Christmas Light Safety (Part 1)

Nothing tells your neighbors that you are the merriest of all like an outdoor display of Christmas lights similar to Clark Griswold himself. Whether you’re hanging one simple string of lights or a massive array so bright that it can be seen from Mars… You need to do it safely. Here’s a few tips to help you keep up with the Joneses this holiday season, without injuries or fires.

Before you even begin, check all your lights. Make sure the cords are in good condition (no frays or wires exposed), change out any dead bulbs (be sure to use the same wattage),  make sure that they are rated for outdoor use and have fused plugs (this protects against sparks). Once you are confident your lights are safe, make a plan.

Try and avoid using a million extension cords plugged into a power box on one socket. This will end badly. Anything from a fire to having to reset your breaker every time your microwave goes off. If possible, plug each strand into its own socket. I know in most cases this is not going to be possible. Check your fuse box to see what each plugin can handle and use a surge protector. A rule of thumb if you have to use extension cords is no more than 3 strings of lights per extension cord. Most houses will have a ground fault circuit interrupter outlet (GFCI) outside, double check that you’re plugging into one of them, if not… get one installed by a professional electrician. Occasionally check your extension cords for overheating. Always remember to keep your lights off while you’re sleeping and not home, just in case. Come back tomorrow and we’ll finish going over light safety.

Be Safe and Kick Butt

I think the hardest obstacle to overcome regarding safety in the trades is attitude. Unfortunately so many workers still complain about having to wear a hard hat while welding, gloves while putting screws on, traction aids in the winter, safety glasses when they get foggy or an uncomfortable respirator when grinding. I could actually go on forever. But let’s think about this for a second… We are not the only people that have to protect ourselves while working. What about Hockey players? They have to gear up just like us for work, they have to stretch before they start and they have rules they have to follow while they are on the ice. Not only do they not complain about wearing helmets, jockstraps, gloves, pads… (again I could go on forever with the amount of safety equipment they put on……which I would also like to point out is a lot more than us), but they have gotten better overall. It’s true, look at the stats. Back in 1928 the league average amount of goals per team was 1.46 per game. Now that was without out helmets (not implemented till 1979) and reinforced thumbs in their gloves, shin and shoulder pads and most of their safety equipment. It didn’t start showing up till the 1930’s. Yet in 2017, that same stat is 3.11 goals per game and the players are covered is safety equipment. Doesn’t that say something? That we can in fact do our job with PPE on and we can do it better! So let’s take a page out of their playbook and gear up and kick some butt!

Overhead Power Lines

OH&S recently reported an incident of a zoom boom carrying a window, making contact with energized power lines causing an arc flash. Luckily no one was injured. This incident could have been catastrophic and human life could have been lost. We definitely want to make sure this never happens again so let’s run through the basics when it comes to working near overhead power lines.

Before you begin, make a plan. No worker or equipment should be closer than 10 feet to power lines unless they are trained, which is a general rule of thumb if working by your average power lines. However if you are conducting work by 500 kilovolts lines that distance changes to 23 feet. So know what kind of lines you’re dealing with. Of course most times workers do not expect to get that close. If you are working in any proximity to energized power lines, tell other workers in the area and use a spotter….someone who is there just to ensure you don’t cross the safe zone. Never, under any circumstances trust or assume that a line is dead. Obviously never touch a line. If a worker or equipment does make contact, do not touch them. Electricity conducts through people. You will only end up being electrocuted as well. Instead get help.

Nobody intends on making contact with energized power lines, it’s always accidental. However it’s a very avoidable accident. Always do your pre work plan, stick to it, know what to do in an emergency and always, always look up.

Music to my Ears

Unfortunately most safety posts involve what injuries or deaths have happened from an unsafe act … I guess in a way, it’s a scare tactic but a truthful one. Every once in a while it’s nice to hear about when a major incident was avoided due to following safe work practices. OH&S reported a great story about a couple of workers doing hot work with an appointed fire watch. The workers were torch cutting and grinding to remove a bearing from equipment and the fire watch didn’t take this opportunity to have a nap on the clock. Nope, they stayed alert and did their job. So when sparks dropped on the floor, starting cables on fire, the fire watch was there to extinguish the flames quickly without incident. You may not think of this worker as a safety champion… But you should. Think about what could have taken place if the fire watch was snoozing or playing on their phone. Things could have ended very differently. So in the future when you have the choice to slack off a bit or be safe, make sure you pick safety every time. Wouldn’t you rather be a champion then a slacker? I sure would!

Hard Hat Recall

Remember that post we did about hard hats way back? One of the things mentioned was to always give your hard hat a quick once over. So I’m sure you know the brand of your hard hat right? Well if not, today is the day you are going to check it again. According to OH&S there is a recall on a popular brand of hard hats. This is not a “I’ll get to it later” type of thing. Would you eat spinach in your fridge if it had a listeria recall? I’d hope not. This is a look at it right now type of thing. The recall is for Honeywell hard hats type 1 Fibre-Metal E2 and North Peak A79, in any colour. If you have a Fibre-Metal E2 manufactured in April 2016, May 2016, December 2017, January 2018 or a North Peak A79 manufactured April 2016 to January 2018 please go to…

If you have one of these hard hats and it has been supplied by an employer please take it back to them to exchange for a new one and make sure they are aware of the recall.

Wearing a faulty hard hat is almost the same as not wearing one at all, and I know you would never do that. So give your lid a quick check (on the underside of the hat’s brim) and make sure your brain stays just where it should be.

Safe Snow Removal (Part 2)

Pulling a muscle or your back is probably the most common injury associated with shoveling snow… Both are very much avoidable. Always stretch before beginning, warming up those muscles beforehand will help steer clear of an injury. To begin, stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Always bend with your knees. When you use your back to lift, is when you end up hurt… So don’t! Use your core to do the lifting. Once the filled shovel is up do not twist your back to place it in a pile. Walk it over, keeping the shovel close to your body and lined up with your legs and chest being careful not to slip. If possible try and avoid lifting all together, push the snow into place. If you are dealing with wet, heavy snow, take less in each load. Listen to your body. Take breaks when needed and stay hydrated.

I know we all try and get out of shoveling at work… especially if we have to go home and do it as well. However some of you may get a pass. If you have a history of heart attacks, other heart issues or high blood pressure you should skip the shoveling. Get another worker to do it and at home get a snow blower or think about hiring the neighborhood kid. Heavy smokers may also want to consider an alternative.

Shoveling snow is just a part of life here in Canada but the injuries associated with it don’t have to be. Always follow safe shoveling procedures and take your time. There is no point in rushing, you’ll probably just have to do it again tomorrow.

Safe Snow Removal (Part 1)

It’s that time of year again… Shoveling season! Yay… Said no one ever. Look no one likes shoveling snow but it goes with the territory here in Canada. Not only does shoveling (for lack of a better word) suck but if done incorrectly, can cause some serious injuries. So let’s learn a few ways to make it a little less painless.

First you need to dress the part. Parts of BC and Alberta can easily drop to -30°C or colder. Make sure you have a toque under your hard hat, warm gloves and something covering your face if needed. Dress in layers. You want to be able to easily remove a layer or two if you start to sweat. You want to avoid sweating in the cold. If you soak your clothes, hyperthermia could be a factor, depending on the temperature outside. Most sites require a traction aid, if not you still may want to get some. They definitely prevent slips and trips on snow and ice making them great for when you have to shovel. Okay, you’re geared up, now come back tomorrow and we’ll go over proper technique.

Site Waste

Keeping a tidy work site is a little more than keeping garbage and debris off the ground. Yes, we must pick up all our trash, keeping the ground free of tripping hazards. But where are we putting that garbage? If you think at the end of the day you can throw everything into a garbage bin and call it a day… You’re dead wrong. There are so many trades on one site, using everything from solvents to metals to wood. These items can’t be mixed. Every site will have different bins for different types of waste. No, this isn’t to make more work for you. It’s for safety. Do you think mixing combustibles with electrical scrap and wood sounds safe? It’s not! So take the time to put your scrap metals into the appropriate bin. Make sure to round any sharp edges and use proper gloves when handling scraps. Please remove any nails from wood before disposing of it. Not only are nails made of metal and have no business in the wood bin but protruding nails are a serious safety hazard. When disposing of combustibles make sure you are using an approved safety disposal can. No matter what you’re disposing of, be sure not to over fill the bin. Let a supervisor know it needs to be emptied. It only takes an extra two seconds of your time. Plus you can go home not only knowing you helped make a safe work environment but you also helped the planet by properly recycling. Good job!

Hantavirus Part Two

When cleaning an area with deer mice or a suspected rodent infestation, wear your respirator. Make sure you have a H.E.P.A filter on it. You also should be wearing rubber gloves. Of course long sleeves and pants are a given… Right? Next open up the sea can, shed or whatever building you are entering and let it air out for a few hours. Every employer will have a specific procedure for you to follow so make sure you are familiar with it. A general safe practice according to the CDC is to make a bleach solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water. Use this to clean everything. Do not sweep, use your solution and mop. If you have any trapped mice or there are any dead ones, use your bleach solution to thoroughly soak it, then use multiple garbage bags and throw it away. Yes this is completely disgusting but it beats getting hantavirus. When you are all done throw everything away and wash up.

WorksafeBC has a great resource titled “Hantavirus: Exposure Control Program for Employers and Workers.” Here is a link: file:///C:/Users/whalenan/Downloads/hantavirus-pdf-en.pdf. It includes information on worker and employer responsibilities, rodent control, respiratory protection and sample work procedures.

Like I said, the chance of contracting the hantavirus is small but know the symptoms just in case. The symptoms are very close to flu symptoms, such as dizziness, aches, fever, headaches, tiredness, stomach and back pain, vomiting, coughing shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. If you have been in contact with rodents or in an area where deer mice could have been, get yourself to the hospital as soon as possible and inform medical professionals of your contact with deer mice. The chances of getting hantavirus are extremely low but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.


I know us trades people are way too tough to be scared of a little mouse. Unless it’s a deer mouse, then we should definitely be cautious. As gross as rodents are, deer mice definitely take the cake, mostly because they could potentially kill us. Not all, but some deer mice carry the hantavirus. Both Alberta and BC have deer mice. They are mostly found in rural and remote areas. Such as a sea can on site that is in the middle of nowhere. The virus is spread to humans from the mice by breathing in particles from droppings, urine, and saliva or being bitten by an infected mouse. Even though it is very rare to contract this virus, it is potentially deadly. Around 35-40% of people who contract it, die! So we need to take preventive measures. So, if you pull the short straw and get to clean out that sea can that’s been locked up for a year… here’s what you do. Come back tomorrow and we’ll go through the do’s and don’ts.