Do you have an emergency car kit?

December 03, 2015

Photo credit: Doug on Flickr

Photo credit: Doug on Flickr

Once upon a time, many years ago when I lived on Vancouver Island, my vehicle broke down. It was about 10 p.m. and I was on my way back from a weekend in Vancouver with family and friends. I had to leave it on the side of the highway and walk about a kilometre into town as the snow fell.

It was the 1990s, before cellphones were common, and I didn’t really know anyone except for my coworkers at the newspaper, since I had just moved there for my job as a reporter.

It was a bit scary, alone in the dark, but at least I had a big strong dog with me. In fact, from the dog’s perspective, it was pretty exciting to go for a walk, especially in the snow, which (as a part husky) he absolutely loved. I put him on his leash and started off, only to realize my shoes were totally inadequate for the slippery terrain.

As the dog trotted along happily, he pulled me off-balance and I slipped on the ground and fell – again and again – struggling along with my camera bag and backpack. At one point I was even crying, wishing I could just phone my dad to come and pick me up!

Luckily I wasn’t injured – aside from a lot of leg bruises – and I made it to town and phoned my employer, who was kind enough to give me a ride home. Too bad I hadn’t asked myself this important question: “Are you prepared to be stranded on the side of the road?”

In his recent blog post Do You Have Fifteen Seconds to Prepare an Emergency Kit? occupational health and safety advisor Jimmy Sandhu reminds us why this question is so important.

Public Safety Canada recommends you keep the following items in your car in case of the unexpected:

* Food that won’t spoil, such as energy bars
* Water – plastic bottles that won’t break if the water freezes (replace them every six months)
* Blanket
* Extra clothing and shoes or boots
* First aid kit with seatbelt cutter
* Small shovel, scraper and snowbrush
* Candle in a deep can and matches
* Wind‑up flashlight
* Whistle – in case you need to attract attention
* Roadmaps
* Copy of your emergency plan

Please keep this in mind during your travels in the cold. For much more information on driving in the cold, check out Shift Into Winter.


Preventing slips, trips, and falls

February 26, 2014

Photo credit: Marcus Kesler on Flickr

Photo credit: Marcus Kesler on Flickr

Recently I wrote about truck drivers’ risk of falling from their own cabs. Shortly after, I asked a long haul driver if he had ever considered this problem – and he said no, but acknowledged the importance of it. He said his biggest concern is slipping on ice outside the cab, which has happened to him, though never resulting in a serious injury.

Prevention of Slips, Trips and Falls” – a hazard alert from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety – points out that “the majority (66%) of falls happen on the same level resulting from slips and trips.”

The best solution for this is good housekeeping such as marking/cleaning spills, mopping/sweeping debris, removing obstacles, securing mats/carpets, covering cables, and proper lighting. Appropriate flooring helps too – but that doesn’t help truck drivers, who can’t necessarily prepare for the ground outside.

Footwear is one good solution for this risk of slipping on ice. According to the OHS Guidelines Part 8 – Footwear the employer needs to look at the work assigned to each worker and determine the appropriate protection needed.

“To determine appropriate protection under section (1) the following factors must be considered: slipping, uneven terrain, abrasion, ankle protection and foot support, crushing potential, temperature extremes, corrosive substances, puncture hazards, electrical shock and any other recognizable hazard.”

A huge range of footwear is available today and I have seen lots of amazing gear at safety conferences over the years. Options are many for drivers – and anyone else who walks on icy surfaces – and I hope you explore yours.

Image from WorkSafeBC's Toolbox Meeing Guide: Maintain Three-point Contact with Mobile Equipment

Image from WorkSafeBC’s Toolbox Meeing Guide: Maintain Three-point Contact with Mobile Equipment

BC’s Shift Into Winter Campaign for safer driving says: “Wear sturdy shoes or boots that have good traction. Snow, ice and cold weather can make even the simplest task treacherous.

“Maintaining three points of contact when entering or exiting the cab will keep you on your feet, especially in winter when steps and the ground below may be icy.”

So step with care – and think about footwear if you need to buy a gift!


Get the right angle on ladder safety

October 16, 2013

From the Ladder Safety App released by NIOSH in June 2013

From the Ladder Safety App released by NIOSH in June 2013

A free smartphone app from NIOSH uses a multimodal indicator to help users adjust straight and extension ladders to the correct angle – which, in case you don’t know already, is 75.5 degrees (also known as the 4:1 ratio, meaning the base of the ladder should be placed one foot out from the wall for every four feet up).

“If the ladder is set too steeply, it is more likely to fall back or slide away during use, and if it is set too shallow then the bottom can slide out,” reads this information from NIOSH about their Ladder Safety app for mobile devices. “Misjudging the ladder angle is a significant risk factor for a fall.”

The app warns its users – using visual and audible signals – if the angle needs to be adjusted. It looks like it would be helpful at work, home or any where else you need to use a straight or extension ladder.

Other resources

The Ladder Challenge is an interactive safety game from WorkSafeBC that lets you learn by doing. The game is set on a residential construction site, where you can put your ladder safety skills to the test, with help from the virtual foreman.


While most falls from ladders happen in construction, others occur in the service industry, manufacturing, transportation/warehousing, and elsewhere.

In May 2011, three BC workers died from ladder-related falls. In my post Three ladder deaths in one week I shared information from WorkSafeBC that stated 13 people had died and there were 4,214 serious injury claims due to falls from ladders between 2001 and 2010. (A “serious injury” is one in which a worker loses more than 28 days of wages due to an injury.)

ACTSafe even posted a version of Snakes and Ladders on its ladder safety page. Ladder use in food processing and manufacturing is covered in Safety Facts: Ladder Safety from FIOSA-MIOSA.


Fall injuries affect more truckers than roofers

September 10, 2013


It’s not what you might expect.

But according to the latest SafetyDriven News – published by the Trucking Safety Council of BC – more truck drivers than roofers were injured in falls between 2002 and 2011.

“If you asked most truck drivers which occupations they thought were most vulnerable to falling and injuring themselves they would likely say roofers, construction workers, and other trades working at heights,” reads the newsletter. “That is because most drivers are not aware of their own risk of being injured in falls.”

Other sources of injury come to mind first – and that’s why the TSCBC and others are spreading the word on how to enter and exit the cab more safely.

“The whole idea that truckers are not truly aware of the risk of falling is really that of over familiarity. They jump in and out of the cab in some cases dozens of times daily, so the thought that they are at height doesn’t register,” says TSCBC safety advisor Earl Galavan. “Even climbing up on the deck behind the cab to deal with connections is done so often that it becomes ‘normal.'”

I wrote about this topic a couple of years ago, in my post Truckers falling from own cabs, and introduced a tool that shows us why it’s important to take precautions against this highly preventable injury.

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, a 250-pound person is likely to break their skull falling from the second level step.

CCOHS released a report that cited four factors behind falls: housekeeping, flooring, footwear, and pace. Among their Tips and Tools, they recommend

* Securing mats, rugs and carpets that do not lay flat with tape, tacks, etc.
* Changing or modifying walking surfaces
* Choosing appropriate footwear
* Taking your time and paying attention

This last point applies to pretty much all situations, if you think about it, but sometimes we need to be reminded. TSCBC offers this Safety Talk template for discussing this issue. More info is also available in this StartSafe Tip for Truckers.


Video series focuses on slips and falls in schools

May 21, 2013

Image from WorkSafeBC's Slips, Trips, and Falls: School - Stairs

Image from WorkSafeBC’s Slips, Trips, and Falls: School – Stairs

Last year in BC, 6,500 workers were injured from slip, trips, and falls. This new video series from WorkSafeBC addresses this risk in a school setting, where there are many people moving through hallways and classrooms every day.

I sent a link to a teacher I know, and we talked about one video that shows a teacher standing on a wobbly chair, leaning over to pin something on the wall, and then crashing to the ground. It’s one of those tasks that seem like they will take “just a second”, so we take a risk – and often we get away with it. The more times we get away with it, the less seriously we take the risk, perhaps. But it only takes that one time.

“I’ve seen stuff like that tons of times,” he said, referring to standing on an unstable chair to put something on the wall. “I’ve done it at home and at school. We probably all have – but this video makes you think about it more, that’s for sure.”

In Canada, more than 42,000 workers are injured each year from fall accidents

“This number represents about 17% of the ‘time-loss injuries’ that were accepted by workers’ compensation boards or commissions across Canada,” reports the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, referencing statistics from Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada, 2011.

These risks are addressed in Slips, Trips, and Falls – one of the titles in WorkSafeBC’s ebook series, available for free from the iTunes Store and viewable on an iPad. It’s worth checking out, whatever industry you’re in.


Inspecting safety in residential construction

September 11, 2012

Image from WorkSafeBC

“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)
Compliance reports
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


Preventing injuries among older workers

June 28, 2012

Baby Boomer with iPad. Photo: Quinn Dombrowski on Flickr

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

Aging Workforce News

The Sloan Centre for Aging and Work from Boston College


The Pain Game: funny new video tackles serious topic

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!


Safety guide for hotel room attendants

June 14, 2012

Photo by Speaking of Safety

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

More info

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


Keeping a clean worksite is obvious – or is it?

May 29, 2012

From WorkSafeBC's safety poster for warehouses

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.