New GM Air Quality Committee

The New Air Quality Committee

During the election campaign of 2016, complaints of poor air quality inside the plant was an issue very much on our member’s minds, especially in HFV6 Mod 3 Block and Head. This area has experienced very poor air quality since production launched in 2007, and it has a negative affect on the air in the whole plant. After the election, we began investigating this area to formulate demands for improvements to be tabled at contract negotiations last fall. We packaged these demands into a red binder containing reports with pictures, studies, medical questionnaires and other historical information from OSP, to remind the company of past documentation and to prepare them for how far we were willing to go to secure the improvements we sought. The Bargaining Committee returned from negotiations with a commitment of $150 Million investment for all three products in our plant, as well as a commitment to address the air quality issue in Mod 3. We had hoped from negotiations for more affirmative action from the company to deal with this issue, however these commitments have been instrumental in enabling the air quality improvements we have achieved since then.

What makes these improvements so difficult to achieve is the fact that the aerosol concentration for metal working fluid, or the coolant oil mist created during the machining process, is consistently within exposure limits, well below the level we have agreed to in Doc. 74 of the Master Agreement. It’s very difficult to make the company spend money when they don’t have to. However, the Corporation does have certain expectations that sites must meet, by following their Safety and Industrial Hygiene Performance Standards for a variety of safety issues, and Process Ventilation Systems is one of them. This PS contains the stated goal where in addition to complying with exposure limits, all process ventilation systems must have a design goal to isolate process-related objectionable odours and irritating compounds from the work environment (.ie. to provide acceptable indoor air quality and minimize process related complaints).

Since negotiations we have been able to highlight a number of issues contributing to poor air quality in the plant based on the complaints of members to us and through the ESCP. Mist collectors operating with blown filters kicked things off in a big way, since there was no denying the evidence we found. Members concerns and interest over the lack of proper mist collector maintenance, including members from KFM and their recommendations, have been very effective in moving the company to action. Smog Hogs meant for welding operations wheeled out from the maintenance shop to the assembly line to address an odour was another issue we highlighted, again after an ESC was documented in Gen V Assembly. A survey of the plant found a number of them in similar use, and when we asked what they were being used to control, the hoops we had to jump through to get the SDS information for chemical residues on supplier parts highlighted another gap in Chemical Control. Then finally for us, the “Big Kahuna” …Mod 3 washers and their poor ventilation design was highlighted by a video we made showing a column of steam emitting from the load end of the washer, bypassing a clogged smog hog being used to supplement the poor design that could no longer contain it.

As a result of highlighting all these issues, we were awarded an Air Quality Committee, where managers from Maintenance, Facilities, Engineering, Chemical Control, and Safety, basically the decision makers for these issues, will meet with us to address our air quality complaints and make recommendations for the plant. In our first committee meeting August 29, we were presented a set of blueprints for the design and construction of a new Process Ventilation System for M3 Block OP 180 Washer, identical to Mod 3 Head OP 60 that was done 2 years ago. We were told available GM Construction Trades would be doing this work, which would begin immediately, with the goal of completion by the end of the year. We were also told that a design request has been made for M3 Block OP 50 Washer, and M3 Head OP 150 Washer, and that our available GM Construction Trades would roll from one to the next as the work was completed. These upgrades to all three washers was our number one demand for negotiations for Health and Safety, and they will finally be achieved. Adding this to the maintenance work done to the mist collectors over shut down, we should see a significant air quality improvement in Mod 3, as well as the whole plant, but we will continue to work to improve other air quality issues through the committee.

We cannot stress enough the importance of following the Employee Safety Concern Process; of bringing concerns to your G/L, for them to address, and if they are unable to, for them to document your concern on the Level 5 board. Documenting your concern establishes ownership, and since you have the right to refuse unsafe work, your ownership is a very powerful tool. If any part of the ESCP is not working to address your concern to your satisfaction, put in a call to us and we will use all our resources to advocate on your behalf.

Unifor Health and Safety Rep Edward Steers, 905 641 6420, 905 658 3271, email:

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