Tips for winter safety

December 07, 2016

We just had our first big snowfall here in Vancouver, B.C. Canada, so it seems like a good time to share these winter safety tips.


Avalanche is a risk on the mountains. Every year we hear tragic stories about backcountry recreationalists killed and injured in avalanches. The risk of avalanche affects workers too, as I wrote about last winter.

Ski patroller / paramedic Megan Frawley with cute dogs.

Ski patroller / paramedic Megan Frawley, quoted in my post, Stay fit and avoid injury when ski season starts.

WorkSafeBC reminds us that unstable snowpack can put workers at risk.

And here’s five steps to safer winter driving to keep you safe on the road.


You’ll want to avoid cold stress, which can lead to hypothermia.

In a cold workplace (like outside) employers need to ask questions such as:

* Can the work be done in a different environment?

* Can heated warming shelters be placed on site?

* Do workers have the proper protective clothing? (They need a warm head covering and layered clothing. They also need to keep hands and feet warm and dry.)

When you’re at home and the cold seeps inside, people often use portable space heaters to warm up. CSA group offers safety advice for space heaters

* Turn it off when leaving the house.

* Turn it down or off before going to sleep.

* Place the heater where it cannot be knocked over.

* Place at least 1 metre (3 feet) away from flammable materials such as curtains, bedding, newspapers, and furniture.


When putting up seasonal decorations, make sure you use ladders safely. I wrote about ladders in my post, Is a ladder the right tool for the job?

Here are a few ladder safety tips:

* Always face the ladder while climbing up or down.

* Do not stand on the top two rungs of the ladder.

* Use the three-point contact climbing method (2 hands, 1 foot or 1 hand, 2 feet).

Power outages

Use flashlights instead of candles as the latter can pose a fire hazard, says BC Hydro. Let’s say thanks to workers who get our power back, and know how to prepare for outages at home and at work.

Image: i-stock/Marussya

Safety for pets

The B.C. SPCA offers Holiday Safety Tips for pets. Here are a few:

* Avoid tinsel or angel hair if you have pets and a Christmas tree. Cats and dogs will ingest both, which can cause intestinal problems.

* Avoid giving bones to your dogs or cats, particularly turkey bones. They can splinter and cause serious injury, while bone fragments can cause intestinal blockages or lacerations.

* Many animals like the taste of antifreeze and will readily consume it when given the opportunity. However, antifreeze, even in the smallest amounts, can have a very harmful and often fatal effect on your pet.

Lighting candles

Candles are used for different traditions and celebrations at this time of year.

The National Candle Association reminds us to:

* Always burn candles in a well-ventilated room.

* Trim candlewicks to ¼ inch each time before burning.

* Never burn a candle on or near anything that can catch fire.

* Keep burning candles away from drafts, vents, ceiling fans and air currents.

Working out at night after dark

In Light up your nighttime workouts, CBS reminds us to be seen on bike paths, jogging trails, and anywhere else we go to exercise outside after dark. Moving your workout indoors is also an option.

Please remember these tips and share them with your colleagues, friends, and family.

When did you last check your carbon monoxide detector?

November 30, 2016

Carbon monoxide poisoning tends to be more of a risk during cold weather. Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced by the burning of carbon fuels such as propane, natural gas, oil, wood, charcoal, alcohol, kerosene, or gasoline. People using gas-powered heaters — at home and at work — need to protect themselves from CO exposure, which can lead to serious injury or death.

Repairman checks carbon monoxide level on gas water heater burner

Repairman checks carbon monoxide level on gas water heater burner. Photo credit:

It happened to three workers on a B.C. construction site. They were using a gas-powered heater to warm the inside of a building under construction. Unfortunately, a valve on the heater was not locked in the proper position.

“Carbon monoxide quickly reached hazardous levels inside the building, making the workers dizzy and nauseous,” reads a WorkSafeBC hazard alert.

“The manufacturer’s instructions for the heater stated that the valve handle should be locked into position. The instructions also said that if the heater was used indoors, the exhaust gases must be vented to the outdoors.”

Thankfully, these workers survived after being treated for CO exposure. But not everyone does. That’s why the BC Safety Authority is reminding the public to check CO detectors and make sure all gas appliances are working properly.

“As the weather cools, people tend to seal up their homes to avoid drafts and reduce heating expenses,” says Brad Wyatt, BCSA’s gas safety manager. “But an air-tight home could create hazards when adequate combustion air is not available.”

A total of 76 CO-related incidents were reported to the BCSA from 2007 to 2014. They resulted in nine fatalities and 149 injuries.

Know the signs of CO poisoning

CO poisoning can look like a flu, with symptoms including nausea, headache, and fatigue — and even chest pains, vomiting, convulsions, confusion, and dizziness. Call 911 immediately if someone is exposed to CO.

Learn more about carbon monoxide

For more about CO, see my post Using heaters safely in the cold, and check out information from:

* WorkSafeBC
* Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
* Canada Safety Council
* Health Canada

Tips for winter safety

Stay warm. Be visible at night. Take care climbing ladders. Don’t feed turkey bones to pets. Etc.

Five steps to safer winter driving

If you are a person who drives during a work shift – or you employ people who do – please read these tips

ESL course teaches workplace safety and enriches lives

Students improve their language skills while covering topics such as refusing unsafe work, using personal protective equipment, applying for jobs, and more.

VIDEO: Talking to kids about farm safety

Tractors and other mobile equipment are among the biggest hazards – both to people operating them and to any kids living and playing in the places they’re used.

Take extra care when Daylight Savings Time ends November 6

While it’s nice to “gain” an hour of sleep in the morning, we also “lose” an hour of light at the end of the day.

Halloween safety tips

Some people plan ahead, while others go for last-minute Halloween costumes, but whatever your approach may be, it’s most important to stay safe.

How can ergonomics help you at work?

Musculoskeletal injuries associated with prolonged use such as ‘text neck’ and ‘blackberry thumb’ are not really new pains but they are coming from different sources and afflicting more younger people than ever before.

Is a ladder the right tool for the job?

Falls are one of the leading causes of injuries to construction workers in BC — and falls from ladders reflect the highest proportion of construction-related falls. It’s also an issue in other industries.

Safety team visits First Nations independent schools

WorkSafeBC’s new and young worker team did their first tour as a pilot project on Vancouver Island in 2013 in an effort to reach out to these independent schools that were not represented at education conferences for BC’s public schools.