Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine
Union reps for workers at a Winnipeg poultry processing plant say the company is playing chicken with Manitoba Labour and Immigration by appealing in order to clean up its act.
In November 2011, Granny’s Poultry was issued an improvement order related to indoor air quality, says Rob Hilliard, Dir. of workplace safety and health for Local 832 of United Food and Commercial Workers Canada (UFCW). Hilliard reports plant error was and is causing employees to become ill and further claims the company failed to comply with another or directive issued last October.
An e-mail Notes the province can only confirm an order regarding your quality of the plant has been issued and appealed by the employer. “Accordingly, the province is not able to comment further while the matter is in appeal.”
Pointing to the appeal, company CEO Craig Evans also declined comment.
Hilliard says that for the past three years, workers (primarily in the plant’s turkey evisceration area) have been complaining of coughing, sneezing, irritated eyes and trouble sleeping after working long shifts. “It smelled like chlorine, it coincided with the use of increased chlorine, so chlorine became the suspect.”
However, air testing by the company found that the levels of chlorine were well below the threshold limit value. (TLV)
The 50 or 60 workers in the area continue to complain, Hilliard reports, prompting the company to provide respirators. “About 75% of the people in this area have been using respirators for about three years,” he adds.
An occupational hygienist commission by UFCW reported that similar health complaints work common in the United States until about 20 years ago, Hilliard says. In 1993, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted an investigation into a Missouri poultry plant and concluded that although levels of chlorine in the air were well below the threshold limit value (TLV), all employees symptoms pointed to chlorine. NIOSH recommended, among other things, that ventilation be improved.
Hilliard says there is also the issue of Trichloramine, the result of ammonia and chlorine mixed together, in the air.
“These workers, for over three years, have been experiencing poor air quality in their workplace that is causing irritants to their breathing passages to the point of sometimes missing work,” he says.
The issue wasn’t the levels of chlorine but the chlorine in combination with ammonia which creates Trichloramine.
TLV for almost every type of chemical or biological agent can be requested from the American Conference of Governmental Hygienists (ACGIH). Both Canada and the United States use this organization for all the TWAEVs, STEVs and CEVs. The TLV of Trichloramine is 300mg/m3.
Granny’s Poultry should always place the worker’s safety at the top of the priority list. Instead of fighting the “improvement order” they should embrace the chance to better themselves. The appeal just shows a lack of regard for the workers. I do hope the fines represent this total lack of regard. I hope the government realizes that any long term respiratory issues, stemming from this exposure, is also the responsibility of Granny’s Poultry.
The appropriate health and safety departments for the province of Manitoba need to better understand their responsibilities and learn to deal with this type of employer. The worker MUST come first!
Notify your member of provincial parliament and let him/her know your concerns. Safety is everyone’s responsibility and the legislation needs to be in place to be effective. Manitoba may still have a long way to go if this report is any indication.
Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”
HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Due Diligence’, ‘WHMIS’, ‘Chemical Safety Awareness’ and ‘Standard Operating Procedures’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.
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‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.
Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.