Chemical fumigants are widely used in the shipping industry to kill invasive alien species in cargo loads.
Fumigants are chemical compounds in the form of gases that are typically used as Insecticides or disinfectants. These gases are slightly heavier than air and have the ability to spread to all areas of a sealed structure. Chemical fumigants are widely used in the shipping industry to kill invasive alien species in cargo loads.
The CBSA has standardized testing and ventilation procedures across all major marine operations. Current testing requires the use of a detection-technology known as Dräger-Tubes to test for six common fumigants and solvents:
The Canada Labour Code, Part II, specifies workplace exposure limits for the chemicals of concern. These exposure limits are based on the Threshold Limit Values established by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists. The Workplace Health and Public Safety Program of Health Canada provides advice and other support to federal agencies with regard to occupational health issues, including effective management of chemical exposures.
The CBSA has been taking action to protect its employees from the threat of fumigants for years. We enhanced our fumigant detection procedures two years ago, after an employee did not feel well after entering a container to perform a routine examination. Even though there was no evidence at the time to indicate that the employee had been exposed to a hazardous substance, this incident raised concerns that employees could possibly become exposed to hazardous substances. As a result, the CBSA has implemented testing procedures for known fumigants/solvents. After formaldehyde was detected, it was added to the testing process in June of 2008.
The CBSA remains committed to eliminating, by reducing to non-detectable levels, any exposure of chemicals to its employees. Examination procedures were amended July 4, 2007, following the first fumigant study report, in order to enhance employee safety during container examination. To mitigate the risk of exposure, employees are instructed to follow procedures, which include mandatory testing for fumigants and solvents, and set ventilation timeframes followed by re-testing for fumigants and solvents.
Dräger-tubes are available and interim standard operating procedures have been developed and communicated to local managers. If dräger-tube testing is not possible, alternative measures, which include hiring external contractors, are to be used to test all containers for fumigants and/or solvents prior to examination. It remains essential that CBSA employees only examine containers that have been deemed safe to examine.
The CBSA takes the health and safety of its employees very seriously and is acting to ensure that they are provided with the necessary testing equipment. The CBSA now requires employees to test all marine containers prior to examination, and to follow standard operating procedures for fumigant/solvent testing.
Dräger-tubes have been incorporated into the routine testing of chemical gases in containers. The CBSA is also looking into new highly sensitive detection technology that can test a wide spectrum of chemicals in one quick and easy test (5-10 minutes).
Ultimately, the health and safety of our employees remains a top priority, as we continue to make every effort to mitigate all known risks. The CBSA recognizes that the testing and ventilation of containers could cause delays with the movement of containers and is taking action to address the current state of our operations, while still ensuring the health and safety of our employees.
The following are some of the measures that the CBSA has undertaken:
The CBSA recognizes that the testing and ventilation of containers is causing delays with the movement of containers and is taking immediate action to address the current state of our operations, while still ensuring the health and safety of our employees.
The CBSA will assume the fees from third party pest control companies in those cases where the Container Examination Facilities do not have supplied-air breathing systems for CBSA employees to conduct ventilation activities.