Archive for August, 2010
August 31, 2010
Treeplanting is grueling work, so it’s no surprise that treeplanters are prone to injuries. According to WorkSafeBC, planters’ repetive-strain claims alone cost more than $870,000 and 8,621 lost days of work between 2003 and 2007.
I’ve heard many stories from planters who finished their season with aches, pains, and more serious injuries. One is Michael Lien, who today works in the film industry, but in the past planted trees every spring for a dozen years.
One year, Michael finished the season with a herniated disk in his lower spine. He said the initial injury happened on the second day of the season – on a cold day in April, in treacherous terrain, when he was loaded with heavy bags. He stepped between two unwieldy logs, lost his balance, and felt the trunk of his body twist as he fell.
“I didn’t feel the pain fully until almost October. It was a really heavy season, and then my body settled, and it was phenomenal because I couldn’t sit,” he said, describing an excruciating pain that ran through his butt cheek, down his leg.
At first Mike’s doctor thought the pain would go away on its own, but it didn’t. He couldn’t return to school at Simon Fraser University because sitting was too painful. The pain kept him from sleeping, and he asked his doctor to investigate further. A CT scan revealed a herniated disk in his lower back and he needed an emergency surgery to repair it before it ruptured.
Thankfully Mike recovered well, jogging again four months later, and planting again the next spring. He started that next season with strong core muscles, and his company’s first aid attendant reminded him and his colleagues via e-mail to do certain stretch and strengthening exercises pre-season.
“My injury was definitely because I was this guy who was generally in pretty good condition but on a really cold day on the second day of the season, I took this big fall,” he said. “If it was two weeks into the season or three weeks in, I probably wouldn’t have hurt myself.”
For more information on fitness programs for treeplanters, see Tree-Planter.com – the online community for Canadian treeplanters, and the article “Ground Rules” in WorkSafe Magazine, July/August 2009.
August 26, 2010
While camping on Vancouver Island recently, I got a chance to meet with the staff at Nanaimo’s WildPlay Elements Park (formerly the Bungee Zone) to talk with them about their new safety program.
I met with the company’s skills training manager Jonathan Huittika, site manager Jennifer Doyle, and WorkSafeBC safety officer Dave Gaskill. Together we sat in the sun on a patio and they told me about the new safety program they’ve been working on together.
“We pretty much had to set it up from the ground up with meetings, documentation, an operational health and safety manual, and committees of workers and managers who meet on-site,” Jonathan said.
“Before Dave came, we had practices but we didn’t have proper documentation. Obviously we have to be extremely safety-minded here – for guests and staff.”
Jen, the site manager, said her team has been working on the safety manual and looking at ergonomics. They also look at personal safety for workers who may be confronted by difficult guests.
“We cover it in our training – how to speak with a guest who is under the influence of alcohol or is being unsafe in any way. We do a lot of role playing in different scenarios,” she said.
Facilitating freaky fun
WildPlay guests bungee jump into the river, zip-line through the air, swing across cliffs, and navigate obstacle courses high in the trees. During the peak summer season, up to 40 workers keep things going smoothly. All of them take a five-day training course and are coached and monitored continually during their employment at the park.
“Obviously falling is a big hazard we deal with all the time, but we’ve never had someone fall off something,” Jonathan said. “More likely injuries are the ones we don’t notice at first – like overuse when someone doesn’t stretch properly or mental stress from dealing with a large amount of people coming through the park.”
I asked Jonathan if he had any advice for other employers starting safety programs from the ground up.
“The most important thing is to be proactive with your WorkSafe agent. You do not have to have everything perfect from the start but it is important to keep progressing,” he said. “Even when your program is established, you need to always have risk management in the back of your mind in your day-to-day work practices and to address these concerns proactively on a consistent basis.”
August 24, 2010
You won’t find any links to these spoof videos in this post, but you can go ahead and search for them on YouTube if you are curious.
Be warned that these amateur videos are pretty silly – with swearing, bad language, and outrageous behaviour that generally mocks the health and safety message.
Depending on your sense of humour, you may or may not find them funny. Actually, I picture some safety professionals being very offended by this mocking (so I better not admit that some of them made me giggle). But in all seriousness, I’m wondering why people like to make jokes about these serious safety topics.
Do the spoof-video makers think the videos “over-do” the safety message by using too much drama?
Do they think our culture – with its mandatory helmet laws and cell phone bans for drivers – is getting too focused on safety? Or do they think they are invincible and unlikely to be in an accident at work?
I imagine the spoof video makers are using their own sense of humour as a way to process information they find too disturbing. Chances are, they keep the safety message in mind and take it to work with them, but they make their spoof videos to enjoy the relief that comes with laughter.
What do you think? Why do people make these spoof safety videos?
August 19, 2010
I had some responses to my last post on shockvertising. I agree with Liv that I’d rather see a more positive approach – maybe a dad with his kids, saying “keep him safe” and not an example of “what terrible thing will happen to this family man.”
Cathrin commented on the post, saying she doesn’t think the ads will motivate people to change.
“I think people do get desensitized to anything if they are motivated to want to do something like read their friend’s latest text,” Cathrin wrote in her comment. “They can think: ‘Oh, those poor girls in the video, but that won’t happen to me because I’ll be careful and just take a quick peek!’”
Maybe the viewers see people texting and driving and think “I’ll just text and drive more carefully.” Read more
August 17, 2010
Falls are a hazard for everyone in construction, but young workers seem to be especially vulnerable. That’s why WorkSafeBC developed the Ladder Challenge, an online game and contest to raise awareness of hazards associated with ladder use in residential construction.
Until August 31, BC residents aged 13 and over who complete the game are eligible to win an iPad. You get even more chances to win by passing the game on to coworkers, friends, and family.
I took the WorkSafeBC Ladder Challenge, and I have to admit I bombed pretty badly! It took me a couple of tries to complete the game, but I had fun checking out the jetpack among other things and I definitely learned something about ladder safety. Read more
August 12, 2010
I asked on Facebook: “What precautions do you take to stay safe at work? What ‘dangers’ do you face at your job?”
As I expected, some interesting answers came from my network of contacts who work in many different industries.
My neighbour Chris, an archaeologist, said his safety precautions include: “tailgate meeting everyday to discuss things like ’don’t get hit by large mechanical equipment, don’t get eaten by wild animals, don’t get lost, try not to fall down’….and that’s not to mention the many dangers in the office!” Read more
August 10, 2010
Don’t watch this video unless you can handle some “shockvertising.”
It’s been nearly a year since this public service announcement was funded by the Gwent Police Department in the UK. Its blood, screaming, crying, and severe injuries are very disturbing.
This “Don’t text and drive” message went viral on the Internet in August 2009 when it was released. It’s a classic example of “shockvertising.” Read more
August 05, 2010
Whistler’s Jonas Hoke says his innovation is “pretty straight-forward” – a $10 plastic bin that contains a job site safety binder, WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) binder, safe work practices and procedures binder, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, eye wash station, and blanket.
The carpentry apprentice’s job site safety bin drew the attention of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association of B.C. and they awarded him a Workplace Health & Safety Innovation Award. Jonas was recognized for helping home builders ensure they have the right safety gear on site at small jobs. Read more
August 03, 2010
When I heard Roberta Sheng-Taylor had won a high profile safety award, I was curious to find out why she chose a career in workplace health and safety – so I phoned her and asked.
Roberta said she was drawn to workplace safety from an early age. Back in the 70s, as a kid in Vancouver, Roberta and her family experienced the tragedy of workplace injury. Her dad Robert was injured while cutting sheet metal in his garage. Not wearing safety glasses – like most other workers at the time – he lost an eye.
Up until then, Mr. Sheng had been supporting his family by running a successful business, installing heating and electrical systems. The injury changed everything.
“From that day forward I was very safety-driven and first aid-driven,” Roberta says. “As a youngster I’d always be the kid who was making up the first aid kit. I was trying to prevent this from occurring because that really shook up our family unit when I was very young.”
Roberta said her family’s experience with workplace injury gives her perspective on what others go through: “I’ve talked to families who have been left behind, and it’s so painful to see these people suffering years later. I know, because I’ve lived through that kind of thing.”
“At least my father is still alive after the injury. I can only imagine what it’s like when people you care about are killed on the job,” said Roberta. “You know what? There’s no job out there worth injuring yourself or killing yourself over — absolutely none.”
In November 2009, Roberta received a Lieutenant-Governor’s Award for Public Safety from the B.C. Public Safety Authority for her contributions to public safety in B.C. She’s currently the health and safety manager for LTS Solutions/Ledcor and before that was an industry specialist at WorkSafeBC, where she was a driving force behind the TruckSafe Strategy and the Fraser Canyon Highway Safety Corridor, among other things.
Kudos to Roberta for her contributions! No doubt her efforts have saved many lives in our province.