Members Deployed as Oakridge Branch Develops Air Quality Issues – Corrosive Battery

Members of the Oakridge Branch were deployed to Mount Pleasant Friday afternoon due to the pervasive smell of a corrosive battery from an old UPS( uninterruptable power supply) unit in the storage area. .  Basically it’s a big heavy battery for when the power goes out, hence lots of fumes. The odour was first noted on Tuesday, April 6.  The odour became very noticeable Friday morning, April 6.  The matter was reported to Maintenance at about 11.30 a.m.  Maintenance arrived about 12.15 and spent two hours searching for the source of the smell.

Members worked in the branch until 11.40 a.m. and took an extended lunch until 1.45 p.m.  At 2.30 p.m. staff was deployed to Mount Pleasant.

The maintenance crew eventually discovered the culprit.  The battery in an old CPU unit had become wet and severely corroded.  It had been used at one time as a backup for data.  Maintenance workers from Vancouver Public Library and Oakridge put CPU unit in plastic and put it in the loading bay at Central.  It will be removed to be disposed of, safely.

The staff informed me of the event and I met the Oakridge and Kitsilano area managers at Oakridge.  They assured me that the battery had only leaked inside the CPU and not in the area.  They were quick to reassure me that staff were not expected to work in those conditions and other work was found for them, and could be found for them the next day if necessary..

Hazardous Materials people were not asked to come and identify smell.  seeHazmat Fire Hall Hazmat Companies are stationed at Fire halls 3 and 10.  Staff repeatedly asked for this.  WCB was not asked for advice.  There was no incident report written and the expectation is that it will not be written until Tuesday, April 12.

I had several phone calls with the Directors of Central and Branches.  They were very good at getting back to me with any new information but still did not inform any agencies.

At 7.30 pm I had to go into the QE to watch Mark Knofler with my brother and friend.  Great concert; four encores.  In the middle of the concert, the president of CUPE 15 phoned to let me know that a water main had burst at the offices of CUPE. We went directly to the office and found CUPE 391 had escaped any water damage.  Unfortunately CUPE 15 was not so fortunate.  The restoration crew worked until 5 am and the equipment was still running when I checked in the next morning.

I phoned Hazmat from the Union office on Friday evening about 11.30 p.m.  The responding officer said that it was too late and the need had passed to do anything about it.  Hazmat respondent said they should have been notified at the time, but by now the odour would have been sufficiently diluted so would not be dangerous.  I tried to get hold of WCB also but they were not available.

The next morning staff showed up to see if they should work.  The smell was not so noticeable.  I phoned Hazmat 3 more times to be sure and they felt it was safe if people showed no side affects. . People with allergies and respiratory problems should not be exposed to these conditions.  Any health complaints resulting from this should be documented in the first aid book.  At and during the performance of my duty, I was ….  If you need to see a doctor about this, you then need to fill in in a WCB form.  Any lost hours should be paid by a claim to WCB if the cause is determined to be work-related

The 5 W’s of the Incident Report
* Who? Who was involved?
* What? What happened (what’s the story)?
* When? When did it take place?
* Where? Where did it take place?
* Why? Why did it happen?
* How? How did it happen?

Who: Staff and public could have been at risk
What: The battery in an old and no longer used CPU was wet, corroded
When: Smell first noted Tuesday April 6, then reconfirmed Friday, April 9.  Took several hours to find source
Where: Battery was inside CPU inside Storage cupboard in backroom at Oakridge Public Library
Why: Battery may have got wet in one of Oakridge’s floods and corroded over time
How: as above

I am reporting this as an ex officio for the Health and Safety Committee.  I hope the members correct any of the details as I don’t have all the details and was there after removal of battery.  Timely incident reports are so important.  Members, please ask your supervisors to call a member of the executive and/or Health & Safety Committee. If your supervisors or managers are busy, the shop steward or union contact can contact us.

The Oakridge staff are a very intelligent and dedicated group.  I admire the way they stood their ground to have proper safety measures take place.  Their commitment the safety of the public and concern for each other was very apparent and will bring change in how these situations are managed.

The Union will be meeting with Management this week to discuss what protocols should be in place for future events.  At the very least, Hazmat numbers should posted, along with procedures.

I looked at the MSDS book at Oakridge.  It is dated from 1999 when I was the chair of OH&S.  It needs updating and badly needs to be made user-friendly, Health and Safety folk.  Please add that as a goal and objective.

Also, when doing biannual safety inspections, dispose of this potentially dangerous, unused equipment.  We used to keep records of the this kind of thing, probably still do.

Those fabulous Oakridge workers had another suggestions.  They are not too enamoured with “poo floods”, etc.  Some were wondering if the new Hillcrest Library could not become the new Oakridge library. Make it a little bigger, lose the constant air quality problems…

Good News
After visiting Oakridge and the office, I finally made it to the Coalition for a Better BC event at the Art Galley.  Very nice event on a beautiful day.  Thanks to those who showed up and networked.  There were several of the groups that we build alliances with during the rounds of the provincial and municipal budget cuts.  We are working together on better approaches on the subject budget cuts in another tough year.  It is important that we attend this events and find common values.  There were several MLA’s present who were willing to lend an ear and voice to our concerns.  I met someone who will be able to give excellent assistance for the discussion on the new Collection Policy.  I believe the change to this policy is so dramatic that it must a Board concern, not just for “information purposes only”.  More will be revealed.  Please read your CUPE 391 email for further information. If you are unable to access it, please email Chris Jang or me, Alexandra Youngberg.

in solidarity