December 04, 2012
The Threads of Life website describes it as a journey.
They’re talking about suddenly losing a loved one, which is something I know about first-hand, after my son’s dad died suddenly in a mountain bike accident nearly six months ago.
Even though it wasn’t at the workplace, the experience helps me to understand what it’s like for the families helped by Threads of Life.
Thankfully, my son and I have lots of support and community – but for those who need it, I’m glad to know Threads for Life is there for families dealing what we’ve been processing these last few months.
Support for Canadian families
Threads for Life supports more than 1,100 families with:
- A Family Support Program offering one-on-one peer support to family members and friends who have suffered from a workplace tragedy. The support is provided by trained Volunteer Family Guides who have also experienced a workplace tragedy.
- A support network for those who have experienced similar pain & suffering
- Links to community support services
- Advisory support regarding the workplace investigation and inquest process & opportunities to promote workplace injury prevention and awareness within their own community.
Steps for Life
I recently got an email from Mark Coderre, chair of Metro Vancouver’s Steps for Life Walk organizing committee. This annual memorial walk is sponsored by Threads of Life, supported by volunteers across Canada, like Mark.
“This will be the 4th year for the event and we feel it’s time to make this walk the event to be at for NAOSH Week activities,” Mark said. “The Metro Vancouver Organizing Committee is hard at work going after corporate and community sponsorship at all levels. (National Sponsors must be completed by December 7th). We are also going to try and get a lot more teams and corporate challenges occurring.”
Visit the Threads of Life website if you are interested in finding out more about sponsorship, donation, and volunteer opportunities. In the case of workplace incidents, the beginning of NAOSH Week is a good time to remember people who died on the job. Think about the loss – and the pain it leaves behind – then do all we can to prevent more families from suffering.
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.
September 11, 2012
“Falls from heights are a leading cause of serious injuries for workers in the residential construction industry,” says Al Johnson, WorkSafeBC director of Worker and Employer Services in this press release.
That’s why WorkSafeBC is stepping up its number of safety inspections at residential construction sites throughout the province as part of its Stay On Top Enforcement Blitz. WorkSafeBC officers are looking at fall protection, walkways, ladders, planning, and supervision. Their goal is to do 100 additional inspections each month (from June 25 to November 3) and their data will be used to develop safety solutions.
I checked in with WorkSafeBC to see how it’s going – and received some early numbers, as of Aug. 1. During that time, 30 Prevention officers wrote 133 inspection reports that contain 335 corrective orders. The top 7 orders address:
Obligation to use fall protection
Employer general duties (instruct, train, supervise)
Written fall protection plan
Stairways equipped with handrails
Hierarchy of fall protection (guardrails)
Floor and roof openings
In other regions…
A similar initiative is underway on Prince Edward Island – where on July 3 they started a “a two year, zero tolerance campaign to ensure workplaces are using proper equipment to prevent falls,” according to this CBC story.
PEI also added new training requirements to their fall protection regulation on June 9, 2012.
Bill Reid, director of PEI’s OHS division, told the CBC officers are visiting workplaces across the province to look at the safety of people working at heights.
“What it means for people that are using the fall protection is that when our officer does come on site, if there is violations to the fall protection regulations, or the scaffolding regulations, or workers working at height without protection, we are taking it very seriously,” Reid said, quoted by CBC. “And there will be a lot more stop work orders and potential prosecutions if the violations are flagrant.”
In Ontario, safety inspectors will be focusing on supervision at construction sites in September and October as part of their annual Fall Safety Blitz. The Ontario Ministry of Labour reports that “since 2008, ministry inspectors have conducted more than 345,000 field visits, 43 inspection blitzes and issued more than 560,000 compliance orders in Ontario workplaces.”
In the US, the Stop Construction Falls campaign – is supported by the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), OSHA, and NIOSH.
The UK’s Shattered Lives campaign looks at falls from height in construction, as well as slip and fall risks in other industries. More information from them is available in Falls and trips in construction – Working at height.
Also see WorkSafeBC’s Stay On Top resources
July 19, 2012
A farmer was changing a flat tire on an irrigation reel when the reel tipped over and crushed him. The reel, which was wound with 400 metres (1,300 feet) of water-filled hose, weighed about 8 tonnes (18,000 pounds). Tragically, the farmer died of his injuries, according to the latest Fatality Alert from WorkSafeBC.
Tragedies like this are all too common on farms, where kids’ safety is also an issue. Each year, on average, 13 kids are killed on Canada’s farms – and that’s why the Canadian Agriculture Safety Association is reaching out to communities throughout the country. One of their biggest initiatives – in addition to Agriculture Safety Week – is Progressive Agriculture Safety Day® events in 2013.
More than 13,500 kids and participants will take part in the activities organized by safety groups in Canada’s rural communities, including several 4H clubs. They look at local safety issues such as sun safety, chemical exposure, and handling animals. I spoke with CASA’s executive director, Marcel Hacault, and asked him to tell me more about the benefits of getting kids involved.
“We are trying to change the culture of farming, and one of the ways we do that is by targeting the pre-culture change. In most rural communities there are at least a couple of kids who are from a farm, or end up being farmers or working for farmers in the future,” he said, via phone from Winnipeg.
“The benefit we see is that it’s been shown to change behaviour in kids and also the volunteers. For every safety day, there’s about one in 10 adult volunteers who attend who are also learning about safety messaging and how to behave safely.”
Marcel said people who are interested in hosting a safety day in their own communities can visit the CASA website to find out more. Congrats to him – and everyone else involved – for generating so much interest in this important issue.
April 26, 2012
This new video tells the story of Tony McNaughton, a Starbucks manager in downtown Vancouver, who was stabbed to death at work while protecting a staff member from her violent husband. It’s part of a new toolkit from WorkSafeBC that helps employers and workers reduce the risk of domestic violence entering the workplace.
“If, by this, we can raise the issue of domestic violence – and violence generally – and do something to counter it, then that’s part of Tony’s legacy,” says Allen Sawkins, Tony’s partner. It must have taken so much strength and courage to tell the story on video, and I’m grateful to Allen for sharing it.
For more resources, see the Domestic Violence section of WorkSafeBC’s Violence Prevention portal, where there are also resources related to violence in health care, retail, and tourism and hospitality, as well as working alone and workplace bullying.
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.
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.
October 18, 2011
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.
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!
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.”
July 26, 2011
When you enter the “Cone Zone,” you should reduce your speed, pay attention, and be respectful of the roadside workers and their workplace.
That’s the message from Work Zone Safety Alliance. Their new roadside worker safety awareness campaign is aimed to protect thousands of workers on the roads – and I’m glad to see it!
We need as much attention as possible directed at this group of vulnerable roadside workers that includes municipal workers, landscapers, flag people, tow-truck drivers, road-construction and road-maintenance workers, telecommunications and utility workers, and emergency and enforcement personnel.
In the last 10 years, 386 WorkSafeBC claims were made by workers — typically working in Cone Zones — who were struck by motor vehicles. That’s way too many injuries, which is why it’s good to see all these organizations working together to reduce them:
* BCAA Road Safety Foundation
* BC Ambulance Service
* BC Construction Safety Alliance
* BC Flagging Association
* BC Hydro
* BC Landscape and Nursery Association
* BC Municipal Safety Association
* BC Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association
* Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General
* Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
* The Community Against Preventable Injuries
* Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services
* Lower Mainland police
For more info, or to download a campaign poster, visit Slow Down in the Cone Zone from WorkSafeBC. Drivers, please pay attention to this important message. Too often people speed through, thinking of where they are going, without caring enough about the people they pass. It’s time to change that!