TTC employee, 50, dies of injuries eight days after workcar accident

A 50-year-old subway-track maintenance worker with the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has died after a workplace accident left him severely injured in the early morning hours of Oct. 1.

Tom Dedes succumbed to his injuries at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre on Oct. 9, more than a week after the incident, according to a TTC news release. Dedes had worked for Toronto’s transit system for 18 years, the release noted.

The incident occurred at about 2 a.m. on the 1st, when Dedes and other TTC employees were moving equipment from a pickup truck onto a workcar at McCowan Yard, a rail yard in the eastern borough of Scarborough. After the workers had finished loading the workcar, a locomotive pulled the vehicle and swung the tail end of it towards Dedes, who was standing between the workcar and the truck.

The force of the workcar pinned Dedes against the truck and caused major internal injuries, the TTC said. He was immediately rushed to the hospital.

“On behalf of the entire TTC family, I send my deepest condolences to Tom’s parents and his partner, Gina, at this very difficult time,” TTC CEO Andy Byford said in a press statement. “Our thoughts are also with Tom’s co-workers as we all come to terms with this tragic and shocking event.”

Brad Ross, the TTC’s executive director of corporate communications, offered his own condolences on Twitter.

“The TTC family is in mourning today,” Ross tweeted after Dedes’ passing.

A press release from Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, one of the unions that represent TTC workers, stated that several union personnel had paid their last respects to Dedes and visited his family at Sunnybrook. These members included Local 113 president Frank Grimaldi, secretary-treasurer Kevin Morton and health and safety representative Andrew Falotico.

“Our 11,000 members are in mourning today with the tragic death of Tom Dedes,” said Grimaldi in a media statement.

“Across the city, our members are thinking of his family and friends, including his parents and partner, Gina. Our thoughts are also with Tom’s track-crew sisters and brothers at the TTC’s Greenwood Yard and McCowan Yard, who are dealing with the loss of a great man who left us too soon,” he added.

“While our thoughts are first with his family, our union is strongly committed to the health and safety of our members. The Ontario Ministry of Labour will conduct an investigation, and our union will do whatever we can to ensure such a tragedy never happens again.”

The TTC stated in its release that it had notified the Ministry immediately after the incident and was cooperating fully with the investigation. An internal TTC probe is ongoing as well.

On Oct. 10, Toronto Mayor John Tory ordered all official flags at the City Hall and other civic centres to be lowered to half-mast out of respect for Dedes, according to Tory’s Twitter account.

The TTC has been providing grief counsellors for Dedes’ co-workers and is consulting with his family about special arrangements for his funeral.

Construction company fined $115,000 after worker’s shock

NAPANEE, Ont. – Lafarge Canada Inc., a supplier of construction materials based in Mississauga, Ont., has been fined $115,000 for its role in a contract worker’s shock injury on March 2, 2016. A court bulletin from the Ontario Ministry of Labour stated that a worker had been cleaning electrostatic precipitators at the corporation’s plant in Bath that day, but the power supply for one of the precipitators had not been de-energized or locked out. The worker opened an access panel and received an electrical shock of about 47,500 volts, which required treatment at a hospital. In the Ontario Court of Justice in Napanee, Lafarge later pleaded guilty to violating section 25(1)(c) of the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, which requires an employer to ensure that the power supply to an electrical installation, equipment or conductor is disconnected, locked out of service and tagged before any work is done on or near live exposed parts. Justice of the Peace Donna I. Doelman imposed the fine on Oct. 12 of this year.

Flynn Canada faces three charges for accident at community centre

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – A worker’s falling injuries at a St. John’s community centre two years ago have led to occupational health and safety charges against Flynn Canada Limited, a nationwide trade contractor specializing in roofing. According to an Oct. 12 news release from Service N.L., the provincial government’s labour department, the incident occurred in Sept. 2015 during construction of the Paul Reynolds Community Centre, where a Flynn employee fell through the opening on the roof of the unfinished building and sustained injuries. Following an investigation by Service N.L.’s occupational health and safety division, Flynn Canada was charged with failing to provide a safe workplace, install temporary flooring in the roof’s work area and familiarize employees with hazards. The employer made its first court appearance on the charges on Oct. 10 at the St. John’s Provincial Court, and the next appearance is scheduled for Nov. 22, the release stated.

Roofing company fined in July for falling death of young employee

WINDSOR, Ont. – An Oct. 6 court bulletin from the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) announced that a Windsor roofing firm had been convicted for its involvement in the falling death of a young worker in late 2015. On Dec. 11 of that year, a group of Dayus Roofing Inc. employees were replacing shingles on a local house roof, and one of the workers was tasked with dumping older shingles into a dumpster on the ground. The worker was wearing fall-protection equipment, but detached the lanyard from the safety line while crossing the roof to dispose of shingles; the worker then lost footing and fell to the ground, sustaining serious injuries. After six months in the hospital in a coma, the worker died, the MOL stated. Dayus Roofing later pleaded guilty in the Ontario Court of Justice in Windsor to failing to use a guardrail system, or a more effective fall-arrest system like a travel-restraint system, to protect its employees. Justice of the Peace Susan E. Whelan convicted the firm on July 17 of this year and sentenced it to pay a fine of $90,000, plus the standard 25 per cent victim fine surcharge. “New and young workers in Ontario are more likely to be injured during the first few months on the job than other workers,” the MOL stated in the bulletin, “and are three times more likely to be injured during their first month on the job than at any other time.”

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.

Canadian Occupational Health and Safety News