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
June 28, 2012
While young workers are known for their higher injury rate, older workers’ injuries tend to be more serious.
UBC’s Partnership for Work, Health, and Safety reports that women between 55 and 64 are three times more likely to experience a severe fall than women 15 to 24 years old – and women working in health care are three to four times more likely to incur a serious injury as men in that industry.
They released these findings in a new report based on their analysis of WorkSafeBC data on serious injuries from 2002 and 2008.
“Serious injuries result in more severe medical diagnoses, longer periods of disability, and higher compensation claim costs, and thus are key targets for injury prevention initiatives,” reads the report.
Prevention initiatives for older workers are especially important because this group of workers is growing in proportion to other age groups. The UBC report notes that the 55 to 64-year-old segment of the Canadian workforce grew faster than any other age group between 2001 and 2006.
Older workers’ safety issues
Older workers take longer to heal and recover compared to their younger counterparts. They’re more prone to sprains and strains – and the exact same injury can hit an older person much harder.
“When the 18-year-old working at a fast-food restaurant, for example, slips on a greasy French fry, he’s likely to get right back up; his 60-year-old colleague might well suffer a broken hip,” said WorkSafeBC ergonomist Peter Goyert in this WorkSafe Magazine article from Jan/Feb 2011.
“On average, if you’re injured on the job and need time off, you’ll miss your age in days. A 20-year-old will miss 20 work days; a 60-year-old, 60 days, and so on.”
Solutions for this group of workers include ergonomic tools and set-ups, shift rotation, part-time employment, and pre-shift stretching – many of which are explored in the links below. It will be interesting to see what springs from the new study – and in the meantime, here’s more info.
Tapping into a Unique Labour Force from go2
Use Ergonomics to Keep Older Workers Healthy & Safe – from OHS Insider
Safe and Healthy: A Guide to Managing an Aging Workforce from the Government of Alberta
Aging Workers from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
The Sloan Centre for Aging and Work from Boston College
June 26, 2012
WorkSafe Victoria just launched the first two TV spots in a new campaign to reduce slips, trips, and falls at work – showing the consequence of taking shortcuts. The Pain Game ads are a spoof of the classic game show format, and its creators’ morbid sense of humour made me laugh and cringe at the same time. Definitely worth a watch!
June 14, 2012
A new resource from go2 – Safety Sweep: An Employer’s Guide to Preventing Injuries to Room Attendants in BC Accommodations – is now available online.
It includes forms, checklists, and other documents you can customize for your own workplace – with best practices for recruitment and selection, orientation and training, and ongoing supervision.
I heard about it from Trina Wright, the program manager for industry health and safety at go2 – the human resource association for BC’s tourism and hospitality industry. We talked about this topic last fall when I was writing my post Safety for hotel room attendants.
As I mentioned in my earlier post, Trina facilitates an industry health & safety technical advisory committee of general managers, HR and safety professionals from BC hotel properties. They’re working together to identify key accidents for the hotel sector and develop strategies for prevention – one of which is this new manual. go2 also coordinates the Tourism Labour Market Strategy
Room attendants are a key focus because their injuries account for more than 40 percent of WorkSafeBC claim costs within the BC accommodation sector. Strains, sprains, slips, and falls are some of the most common causes of injury.
Thanks to Trina for letting me know about this new, free manual available to all accommodation operators – and if you have any helpful resources to share, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hotel Housekeeping from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safeth
Ergonomic Tips for the Hospitality Industry from WorkSafeBC
May 29, 2012
This weekend I was talking with a friend who paints home interiors and movie sets. On the topic of workplace safety, he said that – without a doubt – the biggest safety precaution he recommends is keeping a clean worksite.
He’s been a professional painter for 20 years and often works with different trades. They need to work with the lead contractor to stay aware of each other’s activities, which requires constant awareness on site. Too often he sees a lack of clean-up, which really frustrates him because of the risks it poses to others.
A shop machinist echoed this sentiment. He told me, via Facebook message, that a messy shop can lead to “slipping on spills and debris, catching your ankles on equipment and pallets, badly racked material falling.”
When I asked him if he had anything else to say about the importance of a clean shop, he said no.
“It’s just common sense – too hard to explain because it’s so obvious,” he said.
I agree it’s an obvious message – but if people aren’t cleaning up properly, they need to be reminded because the risks to others are significant.
“Many injuries result from poor housekeeping in the shop. Trips, slips and falls account for the bulk of these mishaps,” reads Shop Safety Basics on the Canada Safety Council website.
“Scrap material and wrappings, loose parts, scattered tools and equipment, or oil spills can cause injury. Debris should be swept up and disposed of in designated areas. Parts should be kept on work benches. Tools should be placed where they cannot fall and cause damage or injury. Oil spills should be covered with absorbent material and cleaned up.”
The importance of proper clean-up extends to other industries as well, so below are some tips that can be printed and posted in different types of workplaces. If you have any ideas on how to remind people of the obvious, please do share!
Toolbox meeting guide for construction housekeeping – from WorkSafeBC
Slips and trips in health care – safety bulletin from WorkSafeBC
Clean up spills and keep floors clean – kitchen safety poster from WorkSafeBC
Don’t let someone else take the fall – warehouse safety from WorkSafeBC
Prevention of slips, trips, and falls – from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
Housekeeping at Work – from Ontario’s Industrial Accident Prevention Association
This WorkSafeBC video uses a retro style to spoof the safety videos of yesteryear.
June 28, 2011
See the feet in the photo? They are the feet of a chef at Mongolie Grill in Whistler, BC, Canada.
He is wearing the Crocs Bistro: Kitchen Chef Work Shoe which is now the standard for all their kitchen staff. The shoes are designed specifically for people in the restaurant, food service, hospitality, and health care industries with non-slip properties that exceed ANSI requirements.
I found out about this non-traditional approach to safety footwear while dining out in Whistler. It was exciting to find this workplace safety tidbit on a weekend away. I took the photos while standing with the rest of the restaurant guests, watching the chefs fry our delicious food on a big, round, open grill.
How to reduce risks of slips in restaurants
Non-slip shoes like these are just one line of defence against slips in a restaurant kitchen. Health and Safety for Hospitality Small Business, a booklet from WorkSafeBC, lists additional preventive measures, including:
• Cleaning floors regularly
• Cleaning up spills immediately
• Keeping floors free of water and grease
• Posting warning signs around spills or wet floors
• Using slip-resistant waxes to polish and treat floors
• Installing non-slip tiling or other non-slip floor products
• Using rubber mats in areas where the floors are constantly wet
Clean up spills and keep floors clean. Wear proper footwear, a poster from WorkSafeBC
Prevention of Slips, Trips and Falls from CCOHS
Kitchen Tip 1: Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls from WorkSafeBC’s StartSafe series
Hospitality Today Article no. 3 “Preventing Slips and Falls” from WorkSafeBC
June 16, 2011
Within a single week in May 2011, three workers in BC died after falling from ladders at relatively low heights:
* A carpenter fell approximately 10 feet off an extension ladder onto an asphalt driveway.
* A labourer fell onto asphalt from a 12-foot stepladder while powerwashing a commercial building.
* A chimney sweep, working in the rain, fell from a flat roof.
Tragic loss from preventable injuries
It’s so sad to imagine how the families and friends of these workers must be feeling. I spoke with Jessica Kruger, a workplace safety advocate who fell from a ladder when she was 15, and I asked what she thought when she heard about the recent deaths.
“Obviously it’s pretty upsetting. I got involved as a young worker speaker hoping to prevent that,” said Jessica, now 19 and a WorkSafeBC speaker who visits schools and conferences to share her story and encourage change.
“It’s sad that it’s not happening fast. I know that it takes time, but to see people actually dying is pretty heartbreaking.”
Jessica uses a wheel chair because of her injury and hopes to play wheel chair rugby in the Paralympics one day. Her core message regarding workplace safety is this: “Don’t do anything you’re uncomfortable with. If you have a gut feeling – if you even think for two seconds that what you’re doing could be dangerous, talk to your employer and think about the different safety options you should be taking. Getting the training is more important, and that’s not only the worker’s job. It’s the employer’s, as well.”
Why are so many people falling from ladders?
Maybe it’s because ladders are so common. It surprised me to hear how many workers fell from ladders between 2001 and 2010. Thirteen people died and there were 4,214 serious injury claims. (A “serious injury” is one in which a worker loses more than 28 days of wages due to an injury.)
Most falls from ladders happen in construction, but others occur in the service industry, manufacturing, transportation/warehousing, and elsewhere. I’m sure there must be hundreds more that happen at home, too. So please take a second thought before you climb a ladder – at work or at home – and check out these resources from WorkSafeBC:
“You’re a Pro” Construction Safety Videos
Four videos that demonstrate different hazards in construction and describe how to reduce the risk of injury.
Ladder Safety on YouTube
A five-part video designed to highlight the important safety procedures associated with ladder use on construction sites. The video uses classic B&W comedic film footage and computer graphic simulations to illustrate safe ladder techniques.
An online game where you can put your ladder safety skills to the test on a virtual construction site.
Construction Safety Series
A 12-page booklet that focuses on ladder safety and fall protection for residential construction.
June 09, 2011
Most people probably think truckers’ greatest safety risk is being in a collision. It isn’t. The most likely way truckers are injured on the job is by falling out of their cabs or off their trailers.
To show the impact of these falls, the Trucking Safety Council of BC has a new resource on its website. Determine Your Impact Force is a simulation that shows what type of force you will experience based on your body weight when you fall from certain heights.
For example, I enter my weight and see that if I jump down from the second level step, I’m taking an impact equivalent to the collision force a linebacker feels tackling a fullback. Ouch. That would hurt if I landed on my feet, and who knows what would happen if I landed on some other body part.
For curiosity’s sake, I enter 250 pounds to see how much greater the impact would be. A person of that weight could break their skull falling from the second level step – so stepping carefully is a very good idea!
“Fortunately, injuries can be prevented by taking the time to enter and exit safely and correctly,” reads the Trucking Council website, offering lots of tips and links to more information on safety in that industry.
Here’s an especially good tip for anyone getting in or out of any kind of vehicle: “…your focus should be on entry/exit movement – distraction by cell phone use, holding a coffee cup, or paperwork greatly increases the risks of losing your balance and getting injured.”
Try the simulation and see what would happen to you. Then be careful.
April 19, 2011
My friend Dave Dawson worked as a line cook at a busy Ottawa restaurant in the late 80s. He and his coworkers ran the kitchen with little to no supervision.
One night a cook asked Dave to do something that seemed pretty sketchy.
“I was told to re-fill a deep fryer that was on,” said Dave. “Usually you’re supposed to use buckets of liquid oil because it gets hot so fast and it goes right in and heats evenly, but they said ‘open that box of lard up and put it in the deep fryer’ so I did.”
At that time, he was a young worker – under 25 – eager to please and not comfortable asking questions. Despite his better judgment, he plopped the 15-pound cube of lard into the deep fryer.
“The piece of lard got stuck at the top and it started to smoke at the sides. We really had to hack at it to make sure it didn’t go all over the place.”
The lard was similar in size to “a small television” and hacking at it didn’t help much. The smoke got thicker, so they tried another approach.
“We got very large pots for cooking sauces – that could hold probably six litres of liquid – and we scooped some of the hot oil out of the other deep fryers and poured it over the huge chunk of lard to try to melt it down.”
Thankfully no one was hurt. People need safety training and orientation in a kitchen, but this didn’t happen at Dave’s old workplace.
“In the kitchen, it would often happen at night that new people would show up. There was no sort of mentor,” said Dave. “There was no supervisor. We had a general manager, who had to manage the waiters and waitresses too, so he was not present very often.”
Hot oil can cause seriou burns and spilled oil cause horrible slipping accidents like this “shockvertising” from the WSIB.
Safety for new and young workers in restaurant kitchens
StartSafe Kitchen Safety – Tip #4: Using deep fat fryers safely, from WorkSafeBC
Health and safety issues for cooks, from OHS Answers by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
Restaurant Safety For Teen Workers, from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), US Dept. of Labor
Stop slips in kitchens, from Britain’s Health and Safety Executive
Virtual Kitchen, from SafeWork South Australia
November 25, 2010
One witness described it as “epic.”
Last weekend I slipped down six carpeted stairs in my house. I was hurrying, wearing slippery nylons on stone tiles on the landing, carrying a wide plastic shoe mat. I slipped and my feet flew out from under me. I yelled “Ahhhh!” really loudly on the way down and got a huge adrenalin rush.
Somehow, like a miracle, I “surfed” down all of them on my feet, still holding the shoe mat with shoes on it. I landed on my feet and started laughing, trying to gloss over the mild embarrassment factor. Two of my friends were standing at the bottom of the stairs (about to move my couch upstairs) and I had been hurrying to clear the way for them. Read more