What do you do when the plant you work in announces it is going to close down? If you are Bill Tyndall, full-time joint health and safety committee worker representative for Dow Chemical in Sarnia, Ontario you kick it into high gear and help organize a body mapping clinic for your co-workers.
On August 31, 2006 Dow Chemical of Canada announced plans to close production at its Sarnia site by the end of 2008. Dow’s plant closing will affect some 340 workers, including Tyndall, a process operator and member of Local 672 of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) Union.
Tyndall observes over the years numerous retirees have died shortly after they left the company. Many of these deaths were cancer-related. So going forward, unless someone captures histories of occupational exposure, workers and their families may go uncompensated.
Tyndall along with Joe Free, president of Local 672, decided something needed to be done. Together they organized an “intake” clinic for the retirees. With the help of the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW), Sarnia office and a group of volunteers they were able to process 150 retired workers.
The retirees participated in body mapping, volunteers took their personal medical histories and representatives from OHCOW arranged for physicals. According to Tyndall there were no surprises. Health concerns included asbestosis, mesothelioma, and hearing problems. They plan to hold a similar clinic next year for the other employees.
A veteran health and safety activist, Tyndall has sat on the joint health and safety committee (JHSC) at Dow for some 17 years as a worker representative and has served as worker co-chair for the last four years. Tyndall is also a certified member.
Shortly after Tyndall completed his Workers Health & Safety Centre (WHSC) Basic Certification training, the worker representatives of the joint committee successfully negotiated terms of reference stipulating all members of the JHSC had to be certified. Basic Certification
and Certification Part II
are both done in-house by joint committee worker members most of whom are WHSC-trained instructors. They identified some 60 hazards during their workplace assessment and were able to secure Workers Centre training modules to address each hazard.
“As a result, we have a very effective joint health and safety committee,” says Tyndall. It took major steps to get here and we have had major exposures in the past, but the employer has done a good job of responding to our recommendations. They are cooperative and respect the worker members likely because of our extensive training and front-line experience.”
Tyndall was first encouraged by his mentors, Kim Adamms, a fellow JHSC worker representative and Keith McMillan, CEP national representative health and safety, Ontario Region. “Bill is a top-notch advocate of health and safety training. Since becoming a WHSC-qualified instructor he has delivered thousands of hours of training to CEP members across Ontario. We value both his dedication and leadership,” says McMillan.