November 29, 2012
“If you learn something but don’t share it with anyone, it does no good,” says a man who attributes his workplace injury to his attitude and the idea that “it could never happen to me.” Two years after he was “buried alive” in a trench collapse, Eric Giguere gave his first talk about it – sharing how it changed his relationships with loved ones and the crew at work. I won’t spoil the story – but I’ll tell you to watch the video and hear one heart-warming example of “saving a life” that Eric can be thanked for.
October 17, 2012
Mental disorders like depression and anxiety are being examined closely by the workplace safety community in many countries today. At issue is how these disorders can be triggered by bullying, harassment, and other stressful situations in the workplace.
In BC, a new bill – Bill 14 – states that a worker is entitled to compensation where a mental disorder is a reaction to
(i) one or more traumatic events arising out of and in the course of a worker’s employment, or
(ii) a significant work-related stressor, including bullying or harassment, or a cumulative series of significant work-related stressors, arising out of and in the course of the worker’s employment.
Criteria for the diagnosis are laid out and WorkSafeBC is about to finish a stakeholder consultation to get people’s views on the organization’s New Occupational Health and Safety Policies on Workplace Bullying and Harassment.
In other countries
This is from the WorkSafeBC paper people are commenting on:
Currently, the United States does not have any legislation that specifically addresses workplace bullying and harassment at the state or federal level. Many states are considering the Healthy Workplace Bill which includes antibullying provisions.
In the United Kingdom, bullying is not specifically mentioned in workplace legislation. However, there are means to obtain legal redress for bullying under The Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
In Australia, some states have introduced anti-bullying laws under their occupational health and safety legislation. There is a draft code of practice called Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying issued under the Australian Model Work Health and Safety Act that may be adopted in the future.
Sweden’s anti-bullying legislation focuses on victimization. France amended its Labour Code to include the prevention of psychological harassment in the workplace.
How big is the problem?
One in five workers has a mental disorder, such as depression or anxiety, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, cited in this January 2012 report from the American Psychiatric Association.
But people are often uncomfortable to bring up mental disorders due to a stigma not attached to other types of illness. Hopefully – with the topic on the table – people can speak more openly about their suffering and issues can be addressed at work.
The new Mental Health in the Workplace portal from WorkSafeBC is a good starting point for looking more closely at this issue.
The Canadian Standards Association is releasing a new standard for psychological health in the workplace – according to this article from Levitt Safety. Health and Safety Ontario describes the value of these developments in A Step Forward for Mental Health? The New Standard for Psychological Health of a Workplace.
April 05, 2012
The first week of April is designated as Global and National Asbestos Awareness Week.
Many groups – like the Mesothelioma Center – are working hard to share information on the deadly effects of asbestos exposure. Last fall, on CBC radio, I heard the story of Heidi Von Palleske, who recorded a plea from her mother in the last days of her life with mesothelioma – a rare cancer nearly always caused by asbestos exposure. She asked government and the asbestos industry to end Canadian mining and exports.
The same week I heard about Heidi and her mom, I received an email from Ben Leer, public outreach coordinator for the Mesothelioma Center. He introduced himself and the US-based Center, which according to its website is “a one-stop resource for all asbestos- and mesothelioma-related issues, from occupational exposure to treatment options.”
I wrote about Ben’s introduction and his offer to share any information I might need. I contacted him again this week for his suggestions on what to include in this post on asbestos awareness resources – and here they are:
Designating a week to a cause
Global and National Asbestos Awareness Week was designated by the U.S. senate as the first week of April. One group who lobbied hard for this recognition is the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, formed in 2004 to raise public awareness and connect affected workers.
Here in BC, WorkSafeBC released a new asbestos website this year – HiddenKiller.ca.
The new WorkSafeBC site describes how to handle asbestos safely. If you are concerned about exposure in your own workplace, or want more information, call 604 276-3100 in the Lower Mainland or 1 888 621-7233 toll-free elsewhere in BC. Call 1 866 922-4357 for after hours emergencies.
If you think you’ve been exposed to asbestos (or any harmful substance), this information can help you get medical attention ASAP if needed. It’s alarming to think about these possibilities, but good to know there are options and support in numbers.
Asbestos in the news
Asbestos campaign aims to halt deadly exposures from WorkSafe Magazine, March/April 2012
Asbestos in Brakes: One community’s struggle from CBC News, Mar 12, 2012
Demolition firm sentenced over demolition danger from the UK’s Health and Safety Executive, Mar. 20, 2012
OHS practitioners urged to take greater role in anti-asbestos lobby from Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine, Jan 4, 2012.
February 07, 2012
Last week I wrote about online resources that help employers with their return-to-work programs for injured workers – and now I want to tell you about one aspect of this program that deserves a post of its own: the Construction Nurse Line.
Phone access to nurses is becoming more popular – think of 811 and the Newborn Hotline – and now construction employers have their own nurse advisor service by phone, free of charge, weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Judy Reilly, client services manager for WorkSafeBC’s Construction & Return-To-Work Services department, wants to make sure construction employers know the service is available – so this post is what YouTube fans call a “shout out” – just to spread the word on this great service, first offered to B.C.’s construction industry in June 2010.
The construction nurses will work with all parties – physicians, health care providers, employers, and employees – to facilitate safe and appropriate return to work planning. They advise on injuries, injury management, return-to-work issues, and claims.
So please help spread the word – and think about how this service might work in your own industry in your own jurisdiction. Do you have anything like this where you are?
BC construction employers can call 604 279-8155 in the Lower Mainland or toll-free elsewhere in the province at 1 877 633-6233.
January 31, 2012
Here’s a new online resource for simplifying the early return-to-work process for injured workers – originally made for construction but generic enough for employers in any industry.
The Injury Management Road Map was created by a team led by Judy Reilly, client services manager for WorkSafeBC’s Construction & Return-To-Work Services department. I gave her a call to see what employers can get from the new step-by-step guide for employers to follow when a workplace injury occurs.
Judy said the Road Map will help employers deal with the detours and unnecessary bumps in the road, and ensure that the RTW process is managed efficiently and effectively, allowing injured employees to remain at work or return to productive and appropriate work as soon as possible.
The online guide is most useful for small to medium employers who – unlike large employers – don’t have human resources staff on-site to manage RTW programs.
Having all paperwork ready
One useful form, for example, is the Stay-at-work/return-to-work planning form, which provides a typical list of limitations as a starting point for developing a custom return-to-work or modified duties plan. For example, the doctor could select “Limit long periods of walking or standing” or “Avoid jarring” as appropriate. The form can also be downloaded and customized with your own logo, etc.
Judy talked about this problem in the Nov/Dec 2010 issue of WorkSafe Magazine. She said there’s 20 years of research that show it’s “misguided” for injured workers to stay home and rest until fully recovered.
“In general, our physical fitness can start to decline after one week of inactivity,” she told WSM. “So the longer an employee is off work, the longer it takes to get back to full capacity; and the less likely he or she is to return to the job.”
She said an injured worker can transition back into the workplace earlier and more safely when the employer takes immediate steps to accommodate the worker’s injury. Having the right paperwork on hand, when needed, can speed the RTW process, which benefits all.
“The employer can give the RTW package to workers, and tell them: ‘Talk to your doctor about modified duties and bring this back.’ It’s a proactive way that helps the worker and it’s even an education to the physician as they’re going through it,” Judy said. “From the employer’s perspective, they don’t have to create it themselves. It’s all there for them.”
Your experiences with RTW
What kinds of duties do you keep available for modified duties? Have you ever worked on modified duties yourself? Please share your story in the Comments below.
October 20, 2011
As many as one in five people experiences chronic pain, says this Vancouver Sun article and many other sources. They were injured at work, in vehicles, living with degenerative diseases, genetic conditions, and unknown causes.
“Pain is a legitimate illness that affects a wide swath of the population,” said Senator Kelvin Ogilvie, chair of the Senate committee reviewing the federal-provincial health accord. Along with patients’ groups and health professionals, he is advocating for prevention, early intervention, patient support, and better pain care in the community, says the article.
When people think you’re faking it
Since pain is invisible it’s often hard to prove to doctors, employers, insurers, or anyone else who needs to know why you aren’t working. One person told SunMedia what it’s often like to describe his suffering.
“The disbelief, the jeering, the snide commentary, and most especially, the fact that people think you are lying to get something out of it. No one but another person who has chronic pain can possibly understand how bad it is.”
Injured workers’ pain
Many injured workers know the feeling of pain that shuts down their lives – but it usually goes away. A few months ago, I wrote a post about a worker who tried to do an early return-to-work program, but suffered too much pain to continue. She told her case manager the pain was so bad she was crying at work, and she was transferred to a physio/pain management program instead.
A reader emailed me privately about the post and praised the compassion of our BC system for recognizing the worker’s pain and accommodating it. She lamented her province did not recognize pain as a legitimate cause for stopping an RTW program if there were no obvious sources for the pain.
Hopefully Ogilvie will stir a wave of change that makes things easier for people who are already suffering enough. Canada’s top pain scientists are meeting with Ogilvie’s committee – and I’ll be interested to see what is recommended in the review of the federal-provincial health accord.
For more info, see:
Chronic Pain Factsheet – from the BC Ministry of Labour, Citizens’ Services and Open Government
October 13, 2011
Recently I heard a conversation on CBC radio between Heidi Von Palleske and her mother, in the last days of her life with mesothelioma – a rare cancer nearly always caused by asbestos exposure. The mother asked the daughter to record her plea to government and the asbestos industry that they end Canadian mining and exports.
She really wanted people to know about what happened to her – how her husband came home from work every day at the asbestos plant, covered in “fairy dust” and hugged her and the kids. She wanted to stop it from happening to others – here in Canada and elsewhere.
I thought about this recorded interview when I received an email from Ben Leer, introducing himself as the new Public Outreach Coordinator for the Mesothelioma Center (Asbestos.com). Ben said his organization is working hard to connect with other organizations and individuals – so I’d like to help by sharing their social media coordinates.
You can Like the Mesothelioma Facebook page that links people, resources, legal aid, and information on all asbestos issues ranging from occupational exposure to mesothelioma treatment options.
Follow them on Twitter @TheMesoCenter and on LinkedIn as “The Mesothelioma Centre.”
Their website Asbestos.com is “a comprehensive one-stop resource for all asbestos- and mesothelioma-related issues, from occupational exposure to treatment options.”
In July, I wrote about Paul Douglas, who survived 11 years after a mesothelioma diagnosis and an estimated six months to live. He wrote about his experiences in an online forum for others with his condition. WorkSafeBC created hiddenkiller.ca so you can “tune into the facts so that you, your coworkers, your friends, your family are protected.”
February 10, 2011
After a workplace injury, the most basic activities can be a challenge – things like getting in and out of the house, using the bathroom, and going from room to room.
But many of these challenges can be overcome, thanks to occupational therapists like Kathy Pringle – an expert in helping injured workers to adapt their homes for safety and functionality.
Kathy is an Ontario-based occupational therapist with a diploma in architectural technology and she teaches at the School of Rehabilitation Therapy at Queen’s University. She also advises building designers, interior designers, family members, and others who work with people living with mobility issues.
She’s coming to BC to lead a seminar – Assessing and Implementing Home Modifications for the Injured Worker – which I read about on the WorkSafeBC website. I gave her a call to find out more. Read more
January 13, 2011
Simon Paradis is adapting to a new lifestyle. He’s recovering from a severe workplace injury that’s left him unable to walk.
Without use of his legs, Simon has a new process for getting out and about. It takes a lot of effort and he shares it in his photo essay/song: “Simon’s Legs” with his singing and guitar on “You can’t stand up alone” – a blues-gospel song by Mindy Jostyn. Simon’s wife, Kara Stanley, was his partner in this very touching project. I’d like to talk more with Simon about this, so I’ll follow up in a future post. Below is what he told WorkSafeBC.
Healing through art
“I wanted to bring the viewer into my environment,” said Paradis, quoted in this WorkSafeBC news release. “It was a great outlet — I was focused and enthusiastic about this project because it’s a creative representation of what I’m going through.”
Thanks to Simon and Kara for sharing this photo montage, which you can see on YouTube. It’s inspiring to see how much people can adapt to change and persevere through challenging times. What a great example of the healing power of art!
September 16, 2010
“People love giving and receiving high-fives,” says Canadian Paralympic medallist Josh Dueck, who High Fived 9,307 people on August 27 and 28 in Vancouver.
Josh smashed the GUINNESS WORLD RECORD™ for the most high-fives by one person in 24 hours to raise awareness of young worker safety. Read more