GM Health & Safety Report
Welcome to the Era of COVID-19
As you are all aware, we are amid a global pandemic as declared by the World Health Organization. Information on COVID-19 is rapidly evolving each hour of every day (along with loads of misinformation). Niagara Public Health currently reports 34 active cases in Niagara Region, with 831 cases successfully resolved and another 64 people not so lucky. It’s here in Niagara now. It has or will be affecting a town, a hospital, a friend, or a family member near you at some point. Expect it; it’s coming and at some point, in the next 3-6 months or year from now, we will all likely know someone close to us who has been exposed and hopefully successfully recovered. We must do what we can to protect those most vulnerable in our families and our community, our elderly and immunocompromised. Covid-19 is nowhere near over, so we brace for “the second wave” while they try to re-open the economy.
General Motors is required by law to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of workers. I believe the Corporation has done their due diligence putting procedures in place that if maintained, will keep us safe while allowing us to remain gainfully employed, when so many in our community are suffering unsafe conditions or economic loss.
The number one fear we had prior to the COVID shutdown in March was the virus being spread by asymptomatic people with mild or no symptoms. Adoption of the surgical mask to contain the virus, among other measures, addressed that issue and brought us back to work. Now that we’re back to work, when not in a designated break area people have been seeking relief from GM’s ridgid requirement to wear a mask at all times within the walls of the plant.
This issue has been discussed at the National JHSC with Unifor National H&S Director Sari Sairanen and Unifor National Auto Director Dino Chiodo. GM Global Medical’s position is they believe the mask is working to control the spread of the virus inside all GM facilities and they are unwilling to discuss exceptions to wearing a surgical mask because the mask keeps everyone safe. This position is supported by CEO Mary Barra, and Unifor National has agreed in principle, with some reservations surrounding the duty to accommodate people with hearing and breathing impairments. The Company’s accommodation for people who are medically challenged is to allow that person to go on S&A, maintaining the position that allowing exceptions to the surgical mask would compromise everyone’s health and safety in their plants. This position is also supported by recent Ontario provincial and municipal regulations requiring the public to wear masks while in indoor public places, as well as the high level of virus transmission some US states are currently experiencing.
Does it suck wearing a mask? Absolutely! However, it is inevitable that someone at some point will unknowingly bring this virus to work because no-one controls what you do away from the workplace but you. So, how do we protect ourselves? Do what is being asked of you by your employer and public health agencies. Wear the mask, properly over your nose. When it gets too damp to breathe through, ask your G/L for a new mask. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds and/or use hand sanitizer. Boost your immunity by doing the things you usually do to prevent catching a cold or flu. Most importantly temper fear with reason, panic with patience and uncertainty with education.
What should you do if you don’t feel well? IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING MILD TO MODERATE COLD OR FLU SYMPTOMS AND A FEVER YOU ARE ENCOURAGED TO STAY HOME AND CALL IN TO YOUR GROUP LEADER and call the GM Canada Medical Central Call Line at 519-425-3105.
GM requires all employees, regardless of location, if you have tested positive, or have had direct contact with someone who has tested positive, you must call the GM Canada Medical Central Call Line at 519-425-3105 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST.
If you are at work and start to feel unwell, notify your Group Leader and request to go to Medical, where they will evaluate your condition and give you some direction. If you go off, prior to your return to work you must get medical clearance by calling the GM Canada Health Centre Call Line at 519-425-3105. The GM nurse will notify the Plant of your clearance status.
Workplace Inspections: The JHSC is required by law to inspect the workplace monthly. Historically, we’ve had issues with feedback and closure of our inspections. When we don’t hear any feedback after a couple months we begin to wonder. When we are told everything is good, we’ll check. When we find issues that we reported have either re-appeared or were not addressed, we must the engage tools provided to us by the OHS Act and the JHS Committee.
As a result of issues we had with a recent inspection, we updated our Workplace Inspection TIS with clear instructions to the Business Teams on how to document, address and provide feedback to the JHSC for issues found in inspections, which will now be sent directly to the Area Manager for distribution and oversight. We have also changed the format of our inspection reports to an excel template. Mike Pagano has returned from his Parental and Education leave and will be following our new inspection format going forward.
Lastly, we will be participating in weekly meetings with all Production Department Area and/or Shift Leader management to discuss open JHSC items and your open Employee Safety Concerns, to ensure proper and timely escalation and closure, further strengthening the ESCP.