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.

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