The House resumed at 8 p.m.
THRONE SPEECH DEBATE (CONTINUED)
Resuming the adjourned debate on the amendment to the motion for an address in reply to the speech of the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor at the opening of the session.
Mr. Martel: Mr. Speaker, before the dinner hour I was discussing the matter of Westinghouse Canada.
Mr. Boudria: Maybe you should repeat it.
Mr. Martel: I was thinking I might repeat the whole thing, but I want to be brief, so I will not. And I see the Speaker with his gavel out, so I will just continue from where I left off.
The intention of the control programs required under the regulations clearly is to force companies to keep hazardous substances at a regulated level by introducing engineering controls, work practices, hygiene practices and facilities.
Control programs, like assessments, require consultation with the joint health and safety committees. Again the role of the health and safety committee is limited to offering suggestions and recommendations. If there is a dispute, the committee has the right to call in an inspector. However, the union representatives lack the real power to ensure that their recommendations are incorporated in the final control program.
Consequently, company control programs often become solely programs of personal hygiene practices and protective equipment other than the adoption of engineering controls. Although this is contrary to the spirit of the regulations, the ministry has not acted to correct these abuses.
Because respirators and other protective devices cause considerable discomfort to employees, many workers take risks by not wearing them. Respirators also provide a false sense of security in cases where they are inadequate protection against the levels of some substances or the combination of certain substances.
For example, during an ammonia leak at the Inco Ltd. iron ore recovery plant in Sudbury on February 4, 1983, a worker was overcome by fumes. The Ministry of Labour's own assessment on February 8, 1983, showed that the worker's respirator was approved for up to 300 parts per million for ammonia and that this respirator would be ineffective in the concentrations of greater than 500 parts per million that the worker was exposed to during the leakage. Since the company did not sound the alarm to evacuate the building, the worker continued to work, confident that his respirator was protecting him. He soon afterward lost consciousness.
Another problem with this whole area is the penalties and fines. In the few cases where violations are recognized and charges are laid by the ministry, the fines and penalties are no incentive for employers to clean up the work place. Although the act provides for penalties of up to $25,000 or 12 months in jail or both, the average fine for a conviction under the Occupational Health and Safety Act has amounted to a little less than $2,000.
For example, John Joseph Royal, an 18-year- old employee of Ontario Gypsum Co. Ltd., died on September 23, 1981, by falling into a mixing vat of plastering compound. The crown was able to prove management was responsible for removing the guarding over the vat to speed up production, yet the company was fined only $1,500 and the owner $500. This case is a tragic example of the value placed on workers' lives, a grand total of $2,000.
In contrast to the general practice of levying small fines, a recent Court of Appeal decision upheld a relatively large fine of $12,000 against Cotton Felts Ltd., a small Toronto manufacturing company, in a case where a worker lost his arm cleaning a machine. The court's decision to uphold this fine has been viewed as a positive signal from the courts that fines should serve as a deterrent to employers who violate health and safety laws.
Although the Ministry of Labour is not responsible for the fines set by the judges of Ontario, many workers who have seen charges laid against employers for serious accidents or deaths in their plants did not believe the Ministry of Labour pursued the companies with the kind of thorough investigation likely to result in a serious prosecution and conviction.
After an explosion blinded employee Terry Ryan on November 19, 1979, in Westinghouse's transformer division of the Beach Road plant in Hamilton, ministry officials did a quick investigation clearing the company of any responsibility. Stan Gray, the United Electrical Local 504 health and safety representative in the plant, was dissatisfied with the ministry's treatment of the case and exercised his right under subsection 8(9) to conduct his own investigation of the accident. His lengthy report implicated the company in its handling of toluol, the flammable solvent that caused the explosion.
Because of his report, the ministry laid charges against the company. However, the charges, when they were laid, contained a number of errors, including the date of the accident. These errors would have resulted in the charge being thrown out of court if they had not been revised at the insistence of the union.
When the case finally reached the courts, it was repeatedly remanded. At the very point when union witnesses were about to give evidence, the ministry prosecutor negotiated an agreement with the company and all but one of the charges were dropped. The company pleaded guilty to a single charge and received a fine of $5,000. The man is blind as a result of that accident.
At National Steel Car in Hamilton a young worker, André Robillard, was severely burned in a flash fire at the plant. When the Ministry of Labour refused to lay charges even though an inspector was in the plant at the time of the accident, Mike Skinner, the chairman of the health and safety committee at the time, laid his own charges. The company was fined $20,000 on March 8, 1983, one of the highest fines levied under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The members will note it was a worker who brought that charge.
I want to describe a case study indicating the minister's refusal really to get serious. It deals with Rothsay Concentrates, now a division of Maple Leaf Mills Ltd. Wayne McTaggert and Gary Wierts of Energy and Chemical Workers Union Local 39 are the health and safety committee members at Rothsay Concentrates in Moorefield, a company which produces high-protein feed meal. They have struggled with their company and the Ministry of Labour to get the Occupational Health and Safety Act enforced. Their submission to the London hearings illustrated the reluctance of the ministry to take action against chronic violators.
In January 1982 a worker believed he was instructed to climb into a feather pit and remove frozen feathers from a large beater. While he was working, the foreman, not realizing he was there, turned on the beater and the employee became entangled. He required more than 200 stitches, with deep gashes near his eye and jugular vein, and missed six weeks of work. The employer gave him a one-week suspension. A one-week suspension to the employee; is that not fine?
The Ministry of Labour inspector would not come to the accident because he did not consider it a "critical injury." Eight days after the accident, another worker exercised his right to refuse to enter the feather pit, because there was still no warning device attached to the starting system for the beater. When the inspector was called in, he initially sided with the company, suggesting to the worker it was an illegal work stoppage. Only after considerable protest by the union did the inspector retract his interpretation and issue stop work orders until the startup warning device for the feather pit was in place.
When the ministry finally did a full inspection of the plant on January 26, 1982, with the union health and safety committee representatives there, the resulting report was 17 pages of recommendations and 72 orders, including failure to put guardrails over cookers, vats and pits; failure to have functioning eye-wash fountains next to the chemicals; no startup warning devices on conveyor belts; and poor housekeeping in almost all parts of the plant, with grease, ice, parts of dead poultry and blood on the floors. During this inspection, the union pointed out hazards of 27,300-litre (6,000-gallon) chemical tanks that had been noted by the inspector since 1981; yet the inspector would not issue an order.
Two months later, the company wrote the ministry and said 31 of 72 orders had been complied with. The union protested that the company had misinformed the ministry on more than 20 of these. The union received no response to its complaints until I raised the matter in the Legislature. When the ministry finally inspected again, the inspector refused the union's request to inspect 53 of the outstanding violations. Continuing union protest leading to further inspections produced more orders. Yet the ministry refused to charge the company.
In March 1982 another employee was injured, this time by a tallow hose which improperly had hot steam injected into it to clear a blockage. Although it was serious enough that the worker missed a month of work, it took the company 16 days to notify the union of the accident -- another contravention of the act. Again the ministry refused to charge the company. Despite continued protest by the workers, the union and the New Democratic Party, the ministry has laid no charges and has demonstrated its failure to enforce its own legislation.
With that in mind, we have come up with the following recommendations which we believe the minister must introduce into the legislation if workers are to have protection. These concern lack of enforcement:
15. There shall be time limits in which management must respond to recommendations of joint committees to clean up the work place, such time limits to be enforced by the ministry.
16. There must be strict enforcement of the act by the Ministry of Labour.
17. Enforcement by the ministry of the violations shall be immediate, as in the Highway Traffic Act.
18. Time limits shall be placed on all orders.
19. Time limits shall be introduced to ensure control programs are in place for designated substances.
20. Where there are reprisals taken by a company against a worker carrying out any responsibilities under the act, the Ministry of Labour shall prosecute the employer. This shall be done in addition to any action taken by the worker to the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
21. The OLRB shall be given power to provide costs to workers bringing complaints forward.
22. When companies send letters of compliance of orders to the Ministry of Labour, they shall first secure the signature of the union to ensure their validity.
23. A coroner's inquest shall be mandatory in all work place fatalities. Workers and their unions shall be automatically allowed standing.
24. The anti-labour bias of Ministry of Labour inspectors shall be addressed through better education and hiring procedures.
25. The Ministry of Labour shall publish all interpretations of the act and its regulations immediately upon making such interpretations.
I want to move on to some of the things that have to be changed and some of the problems confronting workers in another area; that is, the right to refuse dangerous work.
The right to refuse dangerous work, as it is described under section 23 of the act, is one of the most important rights awarded to workers under the act. Section 23 gives a worker facing a hazardous job the right to refuse dangerous work, the right to have the refusal investigated immediately and the right to have the investigation undertaken in the presence of a union representative or a health and safety representative. After the company's own investigation, any further dispute over whether the job is hazardous enough to justify a work stoppage is supposed to be resolved by calling in an inspector from the Ministry of Labour.
The task force heard evidence from workers that the strength of the right to refuse dangerous work, as provided by the act, has been undercut by the Ministry of Labour's practices in handling work refusals. Consequently, many workers are finding it is not to their advantage to refuse hazardous work.
On a temporary work project in Windsor, for example, members of CUPE Local 543 renovating an old courthouse, MacKenzie Hall, began to suspect that they were being exposed to asbestos. The building had not been inspected for asbestos, although later testing showed asbestos was indeed present; nor were any of the Ministry of Labour's guidelines for the removal of asbestos being properly observed.
In an attempt to force the city of Windsor to take proper precautions, one worker, Marc Blanchette, refused to work on three separate occasions. Mr. Blanchette first refused to work on November 3, 1982, unless he was provided with a proper mask and clothing. He was sent home by his superior. He and two co-workers who also refused returned to work when they were given protective equipment.
However, two days later it was felt that the project still was not being run according to the asbestos guidelines, and on November 5, 1982, Mr. Blanchette again refused to work. A Ministry of Labour inspector who happened to be touring the building at the time did not treat the incident as a work refusal, and management sent Mr. Blanchette home again.
A third work refusal came on November 19, 1982, when workers returned to find that the foreman did not have proper protective clothing or masks available. The supervisor told the employees that they were laid off and that the job was closed down. Despite three work refusals and two Ministry of Labour orders to follow the guidelines for the safe removal of asbestos, the renovation work was never carried out in a way that satisfied the union's understanding of the act and its regulations.
Here is another example. In Ottawa the task force was presented with an example of a situation where the Ministry of Labour would not co-operate with Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 1400 to protect the health of a worker who believed she was working under unsafe conditions. Employed by the Ottawa Board of Education, a female employee who operated duplicating machines was suffering headaches and other health problems from working in a closed room all day long. Although she did not exercise a formal work refusal, the woman had a doctor's certificate advising her to work fewer hours on the machines.
The assistance of the Ministry of Labour was requested when the board of education and the union could not resolve the problem. The inspector said it was an internal problem to be dealt with by the health and safety committee of the board in spite of the fact that a memo on the subject of spirit duplicators had been sent to the board by the Ministry of Education. The memo instructed the board to protect employees working on duplicators because liver damage could result from long-term exposure to methyl alcohol. The employee was subsequently shifted to another job, but she returned to her old job when the board replaced the duplicating machines with a photocopier.
The onus of refusal by workers in unsafe situations can also pit worker against worker. In a work refusal a steelworker at the Copper Cliff refinery in Sudbury would not work unsafely with uncapped tie rods coming out of the furnace. The refusal was at 5:30 a.m. on February 10, 1982. It took the inspector three hours to arrive. In the meantime, management sent all 10 workers in that production area home, even though they were not doing the same dangerous work. In situations such as this there is no guarantee that workers other than the worker who refused will receive lost wages because of production shutdowns from unsafe conditions.
The Ministry of Labour has been encouraging companies to treat work refusals as though an employee is merely informing the company that a hazardous condition exists. Under section 17 a worker is obliged to report an unsafe condition. Thus, many employees who refuse to work under conditions that jeopardize health find that their work refusals are not being treated as such by either the company or the Ministry of Labour. If the work refusal is treated as a report, the refusal does not have to be investigated with a health and safety representative, and the worker may never get a decision on the dangers of a particular job.
I would like to quote the president of the Hamilton area occupational health and safety committee, Hamilton and District Labour Council:
"Inspectors have been asserting that the rights workers have under section 23 can only be exercised if there is a prior use of their responsibility under article 17," which is to report. But the refusal right in the act is absolute, not contingent. It seems the ministry is trying to rewrite the act because it is too favourable to the workers here. At any rate, it is certainly doing a service to the employers, allowing them to circumvent the procedures set up by legislation."
Let me give another example. A work refusal on October 15, 1982, at Aerofin Corp. (Canada) Ltd. in Gananoque confirms this interpretation. A worker refused to use coal oil to spray a machine because it would fog up the room. Although the Ministry of Labour was called in, the ministry telephoned the plant manager. The plant manager then informed the ministry that no problem existed and it was not necessary for the ministry to come in. When the health and safety representative, Bill Bolton of United Electrical Workers Local 522, called the ministry to find out why an inspector had never been called, he was told that the problem came under section 17 and that the union should work it out with management. They did not even treat it as a work refusal.
The right to refuse work in unsafe conditions is the fundamental procedure of protection a worker requires. If a worker faces reprisals such as suspension, loss of pay, demotion or job loss for refusing unsafe work, there is no protection to that worker against those sorts of reprisals.
As representatives Bill Bolton and John Lameront of United Electrical Workers Local 522 said: "To us, a serious problem with the act is that a worker can still be suspended, downgraded, disciplined or lose wages for discussing or reporting an unsafe condition to the company; workers have suffered penalties and even layoffs as a result." Although employers are legally prohibited from taking reprisals against workers under section 24 of the act, workers have found in reality that they are often penalized for taking a stand over health and safety issues.
Although the act prohibits the firing of workers who have refused to do dangerous work, many workers have found themselves reassigned to menial or dirty jobs as a form of punishment. The fear of reprisals or penalties is so strong that many workers accept dangerous work although they know they should refuse. This is especially true for seasonal workers or workers still in their probationary periods who do not want to jeopardize their prospects for more permanent employment by offending their employers.
Let me give an example. In Ottawa, members of CUPE Local 503 are hired by the city of Ottawa every winter to keep the city's sidewalks free of snow. A fleet of Bombardier snow removal machines are used by the city. On at least nine occasions over the past two years, city workers have been overcome by carbon monoxide fumes as they sat in the cabs of the Bombs for up to 12 hours at a time clearing snow. All have gone to hospital for medical attention.
Despite the problems with nauseating fumes, workers who refuse to take out the Bombs because of fume problems do not declare formal work refusals; they do it anyway. Therefore, the mechanical problems causing the fumes have never been effectively repaired. The next worker offered the machine usually takes it out. Workers are not anxious to be regarded as troublemakers despite the fact that certain Bombs in the fleet have caused health problems for a number of operators. As I said, nine of them went to hospital.
Although section 24 was written to protect workers against reprisals, the procedures in the act for challenging reprisals leave few options. The union or the individual can take a case of reprisal to the Ontario Labour Relations Board or to arbitration. This places the onus on the worker to bring forward his or her own case and can result in a long and expensive procedure that falls on the worker. The Ontario Labour Relations Board has no authority to award costs to workers or unions for bringing the case forward, often making such actions financially prohibitive.
The Ministry of Labour may also prosecute the company that has taken reprisals. However, even if the ministry wins the case, there is no guarantee that a fired worker will get his job back. It is clear that the Ministry of Labour has not been aggressively challenging employers who act against an employee in violation of section 24. In fact, there has never been a conviction by the Ministry of Labour under this section.
The following case study illustrates this very clearly. Workers in the fabrication plant of Dresser Industries Inc. in Cambridge have found through experience that work refusals are no guarantee that unsafe work places will be cleaned up. The workers, members of United Steel Workers of America Local 5475, make valves, gauges, cranes and, until recently, drilling rigs.
In March 1982 an inspector noted 38 lost-time accidents in a three-month period and 45 accidents in another three-month period. One inspector noted this was far in excess of anything reasonable for this type of operation.
Workers began to exercise their right to refuse unsafe work as a means of cleaning up immediate dangers in the work place. Yet they found that even rights given to them under section 23 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, such as the right to an investigation and the right to avoid wage losses due to work refusals, were not always respected.
In May 1981 a worker refused to move a heavy load by means of a pushbutton-controlled crane because the area he was to work in was hazardous. He followed the proper work refusal procedures, but Dresser management refused to investigate and rectify the problem. Instead, the company sent the worker home and docked his pay. It required Ministry of Labour intervention, at the union's request, to reinstate his lost wages. Even then, although the inspector agreed that section 23 had been contravened, no charges were laid or orders issued about this contravention.
In November 1981, in the same company, a worker refused to work inside a crate suspended by a wire five metres above the ground. There was no safety harness and no one safeguarding the controls on the plant floor while the worker was suspended. He was threatened by his supervisor with loss of wages and he returned to the hazardous work.
In March 1982, 38 workers in the same company refused to work in an excessively smoky area of the fabrication plant where tests by the Ministry of Labour had found welding fumes levels above the Ontario guidelines of five milligrams per cubic metre and where ventilation had been found inadequate. Again, instead of following procedures under the act, management suspended the workers, all 38, and sent letters on March 12, 1982, threatening dismissal if they were to exercise their legal right to refuse unsafe work again.
The union had to take the matter to the Ontario Labour Relations Board before the company reinstated the wages. The Ministry of Labour took no action to restore the wages and only "transmitted a message" to the company that it could not take away workers' statutory rights to refuse unsafe work. No punitive action was taken against the company for the letters threatening dismissal or for lost wages from the 38 work refusals.
In this case, workers were forced to use work refusal because of the complete breakdown of the joint health and safety committee. Yet even the work refusals did not guarantee that hazards in this plant, including concerns about welding fumes, carbon monoxide, noise, asbestos, zinc, lead, aluminum and isocyanates, were reduced. The ministry issued 82 orders in 1982 and 10 per cent of them were repeat violations. Yet the ministry never laid a charge. Days after the local made its submission to the task force, the fabrication plant was shut down and the workers indefinitely laid off.
With this in mind we can only make the following recommendations to the government through the Ministry of Labour.
26. Subsections 23(1) and (2) of the act shall be removed, thereby giving all workers the right to refuse unsafe work.
27. Workers shall be given the right to group work refusals.
28. The right to refuse shall be extended to include conditions causing stress, including assault or attempted assault.
29. Workers shall have the right to full wage and benefit protection as a result of any work loss or shutdown due to work refusals.
I want to move on to an area that caused great concern out there as we travelled. I entitled it "Workers' Right to Information." Let me quote from Don Fraser of the United Steel Workers of America, Stelco Local 1005:
"The more information and knowledge a worker has, the greater the chance of survival in the work place." That makes abundantly good sense.
The difficulties in acting effectively as a health and safety committee member or representative were compounded by the problems of acquiring accurate and useful information or, in many instances, acquiring any information at all. Let me just illustrate those.
Toxic substances: Thousands of chemicals are in constant use in the work place, yet very little information is available on the hazards of these chemicals. Although the act does include a provision that employers are obliged to provide information to assist in recognizing hazardous conditions, very little information is available on the hazards of these chemicals.
Although the act does include a provision under clause 14(2)(a) that employers are obliged to provide information to assist in recognizing hazardous conditions, and committee members have a right to information under subclause 8(6)(d)(i), these sections have done little to ease the difficulties in obtaining information on hazardous substances.
The basic data available on any work place chemical is contained in material safety data sheets. These sheets are compiled by the suppliers of a chemical to provide employers with information on flammability and other hazards.
The law does not require employers to have safety data sheets; nor does the law require manufacturers to supply them. Where health and safety committee members or representatives tried to take advantage of their right to information under the act, they found the companies did not have the information, refused to release it or did not offer the information to their committees.
For example, in the case of International Harvester Truck Centre -- now Bay City International Ltd. -- in Hamilton, the workers requested material safety data sheets on the 48 questionable substances in use in their plant. The company then asked the union to list these substances and submit the list to them. The company claimed after several months delay that it did not know where to look for the information. The only information that the health and safety committee received was data sheets on half the substances, and these data sheets were provided by Du Pont Canada Inc. and CIL, two of the company's suppliers.
The onus of identifying hazards then fell squarely on the shoulders of the union or an aggressive health and safety representative or committee member. Hazards were only rarely identified by management or Ministry of Labour officials. However, even when material safety data sheets were available, these sheets were seriously limited in the kind of information they provided. Workers still needed to know the generic names, which were not given on these sheets, rather than trade names, if they wanted to search further for scientific studies on any controversial chemicals. They also needed to know the chemical constituents of any complex chemical so that chemical additives could be identified and the toxicity of any additive determined.
Because the material safety data sheets are only provided by the manufacturers of the chemical, the most serious deficiency in this information is any suggestion of the damaging long-term effects on human health, particularly after repeated exposures.
At Canadian General Electric Canada Ltd. in Peterborough -- and I am sure Mr. Speaker is aware of this area -- the union found the kind of information presented in the material data sheets was so minimal it could not properly assess the real dangers to human health. Four workers from UE local 524, working with a certain kind of cutting oil, broke out with very serious skin rashes. Because the material safety data sheet on the cutting oil was so vague, the workers, although they believed the rashes were caused by the cutting oil, did not have access to more explicit information that could confirm their suspicions.
In general, there was much better access to information where the chemicals were established as designated substances, such as lead and asbestos, for which we have regulations now. In the case of both substances, workers were more aware of where these chemicals were being used in the plant and the importance of protecting workers from excessive exposure to them. However, in spite of the well-recognized hazards of both these substances, the task force found instances where foremen and supervisors still downplayed the problems with these substances.
In Cambridge, where some employees of the city were working on brake linings while others were cutting asbestos pipe for sewers without any protection, a health and safety committee member found that these workers had not received information from management about the dangers of asbestos. For those of you who read the newspapers, just last week Dr. Jim Nethercott indicated a young man had died from grinding down brake shoes which contained asbestos, and he had no protective device.
In the case of the chemical industry, workers at Dow Chemical Canada Ltd. in Sarnia explained that because of the sheer number and complexity of the chemicals in use in their industry, inspectors from the Ministry of Labour did not always have the extensive knowledge necessary easily to identify chemical problems in their plants. This meant the majority of problems identified by the inspectors related more often to violations of safety procedures than to chemical hazards.
Representatives of ECWU Local 914 at Polysar and ECWU Local 672 at Dow in Sarnia felt that they had better access to information on the hazards of particular chemicals than most other plants in Ontario. They were supplied with data sheets by the companies and acted as unofficial clearing houses for workers anxious to obtain information on chemicals because some workers could not.
We also had an interesting presentation made when we were in Windsor documenting the community right to know. The task force also heard from several community representatives about the importance of uncovering information on toxic substances that would be available not only to workers, but to the community at large.
Because of the awesome number of toxic substances in use today, it was felt that the transportation, storage and use of chemicals which could be hazardous should be reported to city government as well as to the workers handling the chemicals. Peggy Simpson, a councillor for the city of Windsor, described her effort to draft a right to know bylaw for the city that would include requirements for disclosure on the toxicity of chemicals, on their transportation and storage, and on the need for a uniform labelling system.
Another problem in this area was the inappropriate testing and monitoring of toxic chemicals and substances. The task force was told repeatedly that one of the weaknesses of the act is the failure to guarantee that a designated health and safety committee member or representative will accompany an inspector from the Ministry of Labour or a company official while conditions in a plant are being monitored. Since either the company or the ministry make the decision about when and where to do the monitoring, the health and safety representatives feel that they must be present to observe the conditions under which the monitoring is conducted.
Many workers told the task force of situations in which inappropriate testing was done without their input. In Westinghouse Canada Inc. in Hamilton, the ministry tested for solvents in the paint shop without testing for paint particulates and lead at the same time. The ministry ignored the combination of hazards that workers would have been exposed to at the time the testing was done. Later on, the ministry chose to test for lead in the same department on a day when the type of paint being used in the company shop had the lowest lead content of any paint used by the company, rather than testing at a time when painters would have been exposed to very high lead levels under more representative conditions at the plant.
On another occasion in the same plant, in an area where welding fumes were very dense, the ministry tested in 1982 for carbon monoxide, even though carbon monoxide was not the major hazard from this type of welding. When their tests showed insignificant levels of carbon monoxide, the ministry, in spite of the obvious problem, gave the area a clean bill of health. Later tests showed welding fumes and oxides of nitrogen above the guidelines.
In Ottawa, in response to Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 503 complaints that fumes inside the cabs of snow plough machines were sending their workers to the hospital with nausea and headaches, on March 18, 1982, a Ministry of Labour inspector investigated only one machine by turning it on for 10 minutes and testing for carbon monoxide. No orders were written on the basis of the low level of carbon monoxide detected under these conditions. The inspector did not even test the machines that were causing the workers the most serious problems and ignored the fact that the problems developed after the employees had to sit in the cabs for shifts of up to 12 hours, not 10-minute intervals.
Workers also found that they were not properly informed of the company's communications with the ministry, particularly in the areas of testing and monitoring, and that they were not always given copies of reports on testing when they were done by either the company or the ministry.
In another case, American Can Canada Inc. in Simcoe was using silica-based dusting powder, which aroused the concern of the workers using the material. The company instituted procedures for handling the powder until testing could be done to determine the levels of silica. When the testing did not occur, union officials, trying to find out why, discovered that the company had written to the minister indicating it was no longer using the product. Although the company did stop using the powder temporarily for several weeks, the company began to use the product again. Ron Rowbottom of Simcoe Can Workers' Union Local 535, using this example, stressed the need for the union to be fully informed of all communication between the company and the Ministry of Labour.
The Ministry of Labour is obliged to post any order or report and give a copy to the committee under subsection 29(6) of the act. However, where samples are collected by ministry officials there are often excessive periods of time before the results are conveyed to the union or workers.
Library workers in Sudbury, members of CUPE Local 207, waited eight months, from September 1981 to May 1982, for the results of a sample taken by an inspector showing 50 per cent chrysotile asbestos. Yet the report was dated shortly after the samples were taken.
Another problem is that of rights to information and investigation of accidents. When a death or critical injury occurs in a work place, the health and safety committee members or representatives are guaranteed the right to do their own investigation under the act, subsections 8(9) and 7(8). However, the definition of "critical injury" has often been used by management to bar unions from investigating accidents. Since the task force finished its hearings, a more detailed definition of "critical injury" has been published in the Ontario Gazette, and we appreciate that. It remains to be seen whether this will clear the way for workers to do important accident investigations.
For example, outside city workers in Sudbury, members of CUPE Local 6, were not allowed to investigate an accident where a sidewalk plough rolled over on a man, causing him to be off work for five months. Because the city of Sudbury did not concede that the accident was critical, the union was never notified nor allowed to investigate. Health and safety representatives repeatedly pointed out that only by doing their own investigations of these accidents can they determine the circumstances that resulted in the accident. They felt it was crucial to understand the conditions that contributed to any accident in order to avoid similar accidents. That makes sense. Although the act explicitly guarantees their right to accident reports -- subsections 25(1) and 26(1) -- many committee members and representatives reported that they were unable to obtain these reports without applying pressure to management.
I want to give members such an example in detail and what it means to workers. I want to deal with Ferranti-Packard Transformers Ltd. here in Toronto. In March 1980 five workers in the insulation department of Ferranti-Packard Transformers in Toronto refused to work. The workers, members of United Electrical Workers Local 525, had been unable to get information on a new insulating material called GPO-3 glastic board, which they were cutting and fitting for the inside of transformers. The workers had been experiencing severe headaches, loss of co-ordination and runny eyes. The inspector who investigated the five work refusals took a sample of GPO-3 glastic board for analysis. The inspector reported the testing was done; yet the union waited and waited for the results. On October 6, 1980, seven months later, Don McMillan, Local 525 president, sent a letter to the ministry's chief hygienist asking for the information promised.
The chief hygienist responded through management to the union that the sample had been tested but the results were confidential. Is that not magnificent? The results were confidential even if it was killing them. The plant health and safety committee then directed the management health and safety co-ordinator to try again to obtain the information. He was apparently turned down again. McMillan wrote another letter on December 16, 1980, requesting the information and never received an answer from the Ministry of Labour. The right given to worker health and safety committee members under the act to receive a copy of the report was not recognized.
Our task force received a copy of this confidential information in a brown envelope after we began to investigate the matter. The report was dated March 31, 1980, the same month as the sample was taken. It states that the GPO-3 glastic board contains styrene. Styrene is a highly toxic substance which in the short term irritates the eyes, nose, throat and skin. In the long term it can cause skin disease, exacerbate chronic respiratory disease and possibly impair the liver and kidneys.
When confronted in the Legislature by this failure to give access to important information to workers, the Minister of Labour produced a communication to the union president, stating that Mr. McMillan had received the information. Yet it was dated a full nine months after the union's initial request, even though the test results were available within 25 days of the sample being taken. In any case the union never received the communication and wrote the ministry again, saying the local had never had a response to its requests for information. Why would the ministry not respond to this letter if it had released the information?
Most important, the ministry would not give access to the information on the toxic substance and it did not take any responsibility to conduct air monitoring or to order the local ventilation needed to eliminate the hazard at the source. To date, the union has been left in the dark on these issues. I understand styrene is to become one of the substances that is going to be regulated.
With that in mind we make several recommendations to the Ministry of Labour with respect to workers' rights to information.
30. Health and safety committee members or representatives must be present when all testing or monitoring is done to ensure that proper procedures are being followed under representative working conditions.
31. Health and safety representatives shall have the right to do their own testing and monitoring and the right to bring in their own experts for the same purpose.
32. Health and safety representatives shall have the right to be notified and participate in any accident or safety or health-related investigation.
33. In addition to posting inspection orders, copies shall be given to the union representatives representing the workers.
34. Companies must forward copies of all monitoring reports and copies of all correspondence between them and the ministry to members of the health and safety committee in their union.
35. Labelling requirements shall be implemented on all chemicals in the work place so that the containers readily display chemical compositions and generic names, handling precautions and associated hazards.
36. Safety data sheets will be standardized with trade name, generic name, chemical composition and quantity, physical data, handling information, associated health hazards, including results of short-term, animal and epidemiological testing done.
37. The Ontario government shall ensure access to health and safety information, particularly material such as safety data sheets, inspectors' reports, assessment and control programs as required by the designated substance programs and testing reports.
38. Workers must have the right to generic names and chemical composition of substances in use in their work places. Workers shall have the right to all the information recommended in No. 33 on safety data sheets.
39. Companies shall have no right to market or use products if they will not give full disclosure of chemical use and file the information in a central registry. Information which companies call trade secrets, patent rights or proprietary rights shall not take precedence over health of workers.
40. A copy of the act, paid for by the employer, shall be given to every employee and supervisor and the act shall be made available in other languages.
41. There shall be a community right to information so people know what toxic chemicals are being used, stored or transported in their community.
We have another serious problem on which there was a whole royal commission just several years ago launched by the Ontario government with respect to medical confidentiality. It was called the Krever royal commission. This is being violated terribly. Let me quote from Teena Flood, whom my friend might know, of the United Electrical Workers Local 524, Canadian General Electric Co. Ltd., Peterborough. She says, "Medical monitoring is being substituted for work place monitoring. Workers are still being used as guinea pigs to detect work place chemical hazards."
Medical monitoring refers to the practice of gathering information on workers' health. This monitoring includes not only pre-employment physical examinations, but also more specialized examinations that reflect exposure of workers to toxic chemicals. Because of the sensitive issues involved in the practice of medical monitoring, such as confidentiality of medical records, many workers are insisting on strict agreements as a condition of their co-operation with monitoring programs.
CUPE Local 1348 in Windsor has referred its union's objections to pre-employment medical examinations required by the Essex County Board of Education to the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Prospective employees of the board have been asked questions related to the mental health of their families. The union has argued that such inquiries are not job-related considerations and are insulting to the dignity of the person undergoing the medical. The board has also been using its doctors for these examinations rather than allowing prospective employees to consult their own doctor.
Many workers also expressed concern that the confidentiality of medical records was not being respected. Medical monitoring was seen as a way in which employers could obtain information on workers that could later be used against them in claims before the Workers' Compensation Board.
As Ken Glassco of ECWU Local 914, of Polysar Ltd. in Sarnia said to us, "The use of extensive medical monitoring leaves no doubt in my mind that information of this type is not only used for monitoring the work place and our bodies, but could be used as a detriment to the wellbeing and health of the workers."
Where the company has its own doctor or nurse on staff, workers regard the medical staff as employees of the company, representing the interests of the company and not the workers.
Workers also felt the medical monitoring shifted attention from the hazards in the work place to the worker. In certain plants monitoring the workers was used as a substitute for monitoring the work place. This would result in companies removing individual workers from jobs involving the use of hazardous substances when the workers showed signs of damage, such as lead poisoning, instead of taking measures to remove the hazard.
In another situation, at Canadian General Electric Co. Ltd. in Peterborough, workers in an area of the plant where silver soldering was done were exposed to cadmium as a result of the soldering. According to health and safety committee member Teena Flood, these workers were monitored for cadmium in their blood. However, this test is of little or no value in indicating environmental exposure, which is really the culprit in the whole scene.
This is also consistent with the way in which employers respond to evidence of unacceptably high levels of toxic chemicals or physical hazards. As a substitute for proper controls, employers have, instead, engineered the workers to suit the environment by insisting on the use of personal protective equipment such as ear plugs or respirators, rather than cleaning up the problem.
Another section I want to deal with is the controls program. The regulations on designated substances, such as lead, provide another avenue for collecting information on the health of workers. The new regulations require, in addition to monitoring levels of these substances in the work place, that workers be tested for exposure to these chemicals. A key issue for workers in submitting to these monitoring programs is the question of who does the examination.
At Aerofin Corp. (Canada) Ltd. in Gananoque, UE Local 522 has resisted the company's efforts to require workers to use the services of a doctor chosen by the company to monitor blood lead levels. The union has been successful in its efforts to allow workers to be tested by a doctor of their own choice. They are searching for a doctor who will keep their medical records confidential and who will simply advise the employer whether a worker is fit, fit with limitations or unfit, as the regulations require.
As part of the Ministry of Labour's interpretation of the act for use by its inspectors, the ministry's legal department has prepared a letter to a company which asked for an interpretation on the issue of who does the medical monitoring. This letter indicates the intention of the regulation was that the physician be a company physician. While the ministry is attempting to interpret the act in favour of companies, as John Lameront and Bill Bolton of UE Local 522 told the task force: "Law is determined by what the act and regulations say, not what the authors may have intended. Nowhere do the act or the regulations say 'company physician.' They only say 'physician' or 'examining physician.'" The workers are having great difficulty with that.
I want to deal with workers' clinics in relation to all this. The best medical treatment we found for workers was the assessment, treatment and counselling which has been done by the Hamilton Workers Occupational Health Clinic. Doctors at the clinic not only have the specialized expertise to deal with occupational health and disease, but they also have provided medical care which serves the needs of the workers, not companies.
The clinic does not receive any provincial funding other than the medical claims processed through the Ontario health insurance plan. The bulk of the funding is from United Steelworkers Local 1005. In addition to treatment, the clinic has worked as an advocate, identifying hazards in the work place. In some cases, the clinic has been instrumental in having dangerous chemicals replaced by less toxic substances.
Despite the valuable work undertaken by the clinic, both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour have been reluctant to fund worker-controlled clinics. Since they would provide both medical treatment and preventive care in a specialized way, these services are a desirable alternative to company doctors. We, therefore, make a number of recommendations with respect to medical monitoring.
42. Medical monitoring shall be voluntary, not mandatory.
43. Workers who choose to undergo medical testing have the right to a doctor of their choice.
44. Medical monitoring must be paid for by management.
45. Medical monitoring must be work-related.
46. All medical information must be kept strictly confidential unless a worker approves release of the information, and the information should not be used by the employer in any way that could affect the employee-employer relationship. General prehiring medical release forms now required by companies should be made illegal.
47. Independent occupational health clinics shall be established in every major industrial city and shall be funded collectively by employers. These clinics shall be worker-controlled.
I thank my colleagues for sending this fresh aqua over here.
I would like to turn next to the regulation of toxic substances and work place hazards. The Occupational Health and Safety Act sets out the framework and the general policy for health and safety in the work place. The regulations issued under the act were to provide the working tools for enforcement. There are two types of regulations: those covering particular sectors -- industrial, construction and mining -- and those covering toxic substances and other physical hazards.
Submissions to the task force raised concerns about the inadequacies of the regulations in place, the enforcement of the regulations and the failure of the government to move quickly enough to regulate in other areas.
There are currently over 25,000 known toxic substances in the work place and more than 500 new substances are introduced annually. Yet to date, the Ontario government has regulated only five designated substances: asbestos, mercury, lead, vinyl chloride and coke oven emissions. The government is in the process of designating silica, noise and isocyanates and has given notice of eight others to be regulated under part X, paragraph 41(2)(14) of the act.
Deficiencies in the regulation process: The regulation process is slow and complicated and ultimately fails to protect workers by not requiring the elimination of the hazard.
Essentially, the process takes place behind closed doors. While a single public meeting has been added towards the end of the designation process, the fact that the regulation is not provided before the meeting and the way in which the meeting is conducted essentially stifle any serious debate.
The ministry has no obligation to publish a written justification for the actual standards it sets, and while it is clear that cost-benefit considerations of some kind do enter into the deliberations, there has been no open discussion or justification for them.
The ministry argues that the Advisory Council on Occupational Health and Occupational Safety provides the format for the necessary review by all parties. However, its mandate does not include the evaluation or alteration of the actual levels set or any requirement in the standard. The result is that the regulatory system lacks accountability, to the detriment of workers' health.
In 1978-79 the Ministry of Labour issued a priority list of 52 biological and chemical substances and physical agents to be regulated; yet the ministry has fallen far behind on its proposed schedule to regulate many hazardous substances, despite pleas by the unions. The result is that thousands of substances used daily across the province are unregulated by any government legislation.
I want to deal with unregulated substances. Unregulated substances fall into two categories: those subject to exposure guidelines and those that have no guidelines for their use at all. For workers, even the guideline approach adopted by the ministry has often proved to offer little or no protection from harmful substances.
First, the guidelines are not enforceable by law. Second, the process by which the guidelines are set is both confusing and suspect.
Without the ability to enforce guidelines for so many substances, workers find the guidelines are almost useless. For instance, workers who had fought for protection against asbestos before it became a regulated substance appeared before the task force in Windsor. In this case, a Windsor Board of Education employee was exposed to asbestos and alleged that management had failed to inform him of the hazards or to provide him with personal protective equipment.
CUPE Local 27 charged the Windsor Board of Education under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The judge ruled that since there were no asbestos regulations he could not judge whether the worker's health had been jeopardized. The decision of this case was a major setback for workers exposed to unregulated substances.
The implication for other workers is clear. With only five regulated substances, they are left with little protection from exposure to many toxic chemicals.
In a case presented to the task force, workers at Canadian Trailmobile Ltd. in Brantford had been exposed to isocyanates for more than 12 years. Testing over the past few years has shown exposure to the substance in the foam insulation spraying operation to be above the guideline of 0.02 parts per million set by the ministry.
Initially, workers were not given any protection from the substance. Then, under pressure from the union, the company provided personal protective equipment -- described by the Ministry of Labour, by the way, as "primitive" -- in the form of plastic bags over the workers' heads with an attached air hose. Workers suffered respiratory problems and one 1980 ministry test showed 10 of 35 workers with lung dysfunction abnormalities. Yet the company was not charged, nor is it likely to be charged because there is no regulation on isocyanates. In the absence of regulation, the company cannot be forced to provide either proper ventilation or, at the very least, effective personal protective equipment approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Only through the aggressive efforts of the UAW have gains been made in this area.
The other major problem with the guidelines is the way in which they are set. Submissions to the task force expressed many frustrations over the fact that the Ministry of Labour is changing the terms and method of measuring toxic substances in the work place. The result has been confusion for labour, management and even the ministry's own inspectors.
Under clause 20(8)(f) of the act, intended for the control of toxic substances, the ministry issued in 1981 a discussion booklet called Exposure Criteria for Potentially Harmful Agents and Substances in the Workplace. The booklet, known as the yellow booklet, will form the basis for exposure levels of toxic substances. Yet it is overly complex and fails completely to identify those substances which are known or suspected carcinogens. The booklet assumes that there is an acceptable level of risk, an approach which implicitly acknowledges that workers will experience health effects at levels below those set out.
The real confusion comes when trying to determine exactly how the ministry intends to set guidelines or regulations. On the one hand, it seems to have reverted entirely to using "threshold limit values" produced by a private American group called the American Conference of Governmental and Industrial Hygienists while at the same time using the term "time-weighted average exposure limits" to describe its approach.
On the other hand, the ministry has introduced a new element of confusion by its method of measuring exposure limits. Rather than measuring substances over an eight-hour work day, as required when using TLVs, the ministry has moved to measuring them over a 40-hour work week. The result has been the mystification of data given to workers by ministry inspectors, doctors and hygienists and a lack of clear enforcement.
In his submission to the task force, Dr. Jaime Meuser of the Toronto Occupational Health Resource Committee criticized the ministry's introduction of time-weighted average exposure limits:
"The eight-hour TWA limit used by the ACGIH and other standard-setting agencies is difficult enough to enforce. The ministry has made enforcement even more difficult by opting for a 40-hour time-weighted average limit or criterion...
"Given that the burden of proof in prosecution for noncompliance lies with the crown, the ministry has saddled itself with the onerous task of collecting enough evidence to prove that the average exposure over the course of an entire week has exceeded the limit. It would be simpler to base exposure limits on the same principles that underlie the breathalyser principles of the Criminal Code. In these, evidence of noncompliance is strictly defined in terms of threshold reading."
The guidelines in the yellow booklet are under public review. But promises by the ministry to hold public meetings on the levels proposed in the booklet have been delayed for months, and even when they are held labour is not necessarily included. In the case of one meeting held on polychlorinated biphenyls, industry was notified but the Canadian Union of Public Employees, CUPE, whose Hydro workers are exposed to PCBs probably more than any other group, was not notified. Cohn Lambert of CUPE, in his submission in St. Catharines, stated:
"It is just an illustration of the contempt and depth of anti-labour feeling of the occupational health branch. We suggest that they would not treat the International Nickels, the Stelcos, the Ontario Hydros or any of the employers in this province in a similar fashion." When workers have been asked to make presentations at meetings reviewing the guidelines in the discussion booklet they have had difficulty in obtaining or have been refused the supporting documentation commissioned by the Ministry of Labour.
In St. Catharines, a submission by United Auto Workers Local 199 gave further evidence of the ministry's dubious approach to reviewing the guidelines. In an appeal on an order resulting from a work refusal by a General Motors of Canada Ltd. worker in St. Catharines, the director of the ministry's occupational health branch ruled that the time-weighted average exposure level for PCBs should be 50 times the level proposed in the ministry's discussion booklet.
He set this level after receiving scientific evidence from General Motors and after carrying out a telephone survey of major industrial users of PCBs. The survey indicated the current levels of exposure in industry and what was reasonably achievable. The director then selected the highest of these levels, five times higher than the level of exposure achieved at the GM plant, and rescinded the original order against the company. So even where an exposure criterion is proposed, it is subject to reinterpretation by the ministry, based on what industry wants.
Let us look at another problem: noise. Despite the promise to regulate noise, the Ministry of Labour has never acted to curb workers' exposure to excessively high noise levels. As a result, hundreds of workers have been victimized by industrial deafness. I would just like to digress to tell the House that all the experts in this province will tell members that there should not be one person suffering noise-induced deafness in this province, not one, and we have them by the thousands.
According to testimony presented to the task force by John Lennie from United Steel Workers of America Local 1005, even one case of industrial deafness is one case too many since industrial deafness is a totally preventable problem. Although the Ministry of Labour has considered setting 90 decibels over an eight-hour period as the exposure limit, Mr. Lennie argued that even much lower levels could cause problems for workers. Many workers complained that no attempt was made to limit the noise in their plants. Instead, workers were forced to wear ear plugs or muffs to protect their hearing, a practice which can cause infections for many workers.
Even though noise could be successfully engineered to a minimum, there was no attempt by companies to use techniques such as spreading machines out over a larger area or using building materials to absorb sound. For example, in a new spike mill at Stelco's Hilton works where noise could have been engineered down to acceptable levels, the noise in the new mill consistently registered over 100 decibels, a level bound to damage the hearing of workers in the plant.
I want to turn to another problem on my list: cancer. I want to quote Don McMillan of United Electrical Workers Local 525, Toronto: "When it comes to a carcinogen there is no 'socially acceptable risk,' as the Minister of Labour would have us believe. We are tired of their body counts." As I said this afternoon, just recently in Sudbury we buried the 100th man from the sintering plant. There is no level -- and without government interference it is going to continue.
There are 111 known human carcinogens, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and a further 100 suspected carcinogens based on animal tests. Yet of the designated substance regulations, only three regulate cancer-causing agents in Ontario. Where there are regulations, they do not advocate substituting less dangerous substances for cancer-causing chemicals.
Workers continue to be exposed to dozens of cancer-causing substances, about which they have no information because of trade secrets. Workers have no protection because these substances are not regulated. They have no choice but to work because they need their jobs.
Heather Webster of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers' Union told the task force that most textile workers are not aware that the benzidine dyes they commonly use are a leading cause of bladder cancer. The textile workers have unsuccessfully tried to get the minister to regulate benzidine and to require substitution of less hazardous chemicals.
The advisory council on Occupational Health and Occupational Safety recently has proposed a cancer policy for Ontario. While the requirement for premarket testing of any new chemical and the testing of all chemicals now in use is essential for the protection of workers, the notion of setting acceptable levels for carcinogens is unacceptable. There are no acceptable levels. Just as in the designated substance regulations, workers in Ontario are denied the right to an open justification of safe levels.
The issues at stake are basic human values. Workers have a fundamental right to participate in the decision and to have the decision justified to them. To move the decision into the realm where only scientists and economists can participate is fundamentally undemocratic. It also, by the way, jeopardizes health.
Those making submissions to the task force demanded clearly that the government require premarket testing of all new chemicals. Michael Hutsulak of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners Local 2679 urged that the government clearly prohibit the introduction of any new carcinogen into the work place.
Less dangerous chemicals should be required to be substituted for cancer-causing substances wherever possible. Independent short and long- term animal testing must be undertaken instead of the current testing by manufacturers who stand to profit. Chemicals now in the work place should be categorized and workers should have full access to that information. Most important, there needs to be an immediate generic cancer regulation that protects workers against known carcinogens until such time as they are fully regulated.
Labour has presented an alternative regulatory strategy for the testing, classification and removal or control of all toxic substances, physical agents or work processes. Fundamental to their approach is the assumption that all chemicals and physical agents are guilty until proven innocent through independent testing.
Each employer should be required to provide a written inventory of all chemicals, physical agents and work processes, complete with chemical formulations, generic names, amounts used and workers exposed, to the Ministry of Labour and to be posted in the work place to ensure that every worker has the right to know exactly what he or she is exposed to at work. From a set date, each employer would need to notify the ministry and its workers of any intention to introduce a new chemical agent or work process and fulfil all of the testing requirements and control measures before the substance is introduced.
All new chemicals would have to be thoroughly tested in short-term and long-term animal testing and then classified as to their potential carcinogenity before they are allowed into the work place. Where new chemicals are found to produce positive results in any of the tests, they would be classified as confirmed or suspected carcinogens and would not be allowed to be introduced into any work place. All chemicals currently in use should be thoroughly tested and classified within five years, and any chemical found to be cancer causing in humans, or suspected of causing cancer in animals as a result of short-term testing, would be immediately controlled to no detectable level until such time as a safely tested substitute is available.
All testing would be carried out by independent testing facilities or by approved international agencies and the cost must be borne by those employers or groups of employers who wish to use the substance.
Overseeing this approach would be a permanent committee comprised of a majority of labour representatives who would approve all the testing requirements, the classification system and any exemptions to the elimination or control strategy. A labour majority can assure that decisions are made by those who assume the most risk.
A generic approach to the testing, classification and elimination of cancer-causing agents in our work place provides an automatic system which would avoid the time-consuming process that the designation of individual substances involves. There are no lengthy debates about the extremely controversial and value-laden approach of risk assessment, cost-benefit analysis or the establishment of what some call "acceptable levels of risk." There is just no debate about how much cancer is too much, since the purpose of the regulatory exercise is surely to prevent all cancer in the work place.
I want to deal also in a similar vein with the reproductive hazards, and I want to quote Shelly Acheson of the Ontario Federation of Labour women's committee.
"By failing to identify and control our exposure to hazardous work place conditions, we not only risk our own health but we are gambling with the health of future generations."
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH, has identified 1,800 chemicals associated in one or more studies with reproductive abnormalities which affect workers' ability to have healthy children. In its submission to the task force, the Ontario Federation of Labour women's committee expressed great concern over the thousands of other chemicals, processes and conditions of work which may pose dangers to reproductive health but which are completely unknown.
Shelly Acheson told the task force that the Ontario government's policy on reproductive hazards excludes women from employment in higher paid industrial jobs. For example, the lead regulation requires male workers to be removed from exposure at 0.70 milligrams per litre of blood lead levels. Men are deemed fit for exposure and must return to work when their blood lead count drops below 0.5 milligrams per litre. Yet women capable of bearing children are required to be removed at 0.4 milligrams per litre, and if a woman is pregnant she is to be removed immediately.
These measures -- removing the worker instead of the hazard -- serve to exclude women from employment in higher paid industrial jobs. They also penalize men by exposing them to greater risks of reproductive and blood damage. The American standard removes both men and women from exposure at blood lead levels of 0.4 milligrams per litre, a level that workers in Ontario have demanded as a first step. However, workers agreed the long-term goal should be to eliminate exposure for all workers to substances such as lead.
Genetic screening programs are another tactic of industry to hire "healthy workers" instead of cleaning up the work place. Evidence of this in Ontario is hard to find, but the Institute of Industrial Relations in California has published evidence that Dow Chemical Co. in Texas has for 10 years conducted pre-employment testing and blood analysis to screen out workers with genetic damage or a chromosomal susceptibility to damage. Remove of "high risk" workers is no substitute to cleaning up the work place, and the Ontario government has not investigated employment and medical monitoring procedures to ensure this is not happening.
Just as the government needs to move immediately to identify carcinogens and legislate a generic regulation, it also needs to test for the other harmful effects of chemicals. This would include a chemical's ability to cause birth defects or genetic changes. Generic regulations are needed for all substances that can cause reproductive damage as a stopgap measure to protect workers and their children.
In our report we make a number of recommendations in this area.
48. Every effort must be made to reach a "no exposure" level on any substance not proven 100 per cent safe. The burden of proof that there are no adverse health effects shall rest with the manufacturer.
49. There must be premarket testing of all chemicals and testing of all chemicals on market.
50. Current guidelines for limits of exposure that are being regulated shall be considered a minimum requirement, with the goal to be reducing the exposure to zero.
51. We support the Ontario Federation of Labour's cancer policy paper, including the following: premarket testing and classification of new chemicals and of all chemicals currently in use; those classified as carcinogens or potential carcinogens by short-term or animal tests should be removed from the work place and replaced with safer products. Until such time as this removal is possible, companies and employers shall decrease exposure to no detectable level.
52. There must be a generic cancer regulation to protect workers against exposure to any carcinogen.
53. There must be a generic regulation to protect workers against reproductive hazards.
54. The government must move quickly to introduce the long-promised regulation for health care and education sectors.
I want to deal with worker education as a problem we encountered. I want to quote David Christopherson of United Auto Workers Local 525, Hamilton:
"We see a world of difference in the plants where the act has been studied and an attempt made to enforce it and those plants where workers are struggling along, not even aware of their rights on the job."
The Occupational Health and Safety Act clearly places the responsibility for carrying out key provisions of the act such as inspecting the work place, identifying hazards and investigating accidents on the shoulders of the workers. However, the act makes no provision to ensure that workers are properly informed of their rights and responsibilities as described in the act.
Clause 17(1)(a) states that a worker shall work in compliance with the provisions of the act and regulations. Yet the only guarantee that a worker will have access to the act is the provision under clause 14(2)(h) which requires companies to post a copy of the act in every work place.
Even this guarantee has not been met by employers such as Windsor Bumper, where at the time of the task force hearings the company still had not posted a copy of the act, three years after its introduction, "on any wall in the plant" that the workers could find. In another case that illustrates the difficulties workers face in learning the act, Stelco provided only one copy for over 300 workers in part of their massive Hilton works operation.
Many workers paid tribute to the Ontario Federation of Labour for its highly successful training courses which the majority of health and safety committee members and representatives appearing before the task force had taken. The OFL's 30-hour certification program has been a key factor in making workers aware of their rights and in teaching them how to use the act effectively in their work place. Because the course is taught by health and safety representatives who have taken a specialized teaching course, also run by the OFL, and who volunteer their time to teach, a large number of workers have had access to valuable training.
However, despite its success, the OFL's training program does not have guaranteed funding and operates from year to year by applying for provincial lottery funds and a Ministry of Labour grant. On a minimal budget of $1.3 million for the last three years, the OFL has trained more than 4,000 students.
In contrast -- and you will appreciate this, Mr. Speaker -- the well-funded training programs of the nine accident prevention and safety associations were not regarded as useful by workers. The accident prevention and safety associations' educational programs are funded out of the Workers' Compensation Board assessment of companies operating in the province and received in 1982 over $27 million. Compare $1.3 million to the OFL for three years on an ad hoc basis and $27 million in one year alone to the accident prevention and safety associations. It boggles the mind, to say the least.
Workers appearing before the task force described the associations' courses as management-oriented programs which emphasize the carelessness of workers as the cause of accidents. If members do not believe me, I would ask them to look at any ad run by the accident prevention and safety associations on television on any given night and they will see that the workers are dumb slobs who manage to get hurt. Just look at them. I ask my colleagues to look at them. They are deplorable.
Most workers did not feel those courses offered by the accident prevention and safety associations made any contribution to their knowledge of the act.
Many workers who have been trained in health and safety by the Ontario Federation of Labour have returned to their plants to find that management, supervisors and even their fellow employees do not know either their responsibilities or their rights under the act. This has led to confrontations between management and health and safety committee members and representatives, trying to establish such rights as the right to refuse dangerous work or the right to investigate accidents, and foremen who either do not understand or who do not want to recognize their obligations under the act.
Many examples were cited to the task force of violations of the act; for example, foremen who do not call in the health and safety representative or the ministry where a worker has exercised his right to refuse to work under unsafe conditions. There are foremen who violate the act by ordering other workers to substitute for a worker who has refused a dangerous job. That is contrary to the act.
At Union Carbide in Welland, where workers are represented by UE Local 523, a worker's right under subsection 23(4) to call in a health and safety representative or committee member to investigate a work refusal was challenged by management representatives who apparently did not know the procedures set out under the act. When an employee refused to use an air hammer under conditions he considered unsafe, the foreman challenged the worker's right to have the health and safety representative called in. The issue was resolved only because of the persistence of the health and safety committee member who knew the act and who threatened to call the Ministry of Labour if the foreman did not co-operate.
Several submissions also raised the need for education of immigrant workers in their first language. Heather Webster of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union spoke at the task force hearing in Toronto of the difficulties that textile workers, many of them immigrant women, face in understanding their rights in the work place because of language problems.
The Ministry of Labour has not produced copies of the act in any language other than French or English, and there are virtually no health and safety courses in major languages such as Italian, Portuguese, Chinese or Greek.
Workers' knowledge of health and safety and their rights under the act should be developed not only through special training courses, but should also be an integrated part of the provincial education system. Teach it where it counts, and that is when they are young.
We make some recommendations with respect to worker education.
55. The act shall ensure that all union health and safety representatives complete the Ontario Federation of Labour's certificate program within a specified time of their election or appointment to a health and safety committee.
56. Education of all workers will be undertaken with the employer paying lost-time wages and shall be available in the language spoken in the work place.
57. The Ministry of Labour must ensure a system of training for supervisors, including a requirement to certify competence as required under the act.
58. Mandatory health and safety training is urged for the public school system for all students using a curriculum approved by representatives of labour and management.
59. An amount of money equivalent to the amount currently allocated to the accident prevention and safety associations shall be given to a worker health and safety association run by the OFL to train workers, both organized and unorganized.
I want to deal with those who are not included in the act, the exclusions, because they are in difficulty.
Let me quote from a home worker in Toronto dealing with fabrics: "The most difficult fabrics are the velours. The nap comes off and gets all over everything in the house and the air is filled with it. The dust from the fabric is very fine; the consistency of flour. If I am sewing with velour fabric, my nose begins to run blue. My doctor says it's no good for me to sew this material, even though I am taking allergy shots, but I need the money. Now I usually tie a handkerchief mask over my nose and mouth when I am sewing."
This statement, quoted in a submission to the task force, exemplifies the health problems confronted by workers excluded from the act. These workers, including farm workers, home workers and teachers, have absolutely no legal protection against hazards in the work place.
Farm workers: Mutale Chanda of the Canadian Farmworkers Union told the task force of serious health problems facing the 50,000 full-time and 100,000 seasonal farm workers in Ontario. Farm workers face increasing hazards from exposure to pesticides sprayed on vegetables and fruits. I do not have to remind the members of the dramatic case we heard about in Toronto during the winter and the operations to try to save that man's life.
Yet those workers have no right of access to information on the health effect of pesticides or on the proper handling procedures. Women tobacco pickers experiencing numbness in the hands complained to the Ministry of Labour and were told that the ministry had no mandate to investigate pesticides. That is a sad commentary on Ontario in 1983.
Other legislative restrictions prohibiting the organizing of farm workers into unions mean that farm workers cannot even negotiate health and safety protection into contracts, nor can they be protected by a union.
In an increasingly automated industry accidents are becoming more commonplace. At Wellington Mushrooms Ltd. in Picton, the mushroom farm is an assembly-line operation, and work is performed indoors year-round. Yet the Ontario Labour Relations Board ruled in 1980 that the operation was still farm work since the workers handled soil in the farm warehouse.
Gary Cwitco, representing the health and safety committee of the Labour Council of Metropolitan Toronto, spoke of the exclusion from the act of farm workers and other workers. He told the task force of assurances by the Ministry of Labour at the time the Occupational Health and Safety Act was passed that farm workers would be included.
It was recognized that farm work is one of the most hazardous occupations in this province -- just look at the Workers' Compensation Board statistics and you will see. We were assured by the ministry that it was just a matter of time until the regulations were developed to include farm workers.
Well, it has been four years and it still has not happened, and that needs to be changed. When you have sectors of the economy excluded from the law, that certainly does not allow workers to have equality in the law. Cwitco recommended that there should be no categories of workers excluded by the law.
Let me deal with teachers for a moment. Teachers and their representative federations were initially excluded from the legislation at their own request, yet many found they had abdicated rights that were necessary to their good health in the work place. In several cities, teachers made submissions to the task force expressing concern that they had been excluded.
In Toronto, the Federation of Women Teachers' Associations of Ontario, representing 30,000 elementary teachers, outlined their three-year struggle since the act's inception to be brought under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Hazards faced by teachers include exposure to communicable diseases such as lice, exposure to poor ventilation and exposure to toxic substances in art rooms, science rooms, industrial shops and duplication areas.
The Ontario Public School Men Teachers' Federation raised, among other issues, stress- related illnesses from increased class sizes and the changing nature of education -- for example, mandatory special education. To quote: "Heart disease, ulcers and nervous breakdowns are three of the most common symptoms (of stress). Over the last five years the incidence of members suffering emotional breakdown has increased by about 25 per cent each year."
Almost every submission made to the task force by teachers raised the unknown dangers of work with video display terminals, which are increasingly common in the education system.
Home workers, people who do their work at home, are also excluded from the act. In a submission to the Toronto task force hearings, Laura Johnson from the department of sociology at the University of Toronto, the author of Seam Allowance, pointed out the hazards of working in the home, including poor ventilation and stress created by long hours and the double load of simultaneously caring for children and working. An estimated 7,500 people are doing home work in Ontario, most in the garment industry.
The effects of textile work in industrial settings are well documented, but the potential hazards and incidence of respiratory diseases associated with garment work in the home are unknown, including the potential hazard to children and other family members. Health and safety inspectors cannot visit a home work place without prior agreement of the owner or a search warrant. Arbitrary access to the homes of these workers is not desirable because of the prospect of intimidation. Yet the health hazards faced by these workers must be seriously addressed, and a full disclosure of who is responsible and of the measures to eliminate unhealthy conditions must take place before the legislation is changed.
Furthermore, the increasing trend towards home work, including relocation of clerical jobs, such as putting data on video display terminals in the home, makes the possibility of an "electronic cottage industry" a reality. In her brief, Ms. Johnson stressed that the time had come creatively to address health and safety conditions in the home work place.
Selective exclusions from provisions of the act: Many other workers are excluded from particular rights under the act. Firefighters, police and workers in correctional facilities, training schools and observation homes are not entitled to refuse unsafe work under any circumstances. Workers in hospitals, nursing homes, psychiatric or other mental health or rehabilitation facilities, ambulance drivers, laboratory workers, laundry workers, food service workers, all have the right to refuse unsafe work only in cases where the refusal does not jeopardize the life, health or safety of another person.
The problem with this category is that it has been broadly interpreted to mean the workers have the right to refuse in virtually no circumstance. An example of this was a work refusal by Mary Lou Ruttan, of OPSEU Local 226, a residential counsellor at Midwestern Regional Centre, a retardation facility operated by the Ontario government.
Ms. Ruttan was seven months pregnant when a patient in the residence in which she worked was identified as a hepatitis B carrier. She was concerned about putting herself and her unborn child in danger of contracting hepatitis. When she exercised her right to refuse, a Ministry of Labour inspector informed her she did not have the right to refuse unsafe work. However, both management and the union agreed that by refusing to work she was not placing any patient in imminent jeopardy.
On a verbal appeal by the union to the London regional office of the Ministry of Labour, Ms. Ruttan was told that she could not refuse work because there were no health care regulations under the act. Twenty days later, Dr. James of the occupational health branch issued yet a third and different interpretation of her right to refuse. He wrote that her unborn child was at high risk of contracting hepatitis but that she was not. Therefore, since foetuses were not explicitly covered under the act, her work refusal was not upheld.
Questions in the Legislature led to a new interpretation by the ministry which clearly indicated that women had the right to protect unborn children.
Firefighters' right to refuse; they were excellent in their presentation: Not having the right to refuse has placed groups like firefighters in an untenable situation. According to Frank Durocher, of Local 455 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, when a fire breaks out in a plant where a number of different chemicals are stored, firefighters may have no knowledge of the kinds of substances or quantities to which they must expose themselves. This also applies when firefighters clean up chemical spills. In addition, many chemicals interact or react to heat, producing new hazards.
It is the responsibility of the senior officer on the scene to evaluate the situation and to decide whether to risk the lives of the men fighting the fire. However, the officer must make this decision without knowing where the chemicals might be stored or what the dangers from the chemicals might be. Without the option of the right to refuse, workers are forced by law to take risks in many situations where risks cannot be properly evaluated.
If they are not allowed to refuse, firefighters feel there should be strict right-to-know legislation which would force companies to identify the chemicals they are using, where they are stored, the hazards associated with these chemicals and the proper medical treatment in the event of exposure.
We deal with yet another section to be included, because these are things we did not consider at the time: retail workers, the right to health and safety committees. Retail workers are also excluded from rights under section 8 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act on the assumption that places like supermarkets and other retail outlets are not hazardous work places. Retail employees, along with many other workers, have therefore been denied the right to joint health and safety committees.
Diane Holland, of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 633, gave many startling examples of situations in supermarkets that were hazardous. For example, in the meat department, water on the floor often does not drain properly and employees operate bandsaws while standing in water. Employees are exposed to toxic fumes from the polyvinyl chloride film when it is cut to wrap meats and produce. Retail workers faced additional hazards of poor storing of merchandise and long hours on their feet. Cashiers experience cold and drafts from checkout counters which are close to doorways.
In a submission from Organized Working Women, a 1981 survey done by the Ontario Retail Council of United Food and Commercial Workers on the health effects of ring-and-bag systems was cited. Under the system, cashiers must lift products and pass them over a computer reader with one hand while ringing up with the other.
More than 80 per cent of all surveyed cashiers reported experiencing negative health effects while more than 20 per cent had continuous or frequent pain in one or more parts of their bodies. A full 62 per cent reported back problems caused by repetitive forward stretching for articles and bending to bag them. In addition, the computer surveillance of ring-and-bag cashier work creates enormous stress to workers.
Because of their exclusion, retail workers also have no right to regulate inspection, and inspectors visit as infrequently as once every three years.
We make the following recommendations with respect to exclusion:
60. Section 3 of the act must be removed. No worker shall be excluded from the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
61. All the rights and provisions granted to workers in these recommendations must apply to all workers.
There is another group that is even more vulnerable, if that is possible, and that is the unorganized workers. Susan Meurer, an unorganized VDT operator, came before our committee and she said: "There is always the problem that if you complain too much in the work place, the employer will say, 'If you find it unsafe, you should probably go and find some other kind of work.'" That is the solution, of course.
If there was one area of concern about which the task force could not get adequate information, it was in the area of unorganized work places. It is clear that workers in all sectors who do not have union representation have not been made fully aware of their rights under the act. As well, most of these workers would not come forward to the hearings for fear of reprisals by their employers.
Yet those who did come forward gave ample evidence to suggest that the act is not working for them and that the problems in the unorganized work place are even more severe than most of the cases documented in this report. Workers at Wilco in London, for example, have been exposed to excessive levels of lead and have suffered debilitating health effects. The case study of Wilco in this section graphically illustrates the problems faced by the unorganized workers.
Video display terminal operators, the majority of whom are unorganized and work in offices, have virtually no protection under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. One unorganized operator making a submission to the task force said the following:
"It is a controlled function, working on a VDT or computer. Your working situation is completely controlled. You do not have any control over your work process. It is a very stressful working situation. In most cases low-pay, unorganized female workers even now have few rights and very little protection. One of the concerns of people in my work place is where do we go, to whom do we go with our concerns and our unorganized work place. The ministry would not come out to test our terminals even though at management's request." So much for the Ministry of Labour again.
When an unorganized VDT operator at Petrosar's corporate office exercised her right to refuse work on the VDT because she was pregnant, the ministry inspector did not uphold her refusal because "the VDT is not likely to endanger the worker or another person." The worker sought assistance from the organized workers in the plant and, with the help of the Energy and Chemical Workers Union, won her case. Most unorganized workers do not have access to unions to help back them in their efforts to protect their health.
Worker intimidation, failure to establish committees and the ministry's failure to enforce are experienced in work places across Ontario. The unorganized workers are particularly vulnerable. The effectiveness of the internal responsibility system in nonunion plants is completely unknown.
Bray W. D. Rivett Company Ltd., a plant in Gananoque, has been organized for only two years. Prior to the workers' becoming members of the United Electrical Workers, there had been no discussion on health and safety. In a submission to the task force in Ottawa, John Lameront of United Electrical Workers Local 522 said that in eight years there had been only one ministry inspection the workers knew about, and no health and safety committee was set up when the Occupational Health and Safety Act was proclaimed.
Contracting out is another means of transferring hazardous work conditions from a unionized shop to a nonunionized work place where workers are not always aware of the hazards. In a United Auto Workers' submission at the London hearings, workers at Northern Telecom Ltd. expressed these concerns. In June 1982 a beryllium-copper alloy was to be machined in the company's tool room. Two workers refused to work. The ministry upheld the refusal and issued extensive orders regarding beryllium alloy machining. The company, instead of making repairs, contracted out the work to unorganized work places and the ministry accepted this contracting out as compliance with the orders. Yet there was no follow-up by the ministry to ensure these unorganized workers were protected from exposure.
After the task force submission, questions were raised in the Legislature, and the ministry is now monitoring the contracting out in this work place. However, the task force is not convinced that efforts are being made to correct the larger problem of the ministry accepting the practice of contracting out to unorganized work places as compliance with orders, with no follow-up to check those new work places working with toxic substances.
Voluntary health and safety committees in organized work places have little ability to encourage their employer to clean up the work site, but still have recourse to negotiations. Unorganized workers concerned with health and safety, however, have to rely entirely on the Ministry of Labour to support their positions. When a dispute arose between workers and management over whether fume hoods were necessary to ventilate a hospital where workers were inhaling potentially carcinogenic drugs, the ministry admitted fume hoods were necessary, but did not order the hospital to ventilate.
Without a union, there is no other body to negotiate health and safety matters for workers when the ministry fails to initiate cleanup orders. In addition, employees who have witnessed others losing their jobs over health and safety in these situations are afraid that by raising these issues they will lose their jobs.
Lest members think I am being overly heavy, let me quote from Bruce Doern from the Centre for Policy and Program Assessment at Carleton University. In his study done for the royal commission on asbestos, he concluded by saying the following:
"The job of the inspector in the small unorganized establishment is made particularly difficult by the tenuous position of the employee. It is almost trite to point out that the internal responsibility system cannot operate effectively where a worker thinks or fears that he jeopardizes his job every time he lodges a complaint." This is the real key line: "Prohibition of reprisals notwithstanding, an employer can almost always find some excuse to dismiss an 'obstreperous' employee."
Let us look at a case study at Wilco-Canada Inc., just briefly. The complete vulnerability of the unorganized worker was made clear at the task force hearings in London, when workers had the courage to tell their experiences at Wilco.
Wilco-Canada Inc. in London is a plant which manufactures tubular products for automotive and refrigeration industries, employing 190 workers in 1982. Early in 1982, workers found that 20 employees had lead poisoning within an eight- month period, and at least three of these had become sexually impotent. The company had violated both the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the lead regulations. It failed to inform workers of the hazards of working with lead.
After some workers contracted lead poisoning the company provided inadequate respirators. It failed to post results of the air sampling and monitoring in the work place. There was no joint health and safety committee in place. There were inadequate facilities for washing up and eating, so contaminated clothing was being taken home. Also a lead assessment, as required bylaw, had not been undertaken, nor was a lead control program in place.
In December 1981, 16 employees who were off work from lead poisoning were sent letters saying that if they did not return to the plant to lower-risk work at lower play, they would be ineligible for workers' compensation or unemployment insurance benefits and would be fired. I raised this matter in the Legislature, but after a flurry of meetings and orders, little seems to have changed.
Several workers who had suffered serious health effects appeared before the task force. Brad Tunks was a tube mill assistant who was given no information on the hazards of lead when he started work in February 1981. By November of that year, he was experiencing irritability, stomach cramps, headaches and excessive sleepiness, all signs of lead contamination. Blood tests showed excessively high levels of lead and he was removed from his work. However, he too received a letter which threatened dismissal and he returned to work in January 1982. By March, the lead poisoning was so severe he required hospitalization and special drugs to clear the lead from his body.
With no union to represent him, Brad attempted to fight the company, but was passed between the Workers' Compensation Board, the Ontario Labour Relations board and the Ministry of Labour. At the end of July, the WCB cut off Mr. Tunks's benefits because his blood lead levels had dropped although some of the health effects were still present. Simultaneously, Wilco laid him off saying they had fulfilled their staffing requirements. To date, Mr. Tunks is still waiting for an appeal hearing for the WCB.
This is one story of many. Another person at the task force hearing told of four workers, aged 18 to 23, who were off work from lead poisoning. The WCB sent them back to work when their lead levels dropped below 0.50 milligrams per litre, and the next day they were laid off.
Dan Wood, another Wilco worker, told the task force conditions in the plant had not improved since the ministry had issued orders. The lead control program had been designed by management without worker consultation and still no ventilation has been put in place to remove the lead. Mr. Wood relayed how workers were still getting sick from lead contamination.
Yet the ministry has not enforced the act or the lead regulations. It has failed to protect workers who are struggling to have a union, the United Auto Workers, but to date do not have that protection and representation. The Ministry of Labour told the New Democratic Party it would not prosecute the company for reprisals under section 24 of the act because the workers had not exercised their right to refuse under section 23.
Finally, in April 1983 the ministry laid charges against Wilco. It charged six workers for failing to wear respirators, and it charged two supervisors and the company for recent violations. One charge against Wilco was laid under subsection 24(1) for reprisal against a worker who exercised his right to refuse. The charges have not yet been heard. The ministry has never moved against the letters threatening dismissal, nor has it moved to correct the lead hazard in the plant which has been the cause of the health problems of Wilco workers.
Because of this, we have made a number of recommendations which, we hope, the government will introduce to protect the vulnerability of the unorganized.
62. The greatest health and safety protection for the unorganized will be achieved by amending the Ontario Labour Relations Act to facilitate organizing workers into the unions which can provide the most protection to their rights.
63. Special protections must be developed and incorporated into the act to protect the unorganized workers, including central reporting of committees to the Ministry of Labour and central reporting of inspections and follow-up to unorganized plants.
64. There shall be guaranteed funding to community occupational health and safety groups, such as the Windsor Occupational Safety and Health Council, in each major industrial centre to carry out vital education and advocacy work. This is particularly important for the unorganized workers.
I am winding down now, as the members can see. The pile is getting smaller.
Mr. Sargent: Let it go, Elie.
Mr. Martel: Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Ashe: There are only 35 minutes. Keep it going. Use all your time tonight.
Mr. Martel: If the Minister of Revenue (Mr. Ashe) is learning something it will help.
Hon. Mr. Ashe: It gets repetitive.
Mr. Martel: I have not repeated a thing.
Special sectors: There are many special sectors for which there are no specific regulations, yet for which a number of problems exist. Day care workers, social service workers and others who appeared before the task force explained the problems this creates.
In other cases, the act has explicitly excluded a sector. Elliot Lake miners, for example, who fought for health and safety protection in Ontario, still have not acquired the same rights for themselves. Last year there were 1,700 orders issued against the two companies in Elliot Lake. That was in one year. There is not a charge.
I want to deal with office workers. William Dickerson, Mid-Canada Council, Office and Professional Employees' International Union, said to the task force: "Due to recent innovations in office technology, office employees find themselves exposed to an environment drastically different from that of years past. The introduction of Xerox copy machines, video display terminals and teletype machines, for example, expose operators to new hazards affecting their physical wellbeing."
Many workers appearing before the task force were working in offices. Their complaints were universally similar; the hazards of office work are not taken seriously by management and the current legislation inadequately protects them. The fact that office workers are expressly excluded from having joint health and safety committees, under clause 8(b)(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, confirms this.
More than 80 per cent of office workers are women, the majority of whom are unorganized workers in banks, insurance companies, law offices and other nonunionized work places. These workers need the protection of strong legislation. There are not even specific regulations prescribing safety standards for office work. Workers in offices are currently administered under the general provisions of the industrial regulations, which are totally inappropriate.
David Foley of CUPE Local 791 made a submission on behalf of workers of the Corporation of the City of Kitchener. He, like many other workers, complained of the failure of the Ministry of Labour to inspect office work places. In the case of CUPE Local 791, the local inspector will inspect only the industrial area of the corporation, not the offices. Mr. Foley also expressed concern about the employer's attitude towards office hazards, which are not seen as important.
He stated: "When we discuss the problem of lack of blinds on windows, improperly designed chairs and desks, improper ventilation and overcrowding, not to mention obvious concerns such as electrical outlets which are mounted on the floor in travel areas, we are ignored regarding the obvious, told to get substantiated proof regarding the ergonomics and advised that because the budget had to be trimmed, other considerations were more essential. This comes from a supervisor whose well-furnished, air conditioned office is larger than the entire work area provided for a portion of his staff."
These hazards are in fact real, and the traditional assumption that the office work place is safe must be challenged. There are hazards from the physical environment of the office: improper lighting, excessive or repetitive noise from copiers and key punch operations, or overcrowding. The increased number of sealed or climate-controlled buildings has often meant employees work in environments improperly ventilated, with inadequate air changes and exposure to toxic substances or bacterial infection. Many products used in the office are hazardous. Toluene and other solvents from toners, erasers and cleaners pose hazards in both the short and long term. Ozone from copiers can result in dizziness or drowsiness; in the long term its effects are unknown.
Yet these concerns are often ignored, and even where unions fight for testing, it is often inappropriately done. Greg Randle of CUPE Local 87 produced documents at the Thunder Bay task force hearings showing that management had complied with requests to test for ozone, but it was done on a one-time basis on a day when the copier had been mostly idle. Mr. Randle argued that the failure of management to conduct a series of tests under realistic working conditions indicates a lack of respect for workers' concerns.
The massive influx of microchip technology into the office has had a major effect on workers. Many submissions to the task force raised concerns about the health effects of video display terminals. The Occupational Health and Safety Act has no regulations governing work conditions on VDTs, and there are no laws in effect which require testing at the point of the machine's production. In addition to the suspected hazards from low level radiation, there are also concerns about exposure to PCBs, excessive heat and glare.
The strain of repetitive work with improper lighting and no required breaks heightens the hazards. Poor machine design, incorrect layout of equipment and overcrowding are further ergonomic hazards experienced by office workers. One of the newest problems intensifying office stress is the use of technology to monitor productivity of workers.
Workers are pitted against each other and themselves, with constant monitoring, accompanied often by reprimand and pressure tactics by management. Workers have no protection under the law against these practices.
Susan Meurer, a video display terminal operator in Toronto, raised concerns that equipment capacity now dictates the work load: "In the two years I have been doing it" -- that is, operating a VDT -- "I would say my work has doubled, and this is because the equipment is constantly changing and able to handle a greater capacity, at a faster speed. Of course, we have to keep up with whatever the increased load is."
The stress created by increased work loads is but one of the health effects. VDT operators report skin rashes, strained eyes and muscle and back problems due to poorly designed equipment. Bob DeMatteo of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union spoke of a case the union is currently fighting for a clerical worker who has cataracts that some medical evidence suggests may have been caused by radiation.
Questions about reproductive hazards have not been seriously addressed by the government. Mr. DeMatteo in his submission to the task force raised the matter of the cluster of miscarriages in an office of old city hall in Toronto, where the miscarriage rate in 1981 was 62 per cent, a staggeringly high figure. Yet the doctor sent in by the ministry to investigate recorded only superficial information, never contacted the women involved and concluded that there was no significance to the cluster.
The occupational health branch did radiation tests and found that the VDTs were emitting fairly high levels of low-frequency radiation, yet the Ministry of Labour would not issue orders to shield the machines. To date there has been no satisfactory study done of reproductive hazards here or in any other Ontario work place.
Workers must fight even to have health effects properly recorded. Workers from the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 543, from the city of Windsor, submitted to the task force a copy of a questionnaire on VDTs circulated to VDT operators by their management. It was interested primarily in the workers' miscarriage history and in exposure to colour televisions and microwave ovens. There were no questions in the survey dealing with immediate health effects such as eye problems, physical effects or stress.
Microchip technology and the failure to protect is not confined just to the traditional office work environment. Joyce Rosenthal, in her submission on behalf of Organized Working Women, stressed the potential hazards to both children and teachers in the school system, where VDTs are being introduced. Children may be more susceptible to the possible radiation hazards of VDTs, and all workers and students using the machines should have guarantees of proper lighting, adjustable furniture and proper spacing, shielding and ventilation of machines.
In addition, office workers in nontraditional environments often face industrial hazards but have no rights to health and safety committees. Dawn Cartwright of de Havilland Aircraft of Canada Ltd., where the office workers are members of United Auto Workers Local 673, spoke of the frequency with which office workers are sent into the plant to communicate information.
Bill Dickerson, a member of the Office and Professional Employees' International Union, is an office worker at Domtar Forest Products in Red Rock, Ontario. He and other office workers face hazards of excessive dust because they work in portable offices on the industrial work site, yet they are classified as office workers and thereby excluded from section 8 of the act.
I want to deal briefly with the health care sector. I want to quote Bob DeMatteo, health and safety co-ordinator of OPSEU: "Three years ago health care regulations were promised to us in one month. Why should we go through the farce of participating in a consultative process if the ministry is not interested in giving us protection?"
Health care workers are currently administered under the general umbrella of industrial regulations by the Ministry of Labour, totally inappropriate protection for their health and safety in the work place. The health care regulations were drafted three years ago and have yet to become law. This failure to regulate has become a convenient excuse for the ministry not to enforce protection under the act.
Workers at St. Lawrence Lodge in Brockville, members of CUPE Local 2107, were required to transport patients with psychiatric disorders, some of whom were violent, to hospitals in Kingston, a distance of 96 kilometres. The practice had always been to have two workers, one to drive and the other to care for the patient. When management directed that only one driver would make the trips, the employees protested to the Ministry of Labour under clause 14(2)(g) that the employer's duty is to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of workers.
At the same time there were an increasing number of complaints from workers about the violence of patients in nursing homes. In both cases the area manager for the Ministry of Labour ruled that since there were no regulations covering the health care sector, he was powerless to act upon the complaints of the threat to workers from violent or dangerous patients.
Patient violence was cited in a number of submissions to the task force as one of the principal hazards of working in chronic care facilities, hospitals and psychiatric institutions. Shirley Scarrow of Ontario Public Service Employees Union Local 111 from London Psychiatric Hospital cited a growing incidence of worker assault by patients, including 13 in her facility in the first eight months of 1982. At the time of the task force hearings, two staff members had been off work for six months after having been beaten by patients.
These examples point out the serious gap between staffing standards and what is necessary for the protection of workers. The Ministry of Health sets by regulation the requirement for staff-patient ratios and the required hours of nursing care. These are outdated and inadequate because of the changing nature of institutionalized patients. The government's policy of deinstitutionalization has meant a higher concentration of more disturbed patients in the psychiatric facilities and a patient population requiring much heavier care in chronic facilities. Inadequate staffing creates problems of stress and even the possibility of violence.
It has also meant a staggering increase in back injuries. In every single submission from health care workers, this was cited as a major occupational hazard. Inadequate staff to lift patients and inadequate numbers of mechanical lifts have contributed to this. I believe nurses and nurses' assistants have now equalled miners for back injuries in the province.
George Wilson, on behalf of Joan Duerden of CUPE Local 1263, appeared before the task force representing 600 workers in homes for the aged in the Niagara region. They blamed safety problems, resulting in things such as back injuries, on the restraint policies of the provincial government. I quote:
"Underfunding of these homes means understaffing, and understaffing means that a staff member is under considerable pressure to try and lift the resident alone rather than consume the time needed to find another overburdened staff member to help lift. This in turn is resulting in back injuries to staff and in some cases has resulted in injuries to residents as well."
Communicable diseases are regulated under the public health laws, but worker exposure is not specifically covered. For example, ambulance drivers of a CUPE local in Sudbury have complained that they do not know until after they have handled a patient whether the patient has a communicable disease.
The task force heard of instances where registered nursing aides at Perley Hospital in Ottawa, members of CUPE Local 870, were not informed about patients having communicable diseases, so they did not know whether they were being exposed to a patient with contagious health problems; yet they are routinely expected to assist patients with personal hygiene. The solution is clearly to set up a preventive information system where RNAs are warned about the exposure before working with a patient.
The issue of anaesthetic gases and other toxic fumes is an important concern of hospital workers both in respect to short-term hazards and long-term reproductive effects. Members of CUPE Local 424 from Stratford General Hospital spoke of their hospital management, which is quite co-operative on most issues but which has not yet resolved the continuing problem of alcohol fumes in the lab.
CUPE's national health and safety representative, Cohn Lambert, learned that the Ministry of Labour, in co-operation with the Ontario Hospital Association, had conducted a 10-hospital study on workers exposed to ethylene oxide and had concluded there was not a problem of exposure. At no time during this study were the workers in these 10 hospitals consulted. Only after considerable pressure did the Ministry of Health make available the names and study results of just six of these hospitals. Yet based on these results, a more extensive 75-hospital study on anaesthetic gases is under way, excluding ethylene oxide. To quote Cohn Lambert at the St. Catharines hearings:
"So we are faced with a real game of catch-22. The Ontario Ministry of Labour tells us that all the hospitals in Ontario have no real problems with ethylene oxide, that they do not feel there is any need to change the present threshold limit value; nor do they feel that there is any need to monitor hospitals to determine whether there is overexposure to ethylene oxide for workers. They base this decision on a study of 10 hospitals, the results of which are confidential."
Until hospital workers are given access to information on toxic substances unique to their work environment, and real access to management's and government's decisions about the hazards of such gases, they will not be protected. Many workers urged task force members to press for specific regulations to protect the health and safety of workers in the health care sector.
Coming from Sudbury as I do, I could not help but include a small section on mining. I am quoting from Dan Sweezey, the health and safety officer for the United Steelworkers of America, Local 6500.
"The one area in which the ministry has not improved, but failed drastically, is the enforcement area of the mine safety inspection branch. This branch has used the terminology 'internal responsibility system' as a definite crutch to shirk its responsibility."
Last year there were 12 mine fatalities and countless other accidents and injuries. Mining continues to be extremely hazardous work and those who appeared before the task force stressed a number of concerns which need to be immediately addressed. Despite all the technological advances, mines today still need better lighting and substantial reduction of noise and dust levels. Workers still have inadequate sanitary and cleanup facilities and need improved lunch areas. In addition to the toxicity of the mine materials, workers face hazards of abnormal air pressure and carbon dioxide from emissions from constantly running machinery.
Dr. Joseph Cummins, a geneticist with the University of Western Ontario in London, told the task force that recent changes in mining technology posed new hazards. His experiments have shown that the oil-salt explosives being used leave mutagenic, carcinogenic residues in the air and on surfaces. Plastic polymers now being used to retain tunnel walls react with nitrogen oxides from diesel exhausts and nitrate-oil explosives to release highly carcinogenic nitrosamines. Cummins stressed that new protective devices are needed to rectify those problems. In the case of nitrosamines, for example, they readily penetrate rubber protective clothing.
Workers told the task force of unsafe conditions created by home-made parts of mining machinery. One steelworker in Thunder Bay spoke of modifications to equipment because the proper replacement parts were not available. Clause 14(1)(b) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act states, "The equipment, materials and protective devices provided by him" -- that is, the employer -- "are maintained in good condition." Yet this does not preclude home-made devices as stop-gap measures, which are often dangerous underground.
The same holds true in the work process. Steelworkers at the Thunder Bay hearings cited one example of a concentrate dryer where the igniting flame of an oil-fired system could not be started one night. The supervisor, concerned about production, told a worker to ignite the dryer with an oxygen acetylene torch. That worker refused, believing it to be hazardous, then another worker refused. Instead of following the work refusal procedure under section 23, the supervisor did the hazardous job himself. And he got his head blown off too.
Another problem is the high number of mining inspectors and engineers who bring a management bias to the job. Workers at the task force hearings urged that more inspectors be appointed from the ranks of workers. According to Dan Sweezey of USWA Local 6500, of the last few appointments to the mining branch of the Ministry of Labour, five of six hired were former Inco management.
Accessibility to ministry inspectors during weekends or graveyard shifts is also a problem. Local 6500 of the Steelworkers pointed out to the task force that 24-hour operations need 24-hour availability of inspectors in case of accidents. An incident after the hearings clearly confirmed their concerns.
On January 29, 1983, during the graveyard shift at the Copper Cliff nickel refinery in Sudbury, excessive amounts of nickel carbonyl were twice released, entering the plant and surrounding environment. The workers experienced dizziness and had to be given oxygen. Of the 13 workers, nine had amounts of nickel carbonyl above permissible levels in their urine. The Ministry of Labour was called at 5:30 a.m. Not until two days later, on the Monday afternoon, did they come to investigate -- two full days.
The threat of fires is another imminent hazard for underground workers. Workers told the task force that section 34 of the mining regulations requiring safe procedures for hot work, such as blowtorch or welding, are not followed by management and not enforced by the ministry. They urged that the requirements for firefighting equipment under this section of the regulations be strengthened to make it mandatory that firefighting equipment be attached to the welding gear.
Andy Delarosbil of USWA expressed concerns about the mining regulations allowing workers to work alone underground. He stated: "It is a common experience for a worker to be assigned to work alone." This is under section 15 of the mining regulations. "However, in underground mining this could be disastrous. The company's practice is to visit at least every two hours. What happens if the worker is drilling and loose rock falls on him? If his shift boss was in just 15 minutes ago, the result is he could be pinned under for a minimum of one hour and 45 minutes before someone comes. One hour and 45 minutes could be the difference between life and death." It is imperative that no one works alone underground.
The distance from medical help is also a problem. There are often accidents in mines, yet Shebandowan mine, for example, is almost 100 kilometres from the nearest medical attention. Mine workers urged the task force that a qualified industrial nurse be on all operating shifts and that management should pay for first aid training for workers. Both measures would help save lives.
Other concerns raised by workers include incomplete inspections of mining properties, the exorbitant costs of protective clothing and training requirements under the mining regulations being interpreted as maximum requirements instead of the minimum resulting in less than fully skilled new workers in the mines.
The construction sector: Every year a large number of construction workers fall victim to industrial accidents and disease. Although the act has contributed to improved working conditions on construction sites, incorporated into the act are limitations or lines of responsibility that make health and safety problems on these sites difficult to resolve.
For example, a safety representative is only mandatory on a construction site where the number of employees is greater than 20. This is in subsection 7(1) of the act. Since many small construction projects employ far fewer than 20 people, often no one on a construction site is responsible for health and safety.
On larger construction projects where there are more than 20 workers, the worker who is selected as the health and safety representative may only be knowledgeable about the hazards of one craft. The construction unions told the task force that, as in collective bargaining, the selection of health and safety representatives on construction sites should allow for one representative from each craft working on the site.
The union representatives also pointed out that the act places greater responsibility on the employee to act as his own protector in identifying and pointing out hazards to the employer. Since construction work depends on moving from one job to the next, workers on construction sites are reluctant to point out hazards for fear of being discriminated against on a new site when their current job ends.
Another difficulty for construction workers is in section 13 of the act which places responsibility for health and safety matters at a construction site on the contractor, rather than the owner.
Where a work place is a project, the contractor must look after health and safety problems. However, construction workers have had difficulties in being exposed to hazards which were beyond the control of the contractor, such as where a construction job involves an addition or renovation to an industrial operation. Workers in Thunder Bay working on an addition to a pulp and paper mill found that stack gases from the mill were building up in an area where construction work was taking place. Because they were not part of the joint health and safety committee in the mill, they could only appeal to the contractor to solve their problems.
On certain construction projects the owner may hire two contractors for separate aspects of the job. Because the responsibility for health and safety does not rest with the owner, if one contractor is negligent, workers hired by the second contractor may be exposed to hazards over which they have no control.
For construction workers the key to a safe work place is vigorous enforcement by the Ministry of Labour. The union representing the largest number of construction workers in the province -- Labourers International -- believes that while work sites in major cities such as Toronto may be inspected frequently, remote work sites, particularly in northern Ontario, suffer from understaffing and a subsequent lack of enforcement.
However, even frequent inspections by the Ministry of Labour have not guaranteed construction workers freedom from hazards on the job. Rodmen, who as part of their work on construction sites are required to hang off belts on vertical walls, have suffered from acute back injuries, as well as developing serious degenerative back disease.
A 1977 survey by the Iron Workers Union Local 721 showed that 70 per cent of the rodmen responding to the survey suffered degenerative back effects, while 90 per cent of the rodmen and ironworkers quit their work because of back problems. Yet there is virtually no legislation that would address the health problems of rodmen arising from work practices such as climbing and hanging off vertical walls or bending over all day tying steel rods.
Although section 76 of the construction regulations has been interpreted as prohibiting the practice of hanging off belts as a substitute for scaffolding, the Ministry of Labour is not enforcing the legislative protection that exists. In addition, these back problems have not been recognized historically in claims to the Workers' Compensation Board.
I want to finish by saying that the most important thing we have is our health. Yet the conditions in which thousands of people work in our province place their health in jeopardy. Many of the causes of industrial diseases and accidents have been known for 40 or 50 years, according to Dr. James Nethercott, director of the occupational health clinic at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto. Despite this knowledge, Ontario has not done nearly enough to eliminate the causes of these problems.
The key to our approach is to give workers the ability as well as the right to assure themselves of a healthy work place. We based our recommendations on the experience of working people, as we heard their concerns at hearings and through submissions. We did so not just on the dozens of specifics which flaw the Occupational Health and Safety Act, but also on the approach of this government to this vital human field.
What did we find and what did we hear? Principally, it was dissatisfaction, frustration, fear, disappointment and a sense of futility.
There is dissatisfaction with the internal responsibility system. Management, and not the health and safety committees, decided in the final analysis what would be done to correct health and safety problems. Frequently, if more than token costs were involved, that proved to be very little. There is dissatisfaction with the lack of enforcement of this province's laws. Tens of thousands of orders are issued, and 10 to 15 per cent must be repeated because companies fail to comply. Yet charges are few, fines are low and workers Continue to get hurt or become ill.
There is frustration with their difficulty in improving conditions despite much time and effort. Many workers spend hours of their free time trying to improve working conditions at their plants, factories or offices. But when they are continually thwarted at every move, exasperated union and health and safety committee members are tired of the fight because they are essentially powerless to bring about meaningful change.
There is fear, from their inability to obtain adequate information about substances they handled or inhaled in their work. Firemen did not know where the substances were located and what quantities were involved when fighting a fire. When working with drugs, workers often did not know the effects on them. Constant attempts to get information about chemicals and their hazardous effects proved futile for many, and when workers have tried to claim their rights to a healthy and safe work place, they have been threatened with letters of dismissal, have lost pay, have been sent home from work and have been subjected to other subtle forms of intimidation.
There is disappointment, because many workers felt that the Occupational Health and Safety Act would make a safe work place possible. Many told us they were no better off now than before the act was introduced. Many have never seen a copy of the act and are not trained to make the act work.
There is futility in that many felt a higher value was attached to their employer's costs than basic health and safety concerns. If costs are minimal, changes are possible. But all too often, health becomes secondary to the balance sheet.
For many, these concerns can be traced back to one key fact: too much power in health and safety matters continues to lie in the hands of those whose actions resulted in introduction of this legislation way back when. The clear consensus among those who presented evidence at our hearings was that only where management wanted a safe working place would it occur. But without enlightened companies and managers, the inherent flaws of the act and the failure of this government to enforce its own laws has meant there is no meaningful health and safety program in this province for hundreds of thousands of workers.
To those who still believe this act to be tough, strong or even slanted towards working people, let us examine the record. We have made every effort to report accurately and fairly what we have heard. We used a number of case studies to show where the act has failed and the way in which the ministry has failed to enforce the act.
Across the province, we found no abuse of the right of workers to refuse dangerous work, nor have workers been frivolous in their efforts to improve their working life. They are simply trying to protect their health, their lives and their families.
This report is a challenge to the Tory government. It is also a challenge to the people of Ontario. Those who say, "We cannot afford to do more," are really saying health is less important than private enrichment. The choice is clear.
Profit is paramount, it would appear, in our society. Yet if we lay aside the human calculus for a moment and simply examine the balance sheet, our failure to regulate health and safety and enforce even those inadequate laws on the books is costing society dearly.
In 1981, $984 million was paid out in direct compensation to victims of occupational disease and accidents. In the same year, an estimated $3.9 billion in indirect costs resulted from job-related diseases and injuries. When all the diseases proven to be work-related yet not accepted by the Workers' Compensation Board are added, billions of dollars more are hidden in our general health bill.
Too many workers are being used as guinea pigs while government and companies conduct epidemiological studies. We, in our party, have made our decision and our commitment. We do not think health is a commodity to be bought and sold. We cannot afford to wait.
The work of changing the law has to be matched by a change in attitude as well. Nothing is more precious than life itself.
Mr. Cousens: Mr. Speaker, since I am usually sitting where you are at this time and the member for Sudbury East (Mr. Martel) has gone on for such an extraordinary length of time, I will move adjournment of the debate and then have a fresh chance to get going when the next day comes.
On motion by Mr. Cousens, the debate was adjourned.
The House adjourned at 10:28 p.m.