Webinar Recording: Let’s Talk About Indoor Environment Quality

April 27, 2022
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Jordan Cabral, BASc., MPH

Occupational Hygienist / Project Coordinator

Lisa Xiong, MPH.

Junior Occupational Hygienist

Sustainability in Warehouses

March 09, 2022
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Over the years environmental concerns have become progressively more prominent in all market sectors and industries. Catch-phrases like “going green”, “environmentally friendly”, “sustainability”, and “renewable” have become ubiquitous, but are interpreted differently by individuals. This leads to a myriad of thoughts and approaches on how to tackle the same problem. The overriding consensus is that climate change and global warming present an ever-increasing problem that everyone must undertake to mitigate – including the logistics/ supply chain industry as they build new facilities to meet increasing demand. It is easier to implement greener solutions for newly built construction when starting from scratch, but it is not impossible for pre-existing buildings, like warehouses, to become more sustainable. So how do you make existing warehouses more sustainable?

Buildings can be made sustainable by reducing their carbon footprint. For example, warehouses can reduce their carbon footprint by putting into action three (3) things:

1. Increase energy efficiency

Decreasing energy consumption to reduce utility costs while maintaining the same or greater productivity. This includes replacing lightbulbs and HVAC system(s) to a more energy efficient unit, installing solar panels on the roof, and movement-detector switches for lighting.

2. Automation

Helps to increase efficiency by doing less work to get more done. For example, utilizing order-picking technology and bar coding allows for operations within warehouses to increase speed and accuracy of each order, lessen paper consumption, and enhance traceability of products.

3. Utilizing sustainable warehouse design

Warehouse design is important for energy efficiency and is most applicable for new buildings. However, improvements to existing buildings can be made to decrease their carbon footprint. This can include utilizing space management techniques to increase productivity by reducing steps when moving goods or installing a green or cool roof to improve cooling or the insulation values for the building.

A good way to demonstrate sustainability in warehouses is by attaining LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification. LEED Certification is an internationally recognized green building certification system to measure and define green buildings. Warehouses can attain LEED certification by implementing LEED O+M (Operations and Maintenance) Certification, which provides sustainability solutions for existing buildings.

LEED certification is attained based on performance. The better the performance, the higher the LEED points, better the accreditation. Accreditation ranges from Certified (40 – 49 points), Silver (50 – 59 points), Gold (60 – 79 points), to Platinum (80+ points).

LEED Certifications and Points
Certification Points
Certified 40 – 49
Silver 50 – 59
Gold 60 – 79
Platinum 80+

Earning points is based on eight (8) categories, that includes subcategories for each. (P) represents a prerequisite subcategory, and is a must-have for projects to become LEED certified.

LEED O+M Categories and Subcategories Points
Location and Transportation
Transportation Performance (P)
Sustainable Sites                
Rainwater Management                
Heat Island Reduction                
Light Pollution Reduction                
Site Management
Water Efficiency                
Water Performance (P)
Energy and Atmosphere                
Energy Efficiency Best Management Practices (P) Fundamental Refrigerant Management (P)      
Energy Performance (P)                
Grid Harmonization
Materials and Resources                
Purchasing Policy (P)                
Facility Maintenance and Renovations Policy (P)                 Waste Performance (P)                
Indoor Environment Quality                
Minimum Indoor Air Quality (P)                
Environmental Tobacco Smoke Control (P)                
Green Cleaning Policy (P)                             
Indoor Environmental Quality Performance (P)                 Integrated Pest Management
Innovation 1
Total 100

(P) – Prerequisite – must include in LEED certified projects as per LEED v4.1 Operations and Maintenance

It is important to know which area(s) of a warehouse can be improved. This will also require identifying which aspect to target; whether it is the efficiency, automation, or better design of the operations and maintenance systems being implemented. However, by starting small, like changing outdated to efficient lightbulbs, will immediately impact the environment in a positive way. Striving for a net zero carbon footprint may seem a monumental challenge, however, it is an admirable goal not many have achieved, but it is worth pursuing.


Advanced Solutions International, I. (n.d.). LEED: The International Mark of Excellence. Why LEED? Retrieved January 11, 2022, from https://www.cagbc.org/CAGBC/LEED/Why_LEED/CAGBC/Programs/LEED/_LEED.aspx?hkey=5d7f0f3e-0dc3-4ede-b768-021835c8ff92

Napolitano, M. (n.d.). 7 trends in Sustainable Warehouse Design – supply chain 24/7. Supply Chain 24 7. Retrieved January 11, 2022, from https://www.supplychain247.com/article/7_trends_in_sustainable_warehouse_design/green

O’Reilly, L. O. R. L. (2021, May 13). Warehouse Management & Sustainability – Why It Matters. Ecotile. Retrieved January 11, 2022, from https://www.ecotileflooring.com/news /importance-sustainability-effective-warehousemanagement/#:~:text=The%203%20Pillars%20of%20Warehouse%20Management%20Sustainability%201,labour-intensive%20tasks.%20…%203%20Sustainable%20Warehouse%20Design.%20

Sebastian Gomez, C. E. P. (n.d.). 6 ways to make your warehouse go green. Pallet Racking Inspection, Protection & Repair Solutions. Retrieved January 11, 2022, from https://www.damotech.com/blog/6-ways-to-make-your-warehouse-go-green

U.S. Green Building Council. (2021, April). LEED v4.1 Operations And Maintenance.

Strategic Alliance Announcement: Northern Air

January 27, 2022
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Dear Clients,

We are pleased to announce a new strategic alliance between T. Harris Environmental Management Inc. and Northern Air Environmental Technologies Inc.

T.Harris Environmental Management Inc. is a premier environmental consulting company providing a variety of environmental and occupational health and safety solutions since 1979. Northern Air, established in 1968, focuses on innovative design, installation, and maintenance of commercial, industrial, and institutional HVAC systems.  

Working together we create a safe and healthy environment for our clients in all our locations across Canada. We are committed to expanding our services by working in close partnership. This alliance will help us enhance and enrich our current services and provide new value-added services to our collective clients.

Do you have any issues with indoor air quality, workplace exposure to chemicals, COVID- 19 infection control, or heat stress / heat strain? Contact us to evaluate and make recommendations for engineering controls such as ventilation.

Webinar Recording: Return to Work Safely

September 29, 2021
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Webinar Panel

Dennis Hsu, MASc., P.Eng.

Project Manager

Jordan Cabral, BASc., MPH.

Junior Occupational Hygienist

Lisa Xiong, MPH.

Junior Occupational Hygienist

Richard Quenneville, B.Sc., CIH, ROH.

Senior Director Corporate Services

Return to Work Safely Webinar

September 16, 2021
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Our leading industrial hygienist and environmental engineer will be speaking on the following topics:

  1. How The Molecule That Gives Us Energy Can Help Assess Contamination and Surface Cleaning Practices
  2. Drinking Water 101
  3. The New Hybrid Work Environment: How Ergonomics is More Important Now Than Before.
  4. Demystifying Air Exchange Rates in Indoor Air Quality and Ventilation.

When: Tuesday, September 21st, 1 PM EST 

Register here: https://lu.ma/THEMRTW

Ergonomic Risk Factors and Injuries in the Office

May 27, 2021
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There are multiple risk factors that can contribute to musculoskeletal injuries from exposure to ergonomic hazards while performing office work at home or in the office. What these risk factors all have in common is that they work to cause musculoskeletal disorders, psychosocial health effects, and reduce the quality of life outside of working hours. Risk factors come from many aspects of the workstation, task, and individual worker. They can be grouped into three main categories which are biomechanical, task-specific, and individual worker characteristics. When conducting an office ergonomic assessment for a workstation and task, the factors mentioned below are what are assessed, and controlled.

Biomechanical risk factors are present when workers perform tasks that require heavy lifting and/or excessive repetition, and awkward or static postures (1). These factors put excessive strain on the tissues of the body. Over time, the accumulated strain can result in an injury or the development of discomfort/pain. What all these factors have in common is that they remove the body from its neutral posture and loads are displaced unevenly throughout the body as a result. For excessive repetition to cause harm it does not require the lifting of heavy objects. Excessive repetition regardless of forces required to perform the movement can cause injury. One of the most common musculoskeletal disorder in the world is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Often this injury is associated with repetitive finger movements such as clicking and typing, in combination with compression of the wrist against a work surface. The repetitive motions result in the tissues becoming irritated and then inflamed, once inflamed the space in the carpal tunnel is reduced and the median nerve becomes compressed. The loss of sense and slight reduction in movement is a result of stress on the tissues of the wrist even though the actions require minimal amounts of force to be produced.

Task-specific risk factors include, workstation layout, high physical work, work that has high psychosocial demands, or work that requires prolonged use of visual displays. These factors are more closely associated to the requirements of the tasks being performed by the workers. Workstation layout is extremely important as it is a combination of furniture and organization of materials. A worker using a chair that has very low adjustability and support can remove the worker’s body from a neutral seated posture for extended or short and frequent periods of time. Combining a poorly suited office chair with a desk or work surface that is poorly organized can make the worker reach for items such as a mouse or keyboard. When reaching to use the mouse the worker is then in a static reaching position for a period of time which can put unhealthy stress on the tissues of the shoulder for example. Most of our working time when seated at a desk is spent using some type of visual display, being a cell phone or computer screen. Nowadays, we spend most of our time looking at a screen; without knowing the position of the screen in relation to our body plays a massive role in the risk of a musculoskeletal injury as a result of this.

Often forgotten but extremely important to consider is that workers come in all sizes. Therefore, there is hardly ever a workstation design that is a one-size fits all design. A common phrase to go by when designing a workstation or task setup is to “design it for the worker since you cannot design the worker to the workstation or task”. No two workers are the same thus when ergonomics are considered, individual worker characteristics such as smoking, a high body mass index, anthropometry, and other co-morbidities which include non-occupational related injuries are ergonomic risk factors too (1, 2). These factors are difficult to prevent from being introduced into the workspace, but their effects can be mitigated once identified. A worker’s anthropometry is an extremely important risk factor that must be considered. A workstation for a worker who is 5’2” should differ dramatically from a workstation for a worker who is 5’10”. If the workstation was designed for the taller individual in mind, the smaller worker will be required to reach or lean forward much more frequently for example. When a worker has to reach to perform their task, the risk of injury from exposure to an ergonomic hazard is significantly higher than a worker who does not have to reach to perform the same task.

This list of risk factors for exposure to ergonomic hazards is not fixed, as every situation presents other unique challenges and risks that are identified and assessed on a case-to-case basis. This is why it is extremely important to have objective and competent professionals performing ergonomic assessments.

Summary & Keywords

  • Ergonomics
    • Factors in the environment that can cause damage to the musculoskeletal system.
  • Objectives of Ergonomic Assessments
    • Identify risk factors
    • Quantify the risk
    • Control the risk
  • Three main risk factor categories
    • Biomechanical
      • Movements the worker performs while at the workstation or completing the task.
    • Task-specific
      • Characteristics of the workstation such as organization of items and materials, and the size of the furniture.
      • Psychophysical demands of the task.
        • Highly stressful tasks can cause muscle fatigue more rapidly leading to poor postures and headaches.
      • Use of visual displays.
        • The positioning of visual displays and the characteristics of them can cause workers to lean forward to read text, constant re-focusing when looking at a screen and documents. This can lead to neck, back, and eye strains.
        • High physical work.
          • This is deceiving as a task does not require constant movement of heavy loads or the generation of high forces to be considered high physical work. 54 – 75% of a working day is spent typing, that is a lot of movements in the arm and fingers. These repetitive low force movements do pose a risk of musculoskeletal injury to workers.
    • Individual worker characteristics
      • Anthropometry and Body Mass Index
        • Workers come in all different shapes and sizes, it is important to take this into consideration when designing a workspace or task.
          • Fit the task and workspace to the worker.
      • Smoking
        • Indirectly increases your risk of musculoskeletal injury as this affects many of the systems in your body.
      • Other co-morbidities
        • Disabilities resulting from injuries that are work or non-work related. If a worker has a previous non-work related injury and this impacts the way they should be normally performing the task, most often the worker will compensate for this by altering the movements the body. This change in movements may introduce new risks that were not present before the injury and require identification and control to prevent further injury.


  • How can I identify these risks in my workplace?
    • On our website www.tharris.ca we have a complementary video that walks our clients through what to look for to identify ergonomic risks at a workstation. If you are unsure always feel free to reach out to us at T.Harris Environmental Management with any questions and we will be very glad to help you with that.
  • Which of these risk factors is most important?
    • All of them are very important. Each workplace will have their own unique risk factors but the main group of risk factors that is consistent throughout any workplace are the task-specific risk factors. These factors are a combination of task requirements and workstation design.
  • Why are these risk factors important?
    • Most of these risk factors are work related but the effects as a result of exposure to them extend to life outside of work. Musculoskeletal injuries and other health effects that arise from ergonomic hazard exposure can seriously dampen an individual’s quality of life.
  • How do I know the pain the worker is feeling is from ergonomic hazard exposure?
    • First thing you ask the worker is, “Does the pain worsen as the week goes on, and lessens on the weekend or during time off?”
      • If they say yes, then this is an indication that the pain is a result of ergonomic hazard exposure during work related tasks.
    • Second thing you ask the worker is, “Do you feel uncomfortable at your workstation or while performing this task?”
      • If they say yes, this is an indication that the workstation or task requirements remove the worker from a neutral position for long periods of time or for short frequent periods. This can eventually lead to musculoskeletal injury development.


1. Da Costa BR, Vieira ER. Risk factors for work-related musculoskeletal disorders: a systematic review of recent longitudinal studies. American Journal of Industrial Medicine 53: 285–323, 2010. doi: https://doi.org/10.1002/ajim.20750.
2. Klussmann A, Gebhardt H, Liebers F, Rieger MA. Musculoskeletal symptoms of the upper extremities and the neck: A cross-sectional study on prevalence and symptom-predicting factors at visual display terminal (VDT) workstations. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 9: 96, 2008. doi: 10.1186/1471-2474-9-96.

Benefits of Workplace Ergonomic Assessments

May 26, 2021
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Ergonomic assessments are used in workplaces as a measure of risk relating to musculoskeletal injury development. Musculoskeletal injuries are estimated to cost the Canadian economy upwards of $22 billion each year (1). In developed economies such as Canada’s, nontraumatic musculoskeletal injuries incur direct and indirect economic costs of approximately $500 million per 1 million workers (2). To reduce this economic burden, ergonomic assessments can be one of the tools individuals and businesses can use to do so.

Currently, with the ever changing restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, performing office work from home is becoming more prominent and normalized. Many workers may not have a designated office space that is setup similarly to that of their workstation in the company office. With this comes new challenges with regards to ergonomic hazard exposure and worker safety. Although new challenges arise, the responsibilities are unchanged; the responsibilities outlined in the Ontario Occupational Health & Safety Act still apply whether or not the worker is working from home or in the company’s offices. Therefore under clause 25(2)(h) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, it is the employer’s responsibility to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstance to ensure the safety and health of their worker (3) . In these current situations, legally it is beneficial for the employer to have ergonomic hazard risk assessments of their employee’s workspace when working from home to ensure their safety and health is not compromised.

The goals of an ergonomic assessment are to identify the physical and psychosocial risk factors of the workstation and associated task, quantify the risk, and make the necessary adjustments to the workstation or task to minimize this risk. When thinking about workplace ergonomics, initially we think about three things. First, we think about lower back pain, which is then followed by sitting for long periods of time, then finally office chairs. In this case, lower back pain occurs as a result of exposures to ergonomic hazards; these include being seated in a static posture for a long period of time and the type of office chair being used. Although these are the risk factors, they can also be part of the solution. Assessing the current workspace furniture and tasks can help control the exposures to ergonomic hazards resulting in benefits for the user and the business.

To protect workers from ergonomic hazards, the magnitude of exposure must be identified, assessed, and then controlled. To do so, professionals in the field of occupational health and safety follow CSA Z412-17 Office Ergonomics – An application standard for workplace ergonomics. If done by an objective and competent individual, the benefits of an ergonomic assessment can be recognized at an organization level and at the individual worker level.

For the benefits an organization will see, studies have found that after ergonomic assessments and training are performed for workers on a whole the organizations observed (4–6):

  • Increased output per worker
  • Reduction in errors
  • Reduced accidents, injuries, and illnesses resulting in lost time
  • Reduced turnover and absenteeism
    • With this, there is a reduction in time spent training new employees
  • Reduced worker compensation costs

For the benefits the individual worker will see, studies have found that after ergonomic assessments or ergonomic hazard awareness training workers experienced (7–17):

  • Reductions in pain incidence or severity in multiple regions of the body
    • Lower back
    • Shoulder
    • Neck
  • Significant increase in overall ergonomic knowledge which led to lower rates of work-related musculoskeletal injuries

Summary & Keywords

  • Ergonomics
    • Factors in the environment that can cause damage to the musculoskeletal system.
  • Objectives of Ergonomic Assessments
    • Identify risk factors
    • Quantify the risk
    • Control the risk
  • Organization benefits
    • Increased output per worker
    • Reduction in errors
    • Reduced accidents, injuries, and illnesses resulting in lost time
    • Reduced turnover and absenteeism
      • With this, there is a reduction in time spent training new employees
    • Reduced worker compensation costs
  • Individual worker benefits
    • Reductions in pain incidence or severity in multiple regions of the body
      • Lower back
      • Shoulder
      • Neck
    • Significant increase in overall ergonomic knowledge which led to lower rates of work-related musculoskeletal injuries
  • Occupational Health & Safety Act
    • Legislation passed in 1978 that gives everyone in the system responsibility for health and safety.
    • Sets requirements for Joint Health and Safety Committees in organizations dependent on employee populations.
    • Clause 25(2)(h) states the employer shall “take every precaution reasonable in the circumstance for the protection of a worker.”


  • Will I see the benefits of ergonomic assessments right away?
    • Yes and no. If an ergonomic assessment is done as a proactive measure before musculoskeletal disorders are present, the benefits may never be realized because worker injury has been avoided. If an ergonomic assessment is done as a result of a worker having developed a musculoskeletal disorder, the benefits at the individual level may be seen quickly as the pain they experience may be reduced dramatically. At the organization level, the benefits will be seen quickly as the pattern of productivity positively changes and the chance of the worker missing time due to injury is significantly reduced.
  • As an employer, why am I responsible for what the worker does at home?
    • Technically, if company policy provides the worker with the opportunity to work from home, their home is now a part of their workplace. Under clause 25(2)(h) in the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the employer is responsible to ensure the worker’s place of work is safe.
  • How do I know if a workstation requires an ergonomics assessment
    • All workstations should have an ergonomics assessment done to assess the risk. It is possible that the assessment concludes the current setup and task requirements pose little to no risk of musculoskeletal disorder development in the user. This information is still very valuable as it shows the company has been done their due diligence to ensure the worker is safe.


1. Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Government of Canada. IMHA Strategic Plan 2014-2018 – CIHR [Online]. 2019. https://cihr-irsc.gc.ca/e/48830.html [16 Feb. 2021].
2. Lambeek LC, van Tulder MW, Swinkels ICS, Koppes LLJ, Anema JR, van Mechelen W. The Trend in Total Cost of Back Pain in the Netherlands in the Period 2002 to 2007: Spine 36: 1050–1058, 2011. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e3181e70488.
3. Government of Ontario. Occupational Health and Safety Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. O. 1 [Online]. https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/90o01: 2014. https://www.ontario.ca/laws/view.
4. Hendrick HW. Determining the cost–benefits of ergonomics projects and factors that lead to their success. Applied Ergonomics 34: 419–427, 2003. doi: 10.1016/S0003-6870(03)00062-0.
5. Schlesinger L, Heskett J. The service-driven service company. Harv Bus Rev 69: 71–81, 1991.
6. Goggins RW, Spielholz P, Nothstein GL. Estimating the effectiveness of ergonomics interventions through case studies: Implications for predictive cost-benefit analysis. Journal of Safety Research 39: 339–344, 2008. doi: 10.1016/j.jsr.2007.12.006.
7. Robertson M, Amick BC, DeRango K, Rooney T, Bazzani L, Harrist R, Moore A. The effects of an office ergonomics training and chair intervention on worker knowledge, behavior and musculoskeletal risk. Applied Ergonomics 40: 124–135, 2009. doi: 10.1016/j.apergo.2007.12.009.
8. Amick BC, Robertson M, DeRango K, Bazzani L, Moore A, Rooney T, Harrist R. Effect of Office Ergonomics Intervention on Reducing Musculoskeletal Symptoms: Spine 28: 2706–2711, 2003. doi: 10.1097/01.BRS.0000099740.87791.F7.
9. Amick BC, Menéndez CC, Bazzani L, Robertson M, DeRango K, Rooney T, Moore A. A field intervention examining the impact of an office ergonomics training and a highly adjustable chair on visual symptoms in a public sector organization. Applied Ergonomics 43: 625–631, 2012. doi: 10.1016/j.apergo.2011.09.006.
10. Bohr PC. Efficacy of Office Ergonomics Education. J Occup Rehabil 10: 243–255, 2000. doi: 10.1023/A:1009464315358.
11. Hoe VC, Urquhart DM, Kelsall HL, Sim MR. Ergonomic design and training for preventing work‐related musculoskeletal disorders of the upper limb and neck in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2012, 2012. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD008570.pub2.
12. Haukka E, Pehkonen I, Leino-Arjas P, Viikari-Juntura E, Takala E-P, Malmivaara A, Hopsu L, Mutanen P, Ketola R, Virtanen T. Effect of a participatory ergonomics intervention on psychosocial factors at work in a randomised controlled trial. Occupational and environmental medicine 67: 170–177, 2010.
13. Haukka E, Leino-Arjas P, Viikari-Juntura E, Takala E-P, Malmivaara A, Hopsu L, Mutanen P, Ketola R, Virtanen T, Pehkonen I, Holtari-Leino M, Nykänen J, Stenholm S, Nykyri E, Riihimäki H. A randomised controlled trial on whether a participatory ergonomics intervention could prevent musculoskeletal disorders. Occupational and Environmental Medicine 65: 849–856, 2008. doi: 10.1136/oem.2007.034579.
14. Laing A, Cole D, Theberge N, Wells R, Kerr M, Frazer M. Effectiveness of a participatory ergonomics intervention in improving communication and psychosocial exposures. Ergonomics 50: 1092–1109, 2007. doi: 10.1080/00140130701308708.
15. Laing A, Frazer M, Cole D, Kerr M, Wells R, Norman R. Study of the effectiveness of a participatory ergonomics intervention in reducing worker pain severity through physical exposure pathways. Ergonomics 48: 150–170, 2005. doi: 10.1080/00140130512331325727.
16. Stock SR, Nicolakakis N, Vézina N, Vézina M, Gilbert L, Turcot A, Sultan-Taïeb H, Sinden K, Kin R, Denis M-A, Delga C, Beaucage C. Are work organization interventions effective in preventing or reducing work-related musculoskeletal disorders? A systematic review of the literature. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health 44: 113–133, 2018.
17. Mahmud N, Kenny DT, Md Zein R, Hassan SN. Ergonomic Training Reduces Musculoskeletal Disorders among Office Workers: Results from the 6-Month Follow-Up. Malays J Med Sci 18: 16–26, 2011.

What is Ergonomics?

May 01, 2019
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While talking to my friends, a group of healthy 20-25 year-old university graduates who have recently entered the workforce, I was surprised to learn how common back and muscle pain due to studying and deskwork had become. As all of us were joking about how we felt like we were unhealthy and working labour intensive jobs, I could not help but recognize that this is a serious yet neglected issue.

When we think of why body aches and pains have become so common, often the answer that comes to mind is awkward posture, or working for too long. While these are contributing factors, there are a wide variety of elements at play. A specific field of study, called ergonomics, actually addresses these concerns. Many of us have heard the term and perhaps just never paid much attention to it, until it is too late!

Whether you work at a desk or in a more physically demanding role or anywhere in between, T. Harris Environmental Management Inc. (THEM) can help make sure your work isn’t hurting you. If you have questions about how we can help, call us at 1-888-ASK-THEM.


In a nutshell ergonomics is the process by which any task is adjusted to fit the person’s physical and mental capabilities to alleviate stress and/or strain, and as such, avoid ergonomic related injuries. Ergonomics is not just limited to the position of your chair, or the placement of your desk. It can be applied to everything we do in life; even sleeping. Thus, when applying ergonomics in the workplace the task is fitted to the worker, and when designing consumer items the products are matched to the target users.


Unfortunately, many of us take minor back pain, muscle cramps, and stiffness lightly, as it is commonly observed in many of our family and friends. Some of us choose to ignore it as “we just do not have time for it”.

However, pains and cramps due to poor/awkward posture, repetitive tasks, exposure to vibrations, and forceful exertions in labor intensive tasks, are a serious workplace hazard. In fact, lower back pain from poor ergonomically designed job tasks is a very common workplace injury, and in some parts of the world it is the most common work-related disability. This means that poor office ergonomics not only affects the employees long-term, but also reduces the overall productivity of the company, and thereby also reduces profits.  As an employer you may suffer direct and indirect costs, such as; increase in insurance coverage, loss of reputation/credibility, and in employee (turnover).

To put this into perspective, according to the Public Services Health and Safety Association (PSHSA):

  • 1 in every 10 Canadian adults has experienced Musculoskeletal Disorder (MSD) that has limited their normal activities.

  • 30% lost-time claims were due to MSDs in Ontario in 2016.

  • MSDs have been the most common type of work injury over the past 10 years.


T. Harris Environmental Management can help you make the most out of your workstation while keeping your staff healthy! Email us at info@tharris.ca to request a free consultation!


Poor posture, repetitive tasks, and forceful physical exertions can lead to the development of a broad range of disorders called Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs), or Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs). Essentially, when our muscles, joints, and tendons are repeatedly exerted and stressed they eventually become damaged and can become irreversible. Thus, acute pain felt for a few hours can actually develop into serious and chronic problems.

Common examples of such injuries include:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  • Back injuries

  • Tendinitis

  • Raynaud’s syndrome (White Finger)


Common symptoms experienced by workers include:

  • Swelling

  • Acute and chronic pain

  • Stiffness

  • Reduction in range of motion

  • Inflammation

  • Eye strains


As an employer:

As work-related injuries due to poor ergonomics can substantially impact your employees’ wellbeing and company’s economic standing, investing in an Office Ergonomic Program can be highly beneficial.

An ergonomics professional, such as an Occupational Hygienist, can help create customized solutions to address your ergonomic concerns. This involves performing an in-depth review of all aspect of the environment that would effect a workers comfort, and also recommend control measures to prevent future injuries.

Services can include:

  • A thorough analysis of a worker’s environment; such as their

    • Job task

    • Frequency and duration

    • Lighting conditions

    • Tools/equipment used

    • Posture used and force exerted

    • Exposure to vibration and extreme temperatures

    • Reach and range of motion to commonly used items

  • A program that addresses worker’s unique needs and fit the task to each worker by following best practices published in reputable standards and guidelines.

  • Training that allows employers to become self-sufficient when evaluating the ergonomics of their day-to-day tasks, and provide recommendations for ergonomic work practices, such as lifting and stretching exercises.


When your Occupational Hygienist completes your new Office Ergonomic Program you can expect benefits such as:

  • Increased productivity and efficiency

  • Increased overall health, well-being and employee morale

  • Decrease in work-related injuries such as MSDs

  • Decreased indirect and direct costs to employers

As an Employee:

Ask your employer if there is an Office Wellness and/or Ergonomic Program in place. Recognize signs and symptoms of MSDs and report them to your employer. If you notice there is a task/activity that is uncomfortable, let your employer know so they can adjust the task. Finally, follow recommendations on best ergonomic practices, such as taking regular breaks, for your health and safety!

With benefits like this, why wouldn’t you make the move for better workplace ergonomics?

 1-888-ASK-THEM  |  www.tharris.ca  | info@tharris.ca

Edmonton | London | Toronto | Ottawa | Montreal



  • CCOHS.ca. (2019). (Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety). [online] Available at: https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/ergonomics/ [Accessed 7 Feb. 2019].

  • DiNardi, S. R. (1997). The occupational environment: Its evaluation and control. Fairfax, VA: AIHA Press.

  • PSHSA.ca. (2018). (Public Services Health and Safety Association). [online] Available at: https://www.pshsa.ca/ergonomics/ [Accessed 7 Feb. 2019].

Why The Concern About Manganese In Welding?

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.


[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! 

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.


  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