Archive for January, 2011
January 27, 2011
It was a big day for earthquake awareness in BC yesterday during the Great British Columbia ShakeOut – the largest earthquake drill in Canadian history. Thousands of people practised “drop, cover, and hold on” for two minutes at 10 a.m., and if you took part, I’d love to hear about it.
I asked Scott Larsen how he and his colleagues at Krasicki & Ward Emergency Preparedness help people prepare for earthquakes at work. I first met him at the CSSE/NAOSH awards and was interested to hear what they advise.
“Every person’s plan might be a little different,” Scott says. “People don’t necessarily need to go out and get anything fancy but they need to start with their daily routine and ask: ‘Okay what do I do every day? What do I need?’”
Earthquake kits for stranded workers
Here in BC, companies are not required to buy earthquake supplies for their staff. But people should be prepared because they could be stuck at work for a few days if nearby bridges and roads are destroyed. Scott says some employers offer earthquake kits that workers can pay for in monthly payroll deductions. These kits – sold by Krasicki & Ward and others – contain flat packs of water, condensed food, first aid supplies, etc.
Based on my conversation with Scott, I’ve compiled six tips for earthquake prep at work:
1) Look at the earthquake preparedness information on your municipality’s website.
2) Store heavy books on bottom shelves so they won’t fall on you.
3) Keep a spare supply of critical medications with you, in case you can’t get home or go to a pharmacy.
4) Make sure you have shoes you can wear to evacuate the building. Keep a pair of boots handy if you wear pumps or dress shoes.
5) Keep cash with you in case ATMs stop working.
6) If you are a parent, make sure you have a plan for your kids and who will pick them up.
Of course we will hope it never happens – but if it does, we’ll be as ready as we can. I’ve always liked this statement of optimism: “Plan for the worst, hope for the best.”
January 25, 2011
When you park downtown, in a city with bike couriers, please take a good 360-degree look around your car before you open the door.
Many bike couriers have been “doored” – i.e., someone opened a car door suddenly in their path.
“Dooring is a special terror,” said a veteran courier friend of mine, who I’ll call Bill. He’s seen people with “bashed heads, faces, temples, and black eyes” after getting doored.
“Once I grew a third butt cheek from landing on my tail bone after bouncing off a car door and then off my bike. It just swelled up unimaginably. I couldn’t believe it!”
Speed pays, except when it doesn’t
I’ve seen them riding the wrong way down a one-way street with a “red hot” item for delivery that must reach its destination within 15 minutes. They are paid by commission and quick-delivery items pay more. I don’t like to see people sacrifice their own personal safety for a parcel, but many people make this choice because they are “gung ho” and are under pressure to perform.
I met a lot of bike couriers in Vancouver in the 1990s, and it’s definitely a subculture that attracts the daring. They were a great bunch of people – mostly in new careers today, but a few are still in the industry.
Bill is one of them – now a dispatcher in the office, out of traffic. He’s had a handful of accidents in a dozen years on the road, some of which kept him home for a few days. The worst was when he collided with a squeegee guy on Georgia Street and bounced onto a moving car. The result was road rash and some bruises, but nothing was broken.
Bill says drivers need to be more observant when they open their doors and change lanes.
“I see so many drivers taking a 60-percent quick glance into the mirror, but they’ve only got a limited view. So they take their chances. They make it a gamble.”
Check out the couriers on this YouTube video from the US. Yikes!
January 20, 2011
Workers at recycling depots must be prepared for exposure to harmful chemicals – especially in a household hazardous waste (HHHW) area.
I spoke with Drew Fafard, the site safety coordinator at Hartland Landfill & Recycling Area, north of Victoria, BC. He describes what people bring.
“We take all liquids, known or unknown, whether or not they are in their original container or if they’re in an unmarked pickle jar that people seem to have around their households or in grandpa’s garage or whatever,” Drew says.
During NAOSH Week, Hartland staged a mock chemical spill at the HHHW area. The facility is owned and operated by the Capital Regional District (CRD) – and this mock spill was one of 95 safety activities throughout the CRD.
“We decided to have a mock chemical spill where an unknown liquid substance broke or spilled while it was being transported from somebody’s vehicle to our holding area.”
The CRD won Best Overall for its NAOSH Week activities – both in B.C. and Canada.
“We cordoned off the immediate area and shut down the recycling yard and the HHHW facility,” said Drew. “We radioed the scale house where everybody visits before they come into the yard. We said: ‘We’ve had a spill. Please stop all vehicles from coming in until it’s safe. Please call the fire department to let them know we had a spill.’”
Drew said the exercise was a good way to reinforce written procedures.
“It’s so simple,” he said. “I believe it’s really useful. It gets us all talking. What worked? What didn’t work? Then they can transfer that onto things that are similar but different.”
Congratulations and thanks to the folks of Hartland and the CRD.
January 18, 2011
“There are some things you can’t un-smell,” said Geoff Shellard, project manager at Bio Solutions, a Coquitlam-based company on-call 24/7 for cleaning up crime & trauma scenes, stolen and recovered vehicles, clandestine drug lab damage, and many more unusual situations around BC.
I met Geoff at the NAOSH/CSSE awards in October and was extremely curious about this unique line of work. He told me what it’s like to clean apartments of people who have died alone at home.
“When you walk in, the first thing you experience is the smell. It can tell you a lot about what to expect before you even enter,” he said. “Once inside, there is a degree of detective work as we need to determine the location of the deceased at the time of expiration, and then determine the scope of work and the size of the area impacted. It can be challenging, as what you initially see is not always the whole picture.”
I asked Geoff how his crew protects themselves against bloodborne pathogens and other biohazards. He said everything is treated with a hospital-grade disinfectant before they start the clean up. Their PPE includes extra thick gloves and Tyvex suits from head to toe, among other tricks and tools of the trade.
Dealing with toxic mould
Bio Solutions also deals with mould inspections and the subsequent damage caused by mould – often in rental homes used for growing marijuana. He’s seen some bad damage in grow-op homes; one had mould spores on every wall and extensive water damage. Bad news for many out-of-province landlords.
Bio Solutions recently won a Consumers Choice 2010 award for their mould inspection/remediation work.
During mould remediation, workers use “a full-face respirator with vapour gas cartridges, P100s; Tyvek suit with gloves and booties tuck taped to the cuffs to keep out any debris and hazards,” Geoff said.
I could have bugged Geoff for hours – asking him morbidly curious questions I’m not mentioning in this blog post. After hearing his stories, I’m thankful the Bio Solutions crew is available to do a critical job that very few people could handle.
January 13, 2011
Simon Paradis is adapting to a new lifestyle. He’s recovering from a severe workplace injury that’s left him unable to walk.
Without use of his legs, Simon has a new process for getting out and about. It takes a lot of effort and he shares it in his photo essay/song: “Simon’s Legs” with his singing and guitar on “You can’t stand up alone” – a blues-gospel song by Mindy Jostyn. Simon’s wife, Kara Stanley, was his partner in this very touching project. I’d like to talk more with Simon about this, so I’ll follow up in a future post. Below is what he told WorkSafeBC.
Healing through art
“I wanted to bring the viewer into my environment,” said Paradis, quoted in this WorkSafeBC news release. “It was a great outlet — I was focused and enthusiastic about this project because it’s a creative representation of what I’m going through.”
Thanks to Simon and Kara for sharing this photo montage, which you can see on YouTube. It’s inspiring to see how much people can adapt to change and persevere through challenging times. What a great example of the healing power of art!
January 11, 2011
My friend Shannon just finished her first semester of nursing school. Recently she and her classmates were in the lab at school, learning to give injections by practising on sponges. She took a first stab at giving a needle – and ended up slashing her thumb.
She wrote on Facebook: “Got my first nursing injury in lab on Friday. Slashed my thumb open with an intramuscular (big) needle. The funny, and embarrassing, part is that I did this while pulling the cap off the new, unused syringe. Apparently uncapping a new syringe takes less muscular oomph than I thought. Doh.”
Thankfully the needle hadn’t been used, and the cut on her thumb healed quickly. Read more
January 06, 2011
I’ll admit it. I’m one of those Vancouver people who’s scared to drive in the snow. Sometimes people from other regions and provinces make fun of us, but I don’t care. When it snows, I walk and use transit.
Yet depending on your lifestyle, that option may not work. If you plan to drive in the snow – and feel apprehensive – check out Shift Into Winter at the WorkSafeBC website.
“Install winter tires” is the first tip I saw there. This is interesting because lots of people – like my friend Coco Bikadoroff – have been talking about tires on Facebook lately.
Coco posted this status update: “It’s my first year with snow tires and I gotta say…….best investment I’ve made in YEARS! Seriously folks, start savin’ your pennies for next year…..it’s nice to not drive white knuckled in winter.”
Remember Vancouver’s snowfall of 2008?
It was a record snowfall in Vancouver on Dec. 21, 2008 when more than 20 centimetres fell. Coco wants to avoid any repeats of what happened back then, when she had all-weather tires.
“I got horribly stuck several times and basically I was scared to drive in the snow,” she said. “It’s common sense finally kicking in. All-weathers are not snow tires. People have to know that.”
She bought four Arctic Claw tires (I love that name!) from her friend at Big-O Tires on Kingsway. She describes the first morning she drove her son to school in the snow.
“It was like there wasn’t any snow on the ground,” she said. “My son said: ‘Wow, it’s like any other day! You’re not slipping and sliding!’”
More safety and less hassle sound like good reasons to invest in snow tires. As for me, I’ll stay parked.
WorkSafeBC created the Shift Into Winter project with a group of dedicated traffic safety advocates:
January 04, 2011
If you just got an iPod for Christmas, you may be interested in the following question that came up recently.
Jason Allgood, an EHS engineer in Austin, Texas, asked this question on the EHS Professionals Group on LinkedIn. His company is creating safety policy for workers who make their semiconductor equipment by hand with the use of cranes.
“Management would like for their employees to listen to music since they work long hours and some of the work is very repetitive. The background noise is well below the OSHA noise requirements, so the use of ‘earbuds’ would strictly be for entertainment and not to block out noise,” Jason wrote on LinkedIn. Read more