Occupational Illness
EXPOSURES

Exposure to hazards in the workplace can result from many sources including: 

Icon depicting the concept of sound / noise waves

Noise

Icon depicting the concept of diesel exhaust

Diesel Exhaust

Icon depicting the concept of asbestos with fine particles sandwiched between layers of material

Asbestos

Icon depicting the concept of silica dust using a diamond-like structure

Silica

Icon depicting the concept of temperature using a thermometer

Temperature

Icon depicting some fume/gas waves floating up through the air from a single source

Vapours / Gases

Icon depicting the concept of allergens and irritants

Allergens / Irritants

Icon depicting mould (mold) spores

Mould (Mold)

Icon of a chemical drum overlayed with two smaller chemical containers

Chemicals

Icon showing dust particles

Metal, Dust & Fumes

These hazards are outlined in greater detail below and resources are provided where available.

NOISE

Noise causes noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). NIHL is the most common work-related illness in Ontario. A workplace can be too loud if people have to raise their voices to be heard, if they have a ringing in their ear at the end of the day, or even if you notice the car radio is louder the next morning. But quiet workplaces can be a problem if there are infrequent but very loud impact noises, too.

Go to NOISE page

Resources:

CALCULATOR TOOL

Noise-induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) Audiogram Calculation Tool

Updated August 2021 • Use this fillable PDF to find out if your NIHL meets the minimum requirement for establishing a NIHL claim with the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).

 

PDF PRESENTATION

Noise – Its Effects and Methods to Reduce Exposure

A slide presentation by James Miuccio, MSc, CIH
Occupational Hygienist.

 

PDF INFOGRAPHIC

Doing Something About Workplace Noise

A PDF infographic with exciting visuals displaying and describing the types and effects of noise, control measures and goals, as well as the benefits of noise control. 11 x 27 inches.

 

FACT SHEET

CCOHS: Noise – Basic Information

Fact Sheets on Noise: Easy-to-read, question-and-answer fact sheets covering a wide range of workplace health and safety topics, from hazards to diseases to ergonomics to workplace promotion.

 

DIESEL EXHAUST

Workers can be exposed to diesel exhaust when working near or around diesel engines. Even very low Diesel exhaust is produced by the combustion of diesel fuel. The amount of exhaust will vary widely, depending on the engine, the speed or load, the emission control systems, and for indoor exposures, the ventilation effectiveness. Diesel exhaust is a complex mixture that is confirmed to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing) to humans (IARC Group 1).

Go to Diesel Exhaust Page

Resources:

Snapshot of the OHCOW Diesel Exhaust Lung Cancer Risk Calculator

NEW!
Web Version of Diesel Exhaust Lung Cancer Relative Risk Calculator Now Available!

The following resources are also related to diesel exhaust:

ASBESTOS

Asbestos is a natural occurring fibrous mineral. It was used as a building material and in some fabric materials such as blankets for its fire resistance, chemical resistance, insulating properties. Asbestos use really increased in the late 1800s, and peaked in the 1960s-1970s. It began to be strictly regulated in the mid-1980s. It was not banned in Canada until 2018, though there are many existing building materials that contain it. All forms of asbestos can cause cancer when inhaled (IARC Group 1 carcinogen).

Go to Asbestos Page

Resources:

PDF PRESENTATION

Celebrating the Asbestos Ban in Canada: and Where to Go From Here

An overview of how the Canadian ban on asbestos was achieved, and identifies the challenges faced, the strategies developed and a look towards the future. Presented by Alec Farquhar, Coordinator, Asbestos Free Canada.

 

PDF PRESENTATION

Investigating the Need for Asbestos Management Standards

A presentation with literature reviews, an environmental scan, interviews with key informants as well as a gap analysis and recommendations. Presented by Anya Keefe, Paul Demers, Manisha Pahwa, Soham Paraelkar at the 2020 Occ-tober Symposium.

 

RESEARCH ARTICLE

Exposure Assessment for Newfoundland Asbestos Miners and Millers

An Abstract of an article from the Annals of Work Exposures and Health, full title: “A Quantitative Retrospective Exposure
Assessment for Former Chrysotile Asbestos Miners and Millers from Baie Verte, NL, Canada.” Written by Tina Giles Murphy, Stephen Bornstein, John Oudyk and Paul Demers.

 

INFO SHEET

What is Asbestos?  

“Burden of Occupational Cancer Fact Sheet” from CAREX Canada and the Occupational Cancer Research Centre.

 

CRYSTALLINE SILICA

Logo of the Silica Control Tool Pilot Program for Ontario

Crystalline silica (formula: silicon dioxide) is a naturally occurring mineral found in sand and stone. It is also found in human-made products such as bricks, gravel, concrete, blocks, mortar, glass, and artificial stone. Crystalline silica is often referred to as silica. Most silica is in the form quartz. Silica is hazardous when it is inhaled in the air. It is made airborne through activities such as blasting, crushing, cutting, drilling, grinding, sawing, and similar. Silica exposure can cause silicosis (a pulmonary fibrosis), lung cancer (IARCH Group 1 carcinogen), as well as chronic kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and scleroderma.

Go to Silica Page

Resources:

TEMPERATURE (Heat/Cold)

Workers are often employed in environments, both inside and outside, that may involve exposure to both cold and heat. Understanding the health risks involved with worker in temperature extremes can help employers prepare and protect their workers. From heat stress (including heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke) to cold stress (including frost bite, trench foot, chillbains, and hypothermia), it doesn’t have to be as “extreme” a temperature as many expect to have adverse health consequences.

Go to Temperature Page

Resources:

ALLERGENS / IRRITANTS

An irritant is a chemical that causes reversible inflammation or irritation, such as itching, discomfort, sneezing, or coughing. An allergen is a usually harmless substance that triggers an immune system response, ranging from mild (itching, discomfort, sneeze) to severe (anaphylaxis, inducing asthma attacks). Some things can be both an irritant and an allergen, such as mould (mold).

Go to Allergens/Irritants Page

Resources:

WEBINAR

Respiratory Hazards

Healthy Workers in Healthy Workplaces Initiative
ODAP

 

WEBINAR

ODAP: Allergens and Irritants Update

A presentation by D Linn Holness

 

WEBINAR

Occupational Health Issues in Agriculture

A presentation by Dr. Michael Pysklywec

 

INFO SHEET

WorkSafe NB: Occupational Dermatitis

Outlines causes and preventive measures that workplaces can use to minimize the risk of this disease.

CHEMICALS

Chemicals can include those are used in the workplace (including cleaning chemicals) and chemicals created in the workplace (including carbon monoxide created by sources of combustion). Chemicals can be managed by WHMIS (Workplace Hazards Materials Information System), but the CCPSA (Canada Consumer Product Safety Act) may also apply for smaller quantities of some chemicals. Chemicals can enter your body by:

  • Inhalation: breathing vapours, gases, dusts, fumes;
  • Injection, such as through anything that cuts the skin;
  • Ingestion: eating food with dirty hands may be the most common way for ingestion to occur;
  • Absorption: typically through skin, sometimes through eye contact.

Every chemical has different hazardous effects and different safe levels. Always refer to the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for more information on the chemical’s properties, and refer to OHCOW’s OEL Adjustment Tool for OELs.

VGDF (Vapours, Gases, Dusts, Fumes)

VGDF (vapours, gases, dusts & fumes) is a broad term for inhalation hazards that have been established to increase the risk of some respiratory diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). VGDF does not have an occupational exposure limit or other maximum exposure, and will not represent a uniform exposure. Instead, VGDF represents the overall exposure to inhaled respiratory hazards. VGDF may be identified in self-reported questionnaires, job exposure matrices, or other qualitative or semi-quantitative measures of inhalational hazards.

Go to Vapours, etc Page

RESEARCH PAPER

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

 

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): Occurrence and Associations with Occupational Exposures and Smoking

PRESENTATION SLIDES

Occupational Lung Disease: Overview, Risk Assessment, Diagnosis

 

OCTOBER 30, 2020

L. Christine Oliver, MD, MPH, MS

 

WEBINAR

Lung Month (Work-Related Lung Disease)

 

OCC-TOBER 2020: Leading into November

WEB PAGE

Position Statement

 

The Occupational Burden of Nonmalignant Respiratory Diseases:
An Official American Thoracic Society and European Respiratory Society Statement

MOULD (Mold)

Mould (also spelled as mold) and fungal spores are ubiquitous (everywhere). Fungal spores are typically present indoors by travelling in the air from outdoors. However, mould growth should not be able to establish itself indoors. Mould needs 3 conditions to grow: a growth medium (such as drywall, wood, even dirt), temperature ideally between 20-30oC but can grow from 5-40oC, and moisture. Mould is an irritant and can be an allergen. Mould exposure can occur when there is mould growth indoors, as well as when a mould remediation is occurring.

Go to Mould Page

Resources:

Web Pages

“Ontario Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development: Alert: Mould in Workplace Buildings”: https://www.ontario.ca/page/alert-mould-workplace-buildings),

“Health Canada: Mould” (https://www.ontario.ca/page/alert-mould-workplace-buildings)

OHCOW Resources

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Moulds – Workplace Guidelines for Recognition, Assessment, and Control

March 2001

[FACTSHEET]
OHCOW
Covering what moulds are, as well as their location, concerns, prevention, health effects, identification and safe removal of mould in the workplace

An infographic displaying mould remediation information

Mould Remediation

March 2001

[INFOGRAPHIC]
OHCOW

METAL DUSTS & FUMES (including MINING, WELDING)

Metal (& metalloid) dusts and fumes are a broad category. Each metal has different properties, and the size of the dust or fume will alter where it deposits in the respiratory tract. In many occupational settings, exposure is to multiple metals at the same time. For instance, nickel mining involves exposures more than just nickel, including: copper, cobalt, gold, silver, among others. Another example is welding, which will always result in a complex mixture of metal fumes that may include beryllium, cadmium, chromium, lead, manganese, zinc oxide, among others.

Go to Metal, Dust and Fumes Page

Resources:

WEB PAGE

Mining Exposures and Health

 

A page with information and links to videos.

 

RESEARCH PAPER

Bladder Cancer and Exposure in Ontario Mines

 

July 19, 2019 • Occupational exposures relating to mining as risk factors for bladder cancer

FACT SHEET

Welding Fumes

 

A two-page factsheet that provides an overview of the dangers of welding fumes along with the health effects, exposure sources, and prevention tips.

RESEARCH PAPER

Kidney Cancer and Exposures in Ontario Mines

 

January 24, 2020 • Examing the association between kidney cancer and occupational exposure to ionizing radiation in mining.

WEBINAR

Respiratory Hazards

 

November 29 2019 •  Looking at adult onset asthma that may be related to the workplace. Exposure to asbestos, diesel engine exhaust, crystalline silica and welding fumes is linked to cancer.

 

RESEARCH PAPER

Background and Development of the WSIB Lung Cancer-Gold Miners Policy

 

December 19, 2019 • the guidelines that are considered in the adjudication of lung cancer claims from Ontario gold miners.

RESEARCH PAPER

Sarcoidosis: Epidemiology, Pathogenesis, Diagnosis, and Causal Associations with Occupational and Environmental Exposures

 

March 26, 2019 • An assessment of causation in cases of sarcoidosis among workers in the mining sector of Northern Ontario.

Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL) Adjustment Tool

Updated August 2021

Based on the model and guide developed by the Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST)

Brought to you by OHCOW, and the Occupational Disease Action Plan Contributors, this tool* allows the calculation of the adjusted workplace exposure limit for an unusual or extended work shift which has been adapted using the methodology set out in the Guide for the Adjustment of Permissible Exposure Values for Unusual Work Schedules (March 2015), published by Quebec’s Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST).

This method, used in the Province of Quebec and referenced by the ACGIH and other health and safety organizations, considers toxicological information such as sensitization, irritation, organ toxicity, reproductive system toxicity  and teratogenicity, in addition to exposure and recovery times.

Irregular work shifts are now commonplace in many industries and the standard eight-hour work day/40 hour work week (which has been the basis for the time-weighted average (TWA) occupational exposure limits) is often not the reality. To address this change, exposure standard adjustments have increasingly become an essential component in workplace exposure assessment.

[*XCL document*]

*The file works ONLY if the macro security level of Excel is set to “enable all.”
Detailed instructions are provided at the bottom of the Tool’s Intro page by clicking on the Important arrow.

If you have questions regarding the OEL Tool, or would like to speak to an Occupational Hygienist for more information regarding exposure assessments or occupational disease prevention, please contact ask@ohcow.on.ca using OEL Adjust Tool in the subject line.

SUBMISSIONS

OHCOW’s mission includes a goal to protect workers and their communities from occupational diseases, injuries, and illnesses.
As part of this mission, OHCOW encourages health-based and evidence-based occupational exposure limits
(OELs) for chemicals, and equivalent sound exposure level criteria for noise exposure.

Logo of the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD)

OHCOW has produced submissions for Ontario’s Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development (MLITSD), and its predecessor ministries (MLTSD, MOL), to address evidence-based limits for Ontario regulations.

Logo of the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists

OHCOW has also produced commentary that have been submitted to the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) addressing new / adjusting existing Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) and Biological Exposure Indices (BEIs) for chemical and other occupational exposures.