All posts by Jeff Cottrill

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

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; 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.

TSB investigating collision between drone and passenger plane

Following a mid-air collision between an unmanned aerial vehicle and a passenger plane – the first such incident recorded in Canada – near Quebec City’s Jean Lesage International Airport on Oct. 12, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) has launched an investigation.

The aircraft, a Skyjet Beech King Air A100, was arriving at the airport from Rouyn-Noranda, Que. that day while carrying two crew members and six passengers, according to an investigation page on the TSB website. After the plane passed the final approach fix, the crew noticed the drone near the left wing; the drone hit the plane at about 450 metres above the ground, causing scratches, scrapes and some paint transfer.

The crew declared an emergency, but no one was injured and the aircraft landed safely, the TSB noted.

In an Oct. 15 press statement, federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau expressed relief that the collision had resulted in nothing more than minor damage to the plane. He noted that Transport Canada (TC) was monitoring the situation.

“Although the vast majority of drone operators fly responsibly, it was our concern for incidents like this that prompted me to take action and issue interim safety measures restricting where recreational drones could be flown,” said Garneau.

“I would like to remind drone operators that endangering the safety of an aircraft is extremely dangerous and a serious offence. Anyone who violates the [Canadian Aviation Regulations] could be subject to fines of up to $25,000 and/or prison. This applies to drones of any size, used for any purpose.”

TC had received 1,596 reports of drone incidents to date in 2017, 131 of which had been “of aviation safety concern,” Garneau added.

The TSB announced its investigation in a deployment notice on Oct. 17. Leading the probe is Kristina Schoos, who has more than 15 years of experience as a helicopter pilot. “In the course of her career, she has been responsible for flight and ground training and worked as assistant chief pilot,” the TSB stated about Schoos.

International drone manufacturer DJI, whose North American headquarters are in Los Angeles, said in an Oct. 17 statement that it was unaware whether any of its products had been involved in the incident, but that the company was “ready to assist Canadian aviation authorities” if needed.

“DJI drones are programmed by default to fly no higher than 120 metres, and the Quebec City airport is restricted in DJI’s geofencing system,” the statement added.

According to TC’s interim measures, it is illegal to fly any recreational drone less than 5.5 kilometres away from an airport without authorization. Final regulations on recreational drones are still being developed.

Dough-machine injury leads to fine for food-manufacturing firm

CONCORD, Ont. – A manufacturer of baked goods has been fined $70,000, plus a victim fine surcharge, for its role in a temporary worker’s critical injuries at its Concord facility last year. A court bulletin from the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) stated that a group of employees of FGF Brands Inc. had been cleaning machinery on July 30, 2016, with the temp worker working on a dough chunker. As the worker was reaching inside the chunker to scrape off dried dough, a reset button was pushed and the blades inside rotated into the closed position and trapped the worker; after the chunker was dismantled, the worker was sent to a hospital. The subsequent MOL investigation determined that FGF had failed to ensure that workers had locked out machinery before cleaning or servicing it. The employer later pleaded guilty to violating section 76 of the Industrial Establishments Regulation, and Justice of the Peace Karen Walker passed sentence at the Ontario Court of Justice in Newmarket on Oct. 13 of this year.

Man arrested for threatening, assaulting transit employee

WINNIPEG, Man. – The Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) has arrested a 24-year-old man who is accused of assaulting a Winnipeg Transit employee on the morning of Oct. 18. According to a WPS media release, a man entered a bus by the back door without paying a fare and then verbally abused the driver when the latter confronted him. Shortly afterwards, a transit inspector tried to speak with the passenger, and the man threatened and assaulted the inspector, even tearing his uniform in the scuffle. Police were contacted at about 11:58 a.m., and both workers restrained the suspect until WPS General Patrol officers arrived. Winnipeg resident Daniel Caneda was charged with assault, uttering threats and mischief under $5,000.

New Brunswick working on regulations on workplace violence

MONCTON, N.B. – The government of New Brunswick aims to have new regulations on workplace violence in place before April 28, the next National Day of Mourning, according to an Oct. 18 news release from the province’s Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour. To do so, the Department has put together a steering committee of stakeholders, including government and labour representatives, to tackle the issues of violence, harassment, sexual harassment, bullying and other worker priorities. “Your government is committed to ensuring that all New Brunswickers can work in healthy, respectful and inclusive workplaces,” Gilles LePage, the province’s Labour, Employment and Population Growth Minister, said in a press statement. “Education and awareness are crucial, and we will continue to educate the public, workers and employers on the importance of creating safe and healthy workplaces.” New Brunswick Nurses’ Union president Paula Doucet said in a statement that she was “pleased” with the Department’s commitment to the violence problem. The regulations will be applicable to all industries in the province, the release noted.