Labour Day

Happy Labour Day! We want to take a minute and recognize all you hard working Canadians out there. As trade people this is a day we should take pride in. Also remembering the workers before us that fought hard for our right to better working conditions and our safer work environments. So pay it back and keep yourself and others working safely.  Enjoy the long weekend.

Tick Safety

Ticks carrying Lyme disease has been on an all-time high in the last few years. With some trades and at some sites you have no choice but to work in areas where ticks are commonly found. The good news is that the black-legged ticks that can carry the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease are not as common here as in other parts of the world. But we should still protect ourselves just the same.

Use a bug spray containing DEET to deter them for you, make sure to reapply as needed throughout the day. Your clothing should be covering you as much as possible, that shouldn’t be a problem if you’re properly dressed for work. Your arms, legs, hands, head and feet should be covered anyways. Try to stay out of areas where they live if there’s a path take it, don’t go trudging through the woods or tall grass unless you have to. Check for ticks periodically. If you find a tick, safely remove it. Seek medical attention if you have the tell-tale bullseye around the bite mark. Also if you develop flu-like symptoms, sore muscles, joint pain, chills, fatigue or just a general feeling of unwell.

Lyme disease can cause you a lifetime of problems. The key to avoiding it is preventing ticks from biting you; and a clean quick removal if they do. Also remember, if you’re bitten by a tick, try to save the body after removal and take it in for testing; this will help you identify future risks.

Amputation Prevention

If you worked in the trade for any amount of time you have met a few old timers that are missing a finger or two. Workers seem to think this doesn’t happen anymore, but it’s not just the old timers and it’s not just fingers; amputations happen everyday in the trades. Let’s make sure it doesn’t happen to us.

First off, don’t use equipment that you are not trained to use. Don’t ever bypass guards for any reason, they are there to protect you. If you’re doing any maintenance on equipment, make sure that it is locked out and tagged out; this program is in place for this reason. Don’t stick your hands where they shouldn’t be or where you can’t see them. Keep your hair tucked under your hard hat and remove strings from hoodies. This will stop you from getting pulled into machinery and possibly an amputation or worse.

Nothing in your job or in any line of work is worth losing part of your body. Take the extra time and precautions and do things correctly and go home with everything intact because I hear prosthetics can cost you an arm and a leg.

The Sky is Falling

When I was a second-year, I was working on the top of the highline. I had every tool with a lanyard on it except for my spray paint which of course I dropped from the highest point of the highline. It pinged off every pipe and scaffold on the way down and when it hit the ground it exploded in what can only be described as an atomic bomb of galvanized spray paint. This 100% should have been reported but my journeyman at the time said “look away, pretend it wasn’t you, we don’t know what happened” (Which is not an excuse… I should have reported it… But that’s for another post).  I remember I kept thinking “what if that hit someone?”. That’s just it… even the smallest tools, equipment or hardware dropped from heights can cause serious injuries… Even death. After this incident you can bet your bottom dollar that I never dropped anything again. Here’s a couple tips to make sure you don’t make the same mistake I did.

If you can, flag off the area below you. If nobody is in the drop zone under you, then nobody gets hurt. However dropping items from heights can also cause property damage so keep that in mind. If it’s not possible to flag off or if the risk of property damage is too great, then take precautions to stop things from even having a chance to fall. Use a tool net, put down a fire blanket under your work area and use tool lanyards. Only have what you need when working at heights, the less inventory you have up there the better. Don’t store tools at heights overnight. Night shift may not know they’re there, weather can pick up and move things around, it’s just a safe practice to bring them down every shift.

Dropping tools from heights is 100% preventable, but it’s up to you to do the extra work to prevent it.

Healthy Diet

Take a look around the lunch room and you’ll notice most of your coworkers are starting their day with a pot of coffee and about 3 cigarettes  (obviously not smoking in the lunchroom…right?). You’ll notice lunch will be a bag of chips, a chocolate bar and a soda. Maybe this may even be your go-to diet. But eating like this doesn’t hurt just your waistline. An unhealthy diet has major effects on your brain. Junk food directly affects you hippocampus (your hippo-what?). This is a part of the brain that is in charge of memory, mental health and learning. All of which are key things for working safe… and overall day to day functioning. Eating a healthy well-balanced diet not only reduces your risk of heart disease and obesity, it can keep you sharp at work. I’m not saying eat broccoli all day, but lower your sugar intake and skip the fast food, especially at work, it makes you sluggish. And hey, broccoli really isn’t that bad, is it?

Construction Dust/Silica

Dust comes with the territory at any given construction site. From the roads to cutting concrete.  Other than just making us dirty this dust can also lead to life threatening illnesses, such as lung disease, silicosis and kidney disease. We can definitely lower our chances of these diseases by following these steps.

First and foremost if you can remove the hazard; do so.  Use wet cutting, including chloride (it helps retain moisture longer than water), wet dusty roads and use low-dust joint compounds.  Good housekeeping is a must. If possible use plastic sheeting for an easy cleanup, invest in a good shop vacuum and wear your respirator. Be sure you have the proper mask and/or cartridges.

In our line of work dust is inevitable, but having a lifelong battle with lung disease doesn’t have to be. Make sure to use any means necessary to reduce your risk.

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Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls

Slips trips and falls are the second highest cause of workplace incidents. Resulting in anything from a minor injury to the worst case scenario…death. The cause can be from cords, uneven terrain, poor housekeeping, not following safety protocol and many more. Here are some pointers to reduce the risk of slips, trips and falls.

Good housekeeping goes along way. Keep the ground or floors free of tools, cords and debris. If something cannot be removed, flag it off so other workers will see it. Clean as you go. This goes for ice snow and mud. You may have to do a clean up more than once a day. Do as needed. Be sure to put up wet floor signs if you have just freshly mopped. Now when it comes to heights, follow the proper procedures. Always tie off with the proper equipment for the job. Inspect your fall pro gear every time you use it. Railings should be installed where possible, all ladders should have a 3 foot extension. When climbing, always use 3 points of contact. And this should go without saying but no running at any time.

Even the tiniest of slips or trips can cause serious injuries such as throwing out your back or sprains. We have all stumbled over our own feet now and then, but the removal of all other hazards will reduce our chances of an incident.

Knife Safety

Using a knife for some tasks can be a fast and efficient way to to finish up the job. However there are serious hazards when using a knife, obviously it’s a knife. When used properly it’s a great tool but the amount of improper use is so high that most sites have some if not all types of knives banned. Here are some things to consider while handling a knife.

Before you even begin cutting, inspect your knife. Look for damaged and dull blades. Do a quick check to make sure the blade is installed correctly. Check that you have the right PPE for the job, including cut resistant gloves, long sleeves and safety glasses. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. This means only use the knife for what it is intended. Now while cutting, avoid putting a lot of pressure on the knife, this is where that sharp blade comes in handy. Applying too much pressure, especially to a dull blade can lead to a slip or out of control knife. Always cut away from yourself but keep your fingers out of the way just in-case. Make sure to store the knife with the blade away, this way no one will get hurt just picking it up.
Human error and incorrect use is what causes most injuries when it comes to knifes. So remove the hazard. If available try a self retractable or a shield model. Remember it’s a knife, it will cut you, that’s it’s job.

Dress for Success

Dressing for work isn’t exactly like walking the runway in Milan but definitely worth putting some thought into. I don’t mean matching your coveralls with your skin tone to bring out your eyes, I mean for safety. Here are a few thing to keep in mind for your work wardrobe.

Always be sure that your clothes fit, too big can be a hazard for getting caught in equipment. This goes for the string on your hoodies as well (most site have a no string policy). Be sure to cover yourself adequately. Long sleeves and pants are a must. I know this isn’t ideal on extremely hot days, but it will protect you from work site hazards, and also protects you from sunburn and insect bites. Sometimes working in the trades can get dirty but that doesn’t mean you have to stay that way. Keep your work clothes clean and free of tears, rips and holes.      
We may not be walking the runway at fashion week but our safety is even more fashionable. So dress for success.

Seat Belts

It’s hard to believe that roughly 15 percent of people still neglect to buckle up. Every site has a zero tolerance policy for those who don’t wear seat belts, but it’s not just your job you’re gambling with. Seat belts are proven to reduce your chance of death by half. No matter what excuses you have, it’s uncomfortable or it’s not unfashionable, they still need to be worn every trip. You know what else is uncomfortable? Getting ejected from a moving vehicle. So buckle up.