Archive for June, 2011
June 30, 2011
“I hate it! Every time he leaves for work, I worry,” says a faller’s wife in Faller Safety: It’s Everyone’s Responsibility, a new video from WorkSafeBC.
This compelling eight-minute drama made me so nervous as I watched the young dad cutting down trees in a dangerous part of the logging block. Each character is under pressure for different reasons – tough times in the industry, families with bills to pay, company owners trying to stay in business. See what happens when safety is sacrificed.
Falling trees is well-known as a high-risk job, and in BC all manual tree fallers must be trained and certified. The BC Forest Safety Council is the certifying body for these workers.
June 28, 2011
See the feet in the photo? They are the feet of a chef at Mongolie Grill in Whistler, BC, Canada.
He is wearing the Crocs Bistro: Kitchen Chef Work Shoe which is now the standard for all their kitchen staff. The shoes are designed specifically for people in the restaurant, food service, hospitality, and health care industries with non-slip properties that exceed ANSI requirements.
I found out about this non-traditional approach to safety footwear while dining out in Whistler. It was exciting to find this workplace safety tidbit on a weekend away. I took the photos while standing with the rest of the restaurant guests, watching the chefs fry our delicious food on a big, round, open grill.
How to reduce risks of slips in restaurants
Non-slip shoes like these are just one line of defence against slips in a restaurant kitchen. Health and Safety for Hospitality Small Business, a booklet from WorkSafeBC, lists additional preventive measures, including:
• Cleaning floors regularly
• Cleaning up spills immediately
• Keeping floors free of water and grease
• Posting warning signs around spills or wet floors
• Using slip-resistant waxes to polish and treat floors
• Installing non-slip tiling or other non-slip floor products
• Using rubber mats in areas where the floors are constantly wet
Clean up spills and keep floors clean. Wear proper footwear, a poster from WorkSafeBC
Prevention of Slips, Trips and Falls from CCOHS
Kitchen Tip 1: Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls from WorkSafeBC’s StartSafe series
Hospitality Today Article no. 3 “Preventing Slips and Falls” from WorkSafeBC
June 23, 2011
She took precautions and followed protocol, but somehow it still happened.
“I was pricked with a used hypodermic while changing the garbage,” said Heidi, who worked as a barista in downtown Vancouver a few years ago.
“I was wearing sharps-resistant gloves, with a clear garbage bag that I had scanned for sharps, and I held it away from my body. Then the bag swung and bumped against the wall. The needle went into my unprotected knee.”
She said her coworker called an ambulance and “911 told us we needed to bring the needle in order for workers’ comp and insurance to cover the cost of the ambulance and treatment.” The medical history of the person who had used the needle was unknown, so Heidi took an “antiretroviral cocktail for 28 days, hepatitis vaccines, and 12 months of bloodwork.”
“The needle could have been from meds (insulin, or the like) but the area has a high incidence of HIV/AIDS and hep. It was all pretty scary, but fortunately, I’m fine.”
Outspoken about safety
Today Heidi works as a special education assistant and occasionally takes shifts as a waitress in a local restaurant. She says she’s “super anal and outspoken at all of these places, particularly about safety.” She asked me about a WorkSafeBC publication that came out after her incident.
“I was told that a handbook was in the works regarding this type of injury, but I never did see the final product,” she said.
The publication Heidi speaks of is Controlling Exposures: Protecting Workers from Infectious Disease. It points out that while health care workers face greater risk of exposure to infectious diseases, there is also a risk for workers in law enforcement, corrections, dentistry, funeral homes, hospitality, schools, animal hospitals, construction, and food processing.
Another great resource is WorkSafeBC’s Stuck by a needle? poster (pictured above), which can be adapted for individual workplaces. It lists three steps to follow if you are stuck with a needle and includes space at the bottom for filling in the name and address of the nearest hospital. Posting it on the wall is one way to help employees who find themselves in Heidi’s situation.
Employers in BC are required to follow the precautions outlined in Regulation Part 6 Substance Specific Requirements – Biological Agents.
Thanks to Heidi for sharing her story, and please let me know if you have a story of your own: firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 21, 2011
Once there was a boss who had a plan for fooling safety inspectors. One of his former employees told me about it.
This employee, who I’ll call Dan, said the boss asked him to build scaffolding three storeys high. On top of that, he was working in a region where regulations required certification for anyone who builds scaffolding more than one storey high.
“The boss gave me a little whisk broom and told me that if any strange cars drove onto the site while I was building (i.e., some sort of inspector), I should take out the whisk broom and pretend like I was just cleaning up,” Dan told me. “It seemed like a pretty good idea at the time.”
I was appalled. I asked Dan if he felt uncomfortable with the task.
“I guess I just assumed that the boss wouldn’t put me in a dangerous situation. In truth, I had no experience with scaffolding and had no idea what i was doing,” Dan wrote. “Ignorance is bliss, right?”
Training is very important, especially for young workers with less experience – people like Dan, who in this case had no experience with scaffolding.
Many resources are available for educating Dan and (more importantly) his unscrupulous employer. Here are some:
10 scaffold safety essentials from Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine
How to Erect Access Frame Scaffolding, a poster from WorkSafeBC
Toolbox Meeting Guide: Scaffold requirements from WorkSafeBC
Frame Scaffold Set Up from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
Construction E-Tool: Scaffolding from OSHA
June 16, 2011
Within a single week in May 2011, three workers in BC died after falling from ladders at relatively low heights:
* A carpenter fell approximately 10 feet off an extension ladder onto an asphalt driveway.
* A labourer fell onto asphalt from a 12-foot stepladder while powerwashing a commercial building.
* A chimney sweep, working in the rain, fell from a flat roof.
Tragic loss from preventable injuries
It’s so sad to imagine how the families and friends of these workers must be feeling. I spoke with Jessica Kruger, a workplace safety advocate who fell from a ladder when she was 15, and I asked what she thought when she heard about the recent deaths.
“Obviously it’s pretty upsetting. I got involved as a young worker speaker hoping to prevent that,” said Jessica, now 19 and a WorkSafeBC speaker who visits schools and conferences to share her story and encourage change.
“It’s sad that it’s not happening fast. I know that it takes time, but to see people actually dying is pretty heartbreaking.”
Jessica uses a wheel chair because of her injury and hopes to play wheel chair rugby in the Paralympics one day. Her core message regarding workplace safety is this: “Don’t do anything you’re uncomfortable with. If you have a gut feeling – if you even think for two seconds that what you’re doing could be dangerous, talk to your employer and think about the different safety options you should be taking. Getting the training is more important, and that’s not only the worker’s job. It’s the employer’s, as well.”
Why are so many people falling from ladders?
Maybe it’s because ladders are so common. It surprised me to hear how many workers fell from ladders between 2001 and 2010. Thirteen people died and there were 4,214 serious injury claims. (A “serious injury” is one in which a worker loses more than 28 days of wages due to an injury.)
Most falls from ladders happen in construction, but others occur in the service industry, manufacturing, transportation/warehousing, and elsewhere. I’m sure there must be hundreds more that happen at home, too. So please take a second thought before you climb a ladder – at work or at home – and check out these resources from WorkSafeBC:
“You’re a Pro” Construction Safety Videos
Four videos that demonstrate different hazards in construction and describe how to reduce the risk of injury.
Ladder Safety on YouTube
A five-part video designed to highlight the important safety procedures associated with ladder use on construction sites. The video uses classic B&W comedic film footage and computer graphic simulations to illustrate safe ladder techniques.
An online game where you can put your ladder safety skills to the test on a virtual construction site.
Construction Safety Series
A 12-page booklet that focuses on ladder safety and fall protection for residential construction.
June 14, 2011
It’s going to be hotter-than-usual across the country this summer, says Environment Canada – and I can’t wait! As a writer, I can work from pretty much anywhere, and if I’m hot, it’s no problem to get enough water, shade, and rest.
But it’s not so easy for people in other jobs – especially folks who work outside. Working in the heat may at first feel uncomfortable, but it can lead to serious health complications and even death in extreme cases.
OSHA reports that 30 workers die each year in the US from heat-related illness, and that thousands more get very sick. To combat this, OSHA has launched a Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers, including a video and other resources (also available in Spanish).
“HEAT ILLNESS CAN BE DEADLY,” reads the OSHA website. “Every year, thousands of workers become sick from exposure to heat, and some even die. These illnesses and deaths are preventable.”
Recognizing the signs
Workers should pay attention to the following signs of heat exhaustion: excessive sweating, muscle cramps, shallow breathing, increased heart rate, dizziness, weakness, and fatigue.
Here in BC, employers are required to “provide adequate training and education to all workers at risk for heat stress, their immediate co-workers, and their supervisor,” reads Preventing Heat Stress At Work, from WorkSafeBC, available in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Punjabi.
Recently I’ve spoken with two managers who said they’d been talking with staff about working in the heat. One works with bus drivers; the other works with school grounds keepers. I’ll be sharing their stories here soon, and in the meantime, here are some resources you can share or use at work.
It’s Your Health – Extreme Heat Events from Health Canada
Heat Stress from CUPE National Health and Safety Branch
Heat Stress, a NIOSH Safety and Health Topic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Heat Stress in the Workplace: What You Need to Know as an Employer from Britain’s Health and Safety Executive
June 09, 2011
Most people probably think truckers’ greatest safety risk is being in a collision. It isn’t. The most likely way truckers are injured on the job is by falling out of their cabs or off their trailers.
To show the impact of these falls, the Trucking Safety Council of BC has a new resource on its website. Determine Your Impact Force is a simulation that shows what type of force you will experience based on your body weight when you fall from certain heights.
For example, I enter my weight and see that if I jump down from the second level step, I’m taking an impact equivalent to the collision force a linebacker feels tackling a fullback. Ouch. That would hurt if I landed on my feet, and who knows what would happen if I landed on some other body part.
For curiosity’s sake, I enter 250 pounds to see how much greater the impact would be. A person of that weight could break their skull falling from the second level step – so stepping carefully is a very good idea!
“Fortunately, injuries can be prevented by taking the time to enter and exit safely and correctly,” reads the Trucking Council website, offering lots of tips and links to more information on safety in that industry.
Here’s an especially good tip for anyone getting in or out of any kind of vehicle: “…your focus should be on entry/exit movement – distraction by cell phone use, holding a coffee cup, or paperwork greatly increases the risks of losing your balance and getting injured.”
Try the simulation and see what would happen to you. Then be careful.
June 07, 2011
“You need to listen to us and ask.”
That’s the message from a retail store manager talking to her company’s CEO – except she doesn’t know he’s the CEO because he’s visiting the store undercover, wearing a bad wig, fake moustache, and nerdy glasses.
It’s all part of a WorkSafe Victoria campaign in Australia called The Skeleton Project: Baring the bones on workplace safety. The retail CEO toured the store as a “safety researcher” as staff showed him all the risky spots. He’s one of three CEOs – in different industries – who go incognito and take a close-up look at the hazards their workers face. The experience turns out to be quite eye-opening.
WorkSafe Victoria offers a viewing guide for employers who want to show the video to their workers and generate discussion on safety. There’s a also a downloadable questionnaire for workers to fill out after they’ve watched the video. Their feedback can be shared with senior management and lead to solutions – some of which may be quite small, all things considered.
You can view each episode by clicking on a CEO’s image at the Skeleton Project Website. Here’s the trailer for the campaign, on YouTube.
June 02, 2011
My friend Darcy Olson told me about a crane that dropped its big, heavy hook on a construction site in downtown Vancouver.
He was working as an industrial electrician, reviewing blueprints with his foreman on the first floor of a three-story building, when he took note of two cranes servicing the site.
“We are instructed to always avoid being under a crane load, and at least be very aware if one is flying up above us,” Darcy wrote, via Facebook.
“As we were discussing our itinerary, I noted that a rigger and a helper were flying up material to the incomplete third floor. It was a casual observance, but I was keeping my eye in their direction.
“The crane had dropped its cargo to the awaiting rigger and was in place to lower down to receive another. As I glanced up, I saw the ground-based rigger and his helper running like the devil himself was after them. One of the cables had snapped, sending the carriage hook plummeting three floors. The impact shook the ground and sent up such a plume of dust that I thought the load had dropped. That hook weighed two or three hundred pounds.
“The cable itself whipped through the air with such force it would have cut a person in half. All construction came to a halt. Luckily no one was injured, or killed. The resulting investigation revealed that the crane in question was due to be taken out of service due to its age. It was removed from the site and the other hammerhead crane serviced the rest of the project.”
Crane operator certification in BC
Crane operators in BC have been getting certified since 2007 because their work can have such serious effects when something goes wrong with the equipment, as Darcy describes. More info on this at the BC Association for Crane Safety website.
In BC, the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Regulations includes these two sections specific to crane operations:
Thanks again to Darcy for this second story about working in construction. The first was Unsafe Handling of Nail Guns – and there are more to come.
Do you have a story to share? Email me: email@example.com