April 02, 2013
A new Hazard Alert from NIOSH, Dangers of Bathtub Refinishing was published in Feb 2013. The American Society of Safety engineers also wrote this blog post in March Methylene Chloride Hazards for Bathtub Refinishers.
Since 2000, 14 workers in the US have died while doing this job. When I saw the new alert, posted on Twitter, it reminded me of a tragic story I heard last summer.
A 52-year-old worker died in a small, poorly ventilated bathroom of an apartment while using methylene chloride as a stripping agent. He was found “slumped over the tub on his knees with his face in the tub,” according to NIOSH.
All the deaths “involved the use of paint-stripping products containing methylene chloride, a highly volatile, colorless and toxic chemical that is widely used as a degreaser and paint stripper,” reads the article in Medical News Today. An in-depth report on the incidents is available from NIOSH’s Fatality Assessment and Control.
Exposure to extremely high levels of methylene chloride can be fatal. You could survive if you got away from this source that can result in what is described as “effects on the central nervous system (CNS) including decreased visual, auditory, and psychomotor functions” by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
While this type of tragedy is relatively rare, there are many chemicals to be wary of. Please review these resources, and be cautious with what you work with.
Also see Pages 8 to 11 of the Paint safety primer from ACTSafe.
March 05, 2013
Recently I wrote about safety precautions for late night retail workers – describing the “Working Alone” regulation created in 2008 and amended twice in 2012.
Employers of lone retail workers must ensure that the worker is physically separated from the public by a locked door or barrier, assign one or more workers to work with the worker (which isn’t actually working alone), and a third option of using a “violence prevention plan” that includes time lock safes, stored cash and lottery tickets, safety signage, video surveillance, and stipulations for visibility and entry – according to the OHS Regulation Section 4.22.1 – Late night retail safety procedures and requirements.
But it’s not just retail workers who face risks from working alone. Workers in the motion picture industry – like production assistants, security guards, drivers, flaggers, and location scouts – also face similar issues. That’s why ActSafe published a new resource:Fact Sheet #14 WORKING ALONE OR IN ISOLATION.
The publication outlines responsibilities for employers, supervisors, and workers and outlines a person-check procedure in which these lone workers are checked on at regular intervals by a designated person or a third-party service provider. It recommends lone workers be contacted every half hour or hour, depending on the level of risk, and checked on at the start and end of each work shift.
The person designated to check in – via cell phone, texting, two-way radio
(walkie-talkie), trunked radio, satellite phone, or email – must record each contact and be ready to respond if the lone worker can’t be reached. The last page of the four-page ACTSafe publication is a sheet for filling in check-ins – including instructions for when the worker doesn’t respond within five minutes. They are:
1. Call another cast or crew member who is nearby, and have him or her check on the lone
2. Call the studio or building security or an identified neighbouring business or building, if
there is one, and have someone check on the lone worker.
3. If necessary, call 9-1-1 and send them to the location.
Protecting Staff Who Are Working Alone: An Introduction from go2 – the human resource association for the tourism and hospitality industry in BC.
August 28, 2012
Here’s a good example of what these workers are up against. I heard it from a late-night delivery driver who fuels his work truck at least four times a week in the middle of the night at gas stations with convenience stores.
“I was grabbing a coffee at 3:30 am this morning when a drunk guy was causing grief for the poor staff. No plexiglass for those minimum-wage earners, just a three-foot-high counter and people like me who told the guy to move along,” he said.
But imagine how it would be for a lone worker to deal with that situation. Here in BC, safety for this group of workers is at issue and a “Working Alone” regulation, 4.22.1 Late night retail safety procedures and requirements, has been amended twice in 2012. The original regulation required employers to do the following:
(i) ensure that the worker is physically separated from the public by a locked door or barrier that prevents physical contact with or access to the worker;
(ii) assign one or more workers to work with the worker during that worker’s assignment
The new third option allows employers to use a “violence prevention plan” that includes time lock safes, stored cash and lottery tickets, safety signage, video surveillance, and stipulations for visibility and entry.
Most of the time, this option may work well, but when I think about some of the rougher neighbourhoods, I feel worried for the late-night workers. Some are strongly opposed to the amendments.
“This is a huge setback for some of the most vulnerable and lowest-paid workers in the province,” said Jim Sinclair, BC Fed president, according to this news release.
“In response to suggestions the new standards will still protect workers, Sinclair said that the best late night workers could hope for is that when they are robbed violently, they are lucky enough to survive and have their assault caught on video and their employer notified,” the release reads.
Retail and service workers can be “vulnerable to the daily fallout from theft, gang violence, homelessness, and mental health and addiction problems,” according to WorkSafeBC officer Marty Glendinning, who talks about safety for workers in malls throughout Metro Vancouver in the article “Trouble in Store”, in the Jul/Aug 2012 issue of WorkSafe Magazine.
The delivery driver describes what he sees.
“All the stations I visit are staffed by one person, who is locked in the store and all transactions are done through a pass-through drawer,” he said. “But the clerks at some stations make judgement calls and let certain people, myself for instance, into the store, so their safety at that point is purely dependent on their judgement, and luck. I’m driving a delivery truck, wearing a uniform and have visible company ID, which makes me a pretty safe bet, but depending on who else they let in, their safety could be compromised.”
Personally, I’d rather have a physical barricade between me and the public if I were working late-night retail. If you or anyone you know has experience with late-night retail – do tell. What do you think, based on what you’ve seen?
December 01, 2011
Employers sign up and their workers answer questions online about their specific workplace. The program evaluates each survey and compiles a list of potential violence-related risks.
“Once the risks have been identified, the e-tool brings up articles related to prevention strategies from the knowledge base… culled from hundreds of policy and procedure documents from reputable agencies…” reads the WorkSafeBC article by Gail Johnson.
A tale of avoiding violence
Health care workers are often faced with aggressive behaviour from clients – many of whom are angry, scared, or frustrated with their situation. According to WorkSafeBC, violence is a leading cause of injury to B.C. care workers and results in more than 1000 injuries each year.
I talked with a community health nurse recently about some of the threats he’s faced from clients he visits in shelters and hotels in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. He said violence is threatened, but actual incidents are rare. I followed up with a contact at WorkSafeBC who confirmed there was no significant number of violence-related claims among community health nurses.
Once the nurse went to a hotel to see a man with a suspected leg infection. He introduced himself and asked if he could have a look.
“I thought I heard him say ‘yeah’ or shake his head, but apparently he’s partially deaf and he hadn’t heard me at all,” he said.
“I went down to lift up his pant leg, and he turned at me and raised his hand as if to hit me, and so of course I backed out of that situation and explained that I was a nurse – there to look at his wounds. He told me he did not want me to look at his wounds and so I left.”
Thankfully the threat of violence was averted, and a female nurse went back later and treated the man. There are many tactics for cooling the flames, depending on the industry and the situation, and the new online program brings many of them to industry. Kudos to the collaborators!
New violence prevention resources online
WorkSafeBC is offering a new set of online resources for workers and employers, including videos, e-publications, and links to violence-related info in the Regulation.
November 09, 2010
“Don’t ever be afraid to trust your gut instincts,” says nurse Barb Valois, speaking to home care workers on a new video from WorkSafeBC. “You always have the right to refuse unsafe work.”
Surely this is good advice for work and life in general – especially when you go to clients’ homes alone. You never know what you are walking into, so it’s important to be prepared with safe work procedures.
Be warned this video includes strong swearing from a very difficult client.
September 28, 2010
A friend, let’s call her Beth, recently told me she is faced with the risk of violence every day in her job as a registered nurse in a hospital. Agitated patients try to kick, scratch, and punch her as she attends to their needs – not to mention verbal abuse from patients and their loved ones.
“If I was to report every time a patient actually tries to strike out at me or literally tries to claw me or kick me, we’d be drowning in a sea of paperwork,” said Beth, who has worked as a nurse for four years. “There’s huge under-reporting because it’s ‘just part of the job’ – but it shouldn’t be.” Read more