September 2018 Health and Safety Report
Asbestos Concern in Valve Body Machining
We had an asbestos exposure concern in GF6 Valve Body machining Monday August 27, 2018. Workers had been complaining they were being dripped on from a slow leaking city water pipe over their work station. When Building Maintenance arrived to install a parachute to capture the drips, they discovered the pipe was identified as being wrapped in asbestos, which set off alarm bells. The concern was if water was possibly collecting asbestos fibers as it passed through the insulation, and were they contained within the water drops landing on the workers and deck below, possibly exposing the workers to airborne fibers when the water evaporated. I received a call at home at 5:30pm from management informing the union of the situation and seeking input and agreement for assessing, containing and eliminating any possible exposure to the workers.
First step was shutting down VB production on afternoons and nights, flagging off the immediate area and removing workers from the hazard. OESN was brought in within an hour to do air sample testing to determine the presence of any contamination or airborne exposure to the workers. This report came back negative by the end of the shift. We were given a copy of the report and it stated, “Based on the concentrations from the method of analysis, the results of the air samples deem this work zone ACCEPTABLE”, at 0.0067 fibres/cc.
A tarp was hung to capture and collect any drips from the leaking pipe until it could be repaired, draining through a hose into a bucket on the floor. On Tuesday morning a sample that looked like black coffee was collected from the hose and given to OESN for fibre analysis. Pro-Insul, a company that specializes in asbestos removal was brought in to assess the task, informing us they were unable to schedule asbestos removal until Friday. The company agreed to schedule them and people to facilitate repair of the leaking pipe over the long weekend. Service Master, a company trained for cleaning asbestos contamination was brought in to clean the area on the Valve Body deck where drips were landing, and underneath the grating. This area was wet, with no visible dust, and that was good, meaning any possible contamination would likely be held there.
After they left, at 11:30am we met jointly with management and all the workers from both Prismatics and GF6 Maintenance to share all this information with them. They were informed of the steps that have been taken to address the immediate hazard to them, and steps that remained for permanently resolving their concerns, and after this they were asked to return to work. There were questions about documenting exposures, however this would be based on the liquid sample results. There was a question if a respirator would be made available to anyone who wanted one. Even though the test results were negative, it was agreed to inquire what respirators were available at the stockroom and determine if they are capable to filter out asbestos. It was agreed to keep VB down further until that question was answered, and ultimately, they were made available.
I was asked by a worker if I was comfortable with all this. I replied that I was. Communication with the union has been open and honest from the beginning, and I believe the company did a good job in their due diligence, which requires them to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker. I added that it is the workers who have the right to refuse. However, I believe that if an MOL inspector was to review what was done, they would agree the company has done their duty under the law. They seemed satisfied and agreed to return to work.On Wednesday morning we were given a copy of the Test Report: Qualitative Asbestos Analysis by Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) and Drop Mount Technique for the water sample results which stated no presence of asbestos fibers. This is good news, as it means there was no asbestos exposure to the workers. On Friday with minimal workers in the plant, Pro-Insul began removing the asbestos insulation. Working inside a plastic bag, they wet the insulation with a sprayer before stripping off and capturing all material inside the bag.I was told a plus on this job was the insulation was already wet, reducing the hazard, and of the different types of insulation they deal with, this type is the least hazardous form; a corrugated-paper asbestos pipe insulation, like cardboard. One of the worst he called “Maggie” or magnesia, used on steam lines which tended to become airborne as is was disturbed.
Asbestos surveys, removal and containment was a major project in the plant in the past as new product programs were replacing old ones. Our preference would of course have been to remove any asbestos found, but it was argued at the time that it was safer to leave it intact, identify it and encapsulate it. We are now left with the problem of dealing with pipes that are covered with a designated substance, that may be deteriorating from the inside, some of them redundant. There will be more to come on that. A big thank-you to Afternoon Shift Rep Kevan Anderson, and Night Shift Rep Phil Gaboury, for their assistance on this issue.
It’s Hot, eh?
Your union has been fielding an abnormal number of complaints from people about the temperature, humidity levels and lack of air flow in the building this summer, and I can’t seem to get a straight answer from anyone as to the reason why it is noticeably hotter on the floor. Sure, we’ve been having a hot summer, but we have had those before. The one thing that is new is that some of our Air Make-up Unit (AMU) fans have Variable Frequency Drives that allow these fan motors to run at reduced speeds. This means there are a number of fans in each of your areas that are running at less than 70%. The union has no agreement on the application of this new technology, but I find it hard to believe that these AMUs can do an efficient job dehumidifying the building running at less than 100% full speed on the hottest days of the year. In addition to energy conservation measures, such as shutting down AMU’s on peak demand days, I’m told these new drives achieved a 15% reduction in power consumption set at 100%, but as typically happens here it’s never enough. We must choke as much savings out of this operation as possible to make ourselves competitive, and I get that, but now it is at the expense of the comfort and mood of the people I represent and I will not accept that. I have recommended all AMUs be set at 100% speed for the rest of the summer as well as peak demand days until we have had the opportunity to discuss this issue, and come to some form of agreement.
Currently, we have a verbal agreement that AMUs that are shutdown will be restarted if requested. If you notice a lack of air flow or increased temperature in your work space, for whatever reason, bring this to your T/L and G/Ls attention, and ask that they forward the AMU number on the ventilation pipe, and column number to JCI. They can be reached at PTT 7460125 on all three shifts or at 905 641 6165. To create documentation and a paper trail a call should also be made to the HELP desk at 6006. This call gets relayed to Building Maintenance for follow up countermeasures. Building Maintenance can’t fix what they don’t know. As we found this week after raising this issue, AMU 61 serving the Crank line was found to have a faulty freezestat, which caused the unit to trip off even after it was reset. We have had numerous complaints from the Crank line of units shutting down. Hopefully this faulty control change helps.
Can anyone can write Employee Safety Concerns on the Board?
The short answer is yes. If you have raised a concern with your T/L or G/L and it has not been documented by your next shift, you can write it on your Level 5 safety board yourself. Inform your T/L and G/L when you have.
Unifor Health and Safety Rep Edward Steers, 905 641 6420, Cell/Text 905 658 3271, firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternate Unifor Health and Safety Rep Mike Pagano, 905 641 6420, PTT 7440029, email@example.com