In early December 2014, during an enhanced inspection by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), a number of deficiencies in the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC)’s Radiation Protection Program were discovered.
According to a letter dated January 2015 – sent by the CNSC to the MUHC’s Associate Director of Quality, Patient Safety, and Performace – workers whose jobs brought them into contact with radioactive material had received inadequate training. The inspection also found that radiation safety procedures were “not implemented properly or uniformly among the three hospitals under MUHC control.”
In addition, the CNSC expressed concern about the lack of a program for verifying and calibrating most radiation instrumentation. Finally, the MUHC’s Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) reportedly “demonstrated indifference and a lack of knowledge about radiation protection management and control” and “a lack of understanding of regulatory requirements, as well as his role and responsibility for ensuring radiation protection across all MUHC activities.”
In light of these findings, the CNSC formally requested that the MUHC undertake specific steps to remedy the situation. These included submitting a detailed action plan, reviewing the responsibilities of the RSO’s position with the individual in question in order to ensure that they are able to properly perform their duties, conducting an audit of worker training, and validating all instrumentation.
The letter stipulated that all of the aforementioned measures were to have been completed by March 13; yet, as of publication, it is unknown whether the MUHC ever complied with this request.
In an email to The Daily, Sean Cory, president of the Association of McGill University Research Employees (AMURE), expressed his concerns regarding the incident.
“The CNSC involvement was triggered due to an incident at the [Montreal Neurological Institute] involving radiation exposure to one of our members,” said Cory. “As an employer, McGill is responsible for the health and safety of its employees. However, we feel that a lot of the time, supervisors will leave that responsibility to the employees themselves.”
“[AMURE] should be contacted after [an] accident concerning one of our members,” added Cory.
At the time of publication, no MUHC representatives responded to The Daily’s requests for comment.
David Kalant, VP Finance of the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA), concurred with Cory.
“The [health and safety] representatives of a union can be helpful when trying to assess an incident, protecting their members’ wellbeing and rights, and resolving problems,” Kalant told The Daily.
“Too many managers are fearful of union involvement, without reason. And too many managers and supervisors do not understand their responsibilities where [health and safety] is concerned.”