Archive for November, 2010
November 30, 2010
Recently I was at a café , having a “What do you do?” conversation at an outdoor table. It was a sunny autumn day – a rare and precious thing in Vancouver – and I sipped my delicious Americano coffee as we chatted. I told people I’ve been working on a workplace safety blog.
“Well, I’ve got a story for you!” exclaimed a 33-year-old named Jimmy, who was at the cafe with a notebook and pen, working on a screenplay of his life story. “My buddy and I were working for a construction guy and, when I asked him to hire a safety guy, he punched me in the face!”
Jimmy pulled down his bottom lip and showed me a missing tooth. He said he’ll go to the dentist soon. I asked what happened after the assault. Was he pursuing any sort of legal action or being compensated in any way? He said no. He just walked away from his workplace and that was the end of his job. Read more
November 25, 2010
One witness described it as “epic.”
Last weekend I slipped down six carpeted stairs in my house. I was hurrying, wearing slippery nylons on stone tiles on the landing, carrying a wide plastic shoe mat. I slipped and my feet flew out from under me. I yelled “Ahhhh!” really loudly on the way down and got a huge adrenalin rush.
Somehow, like a miracle, I “surfed” down all of them on my feet, still holding the shoe mat with shoes on it. I landed on my feet and started laughing, trying to gloss over the mild embarrassment factor. Two of my friends were standing at the bottom of the stairs (about to move my couch upstairs) and I had been hurrying to clear the way for them. Read more
November 23, 2010
People talk. Messages from different people and companies, in different situations, are going out to different groups of people.
People listen, and maybe ask questions. Then they leave and go home. But how can we encourage them to take away the ideas we offer?
Recently I heard a great suggestion on how to do this. It’s a way we can encourage people to keep talking about the ideas we share when they go out in the world, after the safety talk.
November 18, 2010
Twitter is a great place for asking questions about safety – or anything else, for that matter. It’s a simple social sharing service that lets you read and post very short messages – 140 characters to be exact. That character limit helps keep messages focused on main ideas, like breaking news and links to interesting resources.
I started a Twitter account for this blog (@speakinofsafety) about six months ago and I’ve had a personal account since 2008. I’ve encountered so many ideas, photos, comments, debates, links, and invitations to events in real life. At first I thought “How can I keep up?” with all the info people will post – but you don’t have to keep up. You just look at it when you have a chance and see what people are talking about at that moment.
I’ve learned so much and made so many connections on Twitter that I urge you to give it a try, if you haven’t already.
Quick tips for getting started on Twitter
1. Go to twitter.com and click the Sign Up button.
2. Fill in the Signup section. (Don’t stress. It’s short – only four things to enter at first.)
3. Click the ‘Create my account’ button.
4. Within a minute or two, you will see a welcome screen. At the top are two headings: Interests and Friends. Click the Friends heading and enter “SpeakinofSafety” (without the quotation marks) into the Search box.
5. You will see my Twitter profile. Beside my avatar is a button: a green circle with a + sign in the middle. Click that button to follow me.
6. Click Timeline and you will see my latest tweets. Then start following other people (see Twitter names of safety folks below). The Timeline column is where everyone’s news appears – with the most recent news at the top.
What does it mean to “follow” someone on Twitter?
Just in case you don’t already know, to “follow” someone on Twitter means you sign up to see their tweets. A “tweet” is a single message from a person on Twitter, and it can be no more than 140 characters (which includes letters, punctuation, and spaces).
Safety people on Twitter
Here are some of the people I follow on Twitter. An @ symbol is placed at the beginning of each Twitter name.
British Columbia, Canada
Campaign against preventable injuries (#1 killer of BC people between the ages of 1 and 44)
North Vancouver, BC
Official ICBC account, from senior communications specialist Karin Basaraba
Workers’ Compensation Board of BC (sponsor of this blog)
Campaign for young workers safety
Trucking Safety Council of BC, communications specialist Leasa Hachey
Toronto, ON, Canada
Canada’s Occupational Safety and Health Magazine
USA, Hearing protection news from Howard Leight (maker of in-ear hearing protection)
Hamilton, ON, Canada
From the communications dept of Canada’s national resource for the advancement of workplace health and safety.
Please email me if you have any questions about using Twitter. I would be more than happy to help!
November 16, 2010
Recently I heard about a new safety training package for workers who live with challenges like autism, Down’s Syndrome, and fetal alcohol exposure.
It’s called “WorkSmart: A Warehouse Safety Video and Curriculum for Employees with Developmental Disabilities” and it was created by the Developmental Disabilities Association (DDA). I talked with Kirsti Inglis, who oversees the DDA’s employment programs, to find out more.
“We help people in the community hire people with disabilities to work for them,” Kirsti said. “We help them carve out positions or fill traditional positions and we provide support and training and long-term follow up.”
Kirsti and her colleagues run two programs that match workers with employers. Jobs West Employment Services trains workers and helps to place them in new positions and Starworks Packaging and Assemby is a social enterprise that hires people with developmental disabilities to perform light labour and assembly work.
New program fills a void
A couple of years ago, Kirsti was unable to find what she wanted in the safety training market. She was looking for a basic, plain-language, jargon-free video to use in training sessions, but it didn’t exist – yet.
Kirsti applied for – and received – a research grant for $5500 from the WorkSafeBC Research Secretariat and the Workers Compensation Board of New Brunswick to develop the video portion of the new training package. The rest of it – including a facilitators’ guide, supervisor assessment, quiz for employees, and an employee handbook – was created in-house by the DDA. It covers safe lifting, reading workplace signs, working near forklifts, slipping/tripping hazards, and choosing appropriate clothing for work.
“The teacher would introduce the subject, have a discussion, watch the video, talk about the video, then there’s a practical exercise or a game,” Kirsti said. “Hands-on is a really important aspect of it, with practical exercises.”
For more information on this resource, contact Kirsti at 604-273-9778. Check out the November/December issue of WorkSafe Magazine for an in-depth look into these great projects that give so much back to the community.
November 10, 2010
I read recently that two of the rescued Chilean miners have silicosis – an occupational disease that leads to severe lung damage. It usually takes many years (or decades) for workers to develop it after exposure to particles of silica, which is the basic component of sand and rock.
Any workplace activity that creates dust can expose workers to silica dust particles. It’s not only a problem for the Chilean miners, but also affects workers here in Canada.
Geoff Clark, a senior occupational hygienist with WorkSafeBC, is working hard to educate employers about the risks of this insidious occupational disease. He and his colleagues have been working with industry to produce toolbox talk guides, exposure control plans, and other resources for employers (see links below).
When I asked Geoff how prevalent the disease is, he said it’s hard to say because so many cases of the disease aren’t attributed to occupational causes: “If somebody has trouble breathing and doesn’t tell their physician what they do for a living, the doctor might say: ‘You have asthma. We’ll put you on an inhaler’ and no one ever puts two and two together.”
Geoff said it’s a challenge to convince people in their 20s to take precautions against something that may not affect them til the distant future. “How do you explain to them that their behaviour right now is going to make a difference in the next 30 or 40 years? Many of them aren’t even thinking past the next pay cheque or the next pub crawl.”
But Geoff isn’t giving up easily and he’ll keep trying to get the message out there. To that end, Geoff will be speaking about silicosis and other lung-threatening substances at the 2010 Construction Safety Conference on November 19 and 20 in Richmond, BC.
November 09, 2010
“Don’t ever be afraid to trust your gut instincts,” says nurse Barb Valois, speaking to home care workers on a new video from WorkSafeBC. “You always have the right to refuse unsafe work.”
Surely this is good advice for work and life in general – especially when you go to clients’ homes alone. You never know what you are walking into, so it’s important to be prepared with safe work procedures.
Be warned this video includes strong swearing from a very difficult client.
November 04, 2010
It’s free to sign up and create a profile that details your career experience, and you can join groups that are a great forum for conversation. These groups let you post and answer questions from others in your field. You can use them to recruit new staff, find new clients, or seek employment.
Here are six LinkedIn groups that focus on the topic of safety.
November 02, 2010
BC archaeologist Shannon Cameron takes precautions every time she goes to work in the woods. But one day, she and her coworker met a bear whose curiosity outweighed his instinct to avoid humans.
“He was within 15 feet and he was standing up on his hind legs and huffing. There’s specific noises and facial expressions they make when they’re going to charge, and my crew member and I were doing everything we could to look as big as possible,” she told me.
“We were waving our arms and clapping and hollering and setting off bear bangers and bear spray and finally the bear decided he didn’t want anything to do with it and he turned around and walked away. That’s as close as I ever got.”
As archaeologists, Shannon and her colleagues look for evidence of past human activity on pieces of land used by foresters, geologists, and other industries. The first thing they do – with respect to wildlife – is make a lot of noise to announce their arrival. They bang shovels and do “bush calls” to let animals know humans have entered their territory. Once they get to work, they keep talking to one another if they are spread out, to keep their presence known.
“You’re pretty focused on what you’re doing on the site, trying to get it done,” Shannon said. “There were things you had to do in that environment, like not bringing certain foods like chicken wings or ribs in your lunch and making sure all your food is well-sealed.”
Shannon said they also carry bear bangers (i.e. small explosives that scare bears away), bear spray, and a rifle for shooting into the air. She said workers in the area – foresters, geologists, biologists, and archaeologists – inform each other about animal sightings.
“Knowing there’s a mama bear with cubs in the area is the most concerning thing because you know they will be very protective and they’ll have bigger boundaries than they normally do,” she said.
Shannon said awareness is the best prevention.
“It’s being aware of your surroundings and trying to be respectful of it. If you do that, you really minimize your chance of having those close encounters,” Shannon said, describing how you can keep the environment safe for other humans who arrive after you.
“You don’t leave all your food wrappers or feminine hygiene products laying around. If you minimize your impact and let everything know where you are in the bush, you’re probably not going to have that many incidents.”
Even one close-up incident would be more than enough for me, but luckily there’s more information on minimizing the risks of bears in the woods. Check out Beware of bears and be prepared and Training of workers with respect to bears.