December 01, 2011
Employers sign up and their workers answer questions online about their specific workplace. The program evaluates each survey and compiles a list of potential violence-related risks.
“Once the risks have been identified, the e-tool brings up articles related to prevention strategies from the knowledge base… culled from hundreds of policy and procedure documents from reputable agencies…” reads the WorkSafeBC article by Gail Johnson.
A tale of avoiding violence
Health care workers are often faced with aggressive behaviour from clients – many of whom are angry, scared, or frustrated with their situation. According to WorkSafeBC, violence is a leading cause of injury to B.C. care workers and results in more than 1000 injuries each year.
I talked with a community health nurse recently about some of the threats he’s faced from clients he visits in shelters and hotels in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. He said violence is threatened, but actual incidents are rare. I followed up with a contact at WorkSafeBC who confirmed there was no significant number of violence-related claims among community health nurses.
Once the nurse went to a hotel to see a man with a suspected leg infection. He introduced himself and asked if he could have a look.
“I thought I heard him say ‘yeah’ or shake his head, but apparently he’s partially deaf and he hadn’t heard me at all,” he said.
“I went down to lift up his pant leg, and he turned at me and raised his hand as if to hit me, and so of course I backed out of that situation and explained that I was a nurse – there to look at his wounds. He told me he did not want me to look at his wounds and so I left.”
Thankfully the threat of violence was averted, and a female nurse went back later and treated the man. There are many tactics for cooling the flames, depending on the industry and the situation, and the new online program brings many of them to industry. Kudos to the collaborators!
New violence prevention resources online
WorkSafeBC is offering a new set of online resources for workers and employers, including videos, e-publications, and links to violence-related info in the Regulation.
October 04, 2011
Abby Mikkelson helps women and their families during labour, birth, and early days with a baby. She packs what she needs to care for herself, so she’ll be ready to care for others – including a change of clothes, healthy snacks, water, and non-slip shoes for the hospital delivery room. As a doula, she’s available on call 24/7.
“Labour can start at any point during the day or night, but I often find myself being awakened with a phone call in the middle of the night,” says Abby, who drives her own car to homes and hospitals.
Critical car care
Abby’s car is an important part of the equation, so she takes good care of it – with regular oil changes, tune-ups, enough air in the tires, and at least a quarter tank of gas. And she makes sure she knows where she’s going.
“Knowing the route to their home ahead of time is imperative,” she says. “This helps me to know which lane goes faster, where to turn, if I should avoid certain streets due to more dangerous intersections.”
Even though Abby is self-employed, she faces the same road safety issues as other people who drive while working for employers. They are known as the “grey fleet” – defined by this WorkSafe Magazine story as “workers who drive a vehicle during the course of their work, but for whom driving is not a primary duty.”
Focusing on the grey fleet
Deirdre Holmes is with the Occupational Road Safety Partnership – and she says this group of workers hasn’t always been on the radar like they are today.
Now the safety community is focused on it because 30 people in the grey fleet died each year in BC from 2005 to 2007 – making MVI the second highest cause of worker death after asbestos exposure. The cost of WorkSafeBC motor vehicle claims was almost $31 million in 2007.
In 2009, the BCAA Road Safety Foundation and WorkSafeBC created a partnership to solve this tragic problem. Deirdre manages its fleet safety and grey fleet safety programs.
“The workplace extends into the worker’s vehicle, which is actually a workplace on wheels,” Deirdre said, inviting employers to get in touch with her if they had questions about implementing their own grey fleet programs.
Drive safely as the temperature cools
Whether or not you drive at work, check out Shift Into Winter – with tips on winter driving safety from the Occupational Road Safety Partnership.
Have any other road safety resources to recommend? Please share them here.
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.
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!!!
April 07, 2011
It’s one of the most common reminders we’ve heard since childhood – and how we’re reminded it’s the best way to prevent the spread of disease: “Wash your hands!” Ontario’s Brant Community Healthcare System gives new life to this age-old message with this amusing music video. (The music part starts 1 min, 16 seconds in.)
March 17, 2011
Here’s a story from a former care aide attendant who worked in a group home for young and middle-aged adults. Residents at the group home lived with cognitive and physical disabilities, mental illness, and dual diagnosis (i.e. addiction and mental illness together).
“As far as safety goes, it’s a tough slog, that’s for sure,” said my friend, who I’ll call Joan.
Some aspects of the job were rewarding, but there were also many risks, such as exposure to bodily fluids, getting bitten, overexertion from lifting people, and emotional stress. Yet in addition to watching out for their own safety, Joan and her coworkers had to take special precautions with residents whose behaviours could endanger the public. Read more
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
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.
September 28, 2010
A friend, let’s call her Beth, recently told me she is faced with the risk of violence every day in her job as a registered nurse in a hospital. Agitated patients try to kick, scratch, and punch her as she attends to their needs – not to mention verbal abuse from patients and their loved ones.
“If I was to report every time a patient actually tries to strike out at me or literally tries to claw me or kick me, we’d be drowning in a sea of paperwork,” said Beth, who has worked as a nurse for four years. “There’s huge under-reporting because it’s ‘just part of the job’ – but it shouldn’t be.” Read more
July 21, 2010
Welcome to Speaking of Safety, a blog for starting and sharing conversations about workplace health and safety.
I’ll start by telling you why I’m writing this blog. It’s because I’ve been listening to people’s stories on the topic since I wrote my first article for WorkSafeBC’s WorkSafe Magazine in 1998.
I’ve spoken with hundreds of people who work in different industries, and many of their stories will stay with me forever.