Monday, June 1, 2020


This part in the series describing the horrifically unhealthy work environments in various industries across Canada and the second victimization of workers by the Workplace Insurance and Safety Board (WSIB) focuses on workers including millwrights in Dofasco, a major steel maker both in Hamilton as well as world wide. Our health industry also do not look particularly good in this series as they failed over a period of years to diagnose one particular millwright's symptoms until it was much too late for him. This hits close to home as I have a friend in Waterloo who eight months after becoming sick, despite undergoing all tests recommended, has yet to receive either a diagnosis much less any treatment.

Eventually the diagnosis was MDS or Myelodysplastic syndrome, a bone marrow cancer associated with Vietnam War veterans exposed to Agent Orange or workers in industries that expose them to benzene and other toxic hydrocarbons (solvents, fuels etc.). At that point the physicians and specialists all said that it was work related. Dofasco is the non-union steelmaker in Hamilton versus the unionized Stelco plant. This article does suggest that at least some employees at Dofasco were very reluctant to raise health issues or working conditions at work for fear of losing their jobs. Other health issues inside the Dofasco plant included exposure to trichloroethylene (TCE) a formerly common degreaser , heavy metals dust and other particulates in the air.

Our trusty WSIB did their job (delay) and investigated his case after his diagnosis for thirteen months. The individual (Mr. Buckley) hired a lawyer to appeal the decision but four months after his death the WSIB did agree that his blood disease was work related. Workers in the plant describe harmful gases including graphite dust from iron ore along with particulates in the air. Eye protection was mandatory whereas respirator's to protect the lungs were not. In areas footsteps would raise clouds of dust to the point that they couldn't even see their colleagues in front of them. Dofsaco have belatedly made improvements including better ventilation and vacuum trucks to remove some of the dust. Far too little, far too late for many employees.

This is not a hole in the wall company that flew under the radar of either the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Health or the WSIB. They and their bosses (Ontario cabinet and government) knew full well what was going on and did little or nothing to save lives and health.

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