Issues Big and Small

Health and Safety Report April 2017

Miscommunication and lack of feedback from management on an employee safely concern resulted in a surprise visit by a Ministry of Labour Inspector April 3, after a member called the Ministry to file a complaint. The Inspector showed up ironically on the day we were to meet with the Energy Control Committee to discuss the concern, so no orders were issued because we were in the process of addressing the hazard. Management’s lack of information and communication regarding steps taken since the issue was raised and working in consolation with the JHSC on the risk assessment were highlighted in the Inspector’s report, which is posted on the JHSC bulletin board in both the East and West clock houses.

As members of the JHSC who are certified in Health and Safety as per the Ministry of Labour, to be considered credible we are expected to exhaust the internal responsibility system before involving the MOL, and we have many tools and resources we can use in the system to address concerns before Ministry involvement. We believe if we have to call the MOL to resolve an issue it’s because we have failed to do our jobs, which is to negotiate a creative solution to a concern, or we are dealing with a manager who will not move from their agenda, and therefore we have nowhere else to turn. When the MOL is called to investigate a work refusal, the negotiations are over and the MOL will often dictate a resolve that may not be mutually beneficial to the company or the union. The MOL is the Big club in our bag and must be used appropriately.

For example; Bacteria issues have been plaguing A1 and A2 Hydromation systems in GF6 Prismatics machining since last summer. The A1 system has been dumped, cleaned and recharged with fresh coolant last Thanksgiving weekend, yet bacteria persists as we have seen by the monthly biocide additions to these systems since December trying to get them back under control. Chemical Control now has a plan to change to a new product this coming shut down or possibly May long weekend. Communicating these biocide additions to members on the floor has been spotty at best. A biocide addition to A1 was scheduled Sunday April 9 without informing the nine Maintenance members who were working in GF6. Some of them were working on the system and fortunately for them they had it locked out when the member from Chemical Control showed up with a barrel of the chemical to circulate. A biocide addition to a hydromation system is similar to shocking a pool, in that it may be hazardous for workers to come in contact with the diluted chemical while it is active in use for 1 – 2 hours until it burns off and nitrile gloves and respirators are required PPE. These additions are usually done on a Sunday day shift when the minimum number of workers are affected, yet everyone needs to know. The two production members who were in for chip management were informed of the biocide addition and the PPE they required by their G/L at the start of their shift, which is what is supposed to happen. The maintenance members were not informed, which is a clear violation of the OHS Act Sec 25. 2.(d).

For us this was the last straw. We gave the Assistant Plant Manager an opportunity to address this deficiency in communication of hazards in the workplace, with the understanding that if it occurred once more where biocide is added without informing the workers in the area, we would be calling the Ministry of Labour from his phone, and to his credit he agreed and has taken steps to address this problem.

Metal Removal Fluid Guidelines have been one of our ongoing projects since we began this job in July, when the issues around A1/ A2 first appeared. Coolant issues at Ontario Street Plant are still fresh in our minds whenever bacteria and biocides get mentioned, and we will be forever grateful to the diligence and persistence of Bernie Hamilton and John Pula, for the mountain they had to climb to persuade the company of the existence of the health issues and symptoms members were experiencing relating to their MRF exposure and to recognize the need to address these concerns.

In March of 1999, as a result of a request by the above mentioned Worker Members of the JHSC, the MOL began an investigation of the Tri-Way Dept at OSP due to four documented cases of hypersensitivity pneumonitis. MRF issues at OSP often required calls and submissions to the MOL seeking and obtaining orders against the company to enforce sections of the Act relating to Dump, Clean and Recharge decision guidelines and procedures, as well as properly maintaining MRF systems, ventilations systems and floors and equipment.

After over 6 years of investigation by the MOL, OHCOW, GMSIH and CAW National Reps, the MOL presented a report that laid the groundwork for the proper maintenance and control of large coolant systems. The result was an eleven page document written in 2006 that listed criteria and decision guidelines for what would trigger a DCR of a MRF system, among other things relating to MRF’s. We have asked that this document, in conjunction with GM Global Safety and Industrial Hygiene’s Health and Safety Guidelines for Metal Removal Fluids, be rewritten and updated for application at our St. Catharines Propulsion Plant. The Glendale Avenue Plant was not covered by the OSP document, and we have never had MRF decision guidelines of our own. We have had preliminary discussions on this document that were somewhat disappointing, but we will persevere and do what is necessary, in that it contains all the applicable requirements to ensure our health and safety.

 Mist Collectors have been a work in progress. Since our last report on them we discovered some small units in storage in an out building and were able to persuade the company of the value in using one 2000 cfm unit for training purposes in our Trades training center. Our trades are currently developing a program and strategies for checking, cleaning and replacing helical coils, calibrating Magna-Helic gauges, and a variety of other questions that needed answering. Also involved in the training are members from KFM, who check, change filters and do the cleaning of the units. They gave us, through the trainer, a 25 point list of recommendations to discuss with management that will help them be more effective. More to come.


Smog hogs have also been a work in progress. Welders in the Construction Shop complained to us that their smog hogs had all disappeared from the shop. A survey of the plant found 16 units mostly in assembly areas trying to isolate process-related objectionable odours and irritating compounds off gassing from outside supplier parts. Ontario Environmental & Safety Network were in on March 29 to do air sampling at OP 1500 on Gen V Assembly and we are awaiting their final report to determine if this is an appropriate use for these units and if they are being properly maintained. More to come on this as well.


Contact:   Unifor Health and Safety Rep Edward Steers, 905 641 6420, PTT 233, email:

Alternate Unifor Health and Safety Rep Mike Pagano,   905 641 6420, PTT 359, email: