Clear The Air: Addressing Exposure To Diesel Engine Exhaust

August 09, 2018
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diesel exhaust

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

The health effects and mechanics of diesel engine exhaust.

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

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

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

Controlling diesel engine exhaust exposure.

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

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

Call and speak to the experts.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Risks associated with antineoplastic agents.

July 16, 2018
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With chemotherapy as one of the main cancer treatments, there is a global increase in the use of antineoplastic agents. Antineoplastic drugs, also known as cytotoxic drugs, are most often used in chemotherapy to treat cancer.   While they are used to treat cancer patients, they can be hazardous to healthy workers in health care, pharmacy, veterinary clinics and cleaning staff.   They have a toxic effect on cells within the body and there is no safe level of exposure to these cancer-causing agents. As a result, there is a need to implement rigorous health and safety practices with regard to these drugs. The OHS concerns are as follows:

  • Many antineoplastic drugs are carcinogenic;
  • Chronic issues can show up many years later;
  • Acute reactions can include skin irritation, eye and mucous membrane irritation, nausea, vomiting, hair loss and rashes;
  • Issues can include damage to the liver, kidney, lung and heart;
  • These drugs can affect fetal development.

Workers who may be exposed to cytotoxic drugs have to be aware of all of these risks, receive relevant training, use the engineering controls provided and wear all necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect themselves. There are many exposure routes to take into account:

  • Skin absorption (direct contact with the drug or indirect contact with contaminated surfaces, clothing or handling patient excreta);
  • Inhalation (breathing in drug vapours or dust);
  • Accidental injection (needles or other sharps that puncture the skin); and
  • Ingestion (eating, drinking or smoking with unwashed hands or hand to mouth touching).

OHS Program basics.

Working with cytotoxic drugs requires strict policies and procedures. Every employer using cytotoxic drugs in their facility should at least consider the basics such as outlined below.

The right equipment. Engineering controls may be required including primary containment such as Biological Safety Cabinets or Isolator Cabinets and secondary containment for pharmacy dispensing and needle safety devices to prevent needle sticks.  The PPE needs to be easily accessible and workers need to be trained on how to properly use the equipment as well.

Training and good communication about the types of hazards workers may encounter is also very important.  Administrative controls such as worker training on hazards of chemotherapy drugs, proper use of engineering controls and standard operating procedures have to start from the very beginning with a comprehensive orientation and it has to include everybody, from shipping and receiving to front-line workers and managers.  Furthermore, workers need to receive training in all of the emergency response procedures for the variety of scenarios that could occur. Both the training program and the Occupational Health and Safety Control program should clearly identify the emergency procedures to follow in case of accidental exposure to cytotoxic drugs and/or in a spill response operation.

Monitoring and professional oversight are key to bringing all of the above elements together in a meaningful way. Employers should establish a comprehensive Occupational Health and Safety Control program, encompassing all of the aforementioned aspects, to protect both the workers and reduce their business risks. Occupational Health and Safety professionals recommend conducting exposure monitoring on a regular basis to ensure workers are not exposed and work surfaces are not contaminated. Ideally, an employer should involve a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) or Registered Occupational Hygienist (ROH) to assess and develop a comprehensive program to minimize the possibility of missing a potential hazard.

About THEM

Since 1979, T. Harris Environmental Management (THEM) is committed to understanding and providing our clients in the institutional, commercial and industrial (ICI) sectors, with a variety of environmental and occupational health and safety solutions to their concerns. We meet our client’s needs by informing them of their options, reducing riskanxiety, and formulating qualitative, practical, efficient, and cost-effective solutions.  Services include the following highlights:

  • Risk Assessments
  • Environmental Health and Safety Program and Policy Development
  • Occupational Exposure Evaluations & Management
  • Safety Training Sessions

The team members at THEM have over 30 of experience and certified expertise in managing OHS services for the pharmaceutical industry and for hospital environments. Ask THEM for a professional consultation.


Silliker, A. , 2018,  “Workers exposed to chemotherapy drugs at increased risk for cancer, organ damage, reproductive issues”, Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine, 06/05/2018, Accessed: 16/07/2018, website: http://www.cos-mag.com/occupational-hygiene/36966-workers-exposed-to-chemotherapy-drugs-at-increased-risk-for-cancer-organ-damage-reproductive-issues/

Steege A.L., James M. Boiano, 2014, “NIOSH Health and Safety Practices Survey of Healthcare Workers: Training and Awareness of Employer Safety Procedures”, 57(6) · American Journal of Industrial Medicine, June 2014 with 74

Silica in Construction: Hazards & Control Measures

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

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

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

Silica Risk Factors in Construction

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

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

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

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

Control Measures

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

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

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

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

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

Hierarchy of Controls [2]

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

Worker Safety with Silica: Key Questions to ask.

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

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




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

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

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

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

June 05, 2018
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Nice weather has finally arrived and many workers are feeling the heat. It is now the season to expect heat-related illnesses in the workplace. Summer may put many workers at risk of heat stress and seriously injure them. A series of hot and humid days following one another may adversely affect workers who did not previously acclimatize to heat exposure.   Extreme heat directly affects the health of workers, puts their safety at risk with impaired judgment and reduces productivity. This is a significant issue not only for occupational health and safety of people but also for the effectiveness of an organization as a whole. While Heat Stress Prevention Plans are complex and their development is better left to the professionals, every responsible supervisor should know some key facts to manage work in extreme heat on a daily basis.

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

Who is most susceptible to heat stress?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heat Stress in Indoor Environments

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

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

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

About THEM

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



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

May 04, 2018
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When warm weather sets in and the real estate season starts, it is the perfect time to detect and assess underground storage tanks (USTs). Underground storage tanks are typically made of bare steel and were an efficient method of fuel storage used in the 1980s and early 1990s [1]. However, the conditions of soil can corrode the bare steel over time and thus lead to the leakage of content from the tank.

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

Tell-Tale Signs of a UST

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

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

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

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


The economic benefit of addressing UST issues

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

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

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

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

The social benefit of addressing UST issues

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Eliminating the sources of indoor air pollution:

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

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

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

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

Increasing the amount of incoming clean air:

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

  • Create a sufficient exchange of clean air

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

  • Consider IAQ during building performance improvements

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

  • Keep pesticides, pollen & other outdoor pollutants in mind

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

  • Maintain your HVAC system

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












Tips to address floods and water damage

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

Tips for mitigating against further damage:

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

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

Learn more about Mould and Floods

Choosing a qualified water damage professional:

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

Looking for a restoration professional? Request a free consultation!

What can an EHS professional do?

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

National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI): What is it?

February 28, 2018
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The National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) is Canada’s legislated, publicly accessible inventory designed to track and catalogue the release of pollutants, their disposal, or their transfer to recycling facilities. Every year on June 1st, facilities nationwide are subject to compile information on the following pollutants: air contaminants, pollutants released in water, and waste products disposed on land. The NPRI oversees the usage of over 300 unique substances Canada-wide and over 7000 facilities were included in the registry last year alone.

Do you need to register?

Facilities in every province and territory across Canada are responsible for registering with the NPRI if they meet certain conditions, such as:

  • If one (or more) designated NPRI substance is manufactured, processed, or otherwise used at the facility during the year.
  • If the total working hours accumulated within the facility is greater than 20,000 hours. This is equivalent to approximately 10 full-time workers over the calendar year.

If a facility you own or manage meets these conditions, you must register in accordance with Federal Law. Additionally, facilities involved in incineration, wood preservation, terminal operations (among others) must adhere to NPRI reporting requirements regardless of employee hours worked.

If you have any doubts about whether or not your facility requires registration, contact a professional. Industry professionals have in-depth knowledge of the NPRI database and the over 300 substances that it encompasses.

Unsure if you require registration? Contact THEM to find out.

The Importance Of Filing The NPRI With a Professional

Environmental consulting professionals possess a vast knowledge of NPRI reporting requirements and can streamline the reporting process to ensure it is handled in a quick and orderly fashion. For instance, facilities may be required to report based on Concentration Threshold, Mass Threshold, Employee Threshold, and Activities/Sector. The reporting criteria are different for each section. Failure to meet the reporting requirements or reporting deadline may result in fines and penalties.

Environmental specialists follow a number of steps to ensure all issues are dealt with in a timely fashion. A brief overview of the steps taken include:

  1. Determining the substances that a facility uses that may fall under the NPRI catalogue.
  2. Verifying the total quantities of substances a facility manufactures, processes, or otherwise uses in a calendar year.
  3. Establishes whether the use of these substances surpasses the NPRI reporting threshold.
  4. Ensures the appropriate reporting procedure is followed for all substances over the threshold.


Contact Us for a Complimentary Consultation to Get Started


10 ways to keep renovation projects safe

February 28, 2018
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It is not easy to predict when the weather will get warmer, but one thing that is certain to occur: with the rise in temperatures each year, comes the renovation season! Winters are, in general, unbearably rough when it comes to renovating a building or an open landscape. They lead to losses in productivity and often to the occurrences of various types of injury. In most cases, project managers and planners cluster renovation projects around warmer temperatures. Does a higher number in the thermostat instantly mean safer work conditions for on-site workers and a reduced number of workplace injuries? It is not always the case.

Nonetheless, the answer to the above is affirmative if renovation managers execute projects with the proper planning and precautions. The following is a list of items to be considered to keep renovation projects safe and most importantly, to exercise due diligence in trying to prevent accidents from happening.


Before project start:

Plan well – The best way to control renovation risks is to recognize well in advance the various types of hazard present in the work areas and include specialists, such as environmental consultants, who can assess risks and recommend effective mitigation strategies in areas where your knowledge is incomplete. Good project management, such as effective scheduling of work, can prevent rushing through renovation activities, decreasing employment turnover rates, workplace injuries and runaway vendor costs. Understanding the potential issues that can arise on a project and at least talking with a consultant to see if external assistance is necessary is a good way to avoid costly surprises, stop work orders and other project liabilities.

Understand the applicable safety guidelines and regulations – Knowledge of guidelines and regulations is key to ensure safety for all pertinent personnel and reduce potential liabilities. These regulations govern requirements for air quality, asbestos, lead, drinking water quality, fall protection, ladder safety and other aspects of construction. While they are available from many online sources, these regulations can be complex and it is prudent to engage a consultant if you have any doubts in their application.

Provide training –To work around unsafe chemicals and to minimize the event of an injury, workers have to be competent. A competent worker, defined under the OSHA [1], is a person that possesses knowledge, training and experience to perform the work; is familiar with the Act; and has knowledge of all potential or actual danger to health and safety in the work. That is why training is mandatory for all workers performing renovation activities as well as personnel with supervisory roles. Thus it is the worker`s duty to attend training sessions and it is the responsibility of supervisors to ensure they are provided.

Set up good housekeeping –Establish designated areas for equipment storage, lunch breaks, and other special activities such as welding, drilling and cutting. Having these areas set up correctly will serve as a means to prevent worker exposure to toxic substances and will minimize the possibility of tools from falling from heights or obstructing the view of an easily identifiable fire hazard.


Know the materials present onsite – Understand all of the materials on site and determine which types are hazardous as described under different government acts. One of the ways of achieving this is by ensuring that SDS documentation is present for all chemicals. Additionally, materials may contain substances referred to as Designated Substances. When handling or disturbing them, renovators are obligated to follow specific procedures and guidelines. It is a good practice to identify these materials, figure out the types of contaminants present, and determine their respective health concerns. Consultants are available to assess risks and conduct sampling of such substances, as required before any renovation work.

Be aware of exposure limits for all hazards present– The outcomes of overexposure to hazardous substances are not always noticeable immediately. They may be long-term and go unnoticed for years. To avoid threatening consequences for both workers and employers in the long run, it is important to ensure safe work conditions with your existing exposure amounts. If exposure exceeds pre-set limits, employers should ensure that workers follow the correct measures to avoid serious health effects.

Awareness of heat stress – Some industrial plant renovations involve the contractors working in hot environments, around steam pipes and/or hot water lines. Heat sources can present serious hazards and discomforts to workers, causing illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. An Assessment of Heat Stress/Strain would help prevent health hazards in this environment.

Constant monitoring of workspace – Determine if your work environment is safe for entry and for the performance of renovation activities. Certain environments are mandated to be constantly monitored because the level of toxic chemicals may change during the work processes. An example of these environments is the inside of a boiler, classified as a confined space under OHSA, due to atmospheric hazards and the potential event where oxygen level falls below the acceptable range.

During renovations activity:

Consider ergonomics – A healthy individual shows better productivity and performance at work [3]. Ergonomics in a renovation sites is a serious consideration: it includes the use of mechanical lifting, less carrying, use of of ergonomically designed tools to reduce awkward postures, adequate break times, warm clothing, etc. Therefore, it is important to consider ergonomics when managing a renovation project. Even healthy employees are prone to ergonomic injuries.

Use appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – personnel would be deterred from renovation activities if they feel that the appropriate PPE were not provided. Project managers must analyze carefully the scope of work and determine the appropriate PPE specific to the work. PPE must only be selected in accordance with the various CSA requirements [2]. For example, respirator fit testing helps ensure that workers are not breathing in unsafe substances.

Although there is a great number of safety and health related concerns in a renovation site,There are even greater ways to keep the same work environment safe. This list was provided for reference, to interested project managers and planners who are considering a renovation project for their sites. It is always important to start planning your projects with safety in mind. If in doubt, consult industry experts regarding any of the above-mentioned items. T. Harris Environmental Management(THEM) personnel have extensive knowledge and training when dealing with renovation projects, and always make themselves available to their valuede clients.  THEM`s technical expertise helps industry leaders successfully and safely renovate on their sites, specializes in providing hazardous materials management, corporate training, environmental site assessments, indoor air quality assessments, and much more.

For a more detailed list of services, contact a representative.



[1] Morrison, K. W. (2012, July 1). What is a ‘competent person’? Retrieved February 15, 2018, from http://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/what-is-a-competent-person-2

[2] Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Retrieved February 15, 2018, from https://www.ihsa.ca/topics_hazards/ppe.aspx

[3] Ergonomics Retrieved February 15, 2018, from https://www.worksafebc.com/en/health-safety/hazards-exposures/ergonomics

Mind the Gap: Recognizing women’s unique OHS needs.

February 28, 2018
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Today, women are becoming more numerous in the global workforce and are moving into traditionally male-dominated industries. A half a decade ago, industries like construction, property management, maintenance and production management could not boast of many female employees. Today, even though women’s representation in many of these industries is still under 10 percent, the number is rapidly growing.   For employers who want to recruit and retain staff, building an inclusive workplace culture that supports employees across differences in race, class, and gender is crucial to success. The knowledge and skills to do this are frequently missing in many work environments.

This poses a range of gender-related questions about the different effects of work-related risks on men and women. For example, women have different exposure limits and protections when it comes to hazardous substances, biological agents, the physical demands of heavy work and ergonomic design. Occupational health and safety regulations have traditionally focused on dangerous jobs in sectors dominated by male workers. As a result, OSH standards and exposure limits to hazardous substances are often based on male populations and laboratory tests. The risks to men workers are better known and addressed and OSH hazards affecting women have been traditionally under-estimated. These factors can affect the bottom line by lowering retention rates, reducing morale and increased absenteeism. There are also the direct and indirect costs of complaint investigations that must be considered. Below we outline just some of the issues that can be beneficial to address and to improve women’s well-being in the workplace.


Women in non-traditional employment frequently face health and safety risks due to the equipment and clothing provided to them at their workplace. Personal protective equipment (PPE) and clothing (PPC) are often designed for average-sized men. This poses both health hazards as the protective function of PPE/PPC may be reduced when they do not fit female workers properly. For example, poorly fitting respirators may not protect adequately against chemicals, loose clothing can be caught in machinery or overly large boots can cause tripping. Furthermore, many women may find the poorly fitting equipment uncomfortable and put themselves at risk by refusing to wear it.

In recent years, many manufacturers have been making PPE that fit women, but it is rare and expensive. Many employers do not make the right PPE available for women and are resistant to women bringing their own PPE. Providing PPE in a wide range of sizes would benefit both workers and employers.


Researchers and employers find that women have gender-specific musculoskeletal problems. For example, their shorter hands and lower grip strength as compared to men frequently make standard hand tools too large. In addition, many women may have less upper body strength than men, which leads to back problems when lifting heavy objects. As a solution, making tools available in smaller sizes to accommodate women and adapting lifting demands for women as well as men across your business can help. Being aware of similar issues and addressing them is an important step to an inclusive workplace.


Workplace exposures to hazardous substances can play a role in the development of cervical and breast cancer. NIOSH is conducting studies of women exposed to the following hazardous substances to determine whether there is a link to cancers: Ethylene oxide and Perchloroethylene. These chemicals are widely used in industries where women are the dominant workforce.

Reproductive Hazards and Chemical Exposure:

The effects of potential occupational hazards on women’s reproductive health have increased in recent years as more environmental hazards are identified and as more women enter the paid workforce.  A range of occupational reproductive hazards has been documented but a large number of possible risks still require further examination.

Solvent levels that are considered safe for adults may affect IQ of the fetus. The unborn child’s brain is much more sensitive than the adult brain. According to research, children born to mothers exposed to solvents in the workplace appear to have significant developmental problems such as lower IQs, compromised language and memory skills, inattentiveness and hyperactivity. This information suggests that current workplace exposure limits may not be good enough and employers should do everything possible to help women minimize such exposures. Women with occupational exposure to toxic chemicals are in general highly vulnerable to adverse reproductive health outcomes. Medical experts warn that there is sufficiently robust evidence to support that exposure to chemicals during pregnancy leads to adverse reproductive and developmental health outcomes. And the risks are highest for those exposed at work.

The issue is not solely about women and pregnancy. Father’s exposures are also relevant. Prenatal exposure to certain chemicals has been documented to increase the risk of cancer in childhood. For example, adult male exposure to pesticides is linked to altered semen quality, sterility, and prostate cancer. Postnatal exposure to some pesticides can interfere with all developmental stages of reproductive function in adult females.

Chemical exposures are not the only concerns. Factors that have a cumulative effect on risk include working night hours, irregular or shiftwork schedule, standing, lifting loads, noise, and high psychological demand coupled with low social support . The researchers say eliminating these factors before the 24th week of pregnancy can bring the odds of impairment down to those of unexposed women.  Exposure to a range of workplace risks in pregnancy can increase the likelihood of having an under-sized infant, according to a new report in the American Journal of Public Health. Additionally, working night shifts in the first three months was linked to a doubling of a woman’s risk of early labour.

Employers should improve recognition of women’s reproductive health in workplace policy and processes. This is necessary to both provide assurances to women that women can discuss their needs with employers and to provide managers and employers with tools to support them. We encourage employers to review policies and processes around occupational health and safety to ensure that these health conditions are taken into account. In particular, employers should ensure that occupational health practitioners recognise women’s reproductive issues during risk assessments.