The Rubber Worker Project seeks to:
- Investigate potential connections between hazards in the rubber industry and specific illnesses/injuries that Ontario rubber workers have reported to OHCOW.
- Support workers and their families who are filing WSIB claims by providing independent, objective medical and scientific assessments.
- Build on the knowledge gathered to create resources for rubber workers to prevent exposure to workplace hazards.
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We want to hear from you!
Have you and/or your family members worked in the rubber industry?
Do you have concerns about the impact of your work on your health?
Do you have anything you’d like to share with us (work stories, photos, information about potential hazards, etc.)
Who is involved, and who can best support you?
What have we done so far?
The Rubber Worker Project was created in 2002 to investigate the cause of cancer clusters occurring in workers employed in the rubber industry in Kitchener, Waterloo, and the surrounding area. More than 6,000 workers were employed in tire fabrication plants owned by BF Goodrich, Epton Industries, Uniroyal, Michelin before the last plant closed in 2010.
OHCOW Hamilton, United Steelworkers (USW) Local 677, the Office of the Worker Adviser (OWA) and the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR) have worked together providing information, objective hygiene and medical assessments to affected workers.
In 2018, WSIB committed to review approximately 300 previously denied occupational disease claims using updated scientific information, including 2012 industry findings by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). This was a direct result of renewed activism by members of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR) Chapter 80.
OHCOW Involvement To-Date
In partnership with USW and the OWA, OHCOW then organized a two-day information session in Kitchener in the spring of 2019, with the WSIB in attendance, to allow workers and families to file claims or obtain updates on established claims. This event and subsequent communication generated 185 files, including more than 120 cancer cases.
What have we learned?
Workers in the rubber-manufacturing industry are exposed to dusts and fumes from the rubber-making and vulcanization processes. Potential exposures include: N-nitrosamines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, solvents, phthalates.
The work continues, with areas of focus including investigations into Prostate and Bladder Cancer, Leukemia, Malignant Lymphoma (including multiple myeloma and other lymphopoietic cancers), Stomach and Oesophagus Cancers, Larynx and Lung Cancers.
Check back later for more information.
Thank you for attending the USW Rubber Workers Information session held March 28, 29th 2019 at the Holiday Inn Kitchener-Cambridge Conference Centre. We are writing to give you an update and provide information on how to get further help. If you registered with the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) during the info session, we are doing administrative work on your file and laying the groundwork for occupational hygiene and medical assessments. We can use your help in that process.
Although WSIB has not provided us specific information about the number of new claims filed or the number of previous claims that have been reviewed, it is our understanding that they are working on over 400 rubber worker claims. We have been contacted by a number of workers and family members who have received letters denying a claim. Many of these letters have indicated that the claims will be reviewed again after Dr. Paul Demers of the Occupational Cancer Research Centre completes his report on the proper use of scientific evidence in deciding occupational cancer claims. Dr. Demers is scheduled to deliver his report to the Ministry of Labour in December 2019.
In the meantime, we would very much appreciate your help in identifying what is happening with your WSIB claim so that we can better plan our work in providing occupational hygiene and medical assessments. Please let us know if the WSIB has contacted you or sent you a decision letter regarding your claim. It is also very helpful to us to have a copy of any WSIB decisions, positive or negative.
Please take a few moments to contact OHCOW on our Rubber Workers Hotline at 1 888 596 3800 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please let us know the following:
- WSIB claim number
- Name of the person the WSIB claim is about
- Have you been contacted by the WSIB?
- Have you received a decision letter? (please provide us a copy if possible)
- Was your claim accepted or denied?
- Did the WSIB say they will review your claim again in the future?
- Do you have a legal representative and, if so, their name, organization and phone number
Also, please check this list of documents and information that OHCOW would need to conduct a full assessment of your file and send us anything you have not already provided.
If you do not have a representative and need legal help to meet the time limit to appeal a negative decision, to contact the WSIB because you are not sure what is happening with a claim or to find a legal representative to prepare for an appeal hearing, you can contact Jim Pasel of the USW Injured Workers Assistance Program at 1 877 836 9291 or by email at email@example.com.
This is a very large project, and it will take time for OHCOW to work through all the files. Please keep us up-to-date on what is happening with your WSIB claim and also feel free to contact us at 1 888 596 3800 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about the status of your file with us.
For general information regarding OHCOW and the USW Rubber Workers Project, please visit our websites at www.ohcow.on.ca and www.rubberworkersproject.ca.
Occupational exposures in the rubber-manufacturing industry were considered from 1981 to 2018. An international report of key hazards prepared by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
January 11, 2019
An article from The Record by Greg Mercer describing OHCOW’s collaborative efforts to support Ontario rubber workers.