Canadian Occupational Safety

October/November 2019

Canadian Occupational Safety (COS) magazine is the premier workplace health and safety publication in Canada. We cover a wide range of topics ranging from office to heavy industry, and from general safety management to specific workplace hazards.

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7 2019 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER Propane, batteries, bullets in recycling putting workers at risk R ecycle BC is sounding the alarm over the rising number of explosive and hazardous materials British Columbia residents are placing in the province's residential packaging and paper recycling. B.C.'s major recycling collectors and processors have seen seven fires in 2019, with several of them having endangered lives and forced the temporary closure of facilities. "Hazardous materials present a very real danger for workers in B.C.'s recycling industry," says David Lefebvre, director of public affairs for the not-for- profit organization Recycle BC. "A resident [recently] put 58 rounds of live ammunition into their recy- cling. We need people to think before they put something that is potentially explosive and deadly into a recycling bin." In 2019, two-thirds of container loads had haz- ardous materials present, a 47-per-cent increase over the last five years, Recycle BC says. Hazardous mate- rials include: butane and propane canisters; batteries (especially lithium-ion batteries); compressed gases; ammunition; knives; sharps; and bear spray. Fires are such a significant issue to recycling com- panies that material receiving facilities often have special teams trained to respond to fires. While Recycle BC says it is able to put out the majority of incidents before they become unmanageable, the potential for injury and significant damage to the recycling system is high. Last year, the waste industry reported three deaths and 13 injuries across North America due to these types of incidents. "Hazardous materials have a significant impact on our staff. We are concerned about their safety and the potential for someone to be injured or worse," says Alisa Murray, health and safety co-ordinator at Cascades Recovery. Across North America, the industr y saw a 26-per-cent increase in the number of fires in waste and recycling facilities in 2018, with 371 unique incidents reported between Februar y 2018 and Januar y 2019. The risk of fires or explosions is especially high for material collection vehicles and receiving facilities due to large amounts of paper. The combination of easily flammable material, plenty of oxygen and large piles of sorted material — where sparks can smoulder for lengthy periods of time undetected — makes the presence of hazardous material especially precarious, Recycle BC says. "Sorting and recycling processes are fast-paced, with material constantly getting moved, compacted and crushed," says Oleg Vinokurov, industrial engi- neering manager at Green by Nature. "A recycling baler can develop pressures of hundreds of pounds per square inch. Compacted at these pressures, any compressed gas cylinder becomes a potential bomb for our employees." Working nights or more than 40 hours per week increases risk of miscarriage: Study P regnant women who work more than 40 hours per week or who work the night shift face an increased risk for preterm delivery and miscarriage, according to a recent University of Alberta study. Researchers reviewed 62 independent studies from 33 countries and found that longer work hours — more than 40 hours per week — was associated with a 21-per-cent higher chance of preterm delivery and a 38-per-cent higher chance of miscarriage. Pregnant women working a fixed night shift also had 21-per-cent higher odds of preterm delivery and 23-per- cent higher odds of having a miscarriage than pregnant women working a fixed day shift, the study found. "Our body's daily cycle is greatly influenced by ambient light in that darkness signals sleep and light sig- nals that it's time to wake up," says the study's senior researcher, Margie Davenport. "During night shift work, the day is flipped and, over time, this is thought to trigger hormonal adapta- tions that may influence how the baby grows and the timing of delivery." Working rotating shifts in compari- son to a fixed day shift was associated with a 13-per-cent increase in the odds of preterm delivery, a 75-per-cent increase in the rate of pre-eclampsia and a 19-per-cent increase in the likeli- hood of gestational diabetes. While an association can be made between long working hours, fixed night shifts, rotating shifts and various health implications such as preterm delivery, the researchers said they were not able to determine causation of the prenatal risks. "There are a number of mediating factors related to work schedules that can also impact prenatal health such as smoking, leisure time, physical activity, diet and income," says Dav- enport. "We didn't observe a difference in results between studies adjusting and not adjusting for these factors. This suggests the largest influence is likely the work schedule." Chenxi Cai, a post-doctoral fellow who worked with Davenport on the study, says with women making up a significant proportion of the workforce, a synthesis of the data was needed to better understand the health implications of irregular work hours for pregnant women. "Approximately 90 per cent of women remain employed during preg- nancy, which is a significant number," she says. "We wanted to evaluate the impact of shift work and long work- ing hours during pregnancy to help women and employers make more informed decisions when it relates to occupational hours and pregnancy." workers were more concerned about psycho- logical safety than their physical safety in their workplaces," he said. "We've made a lot of gains apparently on the physical side; it's the mental side that they feel unsafe." The survey also found that nearly one-quarter (22.9 per cent) of respondents had hazardous levels of alcohol consumption. Mental health is the number 1 lost-time driver at Vale, accounting for 30 to 40 per cent of all days lost. One in three disability claims at Vale's Ontario operations are due to mental health. "For so long, the focus was on physical safety and physical health, and that's very visible, so it's easier to address than something that maybe isn't so visible," says Robson. "As a company, we just really need to wrap our arms around this and try to understand how we address it, how we make sure our people are not only physically well but also mentally well and look for opportunities to intervene where we can." The company is currently sifting through the results of the survey and working on develop- ing a comprehensive strategy. The ultimate goal, Robson says, is to embed mental health into the fabric of the company and strive for ongoing improvement. "How do we take this and really embed it into our processes and our safety management sys- tems and sustain it and adjust as we need to and move forward?" she asks. Although the study was specific to Vale, the company is actively sharing the findings through- out the industry. "I'm sure there's practices out there that other companies are doing that we can learn from, and so how do we work together as an industry to address this?" Robson says. Larivière echoes the need for the entire industry to get involved and encourages other companies to consider conducting similar surveys. "The time is right and it's very needed to have these discussions and create a broader mental health strategy." Easiest traction aid ... … for indoor/outdoor use Simply rotate to top of foot when not in use. Easy, convenient, efficient and safe. ® Click here to see the details or call us to see if you qualify for a FREE sample!

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