Is There Something in the Water?

Health & Safety Report, July 2018

Is there Something in the Water?

On Wednesday May 9, a worker in GF6 Maintenance Team Room noticed something in his coffee cup after drawing water from the water cooler, describing them as “worms”. Management collected a sample of foreign material and turned over the specimen to the Safety Department, then tagged the water cooler “Do Not Use”. The next day when we went to the team room, the water bottle was off the cooler and any chance for additional samples confirming the source of the material was gone, highlighting a gap in the process for securing a piece of equipment that requires further investigation.

We were asked to meet with Management to determine the next steps to address this concern. With only one sample, and the material being very small, it was brought to our onsite lab to look at under the microscope. This made it bigger, but not any easier to identify. The sample was then sent to Ontario Environmental Safety Network (OESN) for a qualitative microscopic analysis to determine if the material is man-made or natural. The sample was compared against known fibrous materials such as human/animal hair, Rockwool, fiberglass, etc.  and a report provided based on that. This was considered a first step – if the microscopic exam proved inconclusive or more information was required, further examination by other methods would be considered.

While testing was away, we focused on the cleaning process for the water coolers and the water treatment process in general. The water vendor, Water Superstore came to the plant to discuss every aspect of their process and answer all our questions. Since the rat infestation of 2016, water coolers have been cleaned on a rotating basis throughout the plant, and every unit – all 160 of them – gets thoroughly cleaned using a hydrogen peroxide solution, every 2 months; an average of 4-5 per day. According to the US Center for Disease Control, published reports ascribe good germicidal activity to hydrogen peroxide and attest to its bactericidal, viricidal, sporicidal, and fungicidal properties. It is non-corrosive, non-abrasive and leaves no after taste. When we examined the vendor’s cleaning procedure, the only gap that concerned us was the absence of drawing undiluted 3% hydrogen peroxide through the reservoir and past the spigots, allowing the solution to sit for 5 minutes and flushing twice with pure water before refilling. This gap will now be addressed with every unit, and will be in addition to spraying the unit inside and outside with peroxide before wiping the unit down. A step-by-step cleaning procedure with pictures will be posted at each unit, and will include a bi-monthly sanitation check-off, and a phone number to call to report any issues including taste.

Those of us old enough can recall water issues we had of the past, when water was delivered through ancient overhead pipes where it collected all manner of rust, debris and contaminants that made it unfit for human consumption. This was the reason we were able to bargain reverse osmosis water delivered to the plant.

On May 25, the laboratory report came back stating: “The laboratory report indicates the specimen is 80% biological material and 20% wood fiber. The biological material identified was reported to be consistent with fungal spores and mycelia fragments.” Mycelia is the stems or roots a mold forms on decaying organic material, in this case a small wood fiber.  We were uncertain where the fiber came from, but we are quite confident the improved cleaning procedure will destroy any hazards from such fibers in the future.



Summer Shutdown 2018     


Air Quality improvements continued to be one focus of this past summer shutdown. These initiatives were a result of recommendations from the Air Quality Committee, for many issues currently before the committee. In HFV6 Mod 3 Head Machining, OP 150 washer received an upgraded ventilation system to remove steam, mist and odour from the plant, replacing the previous inadequate system. This is the second of 3 washer upgrades for this department that we were able to secure through the committee as a result of commitments we received for this department during 2016 bargaining. The third upgrade is scheduled for end of the year.

Another initiative completed was changes made to duct work drains in HFV6. There were 15 mist collectors in Mod 3 Block and Head, and some in Crank that had drain pipes from their overhead ducts piped into the top of the mist collector cabinet. This may not seem significant, but the contents of these drains which are often quite nasty, then get sucked through the primary helical tube filters which over time contributes to plugging them up. They are now piped into the sump tank to go directly to process waste. With this change, every mist collector in the plant is engineered exactly the same. Every unit is water fed for primary filter wash, and every overhead duct drain is piped into the sump tank.

Air Make-up Unit (AMU) 6E above Gen V Assembly and Block Machining received a lot of attention by KFM, with new filters after cleaning the unit and coils, and 12 mist collectors were cleaned throughout the plant.

A number of hydromation systems were dumped, cleaned and recharged, including Gen V Block machining and hones on both Mods 1 & 2, HFV6 Head Mod 3, and GF6 Gears P1 system and washers.

All of these initiatives are small pieces of a larger puzzle, and each one when added together, contributes to improving the overall air quality and smell of our workplace. The Air Quality Committee, since its inception in August of 2017, has worked to close some 31 concerns brought to us, each one contributing to an improvement in air quality in some way. In February 2019, we are planning to have a plant-wide metalworking fluid aerosol survey conducted by OESN, that when compared to the last survey in 2014 will give us data on the improvements we have made in addition to pointing us at areas that require more attention.

New Digs

Your Union Health and Safety Reps are now occupying a new office. We are still located in the west clock house lobby, but we are no longer in “Harry Potter’s bedroom”. You will find us across the hall, just north of the Benefit Reps office in Paul Brennan’s old office. Paul’s retirement on July 1 presented us with an opportunity for a much-needed improvement in our work space. This new spacious office will enable us to meet more comfortably with our members, as well as managers, allowing us to deal more professionally with your concerns and issues. We can now be better organized in our resources and documentation, and when not in meetings or on the floor, we are now more visible to the membership with a clear window on the office door where you can see us working on or researching your issues. Feel free to drop in and say hello, anytime.


Unifor Health and Safety Rep Edward Steers, 905 641 6420, Cell/Text 905 658 3271,

Alternate Unifor Health and Safety Rep Mike Pagano,   905 641 6420, PTT 7440029,