October 25, 2012
A career in heavy machinery could be a bit closer for 30 Okanagan students who might choose that path – which is good news for an industry that (like many others) needs new workers to keep pace with retirement rates.
“The demand is increasing for qualified operators. One recent search for jobs identified four large companies searching for over 220 operators collectively,” says Mike Hansen, general manager of the Interior Heavy Equipment (IHE) Operators School in Winfield, in the IHE Snapshot Newsletter.
The IHE Training School donated its training site and equipment for the fifth annual Heavy Metal Rocks event Sept. 28 to 30 in Winfield. Local road building and construction companies sent their equipment operators – male and female – to act as mentors and train youth on how how to operate different types of heavy equipment on site.
They learned about safe use of graders, bulldozers, loaders, back hoes, rock trucks and excavators – rotating through different stations. Information on career options for heavy equipment operators in the construction, oil and gas, forestry, civil and mining industries was also provided.
Chris Ovelson is a Kelowna teacher who coordinated the annual event. He said the operators were very impressed with the students.
“We had one student that was such a natural behind the controls of the rock truck that the operator challenged him to drive the course in reverse. The operator couldn’t believe that the student could drive the truck just as well backwards as forwards!” he said.
“We also had a student behind the controls of the excavator for the first time and he stacked up five rocks on top of each other faster than the operator who was mentoring him. Don’t tell his parents this, but I guess all those video game hours are paying off!”
Union rep Herb Conat had similar comments last year, which I wrote about in my post Gamers bring hand-eye skills to work.
Safety for heavy machine operators
“Researching the safety culture, practice, and record of an employer should be part of counselling youth about early career experiences and potential places of work,” reads Exploring Careers in Heavy Equipment: An Introductory Guide for Parents and Educators, part of Alberta’s Careers in Heavy Equipment Occupations Project.
I hope young people will make careful choices before entering a workplace that includes risks of rollovers, pedestrians near moving equipment, musculoskeletal injuries, and falling from machine cabs.
In addition to watching their mentors model safety, the students prepared for Heavy Metal Rocks by doing Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) training at school, along with Level 1 First Aid Training donated by First Response Training and Safety Professionals Inc.
Congrats to all involved!
October 27, 2011
A Canadian safety magazine has announced its first annual list of Canada’s Safest Employers. I was curious to find out more about who is on the list, how they were chosen, and why the magazine decided to start a new award program, so I emailed Mari-Len De Guzman, editor of Canadian Occupational Safety to find out more.
“We wanted to create a national recognition program for companies that deserve to be acknowledged for going above and beyond in promoting health and safety in the workplace,” Mari-Len said, via email.
In its first year, the contest attracted more than 100 employers whose nominations were judged by a a panel of reps from Canadian workplace safety organizations, including WorkSafeBC.
Social media shout-out
Many of the nominees responded to a call for nominations on the COS Online website www.cos-mag.com, via Twitter – @cosmagazine, the COS Facebook Group, and on COS’s YouTube channel. Acklands-Grainger, the national founding sponsor for the Canada’s Safest Employers Award program, and other people and organizations also promoted it through their social media channels.
Manufacturing was the award team’s focus for this first year and in 2012, targets will include construction, mining, oil and gas, natural resources, and the service industries. Nominations for 2012 will open in December 2011 – and as a born and bred BC resident, I’m hoping to see some representation from my home province.
“We are planning to work with the various industry safety associations in all provinces and solicit their support in both judging the nominations and/or helping us promote the award to their member companies to encourage more submissions,” Mari-Len said.
Five winners were honoured September 27 by Canada’s Labour Minister Lisa Raitt in Toronto. In the coming weeks, I’ll follow up with more details about what they did to earn the honour. Congratulations to:
- Atotech Canada (Ontario)
- CCI Thermal Technologies (Ontario)
- GE Aviation (Quebec)
- Innovative Automation (Ontario)
- Pratt & Whitney Canada – Halifax Operations (Nova Scotia)
Here’s a link to Mari-Len’s article rounding up the first year of the award.
September 27, 2011
Tires can explode with deadly force – for a few different reasons.
Recently I met a former mechanic named Petr at my favourite local coffee shop. He told me about a tire explosion he experienced a few years ago when he was working as a mobile mechanic for his dad’s company, rescuing broken-down trucks from the highways of Ontario and Quebec.
One night he was dispatched to fix a flat on a big truck, when the driver reported that his air brakes had failed earlier. Petr wasn’t sure what the driver was talking about, since it was fairly difficult to re-attach air brakes. He removed the wheel to fix the flat and noticed the brake line was “just hanging back there.”
The driver had gone all the way from Mississauga to Montreal – 538 kilometres – with a locked brake. Not good. Petr told me what happened next.
“I had the flat tire on the tailgate of my truck, inflating, and covered in soap to see where the flat is,” Petr wrote, via email. “I was in the driver’s seat, filling out a work order when my world jumped and I had a face-full of steering wheel. The tire had exploded and somehow threw itself a good six feet next to where the driver had been.”
It turns out the tire had been held in place by the locked brake. The rim of the wheel spun inside it all that time, creating so much heat from friction that it “completely annihilated the metal cords that held the tire together,” Petr explained.
Thankfully no one was hurt – even though the driver was, as Petr put it: “pale as a ghost with a completely empty colon.”
Tire explosions can be deadly
Tires can exploded for a number of reasons. Over-inflating causes explosions, as can under-inflating tires – which leads to damage and irregular wear. Improper fitting onto rims is also dangerous.
These videos show how dangerous tires can be – so please be careful at work and on the road. Thanks again to Petr for telling me about his experience, and if you have a story to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
July 21, 2010
Electronic gaming gets a bad rap in many circles, but union rep Herb Conat thinks students’ gaming skills are bringing benefits to the workplace.
According to Herb, students who play video games are more skilled at using the joysticks on heavy machinery than students who don’t game.
“It’s just remarkable. Some of these students would blow you away,” says Herb, who – like these young people – was only 16 when he got his first job operating heavy machines. Today, in his early 50s, he’s still playing an active role in the industry as a union rep for members of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 115.
“The ergonomics of today’s machines – the hand joysticks and stuff like that – are all things these kids use for gaming. They’re not designing them for old guys. They’re designing them for the young person who’s been playing with joysticks since they were a child…” Herb says.
Herb is one of the organizers of “Heavy Metal Rocks” – a hands-on career program for Grade 11 and 12 students who want to try heavy construction and road building equipment.
These lucky students can actually get behind the wheel of some mighty machines – once they have the right training and safety preparation. They get WHMIS training, Level 1 Occupational First Aid certification, and a site-safety orientation from a WorkSafeBC officer who also gives them their own personal safety equipment.
Scientists study effects of gaming
For years, scientists have looked at how video games affect people – especially kids – who play them. For example, a study published in Current Directions in Psychological Science shows that: “the very act of playing action video games significantly reduces reaction times without sacrificing accuracy.”
What do you think, parents? Does this make you feel better about your kids’ gaming?