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 12, 2013
Canadian Agricultural Safety Week runs March 10-16, 2013. It is a national farm safety public education campaign focusing on the importance of farm safety practices.
The national theme is “Get with the Plan!” It follows up CASA’s three-year theme: “Plan | Farm | Safety” which encouraged agricultural producers to research and develop written farm safety plans for their operation.
I talked with Nicole Hornett, farm safety coordinator (South Region) with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.
“Here in Alberta, we’re continuing our ‘I Have a Role’ campaign to highlight communication this year. Everyone has a role in successful safety communication on the farm,” Nicole said via email, quoting this CASA stat from 2012. “For example, fatigue is a major factor on farms. Human error is typically at the root of 85% of farm-related incidences – the majority of those errors stemming from fatigue.”
Good communication forms a solution – including suitable schedules for completing work and encouraging workers to keep each other up to date, track their progress, and let others know if something changes.
“One of the interactive ways the Alberta Farm Safety Program is focusing on the importance of communication is by developing a new machinery blind spot activity for rural youth and new workers,” Nicole said. “Various toy-sized farm equipment props are placed on a farmscape mat, then participants are encouraged to identify where the operator could/couldn’t see them. Once identified, the discussion flows towards the best methods to get an operator’s attention through selecting safe locations to stand, using universal hand-signals as a method to communicate or deciding if they can wait until the operator’s next break.”
Watch for Nicole’s daily updates on Facebook during Farm Safety Week. She’s hoping to get some conversations going – so please add your thoughts.
Here’s an article in OHS Canada on this annual safety event.
September 25, 2012
“It’s OK to refuse unsafe work and to ask about workplace safety.”
“If you don’t know – ask! There are no dumb questions. Learn about your safety rights & obligations.”
The Ontario Ministry of Labour posted these and other messages – known on Twitter as “tweets” – every Monday this summer.
The Ministry posts as @OntMinLabour on Twitter and they have a healthy following of nearly 5400 people. In comparison, @speakinofsafety is coming up on 2000 followers (so follow me if you aren’t already!)
I asked Bruce Skeaff, social media planner for the Ontario MOL’s Communications and Marketing Branch, to tell me more about this outreach effort.
“I chose young workers for that time period for a natural reason – so many young people holding summer jobs,” Bruce said, via email, adding that the MOL doesn’t have a big following among school or university-aged Ontarians.
“But we do have an audience of people involved with those summer students, from parents to employers to unions, HR professionals, health and safety officers in workplaces, and so forth. The feature was useful to them personally and as items to perhaps pass along to young people in their lives.”
How often should you tweet?
That’s one of the first questions most people ask. MOL tweets at least four to seven times a day Monday to Friday, as far as I can tell. They also respond to people with questions about government services and legislation, directing them to answers. This is a really good example of government using technology to listen to people, collaborate, and generate solutions.
“If you are going to be using social networking sites, then you need to be active, and on a regular basis, not occasionally,” Bruce said. “If you tweet or post on Facebook only every several days with gaps of silence in between, you’re not going to build an audience. People will find little value in following you. We work on our Twitter and Facebook sites under that premise, making sure we’re active – and usefully active, not just active for the sake of creating noise.”
Bruce said the Young Worker Monday messages were usually “re-tweeted” – or forwarded – at least a dozen times, which is pretty decent.
Another good example of government using Twitter is the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure – @TranBC on Twitter. I wrote about them in my post Asking road users what they need re: their online survey on where drivers want to see the next highwaycam.
July 10, 2012
Home in one piece: What motivates you, your friends, or your family to come home safely from work?
That was the 2012 theme for the seventh annual WorkSafeBC Student Video Contest – which generated 66 YouTube entries, representing the work of 195 students from 135 schools.
A number of safety organizations sponsored the project and took part in the judging process – using criteria from WorkSafeBC – including ACTSafe, the organization that promotes health and safety in the performing arts and motion picture industries. I spoke with Dawn Brennan, ACTSafe’s general manager, about her experience as a judge.
“It was such an amazing gamut of videos,” Dawn said, describing how she and her staff met and watched them together. ” I love the fact that high school kids took this seriously. The messages were all so varied but interesting, and it was such emotional impact they made. A couple had me in tears.”
Dawn said she enjoyed talking with the creators about their work, when she met them at an awards ceremony. One was very interested in film-making as a career, and Dawn says she is going to distribute the students’ videos to her network of industry contacts.
Congratulations to all winners – see winning vids here – and thanks for doing your part to share an important message.
June 12, 2012
“Straight outta Edmonton” – from the folks at HeadsUpAb.com – this new video reminds young workers (and the rest of us) how to foster a safe workplace and “avoid acting the fool.” Matt and Chris – the Canadian safety rap duo – put a new spin on an old message for young people starting new jobs this summer. Check it out and share it with the kids in your life.
March 13, 2012
It’s Canadian Agriculture Safety Week, March 11 to 17, and activities are taking place across the country.
Here in BC, the launch was held at a Kelowna winery, where reps from the Farm and Ranch Safety and Health Association (FARSHA) and the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) planned to “give updates on innovative farm safety initiatives in BC,” reads the FARSHA website.
I’ll update you on BC activities as I learn more, and in the meantime, I’ll tell you what’s happening in the province next door. I contacted Kenda Lubeck – farm safety coordinator for Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development – to find out more about Alberta’s main message: “Everyone on a farm is responsible for safety.” The Alberta Farm Safety Program‘s I Have A Role” campaign is set for launch during March 11 to 17.
“Our hope is that this campaign will create more discussion around safety at all levels on Alberta farms,” Kenda said. “By calling out roles and responsibilities it brings the focus to the importance of human life rather than getting the job done regardless of the cost.”
Too many preventable deaths
Eighteen people die in farm-related incidents each year in Alberta. That’s why the new campaign emphasizes the important role of everyone in the agricultural industy – including parents, farm owners, workers, equipment dealers, and community groups.
“By creating conversation around safety, it may just remind someone to take the time to install ROPS (roll over protective structures) on their tractors or to take that final walk around their equipment before heading out on the job,” Kenda said. “Farm injuries and fatalities are preventable.”
Plan – Farm – Safety
“Plan • Farm • Safety” is the theme of the three-year Canadian Agricultural Safety campaign which began in 2010.
“The 2010 campaign promoted “Plan”, with safety walkabouts and an emphasis on planning for safety. In 2011, the focus was on “Farm”, with highlights on implementation, documentation and training,” reads the CASA website.
This year’s campaign on “Safety” focuses on the assessment, improvement and further development of safety systems.
Thanks to Kenda for sharing her story – and let me know if you’re taking part in any activities so I can praise your efforts and tell everyone!
New farm safety video from WorkSafeBC
January 10, 2012
I’ve been following up with NAOSH (North American Occupational Safety and Health) Week 2011 winners and contacted TJ Garcha, health & safety coordinator for the BC Institute of Technology. He told me about BCIT’s NAOSH Week entry that won them the Educational Institutions category for the fifth year in a row.
In 2011, BCIT turned the NAOSH Week challenge into a WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) challenge. WHMIS training is mandatory for all BCIT employees, so one of the organization’s goals was to increase staff participation in WHMIS training. To be eligible for a prize, BCIT employees had to complete their WHMIS training and then enter their name into the prize pool before the end of NAOSH Week.
This year the prize pool was bigger than ever, with 35 prizes and lots of giveaways from health and safety exhibitors. “Any time there are prizes or incentives involved, the interest level of participants goes up,” said TJ.
Other activities included “lunch and learn” sessions – on topics like “Major Events and Radiation Contamination” and the general NAOSH theme: “Prepared? What’s Your Plan?” – along with online quizzes (one for each of the five NAOSH week days) and a popular kids’ colouring contest.
“Everyone at BCIT was reminded that the more entries they got in, the better chances they had in winning a prize,” TJ said, describing “meal vouchers for use at BCIT eateries, custom hearing protection, high quality ear muffs, and a variety of gift cards from Starbucks, Toys-R-Us and Future Shop.”
Marketing NAOSH Week activities on campus
According to TJ, the campus atmosphere really lends itself to NAOSH participation.
“With a large number of students and employees on campus, advertising and marketing is quite effective and this generates interest for our many events throughout the year,” he said. “Also, with the Exhibition, we didn’t need to invite the community – the event was brought to the community. This approach helps maximize participation.”
BCIT’s health & safety exhibition during NAOSH Week included Acklands Grainger; Alda Pharmaceuticals; ER Plus; Community Fire Prevention Ltd.; F.A.S.T.; Sperian; Mediquest; Custom Protect Ear; WorkSafeBC; Wasserman Partners; Evolution Radio 107.9 FM; BCIT Safety, Security & Emergency Management; BCIT Human Resources; BCIT Audiometric Office; BCIT Recreation Services.
“Overall, NAOSH Week is an opportunity to raise awareness about Health & Safety issues to the community through a variety of different mediums. The awareness benefits everyone,” TJ said. “While organizing these fun and interactive activities, we (the organizers) learn a lot ourselves. The experience is very rewarding.”
Congratulations to BCIT and thanks to TJ for telling me his story. Visit the 2012 NAOSH Week website for more info.
November 29, 2011
Denise Dodd is a Vancouver musician who told me about a very noisy job she had long ago. It wasn’t playing music that gave her a headache every night – it was selling flowers on a bar circuit in Edmonton back in the 90s.
Her shift started at 8 p.m. at the rock bar headquarters, where she met the driver who took her to a country bar, a couple of lounges, then back to the rock bar.
“The lounges were okay for noise, but in the bars and clubs, it was all shouting. You also had to stand very close to people, while they yelled in your ear,” she said. “The customers were pretty drunk usually, so it made it hard to keep your distance from them. You had to ‘chat people up’ – usually men – to get them to buy a rose for a lady, and they would usually hit on me as well!”
Her shift went til 3 a.m. and she said the headache usually hit halfway through the night.
“By the end of the night, my throat was sore from yelling, and my ears were ringing when I got home and it was quiet. That’s when I would notice it,” she said. “It was like after a concert, only this was four or five times a week.”
But that was many years ago. Since then, Denise has been to audio recording school, where she learned about hearing protection.
“I learned a lot about how our ears work, and how fragile they are. I now am much more aware of the potential damage that can occur – usually when we are younger and not conscious of it. Often the effects don’t show up til you’re in your 40s,” she said, looking back at the flower-selling job.
“In retrospect, I should have been wearing ear plugs, but being in my early 20s, I still didn’t get the concept of long-term consequences,” said Denise, who has a 40-something drummer friend who has been playing and touring since his teens and is now losing his hearing.
“The damage was not just from playing drums, but having the guitar amps right behind him, and being in the bar between sets hanging out,” Denise said.
Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers (HEAR)
Denise’s story reminded me of HEAR – an organization devoted to hearing protection for musicians and music-lovers.
“Damage from loud sound can occur from playing music, attending concerts, dance clubs, raves, using stereo earphones, playing amplified systems too loudly, or other noisy activities,” reads the HEAR website. “We’re here for musicians, DJs, sound engineers, music fans (especially teens) and anyone needing help with their hearing.”
Thanks to Denise – and here’s a link to her music website: agirlandherpiano.com
November 24, 2011
On Saturday Nov. 19, I visited a conference for construction safety workers who want to “bridge the gap” in their knowledge about the industry’s health and safety issues. I visited safety product vendors and service consultants at the trade show portion, then went to a seminar called Pre-Inspection to Ensure Your Protection.
A group of safety product demonstrators were stationed at tables where they gave 12-minute demos on what construction safety officers need to look for when inspecting personal protective equipment. The session was led by sales manager Derek Malone, of HazMasters.
“As a safety officer, you’re going to deal with multiple trades coming in with safety equipment,” Derek told me, as he timed the sessions and led attendees to their next PPE demo station.
He said the session “gives a general introduction to some of the things to look for” when they inspect equipment used for gas detection, fall protection, and other types of PPE.
Networking for construction safety pros
Derek explained the spark behind the conference.
“The original intent of Bridging the Gap was to give construction safety officers the vision to see what else they can do – other than taking what they learned in their programs – and continue to evolve it and network with other officers and safety manager who have got to a higher level,” he said. “Some of the concerns were younger CSOs coming out and not knowing what was available as a career path. Sometimes they got to a job and didn’t have the support. They have the ability to speak with somebody here – maybe a manager for a larger company – who says ‘This is the support you should have.’ Then they can see what they can work towards.”
Stay tuned for more stories from people I met at the conference that was sponsored by WorkSafeBC in partnership with the BC Construction Safety Alliance, BC Association of Restoration Contractors, Canadian Society of Safety Engineering, HazMasters, Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of BC, and BCIT.
November 03, 2011
At this point in the year, many young workers are back in school after summer jobs – but others work throughout the year.
People in this age group (15 to 24) have a higher injury rate, and here in BC, on average 28 young workers are injured every day, says WorkSafeBC. That’s why folks like Sharon Barbour visit high schools and job centres to talk with young workers about their rights. She worked with the BC Federation of Labour’s Young Workers program a few years ago and has many good memories of the young people she met.
“Some of them were kids who had never had jobs, and they were already saying: ‘Ya but if I start refusing work, he’s just going to get someone else to do it,” said Sharon, who told youth it’s illegal for an employer to do that.
“The employer may not be looking out for you the way your teachers do. The employers are trying to make money and sometimes they might ask you to do really stupid things.”
Using video to spark conversation
Sharon showed them Lost Youth – a WorkSafeBC video about four young people injured at work. Then she started by asking who was at fault in the videos.
“The first thing they came up with was: ‘He shouldn’t have been standing there’ and ‘He should have known not to do that.’ Their first instinct is to blame the kids,” she said. “Then I asked: ‘Yeah, but was she trained on this machine? Did she understand how it was supposed to be used? Was there anyone there with her helping?’ I showed them what the employer could have done.”
Thanks to Sharon and all others looking out for our young workers. Here’s the full version of Lost Youth on YouTube (with language that may be offensive to some) that supervisors, educators, and parents can use as conversation openers.