Some people hate change… And that’s fine if we are talking about the mullet you’ve been rockin since the 80’s or your playlist from Woodstock. However, when it comes to change in workplace safety; you need to embrace it. I know when you’ve been doing something the same way for 20 years and then all of a sudden your supervisors are asking you to do it differently, it can be overwhelming; maybe even frustrating and more time consuming….. but I assure you there is a reason for it. That reason is more than likely your safety. Just think if we did everything the same as we did 20 years ago? How dangerous would that be? With every incident, accident and injury, we learn how it could have been avoided. Then we apply it to the next worker; helping them avoid the same outcome. Not to mention technology is constantly changing and evolving, also helping us play it safe. We need to be on our toes and always learning the new safer way of doing things. So try and be the worker that is open to learning new things. It may even make you seem a bit younger and hip… Even with that mullet on your head. 😉
What would camping be without a good campfire? That’s where all the action happens, the drinks, the grilling of hamburgers and hotdogs and of course the spooky ghost stories. I would say that anyone who has been camping, that their best memories are sitting around a fire. However, those memories could quickly change from the best to the worst if your campfire gets away from you. Here’s a quick overview of camp fire safety to keep those memories, great ones.
First check the fire bans and follow them. They are not suggestions and you can be fined for not complying. Next, make sure you can have a fire at your campsite. Almost all parks in Canada that allow fires will supply the pit or firebox. These are the only places you can make a fire. Please note, you cannot 4×4 into the woods, find a random spot and build a fire. However where fires are allowed, clear the area where your fire will be. If there is no pit, use bare ground. Clear a 3 meter area around the fire from all debris. Always have water, sand and a shovel close by. Only let a competent adult start the fire. I say “competent” because you don’t want party animal Pete (who’s been drinking for several hours) starting the fire with a can of hairspray and a jerry can of gas. A competent adult should also be in charge of supervising the fire. Always extinguish the fire before leaving your campsite or going to bed. I know it sounds so cozy to sleep in your tent while a fire crackles away, but that fire can get out of hand very easily.
According to Alberta wildfires there are approximately 1500 wildfires in Alberta a year and 64% of them are human caused. In B.C. according to the Government of British Columbia the average is 1666 with 57.3% caused by humans. These fires cost millions; sometimes even billions, like the fire in Fort McMurray in 2016, not to mention the cost of human life. So, please enjoy a fire while camping but do so safely.
We’ve talked about workplace violence and bullying, but what about good old fashioned respect? They all go hand-in-hand. If people were always treated with respect and respected others, would there even be workplace violence or bullying? Probably not. I’m not going to bust into the typical “young people nowadays” rant because I have seen 50 year old workers be disrespectful along with every other age. It’s not about age, it’s about taking the time to treat others the way you’d like to be treated, no matter the level of frustration. Treating someone with respect doesn’t mean you’re a brown-noser. It actually helps with communication and problem solving, instead of adding more problems to the situation. It also builds trust and if I’m working in a hazardous industry, I’d like to be able to trust my colleagues. When you have good communication and trust with coworkers and supervisors, you have a lot less weighing you down and can focus on the job and doing it safely. The foundation of all that is respect. No one is asking you to hold hands with everyone and sing Kumbaya but always remember, no one is too important or too busy to be respectful to other people.
This is a hazard rarely talked about. Most people don’t think about sedentary jobs when thinking about jobs on site. That’s mostly for office jobs, right? No, actually there are many jobs on site that could have a worker sitting for 8 hours or more, such as crane operators, heavy equipment operators and possibly welders. Sitting for lengthy periods of time has been linked to some pretty serious health problems. Diabetes, heart problems and poor mental health are the main ones that pop up when discussing a sedentary work environment. There are also the less serious ailments, back aches, neck aches, restless leg syndrome and varicose veins. Unlike office workers that may have the choice to use a stand up desk or a balance ball, when operating a crane… You don’t have that option. So, what do you do when your job keeps you seated for hours on end?
If you work a day or two a year where you are seated the whole shift, you probably have nothing to worry about. It’s when you sit in one spot in the morning, then you have your breaks and eat your lunch in the same spot, only getting up for bathroom breaks. Your blood is not flowing as it should, hence the medical hazards. If you are stuck in the same spot all shift, make sure to get up every 30 minutes and get a good stretch in and get that blood pumping. Now, I know if you’re in the middle of a big lift or a root on a huge piece of pipe, you’re not going to halt everything to stretch your legs. So, do so when it’s reasonably possible. Also, keep active outside of work to try and counteract the effects of sitting for so long. Go for walks, hit the gym or play some sports. Do whatever you’d like, just keep moving.
I have to admit, I never thought, in Canada a 12 year old could step foot on a construction site. I was completely caught off guard when I learned the minimum age for work in British Columbia was 12. This included any type of work such as mining and construction. Could you imagine working with a 12 or 13 year old on a work site? This terrifies me, both as a parent and Journeyman. The age group with the highest amount of injuries and deaths is 18-24 year olds. Now put that in perspective; if there was actually a larger group of 12-13 year olds working in the trades, could you imagine what those numbers would be for them? Thankfully, the minimum age has recently been increased to 16. There will be exemptions for 14 and 15 year olds doing safe work such as babysitting. However, this is the end of 12 year olds being allowed to work alongside us on site. That being said; a 16 year old brain still lacks the experience and maturity to make safe decisions. Most companies have their own minimum age, (usually 18) so you probably won’t see too many under 18 workers. If you find yourself mentoring any youngster, please be patient, teach them the safe way and lead by example.
Your Mom may have taught you how to tie your shoe, use the potty, and sing the alphabet, however, she (more than likely) won’t be holding your hand on site to walk you through a safe day. Your Mom has made so many sacrifices for you over the years; she’s wiped all your tears, helped you with homework, and had many sleepless nights. Don’t throw that all away by making a careless mistake at work. The biggest gift you can give to your Mom, is to come home safe everyday… I mean some flowers would be nice too 😉. So make sure you’re always safe at work, think of your Mom, think of how heartbroken she’d be if anything happened to you. Wowser… Guilt trip hey? I’m a Mom, we are really good at those! 🤫 But seriously… Be safe and have a happy Mother’s Day.
I feel like there is a lot more bark than bite (or should I say sting) when it comes to bees and wasps. The buzz around these tiny little insects is more of a hazard than the sting itself. According to the Montreal Gazette, roughly 40 Canadians die each year from contact with bees or wasps, that’s the same amount of people that die from being struck by lightning every year. I am in no way trying to diminish the seriousness of bee and wasp stings, especially for those who have allergies; I’m trying to point out that the panic that comes over most of us when we get stung or even see a bee is also a major hazard. Someone could fall off a ledge or ladder while flailing around at the sight of a bee. What about inside motor vehicles? How many drivers have had close calls because they’ve been waving their arms wildly to avoid, or remove, a wasp that’s found its way in through an open window? What about being struck by heavy equipment while out running one of these little guys? The list goes on. So, try and keep your cool. Unless you have a serious allergy, the sting may not be as big a hazard as say… getting hit by a piece of heavy equipment.
For most people, a sting consists of some pain, swelling, and redness. This is definitely no fun, but it beats getting run over by a forklift. Now, if you or a coworker does get stung, be on the lookout for an allergic reaction, which can include difficulty breathing. If a serious reaction is manifesting, call for an emergency crew straight away. If you or your coworker is anaphylactic, you should be carrying an EpiPen with you at all times. If there is no allergy, just remove the stinger and put some ice on it; you’ll be fine. Try and avoid work anywhere near a nest or hive if you have an allergy. Always do a quick walk-around of your work area to ensure there are no surprise bee hives down the road and keep covered with long pants and sleeves.
For those who have allergies to bees, always, always carry your EpiPen. If you have never been stung, be aware that there is a small chance you do have an allergy. For everyone else…try and stay calm. Remember, the hazard of trying to get away from a bee or a wasp could be greater than a sting.
We talk a lot about how to avoid hospitals and doctors; of course, we mean the emergency type of visits. But keeping up with your yearly doctor’s appointment is something you should not put off. I’ve worked with people that haven’t been to see a physician in 10-15 years. The general thought process is “I feel great” or “I’ll wait until I’m sick”. Unfortunately, some illnesses may take 10 years to show signs or symptoms, and if caught early enough, could have been taken care of before they were life threatening. Depending on your age, you may have different tests to endure at your physical. No one looks forward to these tests, but think how much better you’ll feel when they are done and you can rest easy with a clean bill of health. It’s one less thing on your mind distracting you at work; thereby, keeping you safer at the workplace….that alone is worth the visit.
Most heavy duty operators probably don’t really give a lot of thought to mounting and dismounting their equipment. I mean it’s part of their getting-in and out and they probably do it a zillion times a day (no exaggeration at all here 😉). Whether you are mounting a piece of heavy equipment for the first time or it’s your zillionth time today, there are a few things you should do to ensure a safe and injury free entrance or exit.
The first thing you should do… as with any piece of equipment, is read the operator’s manual. This will give you the proper way to mount and dismount this particular equipment. Always give a once over to look for mud, ice and other conditions that could cause a slip, trip or fall. Also see where your feet will land, to avoid a sprain or twist. Give the guards and rails an inspection too. Use 3 points of contact. This means no large double, double in one hand. Obviously you will need to bring items… especially that coffee, in and out of the cab; so you can either ask someone to hand it to you (if safely possible) after you have safely mounted, or place it safely on a step or ledge and alternate having your 3 points and move it when you have two feet planted and one free hand. Always close and latch the gate or door, both while in the equipment and when exiting. Face the equipment while mounting or dismounting if equipment with a ladder; if it has stairs, face the direction of travel.
Operating one of these pieces of equipment has a lot of hazards to look out for. Getting in and out of them is one that is often overlooked. It may take an extra 5 seconds to do it safely. Even if you think “I do this a zillion times a day and I’m always fine;” just think… that’s a zillion times that there is a chance for an injury. Take your time and do it safely.
If you’re working on a larger site you can’t just “enter” an active work zone. You will have to check-in with security, sign-in and get a worker I.D. However, if you’re working on a smaller site, it can be a bit confusing. Did you know there is proper etiquette? Well there is; first, slow down and turn your hazard lights on. Then make eye contact with traffic control and hold your lid or high res vest out the window to show you are a worker, not a member of the public that took a wrong turn. Once given the right of way by traffic control, continue onto site. If everyone just drove onto site without doing this, it would be impossible to identify people who don’t belong there. Anyone on site who is not meant to be there and is without the proper training, is a threat to every worker there. So take the extra 5 seconds and always identify yourself when entering an active work zone.