Saturday, December 09, 2006

Dirty Environmental Politics

Politics gets dirty, literally, when politicians play the optics game with the environment when they should be supporting solutions. The New Conservative Government’s Environment Minister Rona Ambrose proposes a $300 million, 4 year, study to review 500 toxic chemicals. However, there are 23,000 chemicals on the official list of problematic chemicals. Just as Minister Ambrose pushed global warming targets out to the year 2050, she is pushing thousands of chemicals off to the side. You know environmental management is in trouble in Canada when a plan - to create a plan - may be underway that misses most of the point.

I’ve been and industrial scientist and still do some serious scientific work. To deal with dangerous materials there are professional standards such as: Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System Standards (WHMIS), Health and Safety Standards, Professional Society Standards, and Environmental Laws. Violating these has financial, professional, legal, and often personal health consequences. Professional approaches to management should be supported and improved.

For decades, Environment Canada and numerous provincial agencies worked to contribute to scientific standards and regularly update them. Today, Minister Ambrose is muzzling her ministry’s scientific opinion on gas emissions and she is performing an end-around on both the scientific and professional community that works to manage dangerous materials. The end result: 98% of problematic materials are off the list but Ambrose gets a photo op to claim she is against toxic chemicals. Orwellian double-speak at its best! And, at a cost of only $300 million, though some might argue it would be better spent through existing professional agencies.

References: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and google news


WHMIS (or Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) - pronounced "WHIM-ISS" - is Canada's national hazard communication program for hazardous workplace chemicals. Established in 1988, WHMIS was developed (and continues to evolve) through a well-established consensus process in partnership between Canada's federal, provincial and territorial (F/P/T) governments, as well as with individuals representative of Canadian industry (i.e., suppliers and employers) and organized labour.

WHMIS is analogous to the American Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) administered by the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration. After the HCS, Canada's was the 2nd such national workplace hazard communication system for industrial/commercial chemicals established in the world.

The hazard communication elements of WHMIS include appropriate labelling of controlled products and hazardous material, as well as comprehensive Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) and worker education and training programs.

WHMIS is implemented through complementary and interlocking federal, provincial and territorial legislation.

The Canadian Hazardous Product Act, Part II and associated Controlled Products Regulations, administered by the federal agency: Health Canada, require suppliers and importers to appropriately label controlled products and to transmit or obtain MSDSs as a condition of sale or importation. The legislation also places a defacto requirement on suppliers and importers to assess their products against specified hazard classification criteria established in the Part IV of the Controlled Products Regulations.

Occupational health and safety legislation, administered by each of Canada's F/P/T governments, require Canadian employers to ensure that controlled products are appropriately labelled in the workplace, that associated MSDSs are made available to workers, and that workers are educated and trained to ensure the safe storage, handling, use and disposal of controlled products in order to protect worker health and safety.

Canadian Health and Safety (Federal)

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) is the agency of the federal Government of Canada which seeks to promote safe and healthy workplaces and prevent work-related injuries and illnesses. Additional work in this area is carried out by provincial and territorial labour departments and workers' compensation boards.

CCOHS was created in 1978 by an Act of Parliament - Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Act S.C., 1977-78, c. 29. The act was based on the belief that all Canadians had "...a fundamental right to a healthy and safe working environment." .

The Centre is governed by a tripartite Council of Governors representing government (federal, provincial and territorial), employers, and workers.

CCOHS seeks to make credible information about workplace hazards and conditions easily and widely accessible to all Canadians.

Services offered
Inquiry Service - the free, confidential, person-to-person information service for Canadians
OSH Answers Q&A on CCOHS website
Health and Safety Report free monthly electronic newsletter
Bringing Health to Work portal - information on creating healthy workplaces
Webinar presentations
WHMIS Classification Database
JobOne Canada website for new and young workers, addressing the high levels of injuries and illnesses suffered by this group of workers
CANOSH website
Canadian enviroOSH Legislation (plus Standards)
MSDS Management Service
health and safety pocket guides
CCOHS publications are offered in English and French and in several formats (print, CD ROM, DVD, Internet).

CCOHS collaborates with the Canadian Health Network to providing content and resources about occupational health and safety for the Canadian Health Network's website.

External links
CCOHS homepage
Inquiry Service
Bringing Health to Work Portal
The Health and Safety Report E-Newsletter
WHMIS Classifications Search
CanOSH - Canada's National Occupational Health Safety WebsiteWorker safety and health
Occupational safety and health Workplace wellness

Retrieved from ""

International Health and Safety:

(OSH) is a cross-disciplinary area concerned with protecting the safety, health and welfare of people engaged in work or employment. As a secondary effect OSH may also protect employers, customers, suppliers, and members of the public who may experience an impact from the workplace environment.

Since 1950, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have had a common definition of occupational health. This definition was adopted by the Joint ILO/WHO Committee on Occupational Health at its First Session (1950) and revised at its 12th Session (1995): "Occupational health should aim at: the promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, mental and social well-being of workers in all occupations; the prevention amongst workers of departures from health caused by their working conditions; the protection of workers in their employment from risks resulting from factors adverse to health; the placing and maintenance of the worker in an occupational environment adapted to his physiological and psychological capabilities; and, to summarize, the adaptation of work to man and of each man to his job."

The primary, and in the view of many, the most prominent reason for establishing occupational safety and health (OSH) standards is moral - an employee should not have to expect that by coming to work life or limb is at risk, nor should others be adversely affected by their undertaking.

A further factor that favours OSH is economic - many governments realize that poor occupational safety and health performance results in cost to the State (e.g. through social security payments to the incapacitated, costs for medical treatment, and the loss of the "employability" of the worker). Employing organisations also sustain costs in the event of an incident at work (such as legal fees, fines, compensatory damages, investigation time, lost production, lost goodwill from the workforce, from customers and from the wider community).

OSH standards are, generally speaking, further reinforced in both civil law and criminal law; it is accepted that without the extra "encouragement" of potential regulatory action or litigation, many organisations would not act upon their implied moral obligations.

Different states take different approaches to legislation, regulation, and enforcement.

In the European Union, Member States have enforcing authorities to ensure that the basic legal requirements relating to occupational safety and health are met. In many EU countries, there is strong cooperation between employer and worker organisations (e.g. Unions) to ensure good OSH performance as it is recognized this has benefits for both the worker ( throughmaintenance of health) and the enterprise (through improved productivity and quality). In 1996 the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (OSHA) was founded.

In the UK, health and safety legislation is drawn up and enforced by the Health and Safety Executive under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Increasingly in the UK the regulatory trend is away from prescriptive rules, and towards risk assessment. Recent major changes to the laws governing asbestos and fire safety management embrace the concept of risk assessment.

In the USA, OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has been regulating occupational safety and health since the 1971. OSH regulation of a limited number of specifically defined industries was in place for several decades before that, and broad regulations by some of the individual states was in place for many years prior to the establishment of OSHA.

In Canada, workers are covered by provincial or federal labour codes depending on the sector in which they work. Workers covered by federal legislation (including those in mining, transportation, and federal employment) are covered by the Canada Labour Code; all other workers are covered by the health and safety legislation of the province they work in. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), an agency of the Government of Canada, was created in 1978 by an Act of Parliament. The act was based on the belief that all Canadians had "...a fundamental right to a healthy and safe working environment." . CCOHS is mandated to promote safe and healthy workplaces to help prevent work-related injuries and illnesses.

Occupational safety and health may involve interaction among several technical disciplines, including occupational medicine, occupational (or industrial) hygiene, safety engineering, health physics, ergonomics, toxicology, and psychology.

Canadian News Sources

(Martin Mittelstaedt / Gloria Galloway G&M A1; Carly Weeks Ctz A3, EJ A6, VSun A4, CH A8, VTC A4, Gaz A14, NP A6, SSP B6; Bruce Campion-Smith TStar A4; Jon Willing TSun 4, CSun 13, ESun 22, OSun 10; Dennis Bueckert CP WFP A10, HCH A6, MT&T B1).

(c) 2006 Victoria BC


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