Canadian Labour Reporter

May 22, 2017

Canadian Labour Reporter is the trusted source of information for labour relations professionals. Published weekly, it features news, details on collective agreements and arbitration summaries to help you stay on top of the changing landscape.

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7 Canadian HR Reporter, a Thomson Reuters business 2017 CANADIAN LABOUR REPORTER NEWS role was to evaluate and approve PPE worn by employees at the smelter. The PPE committee con- sisted of one union and one man- agement representative from each of five different areas of the smelt- er. Over a period of several years, the smelter was significantly re- built, leading to changes in safety requirements. In July 2014, both the company and the union agreed to a new shirt and coverall made of wool. The colour of the shirt was or- ange, compared to the blue of the old one, in order to provide high- er visibility and greater safety. While the shirt itself was ap- proved by both parties, there were no discussions on how it should be worn by workers. However, the company wanted employees to tuck in the shirts, as an untucked shirt could lead to a greater exposure to air contami- nants or molten metal if it rode up on an employee. It could also become entangled in equipment or be lit by electric spark flashes. The new shirts had ventila- tion under both arms and at the back, so the company wasn't con- cerned with heat stress. Rio Tinto Alcan's parent com- pany — based in France — had a best practices guide that stated it preferred workplace shirts to be tucked in. The company's smelter in Quebec had a policy requir- ing work shirts to be tucked into employees' pants, but the Kiti- mat smelter had no such policy. Employees who didn't want to tuck in their pants were allowed to wear coveralls — which 40 per cent of worker at the Kitimat smelter did. The company performed risk assessments for each of the ar- eas of the smelter, and risks such as moving machinery, burning metal caught in pants, and fire risks were reasons for recom- mendations for wearing clothing fit close to the body. One area — the casting centre — that dealt with hot metal ve- hicles and the wearing of protec- tive jackets, trousers, socks, and boots inside vehicles or booths had a recommendation to wear loose clothing to "maximize cas- cade effect." Union questioned rule In May 2015, nearly one year after the shirts were approved, the union, Unifor, inquired as to whether they had to be tucked in or not. The company said shirts had to be tucked in at all areas ex- cept for the casting centre. It also reiterated that coveralls were an option for employees who didn't want to wear tucked-in shirts. Unifor objected to the policy as it hadn't been discussed when the new shirts were implement- ed and some employees who had to work in small spaces or who were overweight didn't want to tuck in their shirts. In addition, in certain areas, tucking in shirts could cause a safety risk, as splashing molten metal could get caught in the crevice between the tucked-in shirt and pants. Unifor said there should be a risk assessment for each occupa- tion in the smelter to determine if tucking in was necessary. A unilateral rule was unfair and a violation of the collective agreement, it said, especially since the collective agreement stated that if a joint committee was unable to reach agreement on a health and safety matter, it could take the matter to the workers' compensation board to investigate and try to resolve it. Arbitrator Stan Lanyon found that under the B.C. Workers' Compensation Act, employ- ers were ultimately responsible to ensure the health and safety of all employees. The act also stated that every employee must take "reasonable care to protect" their own health and safety in the workplace. This was also indicated by the collective agreement, which stipulated that "it is the respon- sibility of management to make adequate provision for the safety and health of all employees dur- ing the hours of their employ- ment." The collective agreement also said that "all standards es- tablished by law shall constitute minimum acceptable practice to be improved upon by agree- ment" of the smelter's occupa- tional health and safety and en- vironmental committee and its sub-committees. Where there was disagree- ment, the parties must act in ac- cordance with the legislation. Lanyon pointed out that B.C.'s occupational health and safety regulations required that "if there is a risk to an employee from exposure to hazardous substances, the employer must either eliminate the exposure or control the harmful levels, by amongst other things, providing 'personal protective equipment'" that protects the skin against "contamination, infection, punc- ture or abrasion, or any other ad- verse effect." This includes the instruction that employees "must wear prop- erly fitting protective equipment appropriate to the work being done and the hazards involved" and for circumstances with mov- ing machinery or electrically energized equipment, "the cloth- ing of the worker must fit closely about the body." Lanyon found that the health and safety regulations supported Rio Tinto Alcan's policy that the new work shirts must be tucked into employees' pants. Since the collective agreement stipulated that the statutory requirements must be followed if there was an impasse in the joint health and safety committee, the shirt- tucking policy must remain, the arbitrator said, in dismissing the union's grievance. The arbitrator also noted that if the union had issues with risk assessments in particular ar- eas of the smelter, it was free to grieve any of them individually. For more information see: • Rio Tinto Alcan Inc. and Unifor, Local 2301 (Change to Personal Protective Equipment Stan- dards), Re, 2016 CarswellBC 1547 (B.C. Arb.). < Tuck-in rule pg. 1 Statutory regulations followed after committee impasse Photo: sutsaiy (Shutterstock)

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