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 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!

TV ads target lockout and substance abuse

December 06, 2012

By now, readers in Northern BC have probably seen two new TV ads about workplace safety from SHARP (Safety Health Awareness Research Program). One of the ads deals with lockout and other depicts the risks posed by working under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The ads will air on stations across the central and northern Interior in Kamloops, Prince George, Terrace, and Dawson Creek until December 21. This is the fifth year SHARP,  a partnership of United Steelworkers locals I-424 and I-425 and the Northern Interior Forest Industry, is partnering with WorkSafeBC on this campaign and association social media.

I hope these ads will remind wood manufacturing workers to keep their eyes on the job and to refrain from drugs and alcohol that may affect their performance on the job – especially during the holiday season, when “the night before” can have effects that lead into the next day.

Video: Why share personal experience?

November 29, 2012

“If you learn something but don’t share it with anyone, it does no good,” says a man who attributes his workplace injury to his attitude and the idea that “it could never happen to me.” Two years after he was “buried alive” in a trench collapse, Eric Giguere gave his first talk about it – sharing how it changed his relationships with loved ones and the crew at work. I won’t spoil the story – but I’ll tell you to watch the video and hear one heart-warming example of “saving a life” that Eric can be thanked for.

Don’t hydroplane in rain

November 13, 2012

Photo credit: woodleywonderworks on Flickr

Recently I was sitting inside – writing about safety – and I kept hearing mega-splashes on the road. I realized, from the sound, that the leaves had clogged the drain on the road, which could lead to hydroplaning.

Instead of sitting inside, writing about safety, I decided to go outside and deal with the problem. So I grabbed an old broom, walked to the intersection, pressed the pedestrian button, and stood back about three metres to avoid getting showered by puddle water from passing cars.

When the cars came to a stop at the pedestrian light, I looked around carefully, went to the edge of the road, and stabbed the end of the broom into the slimey blob of leaves blocking the drain grate. The mini-lake drained instantly, bubbling and swirling down into the sewer. I went inside and got back to work – feeling most satisfied about my little safety fix.

But there are many other big patches of water on the road and it’s important to “Drop your speed to match road conditions,” according to this tip on the Shift Into Winter website by the Winter Driving Safety Alliance Partners.

Add leaves to the mix and it’s even worse – especially when they clog the drains and big puddles form, putting cars at risk of hydroplaning, which can cause drivers to lose control.

“Hydroplaning occurs when a thin layer of water causes your tires to lose contact with the road,” reads this Road Safety announcement from the City of Port Coquitlam, advising drivers to do the following if their vehicles hydroplane:

  • Keep both hands on the steering wheel, steering gently in the direction you want your car to go
  • Slow down, and do not slam on the brakes
  • Ensure your tires are properly inflated, have good tread, and are “all weather” tires designed for bad road conditions

Check out Road Safety at Work if you drive as part of your job, and check out this video on what to if you hydroplane.

Safety culture story from WorkSafe Montana

November 05, 2012

To BC from Montana via Internet- image captured from Google Maps

This video tell the story of a safety culture led by an employer who, years ago, was injured at work and off for five years.

It’s from WorkSafe Montana, and Terry Bogyo showed it at the MakeItSafe conference. He was talking about re-wiring safety culture and showed this video as an example of it in action.

We may be separated by distance and a national border, but BC and Montana (and many other jurisdictions) are working towards the same goals.

In the past, we would have ordered videos from other regions (if we knew about them) that would be delivered by mail, with postage, through customs. But now – thanks to the Internet – we can just click “Play” and watch it instantly. Is that not incredibly cool, when you think about it?

Supervising construction safely: a video

October 04, 2012

What do safety inspectors look for in a construction supervisor? See what inspectors tell carpentry students in this video from the Ontario Ministry of Labour. A construction supervisor is “the key person to make safety happen in a construction project,” says inspector Micheal Chappell, speaking on the video. “They’re there at the beginning, from the first worker until the last worker leaves.”

The countdown is on to Bridging the Gap in BC. The 2012 construction safety conference is November 22 to 24 in Richmond, so mark your calendars.

Dealing with workers’ substance abuse

July 17, 2012

From the video "A Deadly Silence: Substance Abuse and Accidents"

I asked a former construction supervisor what he did when workers showed up drunk, hungover, or on drugs.

“As a lead hand, I used to send workers home in the morning if I thought they were still impaired, or smelled too fresh. I would just tell them: ‘I think maybe it was a mistake to come in today, you should have phoned in sick, and I am sending you home,'” he said.

“I wouldn’t report alcohol or drug problems because that would lead to a drug test, and then an indefinite suspension until a doctor cleared them to return to work. It was discreet, efficient. No blaming. Of course, this happened to some more than others, and they were almost always the first laid off when the crew was downsized at the end of the job.”

But discreetly sending someone home really isn’t enough, even though the supervisor felt he was acting with compassion and perhaps adhering to the “don’t rat people out” code. As he said, it happened to some more than others – and there’s a good chance the repeat offenders will create a serious safety hazard before anyone notices their state of mind.

Online course for supervisors

A supervisor in his postion would benefit from this online course for employers Supervising the Drug-free Workplace – from the BC Council on Substance Abuse.

This “practical guide” offers employers an opportunity “to increase their awareness and understanding of substance abuse; help them identify performance problems caused by substance abuse; learn how to discuss problems with employees; and most important, teach supervisors/leaders how to gain an employee’s commitment to correct the problem,” reads the course info sheet.

It takes four hours in total – delivered in two sessions, two hours each, scheduled at specific times. In the meantime, check out A Deadly Silence: Substance Abuse and Accidents – a video that tells the story of four workers whose personal and work lives were affected.

The video – sponsored in 2007 by MacMillan Bloedel, IWA Canada, and WorkSafeBC – discusses the issue of “ratting people out” and the fact that many adhere to a code of silence when their coworkers come to work in an altered state. Some don’t want to risk the job of someone who’s supporting a family – but the video’s main message is that people who abuse substances at work need help – and everyone around them needs to be protected from their unsafe work practices.