Blog Post #724 – Audit on Silicosis Launched

Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine

Service Newfoundland conducted a medical audit to follow up on a study launched 40 years ago into lung diseases affecting workers at two mines in the Labrador West region.

The provincial government announced on February 25, 2013 that the two-year audit, conducted by Toronto-based Morneau Shepell, we’ll look at 2000 miners who have worked or are working in the Iron Ore Company of Canada and Wabush mines for a total of more than three years.

The audit will look into areas, such as whether or not existing health monitoring programs comply with the established standard set out in the Silica Code of Practice and review existing standards and protocols for assisting workers with abnormal chest x-rays to ensure potential hazards are clearly communicated to them.

Nick McGrath, Minister of Service Newfoundland in St. Johns, says the purpose of the voluntary medical audit will help determine how successful its prevention efforts have been. “What we would hope to find is in the last decade or decade and a half, we have progressed far enough and put measures in place to avoid industrial diseases, such as silicosis from happening.”

The silicosis study began in the late 70s. As the average age of the workers studied was only about 40, it did not account for the long latency period of silicosis development, which can fall between 20 and 40 years.

“But because of that study, there were recommendations put forward to Occupational Health & Safety about the medical surveillance program and actual sampling programs, and what we should do to ensure people are not exposed to silica,” says Colleen Rixon, the IOC’s health and safety superintendent.

Ron Thomas, president of United Steelworkers Local 5795 in Labrador City representing workers in the IOC mine, says he is hopeful that it could lead to early detection for some of his members, many of whom are developing respiratory problems. “There is no cure for silicosis or cancer, but at least with early detection, you can try to slow down the progress of the disease.”

My opinion

Silica is listed as a designated substance and, in Ontario, regulation 490/09 applies to all of the designated substances in Ontario except for asbestos which IS included but also has a separate regulation for construction or demolition projects. (Ont. Reg. 278/05) The TWA (time weighted average) list for Calcium silicate- synthetic non-fibrous is 10 mg/m³.

It is sad to find out that a mine dealing with silica didn’t understand the lengthy latency period to develop silicosis. Who was running the test? Obviously they should’ve known better.

If your Ontario company comes in contact with a designated substance please ensure that your company reads and understands the Act and the appropriate regulation dealing with the designated substance and work to protect the workforce by ensuring that the listed level of exposure in regulation 490/09 or 278/05. That would have to include an assessment to properly consider the controls necessary to be put in place.

Remember – In Canada, “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’, ‘Silicon Safety Awareness’ and ‘Standard Operating Procedures’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.

We can also be reached at 

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

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