Archive for May, 2011
May 31, 2011
What better way to deliver a safety message to youth than to let them craft it themselves? That’s what happened when 145 students from 19 BC schools participated in WorkSafeBC’s sixth annual video contest. From 42 submissions came five winning entries – each excellent in its own way, with wacky teen humour, excellent editing, and powerful messages.
This year’s theme was “Overexposed: What you may not see can kill you”, resulting in videos on invisible hazards such as mould, silica, and dust as well the potential hazards of wearing iPods in the workplace.
That theme was chosen, says WorkSafeBC, in order to help raise awareness among youth that work behaviours today can affect their health tomorrow (in other words, not just old people get hurt and sick on the job). It looks like it worked.
Congratulations to all!
May 26, 2011
After the Canucks’ winning goal in double overtime on Tuesday night, playoff fever is rampant is this neck of the woods.
It’s been an exciting series, with more than its share of injuries and violence. While some might say we expect hockey players to rough each other up on the ice, we also know that everyone has the right to do their job without being seriously injured in the process.
Take health care workers, for example. Many people don’t realize that health care workers face violence and threats at work nearly every day. According to this hockey-themed video, there are more than 700 violent incidents reported each year on Vancouver Island alone.
Let’s do all we can to look out for people who are caring for others’ lives – and Go Canucks!!!
May 24, 2011
Imagine what it’s like to be on the RCMP’s emergency response team. They are trained to respond to threats of CBRN, which stands for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (weapons of mass destruction, as the Americans say), in extremely high-risk situations. For example, they break into clandestine laboratories where crystal meth and other drugs are made using volatile chemicals. Sometimes they use blowtorches to get through metal doors, and if a fire starts, they are on their own because it’s too dangerous for the firefighters to help them.
Now they’re trying out a product called Cold Fire, which “takes the heat out of fire” and is 100 percent biodegradable and non-toxic. It puts out fires differently that traditional dry chemical fire extinguishers by cooling hydrocarbons instead of suppressing oxygen. It’s a trade secret invented by a botanist in Germany in the 1930s, and developed by his son in the 1990s. You can even spray it on a burn.
Grant Pearson, president of Cold Fire Canada, is the person who first told me about it. We met at the Western Safety Conference trade show in April and he emailed to tell me the RCMP emergency response team of the Lower Mainland had bought some of the extinguishers.
I phoned Staff Sergeant Ian Daniels of the Lower Mainland RCMP emergency response team to ask how the product will benefit officers’ health and safety at work.
“Typically we’d have some dry chem extinguishers staged close by so if something bad happens you can try to pull your people out and spray them with dry chem extinguisher. The reality is, dry chem is not a healthy thing to get a faceful of,” he said.
“When we go in, typically there may be a bad guy inside with a gun. The fire service is usually there to give us some support for decontamination but they’re not going to be very close until we can say ‘Yeah, there’s no bad guy,’ and so initially we’re sort of on our own. We have medics on our team, but if something bad happens initially, our guys are there by themselves so this Cold Fire is a way we can reduce the risk.”
Grant is the Canadian supplier of Cold Fire and he sees its value to other industries like oil and gas – not to mention kitchen, vehicle, boat, and RVs.
Have you heard about this stuff? It seems like it should be famous already?
May 19, 2011
How many hazards do you see in this photo? I see some – but I can’t tell you what they are because this is a contest sponsored by WorkSafe Magazine. To enter, take the interactive What’s Wrong With This Photo challenge online by May 30, 2011.
It’s easy to do – just drop virtual push-pins on the hazards you spot and then a text box pops up for you to describe the hazard (remember to click OK for each text box). When you’re finished spotting hazards, click DONE and your entry will be emailed to WorkSafeBC.
Contest aside, this is an excellent interactive safety tool for training, safety meetings, or just a refresher. Even if you missed the deadline, it’s still fun to do and a good exercise for your safety eye. You can also go back and try out older “What’s Wrong” photos or print PDF versions for your lunch room or shop.
May 17, 2011
Nova Scotia launched a new health and safety website during NAOSH Week. It’s called Knowledge Base and parts of it allow users to contribute to, or amend, what appears on the site. It’s a wiki, like Wikipedia, where anyone can add or change content.
“The most important feature of the site is the ability for users to influence what they can find there,” said Marilyn More, Minister, Labour and Advanced Education, in a news release. “The site will change and evolve along with the needs of Nova Scotia’s employers and employees.”
The site offers information for individuals, employers, and organizations. So far, readers have posted questions about first aid, safety training, and personal protective equipment. This open dialogue format has great promise for connecting people with questions – and I will be curious to see how people use it.
Congratulations to Department of Labour and Advanced Education for this innovative addition to the online safety community.
May 12, 2011
That’s how NIOSH director John Howard referred to aging workers in his statement for Workers Memorial Day 2011.
At first, I laughed at the term – seeing it as a politically correct euphemism to please the American Baby Boomers. But thinking further, I realized it was a clever way to refer to the many positive things that come with age.
In our youth-oriented culture, aging is usually depicted in a very negative way. It’s refreshing to see someone mentioning the positives of it – the “improved workplace wisdom, skills, and knowledge,” as WorkSafe Magazine put it in their cover story on aging workers in their Jan/Feb 2011 issue.
Yet despite their positive qualities, older workers take longer to recover from injuries than their younger coworkers.
Karren Kossey, a WorkSafeBC occupational hygiene officer in Nanaimo, is quoted in the WSM story.
“Don’t forget that most jobs have been designed for 20- to 30-year-olds,” she says. “And the health and safety programs developed to protect that age group aren’t always enough to keep older employees safe.”
The NIOSH director addresses this concern in his statement: “As more and more chronologically gifted workers are on the job, we must be aware of the unique challenges they face, and design our health and safety interventions accordingly…
“No one should face the prospect of injury, illness, exploitation, or death in earning a paycheck.”
True that, Dr. Howard, and congratulations to NIOSH and OSHA – two American safety institutions that turned 40 on April 28 – Workers Memorial Day or, as we call it in Canada: the National Day of Mourning
May 10, 2011
Alden Calleja is a 35-year-old father who works for the City of Vancouver’s Waterworks Department. He and his baby son Alistair, 10 months, were photographed for the campaign in March. The new poster was unveiled on May 7.
Alistair’s mom Anastasia Andrews (who I connected with via Facebook) is “excited and proud” that images of her son and husband will be used. Their names were drawn from a hat after the City invited road staff to take part.
“Alden is very proud to be involved in something like this that the City’s putting on,” Anastasia told me via phone. “When we see those signs at the side of the road, it’s a reminder that families work there, and they do belong to somebody.”
The City of Vancouver is one of 15 BC employers taking part in this campaign. WorkSafeBC and construction industry partners launched it as a pilot project in 2007 with a focus on traffic control people. Since then, it has expanded to include awareness of all workers on the road – such as carpenters, equipment operators, and utility workers like Alden.
Today more than 100 Slow Down signs are posted throughout BC. Many are along high-profile projects like the Sea-to-Sky Highway, the William R. Bennett Bridge, the Canada Line and the Simon Fraser Bridge and on municipal trucks.
Thanks to everyone for your part in conveying the Slow Down message. Your time, effort, and funding is sure to save lives by reminding drivers about the actual person behind a job. That guy working on the road could be Alden, who wants to go home safely to his baby and wife at the end of the day.
May 05, 2011
Congratulations to Francesca Alfano, a teacher/librarian in Hamilton, who has won a copy of Forget Me Not: Canadian Stories of Workplace Tragedy from the Families’ Perspective. Francesca won the book by re-tweeting a link to my earlier post about the book.
Threads of Life asked me to keep one copy of Forget Me Not and give one away (hence the contest). When the book arrived in the mail, I opened it to a random page and saw the story of Josh Tullett. He survived his workplace injury, slicing off three of his fingers with a table saw when he was 18, but six years later he’s in recovery from an addiction to OxyContin – a prescribed painkiller that Josh stopped taking as prescribed, eventually snorting it like cocaine.
“It got to the point where, if I didn’t do a line the moment I woke up, I couldn’t function. I couldn’t get out of bed… I had to have OxyContin every single day just to function,” reads the story on page 60.
After six years, on and off, he managed to clean up from his habit eight months ago. At publication, he was working again, and living clean and sober.
Families share lessons learned
Twenty-one families told their stories and described their emotions in the book. The book’s back cover calls it “a first-ever glimpse into the overturned lives of families following a workplace tragedy…a timely dinner conversation for parents and children…a companion piece for workplace health and safety orientation for young and new workers….”
I look forward to reading this important memorial and sharing more of its stories with you on this blog. You can also order your own copy of the book.
May 03, 2011
I saw an amazing video about a man who survived by staying calm. The Safe Workplace, an Oregon blog, published a link to it.
Stay Calm and Stay in the Cab tells the story of an American bulldozer operator who was buried in a hole on a raw coal stockpile. He was prepared and so were his coworkers, who dug out his bulldozer – with him in the cab – in just under two hours.
“Because of the safety features his company installed after a previous accident, Roger is alive to tell us his story,” the video tells us.
Roger describes what he did when his bulldozer was sucked into an air pocket in the coal. He took out his self-rescue kit, adjusted the ventilation in the cab, and then waited calmly, thinking of his family.
It’s inspiring to see how Roger’s calm response pulled him through grave danger. This video, from the US Mine Safety and Health Administration, shows an amazing example of best practices. It’s 11 minutes long, and well-worth every moment – a great rescue story with a happy ending.