Working Alone

Working alone sounds like a blast… Grab a nap, check your Instagram maybe throw out a few texts? Except it’s not like that at all. Working alone actually means you’re further away from rescue crews and first aid. If anything happens, it could be deadly.

Working alone is only done if necessary. It’s not a holiday away from your co-workers. There is quite a bit of paperwork that goes into you being a lone ranger.  You and your supervisor will do a hazard assessment and the outcome of that usually determines when check-in’s will be. This may be at every break, every hour or whenever you both deem appropriate. It is your responsibility to check in, so set a timer. Make sure you do your check-in’s on time or an emergency crew could be sent to rescue you. Most times your supervisor will give you a radio to check-in but there may be times where you will be given a number to call into a call center to check-in. I can’t stress enough…it is your responsibility to check-in.

I have worked alone many times and it does sound like a nice break, till you’re out there alone and it sinks-in. Make sure to take extra precautions, work slow and steady. Get the job done and come home safely… And then you can take that well deserved nap.

Do as I say, Not as I do

Working in an industry where people apprentice under veteran tradespeople is pretty amazing. I remember the first apprentice I had… I was probably more nervous than they were. Think about it… We are shaping this person into the trades person they will be, which also includes how safe they are. That’s a big task. So when I hear an expert trades person say “do as I say, not as I do” I want to shake them. We need to lead by example. If we were training our son or daughter, would we use that expression? Would you tell your children not to drink and drive, then toss back a few cold ones and give them a ride to soccer practice? I’d definitely hope not. So why is this expression and this attitude acceptable? We need to change our perspective. Use mistakes as a moment to teach about near misses and how we learn from them. Teaching your apprentice through your own safety is a two for one deal… Who doesn’t love a deal?

Chemicals on the Job

Depending on the trade you work in, you could come into contact with some pretty hazardous chemicals, we’re not just talking dish soap here (which can actually be hazardous in some situations). The chemicals used on sites can be anything from corrosives to cutting fluids. In order to protect yourself, you need to follow these steps.

Know where the MSDS are kept. It should be readily available for all employees. Reading the label and the MSDS will tell you everything you need to know, including: the proper PPE, the first aid to be administered, the safe handling and disposal of the chemical in use. If there is no label or its illegible, do not use it and report it to a supervisor. If a chemical is kept in a secondary container, be sure to label it clearly. Use the required PPE. Regular safety glasses or gloves may not offer the right protection. Always inspect your PPE before use but just in case something fails, make note of eyewash stations and safety showers beforehand.

These chemicals can cause damage by contacting your skin, breathing in, or ingesting. So make sure you follow the MSDS and steer clear of these chemicals.


The Right Gloves for the Job

You would never wear rubber gloves to grind or cotton gloves to work with chemicals would you? Of course not. But sometimes we quickly move from one task to the next without paying attention to our digits. Here is a reminder of what gloves are to be paired with what job.

Leather gloves should be used for handling metal, sharp objects or when using heat. Most commonly used for welding. Cut resistant gloves are great if you’re cleaning out a lathe. Shock dampening and anti vibration gloves are your best options if your working with pneumatic tools. Chemical resistant gloves are offered in various types of coatings to give you the most protection. Rubber gloves may also be an option when working with some chemicals and when worn under other gloves they offer great insulation for electricity. You also have your most common construction site gloves, mostly cotton with leather fingertips. These will protect you against minor cuts, scrapes and most day to day tasks.

This is just the beginning of the types of gloves offered. Every trade and every task has specific gloves. No matter what the job, there’s a glove for that! Be sure to use it.

Fire Extinguisher Maintenance

On site you can have all the fire safety training in the world but if your extinguisher has not been maintained… What’s the point? Yet, some workers may neglect the monthly, annually or any inspections. Fire extinguishers need to be maintained just like anything else on site. A matter of fact it’s the law in Canada. Here’s some good rules of thumb to go by when a fire extinguisher is needed in your work area.

Even a brand new fire extinguisher must be inspected before it goes onto site for use. These inspections continue…you will need to do an inspection every 30 days. Check the tag to make sure it’s up to date and signed off by a certified technician, make sure the tamper seal is intact, the pin is in place and there are no signs of damage such as corrosion. A trained professional will do an inspection every 12 months along with hydrostatic testing. Depending on the type of extinguisher the hydrostatic testing could be at the 12 year mark. If you’re using the most common extinguisher for work sites (ABC dry chemical) it will need to be recharged every 6 years.

Let your supervisor know if you have an out of date extinguisher. Always have extinguishers available in work areas and do your part to keep them in good working order. Keeping on top of your maintenance and inspections will give you peace of mind that you’re extinguisher will work if ever needed.

When to Report an Incident or Near Miss

When do you report an incident or near miss? Well the long and short of it is… Immediately. No matter if you were involved or just witnessed the event, you need to report it right away. The only thing you should do before reporting is help or get help if anyone was injured. Make sure to keep the work area where the incident happened the same as you found it.

Accidents don’t “just happen”! So, we need to use these events to understand how to better protect ourselves in the future.

Spills and Leaks

In order to reduce our footprint, most oil sites will be returned to their natural state once the oil collection is complete. To do this, we need to be careful not to contaminate the environment we are working in. Even a small spill can have a lasting effect on the wildlife and vegetation. So kicking dirt on top of spill and walking away just won’t do. Here are a few things you can do.

Most sites use drip trays for any type of vehicle or equipment. This is a large plastic tray you can put under your truck, EWP, welder or anything else that has the potential to leak fluids. Make sure to use them. Check the fluids in your vehicle and equipment regularly to prevent a leak. Always check that equipment and vehicles have a spill kit close by. Note the inspection date on the kits, and make sure they are up to date. Now if a spill or leak does occur you need to act quickly. Every site has different protocol, make sure you know it. Call the appropriate people. If you don’t know who that is, tell your foreman, they will. If you don’t know the source of the leak… Find it and stop it. You cannot contain a leak if it keeps coming. Make sure you are wearing the proper PPE for the spill at hand. If the spill is flammable, clear all ignition sources. Once safe, begin containing. Your spill kit will tell you which absorbents to use depending on the chemical that has spilled. Most sites will have a spill crew that will come and take over, but if not, make sure to properly dispose of your absorbents that have been soiled with hazardous materials.

Never try and cover up a spill, the damage caused could be irreversible. Not to mention the fines that can come along with it. It’s not just worrying about the environment (which is kind of a big deal), it’s your safety as well. Make sure to do your part!

Burn Prevention

Even the tiniest of burns are incredibly painful. Could you imagine having a large portion of your body covered in 3rd degree burns? Take extra care to follow the rules to keep your skin in the game (or on your body) and out of hot messes.

Burns fall into 3 categories, thermal, chemical and electrical. The first line of defense for all three, is to remove the hazards. In a perfect world right? But unfortunately, it’s not usually possible, so we need to remedy all hot situations. If working on equipment with a current, always LOTO. Try to put barricades in place to steer workers away from the hot zone, flag it off if needed. Make sure to have a first aid kit close by. Depending on what you’re working with, you may also need an eyewash station. Do your pre work inspections, make sure cords and tools are in safe working order. Go over the hazards on your JHA and with your crew, even if you face burn hazards every day like a welder. And of course, always use your PPE. This is your very last line of defense.

Always take extra precautions when working with hot material, chemicals and electricity. By not doing so, you just might get burnt. Literally, you will end up burnt. Play it safe.

Refusing Unsafe Work

I remember being asked to take an EWP to the top of a two storey building and hop out and do a quick weld. Just a couple of catches, 1- you don’t “hop out” of a EWP without a permit (it’s not an easy permit to get either). 2- the anchor bars were missing and I was being asked to clip onto the railing of the EWP (this lift was a relic and probably had not had and inspection or maintenance since dinosaurs roamed the Earth). While a supervisor was explaining this task, I simply said NO and it was my right to do so. I would like to think that workers are no longer put in these situations but unfortunately they are. Not all unsafe conditions are as negligent as this, sometimes something has just been overlooked. Either case you have the right to refuse unsafe work. You have the right to do this without the fear of any punishment, loss of time or loss of wages. Now this being said, please be aware that saying no to a task means that there is imminent danger to yourself or others. Not just a task you don’t want to do. You need to first inform your supervisor of the hazard. If the problem is not readily fixable there will generally be an investigation to fix the problem. If you are still unwilling to do the task, a member of OHS will get involved to rectify the situation. The worker may be given a different job to do while this is going on. This is not a punishment, it’s to keep you working and not lose hours.

If you are being asked to break safety protocol or do something that is unusually hazardous, it is not only your right to refuse it but you also owe it to yourself and your family not to take risks with your life or someone else’s just to please your boss or coworkers. Stand your ground and be safe.

First Aid Kits

Just like anything else on site, a first aid kit needs maintenance too. This insures the items are fully stocked even after supplies are used. How horrible would it be if you were standing there bleeding and all the bandages were missing? While working on some sites you are actually in the middle of nowhere and the first aid kit could be your lifeline, so make sure to follow these quick tips to be ready for anything thrown your way.

First off, everyone should know where the first aid kit is stored which should be in a place readily available. In the box of your foreman’s pick-up will not due. It should be stored in a weatherproof/waterproof container.  They are to be inspected on a regular basis. Usually a first aider will be assigned this task. When inspecting, check that all items are labeled, fully stocked and have not expired. Whenever using the kit, make sure to replace any items you have removed from the kit. There should be a checklist to help you restock.

Hopefully, you only ever need an antacid (because well… too much camp food) but in an emergency, having a fully equipped first aid kit could just save your life.