Handwashing is the best defence

August 27, 2013

I often tell people to sing “Happy Birthday” through twice (not necessarily aloud) if they want to wash their hands thoroughly. That’s how long you need to scrub with soap to prevent the spread of infection, according to this poster from WorkSafeBC.

This new video shows how viruses can make their way from one sneeze onto a keyboard, phone, and ultimately into your home. It leaves me cringing and laughing – and will definitely stay in my mind. Yuck!

Is rock dust the new asbestos?

July 30, 2013

Image from WorkSafeBC's Silica Exposure

Image from WorkSafeBC’s Silica Exposure

I saw the question on Twitter recently, with a link to this story in the Vancouver Sun about the risks of exposure to silica dust in stone, bricks, tile, and gravel.

Workers who grind, cut, and haul these materials are at risk of developing silicosis – a lung disease that destroys lung tissue and restricts a person’s ability to breathe.

People have been talking about the risks of asbestos exposure – and the now the risks of silica exposure are also garnering much-needed attention. One example is WorkSafeBC’s proposed new rules to reduce this risk for up to 40,000 workers in BC. The Sun story said 2014 is when the proposed rules will be out for public consultation.

I suggest you go read the full article I’m quoting these figures from – but in the meantime, consider this: Between 1987 and 2011, the cost of claims from silicosis was $29.6 million and there was $79.7 million paid in claims for asbestosis and $128.9 million from cancer linked to asbestos.

The story quotes Grant McMillan, president of the Council of Construction Associations.

“Silica dust has been a bit of a sleeper, but it’s still a real safety concern from the point of view of lung disease,” he told the Sun. “I think WorkSafe is being wise in looking at silica dust and ensuring there are safe work practices. In construction, as elsewhere, if people don’t take the proper precautions, then they definitely have an increased risk of developing lung disease.”

Proposed new rules will address silica exposure in different industries – particularly construction and manufacturing. They will involve requirements for training, risk assessment, exposure control plans, and monitoring exposures. In the past, rock dust risk was considered mostly in relation to the work of hard rock miners but not these other industries.

The video below includes an amazing animation that shows how silica dust particles are inhaled from the air and absorbed into the lungs. It reminds us that effects from exposure may not show up for a long time, so it’s not a risk that’s apparent unless you hear about it. So let’s spread the word.

More info on minimizing risk

Injury Prevention Resources for Construction – Hazardous Materials – Silica – here you will find a list of resources from WorkSafeBC and its partners.

Safe Work Practices for Handling Asbestos

Not-so-good vibrations can be harmful

July 18, 2013

Photo credit: Shovelling Son on Flickr

Photo credit: Shovelling Son on Flickr

Vibration transmitted through the seat or feet is known as whole-body vibration (WBV) – and it can lead to fatigue, insomnia, headaches, and muscle fatigue, especially in the back. Depending on the terrain, all those expansion plates on bridges and speed bumps can lead to lower back pain over time – something that tends to hit older workers with a greater impact.

CCOHS raised the topic on Twitter, with the tweet “Not-so-good-vibrations: Learn about the risks of hand-arm & whole body vibration hazards in the workplace” and a link to a new podcast about the topic.

I recently learned more about vibration as a safety hazard from SafetyDriven – the Trucking Safety Council of BC. They talked about whole-body vibration at their recent conference/AGM – which presented research by ergonomists in Washington State who want to see if providing people with new seats has any effect on low-back pain and work function. Watch this video to see how researchers are collecting and measuring vibration data. They have been looking at the differences between mechanical and air suspension on the seats of trucks.

This article from the SafetyDriven newsletter describes us – human beings – as “incredibly complex structures – performing the widest imaginable tasks day in and day out.”

“In our efforts to do more, we increase our reliance on machinery that exposes us to long periods of whole body vibration. In response, our bodies experience physiological failures much the same way our machines experience mechanical failures,” the newsletter reads.

Thankfully there are ways to minimize these risks, including seats with air suspension and ongoing research into what’s working for drivers, as the SafetyDriven conference video shows. I will update on this topic and hope to hear your comments.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the UK also offers a number of resources on whole-body vibration, including a whole-body vibration calculator that “… calculates the daily vibration exposure that an employee is subjected to allowing the employee to analyse the risk and an employer to meet health and safety requirements.”

Video: How can truckers avoid back pain?

July 09, 2013

Prolonged sitting can lead to back pain, which can become chronic and lead to other problems. Thankfully truck drivers can reduce the risks by following tips in this new video from WorkSafeBC. Adjusting backrests, seats, mirrors, and other parts of the cab helps. So does safe exiting – using 3-point contact – and taking frequent breaks to get out of the truck and walk around.

I asked safety advisor Earl Galavan about the prevalence of back strain among the employers he helps at the Trucking Safety Council of BC. He sent me a link to this baseline report that shows back injury is the number one body part injured in both General Trucking and Moving and Storage classification units. Earl said to note pages 9 and 13, where you will find more information – including the fact that back strains accounted for more than $10 million in claim costs from 2007 to 2011.

Why call before you dig?

June 25, 2013

Don Masterson will tell you why. In this video, the veteran farmer shares his story of a chilling close call. He “over-ruled” his son and grandson, who wanted to call 811, because he had a survey that showed a straight pipeline. He was in a hurry.

“I was lucky once and I wouldn’t want to be in those shoes again,” he says on the video posted by the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association @CNLA_ACPP on Twitter.

It’s a message for major construction employers and homeowners. Call BC One Call at 1-800-474-6886 “…before you start pulling up that fence, tilling that garden or building that garage… whether you’re digging up a major intersection, installing fence posts, landscaping or building a deck, it’s important to know what lies underground before you dig,” warns FortisBC.

FortisBC, WorkSafeBC, and other partners are providing these important safety reminders for industry and the public online at The Safety Zone – where you will find downloadable posters that can get conversations started at work, school, and in the community.

“The call is free, and it could save your life,” they remind us.

Read more on employers’ responsibilities in the OHS Regulatation Guidelines Part 20: Excavations.

Natural gas smells like rotten eggs or sulphur

So act fast if you smell it. “Leave the premises immediately and call 911 or the FortisBC 24-hour Emergency Line at 1-800-663-9911,” reads the Safety Zone.

More info on gas lines and other utilities is available from Manitoba Hydro in Electrical Safety on the Farm.

Knowledge, participation, refusal all key to workplace safety

June 20, 2013

This new video from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety describes workers’ right to know about hazards, right to participate in keeping a safe workplace, and right to refuse unsafe work. It left me thinking about the second right – the right to participate – and how much personal satisfaction people can gain from knowing they are part of the solution.

New resources for small business safety

June 11, 2013

From a PDF available for free download: Small Business Primer: A Guide to WorkSafeBC

From Small Business Primer: A Guide to WorkSafeBC, a free PDF available online

Starting a new business is exciting. It’s also a big job to get everything going – inventory, workspace, hiring, and ensuring a safe workplace.

On that last point, this includes registering for WorkSafeBC coverage, paying premiums, and maintaining safety-related records.

To make it easier for small business owners, here’s what WorkSafeBC is now offering some new digital resources for free download.

Ebooks for your iPad

Ebooks for your iPad? That would have sounded very strange five years ago, don’t you think? Sometimes my mom makes fun of the technology I talk about with my dad and brother at dinner – so I can’t help but think of it sometimes!

In any case, once you download these new ebooks to your iPad, you don’t need an internet connection to watch them and record information specific to your own workplace. You can watch it from the ferry deck, the shop floor, the bush, or anywhere (as long as your iPad is charged).

Small Business and WorkSafeBC is a two-book set. The first book, subtitled Registration, responsibilities, and premiums, offers basic information on registering with WorkSafeBC. The second book, subtitled Workplace incidents and the claims process, provides basic information on what to do if someone is injured at work.

The ebooks explain the basics of workplace safety – with lots of how-to sections to help employers navigate the process of keeping workers safe, following regulations, paying premiums, dealing with paperwork, and connecting with safety professionals who can help.

Small Business Primer: A Guide to WorkSafeBC – PDF available for download

It covers pretty much the same good information as above, but in a print format for those who prefer it. Download it now – and do let me know how you like it.

Safety rules apply to DIY projects

May 14, 2013

Photo credit: jkgreenstein12 on Flickr

Photo credit: jkgreenstein12 on Flickr

Weekend DIY warriors are getting busy as the weather warms. We can go online and see lots of inspiring ideas for new sheds and fences – or maybe a bird house or new deck with raised beds for the flowers… (I love those websites!)

But before you get out there, please review Power Tool Safety, a WorkSafeBC video series in English and Punjabi. It covers safe use of nail guns and circular saws, and be warned: they are not for the faint of heart.

When I was researching this post, a friend told me a story from his childhood. His mom was rushed to hospital for stitches after his dad accidentally chainsawed her in the head while they were in their yard cutting a dead tree into pieces for disposal.

The saw had been stalling and then not stopping properly. The dad put down the saw, which then lurched forward and hit the mom in the head when she bent down to pick up a pile of branches. What a terrible shock for the kids when a neighbour called them back from the park! Thankfully the woman needed only a few stitches. It could have been so much worse – or even fatal.

My friend and I both agreed, talking about this family story so many years later, that they should have stopped as soon as the saw malfunctioned. Ah hindsight! But they were probably in a hurry to finish their job. They were absorbed in the task at hand and weren’t thinking about what could go wrong. That’s how it happens – how things can go terribly wrong – especially if we are frustrated by a task, excited by the outcome, or on too tight of a deadline.

Here’s a question to keep in mind before you start any project – at work or home: “Are you as safe as you think you are?” That’s the theme of NAOSH Week 2013 May 5 to 11, so please keep it in mind and discuss it with the DIY-ers in your life.

Safety videos app works offline

May 07, 2013


If you haven’t already, check out WorkSafeBC’s safety videos app. There have been nearly 14 million online views of WorkSafeBC safety videos, and with the app you can download videos to your iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and Android smartphones and tablets and then watch them anytime, even when you don’t have an internet connection.

“The beauty of the downloading option is that workers and employers can watch the videos wherever they want – on a ferry, at a logging camp, at a construction site, or in the basement of a building,” says Gordon Thorne, manager of Product and Program Development at WorkSafeBC.

“If there’s no wi-fi or cell coverage, it’s not a problem – they can still show the videos as a part of their safety meetings, crew talks, or training sessions.”

WorkSafeBC’s 150+ videos, organized by industry and topic, are also helpful to WorkSafeBC’s prevention officers working with employers, says Gordon.

“If an officer has an idea about a specific safety issue at a worksite, he or she can download the relevant videos through the app, and show them to the employer and workers right at the jobsite. I’ve already demonstrated the app to a few officers and they’re quite excited.”

It’s amazing to see how the internet and its evolving technology can extend the reach of the safety message. WorkSafeBC started producing videos in 1986 – first available on VHS, then on disk – and they distributed about 250 videos on disk per year until they started putting videos online in 2006. As of March 2013, almost 20 percent of WorkSafeBC videos were watched on mobile devices.

Now WorkSafeBC has over 500 videos online and more subscribers to their YouTube channel than any other OHS organization – including the US government.

Visit WorkSafeBC.com for more information about the safety videos app, or watch the demonstration video. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Student safety videos now in production

January 29, 2013

From "Alice" - runner-up in the Grade 8-10 category by students at Lord Byng Secondary School, Vancouver

From “Alice” – runner-up in the 2012 Grade 8-10 category by students at Lord Byng Secondary School, Vancouver

“It’s Your Job: What do you need to make it fair and safe?”

That’s the question posed to youth for the 2013 student safety video contest sponsored jointly by WorkSafeBC and the BC Employment Standards Branch.

The deadline for entries is Friday, April 5, 2013 at 5 p.m. – which means there’s lots of time for BC students in Grades 8 to 12 to have a video ready in time.

If you are a teacher – or you want to suggest this idea to a teacher – check out these contest rules, and consider this advice from Brent Phillips-Watts, a teacher at Port Moody Secondary School, whose students have been contest winners in past years.

I asked Brent what he would say to teachers who are considering the contest for their classrooms.

“Don’t worry about having the best gear or most expensive equipment, it’s the message that makes an impact,” he said. “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.”

He described how students reacted when they won in past years.

“The students were of course very excited to win. We announce and present the award in front of a large group and they receive some great positive reinforcement, but because the school also receives some money towards new equipment, they are also excited to see what they have won for others to use,” Brent said. “I always let the entire class know that the ‘new Tripods’ are because of the contest and the winner’s names. This is nice because it’s a reminder that students in future classes have something to aim for, and that they get the appreciation from not just current students, but future ones too.”

Last year’s contest had the most participants ever, generating 66 YouTube entries that represented the work of 195 students from 135 schools.

Here’s a winning video created by Port Moody Secondary students last year – a real tear-jerker that actually made me cry when I watched it!