Training isn’t just to show you the ropes when it comes to your trade, how to hammer a nail, tighten a bolt, or bend some tubing. Safety is a huge part of your job too. Safety training provides us with opportunities to learn from the mistakes of others. We all need to learn the safe way to do our daily tasks. You may be the most skilled worker at a specific task, but if you take risks and put yourself or others in danger, those keen skills may never see the light of day. Safety training, safe work procedures, and safety programs are the reason we all get to go home to our families every night. It’s the reason we get to work our entire careers until we retire, instead of trying to make ends meet with disability cheques because of an injury. It’s the reason we know our rights as an employee and what we can expect from our employers. Without proper safety training, situations like this cartoon would be an everyday occurrence. So, I guess what I’m saying is, safety training and programs are increasing the life expectancy of us trades people. We are living longer than 30, 20 or even 10 years ago. So, let’s make sure we have all the training we need to do our trade safely, keep up-to-date on new innovations, and keep a good attitude when it comes to safety training. And please for love of all things good, do not risk your life for your job. Don’t be Mr. Red Hat. 🙄
This cartoon is a great reminder why rescue planning is so important. Some of us work at heights every day and can become complacent. We know our harness is on perfectly, we have calculated our free fall distance and minimum clearance, and tied off to a T. However, without doing frequent rescues and retrievals (thank goodness) we can forget some really important factors that could impede all of our hard work at staying safe. So after days, weeks, months and even years of safely working at heights, we may not do a detailed rescue plan, or one at all. Why is this important if we are working safely anyway? Because things happen, humans make mistakes. Having a co-worker dangling in their harness is not the time to make a rescue plan. According to Alberta’s Guide to the OH&S Code: “the suspended worker may lose consciousness in as few as five minutes”. OSHA notes in their Safety Bulletin on Suspension Trauma: “Research indicates that suspension in a fall arrest device can result in unconsciousness, followed by death, in less than 30 minutes”. So when someone falls, the rescue needs to start immediately. You cannot waste time figuring out what to do. The hanging worker could lose limbs or even die if they are left up there too long. No worker should be left alone while working at heights. Even if they have a radio or cell. How would they make that call if they are knocked out? Every rescue is different. Every time your job or task changes so does the rescue plan. These are factors you need to consider with every task at heights. A rescue plan isn’t something you do only when you’re working in unfamiliar territory, it’s something you and your partner or crew do every day. Don’t just copy it from the day before, point out new hazards, talk about the risks. Do your best to be safe but always plan for the worst.
When we think of hazard assessment, we think of JHA’s or FLRA’s. We usually do them in the morning for our days work and then feel done with them for the day. However; that’s not the case. We need to be doing them all day with the change of task or conditions. If you see a hazard, add it to your hazard assessment and take action. Keep your coworkers in the loop. Hazards don’t just stop in the morning when you finish your assessment. So keep your head up and communicate with other workers. No one wants to end up like Mr. Yellow hat. 😬
We all know that 3 points of contact must be maintained while climbing a ladder. Yet workers commonly break this basic rule. I mean let’s be honest… I’ve done it. I also lost my footing once while using one of my hands to carry a bucket full of tools (I know right? I was a second year, trying to show off). I almost bit the dust and it scared the bejesus out of me. So this is why we have safety talks, so you can learn from my mistakes. So when we say “Always maintain 3 points of contact”, we mean ALWAYS and we mean feet and hands. If you have a hair touching the ladder… that does not count! You should never be carrying anything up a ladder, not only are you more than likely not able to have your 3 points of contact but you could also drop what you are carrying. Use a pulley system to get your tools up high and always maintain 3 points of contact!
I feel like we haven’t talked about PPE for like 5 minutes, so maybe we should go over it again. PPE changes with every task you do and with the weather you’re working in. For example, what you might use for PPE in summer, while working on the top of the high line compared to what you may use in the dead of winter, working in a hoarding are very different. Say you’re welding, in a hoarding; since you are closed-in, you should wear a respirator to avoid inhaling fumes. Whereas, working at the top of the high line, it’s nice and open and you may forego the respirator (I’d still recommend wearing one, but that’s me). The gloves you’d wear in the summer would be very light, just giving you coverage for the heat of welding. In the winter, you’d want something with the same coverage but also extra lining for warmth. In the summer, I prefer to wear ear plugs for ear protection and in the winter I opt for the ear muffs style since it offers some warmth as well as protection. Your boots should also be different. I’d recommend getting a good pair of winter boots and a light, good quality pair for the summer. You can probably make it through winter with your summer boots and just double up on socks but in these Canadian winters I really wouldn’t recommend it. You’d want to invest in a pair of lined coveralls or work pants for the cold, and definitely a light pair for the summer. Summertime, you won’t be wearing a jacket, just long sleeves; whereas in the wintertime, an extra warm jacket. As you can see, the PPE you’d wear could change drastically, and we haven’t even touched on working in wet conditions. You need to know what you’ll need for every day. It’s good to leave some extras at work if you can. Our weather can go from scorching to freezing in the snap of a finger and vice versa. Know your tasks and what you’ll need. Don’t let a sudden change in the weather or a task change make you vulnerable to an injury just because you weren’t prepared.
Oh remember the days of being young on site? Ready to prove to everyone that you were going to be the best welder/fitter/electrician/scaffolder/carpenter (or whatever trade you’re in) this world has ever seen. Ready to get your hands dirty and dig in. Most young apprentices have the best intentions of working safely, however a brain of an 18 year old isn’t exactly the seasoned brain of someone who’s been in the trades for 20 years. Young apprentices are wired a bit differently than the rest of us. Let’s go over what makes them different and how we can lead them to a long and safe career.
I think the best way to describe a young apprentice is; eager. Which for the most part is great; however, that eagerness may sometimes override common sense. Young people on site may be so eager to get the job done, they may not use common safety sense. They may unknowingly put themselves or others in danger. At this young age, they may not have as much foresight as we do. They think differently than we do; they don’t have the experience that we have, and the trades can be overwhelming. As well, some of us may come across as intimidating to them, making it increasingly difficult to ask questions or ask for help. So, it’s up to us to lead these young workers onto the right path. Take these young apprentices under your wing, don’t let them ‘learn the hard way’. Have a positive attitude towards safety. Remember, you are their example, if you complain about PPE and JHA’s, that teaches them to also be negative and possibly careless. Don’t just tell them to do something, tell them why we do it that way. Always point out hazards; it may be common sense to us, but for a “green as grass worker” it could be a huge eye opener.
We were all there at one time and someone showed us the way. Now it’s our turn to be leaders. With the injuries among workers under 25 on the rise, this is our time to teach the youth in the trades the safe way to do their job. Otherwise, who will do it when we’re all gone?