Category Archives: Hazmat

Ontario government to fund review on effects of McIntyre Powder

Nearly 40 years after the Ontario mining sector ceased the practice of making workers inhale McIntyre Powder, the provincial government is planning to provide funding for a review of the powder’s long-term effects on miners’ health.

A news bulletin from the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) stated on Oct. 11 that the province will provide a $1 million grant to the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW), which is conducting the review. OHCOW will assemble a team of health professionals to research whether past exposure to McIntyre Powder is connected to health issues. A proven connection would allow ill former miners to claim compensation from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

A finely ground dust of aluminum oxide and aluminum, McIntyre Powder was once believed to prevent silicosis. From 1943 to around 1980, 45 Ontario mining companies exposed about 10,000 employees to the substance in a province-wide prevention program, according to information from the MOL. Today, OHCOW has 325 case files from current and former miners who were exposed to the powder, while another 195 have reported health effects to a voluntary registry run by the McIntyre Powder Project.

“In addition to this funding initiative, we have conducted a comprehensive mining safety review,” Ontario Labour Minister Kevin Flynn said in a press statement. “Implementation of its recommendations is well underway to further the health and safety of mine workers.

“It is critical that occupational diseases be treated with the same seriousness and importance as physical injuries,” added Flynn.

Marcelle Crouse, the province’s Acting Chief Prevention Officer, said in a statement that the grant would help to expand OHCOW’s capacity to address miners’ occupational illnesses.

“It is essential mine practices be safe and that controls are put in place to prevent dangerous exposure,” said Crouse. “We all have a shared responsibility to ensure workers are protected when they work in Ontario mines.”

McIntyre Powder Project founder Janice Martell thanked Flynn and his staff for working with her organization to research the health effects of the powder.

“This funding is critically important to enable the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers to process the large volume of information gathered from mine workers and their families by the McIntyre Powder Intake Clinics working group,” said Martell in a statement.

Martell founded the McIntyre Powder Project in 2015, after her father, Jim Hobbs, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease following years of exposure to the powder on the job. Hobbs died earlier this year in Elliot Lake, Ont. (COHSN, June 6).

There are currently about 40 underground mines and thousands of surface mines in Ontario, employing about 26,000 workers, according to the MOL.

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

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.

Prison goes into lockdown following possible drug exposure

After a recent incident in which a group of correctional officers might have been exposed to fentanyl, the Joyceville Institution near Kingston, Ont. was locked down for a major search from Sept. 13 to 19.

Rob Finucan, Ontario regional president for the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers (UCCO), said that the alleged drug exposure had occurred while the guards had been searching cells in the federal prison. During the search, the officers suddenly felt as if they were intoxicated, he explained.

“We’re not sure if it was fentanyl,” said Finucan. “The one guy had recently had a surgery, so had pain medication, and he said it almost felt the same way as when he had the pain medication.” Doctors have often legally prescribed fentanyl as a pain reliever.

The officers underwent immediate medical examinations, “and I think their heart rates were elevated a bit, but nothing serious,” added Finucan. “So they went home, and they all said they’d slept for 12, 13 hours. And then the next day, they were fine.”

Following the incident, Joyceville’s assessment unit was locked down at 1 p.m. on Sept. 13, to enable staff to conduct an “exceptional search,” according to a news release from Correctional Service Canada (CSC). The release added that CSC was committed to preventing contraband in federal correctional facilities.

CSC did not indicate whether the lockdown was connected to the incident, but Finucan later confirmed that it had been.

“The union executive there said, ‘Okay, let’s search,’” he said. “They didn’t, and then finally, after a day and a half of arguing, they agreed to lock it down and search the entire institution.”

Joyceville’s assistant warden of management services did not respond to COHSN’s request for comment. But a second CSC release on Sept. 19 announced that the lockdown had ended and that normal operations at the prison had resumed.

“Correctional Service Canada… is strengthening measures to prevent the entry of contraband into its institutions in order to ensure a safe and secure environment,” the latter release stated. “CSC also works in partnership with the police to take action against those who attempt to have contraband brought into correctional institutions.”

Finucan noted that contraband is the most common way that drugs like fentanyl enter prisons and that there had been exposure incidents in the federal system. “They’ve had to use the naloxone on several officers in the prairie region,” he said, adding that fentanyl had been discovered at the Warkworth Institution near Campbellford, Ont. and that incidents had occurred at the Pittsburgh and Collins Bay facilities in the Kingston area.

UCCO has been lobbying to improve staff protections against drug contamination in federal correctional facilities. “What we want to do is make sure that we have a solid national protocol,” said Finucan. “We’d like to make sure that at every site, the officers have the equipment necessary if there is searching” for fentanyl or other drugs, he said. “The gloves, the goggles, the long-sleeved shirts and all that to protect them.”

Another protective measure that UCCO has recommended is that employees wear hoods in the mail rooms and other vulnerable areas. “And that’s probably the main thing,” said Finucan.

Built in 1959, the Joyceville Institution is located about 20 kilometres northeast of Kingston. It has a rated capacity of 752 inmates, according to its profile on the CSC website.

WorkSafeBC publishes new safety guide for pipeline construction

RICHMOND, B.C. – A new resource from the occupational health and safety authority for British Columbia aims to teach employers, employees and business owners the basic safety requirements in pipeline construction. Available both as a PDF document and as a pamphlet, the Pipeline Construction Inspection Guide details the obligations of owners, employers, contractors, suppliers and workers under the province’s regulatory jurisdiction over pipelines, according to a press release that WorkSafeBC sent out on Sept. 18. The guide also includes a glossary of terms and outlines relevant sections of B.C. workplace safety legislation, as well as the required personal protective equipment for pipeline construction. It deals with the safety requirements of the pre-construction, construction and post-construction phases of a project, from removal of timber and drilling to cleanup. The Pipeline Construction Inspection Guide is available as an info-flip hard copy for $12 from the WorkSafeBC online store, and the PDF version is available for free at

Electrical fire injures worker, damages oilsands plant

A fire sparked an evacuation and injured an employee at a Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL) oilsands plant near Fort McMurray, Alta., on the evening of Sept. 11.

CNRL spokesperson Julie Woo said in a press statement that the corporation’s staff had responded immediately to an electrical building fire at its Horizon site that evening and that the onsite first responders had extinguished the blaze. Workers in the area of the fire were evacuated as a precautionary measure, she added.

“As a result of the incident, one individual was sent for medical evaluation and treatment for minor injuries,” said Woo.

The company notified the appropriate regulatory agencies. “The cause of the fire is being investigated,” said Woo, “and we are assessing to determine the extent of damage to the building.”

The Horizon plant had been fully shut down that day in preparation for a 45-day maintenance period. “Currently,” added Woo, “there has been no impact to our operations or production.”

Trent Bancarz, a spokesperson for Alberta Labour, told COHSN that occupational health and safety officials are also investigating the incident. “It’s mainly because it’s a fire,” he explained. “It would fall under the fire and explosion category.”

Bancarz added that nobody else had been injured in the incident and that the fire had been contained quickly.

“He was taken to a hospital, but apparently, his injuries are minor,” he said about the victim.

The CNRL Horizon site produces high-quality synthetic crude oil with an oilsands-mining and bitumen-extraction plant with onsite bitumen upgrading with associated infrastructure, according to information from the corporation’s website. The plant is located just north of Fort McMurray, in the Athabasca region.

WSIB to review previously rejected cancer claims by GE employees

TORONTO, Ont. – Ontario’s workers’ compensation board has announced that it is planning to re-examine more than 250 claims submitted by General Electric (GE) employees in Peterborough since 2004. A Sept. 18 news release from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) stated that a Dedicated Review Team would deal with both cancer- and non-cancer-related claims that had previously been rejected, reviewing them in the contexts of updated scientific research about links between chemical exposure and illness and of technical advances in identifying next of kin. “The Peterborough community has presented information that helps clarify the exposures people had to various chemicals and substances,” Armando Fatigati, the WSIB’s vice president of complex claims, said in a press statement. “We’ll be looking at what they were exposed to, how much of it they were exposed to and how long people were exposed to these chemicals and substances.” Fatigati added that the WSIB had made more than 2,400 decisions on claims from GE Peterborough employees since 1993, approving more than 80 per cent of them. Earlier this year, a report by the Advisory Committee on Retrospective Exposures concluded that workers had been exposed to more than 3,000 toxic chemicals for more than 50 years at the Peterborough facility (COHSN, May 23).

Screamfest gets fine, probation after worker blinded in 2013

CALGARY, Alta. – Screamworks Incorporated, the company behind the annual Halloween attraction Screamfest in Calgary, was recently convicted for an incident in which an employee was permanently blinded by a customer four years ago. The accident occurred during a Zombie Paintball event at the fest on Oct. 12, 2013, according to an undated announcement on the Alberta Labour website. A paying customer shot the worker with a paintball gun and caused irreversible blindness, the announcement read. On July 25 of this year, Screamworks was convicted of failing to handle equipment according to the manufacturer’s specifications, a violation of Section 12(d) of the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Code. Additional charges were dropped, and the company was fined $50,000 and ordered to serve 18 months of corporate probation, Alberta Labour said. Screamfest is Canada’s largest Halloween festival, running from Oct. 13 to 31 this year, according to its Facebook page.

Workers feel ill during reported “incident” at B.C. shipping terminal

An unspecified incident at Fairview Container Terminal in Prince Rupert, B.C. sent 11 workers to the hospital for precautionary treatment on the morning of Sept. 3 – but all of the parties involved have stressed that the employees are fine.

While few specific details have been released, a press statement from DP World Prince Rupert, the company that runs the shipping terminal, said that employees in a certain area of the container yard had developed symptoms of respiratory and eye irritation. The workers received medical treatment at a local hospital at about 5 a.m. that morning.

“Two [of the employees] were initially kept for observation, and thankfully, all were discharged within hours of their arrival,” DP World said. “We continue to check on their well-being.”

The company added that the worksite had been evacuated and shut down temporarily after the workers had been treated. “Our incident command management team also brought an external industrial hygienist to conduct onsite assessments and air-quality monitoring,” the statement read.

DP World declared the worksite to be safe at 4:30 a.m. on Sept. 4, and normal work operations resumed on the following day.

“Our first priority is the safety and well-being of our employees, the local community and any others who may have been affected,” the company said.

A news release from the Port of Prince Rupert stated that DP World had based its response to the incident on proper emergency procedures.

“There is no inhalation hazard to the community of Prince Rupert, nor [a] hazard to the marine environment, as related to this incident,” the release stated, adding that the Port of Prince Rupert, other port partners and responding agencies were “fully aware of the situation” and supported DP World’s response.

Rob Ashton, president of International Longshore & Warehouse Union Canada, told COHSN that the safety committees with DP World and the union’s Local 505 are investigating the incident. “I believe they’d be looking at it and figuring out ways to prevent anything like this from ever happening again,” he explained, adding that he did not know whether WorkSafeBC is also investigating.

He said that all of the workers affected by the incident were fine as far as he was aware. “If there are any longstanding issues, I don’t know,” said Ashton.

DP World recently completed an expansion project, dubbed “Phase 2 North”, to increase Fairview Container Terminal’s handling capacity from 750,000 to 1.35 million 20-foot equivalent units, or TEU. The terminal upgrade was marked in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Aug. 30, according to a media release from the company.

The Fairview Container Terminal was upgraded from a general cargo facility to a container-handling terminal in 2007, according to information from DP World’s website. The terminal is currently North America’s closest major port to Asia.

A leader in global trade specializing in container handling, DP World employs more than 36,500 people in 103 countries.

Association raises funds for paramedic nearly killed by drug exposure

Following a near-fatal drug exposure that a Calgary paramedic recently experienced while on the job, the Alberta Paramedic Association (APA) activated its own provincial fund to raise money to support the worker.

The paramedic, identified only as Ryan B, has been recovering from the exposure at home under medical oversight, with support from his partner, Stacey, and two daughters, according to an APA Facebook post dated Sept. 3.

“I am touched,” Ryan B said about the support from the paramedic community, as quoted in the post.

Most information about the incident has been unavailable to the public, including the drug involved and the date when it occurred. APA executive director Marc Moebis said that the organization would provide no further detail “to respect Ryan’s family.”

Local media reports have stated that Ryan B required mechanical ventilation and medications to support his vital signs in an intensive-care unit after the exposure. He reportedly remained critically ill afterwards because of ongoing organ dysfunction.

“Right now, the paramedic community is just pulling together to provide some relief and support for Ryan and his family,” the APA said in a press statement.

The APA activated fundraising efforts from Sept. 1 to 7 via the Alberta HELP Fund, a nonprofit society that the association founded, initially to raise money for the families of victims of line-of-duty deaths. The HELP Fund had previously raised more than $18,000 in donations for a victim’s surviving family in 2015 and supported the construction of a registry of psychologists specializing in paramedic treatment last year, according to information from the APA website.

A Sept. 2 Facebook post from the APA called the continuing public support for Ryan B “overwhelming and very appreciated.”

An e-mailed response from Alberta Health Services (AHS), Ryan B’s employer, stated that it was reviewing the incident. “We take the safety of our employees very seriously and investigate any concerns brought to our attention,” added AHS.

Health Sciences Association of Alberta vice president Trudy Thomson told COHSN that her union was working with AHS and Ryan B regarding the incident. “I know the employer is doing their own internal investigation, and as an organization, we have requested that it have a full oh&s investigation,” she said, adding that Alberta Labour’s occupational health and safety division had agreed to look into the incident on Sept. 1.

Thomson could not provide any specific details about the exposure itself. “I know there’s lots of speculation out there,” she said. “We have not entered into any of that.”

She added that the risk of toxic exposure has become “more of a reality” for first responders today. “Their likelihood of being exposed is much greater than the public.”

The APA acknowledged that its members face many other risks as well.

“Due to the nature of paramedics’ unpredictable profession, oftentimes, we find ourselves exposed to hazards,” the APA statement read. “Whether that hazard is a sharp piece of glass, liquids at an accident scene, a street drug or a violent patient, facing these hazards is an accepted part of the job and requires a certain level of grit.”

The APA was founded in 2015 as a nonprofit, voluntary membership organization aiming to enhance skills, education, health and wellness among Alberta paramedics.