For the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, this page will serve as a central repository for L562 communications with College management and other Health & Safety resources.
Below, you’ll find a timeline of JOHSC and L562 Executive activities, messages, and other material addressing H&S concerns as they have arisen since campus closures in March 2020.
Return to Campus concerns
- For you and the faculty in your area, find the room that you have been assigned on MyHumber.
- Verify the physical capacity occupancy number for the room on the Space Utilization Report.
- Email your AD and ask for the ventilation specs for the room. Please copy the Local and any of the other faculty reps on the JOHSC (see General FAQ below) for your campus (if you have significant concerns about asking your AD directly yourself, reach out to us anyway). In your request, ask for:
- Supply CFM* for the room
- Ventilation CFM (outside air) for the room
- Percentage of ventilation to supply air.**
- Maximum occupancy with respect to ventilation for the room.
- Filter rating (MERV**) number for the air handler connected to this room.
*Cubic feet per minute (airflow measurement)
**Generally, most ventilation systems cannot control below 30% so we should be aiming for 40% of supply air to be from the outside.
*** Minimum Efficiency of Reporting Values (MERV). To filter the virus, the filter must have a MERV rating of 13. Not all air handlers at Humber have MERV 13 filters.
On January 11, 2022, Humber College sent this message out to all employees regarding campus ventilation.
As someone who has been involved in discussing the role of ventilation in the transmission of the COVID – 19 virus, I felt obliged to respond to today’s email from the VP HR. It is unfortunate that the email was sent on the day that Ontario reached a high in hospitalizations due to COVID as well as new ICU admissions.
Perhaps a little history is in order first. The HVAC systems at Humber reflect the age of the existing buildings. Some are recently constructed and fairly effective while others have been around for many years and are consequently inadequate.
With this in mind, Local 562 early expressed concerns about the efficacy of ventilation systems at the College. In July 2020, a few months into the pandemic the World Health Organization released an opinion that ventilation systems could be a possible vector for the disease. Local 562 raised this issue at the Union/College “Return to Campus” (RTC) meeting on July 15, 2020. The College’s reply was that Public Health Agency Canada (PHAC) considered the method of transmission to be “droplet based” and that the ventilation system was not a vector. Nothing needed to be done. The Local raised the issue again on August 26, 2020, and again, was told there would be no changes to ventilation. On September 2, 2020, the College provided a summary of the current ventilation system at Humber, and once again, re-affirmed there would be no changes to the system, as the current system met health guidelines.
In September of 2020, the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), based in Atlanta also raised the possibility of airborne transmission through the HVAC ventilation system. The Local cited this reference at a meeting of the Humber North Joint Health and Safety Committee meeting, also in September 2020. The College’s response was the same as it was in July. Nothing would be done unless PHC determined this to be the case.
Finally, in October of 2020, PHAC acknowledged to the possibility of airborne transmission. At the November meeting of the Humber North JOHSC, the College accepted this finding but continued to rely on administrative controls to reduce the risk of viral transmission. Similarly, at the November 11, 2020 and November 25, 2020 RTC meetings, the College also acknowledged this finding but maintained no changes to ventilation were necessary. These controls consisted of requirements for social distancing, masking, hand hygiene and remote off-site learning. Labs that have been allowed to function have done so at a reduced occupancy.
To a large extent, this strategy has been successful and the College should be commended for this effort. Facilities should also be applauded for its effort to increase the use of MERV 13 filtration in HVAC systems. This level of filtration has been proven to remove virus particles from the air stream. However, there was always the question of the ventilation system as a whole. It was always apparent that unless the virus was eradicated completely, a thorough examination of ventilation would be necessary.
Surprisingly, this does not seem to have been done. When the College determined that Humber would return to “normal” in January 2022, it did not reference any of the ASHRAE Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) standards mentioned in the VP Human Resources email. Rather, it chose to populate classrooms using the Space Utilization Report (SUR) of 2019. This report outlines the number of occupants that can safely be placed in a classroom that contains desks and chairs. It says nothing about ventilation.
For example, I was assigned a room for a class of 46, which the SUR stated could contain 46. Having some experience in that room from 20 years of teaching at the College, I asked Facilities to review the assignment. Using the 2013 ASHRAE IAQ standard, Facilities determined the maximum occupancy should be 29, including me. I showed the information to my AD, a professional engineer. He ignored the data and referred back to the SUR number of 46.
It soon became apparent that using the ASHRAE standard of 2013 would greatly reduce the ability of the College to “fully” populate the classrooms as normal. This would require more classes, more professors and obviously more money. The cynic in me might ask “Did the College search for a standard that would justify full classrooms such as the standard was announced in December 2021? - ASHRAE IAQ 2019.”
At first glance this would seem to be a proper solution. The 2019 standard is newer and more recent, so shouldn’t it be better when we are dealing with COVID-19? There are two answers to this question, one obvious and the other that will require investigation.
First the obvious answer: The 2019 standard was created before the pandemic! Consequently, it has nothing to say about how ventilation systems can mitigate transmission of this virus. To use it as the basis for room occupancy when the transmission rate of the virus has increased by 4 to 8 times beggars belief.
The second answer will require discussion and investigation by the JOHSC. But to be as brief as possible, standards such as the ASHRAE IAQ 2019 do not exist in a vacuum. They co-exist with other standards required by Building Codes and sometimes these standards can stand in opposition to each other. Designers of HVAC systems know this and often have to search for an acceptable median.
Such is the case with IAQ standards and Energy Efficiency standards. IAQ standards will push for as much outside air as possible given the presumption that this air is healthier than recirculated indoor air. But in the middle of January, this ventilation air has to be heated and in the middle of July, it must be cooled. Such action will raise the energy (carbon) footprint of a building. In a period of profound concern for the effects of climate change, it is understandable that HVAC designers should want to reduce to as great an extent as possible the introduction of outside air. They will be continually tweaking standards to achieve this result, as they may have done with the 2019 standard. Did this tweaking result in a reduction of outside air?
This may in the long run give us a healthy working environment with as a low of an energy cost as possible. But is it the proper strategy to be following in the middle of a pandemic caused by the transmission of an air-borne virus? Clearly, this is a strategy that needs further investigation and discussion. But for now, we should be increasing our ventilation rates and matching our class sizes to what these systems can safely deliver. We should pause the return to on-site lectures and labs until we are sure it is safe to do so. At the moment, we do not have that information.
Local 562 Health and Safety Rep – Humber North JOHSC
As we approach two years since the first COVID-related campus shutdown, Humber College continues to move ahead with plans for a large-scale return to campus. On November 9, 2021, the College insisted to Local Executives that the proportion of on-campus activities was a non-negotiable 80 - 85%; days later, after student-led advocacy, this number was quietly revised to 64% with no communication to the wider campus community. No information has been shared indicating how these numbers translate into real impacts on faculty work assignments by departmental and/or program areas. The Union was further informed by the Associate Vice-President (Academic) on December 10 that absolutely no further changes would be made to delivery modes in the absence of ministerial directives.
On December 16, the College once again switched gears, announcing online delivery (with some exceptions) for Weeks 1-2 of Winter 2022. While this superficially addresses some immediate concerns, and while we understand the complex nature of operational planning, this choice in fact increases stress, uncertainty, and workloads for faculty and all other members of the campus community past its already unacceptable levels.
Therefore, we contend:
The College has failed to develop and communicate a transparent, equitable, and compelling rationale for delivery mode decisions under ongoing pandemic conditions that prioritizes pedagogical principles as well as health and safety concerns;
The College has failed to develop and communicate a transparent and compelling rationale for returning to classroom usage by physical capacity and eliminating distancing requirements for Winter 2022, despite maintaining such public health measures for Fall 2021 though no longer legally obligated and under far less concerning public health circumstances than currently apply;
The College has failed to engage in proactive and timely decision-making about course delivery modes to the disproportionate detriment of faculty (and all members of the Humber community) on Code-protected grounds such as family status and/or disability, alongside broader psychosocial impacts;
The College has refused to uphold its legal responsibility to provide PPE during an ongoing pandemic by asserting that non-filtration masks are not PPE and it is therefore not obligated to provide them, while at the same time claiming that no work at the College requires a filtration mask (i.e. commercial or medical grade N95) regardless of specific medical advice provided to faculty by their healthcare practitioners;
The College has failed to adequately resource its Health and Safety and Facilities offices, leading to unacceptable response times of 10-14 days for serious ventilation concerns and testing of specific classrooms despite the best efforts of employees in these areas;
The College’s collective failures as described here have created an ongoing toxic work environment and subjected faculty to negative psychosocial impacts including but not limited to increased levels of stress and unacknowledged workload pressures, which are amplified by related psychosocial impacts on students;
Therefore, the College has effectively abdicated its legal and ethical responsibility to make transparent, timely, equitable, and appropriate decisions for the health and safety of all workers on its campuses, and is in violation of Articles 4, 6, and 24 of the Collective Agreement, as well as the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Ontario Human Rights Code, and all other relevant articles and acts.
- An immediate commitment to online delivery in all circumstances not otherwise subject to external regulation and/or specific on-site facility needs until after Winter Reading Week (March 7), with prompt and transparent disclosure of courses whose delivery is subject to such external regulation or on-site requirements to the Union;
- A public commitment to determine the status of the second half of term by the end of January 2022, at which time projections and other developments will provide clearer direction, and which will provide a more reasonable timeline for employees and other campus community members to make appropriate arrangements, e.g. caretaking needs, accommodations for disability or other medical concerns, etc.;
- The extension of all partial-load contracts to include full compensation by assigned Winter 2022 TCH for the weeks of January 3-7 and February 28-March 4 to accommodate the added work of preparing for multiple delivery modes and increased need for student support;
- Provision of N95 masks to on-campus workers (commercial or medical grade as appropriate) where advised in writing by their health care practitioner;
- Additional resources provided to the Health and Safety and Facilities offices to ensure appropriate timelines for ventilation queries and tests, as well as determine classroom assignment decisions and capacity limits on the basis of actual measurements rather than calculation;
- Provision of directives and/or adequate training in ventilation guidelines to academic supervisors in conjunction with Facilities to ensure classroom occupancy is determined according to health and safety priorities rather than physical capacity, as per the College’s obligation to ensure supervisors are given adequate tools to uphold the OHSA standard of competency (Article 25).
The College invited 2 members from each union local – CAAT-S Local 563 (Support Staff) and us – to join the Union/Management Sub-Committee of the "Return to Campus" committee, to identify key concerns of the union memberships, to provide input to other Return to Campus sub-committees, and to assist with re-opening tasks. This committee met every Wednesday from the beginning of June until October, then biweekly on Wednesdays until December. Our Local’s two representatives were Pearline Lung (President, Local 562), and Des McCarville (Steward, Local 562, and previous co-chair of the Joint Occupational Health & Safety Committee).
- June 3 update
- June 10 update
- June 17 update
- June 24 update
- July 8 update
- July 15 update
- July 22 update
- July 29 update
- Aug 5 – meeting cancelled
- August 12 update
- August 19 update
- August 26 update
- September 2 update
- September 9 update
- September 16 update
- September 23 update
- September 30 update
- October 14 update
- October 28 update
- November 11 update
- November 25 update
- December 9 – Meeting cancelled
Health and Safety FAQ (General)
*Certified Joint H&S Members
North Campus and Carrier Drive
- Bob Bolf – Bob@opseu562.org
- Rob Lamberti – Rob.Lamberti@humber.ca
- *Anita Nickerson – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Miriam Novick – ext. 72315, Miriam@opseu562.org
- *Des McCarville – ext. 5959, Des@opseu562.org
- Sam Steele – Sam@opseu562.org
- Sebastien Charette – email@example.com
- Arun Dhanota – Arun.Dhanota@humber.ca
- Rossie Kadiyska – firstname.lastname@example.org
- *Dileeni Weerasinghe (Worker Co-Chair) – Dileeni.Weerasinghe@humber.ca
International Graduate School (downtown)
- Sebastien Charette – email@example.com
- Worker has reason to believe assigned work endangers health and safety, and notifies their supervisor.
- We strongly suggest notifying a campus JOHSC member as well.
- If the issue cannot be immediately resolved, the worker remains in a safe place while Health and Safety reps for worker and management meet with supervisor and worker (individually) to see if they can negotiate an agreement.
- In our context, this could mean offering to teach remotely until the issue is resolved.
- If matter is unresolved, a Ministry of Labour inspector is called. Their decision is final.
Note: See OHSA 43 (3-10) re: Unsafe Work Refusal
- The certified member requests that the supervisor investigate the dangerous circumstance.
- The supervisor must investigate immediately in the presence of the certified member.
- If the certified member is not satisfied with the supervisor’s investigation, another certified member is called in to investigate.
- If both certified members agree that a dangerous circumstance exists, they can order a work stoppage.
- The employer must follow this order immediately.
- If the certified members cannot agree, the work cannot be stopped, but an inspector can be called in to investigate.
- Following the investigation, the inspector will issue a written decision to both certified members.
- If a certified member does not agree, he or she can appeal to the Ontario Labour Relations Board within 30 days of the decision.
- Note: See OHSA 45 re: Bilateral Work Stoppage