National Day of Mourning

Every April 28th we fly our flags at half mast, donn ribbons and light candles to pay our respects to the fallen, injured and ill. To the workers who didn’t make it home safe from work or have an altered life due to an injury or illness and to the families of those workers. Please take the time at 11 am for a moment of silence to honor those who have lost their lives. Please also take a moment to pledge to yourself that you will work safe, all the time, every time… No excuses. In 2017 there were 951 workplace deaths. We can do better! That number can be zero. We can work towards and achieve a National Day of Mourning that is to mourn those who passed many years ago and no longer adding to the number. If we all work together and make safety our priority this a very real possibility. Renew your commitment to safety, for yourself, your coworkers and your families.

Sunburns Part 2

Obviously the best way to protect yourself is sunscreen, use at least a SPF 15 with broad spectrum. This will cover both UVA and UVB. Also look for water and/or sweat resistant. Put it on 15 minutes before you head out and reapply as needed, even when it’s cloudy and foggy. Water and concrete can reflect UV rays, therefore increasing your exposure. Most of your PPE is already protecting you; such as long pants, long sleeves, dark colors and your lid. It’s a good idea to trade-in your clear safety glasses for tinted ones. Of course, if you’re  working on something that can be done indoors; do so. Always check the UV index. If possible, work around it. Try and get outdoor work done in the morning or after 3.

UV rays can cause serious damage in as little as 15 minutes. Think about that! For 8-12 hours a day we are outside or in work trucks. We need to protect ourselves. The above photo is from the New England Journal of Medicine, of a man who was a delivery truck driver for 28 years. These are the effects of UVA rays that transmitted through the truck window to the one side of his face. However, you don’t need to be in harm’s way for 28 years, even the mildest sun burns can cause redness, pain to the touch, leading to itchy, dryness and peeling. Nothing quite as flattering on your summer bod as snake skin hanging off of it! 🤮 And that’s just a light sunburn. More severe ones can cause third degree burns and blistering. As awful as these side effects are, they are nothing compared to the long term effects of UV exposure. Blindness, melanoma and skin cancer are scary to think about, however a very real possibility if you don’t take the proper precautions. According to the Government of Canada “In 2016, about 6,800 Canadians were diagnosed with melanoma and 1,200 will die from it.” That should be enough to get you to lather up on the sunscreen. Make sure you don’t end up being a statistic and take all measures to protect yourself from the sun.

Sunburns Part 1

I know we aren’t even into the full swing of summer yet, but for some of us the sun just peeking out gives us anxiety. Even though some people; mostly those with very light colored skin and hair need to take extra precautions when working outdoors, it needs to be on everyone’s mind. Our ozone layer isn’t what it used to be. With big holes in it, nothing is protecting any of us from UV rays. So here are a few things to think about while working in the sun.

There are a few things that can make you more sensitive to ultraviolet rays. Like mentioned above, being very pale or having light colored hair can make you more susceptible to burning in the sun. That doesn’t mean you are safe if your complexion or hair is darker. If you had a bad sunburn in the past, you are more likely to burn again. Also certain medications and facial creams can put you in the high risk category too, so read your labels. Sunburns are very painful and can cause serious health issues in the future including melanoma, skin cancer and blindness. Please don’t think you are safe from long term damage if you’re in a vehicle. UVA rays can penetrate the vehicle window. According to the New England journal of medicine these rays can penetrate the epidermis and upper layers of dermis, causing thickening of the epidermis, stratum corneum, and destruction of elastic fibers. So how do you protect against short and long term damage when you work outside or stuck in a work truck all day? Let’s get into that tomorrow.

Making a Plan to be Safe

I hope you’ve had a great long weekend, but now it’s time to refocus. It can be hard to get back into the groove after a few days off. Here are some ideas to help you stay safe.

It’s always a good idea to make a plan. Any task can seem overwhelming without a clear plan. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s easy to lose focus. So take some time before every task and outline where you will start your task and how you will do it. Once you have a plan, stick to it. You should also be thinking ahead. What do you need for this task? Making sure you have the proper PPE and tools. To stay focused, you may need some micro breaks. A trip to the tool crib to get supplies is a great micro break. Your plan should also point out safety hazards. After a few days off and then jumping head first into our work, we can definitely miss things. So take the time, do a walk around and ask coworkers. You should ease back into your usual work pace. Being all gung ho off the bat can land you in first aid. So just ease up a bit. Take a day or two to get your brain back into the swing of things, then you can hit the gas. Try and get rid of distractions; like cell phones, music and that coworker that just won’t stop talking (okay… don’t “get rid” of them, ask them politely to save it for break). Lastly, look for changes. I know you’ve only had a couple of days off and there’s a good chance everyone else did too; however, maybe some people worked some overtime and things are moved around. Maybe the weather has moved things. Either way, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the jobsite again.

Having a clear plan will only take a few minutes for you to do. It will help you stay focused, be prepared, and be safe. So take the time to plan ahead.

Happy Easter

Happy Easter everyone! May your extra long weekend be filled with a ridiculous amount of chocolate, egg shaped everything and of course friends and family. This may be a great time to enjoy some rest and relaxation and then really get your head back in the game come Monday (or Tuesday if you’re one of the lucky ones). Remember, being safe at work is how we get to come home to our loved ones and enjoy these times.  We only get one shot to do our jobs safely. So, stay focused and make sure you’re around for loads of mini eggs for years to come. Take care everyone!

Lawn Mower Spring Start-Up

Ah..the snow is gone and the grass is finally turning green. Finally, time to trade in the snow shovels for lawn mowers. Just like any other power tools in our garage or shed, mowers need to be well maintained for performance and safety reasons.

To do a quick spring tune-up is pretty quick and easy. Be sure you’re wearing proper PPE; such as gloves, safety glasses, boots, long pants and sleeves and of course ear plugs while actually cutting the grass. You’ll be dealing with fluids to do this, so make sure you’re working in a safe spot and protecting the ground from a spill of any kind. Have your owner’s manual readily available.  If you don’t have it or can’t find it, you can usually look them up online. Start with an empty gas tank and spark plugs removed. Any gas over 90 days can cause problems for you and your mower. Clean the blade and under deck. This is a good time to inspect a blade for bends, cracks or any damage. If you see damage, get your blade sharpened, repaired or replaced. It’s a good idea to get it sharpened annually anyway. Then change the oil. The owner’s manual will instruct you on how to do this. Be sure to dispose of the old oil safely. Then you can change out the spark plugs and air filter; again, refer to your owner’s manual. Lastly, you want to lubricate wheels, cables, choke and throttle.

Maintaining your power tools at home is just as important as it is at work. If you don’t feel totally comfortable doing this yourself, you can always take your mower into a local small engine repair or garden center to have a professional do it for a fee. Bottom line is these machines can seriously injure you, so keep them well maintained and always use caution when operating one.

Eye Wash Stations

If your workplace uses any sort of chemicals, there should be an eyewash station close by. Fortunately, they are not used very often but that can also make them blend into the background. Most wash stations are used so little that they begin to collect dust or maybe even used to store random stuff. Would you know where and how to use an eye wash station if you needed to?

First and foremost, a wash station is not where you store anything. In fact, they need to be readily accessible. This means nothing blocking access to them and nothing covering them. They also need to be cleaned and maintained on a regular schedule. So, with that out of the way… would you know what to do if you splashed some corrosive chemical in your eye?  Here are some quick instructions to help you out.

First, get someone to call for emergency help. Then get help walking to the station. Keep your eyes closed and head down. Once at the wash station, start it. Sometimes this is a hand lever and sometimes it’s a foot lever. Remove any contact lenses immediately. Keep eyes wide open with the water pouring over them. Do not rub your eyes. Do not try and remove any foreign objects from your eyes. Move your eyes around and get all surfaces, under, over and beside. Even if you think you only had contact with one eye, it’s a good idea to clean both. Do this until the emergency crew has shown up; or, for at least 15 minutes and then get someone to take you to the hospital.

Most people have never really checked out a wash station. However; when you are blinded and in pain, is probably not the best time to try and figure out what you’re doing. So, walk over and take a look. Try it out. Hopefully you’ll never have to use it, but it’s good to be prepared.

Safe Dig Month

April first is the beginning of Safe Dig Month. You should be seeing a lot of tweets, posts and commercials for this, as awareness is being raised for safe digging practices. I know we have all heard the “click or call before you dig” slogan. Yet every year there are injuries and damaged underground infrastructure caused from digging. So how can you pitch in? It’s super easy…. Call or click before you dig! Whether you are at work or at home, always play it safe. Don’t forget to remind your neighbors or co-workers to do the same, they will thank you for it in the end. Make sure you leave yourself enough time. It usually takes 3 business days for utilities to be located and marked. This is free of charge, so why take the risk?

Tornado Safety

Okay, we definitely don’t live in Tornado Alley (can you believe people choose to live there? Yikes) but they still occur here in the summer months. Because of how rare they are here, we may not know what to do when it’s starting to look like Kansas. I bet my bottom dollar that the folks living in Tornado Alley know exactly what to do when one touches down. So, let’s go over the steps to protect yourself during a tornado.

According to Strathcona County’s website, the signs of a tornado here in Alberta are “Strong, persistent rotation in the cloud base. Whirling dust and/or debris on the ground underneath the cloud base. Tornadoes do not always have visible funnels – rain can obstruct the funnel from view. Hail or heavy rain followed by either absolute calm or extreme wind shift. Loud continuous roar or rumble unlike thunder that fades within seconds. Visible small, bright, blue and green to white power flashes at ground level.” Your supervisor should be aware of any warnings that Environment Canada releases and keep you informed. However, be proactive. If you see the above signs, take shelter. Keep in mind the biggest hazard is flying debris. So try and find a sturdy building, preferably with a basement. That’s not very common on site so go to the centre of the building. Do not take shelter in a vehicle and do not try and outrun a tornado in your work truck. If you’re in your vehicle or have no buildings readily available, take shelter by laying in a ditch or other lower ground levels. Lay flat and cover your head. I cannot stress that your biggest hazard is the stuff flying around and not the actual tornado itself. Wait it out. Stay sheltered until it’s safe to leave. Your supervisor will let you know. Make sure that Environment Canada is also saying the storm has passed.

As scary as tornadoes are, most of the ones we have here are small if they even touch down at all. But for those of you that remember Black Friday back in 1987, you also know the mass devastation they can cause. So it’s definitely worth being prepared in any situation.

Measles

Okay, let me start by saying this is a topic we should not have to be discussing in 2019. Thanks to vaccinations, measles has been relatively uncommon in Canada since the vaccination became available in 1963.  Measles were actually considered eliminated by 1998. Before the measles vaccination was available, every 2-3 years there would be a global outbreak, which caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths worldwide each year! That is a crazy statistic! We are Incredibly lucky to have this vaccination readily available to us and at no charge here in Canada. Other places in the world are not so lucky and as the World Health Organization has reported there were a 110,000 deaths due to measles globally in 2017. However, here in Canada there were 0. But thanks to anti-vaxxers, this disease is making a comeback. With the widespread vaccinations in the 80’s, most of us working age folk should be immune. If you do not have any documentation or are unsure if you’ve been vaccinated, talk to your doctor. They can test your blood to see if you have in fact received the vaccination. It is also safe to receive duplicate measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccination if you are unsure. This disease can be deadly, especially for young children under the age of four. However it can affect anyone. Yes, most people will recover 100% from measles; however some may not be so lucky. This disease can cause pneumonia, swelling of the brain and yes… death. It’s also highly contagious. It can live in the air for up to 30 minutes and on surfaces for up to two hours. Think about a lunch trailer! Everyone who is not vaccinated would be infected by the end of the day. So do yourself, your family and your coworkers a favour and get vaccinated if you aren’t already. This disease was completely eradicated in Canada before, we can do it again!