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!

Impalement Hazards

Every site pouring concrete (which is all of them) will use rebar. Rebar; which is short for reinforcement bar, is used to add strength to concrete structures but of course it comes with it’s own hazards. These bars stand straight up and are made of steel so they can cause all sorts of injuries such as cuts, scrapes, and, the most dangerous of all, impalement. There are definitely a few things we can do to prevent these injuries.

To prevent an impalement injury, the rebar should be guarded. There are few ways to do this. You can cap the rebar using plastic (with a metal plate inside) square rebar caps. These should be at least 4 inches by 4 inches. Or you can use a mushroom cap. These are round plastic caps that should measure 4.5 inches in diameter. You can also use a wood trough. This is a piece of wood that will give coverage to an entire row of rebar at a time. In some cases you might use pre bent rebar to eliminate the hazard. If for some reason the area cannot be guarded, then red flagging and signage needs to be placed.

Impalement injuries are terrifying! We have all seen an internet video or two of a worker with a piece of metal through his arm, face or body. Even if the worker was to live after an injury like that… their quality of life would definitely be altered. So, take the time and always guard rebar.

Lighting

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m definitely finding things a little tougher to see as I gracefully age (that’s what we are going to call it… Okay!) I used to be able to fit and fab something up in the fab tent, with the smallest of light aiding me. Now, it’s like I need the Luxor Lamp just to grind. Lighting in the workplace is something we often overlook because we mostly work outside. However, adequate lighting doesn’t just make our tasks easier, it makes them a whole lot safer too. Here’s some quick tips to make sure you’re seeing things safely.

If you have fixed lighting in your work area, check to make sure bulbs and fixtures are clean. If they are covered in dust, grime, and grinding dust, they won’t be giving off the amount of light they are intended to give off. Have a schedule to change bulbs. If you wait till they burn out, they will often get forgotten about. Now, if you’re working in a fab tent, hoarding or any other temporary work area, you will need temporary lighting. There are tons of different options for temp lighting. Your supervisor will supply you with what is best for the job. Always make sure to keep lighting 8 feet off the ground (if this is possible). Be sure you have the proper power source for the light and protect the bulb area. Most temporary lighting will come with bird cages, if not, throw one on, just to be safe. This should go without saying… but keep all electrical away from anything wet or combustible.

I know none of us want to admit we are aging, but trying to fight it, is a losing battle. For you young guns, if you don’t want to end up like us old fogies… make sure you have proper lighting to do your task. Not only will it save your eyes, being able to see what you’re doing and see your surroundings, could save you from an injury, accident, or worse.

Allergies

Red, watery eyes, stuffy nose and constant sneezing… Yup it’s allergy season. It’s great that the snow is gone but the lovely snow mold it’s left behind has some of us wishing for winter back (okay… Maybe not that extreme). When you Google the best way to get rid of or prevent allergies; it suggests staying inside. Well unfortunately for all of us that work on site… that’s not even close to an option. Here are a few other things you can try to make these next few weeks bearable.

First you should make sure you are suffering from allergies and not a common cold. A cold’s symptoms will disappear within 7-10 days. Allergies will be stuck with you for much longer. Also, if you do have a cold… Allergy medication won’t work. If you’re working on site you can’t exactly stay inside, however, while you are outside, you can try and protect yourself by wearing glasses (which you should be wearing anyway… right?) and a mask. Try a simple dust mask, you may look like you have S.A.R.S but at least you will lessen some of your symptoms. Be proactive; if you suffer from allergies every year, start taking your medication a week before the season starts. Always read the directions carefully, some allergy medication can leave you drowsy. So definitely steer clear of those on site. You can also try herbal or natural remedies. Make sure you talk it over with your doctor beforehand. When you’re done for the day, change your clothes. Don’t bring the allergens to your car or house. Shower right away. Keep your doors and windows shut. If nothing is giving you relief, talk to your doctor… they may offer you a monthly allergy shot to help.

Allergies are the worst, especially when you have to be outside all day. Try different remedies until you find something that works for you. The good news is… allergy season doesn’t last forever. Thank goodness!

Bench Vice Safety

Sometimes we overlook the simplest tools. Just because something is not a power tool or pneumatic, doesn’t mean we still can’t get hurt if we use it incorrectly. Take a hammer for example, the most basic of tools and yet people get hurt every day by them. So, today we are going to quickly go over bench vices; a great tool if used properly. So, let’s jump into the do’s and don’ts.

Make sure your vice is attached properly. It should be secured firmly with bolts and lock washers. Never weld a vice to the table or bench. Always check the vice prior to use for any cracks or damage. Do not use if there are signs of either. Do not attempt to fix the damage by welding. Replace parts as needed, such as damaged jaws or a broken or bent handle. Make sure the threads are clean and well oiled, if they are not, do so yourself before use. Support your work piece (especially if cutting). You don’t want to add extra strain on the vice and you can’t be dropping work pieces… That’s a new hazard all on its own. I know most of us are guilty of hammering the handle to get that extra grip, but don’t! And last but definitely not least, always wear your PPE!

Shutdown Season Part 2

Like I mentioned earlier, the hours and shifts are long…. very long. Working 12 hour days on a 21 day shift (with a random day off in camp) can completely drain you. 12 hour days are hard enough, but when you’re doing it  for a week or two straight, you start to feel like a zombie. When you become that sleep deprived; you are at greater risk for an incident. Make sure you get to bed early. Working a shutdown isn’t the time to stay up all night trading stories with a coworker. Be sure you are eating a healthy, balanced diet. This will help keep your energy up. Also try and fit in some sort of physical activity. This could be a full workout or a 20 walk. This will boost your energy and help you sleep. Try and avoid caffeine. I know this is a tough one when your alarm is blaring at 4:30 AM, but you’ll end up more tired in the long run.

Working a maintenance shutdown will almost always include working in confined spaces and practicing LOTO (lock out tag out). Be sure your tickets are up to date and you feel comfortable with these hazards. If you’re not, tell your supervisor. They can partner you with someone more experienced to show you the ropes and help you be more comfortable. If you’re a veteran around these hazards, help workers that aren’t. Remember, you were once there too! Doing a maintenance job is not the time to have an ego about the rookies. Keep in mind, their mistake could be everyone’s problem, so just give some friendly advice or a helping hand.

Working a shutdown can be tough! You have the long hours, the extra people everywhere (seriously you can’t get away from all the people anywhere) grueling days of physical labor, the isolation from friends and family and the camp food (okay some are pretty good). It can be a rough go. However; you need to take care of yourself, get a good night’s rest, proper meals and keep your mind on the job. If you do that, I promise your shift will end and you’ll have a ton of dough to throw around after.

Donning and Doffing a Full Body Harness

This video shows the proper donning and doffing procedure for a full body harness. It provides step-by-step instructions on how to put-on, check fit, and take-off a safety harness used for fall protection.

Eye Bolts – Rigging and Signalling

Eye bolts are essential devices used in many lifting operations; but eye bolt failures continue to cause incidents especially when used for angular lifts. Here is a short video that gives valuable information every rigger should know when using eye bolts in their rigging operations.

How to Tie Knots (Bowline, Square, and Hitch Knots)

This video contains step-by-step instructions and video demonstrations for tying the bowline, square and hitch (clove hitch and half hitch) knots.