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GATINEAU, QUEBEC, CANADA — The government of Canada on July 11 unveiled changes to the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations regarding grain dust and flour dust. The changes are geared toward lowering the risk of workers coming into contact with airborne substances in the workplace, while ensuring consistency with most provincial and territorial regulations. Additionally, the changes are expected to bring the exposure limited for grain dust and flour dust in line with the highest safety standards across the world.

Patty Hadju Canada’s minister of Employment Workforce Development and Labour
Patty Hadju, Canada’s minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour

“Every employee has the right to a safe workplace,” said Patty Hadju, Canada’s minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour. “That’s why the government is helping to put an end to harassment and violence in the workplace, we are banning asbestos, and we’re implementing tough new penalties for workplace health and safety violations. Now I’m pleased to be announcing these changes to grain and flour dust exposure limits. These amendments help ensure the health and safety of workers.”

The Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL) for grain dust in the federal jurisdiction of 10 mg/m3 is higher than the limit recommended by scientific consensus to protect the health and safety of employees at risk. Under the new regulations, the government of Canada has decreased the OEL for grain dust to 4 mg/m3.

“This limit takes into consideration the scientific evidence available, the economic feasibility and health effect, as well as the limit in force in all provincial jurisdictions,” according to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).

Meanwhile, the OEL for flour dust will be increased to 3 mg/m3 from 0.5 mg/m3.

“This limit takes into consideration the scientific evidence available, the economic feasibility, as well as the health and safety benefits to ensure that occupational exposure levels were technically feasible and achievable,” ESDC said.

The change will affect about 350 grain handling facilities and about 50 wheat flour mills in Canada.

Internationally, the OEL for grain dust varies from country to country. Australia, England and Japan have each adopted the 4 mg/m3 standard, but the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration uses a 10 mg/m3 standard.

Internationally, the OEL for flour dust varies from 3 mg/m3 to 10 mg/m3. In England, the OEL is 10 mg/m3, while in Australia, Greece, Finland, Iceland and Norway it is 5 mg/m3. The United States does not have a specific OEL for flour dust.