38 in 2011. “This employer, and any other employer with industry rates higher than the industry average, certainly they come under our microscope,” Merritt says. There have been 13 other reported fires at the facility between 2002 and 2009. Merritt notes that none of these fires resulted in any injuries to workers and that they involved the processing and storage of materials.


ing two charges of first-degree murder, among other offences, in the wake of a multiple stabbing at a Loblaws warehouse in Edmonton. The Edmonton Police Service (EPS) has confirmed that two male employees

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were killed and four others, aged 21 to 44, were injured in the incident, which occurred on February 28. Fitzroy Harris, 50, and 41-year-old Thierno Bah died at the scene from their stab wounds. Police were called to the warehouse shortly in response to the stabbings. Later that afternoon, a citizen reported a suspicious vehicle near downtown Edmonton. After boxing in the car, the police arrested the driver, warehouse employee Jayme Pasieka, who was charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and two counts of possession of an offensive weapon, in addition to charges of first-degree murder. The police added a second count of attempted murder on March 3, and a third was announced on the following day. The EPS and the occupational health and safety department of Alberta’s Ministry of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour are investigating the incident. While investigators plan to focus on hazard assessments and violence in the workplace, ministry spokesperson Brookes Merritt says they have issued an order to the employer to conduct its own in-

vestigation alongside theirs. Alberta law requires all employers to have strategies regarding hazard identification in place to respond to such incidents. Merritt adds that investigators are considering mental health issues as a factor in the stabbings. “The issue of mental health in the workplace is extremely important, because it is so hard to spot.” Pasieka is scheduled to appear in court on May 5.

CITY PLEADS GUILTY MEADOW LAKE — The City of Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan was fined $10,900 on February 24 after pleading guilty to two oh&s charges. The City pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that a worker was protected from cave-ins or sliding material in a trench and was fined $6,000 with a $2,400 surcharge, a statement from the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety in Regina reports. The City was also charged with failing to ensure that a

trench was kept free from an accumulation of water and was fined $2,000 with a $500 surcharge. The charges related to an inspection at a construction site in Meadow Lake on September 7, 2011, when an officer noticed a worker at the bottom of an unshored trench.

BLAST INJURES WORKERS SASKATOON — A company and a shift boss in Saskatoon have been fined $24,500 and $2,100 respectively over an industrial accident in 2012. The first fine was issued on January 8, after Claude Resources pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that work was sufficiently and competently supervised, that appropriate written procedures were provided and that only an approved blasting machine was used in the case of a blast initiated by electrical means. The shift boss was fined after pleading guilty to failing to take reasonable care to protect the health and safety of himself and other workers, Saskatchewan’s Min-

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CLAIMS OF HIRING FOREIGN WORKERS INVESTIGATED FORT MCMURRAY — The federal government is investigating an allegation that 65 Canadians working at an oil sands project in Alberta were laid off and replaced with temporary foreign workers (TFWs). The allegation came to light on February 7, after media reports suggested that a company called Pacer Promec Joint Venture (PPJV) had fired 65 Canadian ironworkers on February 4 and replaced them with TFWs from Croatia. The workers were employed at Imperial Oil’s Kearl Lake oil sands project, located about 70 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. The TFWs were earning about half of what the Canadian workers were making, the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) claimed in a statement. Alexandra Fortier, spokesperson for federal Minister of Employment and Social Development Jason Kenney, says departmental officials are investigating the matter. “Canadians must be first in line for available jobs,” Fortier says. “Our government will not tolerate any abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). Those who are found to have violated the rules of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program will be added to a blacklist and denied the ability to hire temporary foreign workers in the future.” On the same day that the allegation came to light, the company — a joint venture between Pacer Construction Holdings Corporation and Construction Promec Inc. — issued a statement confirming that it would “re-hire Cana-

istry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety reports. The charges stem from a blasting operation on January 22, 2012 at Laonil Lake. The blast knocked Steve Strickland and another employee to the ground. Another worker sustained a broken leg when a truck was pushed forward by the blast, pinning him to a wall.

LACK OF GUARD SPURS FINE YORKTON — Premium Brands Operating Group Inc. of Yorkton, Saskatchewan was fined $28,000 on February 11, after pleading guilty to failing to provide an effective safeguard for a worker who might have contacted a dangerous moving part of a machine. The company pleaded guilty to contravening section 137 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations and was fined $20,000 with an $8,000 surcharge, a statement from the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety in Regina reports. The conviction relates to an incident on November 1, 2011, when a worker was seriously injured while sanitizing a paddle mixer.

dians to impacted positions that had been filled with temporary foreign workers.” The statement added that one of PPJV’s subcontractors had applied to the TFWP due to a labour shortage of ironworkers and that its contractors were following “the necessary process and believe they [were] in compliance” with the TFWP. Several days after PPJV released the statement, the AFL’s communications director Olav Rokne said none of the affected workers had been contacted by the company about being rehired. “I know that some of the TFWs are being moved to a different site, but the Canadian workers, as far as I know, are not being rehired.” For AFL president Gil McGowan, many questions remain. “The company says they will move the TFWs to another worksite. Will these TFWs fill jobs on that site that would have otherwise been available to Canadians? Will they still be paid half the wage of Canadian workers?” McGowan asks. The union is also calling for a “sunshine list” to expose abuses of the TFWP. Last December, the federal government announced changes to the program following a public backlash related to alleged incidents of abuse. They include employees at the Royal Bank of Canada who had been ordered to train their TFW replacements and a mining company in British Columbia that had planned to bring in about 200 Chinese workers. — By Jason Contant

INCIDENT CLAIMS TWO SUDBURY — An industrial road accident in a remote area north of Sudbury has claimed the lives of two workers. Bruce Skeaff, spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Labour in Toronto, confirms that the incident took place on January 29, when both men were attempting to remove an empty tractortrailer that was stuck in a ditch by using a track-mounted log loader. While the workers were hooking chains to the tractor-trailer, a third worker drove the excavator up a small incline and positioned it sideways in front of the other vehicle. “That equipment was on the road in front of the tractor-trailer when it suddenly slid and pinned the two workers,” Skeaff reports. A statement from the Ontario Provincial Police’s Sudbury detachment identified the victims as 43-year-old Pierre Morin, who had worked for Guy Morin Transport in Chelmsford, Ontario, and 28-year-old Stéphane Desaulniers, an employee of Les Entreprises Maxime Gauthier in Lac Saint-Jean, Quebec. Desaulniers was killed immediately, while Morin succumbed to his injuries

shortly after being airlifted to the Health Sciences North hospital in Sudbury. The driver of the excavator was not injured.

POLICE PROBED ON USE OF FORCE TORONTO — Ontario’s Office of the Inde-

pendent Police Review Director (OIPRD) has announced that it is conducting a review of the Toronto Police Service’s (TPS) use of force, de-escalation techniques and approaches to dealing with people with mental health issues, emotionally disturbed people and people in crisis. The review will examine public complaints filed, evidence collected from complaint investigations, recent highprofile use-of-force incidents involving the TPS and past reviews and reports involving similar issues. It will also look at policies, procedures and practices regarding use of force and equipment, officer training, best practices from other jurisdictions and relevant research and data. “Recent high-profile cases of Toronto Police Service’s use of force have raised concerns among Toronto citizens and affected public confidence in policing,” head of the OIPRD Gerry McNeilly said in a statement on February 24. “In addi-

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tion, my office has received public complaints that are significant enough, in my opinion, to warrant a systemic review.” The OIPRD says it has also established the terms of reference for its review, which will look at the following, among other things: • The Ontario Police College training in use of force, equipment and the application of the principles of the province’s use-of-force guidelines; •  Police service training in handling people with mental health issues, emotionally disturbed people and people in crisis and de-escalation techniques; • The police use-of-force model; • The supervision and accountability for officer training and deployment and for officers dealing with those with mental health issues; and • The TPS board’s oversight and direction regarding use of force. Irwin Nanda, executive vice-president of the Ontario Federation of Labour in Toronto, says it is calling on the Attorney General of Ontario to impose uniform guidelines across the province that require any police response to focus on de-


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escalating and diffusing confrontations. The OIPRD will accept submissions from stakeholders until April 4. A source from the OIPRD says the agency plans to complete the review within nine months.

CHARGES LAID OVER ASSAULT OTTAWA — For the first time, charges have been laid against a healthcare employer for contravening the violence prevention sections of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). Bruce Skeaff, spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Labour in Toronto, confirms that three charges were laid against employer Royal Ottawa Health Care Group for failing to develop and maintain measures and procedures for summoning immediate assistance when workplace violence occurred at the Royal Ottawa Place, failing to provide information and instruction to protect a worker from violence and failing to implement safety devices, measures and procedures to protect workers from violence. The charges stem from an incident in

July of 2012, when a patient attacked and injured several registered nursing staff members at a nursing station. A statement from the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) in Toronto, issued on January 30, says Bill 168, which sets out the roles and responsibilities for workplace parties with respect to occupational violence and harassment, including the development of policies and programs, is “finally bearing fruit” as the Royal Ottawa Hospital heads to trial this November. The statement adds that the organization called on the provincial labour ministry last year to compel Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket, Ontario to take steps to protect nurses from workplace violence. “We were disappointed a similar outcome did not materialize, but since that event, the employer and ONA have made significant strides working together to develop a proper response to workplace violence,” says ONA president Linda Haslam-Stroud. Andy Summers, a registered nurse and vice-president of Region 3 of the ONA, notes that the employer and

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union have worked together to address recommendations and action items — approximately 160 so far — that have been developed. In particular, the hospital agreed to provide staff with “screamers” — devices that are also known as attack alarms and emit a loud noise — as an interim measure while it installs a new panicalarm system. New signage about workplace violence has been developed and is partially posted. A new system for workers when they need to be aware of a patient with a history of violence has also been put in place. The system tracks triggers for those people, which Summers says will “go a long way in protecting workers” and allow them to provide the best possible care. He adds that the health facility has agreed to hire an expert to assess the risk of violence in the emergency room and the mental health unit.


tario fought a scabies outbreak that was believed to have begun in late January.

Halton Healthcare Services (HHS), which runs Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital (OTMH), said on February 7 that the hospital was battling the disease among its staff and patients. More than 30 employees and one patient contracted the disease from another patient in one of the hospital’s inpatient units. The hospital treated the infected staff and family members who had close personal contact with them, including additional staff who had come into contact with the original patient. The hospital contacted two discharged patients who had shared a ward with the original patient within the previous six weeks. It also conducted a review of any individuals who might have been infected, including 40 discharged patients at a “slight risk” of scabies, HHS reported in a statement. The hospital monitored its patients and staff for six weeks — the maximum incubation period for scabies, a skin condition caused by a mite. Dr. Neil Rau, medical director of infection control and infectious diseases specialist at HHS, reports that Ontario’s shortage of a lotion that renders scabies non-contagious hindered the hospital’s efforts to contain the disease. As such,

the hospital gave higher priority to patients who showed obvious symptoms. “The preferred approach is to treat everyone affected at the same time,” Dr. Rau says. “All known symptomatic staff have been treated. Asymptomatic staff who may have been exposed have been contacted by our occupational health and safety department to provide preventative treatment. Inpatients on the unit, where the patient is located, are also receiving preventative treatment.” Following the outbreak, HHS issued an information sheet detailing the symptoms and treatments of the disease.

FINED FOR FAILURE TO NOTIFY GUELPH — A Guelph, Ontario-based company that manufactures transportation equipment, portable pneumatic conveying systems and recycling trucks was fined $20,000 on January 31 for failing to follow notification procedures, as required under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). On July 19, 2013, a worker at the Walinga Inc. worksite was stacking parts onto a skid when the skid tipped, trap-

ENGINEER CHARGED IN MALL COLLAPSE ELLIOT LAKE — The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) has charged a 64-year-old engineer with three counts of criminal negligence, in connection with the roof collapse at the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake on June 23, 2012. Robert Wood, a native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario who inspected the mall and concluded that it was structurally safe several weeks before the accident, faces two counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm. The OPP announced the charges in a media conference in Elliot Lake on January 31. “He was an engineer who conducted inspections of the building, including the mall, the parking structure and the hotel,” says detective superintendent Dave Truax, director of the OPP’s criminal investigation branch. If Wood is convicted of criminal negligence causing death, he could face a sentence of up to life imprisonment. A conviction of criminal negligence causing bodily harm carries a maximum sentence of 10 years. “This was a very unique and challenging investigation for the OPP,” Truax says, calling it a “lengthy, complex” case. The mall collapse claimed the lives of 74-year-old Doloris Perizzolo and 37-year-old Lucie Aylwin. A third person, who received injuries to the upper body, has since recovered. Roger Oatley, a personal injury lawyer representing the victims’ families, stresses that his clients believe that Wood is not the only person responsible for the tragedy. “Wood was only involved for a very short period of time with a

specific assignment, and granted, he could have prevented the deaths. He was the last professional person to assess the building before it collapsed,” Oatley concedes. “But the families want everyone to remember that there are others who had decades to do something about this building.” Oatley points out that other likely responsible parties include past boards of directors for corporations that once owned the building, former city staff and past mayors — including former mayors on the board of directors for Elliot Lake Retirement Living, one of the mall’s previous owners. “These are people with long periods of responsibility, and as far as the families are concerned, they’re just as much to blame as Wood is,” Oatley adds. Less than a month after the collapse, the provincial government set up the Elliot Lake Inquiry to review the incident and recommend relevant legislation, policies and procedures. The inquiry, which has no connection to the criminal investigation, has heard several accounts regarding Wood’s involvement in the inspections, including testimony from Wood himself. Oatley says he hopes that the prosecution of Wood will provide “some sense of justice” for the victims’ families and bring about “a much stricter regime spelling out the responsibility of directors of corporations to come clean on information they have about threats to the integrity of a building and proactive obligations on municipal corporations to do something about buildings in their community.” — By Jeff Cottrill

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ping the worker’s leg under the parts, Ontario’s Ministry of Labour reports. The worker was diagnosed with a fracture of the fibula, defined as a critical injury under the OHSA. On July 23, the provincial labour ministry contacted the company to indicate that it had been informed that a worker had broken a leg at the workplace four days earlier. The company confirmed that it had not immediately reported the injury to the ministry, as required by section 51(1) of the OHSA.


Railway Company (CN) is reaching out to municipalities along its North American rail network to review its safety practices, share relevant information on dangerous goods traffic and discuss emergency response planning. Claude Mongeau, CN president and chief executive, says although 99.998 per cent of rail industry movements of dangerous goods arrive at their destinations without accidental releases, “CN understands that municipalities feel they need more transparency and information sharing from railways about the dangerous commodities moving through their communities. And that is why we launched a comprehensive outreach program last fall with communities along


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our network in Canada and are now launching a similar program this year in the United States.” Under the new engagement program, CN is approaching municipal officials and emergency responders to ensure that they have the contact information for appropriate CN officials and targeted information that will assist them in their emergency response planning. In many cases, the outreach includes face-to-face meetings and discussions on the nature, volume and economic importance of transported dangerous goods and reviews of emergency response planning. CN officials will also conduct training sessions for emergency responders when requested. “To date, we have reached out to the vast majority of communities on our network in Canada. In addition, we have held close to 100 meetings with communities in Canada, predominantly the larger ones, and will be reaching out to many more municipalities this year in both Canada and the United States,” Mongeau says. The outreach program will involve nearly 1,100 communities in Canada and some 870 communities in the United States. Mongeau reports that CN reduced its accident rate per million train miles by nine per cent last year, and that its main track accidents have declined by about 50 per cent in the past decade despite increased freight volumes.

ESSENTIAL SERVICES ACT PASSED HALIFAX — The government of Nova Scotia has passed a bill that requires an essential services agreement to be in place before home-support workers can begin or continue a strike. On March 1, the province passed Bill 30, the Essential Home-Support Services (2014) Act, following a special two-day legislative session. The act requires employers and unions in the home-support sector — involving home services such as feeding, bathing, light housekeeping and mobility support to seniors, children and adults — to identify and agree on the essential services that must be maintained during a strike or lockout. Chrissy Matheson, spokesperson for the Department of Labour and Advanced Education in Halifax, says workers are allowed to strike once the employer and union have an essential services plan in place. “This legislation supports the right to strike while ensuring vulnerable Nova Scotians are provided with a minimal level of essential service while the strike is occurring,” Matheson notes. The act follows a strike on February 28 by members of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), representing workers at Northwood Homecare Ltd. and VON Home Support. The NSGEU

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represents more than 420 members who support seniors, children and adults and about 700 VON Home Support workers who had a strike date of March 4, the NSGEU reports in a statement. “Several parties recently notified the province they would not be able to reach an agreement through collective bargaining and multiple conciliation attempts,” the government says in a statement. “The NSGEU also refused to provide a minimal level of essential services during an impending strike.” Although it is unclear how many CUPE members represent home-support employers, Matheson says the union is currently involved in collective bargaining. If the CUPE reaches an agreement through bargaining, the act ceases to apply to them. Matheson adds that several home-support contracts are in active negotiation and the act will remain in place until a collective agreement has been reached for each bargaining unit. Joan Jessome, president of the NSGEU, says the union plans to launch a legal challenge to the act.

EMPLOYEE KILLED ON THE ROAD HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s labour minister has sent condolences to the family and friends of a worker who died on February 7 while driving to work in a company vehicle. “I can’t imagine how this man’s family must be feeling, and my thoughts are with them during this extremely difficult time,” Labour and Advanced Education Minister Kelly Regan says in a statement. “I want to assure this family that we will help find answers as to why this happened,” she adds. Halifax Regional Police and officers with the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal are investigating the incident. The worker, reportedly an employee of Frontier Technologies, was the first occupational fatality in the province this year. In 2013, 34 employees in Nova Scotia perished at work.

CANCER LINKED TO FIREFIGHTING ST. JOHN’S — Firefighters in Newfoundland and Labrador are looking forward to legislative changes that will allow them to claim workers’ compensation for cancer in the future, after a report by the province’s Workplace Health, Safety and

Compensation Commission (WHSCC) recommends that cancer be considered a workplace hazard for career firefighters. The report, Working Together: Safe, Accountable, Sustainable, released on February 14, recommends that the provincial government legislate a separate compensation act for career firefighting professionals and include in the act a rebuttable presumptive clause for recognized cancers and latency periods. The WHSCC also suggests having “a separate, sustainable fund that is fully funded by  the municipalities employing career firefighters” and that it should be supported by “the existing occupational disease fund, until such time as it is fully funded by the municipalities.” The report lists the types of cancer that firefighters risk contracting, which include brain, bladder, kidney and testicular cancer. While the report’s recommendations will have to be passed in the provincial legislature before they can be declared law, Doug Cadigan, president of St. John’s Fire Fighters Association, says he is pleased with the report’s findings. “We just look forward now to sitting down and working with government and getting this to the next step.” This is not the first time that calls for cancer legislation have been made, Cadigan says in reference to an attempt to get a similar law passed in 2006. “We received a recommendation that this be enacted, and it has gone nowhere.” As a result, Newfoundland and Labrador remains one of three provinces that do not have legislation recognizing cancer as a firefighting hazard — the other two being Quebec and Prince Edward Island. Several major academic studies throughout the continent have established a link between cancer and the firefighting profession. “The facts have been

re-verified that firefighters are at a much higher risk of cancer than the general public,” Cadigan says, citing inhaling fumes as one of the dangers. While firefighters are equipped with breathing apparatuses and protective gear, chemicals can penetrate protective clothing and get absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream. “A lot of these chemicals can be contacted after an incident through just handling of turnout gear,” Cadigan adds. Another change to the workers’ compensation system that Cadigan would like to see involves the limits of coverage. Currently, provincial workers receive 80 per cent of their annual net earnings, up to $60,000. In the event that a worker whose salary bracket is above that cap gets injured, “you take an awful personal financial hit.”

CORRECTION: The maximum sum that nuclear operators will soon be liable for in the event of civilian damages is $1 billion, not $1 million, as indicated in the March issue of ohs canada’s Panorama. Follow us on Twitter @OHSCanada Many of the preceding items are based on stories from our sister publication, canadian





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Study finds police work a sedentary occupation By Jean Lian


hasing after bad guys and subduing suspects is hard work, but a recent study out of the University of Iowa has found police work to be “primarily sedentary”. Sandra Ramey, assistant professor at the University of Iowa’s College of Nursing, notes that police work is often perceived as an intense, high-activity profession. “But it’s not. It’s more like bursts of energy, with long periods of little activity.” The results of the study, published in the January issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, conclude that police officers burn as much energy on the job as someone holding a baby while seated or washing dishes. The research team measured physical activity among 119 police officers on university campuses and in municipal departments in the Midwest and Hawaii. Officers wore armbands that monitored their activity continuously for 96 hours, which included three work days and one off day. Physical activity was determined with a formula that incorporated step count and energy expenditure per hour, measured in “metabolic equivalents”. Regardless of the departments where the subjects worked, officers expended on average 1.6 metabolic equivalents per minute during their shifts — roughly equal to the amount of energy needed to wash dishes while standing, reclining while holding a baby or ironing while standing. Higher-ranking officers moved less than the rank-andfile, while enforcement workers on university campuses were generally more active than those in municipal departments. “Police work is primarily a sedentary occupation, and officers tend to be more active on their off-duty days than during their work hours,” the study concludes. But enforcement officers are not the only ones who should be worried. As technology is increasingly being used in workplaces today at the expense of physical activity, Ramey suggests that occupations in general should increase movement on the job. In the 2013 Sun Life-Buffett National Wellness Survey, Canadian employers identified work-related stress and a sedentary lifestyle as the two most prevalent employee health risks. “Increasing concerns about risks related to a sedentary lifestyle signal a significant shift, growing since 2011. Sedentary lifestyle is now on par or higher in some segments than work-related stress,” the survey notes. 20

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A study of 464 police officers with the Buffalo Police Department conducted over a five-year period by John Violanti, professor of social and preventive medicine at the University of Buffalo, found that police officers were at a higher risk for heart disease. Results published in 2006 indicate that more than 25 per cent of the officers had metabolic syndrome, compared to 18 per cent of the general employed population in the United States. The study identified shift work as a contributing factor to an increase in metabolic syndrome — a cluster of physical factors that include abdominal obesity (having a waist size of more than 44 inches), high blood pressure, high triglycerides, low “good” cholesterol and high blood-sugar levels. “The take-home message is police officers are in a sedentary profession, and we now have something beyond self-report that shows that,” Ramey says. Employers can encourage employees to move during the workday by providing standing computer workstations and introducing regular computer prompts to alert workers to leave their desks and move around, she advises. Jean Lian is editor of

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Potash miners stranded in underground shelters By Jeff Cottrill


t was a long night for 54 miners who were stranded in underground emergency shelters at a potash mine near Vanscoy, Saskatchewan, after a fire broke out one kilometre below ground level on February 14. The fire started on a scooptram, a type of underground loader, inside the mine at about 9:45 p.m. An operator activated the scooptram’s fire suppression system. When it failed to extinguish the blaze, the operator turned on the emergency response system and all workers took refuge within 22 minutes, reports Mike Dirham, general manager of the site. “We had no injuries or any health-related impacts as a result of the incident,” Dirham says. “Our emergency response team was fantastic.” Agrium Inc. runs the mine, located 30 kilometres south-

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west of Saskatoon. As emergency personnel were called out to contain the fire in the mine, all 54 miners were sent to emergency shelters designed to keep mine operators away from smoke and other hazards. “In an underground mine, the fire won’t necessarily hurt you as much as the smoke,” Dirham explains. “All those refuge stations have food, water [and] emergency supplies in there.” After the emergency response team put the fire out, it took several hours to ventilate the mine until the air became clear enough for the stranded miners to emerge from the shelters and return to the surface. Parties investigating the incident include Agrium’s occupational health committees and a forensic investigator from the Saskatchewan Mining Association. Dirham notes that this kind of underground fire — one that forces workers to go into refuge — is relatively unusual in mining. The last time Agrium had such an incident was in 2004. “It is unfortunate to have fires, but they do occur from time to time,” he says. Jeff Cottrill is editorial assistant of

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Office romance may hamper productivity By Carmelle Wolfson


hen a relationship between co-workers goes from strictly business to something more amorous, employees face a difficult decision: either keep the relationship under wraps or let love out in the air — and bear the risk that it may jeopardize their workplace standings. The study, Love at the Office? Understanding Workplace Romance Disclosures and Reactions from the Co-worker Perspective, was published in the March issue of the Western Journal of Communication. It explores the effects workplace romances have on co-workers and how their responses are influenced by the manner in which the relationships are disclosed to them. Maintaining an office relationship can be a tricky business. “Employees need to be aware that their peers will communicate with them differently if they have a workplace romance. Importantly, such differences can influence productivity and performance,” cautions Dr. Sean Horan, Ph.D., assistant professor of relational communication at DePaul University’s College of Communication in Chicago. Dr. Horan, along with his team of researchers, explores the effects of non-platonic relations on contemporary organizations by conducting a qualitative study that involves in-depth interviews with 17 workers. The study cites the following as factors that influence how colleagues respond to office relationships: how they learn about the romance; their personal views of the couple involved; and company culture.

Findings indicate that co-workers tend to react most positively if they receive the news from the couple personally. “Individuals had much different reactions based on how they learned of the romance,” Horan says. “Being honest and upfront was better received than, let’s say, walking in on your coworkers kissing in the parking garage or hearing it via office gossip,” he adds. The researchers also point out that office relationships are often more acceptable in environments that are more relaxed, since these places of employment usually do not have official policies in place to deal with workplace romances. Meanwhile, more formal offices have stricter policies that may deem intimate relations between co-workers inappropriate and unprofessional. This is Dr. Horan’s fourth study in a series on workplace romance. His previous research found that the titles of those involved in the relationship also affected the reactions of co-workers. For instance, when an employee dates a superior, the couple is more likely to be lied to and considered less credible and trustworthy by their colleagues. While the elixir of love can improve blood circulation by causing our cheeks to flush and our hearts to race, it can also hinder judgement. “The phrase ‘love is blind’ is a valid notion, because we tend to idealize and see only things that we want to see in the early stages of the relationship,” says Dr. Patricia Mumby, Ph.D., co-director of the Loyola Sexual Wellness Clinic and professor of the department of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences with the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine in Maywood, Illinois. And when a couple’s tenure at their workplace outlasts their relationship, which bloomed while at work, it can create stress. “It is always awkward seeing your ex,” Dr. Horan says. “Now imagine having to see them all day, every day at work.” Carmelle Wolfson is assistant editor of

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New centre to study workplace disability policy By Jason Contant


new research centre has been launched to improve Canada’s fragmented disability policy system and provide better income support and labour market engagement for injured, ill or disabled workers. The Centre for Research on Work Disability Policy — a

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seven-year initiative funded by the federal Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council — was launched at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario on February 4. The centre, co-led by senior scientists Dr. Emile Tompa, Ph.D., and Dr. Ellen MacEachen, Ph.D., with the Institute for Work and Health in Toronto, includes regional hubs in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador. “The current disability-policy system in Canada was built over several decades, with different parts designed to meet different standards,” a statement from the centre says. “This has resulted in a fragmented system of largely uncoordinated parts. Conflicting and out-of-date requirements across disability support programs mean people are shuffled between programs and can fall through the cracks.” The centre will investigate how many workers with disabilities are not getting the support they need to enter, remain in or return to the job market and why. It will also look at what policy changes are needed to ensure that all Canadians can work, regardless of their abilities. “Taking into account all forms of disability — acute or chronic, temporary or episodic, physical or mental, coming early in life or late, work-related or otherwise — it is not hard to see that work disability touches most people at some point in their lives,” Dr. Tompa says. “We are bringing together academic talent from across the country and working closely with partners to identify a road map for the future of work disability policy in Canada.” The centre includes 46 partners from across the country, representing disability and injured-worker community organizations, provincial and federal disability support program providers, labour organizations, employers and research institutions. Dr. MacEachen notes that the challenge facing the current disability support system is that more workers with health conditions or impairments can and want to work, but need support to do so. However, some do not qualify for appropriate work-reintegration support from any one program. Without that, they are falling into what he describes as “the grey zone of unemployment”. “Having lost a husband due to a workplace injury in 1988 and having a son with a life-changing, work-based brain injury from 2000, and seeing supports and fair compensation eroded over the past 25 years, I strongly believe that it is imperative to have academic research in conjunction with injured-worker and family groups, to provide momentum for science-based change to improve outcomes for injured workers in Canada,” says Patricia MacAhonic, advisor with the Canadian Injured Workers Alliance in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Jason Contant is editor of safety news.


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Mood influences food choices, study finds By Jean Lian


t seems that our palate is affected by not only our senses of smell and sight; our choice of food also hinges on our mood. Researchers from the University of Delaware have found that people who are in a good mood make healthy food choices, while those in a bad mood tend to eat junk foods. “We were interested in the why,” Meryl Gardner, associate professor at the University of Delaware, says in a statement on February 12. Gardner and her research team found that a lot depends on the perspective of time. “In an evolutionary sense, it makes sense that when we feel uncomfortable or are in a bad mood, we know something is wrong and focus on what is close to us physically and what is close in time, in the here and now,” Gardner explains. “We are seeing the trees and not the forest, or how to do things and not why to do things.” To put the hypothesis to the test, the researchers conducted four laboratory experiments. The first study investigated the effect of positive mood on evaluations of indulgent and healthy foods by examining 211 individuals from local parent-teacher associations. Participants were tasked with reading positive, negative or neutral articles. Results show that subjects in a positive mood, compared to control group participants in a relatively neutral mood, evaluated healthy foods more favourably than indulgent foods. A second study of 315 undergraduate students yields similar results. Gardner says the findings are consistent with the hypothesis that mood influences the perception of time horizon, which, in turn, determines the evaluation of dietary choices. “It suggests that positive mood makes people think about the future, and thinking about the future makes us think more abstractly,” she notes. In order to prove that the findings were not caused by differences in thinking about goal achievement, the researchers conducted a third study to show that mood affects not only evaluations of nutritious versus indulgent foods, but also actual consumption. A fourth study, focusing specifically on the thoughts related to food choice and differentiated concrete (taste/enjoyment) versus abstract (nutrition/ health) benefits, seeks to obtain more insight into the underlying process.

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The findings of all the studies combined demonstrate that mood determines an individual’s selection of healthy or indulgent foods. So what does that mean for people who have had a rough day at work? “If people in a bad mood typically choose to eat foods that have an immediate, indulgent reward, it might be more effective to encourage what we call mood repair motivation, or calling their attention to more innocuous ways to enhance their mood,” Gardner suggests. “Instead of looking at nutrition and warning labels, try talking to friends or listening to music.” But an earlier study from the University of Wurzburg in Germany, released last June, suggests that emotions — positive and negative alike — are bad news from a tastestimuli perspective. Participants, who were scored for symptoms of depression and anxiety, were shown video clips of happy, sad and neutral scenes from movies to put them in a positive, negative or neutral mood. Before and after watching the clips, they were asked to rate a series of liquids based on the intensity of flavour they experienced and gauge the fat content in milk samples by mouth-feel. After watching a happy or sad movie clip, participants with mild, sub-clinical signs of depression could not tell the difference between a high-fat and low-fat sample, but could distinguish between the two after watching a clip from a neutral film and before watching the movies. The researchers conclude that this inability to distinguish tastes may cause mildly depressed individuals to unconsciously eat more fatty foods.

Safety on Alberta ski hills shows improvement By Jeff Cottrill


inter-sports enthusiasts and employees in Alberta can take heart in findings from a recent report from Alberta’s Ministry of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour: health and safety standards at the province’s ski hills have improved significantly over the past year. From October to the end of January, occupational health and safety officers from the ministry conducted 40 audits of ski resorts owned by all 28 operators in the province. The inspections focused on work hazards, employee training, supervision and maintenance of equipment. The ministry’s report, published on February 28, found that the province’s total number of safety infractions had decreased by 59 per cent since the previous ski season. The 23 orders that inspectors issued over the past ski season was a drop of two-thirds from the 2012-13 season. These orders included one stop-use order and four notices to produce — the latter being documents demanding information

related to workplace safety. In addition, the government officers applied 19 areas of occupational health and safety legislation over the 2013-14 season. “This is just a shining example of what will happen if employers actually take it seriously,” Thomas Lukaszuk, Alberta’s Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour, says in reference to workplace safety. “And our ski resorts have.” The ministry conducts unannounced workplace inspections on various industries. “There are certain industries that score a little too high for our liking, both in incidences and infractions upon inspection, and every so often, we target them,” Lukaszuk explains. “I give them a fair warning upfront, usually about a month ahead.” The ministry also works with industries by providing information. “We always focus on education first, and then the punitive aspect is a secondary measure,” Lukaszuk says. One such example is a seminar the ministry hosted for the ski-resort sector to illustrate the economic benefits of health and safety. “Being a fair and safe place of employment gives you a tremendous edge over your competitor for attracting and retaining workers. You can’t only compete with dollars,” Lukaszuk says, adding that workplace safety makes sense from an economic perspective. “It saves you money, because your workers are not on sick leave and your productivity is not interrupted.” As well, “your worker’s compensation premiums don’t go up.” David Lynn, president and chief executive officer of the Canada West Ski Areas Association (CWSAA), says the association has benefited from the seminar. “There has definitely been an improvement,” Lynn says of safety in the industry. “We put a lot of time and energy into trying to improve safety at the ski hills generally.” Lynn adds that the CWSAA is working closely with the ministry’s oh&s department to improve communication and information sharing in safety management, as workplace safety issues in the ski-hill industry tend to vary by job. “A lot of the safety issues, of course, revolve around lifts and employees travelling between lifts — particularly if an employee is tired or you have adverse weather conditions,” Lynn says. “If you are a pro ski-patrol employee, there are different risk factors associated with skiing, particularly if you are tired, haven’t eaten late in the day and so on.” The ministry’s next inspection campaign will target the residential construction industry, including framing and roofing. “This is not meant to be a punitive measure,” Lukaszuk says. “This is just to show them how good they can be, and the results speak for themselves.”

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Pain — that gnawing, tormenting sensation — has been wielding an unrelenting grip on Patricia Dodd, volunteer president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Injured Workers Association, since she had a nasty fall at work back in the mid-1980s. “There was no fixing my injury,” says Dodd, who was off work for 14 months the first time around. She was given painkillers and underwent various rehabilitation programs that included physiotherapy, chiropractic sessions and acupuncture, which provided only temporary relief. For many injured workers like Dodd, narcotic painkillers are indispensable. But at what price? While opioids alleviate pain, they can also hinder recovery and return to work


— or worse, lead to dependency issues.


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“It is a very polarized problem in Canada.” “


epression as a result of chronic pain has been a huge component for me — the persistent pain and being aware that there is minimal help in reducing pain,” says Dodd, who reports that her experience is similar to that of many injured workers struggling with chronic pain. Dodd, who has been using pain medication for many years, says she has been trying to wean herself off painkillers, but the result is a decrease in functional abilities. She also has to constantly balance the need to manage pain against the negative effects that any medication can have on overall health. Prescription opioids, commonly referred to as narcotic painkillers, are often prescribed to people with acute or chronic pain resulting from disease, surgery or injury. They are particularly valuable in controlling pain in the later stages of terminal illness when the possibility of physical dependence is not significant, since these patients have only months to live. Opioids like morphine and codeine occur naturally in opium, while others like heroin are made by adding a chemical to morphine, notes information from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto. Many of today’s opioids are synthetically made from chemicals. They include oxycodone (Percodan/Percocet), meperidine (Demerol), hydrocodone (Tussionex) and hydromorphone (Dilaudid). The speed, intensity and duration of their effects vary, depending on the type of opioid and the manner of ingestion. When taken orally, the effects are usually felt gradually within 10 to 20 minutes. But the effects are most intense and can be felt in as little time as within a minute if injected into a vein. Opioids reduce the perception of pain by attaching themselves to specific proteins called opioid receptors found in the brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract and other organs, preventing the transmission of pain signals to the brain. “They are good pain relievers for patients with acute pain like fracture, a broken bone or post-operative pain,” says Dr. David Juurlink, specialist in internal medicine and clinical pharmacology at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. “The big debate is how effective they are for long-term management of chronic pain like back pain or osteoarthritis,” says Juurlink, who charges that opioids are “grossly overused” in patients with work-related injuries. “Right now, we are in the midst of this epidemic of the use of opioids,” he says. “I can tell you stories of people with simple work-related back pain who may only need a few days of rest and a little bit of general analgesia with anti-inflammatory, whose lives have become dominated by the need to be on progressively higher and higher doses of opioids.”

UP AND UP Canada is the world’s second-largest per capita consumer of prescription opioids after the United States, according to 2013 data from the International Narcotics Control Board in Vienna. From 2000 to 2010, the use of opioids increased by 203 per cent — a hike steeper than even that in the United States. While no national level data on prescription drug-related mortality is available in Canada, provincial data from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) in Ottawa are far 26

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from encouraging. Ontario reported a 250 per cent increase in the number of emergency room visits related to narcotics withdrawal from 2005 to 2006 and 2010 to 2011. Data from the Office of the Chief Coroner show that the rate of prescription opioid-related deaths doubled between 1991 and 2004 in the province. In western Canada, deaths in Alberta that could be attributed to poisoning from narcotics or hallucinogenic drugs accounted for the second-highest prescription drug-related fatality rate (or 3.8 per 100,000 persons) from 2003 to 2006. In one region of British Columbia, the number of overdose fatalities stemming from prescription opioids was similar to that of residents killed in motor vehicle accidents involving alcohol (or 2 to 3 per 100,000 persons). Coroner files from the province between 2006 and 2011 indicate that 87 per cent of the deaths involved persons under 60 years old; of that number, 82 per cent had a documented source of chronic pain. Prescription opioids and their associated downsides are a real concern in Canada, where 15 to 29 per cent of the population experiences chronic pain, the CCSA estimates. “There is a growing general awareness that perhaps, we have been prescribing these things a little too gleefully,” says Dr. Norman Buckley, professor and chair at the department of anesthesia with the Michael G. Degroote School of Medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. While prescribing opioids to treat painful conditions has been rising over the past two decades, particularly for chronic non-cancer pain, Dr. Buckley believes that that trend has been declining. “Opioids have been responsible for considerable morbidity and some mortality, and so there is an active movement to reduce the total dose prescribed and dispensed to individual patients, as well as frequency.” He cites Toronto’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) as an agency in which strict restrictions apply to how opioids are reimbursed for injured workers suffering from acute and chronic pain. Compared to the past five years, “my guess is you would see something of a decrease rather than an ongoing increase,” he says in reference to opioid prescription. At a keynote presentation on prescription drug abuse held at the National Safety Council Congress and Expo last June in Chicago, Dr. Gean Constantine, regional medical director with Liberty Mutual Insurance headquartered in Boston, said unless a person suffers from “very severe, very disabling pain,” opioids are not appropriate. “Except for these really severe cases, there is no evidence that they work,” he said. “It is a dangerous drug.” South of the border, one recent development in the prescription of opioids for work-related injury or occupational disease is the introduction of the Guideline for Prescribing Opioids to Treat Pain in Injured Workers in Washington State. Effective since July 1, 2013, the guideline requires that the use of opioids must result in clinically meaningful improvement in function. The continued prescription of opioids in the absence of clinically meaningful improvement in function, or after the development of a severe adverse outcome, is not considered proper and necessary care under Washington State’s workers’ compensation system.

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“Over the past decade, there has been a dramatic increase in the use of opioids to treat chronic non-cancer pain,” the guideline states. “Opioids are also being prescribed in stronger potencies and larger doses for musculoskeletal injuries. In some cases, the use of opioids for workrelated injuries may actually increase the likelihood of disability.” THE DOWNSIDES Like its neighbour down south, Canada is trying to strike a balance between reining in rampant opioid prescription and managing pain. “It is a very polarized problem in Canada,” says Dr. Andrea Furlan, scientist with the Institute of Work and Health and physician at the University Health Network in Toronto. The problem is two-fold: about one-third of physicians in Canada refuse to prescribe opioids, even to patients who suffer from chronic pain and have no risk of abuse, overdose or diversion. At the other extreme are doctors who freely prescribe opioids. “Opioids are the strongest analgesics that we know on the face of the earth,” Dr. Furlan says. While some types of chronic pain respond well to opioids, others get worse. For example, tapering opioid consumption often results in rebound pain that exacerbates a patient’s primary pain symptoms following discontinuation or reduced dosage of the drug. Dr. Juurlink points to medical evidence indicating that some patients who have been prescribed high doses of narcotic painkillers suffer from opioid-induced hyperallergy. “The pain is made different, and it is made worse and miserable. And it is the drugs doing it,” he says. Another issue with opioids is that they can trigger many adverse side effects, including constipation, nausea, sleepiness, dizziness and poor concentration as among the symptoms. Dr. Furlan says the last few symptoms can be of particular concern to workers operating heavy machinery. There are also factors that can put an individual at a higher risk of overdose, such as having sleep apnea, taking sleeping pills like benzodiazepine, consuming opioids along with alcohol, having liver or kidney damage or being cognitively impaired. “Overdose means they are going to stop breathing when they are sleeping. They may not wake up,” Dr. Furlan explains. While analgesics do not materially improve outcomes, they manage pain by providing some sedation, helping a patient to mobilize sooner and undergo a rehabilitation program. “There are workers who will not be able to return to work if not for the opioids. I have patients who had such severe pain, I can’t even rehabilitate them,” Dr. Furlan notes. And then there is the issue of developing tolerance, even addiction. A patient who has developed tolerance may require an escalated dose to manage the pain, and withdrawing from the drug creates a physiological response that is uncomfortable or may even be dangerous. “The highest predictor if someone is going to get addicted to opioids is if they had a problem with any addictive substance in the past,” adds Dr. Furlan, citing depression and a history of psychological trauma as red flags.

HARD KNOCKS The imbroglio involving OxyContin speaks to just how wrong things can go with opioids. “When OxyContin was first launched, it was said that addiction happened in less than one per cent of people who took these drugs,” Dr. Juurlink notes. And that cannot be further from the truth. “The best evidence that we have [is] about a third of people on long-term opioids display abnormal behaviours regarding their drugs,” says Juurlink, who co-wrote a commentary on then federal health minister Leona Aglukkaq’s announcement in November of 2012 that she would not interfere with Health Canada’s approval process for a generic form of OxyContin. “What we have learned is that the people who were teaching doctors how to use opioids back in the 1990s and 2000s — many of these people are specialists, they are well-intentioned — their services are paid by companies that make OxyContin,” Dr. Juurlink notes. In fact, some aspects of the marketing campaign were so misleading that the manufacturer pleaded guilty in a United States federal court to felony charges of “misbranding” in 2007 and was fined $634 million. A study led by Dr. Irfan Dhalla, associate scientist at the Keenan Research Centre of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and published in December of 2009, found that the addition of OxyContin to the drug formulary in 2000 was associated with a five-fold increase in oxycodone-related mortality and a 41 per cent increase in overall opioid-related mortality. The effect of OxyContin, a time-released pain medication developed in 1995 for those who need round-the-clock pain relief, lasts for about 12 hours. It contains pure oxycodone, part of which is released when the pill is taken; the remaining portion is coated and released gradually into the body, information from CAMH notes. But when the pill is crushed or chewed, all the oxycodone is released at once and gives rise to a high. Another reason why OxyContin is so addictive is that it does not contain acetaminophen, which makes one sick if excessive quantities of it are consumed. “One of the things we learned from it is [that] a potent opioid agent, which becomes widely available, can be diverted into non-medical use,” Dr. Buckley suggests. When OxyContin was widely misused in Ontario, Saskatchewan was experiencing a similar misuse with hydromorphone — an analgesic used to treat moderate to severe pain, he adds.

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“Opioid use can delay recovery.” NUMBING PAIN Pain is a sensation that all of us have experienced at some point in our lives, but this unpleasant feeling is often hard to define and measure, is subjective and varies widely from person to person. Pain, which is conveyed to the brain by sensory neurons to signal discomfort caused by actual or potential injury, is more than a physical experience. It is also a perception, which means that it can be felt despite removing the stimulus causing the pain, after an injury has healed or even in the absence of an actual injury or damage. Dr. Furlan explains that chronic pain is often the result of a pain-induced change in the neuroplasticity of the central nervous system. “Because the brain was hyper-sensitized during that period of acute pain, now you continue having pain,” she says. “If you give Tylenol or anti-inflammatory, it would do nothing. So you need to treat with different medications” like opioids, anti-depressants and cannabinoids — drugs which Dr. Juurlink says “all have their own toxicities.” There are essentially two types of pain: acute and chronic. While acute pain does not typically last longer than six months and usually disappears when the underlying cause of pain has been treated or healed, chronic pain persists even after an injury has healed, and the pain signals remain active in the nervous system for weeks, months or even years. Physical effects of chronic pain include tense muscles, limited mobility and lethargy, while emotional effects range from depression, anger and anxiety to fear of re-injury, notes information from the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. Determining which type of pain a patient is suffering from can be a slippery slope. Dr. Constantine notes that while most doctors understand acute pain, they do not know in depth what happens in the sub-acute and chronic phase, which is often the kind that occurs among injured workers. “If someone is on narcotics for the first six weeks, that is called the acute phase. You really want to see an improvement in function,” he says. “In six to 12 weeks, you want to see resumption of activities.” And if it goes beyond 12 weeks, “which is where most of the deaths occur, you basically want structure.” THE DARK SIDE Research has shown that the use of opioids in workers’ compensation cases can lead to sub-optimal outcomes, such as longer duration of disability, increased risk of surgery, greater likelihood of prolonged narcotic use and higher medical costs. “Our experience showed that during a period of increasing number of narcotic prescriptions and dose escalation, workers were experiencing longer recovery times and poorer return-to-work outcomes,” WSIB spokesperson Christine Arnott says from Toronto. “Opioid use can delay recovery, particularly when prescribed for non-specific musculoskeletal pain or injury, and can lead to dependency issues,” WorkSafeBC spokesperson Megan Johnston says from Richmond, British Columbia. “Long-term use of high-dose opioids can also be associated with heightened pain sensitivity, tolerance, dependence and occasionally, accidental overdosage and death.” Apart from dealing with the physical fallout associated 28

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with a workplace injury, an injured worker often experiences anger and a sense of obligation or entitlement for treatment or care. They also have to deal with the frustrations of interacting with an employer and the insurer, or with the workers’ compensation board. “Things like that make the whole recovery after a workplace injury more complicated,” suggests Dr. Buckley, adding that the social and psychological process associated with a workplace injury needs to be managed. “Part of the process may need to be a physical rehabilitation process, but sometimes, it also needs to be what is globally referred to as cognitive behavioural therapy, which involves frequently a lot of education to the patient about what is and is not reasonable, what can be expected,” he adds. When used appropriately, prescription narcotics should improve a worker’s function and quality of life and support a safe, sustained return to work. “We have seen a significant reduction in the use of long-acting narcotics since the introduction of the WSIB’s Narcotic Strategy,” Arnott reports. From 2009 to 2013, the number of workers receiving opioids in the first 12 weeks of injury declined by 85 per cent. The overall annual expenditure for narcotic medication has dropped by 27 per cent or $10 million from 2009 to 2013. “This means that fewer injured workers are exposed to the potential harmful effects of these medications,” she adds. WorkSafeBC is moving in the same direction. Johnston reports that since 2008, the safety agency has been working with family physicians to reduce long-term opioid use and to consider alternatives for pain management. The use of opioids has been decreasing since 2009 — the year when WorkSafeBC rolled out a practice directive to apply best practices to opioid prescription. “We actively engage prescribing physicians to consider whether the opioid is decreasing the individual’s pain and increasing their functioning. If the response is negative, we work with the physician to consider some alternatives,” Johnston says. Among the initiatives is a multidisciplinary pain-management program that includes education and training in pain and stress management, psychological counselling, exercise and physical activity, and return-to-work planning. KEEP AN EYE Before putting a patient on opioids, physicians can refer to the Opioid Manager, a step-by-step guide developed by Dr. Furlan and published in 2010. The guide condenses key elements from the Canadian Guideline for Safe and Effective Use of Opioids and serves as a point-of-care tool for physicians prescribIMAGE: VICHIE81 / THINKSTOCK ing opioids for chronic

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A Measured Approach

non-cancer pain. The first part of the guide requires physicians to assess a patient’s risk of overdose and check if there is a history of substance abuse — both family and personal. A closely monitored trial of opioid therapy is recommended before deciding whether a patient should be prescribed narcotics for longterm use. If opioids have been prescribed, the physician has to monitor the dosage and whether that has led to an improvement in functional status. The last section requires an assessment of when to decrease or stop the dose completely. “If the person taking opioids come[s] and tell[s] you they are feeling better but not modifying their function — still in bed whole day, not washing dishes — it means that person should not be taking opioids,” Dr. Furlan stresses. She explains that this is often an indication that the patient is “getting some high, some euphoria.” She recommends workers in safety-sensitive positions who have been prescribed opioids notify their employers. Work modifications should be made available to these workers until they are on stable dosages and their abilities to undertake safety-sensitive tasks are tested. Injured workers can also play a more proactive role in their recovery by giving doctors feedback on how they respond to opioids and requesting that doctors document their opioid use in relation to their improvement in function. They should also ask about tapering or switching to less potent drugs and reviewing the pain to assess if it has progressed to the chronic stage and if so, what existing guidelines say about that. “These questions really deserve an answer,” Dr. Constantine says. Dr. Buckley is likely to agree. “Your focus needs to be on recovery, and it has to be a pretty empirical process of reassessing and reassessing progress, and adjusting therapy according to progress.” Aside from adjusting dosage and monitoring patients closely, Dr. Juurlink says the current thinking and approach towards occupational pain management needs to be reviewed. “Part of that rethinking involves much greater scrutiny and [a] much higher threshold to prescribe opioids, because while they do help some patients, there are many others they don’t help,” he argues. Aside from medication, other modalities can be effective in treating chronic pain. They include acupuncture, electrical stimulation, physical therapy, surgery, psychotherapy, relaxation techniques and behaviour modification. But for injured workers suffering from chronic pain, these modalities may not always be affordable. “The way the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission scheme works is that these modalities are paid for with the intent that the worker is going to return to work,” Dodd says. “Otherwise, the Commission’s policy is not for ongoing care and is used as a cost-saving measure to suspend medical benefits. We believe that the investment in injury treatment is worthy of the cost and should be done in conjunction with medications.”

To discourage the long-term use of opioids among injured workers suffering from chronic pain, British Columbia requires a WorkSafeBC physician to review all requests for extending an opioid prescription beyond eight weeks. If opioids are extended at the eighth week, WorkSafeBC will request more information from both the prescribing physician and the patient. The physician must provide information related to the worker’s health condition, his or her medication history and the effectiveness of the opioids to date, while the patient must agree to certain conditions, such as using only one physician and one pharmacy. If those conditions are not met, WorkSafeBC can refuse coverage of the medication. “At the end of the day, WorkSafeBC doesn’t interfere with the prescribing physician’s right to prescribe the medication; it can only make the decision not to pay for the medication,” says Megan Johnston, spokesperson for WorkSafeBC in Richmond. Similar restrictions apply to Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). In the first weeks following an injury, the WSIB’s narcotics strategy limits the use of opioids to milder, less addictive drugs. Nurse consultants regularly review opioid prescriptions, and where extended opioid use is contemplated or ongoing, nurse consultants will request a medical consultant to conduct a clinical file review to confirm clinical understanding, treatment goals and impact on return to work with the prescribing physician. The WSIB covers physical modalities like physiotherapy and chiropractic care as alternatives to pain medication. Specialty clinic programs are also available to workers with complex injuries or illnesses and ongoing pain, who need quick access to specialized health professionals. In 2011, the WSIB introduced the Medication and Substance Program as a specialty clinic for the minority of workers whose prescription drug use is interfering with their recovery and return to work.

Similar restrictions apply to drugs. Dr. Furlan says many pain medications known to be effective are not covered by workers’ compensation. She cites duloxetine, an anti-depressant effective in treating low back pain and depression, and nabilone — a cannabinoid derived from marijuana. Other options include weaker opioids like tramadol and buprenophene patches that are harder to misuse, “but they are more expensive and not included in WSIB.” Dr. Furlan says she is currently working on a guideline similar to the Opioid Manager she developed for physicians, but intended for use by patients. The document is undergoing validation with some patient groups and is expected to be ready this May. If there is any useful advice out there that can help injured workers better manage pain, Dodd says she would like to hear about it. “Medication for pain is not a choice if we want to live with some quality of life. We just have to remain aware and be active in pursuing all reasonable medical options.” Follow us on Twitter @OHSCanada

Jean Lian is editor of

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The death of an Alberta farm worker, who was killed when his clothing got caught in a grain auger in January, has renewed calls to bring the province’s agriculture industry into the fold of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). The latest incident harks back to a fatality that took place nearly eight years ago.

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t was Father’s Day in 2006 when 35-year-old Kevan Chandler was smothered to death at Tongue Creek Feeders near High River, Alberta. Chandler, a supervisor at the feedlot, entered a silo to chip down cattle grain stuck to its walls, while a co-worker stood outside to shovel out the fallen grain. But when his co-worker left briefly to get a longer pole, the grain collapsed onto Chandler, killing him. Among the findings in the public inquiry into Chandler’s death, released in October of 2008, Judge Peter Barley recommended that farm workers in Alberta be covered by the OHSA and that the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development set up safety training programs for farm employers and workers. In response, the provincial government established the Farm Safety Advisory Council (FSAC), which published its recommendations to Alberta’s minister of agriculture on improving and implementing farm health and safety initiatives four years later in 2012. Despite Judge Barley’s ruling, the FSAC did not propose mandatory occupational health and safety legislation for agricultural workers in Alberta, where most farm workers are still not covered by the OHSA. Instead, the FSAC made four recommendations: establish a provincial awareness coordination body; develop educational, training and certification resource materials and programs; promote industry best practices by implementing safety measures that take place prior to worker involvement; and dedicate staff and resources to ensure the safety of foreign farm workers. National president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union Devin Yeager, who sat on the council comprising representatives from the government, the industry and the Farm Safety Centre, says he thinks that the recommendations made were positive, but that they did not go far enough. “The one thing that was lacking was legislation, and that was the one thing that I lobbied for,” Yeager says from Calgary. On this issue, the council was unable to reach a consensus. “I think that exclusion under oh&s guidelines for farm workers is wrong,” he adds, citing as an example the situation of foreign workers — many of whom are put up in substandard housing. “Recommendations are great, but if you don’t implement them and you don’t have some sort of enforcement, there is a concern.” SHADES OF HAZARDS Farm workers are exposed to various occupational hazards: they are at increased risk of injury and illness from operating 32

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machinery, handling animals, working alone, being exposed to chemicals and getting involved in motor vehicle accidents. Carla Amonson, manager of the West Central Forage Association (WCFA) in Evansburg, Alberta, says long hours and working under time pressure are major challenges that farm workers face. One of agriculture’s biggest safety issues is people being in a rush, she adds, especially during seeding and harvesting. “When guys are trying to get things done within a

“Exclusion under oh&s guidelines for farm workers is wrong.” certain timeframe around weather and whatnot, they are working really, really long hours. And that always has a toll on people and judgement.” The Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting (CAIR) notes that 1,975 people died from agricultural injuries between 1990 and 2008. Unlike other hazardous industries, many farm-related injuries and fatalities occur among children and the elderly: 248 children under the age of 15 and 712 adults aged 60 or older died from farm-related injuries during the same period. Bruce Johnson, executive director of the Farm and Ranch Safety and Health Association (FARSHA) in Langley, British Columbia, says agriculture is one of the “slower industries” to implement health and safety programs. Unlike other employers operating within an industrial framework, a farm — especially one that is family-owned — “is a business place, but it is also their home,” he says. The Alberta Center for Injury Control and Research reports an average of 18 farm-related fatalities in the province each year between 1990 and 2009 and 678 hospital admissions involving major trauma between 1996 and 2009. So how do Alberta’s fatality rates compare with those of other provinces? “Alberta is in the middle of the pack,” says Don Voaklander, Ph.D., director of the Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research in Edmonton and a collaborator on the study. “In Alberta, we typically run between 13 and 17 fatalities a year.” But Dr. Voaklander stresses that comparing provincial numbers is not an accurate measure of farm safety in each region. “Some of the big-ticket items in farm fatalities are tractor rollovers. If you got slopey fields like they do in Eastern Canada as opposed to the prairies, you are comparing apples and oranges,” he says. Data from CAIR cite machinery work as one of the major causes of farm injuries and fatalities. Part of the difficulty with analyzing the data coming out of Alberta is that aside from workers who are employed in greenhouse, mushroom, sod and nursery operations, work-

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ers’ compensation board (WCB) coverage is optional for those operating in other areas of the agriculture sector, such as on grain or animal farms. This means that work-related injuries and fatalities may go unreported. “Being outside of the legislation and outside of WCB, we don’t always hear of all of the incidents and accidents that occur, or certainly don’t hear all of the details,” Eric Musekamp, president of the Farm Workers Union of Alberta, says from Winnifred, Alberta. The union was formed in 2004 to advocate for farm workers’ rights following the killing of Terry Rash, who was stabbed by his employer in 1999. Despite its name, the organization is not a labour union, since it is illegal for agricultural workers in Alberta to unionize. Musekamp suggests that the lack of legislative requirements on employees and employers to act in any particular fashion “creates an unsafe climate overall.” Musekamp, who had legal standing at the public inquiry into Chandler’s death, believes that the confined space protocol under Part 5 of Alberta’s OHSA would have saved Chandler’s life. “Under the legislation, there are steps you take to ensure that the atmosphere is breathable,” Musekamp says. “This particular employer was law-abiding. So if the law said you had to follow confined space protocol, they would have followed the confined space protocol,” he argues, adding that Tongue Creek Feeders has previously seen worker fatalities despite being one of the better farming operations. DISSENTING VOICES While putting the agricultural sector under the regulatory scrutiny of the OHSA and extending WCB coverage to the sector will boost workplace safety, there has been considerable pushback from farmers in Alberta against imposing any kind of legislation on businesses. For instance, the Alberta Federation of Agriculture (AFA), formerly the Wild Rose Agricultural Producers and the largest farm-producer organization in the province, objects to both mandatory WCB coverage and workplace health and safety regulations. “We believe that we are a safe organization, that it is a lot of paperwork for a small number of employees that we have

on our farms,” contends Humphrey Banack, vice-president of the AFA in Camrose, Alberta. “It should be the right of the farm business managers to choose which risk management profile best suits their employees’ coverage and their risk management.” Although Banack claims that most AFA farms do not have paid employees, he acknowledges that the situation is changing. The 2011 Census of Agriculture confirms an 18 per cent increase in the number of large farms earning $500,000 or more in Alberta since the last census in 2006. While the 4,454 large farms represented only 10.3 per cent of all farms in the province, they accounted for 70.6 per cent of the total provincial gross farm receipts reported that year. Similarly, Dr. Voaklander observes a trend of the increasing corporatization of farms. “If you look at the farm population in Canada and Alberta, the total farm population has dropped off significantly over the last 20 years, which would suggest that farms are getting larger,” he says. The AFA, which has recently passed a motion that supports child labour regulations, argues the best way to improve farm safety is through education, especially among young people. “Through safety programs that the Alberta government and the AFA have managed and put forward, we have increased safety on our farms over the past years,” Banack says. CONTENTIOUS CONTENT Good intentions aside, some deem extending legislative protection to agricultural workers as a controversial proposition. Amonson, who sat on the FSAC, reports that the council did not recommend legislation because family farms opposed the idea, as they view it as cost prohibitive to employers who would be required to buy into a WCB program. In her mind, exploring other options for the industry, such as private workers’ insurance and regulatory schemes that distinguish smaller producers from larger corporate enterprises, could address some of these concerns. Indeed, the culture and mindset on family farms can be very different from those on large commercial operations. Historically, the government has not intervened in these family ventures. However, much of the industry today has been

Behind the Idyll Since 1995, Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting (CAIR) — formerly known as the Canadian Agricultural Injury Surveillance Program — has been collecting data on farm injuries and fatalities across the country. In 2011, with the support of the government-funded Canadian Agricultural Safety Association, CAIR published its latest report, Fatalities in Canada 1990 to 2008. Some of the key findings are as follows: • The agricultural fatality rate of 12.9 per 100,000 farm population (including non-workers) from 1990 to 2008 was higher than motor vehicle collision or suicide fatality rates in the general population. • A whopping 92 per cent of farm fatalities were work-

related; 85 per cent of the victims were working at the time of the incident. • Almost half (47 per cent) of the fatalities involved farm owners or operators. •  Machines were involved in 70 per cent of agricultural fatalities, with the top five causes of agricultural fatalities being machine rollovers (20 per cent), machine runovers (18 per cent), machine entanglements (eight per cent), traffic collisions (seven per cent), and being pinned or struck by a machine (seven per cent). • M  ales accounted for 92 per cent of those fatally injured as a result of agricultural work.

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Kids in Tow One characteristic that is unique to the farming industry is the presence of children at the workplace. “You don’t think of the farm industry in an industrial sort of way, but the machinery is big, powerful and dangerous just like machinery anywhere,” cautions Don Voaklander, Ph.D., director of the Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research (ACICR) in Edmonton. For instance, a construction worker who brings a child to work would be sent home, “but that doesn’t happen on a farm,” he cites by way of example. Dr. Voaklander adds that the injury rates for farm children and other rural non-farm kids is about double that of urban children. Figures from the ACICR indicate that between 1992 and 2009, which is the most recent data available for the province, the overall agricultural-related death rate of children in Alberta increased an average of 5.8 per cent annually. A total of 69 children died as a result of an agricultural injury, which equates to an average of four deaths each year. “The overall crude death rate for children and youth was 8.1 deaths per 100,000 farm population,” the report Agricultural-Related Injuries in Alberta states. Runovers — with 21 fatalities being reported over the same time period — accounted for the leading cause of agricultural-related death involving children in Alberta.

taken over by corporate enterprises in the form of industrial-scale farms with large workforces. The agriculture sector, which has ties to the government, has also successfully lobbied to keep the industry outside the confines of legislation. While farmers in Alberta may opt for WCB coverage, not many choose to register their workers. Currently, 1,349 employers in the farming industry have WCB accounts, with 2,802 workers covered. Employers pay an average industry premium rate of $2.72 per $100 of insurable earnings. That said, Amonson observes that the dynamics in the agriculture sector are changing, given the increase in the number of large farms and the need for the industry to keep up with the times. Amonson reports that while the WCFA works mainly with family farms, these operations are not necessarily small. “I think it is something within the industry that we are going to have to keep re-examining and not just saying this is the way it is,” she says of health and safety legislation. Lawyer Kelly Nicholson, a partner at the Field Law firm in Calgary who represented Tongue Creek Feeders in the Chandler case, also believes that times are changing. “In Alberta, given the nature of the historical vision of the farm as a family place and coupled with the mobility of its workforce, it has made for a difficult fit between oh&s legislation and the farming industry,” Nicholson explains. “And if that’s different now, if it’s not really a family-run industry for the most part, then it may be that the time has come for the government to consider extending the scope of oh&s legislation to the farming industry,” he adds. 34

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Although one of the key arguments against mandatory WCB coverage and subjecting the farming industry to occupational health and safety standards is the burden that it would place on family farms, smaller operations would likely not be affected. Neither should it negatively affect their bottom line. “It would affect larger employers rather than smaller employers,” says Johnson of FARSHA. He cites British Columbia as an example of a province that requires farms with fewer than 19 workers to have an informal workplace safety plan and a safety representative. As the number of workers diminishes, the employer is subject to even less stringent rules. Johnson adds that bringing farm workers under the OHSA umbrella is unlikely to result in other operational impacts, such as a decrease in the number of temporary foreign workers. He estimates that about 4,000 migrant workers in British Columbia’s agricultural sector are covered by the same legislation that protects Canadian workers, and that these workers receive safety training materials in various languages. In fact, Johnson believes that putting the agriculture sector under legislative purview would make it easier for employers to demonstrate due diligence. “If they are doing everything that they are supposed to be doing and an incident happened, then it would be fairly easy to demonstrate the due diligence and that they are looking after the workers.” PROTECTING GUEST WORKERS Despite the regulations that Johnson says protect foreign workers in British Columbia, a report by West Coast Domestic Workers Association in Vancouver, Access to Justice for Migrant Workers in British Columbia, says the lack of job security often compels foreign workers to endure substandard work conditions and abuses for fear of not being ‘named’ by employers the following season. Under Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, employees must be named by their employers in order to return to work in the country the following season. The report cites a farm that did not provide running water for workers living on the premise. Instead, the workers had to use an outdoor hose in a neighbour’s home. “In the places we have contracts, the number one and number two bargaining proposals are clean drinking water and access to washroom facilities,” Yeager says, adding that the union has received one account of an employer spraying farm workers with pesticides. Yeager surmises that one reason why some Albertans may be hesitant to support the inclusion of farm workers under workplace safety legislation and workers’ compensation is that they associate the issue with foreign workers. Canadian workers may view these foreigners as disposable or even fear that they are competing with them for domestic jobs. It is estimated that the number of temporary farm workers in the province hovers between 2,000 and 4,000. Yeager notes that during Premier Alison Redford’s election campaign in 2011, she promised to protect farm workers through legislative changes. Instead, the government has chosen to focus solely on education and awareness. The Al-

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berta Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is developing the FarmSafe Plan in cooperation with the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association, which started a pilot program early this year and plans to have it running by 2015. “The farmers involved in our pilot program will attend a two-day workshop, where they will have the opportunity to develop their own safety plan with the support of safety advisors and a peer network,” says Erin McFarlane, public affairs officer with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Edmonton. The program will take farmers through various aspects of farm safety, including management leadership and organizational commitment, hazard assessment, identification and control, ongoing inspections, qualifications, orientation and training, emergency response, incident investigation and program administration. Meanwhile, the Department of Human Services is taking a cautious approach and is planning to meet with farm employers and employees to assess what impact the introduction of legislation might have on the industry. “We are going to be going out and chatting with people to see how can we make sure the workers are safe. I won’t presuppose the outcome of that, but certainly the intent is to make sure that we have safe workers in agribusiness and in the commercial agriculture operations,” the minister’s press secretary Craig Loewen says from Edmonton. As the farm industry becomes increasingly corporatized, Loewen says Minister of Human Services Dave Hancock and Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Verlyn Olson are meeting to figure out the appropriate “mix of education, prevention, but also regulation” that can be applied to the agriculture industry. CHANGING TIDE It has been more than five years since Judge Barley put forward the recommendation that Alberta’s farm workers be protected by workplace safety regulations. Some advocates of legislative changes like Musekamp believe that the government is stalling.

“It is 100 per cent political,” Musekamp charges. “They used to publish a synopsis of what happened, you know of the circumstance [after a farm-related accident]. And they now refuse to do even that.” In 2011, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development stopped posting the details following each workplace fatality, such as the age and gender of the farm worker, date and cause of death, opting instead to provide a summary of the raw statistics for the entire year. The department says this was done to respect the privacy of the families of those involved. But the Farm Workers’ Union believes it was a response to requests for a fatality review into a double farm fatality made earlier that year by Liberal Member of the Legislative Assembly David Swann, the Alberta Federation of Labour and the Farm Workers Union. Since farming is not part of OHSA, no investigation was conducted into the incident. Currently, the last year for which information is publicly available on its website is 2012. By and large, the agriculture sector across Canada has been slow in legislating health and safety standards. Ontario did not pass legislation until 2006, following considerable public pressure and a lengthy legal battle with the UFCW, while Prince Edward Island was the last province to follow suit in 2007, although WCB coverage in both provinces remains optional. In 1993, the government in British Columbia introduced legislation and mandatory workers’ compensation, which included new regulations specific to the agriculture industry. At the same time, FARSHA was formed to provide safety training

Putting the agriculture sector under legislative purview would make it easier for employers to demonstrate due diligence. and support to farm employers and workers across the province. Johnson says the latest data indicate that injuries have decreased 40 per cent since those changes came into effect. As for Alberta, it remains to be seen whether education alone will be enough to drive down farm-related injury and fatality rates. As farming becomes increasingly mechanized and the use of heavy machinery puts workers at greater risk, it may be time for the industry to change with the times. Follow us on Twitter @OHSCanada

Carmelle Wolfson is assistant editor of

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This summer may well prove to be a safer season for construction workers in Ontario, as the provincial government has introduced a new training standard to prevent falls and improve safety for those working at heights. Workers, employers and trainers alike have thus far given the new standard a thumbs up.

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new standard, which will come into effect for the construction industry on July 1, spells out what is required for workers to get the seal of approval from the province’s chief prevention officer to work at heights. This includes such items as learning outcomes for learners, equipment to be used for the training and minimum timing for the course. Increased safety is certainly needed, considering that “falls from heights in workplaces continue to be a significant cause of injury and death, despite heightened enforcement and awareness campaigns,” Ontario’s Ministry of Labour (MOL) spokesperson Bruce Skeaff says from Toronto. Enzo Garritano, vice-president of research and stakeholder networks at the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association in Mississauga, Ontario, agrees that it is important. “It provides clarity as to what is expected for training. It sets the field for consistency,” Garritano says. Consistency is essential, and it has been lacking. While the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) mandates that employers in Ontario provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker’s health and safety, which includes job- and equipment-specific training that a worker would need when working at heights, there are no specific requirements as to what that training should include or how it should be delivered. “You get some really fly-by-night programs. There were rumours that training cards were being bought and sold on the worksite,” suggests Jim LaFontaine, occupational health and safety manager with Oakville, Ontario-based Dufferin Construction Company, a division of Holcim (Canada) Inc. GRIM NUMBERS Data from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board of Ontario reveal that about 17,000 lost-time injuries are caused by falls in the workplace each year in the province. Of this number, more than one-third comprise falls from heights that range anywhere from several centimetres to 120 stories. Although falls from heights are not the most common type of falls compared to trips, they are usually the most serious. In 2013, 10 out of 17 reported fatalities were due to falls from heights. “That trend has been the norm,” LaFontaine says. It also reflects the reality of work-related falls. “Change can occur in a second — literally a second — and it can change your entire life. Once you fall, it’s out of your hands,” Garritano says. Unless the fall is prevented or halted, it can be a long

way down for construction workers who work on scaffolds, roofs and buildings. The potential for injury presented by fall hazards exists across sectors. Skeaff cites the various causes of falls, which include poor housekeeping, lack of work planning, inadequate supervision, insufficient awareness or complacency about fall hazards, improper set-up or use of equipment and lack of training of workers and supervisors. But arresting a worker’s fall is only part of the solution. The significant arresting forces applied to break a fall can still result in injury. “It is critical that fall distances be minimized and swing falls be avoided,” Skeaff cautions. And for that to take place, proper planning is essential. The risk of suspension trauma also “emphasizes the need for an effective rescue plan,” he adds. As vigilance is key in fostering awareness and reducing work-related falls, the MOL notes that the new standard will be expanded to all sectors over time. HARNESSED FOR HEIGHTS The 22-page Working at Heights Training Program Standard states that an approved training program must include two modules: basic theory focusing on knowledge and awareness and practical equipment, which provides specialized information and hands-on demonstration of equipment and procedures. The latter also includes inspecting and identifying deficiencies in personal fall-arrest equipment, proper donning and doffing of equipment and maintaining tie-off to an anchor point at all times when changing these points. The first basic theory module requires at least three hours of in-class training to meet the standard’s learning outcomes, while the second module requires at least 3.5 hours to complete. “It is almost like going back to basic principles,” says LaFontaine, who is a certified Canadian Regulatory Safety Professional. “It is like standardized testing in the education system. There are basic requirements that need to be met.” Jeff Thorne, manager of training and consulting with Occupational Safety Group Inc. in London, Ontario, says it is critical that theory and practical knowledge complement each other. “People need both elements.” As a result of the expanded curricula, it may take more time to train workers. Many of the fall prevention courses currently offered across the province require only four hours — sometimes less — to complete. This means that training firms need to revise their existing courses to comply with the

Hard Landing Work-related falls — a major cause of injury and death in Ontario’s workplaces — not only take a toll on employees, but also deliver a hit to a company’s bottom line. The average workers’ compensation claim costs for all kinds of falls is $11,771, reports the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) in Toronto. When other costs, such as staff replacement, lost productivity and equipment damages are taken into consideration,


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the price tag soars. The estimated actual cost to a company can be as much as four times the claim costs — approximately $59,000 per injury. And falls from heights often result in serious injury. To recoup these costs, the WSIB estimates that it would cost companies more than $1.1 million in sales or services based on a profit margin of five per cent and nearly $600,000 if the profit margin is 10 per cent.

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LOOK OUT EAST Ontario’s latest move to implement a fallprotection training standard is by no means a first in the country. In January of 2012, Newfoundland and Labrador introduced what is believed to be the country’s first training standard for working at heights. The occupational health and safety branch of Service NL has the authority to issue stop-work orders at any job site that has not met training requirements. The training is valid for three years from the date of completion. “We show them this is real,” says Jackie Manuel, chief executive officer of the Newfoundland and Labrador Construction Safety Association in Mount Pearl. Before this standard, “we saw dozens of situations where workers were ‘trained,’ but they were not.” Now, Newfoundland and Labrador’s fallprotection training standard stipulates the requirements of the course, which provides specific and fundamental information, like teaching participants how a harness works. It also offers a more in-depth look at the safety of working at heights by addressing whether a rescue plan is in place and how to minimize the risk of suspension trauma. Newfoundland and Labrador’s standard is already paying off. Over a one-year period

starting in September of 2012, the incidence for falls from heights in the province dropped more than 25 per cent, according to information from the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission. “You can be assured more than one of those [accidents] would have been a fatality,” Manuel suggests. The training provided has clearly filled a void with workers and employers. From December of 2012 to the following December, the Newfoundland and Labrador Construction Safety Association trained 3,300 workers. “We were overwhelmed by the response,” Manuel says. “My instructors estimated that 50 per cent of the people in the class had never had fall prevention training.” Nationally, Manuel says the training standard in Newfoundland and Labrador is unique. “No one else is doing this,” he claims. Now, other provinces are taking notice. So are construction companies and their employees based outside of Newfoundland and Labrador, since the new standard applies to them if they want to work in the province.

“Falls from heights in workplaces continue to be a significant cause of injury and death.” “We are seeing a lot of contractors from elsewhere in the country working here, but their fall prevention certificate is not accepted,” Manuel reports. “They have to be trained in the Newfoundland and Labrador standard.” The same rigour may be applied to workers in Ontario once regulations governing the new standard are in place. But legislation alone will not ensure the safety of those working at heights. “Safety is a core value,” LaFontaine stresses. “It has to be embedded in the culture of companies. The culture of a company is what really goes on when no one is looking.” FIRST THINGS FIRST Safety considerations need to begin before a worker sets up a ladder, climbs onto a

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new standard. In some cases, those changes may be significant, while only some tweaking will be required in others. “We will have to change our program slightly to meet the standard,” says Thorne, “but it is what we do already.” For employees who have been trained in working at heights prior to the standard taking effect, the approach to validate this recent training with respect to the new standards has not yet been determined. “These discussions will be considered as part of the regulatory consultations to take place in early 2014,” information from the MOL notes. The new standard will require course providers to include each piece of equipment as part of the training. “That may be a burden,” Thorpe says. The increase in training time, which may require workers to be off the job longer, could pose an operational challenge and higher costs to employers. That said, the goal of Ontario’s new fallprotection training standard, which requires both training courses and instructors to be officially approved, is to provide a safer environment for everyone who works at heights.

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Horse Before Cart roof or steps on a lift truck. “You need to do a hazard assessment prior to starting a job. It could be a very simple job, but if you don’t plan, you won’t be prepared,” Garritano says. Part of that planning involves assessing whether a fall protection system is needed. “Whenever the use of a fall protection system is considered, workplace parties should first assess whether there are alternative methods to mitigate the hazard, such as engineering controls or guardrails that would avoid the need for a personal fall-protection system,” Skeaff advises. If it is not possible to erect a guardrail, other measures need to be considered. They include travel restraint systems that prevent workers from accessing the fall hazard, fall restricting systems that limit free fall to very short distances and fall arrest systems designed to arrest a worker’s fall. “A full assessment of each situation is necessary in order to choose the most effective method, according to the principle of hierarchy of controls,” Skeaff adds. Once a system has been identified, workplace parties should look out for common mistakes when deploying fall protection equipment. They include the failure to understand how to use a fall protection system safely and its limitations, incorrect selection of anchor points, failure to adjust and minimize the length of lifelines, and failure to determine fall clearance distances correctly. Training can help with this, Thorpe says. But in any environment that allows for cutting corners and turning a blind eye to unsafe practices, enhanced training will not be a panacea. Inspection and monitoring remain crucial. “Without that, training can go in one ear and out the other. Complacency can set in without a push,” he adds.

Legislation alone will not ensure the safety of those working at heights.


Skeaff says the new training standard will be enforced with the same tools and methods currently in place to address contraventions to the OHSA. “These tools include proactive enforcement and reactive enforcement where we may lay orders — time-based or stop-work — and could include the initiation or recommendation of prosecution under the


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The Ontario Ministry of Labour advises that the risk of falls must be addressed before commencing work. As most of these injuries and fatalities occur due to the lack of fall protection, the following are among the measures put in place by the provincial labour ministry to protect those working at heights: • The Expert Advisory Panel on Occupational Health and Safety has recommended as a priority the development of mandatory fall-protection training. The provincial government has now complied with the introduction of the new fall-protection training standard, which will come into effect in July; • In 2013, the labour ministry conducted two enforcement blitzes to protect workers who operate at heights by visiting more than 4,527 worksites; • A pilot program inspecting worksites after hours and on weekends was launched last fall; •  Last October, the province posted a video to raise awareness of fall hazards and highlight worker safety initiatives; and •  Ministry inspectors have conducted more than 345,000 field visits to workplaces since 2008.

Provincial Offences Act.” The MOL is consulting on the implementation of the Working at Heights Training Standard to ensure that it provides high quality and consistent delivery of training. The consultation will focus on two aspects of implementation: a new draft of the Working at Heights Training Provider Standard that would set out requirements for training providers, who will have to seek approval from the chief prevention officer to deliver approved working-at-heights training, and a regulatory proposal to require certain workers to complete an approved working-atheights training program delivered by an approved training provider. While Ontario’s Working at Heights Training Program Standard alone is not likely to eliminate workplace falls, it serves as a base on which greater safety awareness and adherence to fall prevention measures can be built. “The standard will ensure minimum criteria will be set,” Garritano says. “The foundation is there.” Follow us on Twitter @OHSCanada

Donalee Moulton is a writer in Halifax.

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Taming the Monkey Mind By Samuel Dunsiger


eeling anxious or stressed at work? The latest findings from researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore suggest that daily meditation can alleviate symptoms associated with depression and anxiety. The investigators analyzed previously published research based on 47 clinical trials performed in June of 2013 on 3,515 participants with various mental and physical health issues. These patients did not typically have full-blown anxiety or depression, and only a minority had been diagnosed with mental illness. Results of the systematic review, published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association in January, show that 30 minutes of meditation each day moderately improves symptoms of anxiety, depression and pain after participants underwent Meditation an eight-week training program in mindfulness meditation. The findcan alleviate ings held even when the researchers controlled for the possibility of the symptoms placebo effect. “A lot of people use meditation, but it is not a practice considered part associated with of mainstream medical therapy for depression anything,” Dr. Madhav Goyal, lead study author and assistant professor and anxiety. at Johns Hopkins University’s division of general internal medicine, says in a statement. “In our study, meditation appeared to provide as much relief from some anxiety and depression symptoms as what other studies have found from anti-depressants.” Joseph Emet, owner of Mindfulness Meditation Centre in Montreal, says anxiety is the main reason people take up mindfulness meditation. Through controlled breathing, meditation helps one to disengage from negative thoughts. “Mindfulness broadens the mind,” Emet says. “It makes you see the sky, the sunshine and not just the clouds.” Dr. Arun Ravindran, chief of the mood- and anxiety-disorders program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, says the latest findings are consistent with other research showing that meditation, yoga, exercise and other physical-mental disciplines improve low mood and anxiety. “It is well recognized that people with depression and anxiety are more sensitive to stress, and that better stress management can help to reduce symptoms,” Dr. Ravindran says. Dr. Mark Lau, founding fellow at the Institute of Mental Health at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, notes that while cognitive-based therapy is a change-based approach aimed at treating psychological issues through evaluating and altering thoughts, mindfulness meditation is based on accepting such thoughts. “A key focus of mindfulness medita 42

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tion is the cultivation of an open, receptive mode of awareness in which one intentionally faces behaviour difficulties and affective discomfort,” he says, adding that it has been shown to be effective in treating acute symptoms of depression. MINDING THE MIND Consider a similar study conducted in 2010 by a research team led by Stefan Hofmann, professor of psychology at Boston University’s Centre for Anxiety and Related Disorders. Hofmann and his colleagues examined the effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy — a combination of mindfulness meditation and cognitive behavioural therapy — for treating anxiety and mood symptoms. The team identified 39 studies comprising 1,140 participants who received mindfulness-based therapy for various conditions, including cancer, generalized anxiety disorder, depression and other psychiatric or medical conditions. The study concluded that “mindfulness-based therapy is a promising intervention for treating anxiety and mood problems in clinical populations.” Mindfulness meditation and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy can have workplace applications, suggests Jackie Riley, founder of Riley Wellness Consulting in Huntsville, Ontario. “I think there is a great untapped workplace wellness resource available to us via mindful practices,” suggests Riley, who has completed mindfulness-based stress reduction training. “I found [mindfulness-based stress reduction] gave me greater clarity and the ability to address the immediate issues and tasks before me.” Last year, Dr. Lau co-launched a pilot study to evaluate how receptive workplaces are towards mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. The study targeted employees in British Columbia, particularly in the healthcare sector. “Overall, we found that it is feasible to deliver mindfulness-based cognitive therapy in group format, online and face-to-face,” Dr. Lau reports. “The reason for alternative formats is that people seemed to be concerned about anonymity, especially around their bosses and colleagues.” Riley says mental health issues like depression and anxiety can affect productivity and decision making. She encourages employers to adopt a holistic mental health management system in which yoga, meditation and exercise — even pet therapy — are used to promote mental health and help create a psychologically safe workplace. Dr. Ravindran cautions that while studies say wellness programs alleviate symptoms of non-clinical issues like stress and anxiety, “clinically significant symptoms require more active intervention, usually through the use of medication and often in combination with psychotherapy.”

Whe emp worry

Follow us on Twitter @OHSCanada

Samuel Dunsiger is a writer in Toronto.


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Dressed for Fire By Jeff Cottrill


or many people, getting dressed for work does not mean donning a shirt and a tie or a blouse and a jacket. The proper attire for employees who work with open flames, electrical equipment, flammable materials and other potential fire or explosion hazards is fire-retardant or flameresistant (FR) apparel that protects against burns. Not to be confused with the protective uniforms that firefighters wear, FR apparel is designed specifically to protect against burn injuries from sudden, unexpected flash fires or electric-arc flashes. Fire-retardant apparel comes in the form of shirts, jackets, pants, overalls, hoods with face shields, outdoor outerwear and full-body coveralls. There are also high-visibility options for workers who need to be seen by others, including those who operate around streets or highway traffic, and even “breathable” gear that keeps water and other liquids out in bad weather or wet environments. Some FR clothing is made with antimicrobial properties to “You can’t control odours as well. The primary markets for FR apparel just paint all are the utilities and oil and gas sectors. Chemical plants also find such protecFR clothing tive clothing useful, as do industries that manufacture flammable products, with a single including lumber and plastics. As with any personal protective brush.” equipment (PPE) or other products designed for worker safety, it is important that a company assess a work area’s prevalent hazards before deciding which kind of FR apparel to purchase. HAZARD CHECK Mark Saner, technical manager with Workrite, an Oxnard, California-based company that manufactures and sells FR apparel, identifies two main categories of fire hazards present in many industries: hydrocarbon flash fires and electric arcs. The former are sudden, short fires that occur when air mixes with flammable substances, while the latter are quick flashes of electric current that leave the intended path and travel through the air from one conductor to another or to the ground. Fire-resistant garments that protect against electric-arc flashes are called arc-rated garments, made out of fabrics tested to determine their level of protection against thermal exposures from electric-arc flashes. “You have got electricians working on those high-voltage electrical panels, and they have to be protected in case there is an accidental arc flash that explodes,” Saner says. Hydrocarbon flashes and electric arcs are not the only causes of fires present in industrial work. “Combustible dust 44

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is another one,” Saner points out. “Whether it is plastics or wood products or agricultural products, those can create combustible dust that could explode into a flash that could ignite clothing.” Molten-metal splashes are another risk against which some FR apparel is designed to protect. “Although the hazards are different, the FR [apparel] is made to perform the same way, and that is to self-extinguish after the source of the ignition is removed,” explains Tom Kiddle, director of specialized sales with Carhartt, Inc. in Dearborn, Michigan. That means FR apparel will burn if a flame is held close to it, but once that flame moves away from it, it extinguishes. Most regulations require that the fire selfextinguish within two seconds. Kiddle adds that past research into flash-fire incidents has shown that the real injuries were coming from clothing continuing to burn while on the worker’s body. So keeping clothes from igniting in the first place gives workers a far better chance of surviving a flash fire. Craig Tutterow, technical director of FR fabrics with Mount Vernon FR in Trion, Georgia, suggests that companies identify the specific burn hazards not only of the general workplace, but of each individual task. “Some hazards may be eliminated or minimized by engineering changes or by changes to standard procedures or work practices. Apparel that provides the appropriate levels of protection needed for each task can then be selected,” he advises. Final selections should be based on some limited-wear trials to evaluate comfort and functionality, he adds. Andrew Wirts, sales and marketing director with Washington, Indiana rainwear manufacturer NASCO, says it is important to understand the differences presented by various flame-resistant characteristics. “You can’t just paint all FR clothing with a single brush. For example, there are products that perform very well against an electric-arc flash, but do very poorly against a hydrocarbon flash fire.” Fortunately, Wirts says many FR products can handle both types of flashes. That said, workers should still familiarize themselves with safe-work practices that minimize the risks in their environments, so that “apparel becomes not the first line of defence. It’s sort of the last line of defence.” PICK AND CHOOSE In view of the sheer variety of FR clothing available on the market, employers should bear in mind certain factors, such as the manufacturer’s selection of fabrics and styles, the apparel’s quality and price, the quality-control process used and the manufacturer’s ability to provide technical expertise and information to maximize the protective gear’s effectiveness. Fire-resistant garments are so essential to certain sectors that many companies in North America focus exclusively on manufacturing and selling them. For instance, Workrite offers a full range of durable, high-quality apparel to protect

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As fire-resistant (FR) garments are a necessity for many workers, such protective gear must meet compliance standards. In Canada, the Canadian General Standards Board regulates the safety standards of FR apparel that protects against flash fires. The following are among the topics addressed in CGSB-155.20, or Workwear for Protection against Hydrocarbon Flash Fire, published in September of 2000: • the minimum performance requirements of FR apparel; • the testing methods for evaluating the components used to create the apparel; • the degree of protection against injury that the clothing provides in the event of a flash fire; • the requirements of FR apparel worn as the outermost clothing layer; • the requirements of apparel that covers at least the torso, arms and legs; and • the required materials and equipment for testing or evalu-

ating an FR item. Otherwise, manufacturers are expected to follow the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) International standards — specifically ASTM F2733 or Standard Specification for Flame Resistant Rainwear for Protection against Flame Hazards, and ASTM F1891 or Standard Specification for Arc and Flame Resistant Rainwear. American companies that produce FR apparel for the Canadian market generally adhere to standards set by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). NFPA 70E, in particular, deals with protection against electrical fires. “By itself, the NFPA here in the United States has absolutely no regulatory authority,” says Tom Kiddle, director of specialized sales with Carhartt, Inc. in Dearborn, Michigan. Nonetheless, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in Washington, D.C. “will cite NFPA as a generally accepted industry standard.”

against either flash-fire or electric-arc hazards, including terproof protective outerwear, which its president and chief coveralls, shirts, pants, outerwear, specialty garments, denim executive officer Chris Ransome says “is turning into a clasgarments and full suits. Carhartt also offers a full line of FR sification on its own.” apparel — from first-layer clothes and mid-layer garments, to He adds that the world of rainwear has expanded so much what Kiddle calls “extreme” wear for people working over the years that it has become “somewhat of a in Alaska or the Canadian Arctic region. niche within a niche of FR protective clothing”. Mount Vernon FR makes gear for use by industrial Comfort is key when choosing the proper workers and the United States military. “Our prodFR gear. So is gender, which has become a conucts are all cotton or cotton-rich blends made more sideration when designing rainwear, now that protective by the formation of a more women are employed in positions that durable flame-resistant polymer used to be male-dominated. The proper fit of within the fibres of the fabric,” the garment can affect the protective level as Tutterow says. “These protective well, Ransome says. garments also help maintain an “We have started designing a lot of our rainair gap between the garment wear with specific ladies’ cuts and and the wearer that provides Types of fire-resistant gear designs, so that they fit the forming include full-body suits from shape of a woman.” For example, additional insulation from Workrite (left), rainwear thermal exposure.” Ranpro offers a suit designed for with reflective striping from electrical workers, including a line Mount Vernon FR also uses Ranpro (above) and jacka special vertical-integration for women. Workrite also has a deets from Carhartt (bottom). partment for women’s apparel. system that involves spinning, weaving, dyeing and FR-treatAs well, the fabric from which ing fabrics in its own facilities. an FR garment is made can influ“This vertical integration gives ence its cost. “The largest percentour customers and end users age of the component in the garment itself is confidence that their garments the fabric,” Saner notes. Some apparel is more will provide the protection they expensive, because the fabric is tough enough expect and need every day,” Tutto withstand a harsh work environment full terow says, “provided the manuof hard physical activity. “In some extremely facturer’s recommendations for rough industries, garments can wear out in a cleaning are followed.” matter of months, so you want to make sure The spectrum of FR gear available is so diverse you get your money’s worth out of those garthat some companies specialize exclusively in rainwear, or ments,” he suggests. FR apparel with waterproof characteristics. “Not only is it the For instance, firefighting gear is often made from expenweather that they are trying to protect against, but it might sive, high-technology fabrics. “So those are not typically the be chemicals or sludge or cleaning solutions or things like ones that are used a lot for regular work wear, because guys that, that also have a flammable nature to them,” says Wirts are out there working every day and they are going to beat of NASCO, which sells only rainwear. them up pretty bad,” Saner illustrates. One Canadian firm that focuses solely on rainwear is Another influencing factor on the price tag is how the FR Ranpro Inc. in Simcoe, Ontario. The company produces wa- apparel was made. High-quality clothing with higher stitch

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counts, extra reinforcements, extra materials and stronger sewing thread tends to cost more. Prices range from under $30 for simple shirts or caps to well over $100 for higher-quality garments. JOB AT HAND In terms of protective ability, Ransome divides FR gear and rainwear into three categories. Basic FR apparel provides temporary protection from an open

flame in relatively low-risk environments, where flash fires and electric arcs do not pose any danger. This kind of clothing is suitable for a telecommunications employee working on lowvoltage equipment with a small propane torch. The second category consists of FR apparel that protects against electrical arcs and flames, while the third comprises clothing that protects against

hydrocarbon flash fires, in addition to electric arcs and basic flames. “Different fabrics are used with different substrates in all of those categories to achieve the desired outcome,” Ransome says. “Of course, the price varies as you move through those categories.” Each industry, facility and job may have specific operations requiring FR protection, Tutterow says. “Industries that use or manufacture flammable materials are among the more obvious applications for FR apparel, but any workplace using electricity may need some level of electric-arc-flash protection.” While some workplaces may issue FR gear to a select group of employees or different types of FR clothing to those holding different jobs, there are others with strict “inside the gate” policies that require anyone on the premises to wear FR apparel, information from Workrite’s website notes. How can one determine if a piece of FR clothing offers effective protection? That is a tricky question, Saner says. “You really don’t know if it is still flame-resistant unless you put a flame to it, which obviously is going to ruin the garment.” As well, test results of the destroyed garment do not necessarily reflect the effectiveness of the other garments. Saner recommends choosing apparel from manufacturers who guarantee that the protection will last as long as the apparel does. One unique feature that Canadianmade FR apparel offers is a reflective stripe that provides additional protection to those who operate in low-visibility environments. “That’s a pretty big deal,” Kiddle says. To cater to the Canadian market, Kiddle says United Statesbased Carhartt has incorporated reflective stripes on its FR garments, “so that it works up in Canada as well.” LAYER UPON LAYER Just because one is wearing FR gear does not mean that one is completely protected from threats. Wirts cites the common misconception that wearing FR apparel underneath regular outer garments — or over a layer of other clothing — will protect a worker. “Non-FR layers can ignite and burn under an FR layer,” he explains. “Conversely, an FR or non-FR layer as the outermost layer can be an ignition source for an FR layer underneath.” If a non-FR outer layer of clothing is


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made of a melting or dripping material, it “can actually melt through the FR layer and create burns that would not have otherwise been there.” Any additional PPE that one wears should not hinder or cancel out a garment’s ability to resist flame threats. “You have to look at every component differently,” Kiddle advises. “Today, most of your basic PPE has got something in there to keep it from melting onto a guy.” For example, many hard hats are now designed with higher melting thresholds. But Kiddle cites cases in which workers have been injured for wearing synthetic or nylon protective gear that, while offering protection in othFire-resistant er ways, could not stop burns. “What you want to make sure of is that you clothing are not mixing non-FR clothes and expecting it to protect you.” generally is If layering is needed in a cold environment, fire-retardant apparel not compatible should be worn over non-melting with insect fabrics or other FR material, such as a Nomex coverall over an FR shirt. This repellants. offers extra protection and provides thermal insulation through air gaps, which increase the overall protective ability of the clothing. Ensuring that a piece of FR clothing provides a good fit is also important. “If you are wearing a garment that is not fit correctly for the environment and that protective level, it could add to your level of burn injury or reduce the level of protection,” Ransome cautions. Fire-resistant clothing generally is not compatible with insect repellants, particularly those containing diethyl-metatoluamide, better known as DEET — a type of yellow oil commonly found in repellants. These products tend to have flammable chemicals that increase the duration of surface flames and ultimately defeat the protective function of FR apparel. If the work environment requires the application of insect repellant, it is advisable to apply the repellant directly onto the skin rather than on the garment, Workrite’s website notes. IN TOP GEAR According to Kiddle, FR gear is relatively simple to maintain. “The number one thing is to keep it clean,” he says. “If you

have got something on your clothing, whether it is oil or any type of propellant, it will continue to burn. It won’t self-extinguish if there is more fuel that affords to burn, and that can cause injury.” The same applies to rainwear. Ransome cites a scenario in which a worker wearing a protective rain suit operates in a greasy environment, but fails to keep the garment clean and free from oil. Those things could add to the burn injury in the event of an incident, he cautions. Tutterow says a soiled garment, especially one contaminated with flammable materials, should be replaced with a clean garment immediately, even if the worker is in the middle of a work shift. He also recommends inspecting FR gear on a regular basis for signs of damage to ensure that there are no holes, tears, damaged seams or closures that could compromise protection. “Any garment showing physical damage or excessive wear should be repaired or replaced,” he advises. It is also worth noting that some FR clothing is made of inherently flame-resistant fibres like Nomex, Kevlar or modacrylics, while other clothing consists of flammable fabrics, such as cotton, treated with a flame-resistant chemical. While manufacturers use treatments that are not easily washed out or worn out, lack of proper care and maintenance can compromise the protective function of FR clothing. “If you pour bleach on them or things like that, then they can actually start to degrade the protective capabilities,” Saner says. As such, many manufacturers advise against using bleach and peroxides when laundering such apparel. Regarding storage, Saner recommends keeping FR apparel dry and shielding it away from the sun and high temperatures. “You don’t want mould and mildews,” he says. “And you don’t want ultraviolet [rays], because it can start to degrade, fade the colours and start to weaken the fibres.” With proper maintenance, a high-quality FR garment should last five years or longer, while less expensive gear has a lifespan of about a year and a half. “Proper cleaning of fireresistant and arc-rated apparel is sometimes overlooked, especially when it comes to flammable soils like oil or grease,” Tutterow observes. “Garments should be free of flammable soil before wearing, to be sure the protective properties are not compromised.” Follow us on Twitter @OHSCanada

Jeff Cottrill is editorial assistant of

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SAVING LIVES While fire-retardant (FR) apparel may not prevent incidents involving electricity or flammable substances from occurring, it can protect workers from severe injury or worse. A natural-gas worker in Pennsylvania was fatally injured by an accidental flash fire in August of 2012. J.R. Resources, which did not provide or require the worker to wear FR clothing when working around natural gas, was cited with eight workplace safety violations. Another incident took place in Wisconsin on June 25, 2013, when a worker was severely burned by an electrical arc flash while servicing a 480-volt circuit breaker at an iron foundry owned by Pure Power Technologies LLC, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in Washington, D.C. reports. Fire-resistant apparel increases the wearer’s chances of

survival by minimizing the amount and severity of burn injuries to the body. Data from the United State’s National Burn Information Exchange, cited on Workrite’s website, show that people between the ages of 20 and 59 have a higherthan-80-per-cent chance of surviving flash-fire burns to 25 per cent of the body. At the other extreme, workers from 50 to 59 years old have a less-than-10-per-cent chance of surviving flash-fire burns to 75 per cent of the body. For younger workers aged 20 to 29, the rate is only a little more than 50 per cent and lower than 50 for those aged 30 to 49. In all cases, the likelihood of surviving burns from a flash fire increase notably with a smaller percentage of body burn, although the difference is especially notable with younger ages.

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Beyond Skin-Deep By Carmelle Wolfson


recent study out of the United States has found that Vietnam war veterans previously exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange may be at higher risk for certain types of skin cancer. The latest findings may have resonance here in Canada, where military and public-service workers used herbicides containing Agent Orange to clear trees and brush across the country from 1950 to 1980. Findings of the pilot study, Association between Agent Orange Exposure and Nonmelanotic Invasive Skin Cancer, released in February, add to previous research suggesting that the risk of nonmelanotic invasive skin cancer (NMISC) could be increased even decades after exposure to Agent Orange, with at least some exposed veterans having unusually aggressive nonmelanotic skin cancers. The pilot study reviewed the medical records of 100 men with light skin tones be“They tween 56 and 80 years old, who had enrolled in the United States’ Agent Orange registry told us from 2009 to 2010. Results show a 51 per we could cent higher incidence of NMISC in veterans, compared to the national incidence rate of 23.8 per cent among the same age group. drink it, it Among the 43 per cent of veterans who had was that chloracne — a skin condition that looks similar to severe acne and is caused by exsafe.” posure to dioxins — the rate of NMISC was more than 80 per cent. Agent Orange, a herbicide made of one part 2,4,5-Trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T) and one part 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), was used widely by the American military as a defoliant during the Vietnam War. The toxic dioxin — 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD) — created as an unintentional by-product of 2,4,5-T, “is among the most carcinogenic compounds ever to undergo widespread use in the environment,” says co-author of the pilot study Dr. Mark W. Clemens, a surgeon at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center’s department of plastic surgery in Houston. The International Association for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France classifies TCDD as “known to be carcinogenic to humans” and describes phenoxy herbicides 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. TOO CLOSE The federal government in Canada banned Agent Orange in 1985, but prior to the ban, provincial and municipal workers used 2,4,5-T from the ’50s to the ’80s to clear power lines in Ontario. Military workers at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown (CFB Gagetown) in New Brunswick and hydro workers in British Columbia were also exposed to the toxic chemical. Carol Brown Parker, co-president of Agent Orange As 48

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sociation of Canada Inc. in Westfield, New Brunswick, lived near CFB Gagetown in Oromucto as a child when her father was stationed there. She says she knows many veterans who have skin cancer and chloracne. Parker recalls that from 1956 to 1967, military workers sprayed Agent Orange along with 25 other toxic herbicides without proper protective gear to clear the area of trees and brush and to test the herbicide for use by the American military. “They told us we could drink it, it was that safe,” she says. In 2007, the federal government announced that they would issue ex-gratia payments of $20,000 to each person who worked, lived or trained at CFB Gagetown or resided in a community within five kilometres of the base and had been diagnosed with any one of 12 associated health conditions. For veterans who suffer from multiple illnesses, Parker says this one-time payment “is a drop in the bucket when you figure out all the medicine that you need.” She cites an 82-year-old veteran who was diagnosed with two kinds of skin cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer and diabetes. He applied for a medical pension three times, but was turned down. Not many people have been successful at getting medical pensions, Parker says. “It can take you several years to get through the process, and once you get a third denial, that’s it.” Tony Merchant, former politician and a class-action lawyer at Merchant Law Group LLP, agrees that the compensation does not go far enough. “When government makes a political gesture, one can accept that they only have a limited amount of money to give,” Merchant says from Regina. “But rather than giving $300,000 to some people who deserved a million and a half and giving $2,000 to those who deserved $15,000, they just gave everybody the same $20,000. So for some people, it was probably all they would have ever received. For the people who were severely wronged, it was just a pittance.” Paul Demers, PhD, director of the Occupational Cancer Research Centre steering committee in Toronto, says the topic of the study “is a good thing to look at,” but highlights its limitations. For one, the participants who registered themselves with the Agent Orange registry did so because of health problems, “so you can’t really compare them then to the general population.” As well, the fact that the study was conducted by plastic surgeons — not by cancer or occupational-health researchers — limits their ability to do follow-up research. Demers points out that cancers other than skin cancer — such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and soft-tissue sarcoma — have a higher body of evidence supporting association with TCDD. “Dioxins overall appear to be associated with an overall increase in a number of different types of cancers, with lung cancer being of particular concern,” he says. The authors also acknowledge other limitations in the report, which include participants’ recall bias of events that occurred decades earlier; the inability to measure the levels of TCDD accurately at this point in time; and the inability to control for sun exposure in tropical environments.

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Nevertheless, the study recommends service personnel with prior exposure to TCDD to seek counselling on skin cancer. “Patients involved directly with spraying the agent and those with light eye and skin colours may be most susceptible to the development of nonmelanotic invasive skin cancer,” the study concludes. SEEKING REDRESS While Merchant suggests that the report alone presents sufficient evidence to proceed with a lawsuit, he believes that there are not enough veterans with skin cancer to pursue a class action suit against the government in Canada. “You can’t take them to court over a person who has lymphoma as a result of Agent Orange, because if they want to fight the long fight, then it will cost a million dollars to do that and you won’t get a million dollars in damages,” he notes. In 2005, Merchant Law launched a suit against the federal government with a group of soldiers who had developed health problems following exposure to Agent Orange in CFB Gagetown. The court accepted that the probability of health problems had increased significantly and certified the action, but it was overturned at the appeals court due to the sheer diversity of the group being represented — the veterans had 26 types of lymphomas and various kinds of cancers. The court ruled that Merchant Law would have to take each individual group separately. Seeking compensation through other means is not likely to be any easier. While the probability of causation may have

gone up in cases like the Gagetown veterans, Merchant says workers’ compensation boards often argue that the cause of adverse health effects cannot be proven beyond doubt. While skin cancer was not cited as one of the associated health effects in the Ontario Independent Fact-Finding Panel on Herbicide 2,4,5-T — released last June to investigate the use of the chemical spray by government workers — the Workers Safety and Insurance Board of Ontario (WSIB) will review and consider new studies and scientific evidence as they emerge, says Christine Arnott, spokesperson for the WSIB in Toronto. Following the report’s publication, the WSIB has moved forward with the adjudication process, and some workers have since received compensation. “For workers whose claims have been allowed, recognizing their direct exposure to 2,4,5-T and high levels of TCDD, the WSIB provides a broad range of benefits, which can include full healthcare coverage, loss of earnings benefits [and] benefits related to the degree of a worker’s permanent impairment,” Arnott says. The board has also set up an occupational-disease information line on which concerned workers can leave a message. But adjudication in occupational disease claims remains a complex matter. “In each case, we review the individual’s work activities and exposures, along with expert scientific and medical evidence regarding the worker’s condition and its relation to the workplace exposure,” Arnott says. Follow us on Twitter @OHSCanada

Carmelle Wolfson is assistant editor of

ohs canada.

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Invisible Threat IT’S A GAS: Carbon monoxide (CO) — often nicknamed “the silent killer” — is an odourless, colourless toxic gas that fuel-burning machinery produces as a byproduct when it gets an insufficient amount of oxygen. It is a common danger in both homes and work environments involving industrial processes like chemical manufacturing, gas, recovery of metal from ores and production of steel and metal products. Possible sources of this deadly gas include vehicle exhausts, small gas engines, marine engines, the burning of coal, fuel furnaces, portable gas generators, plasticmoulding equipment, welding materials, forklifts and heaters that run on propane, kerosene or gas.

THE SILENT KILLER: When a worker inhales even a small amount of CO, it blends with the person’s hemoglobin and creates carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) — a substance that reduces the blood’s ability to carry oxygen throughout the body. The most frequent symptoms of CO poisoning are headaches, dizziness, exhaustion, nausea, physical weakness and unusually quick breathing. As CO cannot be detected by any of the five senses, exposed workers may not even be aware of its presence until symptoms emerge. Work Safe Alberta notes that COHb in less than one per cent of the blood produces no health effects, but symptoms like impaired vision can surface when the level of COHb in blood reaches five to 10 per cent. While some victims of CO poisoning recover with treatment, exposures can lead to permanent brain damage, coma and even death.

THE FACTS: According to the Industrial Accident Prevention Association (IAPA) in Mississauga, Ontario, there are two types of CO exposure: • Acute: A condition that lasts for a short time, but has a high concentration of CO in the air; and • Chronic: Long-term exposure generally does not show obvious signs unless a control in a low-level source, like a fuel-burning engine or a piece of equipment, malfunctions. Chronic exposure, which is more common in workplace environments, is also more predictable and easier to control. Statistics Canada reports that there were 380 deaths due to accidental CO poisoning in Canada from 2000 to 2009. More recent statistics from the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) in Toronto reveal that there were nearly 900 incidents involving CO from fuel-burning appliances from 2007 to 2012. Of that number, 14 were fatal and more than 100 involved permanent injuries.

DRAWING THE LINE: Occupational Exposure Limits (OELs) — the highest level of an airborne substance to which workers may be exposed without protective equipment — vary from province to province. The CSA Group code B149.1-10 is the national standard for installing fuel-burning equipment that runs on propane. Some provinces may have additional requirements beyond the standard. The typical OEL that applies in provinces like British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario is 25 parts per million (ppm) over an eight-hour time limit. Some provinces, such as British Columbia and Ontario, stipulate an OEL of 100 ppm for a shortterm exposure of 15 minutes. Provincial legislation requires employers to develop safe-work procedures, properly install and assess ventilation systems and train workers in understanding CO hazards and operating ventilation systems. To control CO exposure, Health and Safety Ontario suggests selecting equipment that contains emissions as much as possible and that can be connected to local exhaust ventilation systems. In some cases, employers may be able to upgrade to less hazardous equipment, such as electricity-powered forklifts or vehicles. If a workplace has no practical way of controlling the risk, workers may need to wear respiratory protection, like airline respirators or self-contained breathing apparatuses.


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MANAGING RISKS: Employers should bear in mind that confined workspaces are usually more dangerous than open spaces are, because reduced airflow causes the concentration of CO in the air to build up more quickly. Other workplace factors that could increase the risk of CO exposure include the following: • poor ventilation; • faulty venting of equipment that is a source of CO; • insufficient maintenance of equipment; • proximity of an employee to the CO source; • lack of air monitoring; • insufficient respiratory protection; • lack of proper training; and • poor emergency-response procedures. The IAPA recommends that employers create floor plans of their work areas and examine them for potential CO threats, including equipment, storage and processes. They should also analyze the hazards of every job involving CO sources, determine which employees are most likely to be exposed and conduct assessments of indoor air quality.

TAKING STOCK: Carbon monoxide cannot be seen, smelled or felt, but workplaces can use special detection technology to find out if an environment has been exposed to it. Given the variety of monitoring equipment available on the market, it is important to use a CO detector designed for a workplace rather than for residential homes. One should also find out from the supplier what substances could interfere with the detector’s functions. For example, some detectors mistakenly identify other pollutants as CO, while others have sensors that may react to nitrogen dioxide or sulphur dioxide. The TSSA recommends having a trained, certified technician check all fuelburning equipment or appliances once a year. Maintenance of equipment and venting systems should be a top safety priority.

ON THE DEFENSIVE: The best way to protect workers from CO exposure is to identify and remove all possible sources, but that is not always feasible, as the source may be equipment needed to perform jobs. Nevertheless, there are ways to reduce the risk. Health Canada recommends that workplaces at risk of CO exposure install detectors approved by the Canadian Standards Association. A detector should be installed at a location from which all workers will be able to hear the alarm, and it should be tested on a regular basis. Measures should also be taken to avoid letting vehicles idle indoors and keep all fuel-burning equipment well maintained. As for workplaces that use propane-powered vehicles like forklifts, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety in Hamilton, Ontario advises limiting CO exposure from propane combustion in the following ways: • Have trained personnel store, refill and handle liquid propane fuel; • Refuel or exchange propane cylinders in areas away from ignition sources, such as outside or in well-ventilated areas; • Ensure that all indoor work areas have sufficient ventilation; and • Keep a fire extinguisher in the refueling area.

WHAT IF: A worker who has been or is suspected of being exposed to CO requires immediate medical attention, as the likelihood of permanent brain damage increases the longer treatment is delayed. Medical treatment involves taking a blood sample as soon as possible to measure the amount of COHb and treating and/or monitoring infected blood. While waiting for medical assistance to arrive, the victim should be moved to an area with fresh air, kept warm and stay in a reclining position. Rescue breathing should be performed if the victim is not breathing, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation is required if the heart has stopped. Those who assist a worker exposed to CO should ensure their own personal safety by wearing respirators or self-contained breathing apparatuses, notes information from Canada Safety Council.

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So, what’s on your mind? APRIL/MAY 2014

MARCH 2014

Are high fines effective in deterring work-safety violations?

Are healthcare workers at higher risk of violence than police officers?



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Total Votes


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FELINE IN DISTRESS: The city of Peterborough, Ontario ruary 24. Three gunshots were fired — one at the driver’s leg faced a minor “cat-astrophe” when a stray black cat got stuck on top of a hydro pole for three days and no one dared to rescue it. The Toronto Sun reported on February 20 that the fire department had refused to retrieve the stranded feline, because live wires near the animal posed a hazard. The police said they were not trained to climb poles and rescue cats, while the local hydro company was concerned that a rescue attempt would cause the cat to freak out and injure the rescuer. The kitty eventually got down without any assistance, but not before gaining some celebrity status — including its own Twitter account.

ON FIRE: In what could well be a prime example of irony,

a two-alarm fire has destroyed the only fire station in a small town in Ontario. There were no injuries or fatalities in the early-morning blaze in Mount Albert, but the fire gutted the station building, a new pumper truck, several other vehicles and some equipment, the Toronto Star reported on February 2. Volunteer firefighters from nearby communities helped to bring the fire under control. It is possible that the credibility of the town’s fire department may have gone up in flames too.

MENDACIOUS MAYOR: The media fascination with

Toronto’s mayor Rob Ford may just have assumed a life of its own. On February 25, the controversial mayor appeared via satellite on NBC’s Today Show and admitted that he had continued to drink alcohol during his mayoral stint, despite having taken a public vow to stop boozing. “Have I had a drink? Yes, I have. But not to the point of some of the episodes before,” Ford was quoted by the Toronto Star. In spite of his history of “drunken stupors” and admission of smoking crack, Ford, who has filed papers for mayoral re-election, thinks that he is still a viable candidate.

and two at his chest — but a copy of The Message, a modern translation of the Bible’s New Testament, in his shirt pocket miraculously blocked the shots to his chest. The driver recovered in hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Divine intervention or a freak coincidence? Either way, it is hard to imagine stopping bullets with Fifty Shades of Grey.

PEE-ZZA HUT: Jaw-dropping footage of an employee at a Pizza Hut restaurant in Kermit, West Virginia taking a leak in the kitchen sink has — no pun intended — leaked out. A surveillance video showed the district manager urinating in the kitchen sink used for washing kitchen utensils and supplies, the local CBS affiliate WOWK reported on February 18. The manager was fired immediately, and the local health department ordered Pizza Hut Corporation to shut down the location on February 25. Other franchise locations in West Virginia remain open, but customers may want to play it safe and avoid ordering the apple juice.

FORK IT OVER: Some people would do just about anything for chocolate. A warehouse employee in Milford, Iowa wanted a Twix bar so much that he used his work equipment to get it. The sugar-craving worker had put a dollar into a vending machine and ordered the chocolate bar, which got stuck on the twirling spiral hook, the Des Moines Register reported on February 19. When smacking and shaking the machine failed to dislodge the candy, the employee drove an 8,000-pound forklift to the machine, lifted it two feet off the floor and dropped it — seven times. The worker was fired five days later, and he was refused unemployment benefits for willfully disregarding his employer’s interests. On the bright side, he got chocolate out of it.

HECKLED HEIST: Having a sense of humour helps in A PENNY’S WORTH: A recent slip-up by the Depart- coping with the daily grind of life — even in potentially lifement of National Defence has incensed a bereaved mother of a 22-year-old Canadian Forces (CF) reservist who perished in Afghanistan in October of 2011. On February 28, the Department of Public Works mistakenly issued a cheque, marked “CF release pay”, for one cent to the mother of the deceased soldier, The Canadian Press reports. The unlucky timing of the gaffe has added fuel to the fire, as public criticism of the government grows for not doing enough to support military families and veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Defence Minister Rob Nicholson reportedly issued an apology for the “insensitive bureaucratic screw-up”. While the government may want to cut costs at every chance, out of respect for mourning family members, the state could offer a little more than a penny in the event of a death gratuity.

GOOD BOOK: An old movie cliché came true for a bus driver in Dayton, Ohio who can thank God — literally — for surviving a random shooting while on duty. The driver had pulled over and exited the bus to investigate a vehicle malfunction during an early-morning shift when three street punks attacked him, the Dayton Daily News reported on Feb 54

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threatening situations. In Shanghai, China, footage from security cameras showed a young man brandishing a meat cleaver and threatening a teller seated behind a protective glass, The Telegraph reported on February 25. But the robber was distracted from the task at hand when he answered a call on his cell phone, during which the unfazed teller turned to her co-workers, pointed at the robber and snickered aloud. Security guards soon arrived to disarm and restrain the man.

LE HIGH: There is a saying that love is in the air, but for

police officers in the northern French city of Roubaix, it is the stench of drugs. The city’s police station was storing more than 40 kilograms of confiscated marijuana and hash, because the agency that normally carted it away had gone on strike, France’s edition of The Local reported on February 18. When the stench of all that dope dominated the building’s first and second floors, officers complained of headaches and nausea. In fact, there was so much pot in the air that some of the officers who were screened for drugs tested positive for marijuana. Sounds like these cops are in for some “high action”. Follow us on Twitter @OHSCanada

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OHS Canada April/May 2014  

OHS CANADA is the leading Canadian occupational health and safety magazine. We publish eight issues per year: Jan/Feb, March, April/May, Jun...

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