How not to use a ladder

September 24, 2014

Photo credit: Ano Lobb on Flickr

Photo credit: Ano Lobb on Flickr

I was standing in the grocery line-up when it happened. A worker slipped from the top of a stepladder (the part you are not supposed to stand on) and landed in the produce bins on his back. His feet flew out from under him as he stood precariously atop the ladder, trying to put up a sheet of plastic to keep shoppers dry while they chose fruit and veggies from bins outside the store.

“The top two steps and bucket shelf are not safe to stand on,” reads these StartSafe Ladder Safety tips.

Not to mention standing on a stepladder in the rain while wearing running shoes with no grip! He was also leaning in a position advised against by this accident alert to “never over-reach or lean to one side” – which is exactly what he was doing while wrestling with the plastic flapping in the wind.

Luckily the guy got up fairly quickly – and guess what he did next?

He got back onto the top of the ladder again and resumed his task! I couldn’t believe my eyes. What was he thinking?!

Maybe he put his safety at risk because he felt pressure from competition and was putting up the sheet of plastic to stop customers from going to a shop with better rain shelter. All I can do is speculate. But a fall like that could be catastrophic, and he was lucky the first time. On average, 10 workers a year die in BC after falling from heights.

“Whoa!” said my son, who was with me at the time. “You should write a blog post about this!”

So here it is.

Facing down confined spaces on BC farms

September 17, 2014

Below-ground valve box at a dairy farm. Image from WorkSafeBC

Below-ground valve box at a dairy farm. Image from WorkSafeBC

Toxic gases or lack of oxygen can strike suddenly, without warning, even when the task is something you’ve been doing the same way for decades. That’s why safety advocates in BC are reaching out to farm and ranch workers to minimize risks of working in confined spaces.

Ranch safety consultant Reg Steward is the Superintendent of Field Operations for the Farm and Ranch Safety and Health Association (FARSHA). He helps ranchers and farmers to meet compliance with BC safety law and regulations, offering free, confidential advice for each individual workplace.

“Often that involves understanding what the regulations require and then working the standard that has been identified within the regulation,” Reg said, describing the walk-around they do on each property. “When it comes to confined spaces, most farmers and ranchers lack a clear understanding and awareness of what is a confined space.”

Root cellars, crawl spaces, and turn-off valves under buildings are examples of confined spaces that may not be identified as such by their owners. Some farmers and ranchers have been entering these confined spaces for many years and may not recognize the associated hazards.

“Their experience can work against them, given the fact that they have not had a struggle with that space over time,” Reg said, describing how many of these risks can be addressed with “simple solves.”

Don’t go in

That’s the ideal solution – if possible. Technology and brain power can find ways to complete a process that doesn’t involve a human being at risk in a confined space. Reg and his team work with farmers to look at their confined spaces and find ways to keep out of them – whatever the operation may be.

“We’ve been very successful in finding some creative ways to manage the spaces and eliminate the need to enter them,” Reg said.

More information on the above hazards is now available at the Centre of Excellence for Confined Spaces in Agriculture – created in partnership by FARSHA and WorkSafeBC. There you’ll find eight farm-specific books, as well as general resources in multiple languages.

How not to use a ladder

I was standing in the grocery line-up when it happened. A worker slipped from the top of a step ladder (the part you are not supposed to stand on) and landed on his back into a bin of onions.

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