Canadian HR Reporter

January 2020 CAN

Canadian HR Reporter is the national journal of human resource management. It features the latest workplace news, HR best practices, employment law commentary and tools and tips for employers to get the most out of their workforce.

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Is office air bad for our health? 'Volatile compounds may adversely affect worker health and productivity' BY JOHN DUJAY JUST BEING inside a modern of- fice might be detrimental to an em- ployee's health, according to early conclusions from an ongoing study by Purdue University. Preliminary results suggest that people are the dominant source of volatile organic compounds in a modern office environment, says Brandon Boor, assistant professor of civil engineering at the West La- fayette, Ind. institution. "We found levels of many com- pounds to be 10 to 20 times higher indoors than outdoors. If an office space is not properly ventilated, these volatile compounds may ad- versely affect worker health and productivity." Using a tightly controlled setting in the university's laboratories, re- searchers used thousands of sen- sors or "sniffers" in four open-office simulated spaces. "The chemistry of indoor air is dynamic. It changes throughout the day based on outdoor condi- tions, how the ventilation system operates and occupancy patterns in the office," says Boor. Volatile organic compounds The study said volatile organic compounds (VOCs) could poten- tially be a major contaminant in of- fice settings. These can be found in self-care products such as shampoo and fragrances along with cleaning supplies. Even within an office setting, there can be both chemical and biological contaminants that build up, says Janet Mannella, vice-presi- dent of operations at the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) in Hamilton, Ont. "Cleaning supplies used in the space or things like server rooms for computers that develop ozone — that impacts air quality. Some of the common health risks would be things like dryness or irritation to the eyes, nose and throat discom- fort, dry skin so you create some itching, headaches or fatigue." Those obviously can lead to issues such as shortness of breath, nausea or dizziness, she says. The most "famous or infamous" THE NATIONAL JOURNAL OF HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT January 2020 PM41261516 STAY UP TO DATE, AND OUT OF COURT. NO> pg. 9 FEDERAL EMPLOYERS FACE NEW PENALTIES Non-compliant employers should prepare for monetary penalties, public naming in 2020 BY SARAH DOBSON F ederally regulated employers have had plen- ty to contend with of late, with new rules around pay equity, workplace harassment and the overall Canada Labour Code rolling out in 2019 and 2020. The new year may not be much easier, with the federal government set to introduce new penalties for employers that don't follow the rules. While not yet finalized, the administrative monetary penalties (AMPs) are intended to reduce the "widespread" non-compliance with the code, according to the government. From 2013 to 2016, for example, there were about 22,500 violations by about 1,700 employers, with 35 per cent being repeat offenders when it came to part II of the code (occupational health and safety). For part III, the labour standards, there were roughly 7,400 violations regarding 2,270 employ- ers, with about 23 per cent being repeat offenders. Overall, an average of 6.4 per cent of employers were found to be in violation from 2011 to 2015, said the government in its May 2019 report Evaluation of the Labour Standards Program, which recom- mended strengthening compliance and enforce- ment measures, including AMPs. "Most employers want to do the right thing, they actually want to comply with the provisions in the Canada Labour Code….Our concern, and it's been raised by stakeholders, is that they could have a competitive advantage over the law-abiding firms and therefore increase their profits at the expense of their employees. So that's a very important con- sideration," says Isabelle Maheu, spokesperson for Employment and Social Development Canada. The types of non-compliance can range from small, less serious incidences, such as an employer not filing its annual hazardous occurrence report or failing to provide a pay stub needed for an investiga- tion, she says. More serious violations could entail non-pay- ment of wages to an employee, dismissing an em- ployee without cause, or not having a hazard pre- vention program in place. "All of these provisions are in place to make sure that workplaces are healthy, safe, fair, that employ- ees go home at the end of their work shift healthy and safe and they get paid the money that's owed to them," says Maheu. While existing enforcement measures include notices of voluntary compliance (NoVs), directions and orders, they "may not always effectively encour- age compliance or deter future non-compliance," said the government. "[AMPs] offer an alternative measure for pro- moting compliance in cases that do not warrant a prosecution." Credit: Colin Woods (Shutterstock) Federally regulated employers such as banks will face harsher penalties with new rules in 2020. WE'RE > pg. 8 Alberta court cites 'social context' in sexual assault case Says arbitrator focused on factors 'not current with present-day analysis' Pg. 3 Unjust dismissal – but no return to work Federal Court decides CIBC employee's termination with compensation was reasonable solution Pg. 5 Payroll app contradicts workplace rules Toronto employer's new system raises privacy concerns Pg. 10 Working together for the HR profession Our annual look at the latest developments with Canada's HR associations Pg. 17

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