What to expect in an inspection

November 05, 2014

This video shows an example of what happens when a WorkSafeBC officer visits your workplace. They may ask about your health and safety program, first aid records, incident investigation reports, work procedures, or completed risk assessments – along with a tour of your facility (or selected parts of it). The purpose of the inspection is to audit and assess safety systems and help you address deficiencies – and you can request the report be delivered in person, for answers and guidance on how to proceed. More details are in the video – so please have a look, so you’ll know what to expect.


Finding employers who expose workers to asbestos

September 10, 2014

Image from  Cash Corners: Worker Rights, a new video from WorkSafeBC

Image from Cash Corners: Worker Rights, a new video from WorkSafeBC

They’re ready to work – no questions asked. I’m talking about workers hired off the street for residential demolition projects – to carry off materials that haven’t always been tested for asbestos, as is required by law in BC.

Their employers are among those targeted during planned inspections of residential demolition worksites.

WorkSafeBC officers are inspecting these projects to “…ensure homeowners, prime contractors, hazardous material survey contractors, asbestos abatement contractors, and consultants are informed and equipped to safely remove asbestos containing materials and are complying with the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation,” says WorkSafeBC about this project that runs from March 17 to December 31, 2014.

For full details, please read Asbestos: be aware enforcement initiative.

Risking safety in favour of profit

A new video from WorkSafeBC – Cash Corners: Worker Rights – shows what it’s like for workers hired off the street. Its message to workers is this: “Even if you’re hired off the street, you have the right to a health and safety orientation, training, supervision, and a safe workplace.”

However, this is not always the case.

“There’s probably little dialogue about safety or what the potential hazard could be from the material they’re moving,” says Gary McComb, a regional prevention manager for WorkSafeBC. Gary leads a team of eight safety inspectors focused on asbestos in residential construction projects in the Lower Mainland.

“It’s very labour-intensive so, typically in residential, you’ll find vulnerable workers that are either transient or have other issues. They believe they need the cash and aren’t going to ask lots of questions – or sometimes they’re just young and naive and they’re not even aware of the hazard.”

Law requires contractors to test for, abate, and remove asbestos, but many contractors ignore the laws to save money. Some contractors set themselves up as “abatement specialists” but lack experience and skill; others have falsified documents to declare projects “asbestos-free” when they are not.

“My biggest concern when I look at it, is there’s one thing to have poor abatement practices, which is atrocious but what really concerns me is when they’re declaring it clean or they’re not finding out if it’s dirty at all. And then they’re just saying it’s clean and letting crews go in there with no protection at all – and they’re just taking it out.”

Gary said he’d like to see partnerships across jurisdictions – like what’s been established with the City of Vancouver’s Hazardous Materials Reporting survey required for residential construction projects.

“They’re doing an outstanding job as far as I’m concerned,” said Gary. “Part of their process is they actually require a hazardous materials survey to be submitted to them. They’re actually looking at these things and it’s red flagged and they notify us.”

For more information on asbestos – which remains the number one cause of workplace death in BC – see hiddenkiller.ca.


What do safety stats not tell us?

August 28, 2014

Photo credit: Louise Docker on Flickr

Photo credit: Louise Docker on Flickr

What exactly is safety – and how can we measure it?

Traditionally safety is viewed as a lack of injuries and fatalities. But let’s stop for a moment and see it for what it is – not what it isn’t.

Instead, let’s picture safety as “the presence of positive capacities, capabilities, and competences” of the people who work for employers, as Dr. Sidney Dekker put it in his talk at CHC Safety & Quality Summit in March 2014 in Vancouver.

The thought-provoking author and professor of human factors will be back on Friday, Sept. 19, at the Vancouver Convention Centre, where he’ll speak before an audience of CEOs, senior managers, and safety professionals from large corporate entities in construction, health care, utilities, transportation, forestry, and mining.

“It’ll be a rare and unique opportunity to hear him speak for a whole day!” says Jenny Colman, an Ergonomist/Human Factors Investigator with WorkSafeBC’s Investigation Division, who told me about this professional development event – A Day With Sidney Dekker – hosted by BC’s Lower Mainland Chapter of the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering.

“Sidney really promotes understanding the situation in which the workers work, because those contextual factors really influence the decisions and actions of the workers. His session will ensure that participants query/question current safety practices/perspectives and extend their thinking to new dimensions in safety management.”

Here are some of the “take-home” benefits:

  • Understanding of how safety is socially constructed
  • Understanding of how and why work is performed
  • Understanding of a “just culture” and accountability
  • Better able to conduct effective incident investigations and recommendations
  • Better able to understand complex systems and how risks can emerge from individual parts of a system to form new risks

Is it safe here?

One idea that stayed with me is the different ways we can look for the presence of safety at a workplace. Dr. Dekker suggested in this video that we count peer reviews, debriefings, open conversations, and a “just culture” which recognizes humans make mistakes within a larger context that includes many factors. Of course it’s important to measure what does go wrong, but let’s see new ways to measure what’s right and build on them (which applies in other areas of life, too).


Student safety video winners for 2014

July 09, 2014

Image from the video  Eye Warned You, by students in Grades 10 to 12 at Walnut Grove Secondary in Langley

Image from the video Eye Warned You, by students in Grades 10 to 12, Walnut Grove Secondary, Langley

I found it very interesting that one of the 2014 Student Video Contest winners looks at the dangers of fatigue on the job – a topic very much on the radar of industry today.

It’s the first time the topic of fatigue has been covered in a student video, says Robin Schooley, a young and new worker industry specialist, who ran the contest with her team at WorkSafeBC. Very timely.

Eye Warned You by students in Grades 10 to 12 at Walnut Grove Secondary in Langley reminds us that late nights playing games online and watching YouTube can lead to fatigue the next morning, which is dangerous in the workplace.

If you live with a teen – or you are one – you will probably relate to this video. In fact, I know from personal experience it’s a topic of much conflict between the generations. But I myself have stayed up too late, drawn from one thing to another online, so I understand how it happens.

It’s also the first time a French language video was submitted, along with a category for Vine and its high-impact, seven-second video format. Altogether, WorkSafeBC received 55 videos created by about 170 students. The videos were posted on YouTube, where viewers voted for their favourites.

“Sure, we have 55 videos with an average of three or four people per film – and when they’re posted online, how many other people are watching them?” said Robin, when I called to talk about how it went this year.

“It’s a ripple effect when one student makes one video – from their own personal experience of researching it, writing it, and, once they have a script, casting it and acting it out. It all reinforces the health and safety messages for them, and also for all the different people involved in their world who are exposed to it,” Robin said.

“And of course once it’s on YouTube – all the tens of thousands more people are exposed to the message. It’s so powerful – and because it’s created by youth for a youth audience, it’s really one generation speaking to itself.”

I asked Robin what advice she had for students who might want to take part in 2015 – the 10th anniversary of this contest, judged by WorkSafeBC and industry partners.

“No matter what the theme is, think about, as a student, how you can connect personally to the topic,” Robin said. “Whenever we bring something personal into developing something creative, it’s going to feel more natural and come across as more authentic. Find something you can connect to – whether it’s something you’ve seen your parents or your friends do. Find something you have an emotional response to, and when you incorporate that, people generally feel it’s more authentic.”

That’s very good advice – and I thank Robin for sharing it.


VIDEO: Driving in flash flood conditions

June 04, 2014

Creeks and streams can rise quickly and flood – especially in spring melt season and into summer. Check out this Flooding Information from Emergency Management BC if your job requires you to drive on roads that may be affected. It includes a link to current flood conditions for your region. This fleet safety video from the State of Missouri shows what can happen and how drivers can be prepared.


VIDEO: Kid’s-eye view of shop safety

April 29, 2014

Safety is no laughing matter – but having a laugh can be a great way to start a safety meeting. This Bored Shorts TV video, narrated by kids but acted out by adults, is a kid’s-eye view into shop safety that pokes some fun at the student/teacher relationship.


Get ready for the 2014 student safety video contest

January 22, 2014

BC students in Grades 8 through 12 are invited to submit their two-minute videos on health and safety in a first job.

Image from Port Moody Secondary's Pay Attention to the Task at Hand  - the 2013 winner in the Grade 8 to 10 category

Image from Port Moody Secondary’s Pay Attention to the Task at Hand – the 2013 winner in the Grade 8 to 10 category

WorkSafeBC’s 2014 Student Video Safety Contest welcomes all styles including drama, comedy, documentary, music video, stop-motion film, claymation, or animation.

The theme is Don’t Let Your First Job Be Your Last and, in it, students may want to explore “… training, the safety gear you’ll need to wear, the importance of asking questions, the need to understand workplace hazards, your right to refuse unsafe work – or how you’ll balance work, home, family, and a social life,” reads the contest announcement.

“Being the new person at work can be challenging,” reads this invitation from WorkSafeBC Sometimes you’re given the thankless jobs that nobody else wants or the physical work that your body isn’t accustomed to. You might face unfamiliar equipment and new processes. And you’ll meet new people too. Sometimes, it can feel quite daunting.

I emailed a teacher whose classes have won awards in the contest before – to see if he has any new advice for students and teachers taking part in the contest. Brent Phillips-Watts, a teacher at Port Moody Secondary School, shared his tips for teachers last year. He’s doing the 2014 contest with his Media 9 classes and as an introductory project for his Film 12 students.

Brent advised teachers not to worry about having “the best gear or most expensive equipment.”

“It’s the message that makes an impact,” Brent told me last year. “Spend some time on figuring out exactly what you want to say… They are at the age that many are looking to get a first job, and being reminded of their rights and the danger is a good thing.”

Down the coast, the team at Oregon Young Employee Safety – known as O[yes] – are gearing up for their 2014 “Speak up. Work safe.” video contest. The video below offers tips for young creators at the brainstorming phase. It’s by an O[yes] summer intern who won his own video awards and shares his secrets with current contestants – helpful ideas for video makers in other jurisdictions.

Good luck to all! I’m really looking forward to seeing what’s in store. The deadline is April 4, 2014, but WorkSafeBC reminds would-be participants that the sooner their video is posted, the more time people will have to view and vote on it.


Reality of returning from a serious injury

October 23, 2013

When Mike Rousselle was electrocuted on the job, he was lucky to still be alive – but life would never be the same. His employer, Mike Honeyman, recalls his shock as he received late-night calls with progressively worse news:  “You just keep thinking ‘This can’t be real.'” But it was.

Return to Work: The Mike Rousselle Story shows the ripple effects of Mike’s life-altering injury and gradual return to work. Mike, his wife, and his employer share their inspiring stories of responding and moving forward.

This video is the first in a series on the experiences of injured workers and their return to work.


Working alone in film and performing arts: video

October 01, 2013

Image from ACTSafe: Working Alone

Image from ACTSafe: Working Alone

Just about everyone who works in film or performing arts will likely, at some point, end up working alone.

That’s why ACTSafe created a new video that reminds us about the importance of check-in procedures and the potential dangers facing those who may be working alone.

ACTSafe is BC’s industry-led association that provides health and safety training and resources, and I talked with their creative coordinator Ed Brisson to find out more about how often people work alone in his industry. He listed production assistants, flaggers, security guards, drivers, greens workers, and set decorators as affected workers.

“We could be here all day naming positions in both industries where workers are often working off in isolation or with no other workers nearby. We need to make sure that there is a plan in place to protect them from any type of accident,” Ed said.

“Say, for example, a worker falls from a ladder – as you see in the video – and they injure themselves. If it happens near the beginning of their shift and no one checks in on them, then that worker could conceivably be laying there, injured and in need of medical attention, for upwards of eight hours or longer! Imagine it happens on a Friday and no one is scheduled to come in until the following Monday – that person could be there for days. That is something that we want to prevent. We want to minimize the time between and injury occurring (of course, hoping none do) and help arriving.”

The ACTSafe team found three interview subjects to share their perspectives.

“When it came time to film the video, we just let them go. All three are extremely knowledgeable on the topic, so we just gave them the floor and let them talk about working alone and the dangers associated. The anecdotes provided by the interviewees are all things that industry workers will know well and be able to relate to,” he said. “All three had plenty of personal experiences to draw on, so we were certainly not wanting for information. If anything, it was tough to cut all that info down into a five minute video.”

So easy to make a plan

Ed says the video will get members within the industry talking about working alone.

“It will help them identify that yes, this really is a concern that does apply to them. Also, seeing just how EASY it is to put a plan into place should hopefully remove any reservations that workers, supervisors or employers may have about the process. It really is such a simple thing that take minutes and a little bit of communication. Not much when you consider that it could save a life,” he says.

Thanks to ACTSafe for making the video available – and feel free to contact them by emailing info@actsafe.ca or calling 604.733.4682.


Oregon OSHA launches video series for youth

September 17, 2013

They’re the creation of 19-year-old Austin Coburn – the 2013 winner of the Oregon Young Employee Safety Coalition’s video contest. After the win, Oregon OSHA hired Austin as a summer intern, where he created the videos.

His new release is a must-see for video teams starting new projects in any jurisdiction. It tells next year’s contestants “how to enter, what we want, and other tips to help you with your contest submission.”

“The overall quality of the videos continues to get better each year and students seem to have a better sense of workplace safety and health hazards,” says senior research associate Dede Montgomery, from Oregon’s Center for Research on Occupational & Environmental Toxicology (CROET). “We found it really heartening to hear the video producers share how they came up with the messages shared in their video.”

For youth in British Columbia

Check out the 2013 winning entries in created by youth in BC’s contest held by WorkSafeBC/Employment Standards It’s Your Job: What do you need to make it fair and safe? – and see how to get involved next time.