Energy Drinks – Part 2

I find it hard as a consumer to know what I’m getting into with these drinks. Lots of them have added vitamins and therefore marketed as “health drinks” or they add ginkgo biloba and it’s marketed as making your mind sharp. Not to mention there are a million studies both for and against these drinks. One argument is that your healthy allowable amount of caffeine is a whopping 400mg a day and energy drinks are around 100-800 mg. So that makes some of them safe right?……Unfortunately, this may not be so. Sadly, the WHO (World health organisation) studies against energy drinks have one thing to support their argument that the others don’t… Stats on hospital visits and deaths. In Canada, we do have some regulations on energy drinks, but there is still definitely some gray area. Some drinks fall into different categories such as the energy shots that can have as much as 800mg of caffeine in one mouthful shot. Also, mixing any of these drinks with alcohol is a huge no-no, but still allowable in most places in Canada. There are still no regulations on these drinks being sold to children.

So, I guess what I’m saying is know your stuff, educate yourself on the risks. If you already have a heart condition, definitely do your research and talk to your doctor. One now and then is probably safe if you’re healthy, but given the controversy, I’d recommend always playing it safe. So, does this mean we just fall asleep at work? No, instead try getting more sleep at night, regular exercise and a healthy diet. I know it’s not a quick fix but hey neither is a heart attack?

Energy Drinks – Part 1

I think any trades person that’s been pulling 12’s for a while can admit they have downed at least one or two energy drinks in their day. I know working those long days on those long shifts can seem like you may not make it through. However, energy drinks may actually cause way more harm than good. Here’s the down low on these drinks.

Energy drinks seem like the answer when we can’t keep our eyes open or are moving at a snail’s pace, but according to the NHS (national health services UK) these drinks contain such high amounts of caffeine, taurine and sugar, they can potentially cause real damage. They also note that the amount of caffeine and taurine can reek all sorts of havoc on you; from high blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, irregular heartbeat, seizures and even death. They go on to say that long term use of these drinks can lead to type two diabetes, dependency problems and obesity, and for  pregnant women, these drinks can actually cause miscarriages, still births and babies born with low birth weights. NHS also states children drinking these drinks are at risk for neurological and cardiovascular problems. You may also want to skip these drinks if you have a pre-existing heart condition or work a very physical job… AKA working in the trades. Come back tomorrow and we’ll go over the in’s and out’s of these sneaky little drinks.

Diesel Emissions Part 2

We need to be proactive in protecting ourselves. I know it’s not very likely, but when we can, try and replace diesel with electric engines. Keep on top of our tune ups and maintenance of the diesel engines we are using, we should be doing this anyway for other safety reasons and the longevity of our equipment. Install engine exhaust filters, use cleaner fuels and it wouldn’t hurt to test the air for unsafe levels. Even doing all of that, we need to limit our exposure to diesel emissions. Try to always keep them outside. If you have to run it indoors, be very cautious about ventilation, keep fumes away from other workers in the same work zone and use a respirators. Even if your equipment is running outside, be sure the fumes are not blowing directly into walkways, use a tail pipe hose to direct it out of the way of other workers. And when those temperatures dip into the ice age realm, try not to idle your engine for long periods.

I know this is a hard one to mitigate the hazards of… Diesel is everywhere on site. If you’re weird like me and the smell doesn’t bother you… maybe you actually like it? Hey it smells like money to me! You still need to take every precaution to avoid it. The life altering and threatening side effects just aren’t worth the extra 10 minutes it may take you to plan better and remove the hazards.

Diesel Emissions – Part 1

The smell of diesel exhaust is an all too familiar one to any tradesman/women. It just comes with the territory of working on site. Whether you drive a forklift, a diesel rig or your welder is diesel, there are some very serious hazards associated with the fumes these engines are pumping out. As if 2012, diesel exhaust has been listed as a group one carcinogen with the International Agency for Cancer Research. Meaning that exposure to the emissions puts you at a greater risk for lung and bladder cancer. Now as awful as that is… I don’t foresee the trades putting a ban on all diesel engines any time soon. So, how do we protect ourselves? Let’s go over that!

First off, it’s good to know some more information on what we are dealing with. The compounds in diesel exhaust emissions varies depending on multiple factors. Is there a emissions control system? Has it been serviced lately? Do you know what kind of engine and fuel you’re running with? Do you know the duty load capacity? These are questions you need to ask yourself and know the answer to. Every one of these components can lead to different emissions, everything from carbon monoxide, alcohols, sulfur dioxide all the way to water vapor and everything in between. Even short-term exposure to these emissions can cause a whole slew of problems such as… nose, throat, eye and lung irritation, such as coughing and painful eyes. It can even lead to allergic reactions, asthma, or if you already have asthma or any other pr-existing condition, these emissions can worsen them. That’s just the beginning. In high concentration, diesel emissions can also lead to carbon monoxide poisoning causing death. And like I stated earlier, long-term exposure can put you at greater risk for lung and bladder cancer. So as you can see, we aren’t dealing with something that may give you the sniffles, it’s a little more serious than that. Tomorrow we’ll go over how to reduce our exposure and still get the job done.

Safety Meetings

Most people in the trades dread the weekly safety meeting and I kind of get it. It can be a bit dry, there’s not usually a lot of excitement and in my experience there’s always the one worker who asks the same questions, has the most ridiculous complaints and dominates every single meeting. On the other hand, you have the workers who love safety meetings… treating them as extended breaks, taking naps, finishing their snacks or maybe on the phone? If you fall into one of these categories, you need to stop and remember why you are all there. These sites can be huge, it’s good to get caught up on what’s going on in your work area, what new hazards to look out for and other important information that could affect you and your crew. These meetings can also tell you about incidence that may have taken place and what to do to avoid the same thing. It’s also a great time for you to get involved if you have a legitimate safety concern. This is not the time to complain that the vending machine took your toonie without dropping your chips to you. I know there’s no marching band and fireworks to entertain you but you should be thankful that you are being involved in such meetings. Many places in the world don’t offer safety meetings to their workers…  think about that. You are being paid to sit and discuss how to make your job safer! Maybe not entertaining but it sure is impressive. So try and keep an open mind and pay attention in your meetings.

Kick Back

We use a lot of equipment on site that has kick back, most commonly saws, grinders and chainsaws. Any types of rotating equipment can cause kick back. It’s one of those things that even if you think you are prepared for it, you’re not! It happens in the blink of an eye and can cause cuts, lacerations, amputations and even death. Now depending on the type of equipment you’re using, you will have safety rules specific to that equipment. If we went over each one individually we could be on this topic till next year. However they have some standard rules to follow. I can’t stress this one enough… USE ALL SAFETY GUARDS! I’m not sure why people take these off? But unless the equipment is de-energized and/or locked out and you are repairing it or cleaning it… The guards need to be on it. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Don’t overload equipment, use it for its intended purpose and be educated on the equipment you are using. If you have never used it, ask for help, get someone to show you and supervise you until you’re comfortable. Have a good sturdy stance when operating these items. Even the most experienced worker can find themselves breathless after a close call with kick back. It’s terrifying, it happens without warning and in a millisecond. So always take all precautions necessary to make sure it doesn’t happen to you

Working in the Wind

When we think of hazards due to high winds, we think of cranes and lifts. They are obviously more affected by high winds and shut down at certain speeds. But what about the rest of site? There are still hazards for everyone else on site when it come to those gusty days.

Most hazards are from working at heights. In extreme winds, tools and debris can easily be blown from heights. Make sure to have everything secured tightly. Try using tool lanyards and only bring what you need. Never leave tools and equipment unattended. When you come down, so do your tools. If you’re working in a hoarding (ugh welding on crazy windy days… every welders dream😬) cut tiny slits up high on the hoarding to let the wind go through, otherwise you will end up losing the whole thing.  I would suggest using a chin strap or lanyard on your hard hat… A windy day is not the day you want your lid taking off. Just because you are diligent about securing tools, doesn’t mean everyone else is. If your lid blows off, you are vulnerable to being struck by blowing debris. This is also the time to be over cautious about eye protection. Even dirt being blown around can cause serious problems if it gets into your eye. If you need to throw some goggles over your safety glasses, do so. Stay down wind from any loads being moved and from any fumes. Watch out for things laying around.  Slips, trips and falls are very common during wind storms. You may trip on items blown around by the wind; or in extreme cases, the wind may push you over. Believe it or not, you can get injured just by trying to open or close a vehicle door in the wind. So try and avoid it and park the vehicle so the wind is coming on the other side.

Working in the wind is the worst… especially for us welders. In extreme cases, most sites will halt work till it calms down. However; if you have to work through it, take extra precautions, secure and tie down everything, stay out of the line of fire, work slowly and carefully. Maybe try clicking your heels together 3 times like Dorothy. 🤷

Treating Cuts and Scrapes

Lots of times when a trades person gets a minor cut or scrape they throw electrical tape over it and keep working. I’m not sure if this is because they are worried about getting into trouble, if they are trying to act tough or they are just that hard of a worker that they don’t want to slow down. No matter what the reason is… It’s not a good one. Some of the tiniest cuts and scrapes can lead to much larger injuries later on, if not treated. I had a co-worker that walked into a pile of metal on the ground. It ripped though his coveralls and cut his leg. It seemed like a very insignificant cut. The worker wiped away his blood and carried on. I can’t remember how long after, but he ended up getting a blood infection and had a lengthy stint in the hospital. Think of how dirty our work sites are! The amount of germs kicking around! Every cut or scrap needs to be treated right away, by cleaning it and covering it. Better safe than sorry.

Anti Safety

I know so many people still roll their eyes when they see the white hats approaching… And it’s common thought that safety people have no idea how to do your job but they still tell you how to do it. Here’s the thing though, they don’t need to know how to weld, fit or pull cable, to know if you’re doing it safely….because they may not know your trade but they know safety. If you’re an electrician you wouldn’t be giving a welder tips… but you definitely know your stuff when it comes to electrical, right? Same with safety officers, they aren’t trying to tell you how to do your job… They just want you to do it safely. In all my time in the field, I have never had a safety worker tell me how to run a bead. So, I’m not sure where this misconception came from. I’m just throwing this out there… But if you trust that you know your stuff, you should trust that your safety crew knows theirs. So, I know you all love your cracks at safety and your safety memes and I’m all for a good laugh, but please do not buy into any anti safety rhetoric. Your life actually depends on it.

News No One Ever Wants to Hear.

Over the holidays we heard some heartbreaking news. Sadly in Nisku a horrific explosion took place, taking the life of one welder and injuring two other workers. An investigation is still under way. Sadly no matter what the investigation brings to light, it won’t bring this welder back to his family. Our deepest condolences go out to the families affected by this tragic event. Please, everyone be safe out there.