General Electric (GE) Project

An OHCOW Cluster Investigation

The General Electric plant in Peterborough, Ontario opened in 1891 and closed in 2018 with 350 workers.
The plant started by building generators and streetcar motors but quickly expanded to many different types products.

At the peak of its operations the plant employed approximately 6,000 workers.

The Project

In 2004, OHCOW was invited to partner with the then Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union to put on an Occupational Disease Intake Clinic in Peterborough, ON.
The event was held for General Electric (GE) workers and retirees as well as for family members of GE workers who had already died.

Workers and retirees were concerned about their own health and that of their co-workers. They talked about the conditions in which they worked and the substances to which they were exposed daily, often without ventilation or protective equipment. Workers also talked about the deaths of many of their colleagues and wondered if they were work-related.

650 former GE Peterborough workers registered at the event


OHCOW's Role

In March 2017, past and present Peterborough General Electric workers and their families were invited to a three-day information session hosted by the Ministry of Labour, providing an opportunity for workers and their families to learn more about the WSIB claims system, the status of any claims and the steps to take in a claim process.

OHCOW, along with UNIFOR, GE Retirees, the Office of the Worker Advisor, the Occupational and Environmental Health Coalition of Peterborough and the WSIB were present to provide workers with as much information as possible.

OHCOW medical and hygiene staff worked extensively on the organization of the files, identification of common diseases and a summary of exposures, especially in the Armature and Wire & Cable Departments as well as individual case report development.

A retrospective exposure profiles of the facilities, process reviews and cataloging of documents by researchers Bob and Dale DeMatteo was conducted and subsequently released in May 2017.

Additional Resources from these sessions can be found below.

The Goal

It is impossible to predict the results of OHCOW’s work,
but workers and their families are entitled to whatever answers can be found.

Ultimately, the Project will seek legislative changes to improve workplace safety and access to compensation
for all workers who suffer health issues related to occupational disease or injury.

Project Status

This project is ongoing and is in the information gathering and analysis phase.

If you have information that may assist us with our study, and you did not attend one of our earlier intake sessions, please contact us.

Common Diagnoses

•  Lung  •  Stomach  •  Brain  •  Kidney  •  Bladder  •  Bowel  •  Colon  •  Prostate  •  Breast  •  Liver  •  Pancreatic
•  Throat  •  Laryngeal  •  Pharyngeal  •  Esophageal  •  Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma  •  Leukemia  •  Skin
Asbestosis and Asbestos-related Disease
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Work-related Asthma
Ischemic Heart Disease
Noise-induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)

A pie chart showing the common diagnoses of the GE Peterborough Cluster Investigation

Recorded Webinars

The Face of Occupational Illness – Cluster Investigations

Dave Wilken
Chief Operating Officer

GE Ventra and Rubber Worker Projects
Cluster Updates

Dave Wilken
Chief Operating Officer

GE Hazard Mapping

John Oudyk
Occupational Hygienist

A Labour / Worker Point of View

Bob Dematteo
Former Health and Safety Director, OPSEU
OHCOW Board Member

Using Science in Cancer Adjudication and Policy Making Cluster Project Implications
Questions and Answers

Dave Wilken
Chief Operating Officer

Additional Resources

Report on Workplace Exposures at GE Peterborough (1945-2000)
Prepared for Unifor National by Dale DeMatteo, Robert DeMatteo and an Advisory Committee of GE retirees, February 2017

GE Department-wide Retrospective Exposure Profiles
Armature Department #7
Wire and Cable Departments
Prepared by OHCOW Occupational Hygienist Sonia Lal, April 2005

 Workers’ Fight for Justice: A Retrospective Exposure Profile Study of the GE Factory in Peterborough, Ontario.
New Solut. 2019;29(2):138-166. doi:10.1177/1048291119850779
DeMatteo R, DeMatteo D.

Historic Photographs of the Canadian General Electric Works in Peterborough, Ontario
New Solut. 2019;29(2):167-171. doi:10.1177/1048291119856460
DeMatteo R, DeMatteo D.

Media Coverage

The following videos/articles are relevant to this study:

Toronto Star / Waterloo Record

The Uncounted [May 2020]
A six-part series on the effects of occupational disease in Canada