"Creosote is a carcinogen. Research indicates that there is no such thing as a safe level of a carcinogen.” - Carol Furlong, NAPE President.
St. John's (24 Jan. 2013) — Late on January 22, six workers at the Rowan Centre and two workers at the Methadone Clinic (Building 532 – Pleasantville), all members of the Newfoundland Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE/NUPGE), individually exercised their right to refuse work under the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act due to health concerns.
Despite exercising their right to refuse work under the Act, Eastern Health promptly ordered the workers to report to work in Building 532. The workers are currently waiting for the Eastern Health Occupational Health and Safety committee to report their refusals to Service NL’s Occupational Health and Safety Division.
“It’s unfortunate that staff felt they had to resort to this measure,” said NAPE President Carol Furlong. “They expressed their concerns to management on a number of occasions but Eastern Health refused to relocate them to another building. They were left with little choice.”
Eastern Health stated in a December 2012 press release which advised the public of the relocation of services provided by the Recovery Centre that there was no creosote in the newer parts of Building 532 where the Rowan Centre and the Methadone Clinic are situated.
“However, while the newer section of the building may not have creosote in the structure there are creosote vapours in Rowan Centre. Air quality testing in 2009 confirmed this,” stated Furlong. “Eastern Health is doing more testing now and it shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that there is creosote in the air these employees are breathing. Creosote is a carcinogen. Research indicates that there is no such thing as a safe level of a carcinogen.”
Section 45 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act allows workers to refuse work which they have reasonable grounds to believe is dangerous to his or her health or safety or the health or safety of other persons in the workplace.
NAPE/NUPGE supports these individuals and believes they have reasonable grounds to conclude they are at risk by remaining at Building 532 to work. All employees who refused to continue working in this building experienced various symptoms which subside when they are not in the building and the smell of creosote is present and could be causing the employees to feel ill. Eastern Health has offered to relocate any worker at the Rowan Centre or Methadone Clinic who is pregnant or is trying to become pregnant while workers in the other section of the building have already been relocated due to environmental health concerns.
“They have moved employees from one section of the building. The union is calling on Eastern Health to relocate all of the remaining workers in Building 532,” said Furlong.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE