What a Difference a Year Makes

GM Health & Safety Report June 2017

One year ago we took over positions as your Health and Safety Reps, and what a year it’s been. We began at the same time as our new Assistant Plant Manager and we have developed an excellent working relationship with him, and have worked with him on a number of issues. We also began as we were heading into contact negotiations and immediately got to work investigating and forming arguments for our demands. Our number one demand was for air quality improvements for HFV6 Mod 3 Block and Head, based on complaints we heard during the election from members working in that area who are experiencing symptoms. After a month of research we presented our argument to the company through the Bargaining Committee, in the form of a binder packed with pictures, studies, and data. Added to that was historical information from the struggles John Pula and Bernie Hamilton encountered at the Ontario Street Plant and the measures they took to persuade the company not only of the existence of the health issues workers were experiencing but also the need to address them. This history was included to remind the company where we’ve been, but to also inform them that we were prepared to do whatever it takes to achieve our demands.

We came out of bargaining with an unpublished letter stating the issue would be referred back to the JHSC, but with a commitment from the company that if the issue could not be resolved through the Joint Committee, the Personnel Director and the Plant Chair would get involved. When we asked our management counterparts what it was exactly that we had agreed to, we were told that if an issue arises we will deal with it, so in other words not much. Disappointing, but all that meant was we had to work a little harder to achieve our goals. The difficulty with this issue is that all exposure levels are within limits as agreed to in Doc. 74 of the Master Agreement, and the company refused to lower exposure levels at the table. So we changed tack and switched our focus to maintenance of equipment and hydromation systems.

In our office we found a 2006 Ministry of Labour report from a visit to the Ontario Street Plant ordering the company to maintain its mist collectors and develop a criteria document to determine what conditions would trigger a hydromation system to be dumped, cleaned and recharged. The company told us that document only applied to OSP and that the Glendale Avenue Plant never experienced the same problems as OSP. We told them a lot of OSP people now work at GAP, and they have long memories. We demanded an updated Metal Removal Fluid criteria document for our plant based on GM SIH guidelines, and we are within days of finalizing this document.

We also began investigating reports from members who believed our mist collectors were not being properly maintained because the company was relying mostly on the gauge to tell them when to change filters. Subsequently we found evidence of mist collectors running with blown filters throughout the plant, as we have mentioned in previous reports. To update, mist collectors have gotten a lot of attention since we were able to persuade the company of the value of developing a training program for our Maintenance members and Knights Facilities Management (KFM) personnel. The program is based on a small 2000 cfm unit we discovered sitting in an out building that we got engineering approval to set up in our basement training center. The very first session was with 3 KFM guys who have worked on mist collector cleaning and PMs.

These guys had so much input that the trainer presented us with their list of 20 recommendations that would help them do their jobs better and more efficiently. We added a few issues our own and are working through the Joint Skilled Trades Safety Committee and the Maintenance Planning manager to address them. We have made good progress on these and others issues that we add as they come up. A couple of significant gains were the reclassification of mist collector PMs and follow up work orders as Safety PMS and WOs, which prioritizes them and tracks their completion. Another was to convince engineering to measure air flow coming into the mist collectors through the ductwork. This single action has been instrumental in identifying a significant number of units with sound insulation issues restricting air flow. The company has identified 13 units that they will be relining in HFV6 during the 4 weeks down in July at a cost of $10K each. They have also agreed to drill air flow inspection holes in every unit in the plant and will conduct an annual PM plant wide.

Smog hogs or portable suction units is another area of increased awareness that started with questions arising from smog hogs we’ve observed being used to control nuisance odours in Mod 3 Block and Head, and throughout the plant. We’ve identified at least 19 units in use, and have had hygiene testing done on 2 units on Gen V Assembly OP 1500. Even though these units are only being used to control nuisance odours, we are working with engineering to eliminate them and engineer proper controls. We are working through the Joint Skilled Trades Safety Committee to have engineering assess the application of these units, and ensure they are being properly maintained.

The last week in May we witnessed a column of vapour escaping the entrance of Mod 3 Block OP 180 washer that tied all these issues together. The smog hog was unable to capture because the filter was saturated. Maintenance was unable to find any other issues with the washer’s ventilation system. We brought this condition to the attention of senior management and now for the first time since negotiations we are having serious conversations about upgrading the ventilation systems on the 3 washers in Mod 3 as well as converting the 10 mist collectors in Mod 3 Block and Head and the 5 remaining in HFV6 Crank to water wash down of the primary filters from coolant wash.

The reason for our demands are simple. With proper washer ventilation, water fed and properly maintained mist collectors, Metal Removal Fluids guidelines, and the elimination of smog hogs that do nothing to control nuisance odours, Mod 3 would have all the same engineering controls as all other machining lines in the plant. If they’re the same as Mods 1&2, and they have a lot less odour complaints there, it’s perfectly logical to think that odour issues in Mod 3 can only improve. That is our expectation, and we will be working very closely with the company to persuade them to use project money to implement these improvements and put this odour issue to bed for good, as well as improve the general air quality throughout the plant. More to come.

We would like to wish everyone a safe and happy summer vacation and remind you all to play safe.

Unifor Health and Safety Rep Edward Steers, 905 641 6420, 905 658 3271, email: ed.steers@gm.com

Alternate Unifor Health and Safety Rep Mike Pagano,   905 641 6420, PTT 359, email: mike.pagano@gm.com