• Proposed Changes to Designated Substances Regulation

    address medical surveillance; respiratory protection

    ON MAY 4, 2015, ONTARIO’S MINISTRY OF LABOUR (MOL) posted on the Regulatory Registry proposed amendments to Ontario Regulation 490/09 – Designated Substances (O. Reg. 490/09 or “the Regulation”). If approved, the proposed amendments would update and consolidate the individual codes for medical surveillance, respiratory protection and measuring for the designated substances.

    Proposed changes with respect to an employer’s duty to protect third party workers

    It is proposed that the Regulation be amended so that section 15 applies to workers engaged in construction to ensure that they are afforded the same protection as other third party workers exposed to a designated substance at a host employer’s workplace.

    Proposed changes to the Codes for Medical Surveillance

    The MOL intends to update and incorporate a new Code of Medical Surveillance (“Code”) that would consolidate Medical Surveillance Program requirements for the following designated substances: asbestos, benzene, isocyanates, lead (inorganic and organic), mercury (alkyl and non-alkyl compounds) and silica.

    According to the MOL, medical surveillance programs established in accordance with the proposed Code would assist in the detection of exposure related adverse health effects for appropriate medical follow-up, including removal from exposure, and direct the need for immediate evaluation of primary exposure control measures.

    Key proposed changes also include the removal of some current screening requirements based on a number of factors, including: lack of supporting medical/scientific evidence; and adverse health effects associated with increased radiation exposures associated with medical tests. The proposal includes:

    • removing clinical testing for the detection of early occupational lung cancer in asymptomatic workers currently working in exposure to lung carcinogens;
    • removing existing Medical Surveillance Code for Coke Oven Emissions; Acrylonitrile; and Vinyl Chloride;
    • lowering of the biomedical markers for lead and mercury based on current scientific/medical evidence, to prevent adverse health effects at lower concentrations.

    N.B. Medical surveillance is still recommended for the detection of pneumoconiosis for workers exposed to silica and asbestos.

    The proposals also call for:

    • changing the requirement for “pre-employment” medical examinations to “preplacement” medical examinations, to clarify that medical examinations are not required prior to an offer of an employment being extended; and
    • providing for “acute” exposure and “exit” medical examinations to ensure for appropriate medical follow-up.

    Physicians conducting medical examinations or supervising clinical tests would be governed by the Code in making a determination of whether a worker is “fit”, “fit with limitations” or “unfit” to continue working in exposure to the designated substance.

    Proposed changes to Codes for Respiratory Protection for designated substances

    There are currently 11 separate Codes for Respiratory Protection, one for each of the 11 designated substances referenced in O. Reg. 490/09. The Ministry proposes to replace these individual respiratory protection codes with new, updated consolidated respiratory protection program requirements set out in O. Reg. 490/09.

    The proposed new respiratory protection program will require employers to:

    • ensure that respiratory equipment is appropriate for the form and concentration of airborne designated substance;
    • establish written measures and procedures that address the selection, care and use of the equipment;
    • where practicable, provide respiratory equipment to individual workers for their exclusive use; and
    • ensure workers are provided with instruction and training in the care and use of the equipment that addresses:
      1. limitations of the respiratory equipment;
      2. inspection and maintenance of the respiratory equipment;
      3. proper fitting of the respiratory equipment; and
      4. cleaning and disinfection of the respiratory equipment.

    Workers can only be assigned to an operation using a respirator if they are physically able to perform the operation while using the respirator. They must be referred to a physician if they experience breathing difficulty while using respiratory equipment.

    The proposed new respiratory protection program requirements will require respiratory protection equipment:

    • to be approved by the United States (U.S.) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH);
    • to be selected with regard to:
      • the airborne concentration of a designated substance
      • its maximum use concentration;
      • the potential for an atmosphere with an oxygen concentration less than 19.5%;
      • an atmosphere that is immediately dangerous to life or health; and
      • oil in the atmosphere; and
    • to meet or exceed the assigned protection factors set out in the Code.

    In addition, the new, consolidated Code outlines specific requirements for:

    • airline respirators used in an atmosphere that is immediately dangerous to life or health;
    • respiratory equipment using a compressed breathing air system;
    • oil-lubricated compressors supplying breathing air; and
    • respiratory equipment using ambient breathing air systems.

    Fitting requirements

    Respiratory equipment designed to be tight fitting must:

    • be tested for fit in accordance with a qualitative or quantitative fit test method set out in CSA Standard Z94.4-11, Selection, Use and Care of Respirators;
    • require workers using tight fitting elastomeric respirators to conduct positive and negative pressure user seal checks prior to every use;
    • not be provided to or used by a worker who has facial hair where the face piece of the respirator must meet the skin.

    Cleaning and maintenance requirements

    All respiratory equipment must be used and cared for in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications and procedures. Respiratory equipment used exclusively by one worker must be thoroughly cleaned, disinfected and inspected at the end of each day on which it is used, or more often if necessary. Equipment used by more than one worker, must be thoroughly cleaned, disinfected and inspected at the end of each use. Equipment used for emergency purposes must be thoroughly inspected at least once a month and after each use. Equipment parts that are damaged or deteriorated must be replaced prior to being used by a worker. Equipment and parts must be stored in a clean and sanitary location.


    Employers must maintain maintenance records for powered air purifying respirators, airline respirators and self-contained breathing apparatuses.


    The proposed changes would apply to all designated substances. The MOL has posted online a document that provides a summary of the proposal; background information; and details of the proposal.

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