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CASE STUDY 1: EVALUATION OF A CHEMICAL MIXTURE

December 22, 2017
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As companies innovate and redevelop products, a change in the manufacturing process or an introduction of a new process are becoming common occurrences.  These changes can involve the introduction of complex chemical mixtures. The use of complex chemical mixtures poses many safety challenges. Frequent questions include:

  • Can workers be overexposed by inhalation?
  • Is the mixture a flammability hazard?
  • How do I measure exposure?
  • Are engineering controls adequate?

For the best results, company should engage a safety professional to evaluate if a chemical mixture is safe to use.

Contact T. Harris Environmental Management for a consultation

The Story:

The client company, a small innovator in the food industry, has implemented new processes. When the executives suspected that their new production process was causing a possible overexposure issue, they looked for a niche expert in occupational hygiene. As a small producer in a competitive market, they had a small budget to spend and a tall order of expectations to meet.

The goal of the client company is to be a quality local alternative to imported items in their category. As a result, they were looking for a solution that would guarantee that their product and process remain safe for consumers and workers. As a part of the overall corporate strategy, ensuring occupational safety was more than just a legal precaution – it helped gain a competitive edge. Importers could not guarantee worker safety in their production facilities and did not provide insight into product safety. Overall, the company was aiming for a certified niche expert who could understand and ensure the safety of their operations. The solution had to be (1) cost-effective, yet (2) timely and (3) professional. The executives chose THEM as a reliable consultant with proven expertise and a history of success since 1979.

The Challenge:

This project required THEM to assess the potential occupational exposure to a paint primer.  A paint primer is a complex mixture of chemicals. Current assessment techniques and laws for chemicals tend to focus on potential exposure to individual chemicals, mostly considering only a single source. This practice is concerning, because, as a result, manufacturers rarely examine potential risks of these chemicals in combination. Although, scientists and regulators develop and apply methodologies for assessing the combination effects of chemicals, so far there is no systematic, consistent, comprehensive and integrated approach across different pieces of legislation.

Harris Environmental Management Inc. (THEM) are experts in advance sampling strategies and other exposure determinants to assess what is significant or important with respect to a chemical mixture in order facilitate professional judgement on assessing the safety of the mixture.

Contact T. Harris Environmental Management for a consultation

Evaluating Occupational Exposure to Paint Primer

Finding the Focus: Currently, in the production processes, the variety of chemicals and their possible combinations is so great that it neither realistic nor useful to test every combination. Where do we begin in assessing the complex mixture of paint primer?   The assessment begins with a qualitative step to prioritize exposures to minimize the need for the sampling.

A quick look at SDS: Looking at the manufacturer’s safety data sheet (SDS), consultants determined that this primer paint contains three main volatile solvent ingredients in the coating mixture: (83-93%) 1-methoxypropyl-2-acetate, (<4%) 2-methoxypropyl-1-acetate and (2-7%) ethanol.  The remaining ingredients are proprietary polymers with no vapour pressure according to the SDS. They do not contribute to the volatile organic compounds and can be left out of the vapour pressure analysis of the mixture.

Further analysis/modelling: Using the AIHA[1] fundamental heuristics of Rule-of-Ten (ROT) and Vapour Hazard Ratio (VHR) the consultant can assess complex solvent mixtures.

The Rule-of-Ten correlates the fraction of saturated vapour pressure with the level of control.   The fraction of saturation is an approximation of the 95th percentile  and should not be considered an absolute exposure level but rather be used as a tool to provide the correct order of magnitude of exposure.

Vapour Hazard Ratio (VHR) is an indication of the potential of the agent to exceed acceptable airborne levels. The American Industrial Hygiene Association have linked VHR to the required level of ventilation control necessary to maintain the 95th percentile exposure below the agent’s occupational exposure limit to assure worker exposures are acceptable.   The significance of exposure is related to both tendency for a material to vapourize and levels of concentration in the air that can cause harmful effects.

Table 1.Vapour Hazard Ratio Linked to Ventilation

Table 1 associates ranges in VHR with the required level of ventilation control necessary to assure worker exposures are acceptable.

Finding the controlling component: Depending on partial pressures and concentration, the controlling compound with the highest adjusted VHR can be determined in a chemical mixture. If occupational exposure air monitoring shows that the controlling ingredient is below the occupational exposure limit, then all chemical ingredients will be in control. If such an ingredient is identified, it can drastically limit the need for multiple chemical air sampling and the site can focus on the only on the controlling compound.

Using Raoult’s Law for ideal solutions the consultant is able to calculate partial pressures for each chemical ingredient in the solvent mixture and then determine the adjusted vapour hazard ratios. With this method, consultants calculated that of the three volatile solvent ingredients present in the mixture, 1-methoxypropyl-2-acetate, also commonly known as propylene glycol methyl ether acetate, has the highest adjusted vapour hazard ratio of 0.062 and was the controlling component for occupational exposure monitoring.    This VHR corresponds to a Vapour Hazard Ratio Scale of 2 from Table 1, which indicates that good general ventilation between 6 – 12 air changes per hour is the required level of ventilation to control occupational exposure to this paint primer.

Determining the necessary ventilation control measures:  If we use the corrected vapour pressures for the ingredients to calculate the saturation vapour concentrations for each ingredient and multiply by the fraction of saturation value for each level of control from the Rule of Ten, we get the following relative risk determination based on ventilation control as per Table 2 below.

 

Table 2. Saturated Vapour Pressure Calculation & Relative Risk Determination By Ventilation Control Parameters (Rule-of-10)

These calculations showed that confined space ventilation conditions (very limited) are required before the three chemical ingredients exceed the occupational exposure limits.   Even under poor ventilation conditions (< 6 air changes per hour), occupational exposures to this solvent mixture would be acceptable.

 

Technical Outcomes:

1. THEM were able to demonstrate to the client that 1-methoxypropyl-2-acetate is the controlling solvent in this mixture. If air sampling is to be conducted, then this is the chemical ingredient that should be measured thus saving the client money on analytical costs for the other two chemical ingredients.

2. THEM showed that general good ventilation of 6 – 12 air changes per hour would control occupational exposures below the occupational exposure limit.

3. THEM found that concentrations in a confined space would not exceed the ethanol LEL of 3.3% (33,000 ppm) or of 1-methoxypropyl-2-acetate)  LEL of 1.3% (13,000 ppm) (78°C) and the paint primer is not an explosion hazard.

Sources:

https://books.google.ca/books?id=ZWiZsjnpyXMC&pg=PA280&lpg=PA280&dq=Exposure+Potential+%E2%80%93+%22Rule+of+10%22&source=bl&ots=8d69FysNDF&sig=r3ziOTYgR6ZKPHoJHl8Fu29vB7o&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwirtKqcloXYAhWjTd8KHcORA_4Q6AEILzAB#v=onepage&q=Exposure%20Potential%20%E2%80%93%20%22Rule%20of%2010%22&f=false

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1278475/

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/chemicals/effects/effects_en.htm 

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0273230016301337

References:

[1] S. Jahn, W. Bullock, J. Ignacio – A Strategy for Assessing and Managing Occupational Exposures – 4th Edition, American Industrial Hygiene Association, Chap. 26, p. 335-348, 2015

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

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!

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

 

Article Summary: A natural strain of fungus could clean oil spills and return life to Alberta’s oilsands

October 30, 2017
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About 800 square kilometers of Alberta’s Athabasca oilsands are covered in coarse tailings. Contaminated, lacking nutrients and resistant to absorbing water, it is a hostile environment to both plants and soil microbes. It is rare for even weedy plants take root. One of these, a dandelion, was discovered growing naturally on a coarse tailings site. A unique strain of fungus was isolated from its roots.  The researchers soon found that when its spores are applied to plants, those plants grow and thrive on coarse tailings – it is in symbiosis with a plant. This fungus has the ability to eat the hydrocarbons and help the plant survive in these environments.

The fungus was even able to grow directly on diesel, crude oil and similar materials as its only nutrient source. This is promising because it can be  used to complete remediation and reclamation at the same time. Ordinarily, the removal of contaminants from a site is done separately from land restoration.  Contaminated soil is often taken away and replaced, which is in an expensive process. With the help of the newly discovered fungus, treated seeds can be applied directly to the contaminated sites. The next step is proving the method works in the real world.

Read the full article here.

T. Harris Environmental Management Offers Services in Alberta

With growing demand for environmental consulting services in Western Canada, it is with great pleasure that John C. Fisher, President & CEO of T. Harris Environmental Management Inc. (THEM), is excited to announce the addition of a new location in Edmonton, AB. As of April 3, 2017, this new location will not only complement, but add to the core competencies of our existing strongholds in Ontario and Quebec.

Contact us for a consultation


About T. Harris Environmental Management

T. Harris Environmental Management Inc. (THEM) is a leading Canadian environmental consulting firm in the fields of environmental services, hazardous materials management, industrial hygiene, and occupational health and safety. Our professional staff serve a wide range of clientele including commercial, government, industrial institutional, and residential. We are passionate about health & safety and committed to excellence. Since 1979, we continue to provide high quality services, taking pride in building long-term relationships with our clients. We are dedicated to understanding your concerns and meeting your needs by delivering efficient, cost-effective solutions.

Mission: To be the preeminent niche environmental and occupational health and safety consulting firm in Ontario and Quebec.

Vision: To enhance our position as a premier niche environmental consulting company based on knowledge, innovation, technology, and be at the forefront of emerging EHS concerns and regulatory changes. We will achieve this by further developing our expertise, fostering growth of our team, synergistic relationships, excellence in performance, and strengthening client relationships.

Value Statement: We are committed to understanding client concerns and meeting our client’s needs by formulating practical, efficient, and cost-effective solutions.


Scary Halloween Hazards – Fact, Not Fiction

October 30, 2017
Comments Off on Scary Halloween Hazards – Fact, Not Fiction

The spookiest time of year is around the corner. A Halloween celebration in the offices is a great way to boost morale and teamwork. While it is fun, you should still keep safety in mind. There are many people who dress up and/or decorate their work areas at the last minute. Here are a few possible safely concerns to think about and how you can avoid them.

  1. Avoid a Flight From Height
  • When putting up decorations, remember ladder safety.
  • Make sure to have a colleague spot you on the ladder when hanging those hard-to-reach decorations.
  1. Keep the Light Just Right
  • Keep your space well lit! While darkness is spooky, too dark is dangerous.
  • Avoid using electrical lighting near flammable objects.
  1. Leave the Slips and Trips for the Horror Movies
  • Don’t obscure your vision in your costume. Complete your creep-crawly look with makeup instead of a mask and make sure there are no loose or trailing parts to your costume.
  • Eliminate tripping hazards in your decorations. Watch out for electrical cords and place the decorations away from areas with high traffic.
  1. Act to Avoid Allergies
  • Food dye is great to colour anything blood red – but make sure you read the ingredients! It may be hard to remember, but keep in mind the allergies of your coworkers. Even if you know the allergies of people around you, avoid common allergens such as eggs and peanuts. You never know who may drop by.
  • Moderate your use of new cosmetics and test it on a small patch of skin first.
  • Food is not the only source of allergies. Unusual chemicals or perfumes can also cause a reaction.
  1. Watch Out for Sharp Objects
  • Swords, knives, and similar costume accessories should be made of soft, flexible material.
  • If you are doing any cutting or carving for your decorations, Pay extra attention and set up in an office area with little traffic so you don’t have anyone bump into you or startle you.
  • Inspect decorations and costumes and avoid or remove any sharp objects. It seems intuitive, but some things like spikes made out of paper or evil queen crowns are often missed.
  1. Look Out for Fire Hazards
  • If you have to have candles, stick to electrical ones.
  • Avoid plugging too much into a single circuit.
  • Don’t hang flammable decorations like balloons near the lights.
  1. Know Your Substances

Many unusual substances are utilized at Halloween to create spooky effects. It is impossible to list them all so here is an example of dry ice, which is likely the most popular substance. Handling Dry Ice Safely (Source : http://www.uvm.edu/safety/lab/DryIce):

  • Explosion hazard:If dry ice is packaged in a container that does not allow for release of the gas, it may explode. Do not store dry ice in any type of tightly sealed device or enclosed space. Store dry ice in a stryofoam chest, insulated cooler or a special cooler designed for the the storage of dry ice (i.e. allows for the release of carbon dioxide gas)
  • Suffocation hazard:Dry ice must be stored in a well-ventilated location. Never store dry ice in a cold room, warm room, or storage closet unless adequate supply ventilation is provided. A large volume of carbon dioxide gas emitted in a confined space, or other unventilated area (e.g. cold room) may create an oxygen deficient atmosphere.
  • Contact hazard:Dry ice causes severe frostbite upon contact with skin. Never handle dry ice with your bare hands. Instead, use special equipment and wear thermal gloves to reduce risk of thermal burns to the skin. Also, do not place dry ice on a tiled or solid surface countertop as the extreme cold will cause damage.
  • Disposal: Dispose of unneeded dry ice by letting the unused portion sublimate in a well-ventilated area. Do not leave unneeded dry ice in hallways or other public areas. Never dispose of dry ice in a sink, toilet or other device and do not put it in the trash or garbage.

For environmental consulting issues big and small you can count on T. Harris Environmental Management. Contact us for a consultation.


About T. Harris Environmental Management

T. Harris Environmental Management Inc. (THEM) is a leading Canadian environmental consulting firm in the fields of environmental services, hazardous materials management, industrial hygiene, and occupational health and safety. Our professional staff serve a wide range of clientele including commercial, government, industrial institutional, and residential. We are passionate about health & safety and committed to excellence. Since 1979, we continue to provide high quality services, taking pride in building long-term relationships with our clients. We are dedicated to understanding your concerns and meeting your needs by delivering efficient, cost-effective solutions.

Mission: To be the preeminent niche environmental and occupational health and safety consulting firm in Ontario and Quebec.

Vision: To enhance our position as a premier niche environmental consulting company based on knowledge, innovation, technology, and be at the forefront of emerging EHS concerns and regulatory changes. We will achieve this by further developing our expertise, fostering growth of our team, synergistic relationships, excellence in performance, and strengthening client relationships.

Value Statement: We are committed to understanding client concerns and meeting our client’s needs by formulating practical, efficient, and cost-effective solutions.


Environmental Due Diligence – Why Bother?

October 30, 2017
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By: Christopher Nielsen, Senior Director – Environmental Services

Environmental Due Diligence Can Stop A Bad Deal

Over the years I’ve seen quite a variety of environmental site conditions that have adversely impacted the value of a property.  Many of these conditions were discovered during the environmental due diligence period and either stopped the deal in its tracks, or were taken into consideration by making adjustments to the purchase price.  Others were missed by other consultants and were discovered at very inopportune times by the owner.  In my experience, there are two main reasons for the failure to identify these problems.  The first reason is an inexperienced environmental consultant was selected to do the Phase One Environmental Site Assessment (ESA), or no ESA was conducted.  The second reason has a fairly clear explanation: the purchaser used private or self-financing and was not required to conduct an ESA as part of the purchase process.  The first reason gets a bit more complicated and is often the result of a short-sighted purchasing process.  It is hard to understand how saving a few hundred, or even a few thousand dollars as part of the procurement of a multi-million dollar property could be worth the risk.  If any single issue is missed as part of the environmental due diligence assessment, the cost to remedy that issue will undoubtedly be many fold the difference between the cost of an ESA conducted by a “low cost provider” versus one conducted by a high-quality firm with extensive experience in the field.  A recent article titled “Don’t Purchase a Lemon: Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Closing the Deal!” by the environmental lawyers Donna Shier, Robert Woon and Serin Remedios1  highlighted this fact.

What Is A Good Environmental Site Assessment and How It Can Make A Difference

Don’t make the mistake of believing that all Phase One ESAs are of the same quality or that the experience of the firm and the senior assessor involved in the project doesn’t matter.  Over nearly 30 years in the environmental consulting business, the number of errors and omissions I have identified in the work of others is significant.  There have been multiple instances of underground fuel storage tanks being identified after others have boldly stated that there were none present.  My favourite example is a peer review conducted recently where the author and senior reviewer concluded that there were no underground storage tanks on the property and that there had never been any.  I was able to refute this statement without even visiting the site by simply reviewing the property using Google Street View and observing evidence of an underground tank.  Omissions like these can be potentially costly as old tanks are often the source of significant contamination, and any tank not in use must be removed according to current legislation.  This is at best a $10,000 consideration in the purchase price in order to remove the tank and potentially much higher if there is significant soil and groundwater contamination associated with the tank.

The experience of the assessor and senior project professional can easily make the difference between identifying potential environmental risks and purchasing a property without having all of the relevant information.  Something that often gets overlooked is the importance of interviewing people with knowledge of the area.  Although it can be difficult to identify knowledgeable individuals, a little creativity and experience can go a long way.  As part of a recent site assessment, the broker trying to lease a unit in an adjacent strip mall containing a dry cleaner was contacted.  The broker indicated that the dry cleaner was diligent with their recordkeeping and ran a very clean shop.  However, he also indicated that another nearby property formerly housed a dry cleaner and that there was contaminated groundwater associated with that property.  This information did not show up in the standard information reviews, but awareness of this situation led to some additional investigations which teased out a few more details relevant to the assessment.  Another example I am reminded of is a vacant site which was assessed several years ago.  There was no one directly familiar with the history of the site, so during my site visit I stopped into a small store across the street to talk to the occupants.  Their front window overlooked the site.  It didn’t take long to find out that for several years a local fuel delivery company parked some of their trucks on the site, backing up against a ditch and swampy area.  They would open the fuel tank valves on Friday night so the trucks would be empty on Monday morning.  This valuable information would have been nearly impossible to find using common search methods and without talking to the right person.

What To Look For During A Property Purchase

There are a few things that should be considered when purchasing any property.  The first is to make the most of the due diligence period.  Before you make an offer, it would be prudent to talk to a trusted and experienced environmental consultant about potential issues associated with the property and the required due diligence period to ensure the process is not overly rushed.  This will minimize costs associated with rush surcharges and more importantly, last minute surprises or missing critical information due to time constraints.  Next, retaining a qualified consultant to conduct a thorough Phase One ESA will go a long way to ensuring that an environmental issue won’t haunt you in the future.  A quality ESA is even better than insurance.  Insurance covers you if something goes wrong, and a quality ESA minimizes the risk of purchasing a property where something is already wrong!  In my opinion, that is good value!

And finally, don’t forget to ensure that engage a qualified professional that is legally entitled to do the work required.  Under Ontario’s Professional Geoscientist’s Act, for example, only a registered Professional Geoscientist, or suitably qualified Professional Engineer, may conduct environmental geoscience work, including Phase One ESAs.

If you have any questions about environmental liabilities at your property or a property you may be looking to acquire, feel free to contact me directly.  The first call is always complimentary.

About the Author: Christopher Nielsen

Christopher Nielsen is a Senior Director, Environmental Services with T. Harris Environmental Management Inc. (THEM).  Chris is a registered Professional Geoscientists with the Association of Professional Geoscientists of Ontario and has been providing professional environmental consulting services to public and private sector clients since 1988. He is also an active volunteer, mentoring new professional geoscientists through a program organized by the Association of Professional Geoscientists of Ontario, and is currently the President of Muskies Canada Sport Fishing & Research Inc., a volunteer, not-for-profit conservation organization

Christopher Nielsen can be reached at 1-888-ASK-THEM (275-8436) or cnielsen@tharris.ca

 


About T. Harris Environmental Management

T. Harris Environmental Management Inc. (THEM) is a leading Canadian environmental consulting firm in the fields of environmental services, hazardous materials management, industrial hygiene, and occupational health and safety. Our professional staff serve a wide range of clientele including commercial, government, industrial institutional, and residential. We are passionate about health & safety and committed to excellence. Since 1979, we continue to provide high quality services, taking pride in building long-term relationships with our clients. We are dedicated to understanding your concerns and meeting your needs by delivering efficient, cost-effective solutions.

Mission: To be the preeminent niche environmental and occupational health and safety consulting firm in Ontario and Quebec.

Vision: To enhance our position as a premier niche environmental consulting company based on knowledge, innovation, technology, and be at the forefront of emerging EHS concerns and regulatory changes. We will achieve this by further developing our expertise, fostering growth of our team, synergistic relationships, excellence in performance, and strengthening client relationships.

Value Statement: We are committed to understanding client concerns and meeting our client’s needs by formulating practical, efficient, and cost-effective solutions.


References:

Wilms & Shier Environmental Lawyers, published on-line, www.mondaq.com on September 11, 2017,  (http://www.willmsshier.com/docs/default-source/articles/article—don%27t-purchase-a-lemon-top-5-mistakes-to-avoid-when-closing-the-deal!—ds-rw-and-sr—september-11-2017.pdf?sfvrsn=4?utm_source=Mondaq&utm_medium=syndication&utm_campaign=View-Original

Tips From Our Consultants: Recognizing & Treating Indoor Air Quality Issues

September 29, 2017
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The impact indoor air quality (IAQ) within buildings has on the health of its occupants is a growing concern. According to many studies, building owners, designers and managers are often unaware of the costs and benefits of indoor air quality improvement.

Contact us to evaluate your IAQ!

T. Harris Environmental Management (THEM) experts have conducted thousands of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Assessments in public, commercial, institutional and residential buildings. Here are some tips from THEM to give you an idea how indoor air quality can impact your tenants or your workplace.

What you don’t know can hurt you:

♦ It is more than discomfort – poor indoor air quality can make tenants feel ill. It is called Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) and Building Related Illness. Symptoms of a Building Related Illness are usually linked to a specific source in the environment. Carbon monoxide poisoning from a malfunctioning appliance, allergic reactions to mould growing in the space and Legionnaires Disease from contaminated water features in a building are just some examples.

♦ Indoor pollution has similar if not worse effects to outdoor pollution. Canadians spend most of their time indoors breathing air which is often 2 to 5 times more polluted than the worst outdoor air. Most people recognize the concerns of outdoor air pollution and its health risks. Why then are we neglecting to consider and address the effects of poor indoor air quality?

♦ IAQ problems are not always noticeable by sense of smell or sight. Some of the most devastating IAQ issues are related to infiltrations of radon or carbon monoxide gas, both of which are invisible and odourless.

♦ The source can be hard to find even if the IAQ problem is obvious. For example, Objectionable Odours are the leading cause of IAQ complaints, and few people would think of attributing them to the placement of building air intake vents. Yet, they can be related to the intake vents being too close to dumpsters, loading docks, kitchen exhausts, plumbing vents or local ventilation exhausts.

Contact us to evaluate your IAQ!

How to recognize indoor air quality issues:

Many simple steps can be taken to counteract the undesirable outcomes poor IAQ may have on a building.

♦ Check your indoor air quality if many building occupants are getting cold-like symptoms. Indoor air quality tests help detect  the sources of Building Related Illness. While IAQ problems can cause various health conditions, many of the symptoms are very similar a cold or the flu. It is prudent to test the IAQ if these symptoms occur soon after employees in the building start their workday and if they feel better after leaving the building. It is also an IAQ red flag if many people at once report similar symptoms, or if all of them work in the same area of a building.

♦ Check your indoor air quality if you are switching between cooling and heating. In the fall and spring there are often periods of time when the weather is just right and building occupants turn off ventilation systems. Many buildings only get air flow through the HVAC system circulation, so when it is not running, residents see more allergies, odours and other health issues. Even if there is some air filtration, older systems may not provide any fresh air and the level of filtration may vary.  Additionally, temperature changes and inadequate relative humidity may also cause issues for your building, your staff and your health.

Contact us to evaluate your fall IAQ!

♦ Check your indoor air quality if you have recently done renovations or if you made your building more energy-efficient. Good air quality often depends on the careful use of everyday materials inside of a building. Problems may arise if there is less natural fresh air infiltration in the more airtight energy-efficient buildings. Low air flow inside an energy-efficient building can cause a buildup of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from building materials, chemical products, personal care products usage, and/or carbon dioxide.

♦ Check your indoor air quality if you are moving. The “new house smell” found in many buildings is not always something to be desired. It consists of outgassed chemicals released by heat within a closed environment such as an office. Concentrations of chemicals within closed environments have the potential to reach significant levels where air is stagnant or recirculated.

Improving indoor air quality provides benefits:

Apart from health benefits to tenants, there are significant benefits owners and managers can derive from improving IAQ.

♦ Better work and study environment attracts better tenants. Maintaining great indoor air quality benefits employers as it maintains higher productivity and reduced absences at work. Progressive property management companies, workplaces and learning environments implement IAQ Assessments annually. They know that it is a factor in creating a healthier workforce and lower staff turnover.

♦ Better maintenance for fewer bucks. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, mold and moisture remediation costs are more than 100 times greater on average than the cost of a prevention program. Indoor Air quality testing can help prevent the spread of these issues in early stages. Additionally, it will help adjust humidity levels, which helps preserve building materials from deterioration.

Start your journey to a better environment – request a free consultation!


About T. Harris Environmental Management

T. Harris Environmental Management Inc. (THEM) is a leading Canadian environmental consulting firm in the fields of environmental services, hazardous materials management, industrial hygiene, and occupational health and safety. Our professional staff serve a wide range of clientele including commercial, government, industrial institutional, and residential. We are passionate about health & safety and committed to excellence. Since 1979, we continue to provide high quality services, taking pride in building long-term relationships with our clients. We are dedicated to understanding your concerns and meeting your needs by delivering efficient, cost-effective solutions.

Mission: To be the preeminent niche environmental and occupational health and safety consulting firm in Ontario and Quebec.

Vision: To enhance our position as a premier niche environmental consulting company based on knowledge, innovation, technology, and be at the forefront of emerging EHS concerns and regulatory changes. We will achieve this by further developing our expertise, fostering growth of our team, synergistic relationships, excellence in performance, and strengthening client relationships.

Value Statement: We are committed to understanding client concerns and meeting our client’s needs by formulating practical, efficient, and cost-effective solutions.


Definitions:
Sick Building Syndrome (SBS): Describes a situation in which a direct correlation can be made between the time spent within a building and the negative effects on both the short-term health and general comfort levels of those within the building can be drawn[i].
Building Related Illness:A series of health related instances in which occupants of a specific building are more susceptible to illness than reasonably expected. This is often observed in large commercial or government buildings in which there are limited methods of natural air exchange within the building[ii].
Objectionable Odors: Any odor present within a building (or workspace) that when found by itself, or when combined with other gases, is foul or unpleasant.
Sources:
[i] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2796751/
[ii] https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF02914982?LI=true

The Benefits of Trees – What You May Not Know!

September 29, 2017
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You’ve heard it all before – planting trees is beneficial to both the environment and your health. A well-known and direct impact of trees include their capacity to absorb air pollution and soften the effects of climate change in cities. It is impressive that trees can store approximately one quarter of carbon emissions produced by industry. Have you ever wondered just how helpful they can be in improving local neighbourhoods and commercial properties?

Turns out trees play a large role in protecting your real estate.  Did you know that planting a variety of trees on your property can help to mitigate flood damage and stop erosion that could lead to costly property damage? Additionally, the natural shade that the canopy of a tree creates can work to lower the energy costs in your home or place of business.

The advantages don’t stop there – new advances in environmental science are discovering the potential of trees for the decontamination and remediation of contaminated sites. They can help in long term restoration of former landfills or contaminated waste sites by sucking up contaminated groundwater and decreasing runoff. This type of remediation is known as “phytoremediation”: many trees have the capability to isolate harmful chemicals within pockets in their cells. They also neutralize toxins entirely through self-produced compounds. A big advantage is that these trees do not accumulate permanent pollution residue. This means they can eventually be used as wood products in future remediation and soil enrichment projects. Of course, each case of contamination is unique and this is not a universal solution.

Contact us for your solution to land contamination

In addition to the direct impact trees have on our environment and general health, new studies are pointing to their substantial economic advantages. A research study comprised of data collected throughout Toronto discovered that having ten or more tees on your block greatly improves the quality of life. The difference ten trees make is equivalent to moving to a neighborhood with a $10,000 higher median income. Additionally, in a recent study TD Canada Trust economists concluded that each year the City of Toronto benefits from approximately $80 million in environmental cost savings  from Toronto’s estimated 10 million trees. These savings come from snow and rain cover, lower heating and cooling costs, and the added benefit of cleaner air in the environment.

T. Harris Environmental Management understands that trees are at the root of a healthy environment. That is why our team contributes to environmental improvement through local events and initiatives, such as tree planting and mulching. Last year our team has volunteered in mulching a large number of recently planted trees to protect them and ensure healthy growth. Whether it is sheltering in their shade on a hot summer day or helping to clean a former landfill site, the benefits of trees should not be overlooked.


Sources:

https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/07/13/living-on-tree-lined-streets-has-health-benefits-study-finds.html
https://www.canadiangeographic.ca/article/could-trees-be-chemical-recycling-centres-future
http://discovermagazine.com/2009/jan/26-worker-trees-clean-contaminated-water


About T. Harris Environmental Management

T. Harris Environmental Management Inc. (THEM) is a leading Canadian environmental consulting firm in the fields of environmental services, hazardous materials management, industrial hygiene, and occupational health and safety. Our professional staff serve a wide range of clientele including commercial, government, industrial institutional, and residential. We are passionate about health & safety and committed to excellence. Since 1979, we continue to provide high quality services, taking pride in building long-term relationships with our clients. We are dedicated to understanding your concerns and meeting your needs by delivering efficient, cost-effective solutions.

Mission: To be the preeminent niche environmental and occupational health and safety consulting firm in Ontario and Quebec.

Vision: To enhance our position as a premier niche environmental consulting company based on knowledge, innovation, technology, and be at the forefront of emerging EHS concerns and regulatory changes. We will achieve this by further developing our expertise, fostering growth of our team, synergistic relationships, excellence in performance, and strengthening client relationships.

Value Statement: We are committed to understanding client concerns and meeting our client’s needs by formulating practical, efficient, and cost-effective solutions.

Prepare For The Residential Project Provincial Blitz (Sept. 1 to Nov. 30, 2017)

September 07, 2017
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Throughout the fall of 2017, the Ministry of Labour (MoL) will be conducting an inspection blitz on residential construction projects. Some of the areas the Ministry inspectors will specifically be targeting are outlined below.

Meeting regulatory requirements: control of exposure to biological or chemical agents

An employer has to take all reasonable measures to protect workers from exposure to a hazardous chemical or biological agent.  This includes designated substances such as asbestos, lead, silica etc. With hazardous substances, an assessment is required to determine if a health risk exists for workers and whether or not a control program is required. The assessment should include the following:

  • information regarding the use, handling, storage and disposal of the designated substance
  • actual and potential exposure of workers to the substance
  • methods and procedures required to control that exposure

CONTACT US FOR YOUR CONSULTATION

Noise exposure around power equipment and other occupational health issues

Noise is one of the most common occupational health hazards encountered in the workplace. In construction, there are many noisy tasks and power equipment is one of main sources. Every employer has a duty to protect workers and take all measures reasonably necessary in the circumstances to protect workers from exposure to hazardous sound levels. This includes:

  • Measuring noise levels
  • Using appropriate engineering controls and safe work practices
  • Providing correct hearing protection, training and instruction

LEARN MORE ABOUT NOISE ASSESSMENTS

Other issues covered in the blitz and how to prepare

Preparing for an MoL blitz should include a review of Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) sections and regulations that apply to your site and making sure your workers are currently meeting these requirements. It is also important to ensure that all worker documentation is present, updated and readily available for the Ministry Inspector. Inspectors can legally enter any project or workplace at any time without warrant or notice. Here are other items covered in this blitz:

  • scaffolding assembled, used and disassembled safely
  • safe stacking of roof shingles
  • safety precautions taken when trusses are installed
  • proper use of ladders
  • fall protection systems such as guardrails, appropriate fall protection protective equipment and adequate tie off points
  • ergonomic factors when moving heavy materials
  • heavy equipment operation, including line-of-sight hazards.
Get ready and most importantly, keep your workers safe!
CONTACT US : 1-888-ASK-THEM

Sources/useful links:
https://www.ontario.ca/document/construction-sector-plan-2017-2018/inspection-blitzes#residentialprojects
https://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/sawo/blitzes/
https://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/pubs/noise/index.php
https://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/pubs/asbestos/

Canadian CEO of the Month: Never Let a Friend Down

May 11, 2017
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This article was first published in Corporate Vision Magazine on www.corp-vis.com


John C. Fisher, B.A. (Specialized Honours), M.B.A. Candidate – President and CEO at T. Harris Environmental Management Inc. is delighted to have won the Canadian CEO of the Month award and is deeply humbled and grateful for even being considered for this prestigious award. We spoke to him to find out more about this and the work of his impressive corporation.


On winning the Canadian CEO of the Month award, it is even more satisfying to know that this recognition was a reflection of being nominated not by my own advocacy or the solicitation of my team, but from external sources. However, I accept this award on behalf of my team as without them I would not have enjoyed the success that I have. This award is truly a reflection of the great people I am surrounded by, and of their hard work and dedication to the success of our team.

I am very passionate, motivated, engaged and committed to be the best team leader that I can be. In addition, I am a very empathetic leader who has been found to be in the top 5% of Canadians when it comes to this trait. Furthermore, I am always looking to not only improve my abilities, but that of my team by building a collaborative environment in which all can reach their potential.

T. Harris Environmental Management Inc. (THEM) is a corporation consisting of a diverse group of industrial hygiene (CIH and ROH), scientific (P. Geo.), engineering (P. Eng.) and technical (CET, AMRT) professionals providing consulting services since 1979. Our staff is highly educated including multiple M.B.A. and Ph.D. team members.

As consultants, THEM primarily assists clients to maintain compliance with a myriad of environmental, occupational health and safety, and hazardous materials legislation including numerous Canadian Acts, Regulations and By-Laws.

As a corporation, we are currently members of the Toronto chapter of the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), Toronto Construction Association (TCA), Environmental Abatement Council of Ontario (EACO), and our staff are members of their respective professional associations. Our clients include members of the organisations above, but we provide consulting services to a wide variety of educational, industrial, real estate, banking, commercial and government clients.

The firm’s strategy and key principles

The consulting business has evolved significantly since the 1970s and we strive to stay at the forefront. The fundamentals of our strategy are simple. THEM is committed to providing our clientele quality services at cost effective prices and in a time-efficient manner. Our motivated staff, supported by state-of-the-art technology, have the expertise to identify a problem and to implement an efficient solution based on our client’s needs.

Our key principle as initially articulated by our founder was and is ‘we always treat our clients as friends, because you never let a friend down’.

Professional services

Our management team is hands-on and dedicated solely to providing professional services in a time efficient, cost effective and regulatory compliant manner to all of our clients. Each project manager has the capability and authority to handle any project specifics that may arise and would be considered to be the main contact for their particular geographic area. As such, they have the authority to resolve any local issues without contacting head office, but at the same time, keeping the primary project manager informed of all developments. Ultimately, each Regional Manager or Head Office Project Manager is accountable to me, the Principal, President and CEO of the firm, and I have the final word on resolving any potential conflict that cannot be resolved locally or to the satisfaction of our client.

Maintaining motivation and positivity to remain successful

It is the belief that on a person for person basis that I have the best team possible to execute and fulfill our mission for what we want to achieve both individually and collectively. I am very fortunate in that I truly love what I do and the people I work with. Furthermore, being a ‘glass half full’ individual fosters a general positivity and the feeling that with any challenge there is a solution that will lead to further engagement and motivation of not only me, but the team to reach for greater success by utilising what former CEO and Chairman of General Electric (GE) and Business Guru – Jack Welch refers to as having ‘every brain in the game’.

Challenges successful CEO’s encounter

For me, this is difficult because I have some physical disabilities that are visually noticeable. As we are a service based company, our strength is our people and I emphasise to my team that first impressions are critical in establishing credibility when dealing with new project teams. Like all individuals – my appearance and voice have a big influence on the first impression I give when meeting new clients – and has led some to question my abilities or how I attained my position as CEO.

As such, personnel issues have been at the forefront of most of the challenges that I have faced.  Finding, and working with team members that are accepting of others, able to recognise the strengths in their teammates and cognizant of their roles has allowed me to become resilient and build a stronger team as well.

The state of your industry currently

Our industry has matured and come a long way since T. Harris Environmental Management Inc. opened its doors as the first consultancy in Canada to be formed specifically to deal with asbestos in 1979. As such, the industry has become commoditised due to the number of companies that profess to be Environmental/OH & S consultants. This has led to a ‘race to the bottom’ for some, with respect to fees, and has made it challenging for us to solely advocate for the value proposition that we strive to maintain and advocate for, which is harder to articulate to our clients who are most concerned with merely the price.

In addition, the state of the economy is always a factor and the mantra of major clients is to only accept the lowest cost provider, which has led to a further precipice in the quality of the various companies in terms of personnel and their training and that are considered part of our industry.

The role of technology in the industry

One of our goals is to be endlessly innovative and promote a culture that fosters not only the development of ideas, but also their implementation. As we are a scientifically entrenched firm, technology plays an integral role in allowing us to become more efficient in the delivery of our services. The sophistication of the sampling equipment and software models that we employ also allows us to differentiate ourselves from our competition. At the same time, we are committed to formulating practical and cost-effective solutions for our clients.

Before we purchase any equipment or software, it is vigorously reviewed from the perspective of what efficiencies it will bring in providing services to our clients and how it will aid in fulfilling our mandate as outlined in our mission, vison and value statements. In conjunction with this, it is established within our firm that all investments must achieve our target Return on Investment (ROI) to be considered feasible.

In addition, we are committed and engaged in facilitating the latest/state of the art training and development courses for all of our employees.

What industry trends CEO’s follow to ensure success

Through our associations, we receive annual reports which outline the trends in the market sector in which we compete.  We can then use this information to benchmark ourselves against others in our industry to verify if the changes or methods we are implementing in the delivery of our service offerings is providing the results we want to ensure our success.  In addition, by being active members in various industry associations and advocacy groups we can view the trends that are developing through those groups.

Over the next five years, it is my belief that there will be some consolidation in our industry and as governments become more concerned about the environment and occupational health and safety, regulatory requirements will become more onerous and provide an impetus to allow growth as compliance will become mandatory and enforced.

Future aspirations, plans and projects

I look to motivate my team to fulfil our mission, vision and value statements, but specifically with respect to our mission statement, ‘to become the preeminent niche environmental and occupational health and safety consulting firm in Ontario and Quebec’.

To be a little coy, I am looking to expand our mission statement to areas outside of Ontario and Quebec. But more importantly, to further diversify our service offerings to allow us to achieve our status as providing exceptional services in a niche environment.

Closing thoughts

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of our clients, my team members and vendors for their great support over the past 37 years for our firm in general, and 28 years for me, specifically. I have been truly fortunate to have been associated and worked with so many wonderful people. I look forward to maintaining old friendships and creating new ones.

It is our dedicated personnel that have enabled us and me to maintain our commitment to our clients and suppliers. Obviously, my team is our most valued asset and I am proud of the commitment that they make to me and to our clients.

I believe that we are still at the forefront of most environmental and occupational health and safety issues in Canada. We celebrate our successes, which I believe is attributable to the strong set of principles and values that I have and this company has embodied for all these years.

This article was first published in Corporate Vision Magazine on www.corp-vis.com


About Us:

T. Harris Environmental Management Inc. (THEM) is a leading Canadian environmental consulting firm in the fields of environmental services, hazardous materials management, industrial hygiene, and occupational health and safety. Our professional staff serve a wide range of clientele including commercial, government, industrial institutional, and residential. We are passionate about health & safety and committed to excellence.

Start your journey to better EHS – request a free consultation!

For more than 35 years, we continue to provide high quality services, taking pride in building long-term relationships with our clients. We are dedicated to understanding your concerns and meeting your needs by delivering efficient, cost-effective solutions.

Mission: To be the preeminent niche environmental and occupational health and safety consulting firm in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta.

Vision: To enhance our position as a premier niche environmental consulting company based on knowledge, innovation, technology, and be at the forefront of emerging EHS concerns and regulatory changes. We will achieve this by further developing our expertise, fostering growth of our team, synergistic relationships, excellence in performance, and strengthening client relationships.

Value Statement: We are committed to understanding client concerns and meeting our client’s needs by formulating practical, efficient, and cost-effective solutions.

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