Canada seeks stricter grain dust limits

15.06.2017

The Department of Employment and Social Development Labour Program (the Labour Program) in Canada has proposed amendments to the occupational exposure limits (OELs) for grain dust and flour dust in order to better protect the health and safety of employees.

The proposed amendments would set a maximum OEL for grain dust at 4 milligrams per cubic meter, which compares with the current limit of 10 mg/m3, the Labour Program said.

“The current OEL of 10 mg/m3 for grain dust is too high and, therefore, puts the health and safety of federally regulated workers at risk,” the Labour Program said in a notice in the June 10 Canada Gazette. “Scientific studies reveal that worker exposure to elevated concentrations of airborne grain dust may cause a range of health effects, most of which involve the pulmonary system (for example bronchitis, upper respiratory tract irritation, asthma, and decline in pulmonary function). It has been found that, at dust concentrations of 4 mg/m3 and below, the risks to eyes, skin, and upper respiratory function would be minimized. Both employer and employee representatives agree that the current OEL for grain dust is not appropriate.”

The amendments also would increase the OEL for flour dust to 3 mg/m3 from 0.5 mg/m3.

“The current standard of 0.5 mg/m3 for flour dust is impracticable, as it would require employees to wear respiratory protective equipment at all times during their entire work shifts,” the Labour Program said. “Wearing respiratory protection equipment may interfere with task performances, reduce work efficiency and can also result in physiological and psychological burdens for workers.”

The proposed regulations are available here.

The Labour Program said the changes would take effect after publication in the Canada Gazette, and affect about 350 grain handling facilities and about 50 wheat flour mills in Canada.

“The main objective of the proposed amendments to the OHS regulations is to protect the health of employees in the federal jurisdiction by setting an appropriate OEL for two known health hazards: grain dust and flour dust,” the Labour Program said. “Doing so would mitigate the risk of occupational illness, since the adoption of an OEL for grain dust would ensure that the health and safety of employees under federal jurisdiction is protected; ensure consistency of the OEL for grain dust with the standard in force in most Canadian provincial health and safety jurisdictions; and provide flour mill workers with adequate protection that is technically feasible.”

Internationally, the OEL for grain dust varies from country to country. Australia, England and Japan have each adopted the 4 mg/m3 standard, but the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration uses a 10 mg/m3 standard.

Internationally, the OEL for flour dust varies from 3 mg/m3 to 10 mg/m3. In England, the OEL is 10 mg/m3, while in Australia, Greece, Finland, Iceland and Norway it is 5 mg/m3. The United States does not have a specific OEL for flour dust.


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