All posts by Jeff Cottrill

Firm convicted after worker killed by toppling crane last year

BARRIE, Ont. – A Toronto-based crane company was recently sentenced to pay a $95,000 fine, plus a 25 per cent victim fine surcharge, following a worker fatality that occurred at a worksite in Innisfil, Ont. on June 22, 2016. That day, an employee of Toronto Crane Service Inc. was cutting up a tower crane when the jib section tipped over and fell onto the worker, resulting in fatal injuries, according to an Oct. 6 court bulletin from the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL). The MOL investigation determined that the employer had violated section 25(1)(c) of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act, in failing to ensure that any machinery or equipment that could fall and endanger a worker had been secured. Toronto Crane Service later pleaded guilty to the charge in the Ontario Court of Justice in Barrie, the MOL stated, and Justice of the Peace Ann C. Forfar ordered the company to pay the fine on Sept. 6 of this year.

Sun, asbestos among top causes of work-related cancer in Ontario, says OCRC report

A recent report by the Occupational Cancer Research Centre (OCRC) in Toronto has identified solar radiation, asbestos, diesel-engine exhaust and crystalline silica as the four major causes of work-related cancer in Ontario.

Burden of Occupational Cancer in Ontario, published on Sept. 28, was based on statistics from CAREX Canada, a Burnaby, B.C.-based organization that tracks carcinogens, as well as input from scientific and policy experts, according to an OCRC news release. The study found that about 1,400 Ontario workers are diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer from on-the-job sun exposure every year, while asbestos exposure causes nearly 800 occupational cancer cases in the province annually.

“The objective of the study was really to raise awareness about the importance of occupational cancer, the size of the issue, and to promote prevention,” explained OCRC director Dr. Paul A. Demers, one of the report’s three authors. “We were funded for a large project by the Canadian Cancer Society to estimate the number of new cancers that are diagnosed each year that are caused by workplace carcinogens.”

The 60-page report stated that diesel-engine exhaust in workplaces causes an estimated 170 lung-cancer cases and 45 bladder-cancer cases in Ontario each year, while crystalline silica accounts for nearly 200 cases of occupational lung cancer.

“The report actually does identify a number of other carcinogens that cause cancers and other ones where we know there’s exposure and the number of cases may be uncertain,” added Dr. Demers. But sun, asbestos, diesel-engine exhaust and crystalline silica are the four “big hitters.”

About 450,000 Ontarians are exposed to solar radiation on the job, the study revealed, while approximately 301,000 workers in the province are exposed to diesel-engine exhaust and about 142,000 are exposed to crystalline silica. Among the diseases that asbestos exposure causes in Ontario are mesothelioma and lung, laryngeal and ovarian cancer.

The numbers did not surprise Dr. Demers and his colleagues, but he conceded that the statistics on sun exposure might startle people unfamiliar with previous research on it.

“Most people don’t realize how common skin cancer is, and we tend to attribute them in the healthcare community to just recreational sun exposure,” he said. “But in fact, there’s a large segment of the working population that really works outdoors almost all the time and has no choice but to be out there in the sun.

“The only way to protect them is, I think, a programmatic approach,” added Dr. Demers, “which would involve a number of different aspects, and really not the same approach you would necessarily use for recreational sun exposure.”

The report made several general policy recommendations to reduce occupational cancer cases in Ontario, including strengthening occupational exposure limits, establishing exposure registries and surveillance and reducing the use of toxic substances.

“This report does make recommendations that are broad and crosscutting, and sometimes, they’re fairly specific in terms of, for instance, sun exposure and the need to have more sun-protection programs,” said Dr. Demers.

“Here in Ontario, we have a Toxics Reduction Act, where we can proactively try to eliminate carcinogens in the workplace through changes in technology and substitution. So we have tools in place.”

Burden of Occupational Cancer in Ontario is available online at

Pulp mill temporarily out of commission following boiler explosion

A recovery-boiler explosion at a pulp mill in Peace River, Alta. on Sept. 22 has caused the facility to cease operations for the time being, but employees of the company that runs the mill are still working with full pay.

Nobody was injured in the incident at the Daishowa-Marubeni International Ltd. (DMI) pulp mill, according to Trent Bancarz, a spokesperson for Alberta Labour. The explosion occurred at about 1:30 p.m. that day, he added, and the boiler has been inoperable since then.

“We didn’t issue any stop-use or stop-work orders,” said Bancarz. “Our investigation continues, and we’ve also requested an investigation report from the company.”

Amber Armstrong, DMI’s communications and public-relations superintendent, told COHSN that the explosion had resulted from a smelt water leak in the recovery boiler, which is a ten-story-high unit.

“We had a team on that day that were responding to some indicators that our recovery boiler had some issues,” said Armstrong. “It was quickly determined that there was, in fact, a water leak.” The team immediately initiated emergency protocols and shut down the plant safely.

A recovery boiler produces a substance called black liquor, which turns into smelt, which can become explosive if it comes into contact with water, Armstrong explained. In this case, water leaked from one of the water tubes around the boiler that are intended to cool it down. “What ended up happening is, we had to cool down everything in the recovery boiler and then remove it, and then start looking at each of those water tubes.”

This was the first such incident that had ever happened at the mill, added Armstrong. “But we’re prepared for it,” she said, noting that the company walks through its emergency-response procedures on an annual basis.

“All of our operators, when I interviewed all of them,” she said, “I was like, ‘Were you scared? Were you this?’ And all of them said, ‘We were prepared. We knew when it was happening what to do, and we knew how to shut it down.’

“The training aspect of it over 28 years really kicked in.”

DMI reported the incident to Alberta Labour’s occupational health and safety division on the following day, Bancarz said. Oh&s officials will be visiting the mill to investigate the company’s response to the explosion, and the employer is investigating the incident as well.

“We have our own internal investigation,” said Armstrong, “to make sure we close any gaps. We understand it was an equipment failure, though. We know it’s not a failure related to any of our personnel.”

In the meantime, she added, all of the employees at the mill are still at work, even though the facility is shut down.

“We haven’t had any, and we’re not anticipating any, loss of manpower. We have brought in contractors,” said Armstrong. “Every other operational area in the mill has their own responsibilities that they’re undertaking. They’re doing area projects and cleanups and advancing on training.

“So as much as we hate to have anything affect our ability to produce pulp,” she said, “some of these other areas can really take some time and decrease some of their backlog.”

Bancarz could not determine whether DMI could face any oh&s charges over the incident. Alberta Labour’s current priority is just to investigate, he said.

“That decision’s made by Crown prosecutors, based on whatever facts we gather,” said Bancarz about laying charges. “To say there’d be charges or not would be pure speculation at this point.”

Founded in 1969, DMI is a forest-products company with facilities in Peace River and Quesnel, B.C., according to information from its website. Its corporate headquarters is in Vancouver.

New online resource raises awareness of mental health for education sector

NATIONAL – Toronto-based insurance provider Teachers Life has released an online resource on mental-health issues for schoolteachers across Canada. Launched on Oct. 5, Ready for Life was developed in partnership with Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario, according to a press release from Teachers Life, a federally regulated company that serves the education sector. The website includes advice, articles, quizzes and input from mental-health experts aimed at education professionals. The site also features expert content on students’ mental health. Teachers Life encouraged anybody working in the Canadian education industry, as well as parents, to visit the site in the release. “We have seen an increase in stress-related claims in recent years,” Teachers Life president and CEO Mark Cummings said in a media statement. “While this is consistent within the insurance industry and a challenge across Canadian workplaces, because our mission is to serve the needs of those who work in education, we felt it was important to develop this resource.” Ready for Life is accessible at

Inspection blitz targeting musculoskeletal risks in mining sector

TORONTO, Ont. – The Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) announced on Oct. 4 that it had already begun conducting an inspection blitz of mines and mining plants across the province, focusing on hazards that can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). A news bulletin from the MOL stated that the blitz is running from Oct. 2 to Nov. 30 and aims to reduce the risks of MSD hazards and slips, trips, and falls. Among the tasks that can cause MSDs in miners are manual material handling and operating equipment that causes extreme hand-arm vibration, the Ministry noted. Awkward or sustained posture, repetitive motion and lifting, pushing or pulling heavy objects also cause occupational MSDs. “MSDs cause pain and suffering for thousands of workers every year and cost Ontario workplaces millions of dollars due to absenteeism and lost productivity,” Marcelle Crouse, the province’s acting chief prevention officer, said in a press statement. “Our goal is to protect workers on the job. We’re working together to build awareness of MSD hazards and prevent injuries.” MSDs are the most common type of time-loss injuries reported to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, the bulletin added.

WSIB breached rights of injured Jamaican migrant worker: tribunal

Ontario’s workers’ compensation board violated the rights of a Jamaican migrant worker by slashing his benefits following a back injury, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal ruled during the last week of September.

In what the IAVGO Community Legal Clinic in Toronto called a “historic decision” in an Oct. 5 press release, the Tribunal ordered the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) to pay Michael Campbell compensation based on work available to him in both Jamaica and Ontario. The WSIB’s practice of reducing workers’ comp for temporary foreign workers is unfair and contrary to the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Tribunal determined.

“This decision supports protecting the rights of injured migrant workers, and the Tribunal should be commended,” Airissa Gemma, a community legal worker with IAVGO who represented Campbell, said in a media statement. “The WSIB needs to take immediate steps to change this cruel and unlawful policy.”

Campbell worked on a peach farm in Ontario for nearly a decade, trying to better the lives of his four children, IAVGO stated in the release. He did not have permanent immigration status in Canada, which tied him to one employer and left him with no labour mobility.

After he injured his back in a workplace accident in 2008, the WSIB cut Campbell’s benefits under the assumption that he could still live and work at a minimum-wage job in Ontario. As a result, he lost his livelihood and his ability to work in Ontario and had to return to Jamaica, where his family slipped into poverty.

“What the WSIB does is unfair,” Campbell said in a press statement. “WSIB needs to change its policy now, so no one else has to go through what I went through.”

The Tribunal decision on Campbell’s behalf was the result of a nine-year effort to get justice in his case, the release claimed.

One organization that supported Campbell’s case was Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW), a Toronto-based grassroots entity that promotes the rights of temporary foreign workers in Canada.

“Countless injured migrant farm workers and their families have become impoverished and destitute from this WSIB policy,” J4MW organizer Chris Ramsaroop said in a statement. “This decision proves what many have been advocating for years and to no avail: their policy is unfair and… has to stop.”

Local media reports have stated that the WSIB plans to review the Tribunal’s ruling and consider revising its policies.

Funded by Legal Aid Ontario, IAVGO is a legal clinic with a focus on the rights of injured workers.

Two construction workers hospitalized after CO leak

RED DEER, Alta. – Carbon-monoxide (CO) exposure at a Red Deer beer store sent two construction workers to a local hospital for examination on the morning of Oct. 4. According to a news release from the Alberta RCMP, a group of construction workers became ill from CO while on the job at the Co-op Liquor Store, and emergency responders were called to the building at about 8:45 a.m. Personnel with the RCMP’s Red Deer detachment and the Hazardous Materials Response Unit also attended the scene shortly before 9 a.m. First responders treated several of the workers at the scene before two of them were transported to the hospital; both workers were listed in stable condition later that day, police said. The store remained closed for the day, and the incident did not affect traffic or any other individuals outside of the store. Police determined that there was nothing criminal in nature about the leak and handed the investigation over to the occupational health and safety division of Alberta Labour.

Saskatoon company convicted for lack of protective equipment

SASKATOON, Sask. – A worksite inspection last year has led to a $1,400 fine, including $400 in surcharges, for an employer that was not using proper fall-protection equipment or head gear at the time. The inspection occurred on June 20, 2016, when an occupational health officer with the Saskatchewan government saw employees of Kamineski Deptuck Holdings Ltd. working without the required personal protective equipment at a worksite near Saskatoon, according to a news release from the provincial Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety. No one was injured at the time, the release added. On Sept. 28 of this year, Kamineski Deptuck pleaded guilty in Saskatoon Provincial Court to failing to ensure that workers were wearing approved industrial protective headwear or using a fall-arrest system where they could have fallen at least three metres. “Falls from heights can cause serious injuries and are easy to prevent,” the Ministry stated.

Falling injury nets $50,000 fine for Ontario construction firm

LONDON, Ont. – A construction company based in Watford, Ont. has been convicted of failing to ensure that workers were using fall-protection equipment properly in an incident that left a worker critically injured nearly two years ago. According to a court bulletin from the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL), two employees of Thomson Construction Ltd. were strapping roof trusses onto a hog barn under construction in the Township of Middlesex Centre on Nov. 4, 2015, when one employee stepped on a defective strap, which broke. The worker fell approximately 6.7 metres to the ground and sustained injuries. The MOL found that the victim had been wearing a harness with a lanyard at the time of the accident, but the lanyard had not been connected to an anchor point or lifeline, which is required by law where a worker may fall at least three metres and if it is not feasible to install a guardrail. Thomson eventually pleaded guilty in a London provincial court, and Justice of the Peace Robert J. Lewin fined the company $50,000 on Oct. 2 of this year.

Conference confronts high injury rates of B.C. healthcare assistants

VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Hearts and Hands Conference brought together more than 250 healthcare assistants at Vancouver’s Italian Cultural Centre on Oct. 3, to discuss the issue of time-loss injuries among British Columbia’s healthcare assistants. A news release from WorkSafeBC, which co-sponsored the conference, stated that the event would include seminars on the challenges of staying healthy in the profession and coping strategies. WorkSafeBC claimed that it receives more time-loss claims from healthcare assistants than from people in any other occupation, including more than 16,000 claims from 2012 to 2016. The most commonly cited causes of injury are overexertion, violence and slips, trips and falls. “Frontline workers in healthcare face many challenges that can profoundly affect their morale and sense of well-being,” Elizabeth Causton, a former clinical counsellor and the conference’s keynote speaker, said in a press statement. “Maintaining good health and resiliency involves embracing the challenges we can control, celebrating individual and collective strengths to foster a more positive environment and nourishing a joyful life.” Another Hearts and Hands Conference is planned for Oct. 26 in Victoria, the release noted.