The Workplace Environment

The Workplace Environment

The Information for this section was obtained in June 1995, from Ian Fraser and Angelo Graham, both of the Health & Safety Office. To review this section of the CEAR Questionnaire please Click Here.
Occupational Environmental Hazards on Campus: The following categories of occupational hazards come from a Five Star Rating Audit, and from other legislation such as Regulation 309 under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA)
Health and Safety Incidents: The history of worker/student occupational complaints or problems is maintained by the UW Safety Office. They are required to document each incident, accident, or disaster by type (ie.Biological, Chemical etc.) This information is available on database system in the Safety Office.

Exposure Training Programs: UW has mandatory training programs for all students, staff, and faculty that will be exposed to environmental/occupational hazards. Namely, work that is done in the areas of chemistry, medicine (Kinesiology, Optometry), fine arts, architecture, and engineering create an environment that involves precautions. Basically there are four types of training:

The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) training program is one hour long, and is taken once only while registered at UW. WHMIS is conducted by members of the UW Safety Office. Changes to the current WHMIS training program are not foreseeable as long as there is a shortage of training staff. However, The UW Safety Office is putting together a Lab Safety Manual, as well as a General Safety Manual which will be available on-line within a year. Equipment training for work that is supervised is conducted by either Teaching Assistants, Staff, or Faculty. Training for unsupervised work requires more formal training. Unsupervised work is usually that which is conducted by Staff, Grad Students, or Faculty. The type of training programs that exist in this case are radioisotope, x-ray, lazer, mechanical, and chemical training.

Smoking Areas: At UW there are policies which restrict smoking areas. This is in compliance with provincial regulations. Smoking is generally not permitted inside any buildings at UW. Although it is not a majority, some buildings do have a smoking lounge.

Complaints Due to Poor Indoor Air Quality: In the past, there have been complaints of poor indoor air quality of certain buildings on campus. Needles Hall is considered by UW Safety personnel to be the worst in terms of air quality. The building has previously been monitored to stabilize levels determining air quality (ie.carbon dioxide, temperature, and humidity).

Sources of Poor Indoor Air Quality: The indicators of poor indoor air quality vary depending on the seasons. However, a good measure all year round is the frequency of complaints! During the winter, low levels of carbon dioxide, temperature, and humidity are indicators of poor indoor air quality. The opposite is true during spring and fall, where high levels are the sources.

Investigation of Indoor Air-Pollution Problems: On request by campus officials, UW's basements have been checked for excessive levels of radon. Levels are considered to be within the legal limit. It should be noted that radon levels permitted here in Canada are much higher than that legislated in the U.S.

Status of Asbestos Abatement: There has been a significant minimization in the presence of asbestos in campus facilities. Asbestos is a non-flammable mineral product once used for insulation and fire proofing. Where possible, all asbestos previously used has been removed, and all existing asbestos is maintained. In areas containing asbestos there must be a label indicating the presence of the substance.

Concern for Water Quality: In the community of Waterloo there is significant concern for water quality. Waterloo obtains all of its water from groundwater resources, thus any contamination of surface flows creates a legitimate concern. There are also aesthetic reasons for being concerned about campus water quality considering part of Laurel Creek runs through UW. According to health regulations, drinking water in Waterloo and at UW is acceptable, and is tested by the Ministry of Health when complaints are made.

Policies Regarding The Use of Video Display Terminals (VDT's): UW's policy entitled "VDT and Laser printer Survey Information Package" governs the use of VDT's. It contains testing protocol and standards borrowed from the federal government. This policy is available from the UW Safety Office.

Proximity to Power-Generating Station:UW is not located near a power generating station.


Created By:The Enviro-Base Team (
Last Updated: August 9th, 1995