Alberta introduces bill on gas prepayment

EDMONTON — A bill that would enhance protection for fuel and convenience-store employees is one step closer to reality, as Alberta mulls proposed legislation requiring violence-prevention plans and pre-payment for fuel at gas stations across the province.
According to a statement issued by the Alberta goverment on October 30, the province’s Minister of Labour Christina Gray met Lawrence Richler, vice-president of Canadian Products Marketing with Husky Energy Inc. at the Brookview Husky in Edmonton to discuss measures to improve worker safety at fueling stations. If the proposed legislation is passed, An Act to Protect Gas and Convenience Store Workers would amend the Occupational Health and Safety Code to include mandatory pre-payment for fuel and violence-prevention plans at retail fuel and convenience stores. The new measures are expected to take effect on June 1, 2018.
Over the past three years, “gas-and-dash” incidents at both urban and rural locations in the province have resulted in five worker deaths and serious injuries to three other workers. The rates of fuel theft incidents reported to police rose between 2011 and 2015. The Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police estimates that there were more than 4,000 incidents across the province in 2015, averaging 12 fuel thefts per day.
“As Albertans, our hearts break when we see incidents of violence involving workers. That is why we are taking action to increase safety for retail fuel and convenience store workers,” Minister Gray says in a statement.
Where pay-at-the-pump technology is not available, retailers can institute other options, such as requiring customers to deposit cash or a credit card with the cashier before fueling begins. Several fuel retailers in Alberta have already established, or are working to establish, mandatory fuel pre-payment polices.
“Pre-payment eliminates the risks associated with fuel payments, and we applaud the government for taking this important step to protect attendants and the public,” Richler says.
Doug Rosencrans, vice-president and general manager of 7-Eleven Canada, says he believes that pre-payment of fuel purchases will improve employee and public safety in Alberta. “For many years, 7-Eleven Canada has run an employee-safety program similar to the safety plan announced today.”
Alberta’s oh&s legislation requires employers to take all reasonable steps to protect worker health and safety. Proposed violence-prevention plans, which would help employers reduce the potential for violence through physical and procedural control measures, include safe cash-handling procedures.
For retail workplaces that are open to the public between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., time-lock safes that cannot be opened during those hours are required. Employers should also limit the quantities of certain items, such as cash, lottery tickets and tobacco, available during those hours. Other measures include visible signs indicating to the public that the retailer uses time-lock safes, equipping lone employees with personal emergency transmitters and providing worker training in all aspects of the violence-prevention plan, the statement notes.

Taxi-company director gets jail sentence for owed wages

SAULT STE MARIE — Hugger Inc., a taxi company known as Checker Cab which is no longer in business, and Hugh Irwin, director of the company in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, were sentenced on October 24 for failing to pay wages owed to more than 30 claimants, totalling nearly $75,000.
According to a court bulletin from the Ontario Ministry of Labour, the case dates back to April 2014, when the Ministry responded to employee complaints about the failure to pay wages at Checker Cab. The Ministry’s employment-standards officer issued the company and its director 63 orders to pay, but the orders were not complied with, and an application to review the orders was not filed.
The director, who failed to pay wages owed, pled guilty and was given a 15-day jail sentence for 32 of the count. He was also ordered not to be involved in any capacity, other than being an employee, in a business for the period of one year. The company received a $1,000 fine for each of 31 counts, including a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge. The company is no longer in business and the director has since filed for bankruptcy, the bulletin states.

Workers’ compensation “dangerously” underfunded: union

FREDERICTON — Members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees New Brunswick (CUPE NB) held a protest for the rights of injured workers to denounce recent cuts to the workers’ compensation fund while the provincial legislature was reopening on October 24.
Earlier this year, WorkSafe NB announced its intention to increase the rates collected from employers to ensure sustainability of the workers’ compensation fund, but business interests lobbied against the measure, and WorkSafe NB’s board of directors buckled. On October 2, 2017, the board announced a meagre 22 cents hike per $100 of payroll. New Brunswick’s rate of $1.70 per $100 is amongst the lowest provincial rates in Canada.
“WorkSafe NB was created for people, not profits,” Daniel Légère, president of CUPE NB, charges in a statement issued on October 25. Légère adds that the province has yet to come back from the cuts made back in 1992.
“The CEO of WorkSafe NB is doing like McKenna: Underfunding the very system created to protect injured workers and their families,” Légère says. “This month, WorkSafe NB’s board of directors even admitted they are far from even meeting basic operating costs to manage the workers’ compensation fund. Simply maintaining the fund would have required an additional 23 cents increase ($1.93 per $100 of payroll).”
As long-term sustainability of the fund is in questioon, CUPE NB is worried that attrition, cuts and even privatization, might be on the horizon. “The public needs to know what is going on,” Légère adds.
According to the statement, CUPE and the Federation of Labour have communicated with the Labour Minister, recommending that funds to the workers’ compensation be restored at pre-1992 levels. This would enable the system to eliminate the three-day wait period for injured workers, increase benefits for injured and deceased workers and expedite the claims process by hiring more front-line staff at WorkSafe NB.

Irving Oil fined after guilty plea in Lac Mégantic incident

SAINT JOHN, N.B. — Irving Oil Commercial GP was issued a $4 million fine on October 26 after it pled guilty to 34 counts for offences under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act in Saint John Provincial Court.
The fine comprises a financial penalty of $400,320 and $3.6 million for the implementation of research programs to improve the safety of the transportation of dangerous goods in Canada. In addition, Irving Oil was ordered to submit a corrective measures plan and follow up with Transport Canada (TC), according to a Public Proseution Service of Canada statement.
Following the train derailment in Lac Mégantic, Quebec on July 6, 2013, a joint investigation by TC and the RCMP found that Irving Oil did not comply with all applicable safety requirements by failing to determine the classification of dangerous goods for the crude oil it transported by train. The shipping documents on board the trains were erroneous, and the company also failed to train its employees in the transportation of dangerous goods adequately. These offenses occurred over an eight-month period from November 2012 to July 2013, during which approximately 14,000 cars transported crude oil for Irving Oil.
Minister of Transport Marc Garneau says in a statement, following Irving Oil’s conviction, that his thoughts continue to go out to the community of Lac-Mégantic and all those affected by this tragedy. “Today, we close another chapter in this tragic event through a settlement that we have reached with Irving Oil.”
Garneau adds that following the Lac-Mégantic incident, TC undertook a regulatory investigation, with the assistance of the RCMP, to determine whether a violation to the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act had occurred.
“Rail safety remains my top priority. Transport Canada continues to closely monitor the safety of rail operations and the system, as well as the safe transportation of dangerous goods by all modes of transport across Canada,” Garneau says.

 

Fatal forklift accident leads to $135,000 fine for thermal-processing firm

NEWMARKET, Ont. – An employer in Newmarket was recently fined $135,000 for a workplace incident two years ago that led to a temporary worker’s severe injuries and eventual death. The incident occurred on Oct. 22, 2015, when the temp was working as a beltline operator’s assistant for Bodycote Thermal Processing Canada Inc., according to a court bulletin from the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL). The worker was entering a pathway between conveyor beltlines and was hit by a forklift that the beltline operator was driving, causing severe injuries; the temp worker passed away several months later. The MOL investigation determined that stacks of empty bins had blocked the workers’ views and that the workplace had nothing to separate forklift and pedestrian traffic or designated safe crossing points. At the Ontario Court of Justice in Newmarket, Bodycote pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that workers were not endangered by forklifts, that stored items did not limit sightlines of forklift drivers or pedestrians and that forklift and pedestrian traffic was sufficiently separated. Justice of the Peace Karen Walker imposed the fine, plus a victim fine surcharge, on Oct. 13 of this year.

Task force to hold public meetings on state of N.B. workers’ comp system

FREDERICTON, N.B. – Following the release of a discussion paper from an independent task force, which the New Brunswick government had appointed to examine the province’s workers’ compensation system, the team has announced that it will hold public meetings in five cities next month to encourage general consultation. According to a news release that the Ministry of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour sent out on Oct. 26, the paper analyzes the current state of WorkSafeNB and aims to guide discussion on its ability to address the needs of modern workplaces and injured workers. The meetings will take place in Grand Falls on Nov. 2, Fredericton on Nov. 3, Bathurst on Nov. 21, Moncton on Nov. 22 and Saint John on Nov. 23. Stakeholders, injured workers and the general public are invited to attend the sessions. “I encourage both employers and workers to read the discussion paper and attend the upcoming public sessions, or submit their feedback online or by mail,” task-force chair Dennis Browne said in a media statement, adding that the force had been gathering information for months. Feedback and comments will be accepted until Dec. 7. The discussion paper is accessible online at http://www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/corporate/public_consultations.html.

Two military personnel charged with sexually assaulting colleagues

FEDERAL – In its ongoing campaign to eliminate sexual misconduct in the military, the Canadian Forces (CF) National Investigative Service charged two more members with assault against colleagues on Oct. 24. A news release from the Department of National Defence (DND) stated that Bombardier Mathieu Poirier, based at 2 Royal Canadian Horse Artillery in Petawawa, Ont., is facing charges of drunkenness and sexual assault under the National Defence Act, pertaining to an alleged incident in May at the CF base in Wainwright, Alta. According to a separate DND release, the Service has also laid two charges of sexual assault against Leading Seaman Darryl Ryan, a member of HMCS Fredericton in Halifax. These charges stemmed from two alleged incidents at the CF base in Borden, Ont., in Sept. 2016. “Accusations of harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour are always taken seriously,” Lieutenant-Colonel Kevin Cadman, commanding officer of the National Investigation Service, said in a press statement. “Military police always investigate such cases to determine the facts, analyze evidence and, when warranted, lay charges.” Dates and locations of court martials in both cases are to be determined.

Alberta government launches pilot project on prison body scanners

Canada’s largest correctional facility has installed a body scanner, not unlike those at airports, to prevent visitors from smuggling weapons, drugs and other contraband inside. The scanner at the Edmonton Remand Centre is being tested over the next year in a pilot project by the Alberta government.

Provincial Justice Minister and Solicitor General Kathleen Ganley announced the project at a news conference in Edmonton on Oct. 18. The prison is currently training its employees to use the scanner, which is expected to be fully operational by December, according to an announcement on the government’s website.

The scanner is designed to detect items hidden on one’s body, as well as foreign objects in body cavities. It will complement the current security measures at the facility, including search dogs, intelligence gathering and routine checks.

“The safety and security of staff, inmates and visitors at the Edmonton Remand Centre is paramount,” Ganley said at the conference. “Over the next year, we will evaluate how effective this technology is in preventing illicit drugs, dangerous substances and weapons from entering and jeopardizing the health and safety of those who enter this facility.”

Ken Johnston, the institution’s director of security, said that the Centre’s staff were “very pleased” to have the scanner technology.

“The scanner is a part of a toolbox of security measures that will improve our ability to maintain safety for all those who work and live at the centre,” said Johnston. “We are looking forward to making this a part of our daily operations.”

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) has been lobbying for correctional facilities in the province to install body scanners for years, according to union president Guy Smith, who told COHSN that he was “thankful” for the new measure.

“It was nice to go to the Remand Centre and talk about some good news for a change,” Smith said about the conference. “There have been issues of contraband getting onto the site. So our members there, obviously, who have health and safety as their number-one issue for themselves and other inmates, wanted to see if there were measures that could be put in place.”

Smith added that body scanners had already seen success in Ontario institutions, as far as deterrence.They’ve been fairly aggressive in rolling out these measures,” he said about Ontario facilities. “Once inmates know that this measure’s in place, they know they’re probably going to get caught because of the body scanner, and the amount of weapons and contraband coming onto the facilities has decreased significantly.”

He credited the Rachel Notley government for recognizing the importance of safety for correctional staff and taking the AUPE’s concerns seriously. “There are still some things we’re working on, but this is certainly a very significant step forward,” he said. “This government does actually look out for their health and safety, way more than the previous government did.”

Smith cited the 2013 wildcat strike by Alberta’s correctional workers, which had resulted from the Jim Prentice government’s neglect of their safety issues, while he called the Notley pilot project a “good first step.”

The scanner and its maintenance contract will cost the government around $580,000, according to the online announcement. “It needs additional training of staff to operate it, so there’s added cost there,” said Smith. “But you can’t put a cost on someone’s health and safety and possible lives being saved. And I think the government recognizes that.”

He expressed hope that the pilot project would be successful enough to spur the installation of body scanners in other Alberta institutions. “That would be our preference, for sure.”

The Edmonton Remand Centre opened in 2013 and currently houses more than 1,500 inmates.

Firefighters exposed to harmful chemicals through skin: study

A new study from the University of Ottawa has found that firefighters absorb toxic chemicals from smoke through their skin while on the job.

Published on the Environmental Science & Technology journal’s website on Oct. 18, “Elevated Exposures to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and Other Organic Mutagens in Ottawa Firefighters Participating in Emergency, On-Shift Fire Suppression” detailed the results of a research team’s examinations of Ottawa Fire Services (OFS) members from Jan. 2015 to April 2016.

The report revealed that after fighting fires, urine samples of OFS workers show four times the potential for DNA damage and contain between three and five times more polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), which are harmful chemical compounds often linked to cancer. Examples of common PAH metabolites in firefighters include naphthalene, pyrene, phenanthrene and fluorine.

“We were looking specifically at compounds that are known to be in smoke that could be contributing to health problems,” explained Dr. Jules Blais, a professor of environmental toxicology at the University of Ottawa and the leader of the research team. “We wanted to determine whether it is possible that the exposures that they experience during on-shift fire suppression could be contributing to this.”

The team studied urine samples and skin swabs from 27 male firefighters and 18 office workers before and after their OFS shifts, Dr. Blais added. “If they fought a fire during that shift, we would do sampling after the shift, and we would be able to see how those exposures changed.” The researchers also had firefighters fill out questionnaires on their roles in the fire-suppression event and the size of the fire and smoke.

OFS Captain David Matschke put the study in motion when he contacted the university after seeing an advertisement about research funding by the Ontario Ministry of Labour, who sponsored the report.

“I’d seen lots of previous studies that looked at exposures, but all of them were done with training fires and really didn’t represent what we were truly being exposed to,” said Captain Matschke. “So I felt there was a need to have a look at the real fires we were dealing with and what the new materials were producing for chemicals.”

Captain Matschke called the study results “somewhat surprising and somewhat not.

“We’ve all known for a long time that we’re being exposed to stuff,” he said. “The biggest ‘aha moment’ for us was when we determined that it wasn’t from breathing in stuff; it was more from the chemicals being deposited on our skin.”

The researchers looked for evidence of lung damage in the study subjects, but found no change from before and after fires. “But what we did find,” said Dr. Blais, “was that when we did skin swabs and looked at what was depositing to their skin, and compared that with what we found in their urine, there was a pretty close correlation. So this suggested that dermal exposure, exposure through the skin, is a driving factor.”

For Dr. Blais, the “take-home message” of the study is to find a way to reduce chemical exposure to firefighters’ skin. “There’s good reason to suspect that dermal exposure,” he said, “is important in determining whether a firefighter is exposed to these chemicals.”

“We’ve already submitted to the Ministry of Labour for a follow-on study on the best methods for removal of the toxins. So we’re hoping to get an answer on the funding for that shortly,” said Captain Matschke. “How do we get it off? Or how do we reduce the effects of it?”

“Elevated Exposures to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons” is accessible online at http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.7b02850; non-subscribers must pay US$40 for access to the full report for 48 hours.

Alberta worker, 21, dead after being trapped under skid steer

GRIMSHAW, Alta. – A 21-year-old man has died in a workplace accident that occurred in Township 833 in the northwestern Alberta town of Grimshaw, on the morning of Oct. 16. The Peace Regional RCMP received a call shortly after 9 am that day about a man trapped underneath a skid steer, according to an Oct. 20 news release from the Alberta RCMP. Emergency medical services were also called to the site, but could not revive the victim, the release added. Local media reports have stated that the worker was an employee of PGA Crop Inputs and that he was struck by the bucket of a track loader while helping other workers to build a chain-link fence. The name of the victim has not been released publicly.

Canadian Occupational Health and Safety News