Editorial Archive

Safety Notice #6: Subway Air Quality Update

2/25/19 6:00 PM

From the Safety and Environment Department

The following information is provided as an update to the Safety Notice #5 – Subway Air Quality Update – issued on April 6, 2018.

TTC Subway Air Quality Study
The TTC initiated a subway air quality study in 2017 – an Advisory Working Group comprised of Union Safety Officers from the ATU Local 113, CUPE Local 2 and CUPE Local 5089 and TTC’s Occupational Hygiene and Environment Section met to discuss the specific scope of the study.

The Subway Air Quality Study had several key objectives:
> Provide current information on the air quality in the underground portions of the subway during revenue service.
> Determine employee exposures to airborne contaminants to ensure safety at work.
> Evaluate the effectiveness of current controls.
> Make recommendations regarding both compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and opportunities for general improvement.

This study is now complete.

Air Sample Results
Two rounds of air sampling were completed on work positions from the various bargaining units noted above, whose duties required the incumbents to (generally) spend the greatest amount of time in the subway during revenue service.  Both Maintenance and Non-Maintenance positions were monitored.

Maintenance positions included Maintenance Mechanics, Signals Technicians, Line Mechanics, Escalator Mechanics, Sunset Corridor Services, Subway Electricians, Structure Repair, Welders (Escalators) and Radio Shop Technicians. Maintenance workers perform very specific maintenance activities that can generate/disturb dust – respiratory risk assessment reports will be issued to each work group separately.

Non-Maintenance positions included Fare Enforcement Officers, Special Constables, Track Patrollers, Subway Operators (Line 1, 2 and 4), End Terminal Cleaners, Subway Janitors, Traffic Checkers, Collectors/Customer Service Agents and Subway Supervisors. Air samples collected for the Non-Maintenance positions are considered representative of general subway air quality as these workers are required to be physically present in the subway system for prolonged periods of time. 

More than 3,000 air samples were collected for the Non-Maintenance positions. None of these samples exceeded the occupational exposure limits specified in Regulation 833 – Control of Exposure to Biological or Chemical Agents, made under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Based on these air sampling results, the subway air quality continues to be deemed safe for employees and is not expected to affect the health of employees in the assessed work positions who do not have pre-existing serious respiratory conditions.

These findings are generally consistent with the results of the 1995 Subway Air Quality Study, where none of the contaminants in the 280-plus samples collected were above the former or the current occupational exposure limits.

Based on the results of more than 3,000 air samples, the use of respiratory protection is not required for Non-Maintenance positions. Only one maintenance group, who are already part of the respiratory protection program, require respirators, which will continue to be supplied to them – this will be communicated to the impacted work group individually.

We want to thank our advisory committee, which included representatives of TTC management and the unions for employees working in the subway system for their participation in this study.

Next Steps
Final reports will be issued to affected work locations.

Toronto Public Health is conducting a separate review around subway air quality and TTC customers.

The TTC will continue to investigate methods of improving subway air quality, including the Track Vacuum Car, and improved air filtration for trains.

If you have any questions, please contact Stephanie Fortin at 416-393-3262.

John O’Grady
Chief Safety Officer
Safety & Environment Department
February 25, 2019

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