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Category Archives: Services


Why The Concern About Manganese In Welding?

Posted by in Consultant Advice,Services | September 19, 2018
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There are significant concerns about potential neurological effects associated with exposure to manganese in welding fumes.   Welding fumes are composed of metals and most fumes contain a small percentage of manganese.  Manganese may be found in carbon steel shielded metal arc welding (SMAW or stick) electrodes as part of the flux coating on the welding rod, as a flux in carbon steel flux core arc welding (FCAW) and as a filler metal in gas metal arc welding (GMAW or MIG) wire.   It is present in recycled carbon steel and used in abrasion resistant applications such as ball mills or earth moving equipment.   Manganese has a substantially lower boiling point than iron, therefore, it will vapourize more easily than iron leading to a higher presence on a percentage basis in welding fumes than in the original wire.

Current research on the effects of manganese in welding on health.

Recent studies indicate neurological and neurobehavioral deficits may occur when workers are exposed to low levels of manganese (<0.2 mg/m3) in welding fumes. These effects include changes in mood and short-term memory, altered reaction time, and reduced hand-eye coordination. Affected workers frequently show abnormal accumulations of manganese in a region of the brain known as the globus pallidus. The globus pallidus plays an important role in movement regulation[1].

The onset of motor fluctuations and dyskinesia among welders occurred at a mean age of 46 compared to a mean age of 63 among non-welder controls. Dyskinesia refers to a category of movement disorders that are characterized by involuntary muscle movements, including movements similar to tics or chorea and diminished voluntary movements.   Also observed were decrements in verbal learning, working memory, cognitive flexibility, visuomotor processing speed and motor efficiency[2].   Five measures of eye-hand coordination (precision, percent precision, imprecision, percent imprecision, and uncertainty) reflected more erratic control of fine hand-forearm movement in a manganese-exposed group than the control group.

Regulations are not keeping up with the science.

In February 2013, the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) recommended a decrease in the time weighted average (TWA) (measured over an eight hour shift) threshold limit value (TLV) for respirable manganese particulate of 0.2 mg/m3 to 0.02 mg/m3 which represents a tenfold reduction[3].    The respirable fraction is the smallest particulate fraction sampled and is less than 4 µm mass median aerodynamic diameter, which covers the particulates typically found in welding fumes.

The ACGIH also issued a guidance of 0.1 mg/m3 TWA inhalable manganese particulate that can be inhaled into the nose and mouth but not likely to be inhaled into the deep lungs because of size. These larger particulates are normally associated with grinding operations instead of welding.

The problem is that five years later, provincial regulatory limits have not kept pace with the current science.   These regulations do not account for the higher toxicity of ultrafine manganese particulates found in welding fumes, which can deposit deep in the lung alveoli and are capable of passing directly into the blood stream.  Ontario Regulation 833 currently limits manganese exposure to 0.1 mg/m3 TWA total particulate.  Similarly, Quebec Regulation respecting occupational health and safety (Chapter S-2.1, s.223) limits manganese exposure to 0.2 mg/m3 TWA total particulates and is not protective enough for manganese.  Alberta Regulation 87/2009 amended June 1, 2018 also limits manganese exposure to 0.2 mg/m3  TWA total particulate.

What is the bottom line for manganese?

As this article shows, current provincial limits do not provide sufficient protection, so it is wise for employers to take measures to protect worker above and beyond the regulatory limit. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Welders should use portable or fixed local exhaust ventilation (LEV).
  • Welders should wear respiratory protection (half face air purifying respirator with P100 filter)
  • Employers should substitute for Hobart low manganese GMAW wire. Mn is reduced about 1/3 from regular wire
  • Employers should assess worker airborne exposure to manganese in welding
  • Occupational exposures should be controlled to meet more protective ACGIH OELs
  • A manganese control program should be developed for welding processes.
  • Annual air exposure monitoring should be performed to verify controls are effective.
  • A regular review of LEV should be conducted to ensure engineering controls are effective

T. Harris Environmental Management Inc. has experienced occupational hygienists and occupational hygiene technicians to help you assess your welding shop to ensure that you practice ‘due diligence’ to safeguard the health and safety of your welding personnel.

References:

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/welding/default.html

[2] AIHA Fall Conference 2015, PDF 3: Welding: Identifying Exposures and Controls, Orlando Oct. 26-27, 2015

[3] https://www.thefabricator.com/article/arcwelding/new-guideline-reduces-manganese-exposure-limit-dramatically

Here is how radon can affect your business! 

Posted by in Consultant Advice,Services | September 19, 2018
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Authors: Christopher Nielsen & Angeline Snow

Radon Risk

Although there is still a high percentage of the Canadian population that is not aware of Radon or its associated health risks, awareness has been increasing in recent years.

It is crucial to know how radon gas affects human health.  According to Statistics Canada, 7% of homes have high levels of radon.  This is of particular concern as radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer, after smoking, and accounts for 16% of lung cancer deaths, or 3,200 deaths, in Canada every year.  The radioactive radon particles in the air can get lodged in our lung tissues when they are inhaled.  The energy released by the radioactive particles then damages the lung cells.

If you are thinking that this cannot happen in your building, think again.  Although the home is a common source of significant exposure, radon can represent a hazard in any building particularly in areas with high natural radon levels or in basements or areas with limited air circulation.  Radon is a colourless, odourless radioactive gas that is formed by the breakdown of naturally-occurring uranium in soil, rock and water.  It can find its way into nearly any building and can build-up in enclosed spaces.  Radon enters buildings through the foundation or drinking water system and tends to be found at the highest concentrations at lower levels of a building, particularly below ground level.  And it is undetectable by human senses.  The only way to determine if this risk exists in your space is to test your home or office.

Legal Liabilities and Radon

As a naturally occurring gas, radon is different from most other air quality problems: while its existence is not the fault of anyone, its accumulation inside a building at dangerous levels can be easily avoided.  Adherence to best practices in building design, construction and renovation provide the necessary solutions and testing is the first step to reduce the risk.  Health Canada has established a guideline for residential buildings of 200 Bq/m3 (becquerels per cubic metre).   In general, it recommends remedial measures should be undertaken in a dwelling whenever the average annual radon concentration exceeds 200 Bq/m3 in the normal occupancy area.  When remedial action is taken, the radon level should be reduced to a value as low as practicable.  It also stipulates that the construction of new dwellings should employ techniques that will minimize radon entry and will facilitate post-construction radon removal, should this subsequently prove necessary. There are other ways to reduce the level of radon in a building including fixing cracks in floors and sub-grade walls, providing better ventilation, closing entry routes, replacing the furnace and depressurizing the space below the basement floor slab.

There are currently no legal requirements addressing radon specifically but several provinces, including Ontario, have considered legislation to address the issue.  Currently, there are three possible theories of liability that may apply in case of radon exposure situations in public buildings: (i) negligence, (ii) products liability, and (iii) fraud and misrepresentation. Potential defendants include the owner or occupier, those involved in new construction and renovations (architects, contractors, engineers), and those involved in the sale of property (real estate agents, brokers, home inspectors). There are also several kinds of warranties (express and/or implied) that are inherent in real estate transactions. The implied warranty of habitability – that is, the assumed assurance of the buyer (or lessee) that the seller or lessor of a property is promising that the property is suitable for its intended purposes – is relevant in the case of radon in indoor air.

Duties of the Building Owner/Manager

All building owners are liable for the safety of those making use of their property and buildings. Failure to notify building users of high indoor radon levels, or remediate any known, radon-related risk, building owner(s)/manager(s) could be found liable for the consequences.

Depending on the type of building and the building owner, additional legal duties may be imposed. For example, school boards, landlords, and employers have specific duties with respect to ensuring a healthy and safe environment.  In most Provinces, there is a requirement that employers provide a safe environment for all workers. In Ontario, for example, the general duty clause of Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), clause 25(2)(h), states that an employer must take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker. This would include protecting workers form elevated levels of radon.  For commercial establishments, the Canadian Guidelines for the Management of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM Guideline) are considered the industry standard for NORM protection in workplaces.

Please note that the above is not legal advice. For a case-specific legal opinion please seek independent legal advice.

Is there a problem in my building?

In order to determine if radon is present at dangerous levels, one of the multiple testing methods available should be used.  Some people are hesitant to conduct radon testing because they are under the impression that it will be invasive – they will have to rip apart their basements – and that it will be expensive.  In fact, the costs are very reasonable and the testing will only have to be conducted once if the findings indicate there are no elevated levels of radon present.

There are various test kits available commercially and online for the do-it-your-self crowd, but it is important that the tests be conducted properly in order to ensure accurate results.  Based on the potential cancer risk associated with radon, it is advisable to hire an expert to ensure the tests are done properly to ensure accurate results.  Make sure to hire a certified mitigator for testing.  Two common testing devices used for long-term testing are the Alpha Track Detector (1-12 months) and the Long-Term Electret Ion Chamber (1-12 months).

Although short-term tests may indicate if a significant problem exists, they are not recommended due to the high potential for inaccurate results.  A long-term test is much more accurate as levels of radon in a building will vary over time.  A minimum of three months is recommended and a full year (12 month) test period is best.  If you want to conduct a shorter duration test, it should be done during the heating season when levels may be highest.  Also, the testing should preferably be conducted in the lower levels of the building as the chances of radon built-up are much higher in the basements than in the upper floors.

Knowledge is Power!

As awareness of this invisible threat to the public safety increases, steps are being taken to reduce the hazard.  The first step in this process is to educate yourself and to determine if there is a radon hazard in your home or office, or engage a professional consultant to assist you.  The testing process is not invasive, is relatively inexpensive, and will ensure that you understand the radon risk in your environment.  Every step you take to protect your health and reduce your risk factors is a positive one.  Be aware, and be safe.

References:

  1. Health Canada. (2016, January). Guide for Radon Measurement in Public Buildings. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/hc-sc/migration/hc-sc/ewh-semt/alt_formats/hecs-sesc/pdf/pubs/radiation/radon_building-edifices/27-15-1468-RadonMeasurements_PublicBuildings-EN13.pdf
  2. Health Canada. (2008). Guide for Radon Measurement in Residential Dwellings (Homes). Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/hc-sc/migration/hc-sc/ewh-semt/alt_formats/hecs-sesc/pdf/pubs/radiation/radon_homes-maisons/radon_homes-maisons-eng.pdf
  3. Government of Canada. (2017, November 22). Radon: Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/environmental-workplace-health/radiation/radon/radon-frequently-asked-questions.html#affect-health
  4. Government of Canada. (2013) Canadian Guidelines for the Management of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM).  ISBN: 978-1-100-23019-1, Cat. No.: H129-34/2013E-PDF, 130465.  Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/environmental-workplace-health/reports-publications/environmental-contaminants/canadian-guidelines-management-naturally-occurring-radioactive-materials-norm-health-canada-2000.html
  5. Canada, H. (2018). Radon – Reduction Guide for Canadians – Canada.ca. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/environmental-workplace-health/reports-publications/radiation/radon-reduction-guide-canadians-health-canada-2013.html
  6. Understanding Radon Remediation – A Householder’s Guide – Retrieved from https://www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/radiation/RPII_Guide_Radon_Remediation_Householders.pdf
  7. Canadian Environmental Law Association. (November 2014) B.Dunn, K. Cooper. Radon in Indoor Air: A Review of Policy and Law in Canada. Retrieved: https://www.cela.ca/sites/cela.ca/files/Radon-Report-with-Appendices-Table-pg37-corrected.pdf

Clear The Air: Addressing Exposure To Diesel Engine Exhaust

Posted by in Consultant Advice,Services,Uncategorized | August 9, 2018
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diesel exhaust

Managers are frequently aware of the risks of associated with some popularized occupational exposures such as asbestos and radon, yet few think about diesel engine exhaust is one of the potent risk factors for developing cancer. It is a serious concern: according to Carex[1], approximately 897,000 Canadians are exposed to diesel engine exhaust at work. This exposure occurs primarily in transportation-related occupations, including truck drivers, bus and subway drivers, locomotive engineers, and bus garage workers, trucking company workers, forklift operators, firefighters, garage attendants, traffic controllers, mechanics, taxi drivers, couriers and professional drivers. In fact, Health Canada[2] attributes an estimated 80% of particulate matter PM10 in the transportation sector to diesel engines. Other workplaces with a significant risk of occupational exposures include mining, construction, rail, farming and military.

 

The health effects and mechanics of diesel engine exhaust.

What exactly is diesel exhaust and what makes it dangerous? The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)[3] has classified diesel engine exhaust as Group 1, which means it is carcinogenic to humans, based on sufficient evidence for lung cancer. The danger hides in the particulate matter contained in diesel engine exhaust.  Studies have shown increased rates of lung cancer when inhaling whole engine exhaust while other studies where the particulates were removed were inadequate to determine carcinogenicity.

The science and mechanics behind the results of the studies are somewhat complicated. Diesel engine exhaust (DEE) is a complex mixture[4] of substances characterized by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) surrounding an elemental carbon core.  The gas phase chemicals present in diesel exhaust include nitrogen oxides carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds such as benzene and formaldehyde. The particulate fraction comprises elemental carbon and organic carbon, ash, sulfate and metals.  Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and nitroarenes are distributed within the gas and particulate phases. PAHs are easily absorbed onto the elemental carbon particulate, which has a large surface area, and are likely the cause of carcinogenicity for diesel engine exhaust.

Even a short-term workplace exposure to diesel engine exhaust can harmful to human health.  It can irritate the eyes, throat, and bronchi, and cause light-headedness, nausea, and respiratory symptoms. Moreover, diesel exhaust may initiate allergic reactions or increase immunological response to other allergens. Upsurges in hospital admission, higher incidence of respiratory symptoms, and decreases in lung function are all associated with exposures to airborne particulate matter, including diesel particulate matter.

 

Controlling diesel engine exhaust exposure.

Generally, employers must take all reasonable measures to keep workplace exposures to carcinogens to a minimum. Employees who may encounter confirmed carcinogens should be properly equipped to eliminate all exposure to the carcinogen or, if not reasonably practicable, to reduce it to the fullest extent possible. The quantity and composition of diesel engine exhaust emissions vary depending on the type of engine, the composition of the fuel and many other factors such as the use of a catalytic converter.


Ask THEM about developing a sampling strategy to assess occupational exposures to diesel engine exhaust in your workplace.

Call and speak to the experts.


Since diesel engine exhaust is such a complex mixture of chemicals, employers should consider engaging a qualified person (QP) such as a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) or a Registered Occupational Hygienist (ROH). These QPs, including consultants with the above-mentioned designations, will help anticipate, recognize, evaluate and control workplace exposures to diesel engine exhaust. They have the expertise and experience to develop an effective sampling strategy for workplace assessment and recommend measures to control workplace exposures. Contact us for more details and a free phone consultation to get started.

More specifically, a QP will consider the following steps during an assessment:

1 . Development of an exposure assessment strategy: This includes choosing the right decision criteria for acceptable exposures. This could be OELs, DNELs or occupational exposure bands depending on the evaluated chemical.
2 . Basic Characterization:  The QP will gather information to characterize the workplace, workforce and environmental agents. This is where the assistance from the employer will be key.
3 . Exposure Assessment: assess exposure in the workplace by grouping workers into similar exposure groups (SEGs) and evaluating all applicable exposure routes (dermal, inhalation, ingestion).
4 . Prioritization: prioritize exposure monitoring or collection of more information based on health effects and exposure risk
5 . Implement prioritized control strategies for unacceptable exposures using the hierarchy of controls
6 . Verification: Reassess to verify that acceptable exposures remain acceptable.
7 . Documentation: Communicate and document results.

 

 Diagram credit: S. Jahn, W. Bullock, J. Ignacio, A Strategy for Assessing and Managing Occupational Exposures , 4th edition, AIHA, p. ix  (2015)

Diagram credit: S. Jahn, W. Bullock, J. Ignacio, A Strategy for Assessing and Managing Occupational Exposures , 4th edition, AIHA, p. ix  (2015)

Sources:

[1] https://www.carexcanada.ca/en/diesel_engine_exhaust/#diesel_fuel_use_in_canada

[2] Health Canada, Priority Substances List Assessment Report (CEPA) 2000: Respirable Particulate Matter Less Than or Equal to 10µm (2000)

http://www.cos-mag.com/occupational-hygiene/34787-workplace-exposures-account-for-a-significant-number-of-cancers-in-ontario-report/

[3] International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), Press Release No. 213  IARC: Diesel Engine Exhaust Carcinogenic, (June 2012)

[4] International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), Diesel and Gasoline Engine Exhausts and Some Nitroarenes, Vol 105 (2014)

[5]  Diagram credit: S. Jahn, W. Bullock, J. Ignacio, A Strategy for Assessing and Managing Occupational Exposures , 4th edition, AIHA, p. ix  (2015)

Silica in Construction: Hazards & Control Measures

Posted by in Consultant Advice,News & Announcements,Services | July 13, 2018
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In recent years, to protect workers in the construction industry against exposure to hazardous chemicals, the Ministry of Labour removed the exemption to Ontario Regulation 833 that construction projects enjoyed.  This regulation sets out requirements for protecting workers against chemical exposures and to abide by the current Ontario legal limit for respirable crystalline silica (quartz & tripoli) of 0.10 mg /m3 TWA.

Silica is very common in construction. It is a major component of sand, cement, gravel, stone, brick and mortar.   It can be present in asphalts, roof coverings, joint compounds, plaster, caulking compounds and mastics.  It is a common filler for paint, plastics, rubber and water filtration and employed in sandblasting, grinding, abrasives and scouring cleansers.

As a result, occupational exposure to crystalline silica is one of the common occupational hazards on a construction site. Health effects that result from overexposure to crystalline silica include breathing difficulty, lung irritation, decreased pulmonary function, progressive respiratory symptoms, and silicosis lung disease and/or lung cancer.

Silica Risk Factors in Construction

According to IRSST Report R-771[1], workers in construction face a serious risk of overexposure to crystalline silica.   Some of the dangerous occupations include pipeline labourers, drillers, bricklayer – mason, cement finishers and underground workers (IRSST Figure1 [3]).   For these occupations, the geometric mean silica exposures exceed the Quebec and Ontario respirable silica legal occupational exposure limits (OEL) of 0.10 mg/m3 TWA.

Occupation is not the only factor that needs to be considered when evaluating the risk of silica exposure – tools, tasks and working materials should play an important part in assessing this risk. Some construction tasks expose workers to silica in amounts, which are 1 – 16 times the acceptable legal limit (IRSST Figure 2 [3]). These tasks include silica for traffic control, tuck point grinding, sawing roofing, tunnel boring, breaking masonry, bush-hammering concrete, grinding and sawing masonry and abrasive blasting.

Some materials present higher exposures than others do with ceramic materials providing higher exposures than cement, followed by mortar and brick then by concrete blocks (IRSST Figure 3 [3]).

Finally, IRRST looked at silica exposure by tool and observed that all examples except for the sander exceeded the OEL for quartz silica in an 8-hour day.  These tools in increasing order of exposure included masonry tools, tuck point grinder, surface finishing grinder, tile cutter, drilling machine, jackhammer, tunnelling machine, bush hammer and portable masonry saw (IRSST Figure 4 [3]).

Control Measures

After reviewing all the aspects, which affect silica exposure in construction, it is imperative that engineering controls are implemented to protect workers.  Built-in exhaust ventilation and water spraying are important and absolutely necessary engineering control measures to minimize worker exposure to silica dust.

Administrative controls such as safe work procedures, worker training, on-the-job training, new worker orientation, safety meetings, hazard assessments, workplace inspections, silica awareness training and regular toolbox safety meetings are necessary to reinforce safe working with silica.

The final control in the hierarchy of controls is personal protective equipment. Respiratory protection may include full-face air-purifying respirators,  powered air purifying respirators or abrasive blast type CE supplied-air respirators depending on the type work being performed.   Equally important is that the construction project has a respiratory protection program that meets or exceeds the requirements of CSA Standard Z94.4- 2011 (reaffirmed 2016) selection use and care of respirators to ensure workers are trained, fit tested and work safely with the personal protection that is provided.

What can employees do to limit their exposure to crystalline silica?

Ontario Regulation 833 s. 3 (1) requires that every employer shall take all measures reasonably necessary in the circumstances to protect workers from exposure to a hazardous biological or chemical agent because of the storage, handling, processing or use of such agent in the workplace.   An assessment of worker occupational exposures is highly recommended.   Where exposure is possible then a control program to limit worker exposure should be developed.  The control program should follow the hierarchy of controls to minimize worker exposure.   The control measures in decreasing order of effectiveness range from elimination/substitution to use of engineering controls, followed by administrative controls and finally the use or respiratory protection.

Hierarchy of Controls [2]

Engineering controls could include dust suppression techniques such as using tools with water spray, negative pressure containment, and shower facilities with dirty/clean change rooms, wash stations.  Administrative controls could include silica hazard training, respiratory protection training, signage,  personal hygiene requirements and restrictions on eating drinking and smoking while personal protective equipment might include respiratory protection, eye protection and work clothes/street clothes change out.

Worker Safety with Silica: Key Questions to ask.

  • Is there crystalline silica in your work site?
  • Have you done everything to protect your workers from this hazardous substance
  • Are your workers trained on the hazards of crystalline silica?
  • Have all possible control measures been implemented?
  • Do you need air monitoring to ensure safety

T. Harris Environmental Management (THEM) can help you assess workplace exposures, develop a silica control program, provide training and assess respiratory protection requirements. Contact THEM – your silica experts.

 

 

References:

[1] Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST), Chemical Substances and Biological Agents,  Studies and Research Projects Report R-771 – Construction Workers’ Exposure to Crystalline Silica Literature Review and Analysis, 2013

[2] OSHA,  Alliance Program Construction Roundtable, Electronic Library Construction Occupational Safety and Health (elcosh), 2015, website:http://elcosh.org/document/4176/d001466/osha-alliance-program-construction-roundtable%3A-design-for-construction-safety-participant-guide.html, accessed 13/07/2018

[3] Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST), Chemical Substances and Biological Agents,  Studies and Research Projects Report R-771 – Construction Workers’ Exposure to Crystalline Silica Literature Review and Analysis, 2013; Figure 1 – page 15, Figure 2-  page 17, Figure 3 – page 18, Figure 4 – page 18

Keeping Your Cool: Best Practices For Working Safely Under Extreme Temperatures

Posted by in Consultant Advice,Services,Uncategorized | June 5, 2018
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Nice weather has finally arrived and many workers are feeling the heat. It is now the season to expect heat-related illnesses in the workplace. Summer may put many workers at risk of heat stress and seriously injure them. A series of hot and humid days following one another may adversely affect workers who did not previously acclimatize to heat exposure.   Extreme heat directly affects the health of workers, puts their safety at risk with impaired judgment and reduces productivity. This is a significant issue not only for occupational health and safety of people but also for the effectiveness of an organization as a whole. While Heat Stress Prevention Plans are complex and their development is better left to the professionals, every responsible supervisor should know some key facts to manage work in extreme heat on a daily basis.

Did you know?
Loss of consciousness because of heat stroke is classified as a critical injury and is a reportable event under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.  

Who is most susceptible to heat stress?

Fortune examined the sectors with the highest risk of heat stress and found that the sectors highest on the list were those with a lot of outdoor work. The top three are workers in government services, agriculture, followed by construction and business service. Government services included workers who maintained parks, fought forest fires and collected trash. Other professions who are inclined to suffer seasonally from this hazard include military personnel, landscapers and hazardous materials abatement contractors. Employers should also look out for new workers on the job. New unacclimatized employees working in manual occupations and ‘young workers’ who may not realize the risks are most vulnerable to extreme heat.

Important note:
There is a range of heat illnesses and they can affect anyone, regardless of age or physical condition.

What contributes to heat-related illness and how to mitigate the hazard?

Environmental factors such as high temperature, high humidity, and radiant heat sources such as direct sunlight, ovens, boilers, steam pipes and engines can contribute to heat stress.  The best way to remedy this is to make the work environment cooler through engineering control measures such as convection, radiant or evaporative heat control measures.

Did you know?
Just 30 minutes of exposure at the temperature of 40 C is enough to cause permanent disability or brain damage.

Administrative controls such as limiting exposure times or temperature, reducing metabolic heat load, enhancing tolerance to heat, screening for heat intolerance, health and safety training and instituting a heat alert or hot weather program are suggested.  Equally important are ensuring personal hydration, acclimatization of employees, controlling work duration times and monitoring the levels of physical exertion as key components of combatting heat-related illnesses. It is considered the next best method to protect workers because it allows employers to proceed with work without eliminating the source of the danger.

Conjointly with administrative controls, Personal Protective Equipment must be reviewed. PPE and protective clothing is the third level of protection from heat stress. Selecting the proper PPE for each situation can dramatically lower the effects of heat – and it is not the only reason to review all PPE use. In hot conditions, PPE that protects workers from other hazards may become uncomfortable and workers may then avoid wearing it. This is an issue that consultants frequently encounter when conducting inspections on job sites. For example, abatement contractors working in enclosures may avoid wearing a full-face air-purifying respirator in hot conditions where a powered air-purifying respirator that provides airflow across the face will be more comfortable.   The impermeable clothing required for abatement work prevents heat exchange from the body to the environment and contributes to heat burden.   Auxiliary body cooling may be required in the form of water-cooled or air-cooled garments or cooling vests.

There is no standard set of measures to prevent heat-related illnesses, so the best solution to comply with regulations and keep workers safe is to establish a Heat Stress Prevention Plan unique to each project or workplace (Ask THEM for assistance). Many physical factors affect the solutions that will be implemented: the age of workers, their state of health and physical fitness, required work tasks and personal protective equipment, as well as available resources – all play a role in finding the right solution. While each situation is unique, all plans share these common elements:

  • Methods to monitor temperature and humidity levels.
  • Description of conditions when heat stress measures should be implemented.
  • Outline of engineering controls and administrative controls.
  • Outline of proper PPE/clothing.
  • Emergency response measures.
  • Training requirements for all workers and supervisors that include the signs, symptoms and prevention of heat stress and how to deal with those risks.

Heat Stress in Indoor Environments

Although heat stress is typically associated with seasonal outdoor work environments, heat can be a year-round hazard in indoor workplaces. Commercial bakeries, kitchens, laundries and environmental abatement sites are just some activities that may be affected. In these workplaces, workers are often near sources of radiant heat or inside buildings with limited cooling capabilities and air movement.

Common question:
Should an individual in an indoor work setting use the same preventive measures for heat stress as someone working in an outdoor setting?

Measures to prevent heat-related illness are similar in both indoor and outdoor environments, but indoor workplaces have additional concerns.  For example, an indoor environment with little airflow may diminish the cooling effects of that sweat provides through evaporation. Nonetheless,  these environments also provide additional opportunities to use engineering control measures.  As with outdoor work environments, it is important to develop a prevention plan to handle the potentially hazardous indoor heat.

About THEM

T. Harris Environmental Management Inc. is experienced in assessing workplace factors that may contribute to heat stress/heat strain are able to provide recommendations on engineering and administrative controls. We can help conduct a detailed analysis of work areas regarding clothing properties, worker demands, task times and thermal environment according to the ACGIH threshold limit value as recommended by the Ontario Ministry of Labour. We can help you determine if excessive heat strain is occurring and whether general controls or job-specific heat stress/heat strain controls are required in your workplace.   Please call us to conduct an assessment.

Sources

https://www.iwh.on.ca/newsletters/at-work/73/young-and-new-on-job-most-affected-by-heat-stress-study
http://ohsinsider.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/Protect-Workers-From-Heat-Stress.pdf
https://www.ihsa.ca/topics_hazards/heat_stress_faq.aspx#responsibilities
https://rmehs.fullerton.edu/_documents/programs/HeatIllnessPreventionProgram.pdf
https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatstress/prevention.html
https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2016-106/pdfs/2016-106.pdf

Underground Storage Tanks: Finding The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Posted by in Consultant Advice,Services,Uncategorized | May 4, 2018
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When warm weather sets in and the real estate season starts, it is the perfect time to detect and assess underground storage tanks (USTs). Underground storage tanks are typically made of bare steel and were an efficient method of fuel storage used in the 1980s and early 1990s [1]. However, the conditions of soil can corrode the bare steel over time and thus lead to the leakage of content from the tank.

Sellers, buyers and property managers can all benefit from proactive UST management or removal. It helps sellers protect the value of their property by ensuring that they are compliant with the laws and that they have addressed any potential risk of contamination. As per the Technical Standard and Safety Authority (TSSA), all existing USTs must be registered with the TSSA and any unused USTs must be properly removed within 2 years by a licensed contractor [2]. For buyers, ensuring that there are no faulty USTs and/or contamination is a prudent strategy to minimize their risk of buying a “lemon” property.  For ongoing management of the property, it is one of the ways to reduce the risk associated with contamination, and consequently, avoid the loss of property value.

Tell-Tale Signs of a UST

Consultants often find that some property owners or managers are unaware of existing USTs at their property until specific events, such as piping inspections, occur. If a property manager knows whether they have an existing UST sitting in their backyard, they are already ahead of the game!

To determine whether a property may have an unregistered UST, T. Harris Environmental Management Inc. (THEM) suggests the following tips and procedures for managers and owners that are unsure whether a UST is present on their property:

  • Property owners and managers could look for available past records (if any) and/or environmental reports concerning the property for any indications of USTs. Records can be requested from TSSA. Having no records may not always mean that there is no UST on the property.
  • Perform a historical review of the building’s records. USTs are often built for the purpose of building heating. Having a comprehensive history of the heating source and the time that the current HVAC system was installed may indicate whether a UST is present.
  • Perform an exterior building walk around, look for any signs of the following:
  • Unused steel pipes coming out of the ground and going into the building. This could be a transfer pipe of the UST.
  • Broken asphalt may indicate the presence of a large object underground. During seasonal changes, soil temperature may cause the soil to expand and potentially make the UST ‘float’ up in the soil.

THEM has an experienced environmental team that specializes in Underground Storage Tank assessment, removal and remediation in institutional, commercial, residential and industrial sites. Contact THEM for a pre-consultation if the above UST tips were not sufficient to alleviate your doubts about having a UST on your property.

tank

The economic benefit of addressing UST issues

Proactively addressing UST – related issues promotes safe fuel storage, protects the environment and reduces costs in the long term. This is accomplished by ensuring that a company’s actions to mitigate contamination comply with all environmental requirements. Proactive managers benefit from risk reduction. An unregistered abandoned UST tank is not only a violation of regulations but could also reduce property value when it is discovered during a due diligence ESA.

Time is a crucial component: the sooner an ageing and corroding UST system is upgraded or removed – the greater the likelihood that a costly tank leak can be prevented. Therefore, property owners can reduce their financial risks, exposure to enforcement from environmental regulators, and protect themselves from litigation with adjacent property owners (who would otherwise be affected by a leaking tank).

UST assessments in areas prone to extreme weather provide further opportunities to reduce risk. UST systems can be vulnerable to damage and may leak contaminants during extreme weather events. Before returning a UST to service after a disaster, the owner needs to ensure the system is safe to operate. As a result, USTs usually require pre-emptive actions prior to the extreme weather event and an inspection after the event, which is becoming increasingly more common.

Maintaining or removing USTs can reduce the risk of vapour intrusion, and consequently, help avoid the costs associated with addressing it. Vapour intrusion occurs when contaminants infiltrate from subsurface sources into indoor spaces of a building. This can occur if leftover substances in the UST, such as gasoline, diesel, or jet fuel, turn into petroleum hydrocarbons and enter a building as vapours. Preventing such intrusion helps improve safety (e.g. avoid explosions) and possibly adversely affecting the health of building tenants. Well-water and vapour intrusion are probably the most critical threats to human health from UST releases.

The social benefit of addressing UST issues

Maintaining or removing USTs is more than compliance and risk reduction – it is a socially responsible and sustainable thing to do. It can benefit human health, improve ecosystem functions, add to aesthetic values, and make land more productive. Cleanup of UST contamination potentially increases the amount of urban land available for redevelopment, and it can reduce the pressure for development of new land parcels. This can help preserve green spaces and shorten commute times. Taking care of USTs also reduces human exposure to contaminants. It results in reduced health risks to employees as well as nearby residents, who may consume well water or become exposed to vapours. To top it all off, old UST sites such as vacant gas stations with suspect contamination, are often visually unappealing and reduce the desirability or curb appeal of that site or area. Restoring such a site can make the community and businesses around it flourish, earning the company who did it a portion of goodwill.  These are just some of the benefits of taking care of USTs – and it all starts with being proactive in the detection and assessment of USTs.

Bibliography

[1] U. E. P. A. (EPA), Technical Standards and Corrective Action Requirements for Owners and Operators of Underground Storage Tanks (UST)., Washington, D.C.: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

[2]”TSSA Storage Tank,” Technical Standard Safety Association, 2017. [Online]. Available: https://www.tssa.org/en/fuels/storage-tanks.aspx. [Accessed 22 April 2018].

 “Prevention, Cleanup, and Reuse Benefits From the Federal UST Program”, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency National Center for Environmental Economics, Robin R. Jenkins, Dennis Guignet and Patrick J. Walsh, 2014 [Online] Available: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-01/documents/prevention_cleanup_and_reuse_benefits_from_the_federal_ust_program.pdf [Accessed: 01 May 2018]

Don’t Give a Cold Shoulder to Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Management

Posted by in Consultant Advice,Services,Uncategorized | March 26, 2018
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Maintaining good indoor air quality is often a challenge during spring and fall. The increased likelihood of poor IAQ during shoulder seasons is a result of a combination of poor ventilation, moisture and airtight insulation in buildings. The HVAC’s primary purpose is to maintain good indoor air quality and adequate air supply.  During the shoulder seasons, it is on average neither hot nor cold, so the HVAC is not activated by the thermostat to correct the temperatures. As a result, the building may not receive a sufficient daily circulation of fresh air and accumulate pollutants from repair projects, cleaning procedures and simple daily activities.

Poor Indoor Air Quality can have consequences ranging from loss of productivity in the workplace to serious health challenges for building occupants. Eye and upper airway irritation are a common result of poor IAQ and are among the top symptoms reported in office questionnaire studies. To maintain optimum health it is important to lower the concentrations of indoor air pollutants in your environment. There are two ways of achieving this: to eliminate the source of indoor air pollution and to increase the amount of incoming clean air.

Eliminating the sources of indoor air pollution:

  • Monitor humidity and water infiltration: Dry Air, Mould & Bacteria

Regulating humidity levels will help make tenants comfortable and minimise health issues. During shoulder season, testing your IAQ will help monitor the environment for the development of mould allergens associated with high humidity levels and help prevent problems of dry skin, airways, and lips associated with low humidity levels. If you suspect mould you can visually assess your building and have your IAQ tested for mould spores. The correct level of humidity also prevents cracks in wood, helping the building and furniture in it last longer. To keep humidity within comfort ranges, the building should have humidity sensors in the thermostat or a separate hygrometer system that can control humidification separately.

  • Consider your building materials: VOCs, asbestos, formaldehyde and lead

In addition to passive health and comfort concerns, spring is the season for renovations and property maintenance. Make sure you know the building materials and property issues so that you avoid exposing building tenants to further health risks. Some building materials may contain substances such as asbestos and lead that pose a health risk if they are disturbed or improperly handled. New materials that are installed in the building may also contribute to indoor air pollution by off-gassing formaldehyde and other Volatile Organic Compounds. To learn more about VOCs and Designated Substances, visit our Hazardous Materials page.

Increasing the amount of incoming clean air:

Studies have found significant direct effects of ventilation rates on health and on increases in some allergy and asthma symptoms in buildings with less ventilation. Another study estimated that increases in building airtightness without compensating measures could increase indoor radon concentrations by 57%.

  • Create a sufficient exchange of clean air

Improving ventilation with outdoor air can make IAQ better, but only if the incoming air is cleaner than the indoor air. Often this is not the case, and ventilation worsens IAQ. Poor outdoor air quality can be a result of elevated outdoor contaminant levels, motor vehicle exhaust from nearby roadways and contaminants from adjacent buildings. In these cases increased air ventilation may be counterproductive unless it is accompanied by the appropriate and effective increase in air filtration and cleaning.

  • Consider IAQ during building performance improvements

Building owners and managers often miss the opportunity to improve IAQ and energy efficiency during routine renovations. Renovations are a great opportunity to improve IAQ if it is integrated into the project. Yet, efforts to achieve high levels of building performance without consideration for IAQ can lead to problems. Some common measures that can potentially affect IAQ are envelope tightening and the addition of insulation to the building envelope, all of which reduces air ventilation. A consultant can help evaluate the IAQ needs for your project or at the very least tell you if it is necessary to consider a consultation.

  • Keep pesticides, pollen & other outdoor pollutants in mind

Spring is the season for increased allergen levels in the outdoor environment. Paying close attention to the substances and plants in your landscape can also help with indoor air issues. Building managers often overlook the fact that every time a door opens in the building, outdoor air pollutants such as pollen enter the building’s air supply. Therefore, plants and pollutants near your building can affect tenant health. Managers should evaluate landscaping and vent placements to determine what is potentially entering their building. Additionally, you can integrate low-allergen plants and fertilizers to make sure tenants are protected.

  • Maintain your HVAC system

Everything in the building air will eventually end up in the indoor air duct system, caught in the air filters of the HVAC system or built up inside the HVAC system itself.  As a result, a poorly maintained HVAC system may introduce pollutants every time it starts. This is a particular concern in spring and fall since the system starts and stops more frequently. To safely remove the accumulated debris, maintain your HVAC system and change filters frequently.

Sources:

https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/

https://www.epa.gov/mold

http://www.phamnews.co.uk/the-danger-of-airtight-buildings/

https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/home-garden-safety/pollutants-furniture-building-materials.html

https://www.onhealth.com/content/1/indoor_air_pollution

https://www.onhealth.com/content/1/asthma_lung_inflammation

https://medlineplus.gov/indoorairpollution.html

https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy13osti/56023.pdf

https://medlineplus.gov/asbestos.html

https://medlineplus.gov/leadpoisoning.html

Tips to address floods and water damage

Posted by in Consultant Advice,Services,Uncategorized | March 26, 2018
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Floods and the associated water damage that often follows can be unexpected and often times devastating financially. When water finds its way into a building as a result of precipitation or a mechanical failure, it can be a challenging experience both emotionally and financially. If severe flooding occurs, it is important to act quickly and effectively mitigate any damages. While it is tempting to wait and see what happens or to try to fix the situation on your own, it is important to know how a professional can assist in addressing flood and water damage right away.

Tips for mitigating against further damage:

Moisture only needs a few hours to cause critical damage to materials in a home or workplace. When any type of water loss or damage occurs, the amount of time a material stays wet is the most crucial factor in determining the damage sustained, and whether or not the material can be restored. The longer you wait – the more damaged your property can become! Responding quickly decreases the likelihood of substantial mould growth, which can further damage the building materials and cause potentially adverse health effects to building occupants.

Flood waters and sewage backups are a health risk, as they may carry with them a lot of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Any contact with these microorganisms can be especially dangerous for at-risk building occupants such as seniors and children. If the water is contaminated, it is safer to let professionals handle the cleanup. Professional companies possess the proper safety equipment for these situations and are trained on how to protect both themselves and the building occupants from these hazards.

Learn more about Mould and Floods

Choosing a qualified water damage professional:

In addition to contacting your insurance company, the first call to make in a water damage situation should be to a qualified water damage professional service. Finding a company that can respond quickly, provide a full range of services, and is available 24/7 is the first crucial step in response to any water damage or flood situation. Water damage professionals have an extensive selection of technology at their disposal. They are equipped with specialized vacuums and pumping systems, dehumidifiers, air movers and moisture metres to assess and effectively dry building components, and chemicals required to destroy mould and fungi growth. To ensure quality of work, choose IICRC-certified water damage professionals. IICRC (Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification) assures the company possesses the most up to date training and is equipped with the knowledge and skills to effectively handle your specific situation. The IICRC maintains a Certified Firm registrant-only database, making it easy to find a professional in your neighbourhood.

Looking for a restoration professional? Request a free consultation!

What can an EHS professional do?

An Environmental, Health and Safety professional can assist in evaluating the damage and determine cleaning/drying procedures in situations with extensive mould growth or other severe public health concerns, such as buildings with high-risk occupants. This will help outline the specific scope of work for the restoration contractor and ensure all the necessary work completed without any extras. Additionally, EHS professionals can also provide post-remediation testing and analysis ensure the effectiveness of remediation and restoration activities. This gives you both records of completed work, as well as the peace of mind that your home or building was restored quickly and safely.

Meet the Expert: Richard Quenneville, B.Sc., CIH, ROH

Posted by in Consultant Advice,Services,Uncategorized | December 22, 2017
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Richard Quenneville, B.Sc. (Chem.), is a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) and a Registered Occupational Hygienist (ROH) with over 30 years of experience. He has been a successful external occupational hygiene consultant for the past 14 years. Currently, he is the Senior Director of Corporate Services for T. Harris Environmental Management Inc.  Before joining our company, most of his work was in telecommunications, manufacturing and pharmaceutical industries in both union and non-union environments. Richard has thrived in local, regional and international EHS positions for companies such as Nortel Networks and GlaxoSmithKline.

Richard is recognized for his excellent professional performance. He is a recipient of the OHAO Hugh Nelson Award for Excellence in Occupational Hygiene and past president for the Occupational Hygiene Association of Ontario. As an expert, he often speaks at conferences and takes an active role in developing industry best practices.

Richard has a broad base of professional knowledge. He is an expert in risk assessment, occupational exposure assessment strategies, exposure modeling and statistical analysis of sampling data.  He is also a subject matter specialist in asbestos, lead, silica, isocyanates, nanomaterials, welding, heat stress, legionella and many other assessment strategies  including dermal exposure and biological exposure monitoring.

Richard develops workplace strategies that are tailored to address only the hazards that you need to evaluate.  He can help your business with an occupational exposure sampling strategy that is concise and practical. With a combination of modeling and / or on-site sampling, his strategies will maximize the benefits of the evaluation relative to the costs and respect your budget. Richard can also deliver occupational health and safety training that directly meets your worker training requirements.

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The Smell Of The Holidays Is In The Air – 6 Tips to Keep It Fresh!

Posted by in Consultant Advice,Services | December 15, 2017
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Christmas Day is the most toxic day of the year to be at home. Families could breathe in as many harmful particles as if they stood all morning on a busy road in London, UK. People count on good building management to insure that that fumes from the ovens, fireplaces and party poppers are not the highlights of their holiday parties. So, what is a property manager to do?

  1. Keep the air flowing.

With all of the festive cooking and decorations, hazardous particles are bound to spread around your well-insulated building. They have the potential of giving your tenants and their guests flu-like symptoms and allergies. Electric stoves, for example, emit ultrafine particles smaller than 100 nanometres in size, studies show. They can get deep into our respiratory systems and cause inflammatory effects. Speak of bad timing to fall ill!

To prevent this, make sure your ventilation is set to deliver a sufficient amount of clean air from the great outdoors. According to a Survey on Minimum Ventilation Rate of Residential Buildings the most common Air Change, based on the sample set evaluated, was 0.5 air changes per hour. This means that half of the indoor air should be replaced by fresh air every hour, or in other words that all air should be replaced 12 times per day. This is for the health of both buildings and people.

holiday tree spreads mould

  1. Ditch the Mouldy Christmas Tree.

Researchers discovered that mould spore levels can increase up to five times the normal level within a two week span with the presence of a natural Christmas tree. No wonder many people tend to get the holiday “flu”. Mould sensitivity is a known cause of allergies and asthma attacks. To keep your tenants healthy, go for the artificial tree, or just ditch it altogether.

If you must have a natural Christmas tree in building, here is how to reduce its ill effects:

  • Clean the trunk with water and bleach.
  • Get rid of any surface particles before you bring it indoors.
  • Set the tree up later and dispose of it as soon as possible. Mould spores increase with time.

With tenants spending more time indoors, it is a good idea to do an overall Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Test and step into the New Year with your building smelling fresh!

Contact us for an IAQ Assessment Today

  1. Leave Old Decorations in the Attic.

Vintage ornaments might be the most dangerous. When the dangers of asbestos were still undiscovered, its heat resistance made it perfect for Christmas tree decorations and sprinkles. The oldest decorations made in 1920s to 1970s, may still have small amounts of asbestos.

On a separate note, dust from insulation (i.e. vermiculite) in the attic or from hanging decorations can also contain asbestos. If your home is old and you have not tested for asbestos, be extra careful. The children in the home are most vulnerable when it comes to asbestos dust. They have a higher breathing rate and will inhale more of the fibers. Younger kids breathe in dust when they play on the floor or with the ornaments. If in doubt, leave the decorations in the attic, where the asbestos is better left undisturbed, and get asbestos tested soon.

  1. Stop Spraying Snow.

While asbestos is not an ingredient in modern snow sprays, they contain acetone or methylene chloride. Inhaling these chemicals can cause respiratory reactions, headaches and nausea. Longer or more concentrated exposures can be more serious. Both your tenants and your employees are safer without this stuff. If you are dead set on making snow happen, use proper PPE.

  1. Avoid Air Fresheners and Cut Out the Candles.

Lighting candles and spraying a festive air freshener are two simple ways people make their homes feel cozier during winter. Air fresheners produce airborne contaminants that irritate the respiratory system.

There is a dark side to candles too. Colour pigments can release metals when the candle burns and soot is produced when the candle flame flickers. These particles and soot have health impacts.

  1. Leave Lead Lights Alone.

Cornell researchers found that many Christmas light sets contain such elevated levels of lead, meaning that they exceed limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Lead could be ingested from hand-to-mouth contact after handling the lights or released into the air during installation and removal. Since lead is especially dangerous for children, we recommend that children are not permitted to touch the lights. As a basic safely rule, anyone who handles Christmas lights should wash their hands immediately afterwards.


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Sources:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4060468/Why-Christmas-worst-day-year-air-pollution-home-fumes-roast-log-fires-party-poppers.html#ixzz515GTfss2

http://blog.lindab.com/5-facts-about-indoor-air-quality

https://homeairguides.com/air/7-things-youre-bringing-home-that-worsen-winter-indoor-air-quality/

https://calpoison.org/news/holiday-safety-tips

http://news.cornell.edu/stories/2008/11/tis-season-beware-lead-christmas-lights