New online tool assesses first aid requirements

May 20, 2015

First aid compliance just got much easier for the film industry.

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The First Aid Assessment Tool is now available online from ActSafe, the safety association serving BC’s motion picture and performing arts industry. It helps employers to book the right staff and equipment required by Part 3.14 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation.

“Once you have the information you need, completing a first aid assessment takes less than one minute with ActSafe’s online assessment tool,” reads the ActSafe website.

All employers in BC must determine first aid needed by looking at these factors in a workplace:

(a) the number of workers who may require first aid at any time,

(b) the nature and extent of the risks and hazards in the workplace, including whether or not the workplace as a whole creates a low, moderate or high risk of injury,

(c) the types of injuries likely to occur,

(d) any barriers to first aid being provided to an injured worker, and

(e) the time that may be required to obtain transportation and to transport an injured worker to medical treatment.

An employer must reassess the workplace “whenever a significant change affecting the assessment occurs in the employer’s operations” – which happens all the time in the film industry.

“It’s a constantly changing workplace,” says Geoff Teoli, ActSafe’s executive director, explaining (when I asked) that a film set could be in a remote forest, an abandoned building, a downtown alley, or many other places.

During the shoot, there will likely be more people working on set than there are during the set up and wrap, which also changes requirements.

In the past, this process required “deciphering tables, equipment lists and calculating hazard adjustment ratios to figure out your first aid requirements,” reads the ActSafe website.

But not anymore.

“The tables and calculations were just intimidating for most of the workers,” Geoff said. “This gives them really a nice simple tool. It takes less than a minute to do and they get everything from inventory list to hazard assessment.”

Congrats to ActSafe and thanks to Geoff for talking with me about it.


Finding first aid training providers in BC

January 28, 2015

Illustration from WorkSafeBC Hazard Alert 99-11: Ensure transportation of injured workers

Illustration from WorkSafeBC Hazard Alert 99-11: Ensure transportation of injured workers

The First Aid Training Providers list, most recently updated December 2014, is a valuable resource for BC workers and employers who need to find service in their communities. It’s one of the most frequently visited pages on the WorkSafeBC website.

First aid requirements for employers in BC are based on number of workers, their proximity to medical aid, and industry hazard rating.

Read more on the above in WorkSafeBC’s Introduction to First Aid.

How to choose?

WorkSafeBC published its first list of trainers online 10 years ago. Now it’s updated every quarter or as needed, says Angélique Prince, senior certification officer with WorkSafeBC.

She said – when I asked – that it was only once a week her office received calls from employers looking for first aid trainers. I thought they might get a lot of phone calls, but they don’t. Most employers know the list is online.

But about once a week they get a call from someone who says “‘I live in the Lower Mainland and there are 50 places on the list. How am I supposed to pick?'” Angélique said.

She and her staff refer them to How to Choose an Occupational Health and Safety
Training Provider

A more frequent question, Angélique said, is from employers wanting information on first aid requirements for their workplaces.

This question is answered in WorkSafeBC’s First Aid Guideline that sets out “a step-by-step method for employers to follow when conducting an assessment of the workplace to determine an adequate and appropriate level of first aid coverage.”

For information on out-of-province first aid certification, requirements for paramedics, and certificate renewals, see WorkSafeBC’s requirements for First Aid Attendants.

The OFA Job Checklist guides attendants through a review of the Regulation, site-specific hazards, personnel, evacuation, exposure control, and all they need to know in case of emergency.

Ongoing training keeps skills fresh

Angélique stressed the importance of ongoing training to “keep skills fresh.”

Certificates are good for three years, but workers still benefit from drills and refresher training.

“The employer has a duty to ensure their competency as an attendant,” Angélique said.

In my view, it takes a special person to be a first aid attendant – someone who can stay calm and do what’s needed for an injured person. I have great respect for people who can do it.


Are you ready to ShakeOut in BC?

October 18, 2011

From the ShakeOutBC website

It’s scary to think how bad the The Big One could be here on the West Coast. Like many, I’m hoping it’s after my time – but since no one really knows, I’ll do what I can to be prepared.

On Thursday, October 20 at 10:20 a.m., I’ll join hundreds of thousands of my fellow British Columbians to “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” during the Great British Columbia ShakeOut.

Last year more than 470,000 people participated in this event for the first time, and now it’s annual – every third Thursday in October.

What if there’s an earthquake when you’re at work?

Here in BC, companies are not required to buy earthquake supplies for their staff. You may need to take things into your own hands and be prepared to be stuck at work for a few days if nearby bridges and roads are destroyed.

From the ShakeOutBC website

I wrote about this topic after last year’s ShakeOut. Scott Larsen of Krasicki and Ward Emergency Preparedness gave me this advice on how to be prepared if there is an earthquake when you are at work.

Scott said:

1) Read earthquake preparedness info 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 because you will have to walk on glass and sharp debris.
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.

ShakeOut on social media

Like ShakeOutBC on Facebook and follow them on Twitter to connect with other participants. Feel free to email me if you have any questions about using Twitter or Facebook to do this. If you’re not already using social media, you’ll see it’s easier than you imagined!


Unsafe handling of nail-guns

April 28, 2011

Image: "Townhouse" by pearlblossom/Melissa Samworth on Flickr

A worker on a steep roof slipped and shot himself in the leg with a nail-gun. My friend Darcy Olsen told me about this incident, answering my ongoing request for stories about workplace danger.

It was a hot, humid day in Ottawa in 2005. Darcy and his crew of eight were putting shingles on a multi-phase townhouse re-roof project. Certified in Level 3 Occupational First Aid, Darcy was a skilled tradesman in charge of site safety and emergencies.

“I had gone over the safety issues of using toe-boards on the steep sections with everyone,” Darcy wrote, via Facebook message. “I was on a northern section of roof after setting everyone to their tasks. We had an exuberant young apprentice shingler working another section.”

Toe-boards are part of a roofer’s fall protection system. They are long boards – usually 2×6 or 2×8 – installed along the roof edge.

What happened?

“My lead hand came over and called me to the scene. Young Ben had decided that he didn’t need any toe-boards on his steep section and was working with only his fall-harness,” Darcy wrote. “But, due to the heat, which makes shingles very soft, he slipped in his harness.

“He was using an air-powered roofing coil nailer with 1.25-inch coil nails in it. He had been keeping his finger on the trigger as he moved about – a habit I had previously reprimanded him for. A softened shingle had torn loose under his body weight and, as he slipped, he shot himself just above the left knee with his air nailer – lodging it firmly into the bone.

Image of a nail stuck in a person's leg bone, from WorkSafeBC video: Safe Handling of Nail Guns

“By the time I got to where he was, he was in a semblance of shock, but members of the crew had managed to get him to the 4/12 section of roof. I immediately called 911 for a steep-roof rescue and the fire department came to aid. I stayed with him until the fire department showed up with a telescoping basket to remove him.

“He spent three days in the hospital, and the the time loss for him was only a few weeks. It could’ve been a lot worse if he had shot himself a few inches lower in the kneecap.

“It was a serious safety lesson for the entire crew,” Darcy wrote.

WorkSafeBC’s nail-gun safety series

Darcy’s story made me think of these (fairly gory!) videos on nail-guns and other potentially dangerous power tools: You’re a Pro: Power Tool Series


Walk to remember

March 03, 2011

Steps For Life is a fundraising walk to raise money for families who lost loved ones in workplace tragedies. On April 30 or May 1, 2011, people in 33 Canadian communities will walk together and remember the human faces behind the statistics.

“We set up pictures and stories, on the walk, of people who have died throughout the year. As you’re walking you get to read the real person’s story,” said Tanya Steele – one of the organizers of Metro Vancouver’s second annual Steps For Life walk on April 30.

“It’s recognizing the reality of how many people are actually killed at work. I think it’s important for people to understand that people are still dying at work. That is ridiculous. People shouldn’t be dying at work,” said Tanya, director of training and client services at ER Plus Risk Management Group in Richmond.

I met Tanya at the NAOSH Week awards last fall and called her recently to see what she’s working on these days. She told me about her volunteer work with Steps For Life, a project she’s doing with two of her coworkers and other volunteers from the Canadian Society of Safety Engineers and Threads of Life – a national organization formed in 2003 by grieving family and friends.

ER Plus is supplying first aid services for the Metro Vancouver walk – and local sponsors are still needed for contributing food and other donations to this family event that marks the start of NAOSH Week. Last year, it was mainly adults, but organizers are hoping more kids will attend this time. They might even get a bouncy castle!

Interested sponsors can email Tanya at


How do paramedics stay safe at work?

October 19, 2010

Paramedics at a skateboarding competition in East Vancouver, Sept. 2010.

I’ve admired paramedics ever since I was a kid in the 70s, watching the old TV show Emergency!

Since then, in real life, I’ve seen paramedics do amazing things, with such kindness and compassion. A while ago, I saw on Facebook that Nicholas Chernen, an old high school friend of mine, was in paramedic school at the Justice Institute of BC.

I wrote to congratulate him on his career choice, and also asked what he is learning about staying safe on the job. Here’s what he told me:

“The first thing we always think about is hazards. Is there anything in/on/around the emergency scene that could cause harm to ourselves or fellow first responders? (We’re no good to anyone if we get injured.) Read more


Get your emergency eye wash together

September 07, 2010

Is your emergency eye wash up to par? If not, you’re not alone, says Del Goudreau – an occupational first aid attendant who treats and transfers injured workers to hospital from remote industrial sites.

Del in his mobile treatment and transport truck

Del visits forestry, construction, and manufacturing sites througout southwest B.C. and Vancouver Island. He wrote a Letter to the Editor that appeared in the July/Aug 2009 issue of WorkSafe Magazine – asking employers to make sure workers have access to proper eyewash supplies.

Del’s letter said, “I never see adequate emergency treatment measures or resources to assist injured workers when their eyes have been exposed to chemicals….” That surprised me. I phoned Del for more details.

“You go to some sites and they don’t even have an emergency eyewash, or it’s not in a conspicuous place that’s accessible,” he said. “At best, they’ll have an emergency eyewash bottle which is only one litre of fluid – and most of the time, I don’t know what the fluid is. It’s not very well-marked and it’s not maintained.”

That’s bad news for anyone who gets chemicals or particles in their eyes. Flushing with water ASAP makes a big difference. In some cases, it can save vision.

Workplace rules and regs on eyewash vary among jurisdictions. Here in British Columbia, Canada, the WorkSafeBC Regulation Part 5 Chemical Agents requires employers to select appropriate eye wash facilities: “based on an assessment of the risks in each workplace.”


Grab-and-go safety bin wins

August 05, 2010

Jonas and the bin

Jonas Hoke put together this "Job Site Safety Bin" for home construction workers

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