Shutdown Season Part 1

For us trades people, shutdown season is a little love-hate. Lots of hard work, tons of hours and crazy long shifts… Usually in camp. On the plus side… It’s a ton of money. So much so, some workers just chase shutdowns, only work a few a year and are set for the rest of the year. However; for the rest of us, that may not be used to working a shutdown, there are a few extra hazards we should go over.

There will be way more people on site and in camp than usual. These sites are losing money every day they are shut down for maintenance, so they understandably want to get as much work done as possible every day. There will be almost every trade working side by side in the same area. You need to safely work around each other and communicate with one another. This isn’t the time to start the “which trade is better?” discussion. This is the time to make sure you’re all on the same page so no one gets hurt. A lot of calls and postings go out for these jobs, so you will have some newbies on site. Make sure you set the example and help them out. A “green as grass” worker is more likely to get injured or cause an incident, so look out for them. There will also be more sub contractors, they may not be green workers, but they may not have been to this site before. It doesn’t hurt to help them out if they need it too. Check out our next post as we continue to go over shutdowns.

When the Supervisor isn’t there

We are all basically safety officers when the white hats around, right? Anytime a foreman or a legit safety officer is in the vicinity, we all take extra care to do everything so safely. For some workers though, as soon as no white hat is in sight, it’s back to their same old ways. How does that make any sense? If we can be safe in front of supervisors to save our jobs, you’d think we would want to be safe all the time to save… I don’t know…. OUR LIVES! Safety isn’t just for when the foreman is roaming site. It absolutely should be an everyday, all the time part of your job. Keep this in mind the next time you’re about to take a risk… Ask yourself “would I do this in front of the foreman or superintendent?” If the answer is no… then don’t do it even if they are nowhere around. Act like you’re always being bird dogged if needed. Be the worker that is safe even when the supervisor is nowhere to be seen. Set the example.

Uneven Terrain

The snow is melting! The snow is melting! I’m pretty pumped to be typing that! I feel like I don’t know what the work site looks like without snow. As excited as we all are to be snow free, it does come with a bit of a hazard. Once the snow starts to melt, the ground below can be a mess. From the months of being covered with snow, pathways and ruts can turn into mud pits. Puddles can leave us clueless about the gaping canyon that lurks below. These hazards can very easily cause sprained and broken ankles along with an array of slips, trips, and falls. So do your part, if an area is a hazard, fix it. You can fill a hole or very uneven terrain with gravel or flag it off till it has dried up and is safe to use again. Don’t leave it for the next guy to find the hard way. Be proactive, then we can all enjoy this spring air.

The Luck of the Irish

Some of us may be a little worse for wear this morning after partaking in some Saint Patrick’s Day festivities. I know the call of those green beers, leprechaun costumes and the social acceptance of pinching a perfect stranger is too much for some of us to say no to. However, showing up to work hungover and on a couple of hours of sleep just won’t cut it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for celebrating the Irish or any other event where I get to drink beer mid-day. But being hungover can lead to some serious safety hazards.

Tying one on the night before and only getting three or four hours of sleep may not be enough for you to get the alcohol out of your system. Therefore, you are technically still impaired which leads to so many safety hazards such as delayed response, poor judgement, bad decision making and absent mindedness…..not to mention the physical hazards, like sluggishness, dehydration and exhaustion. No one is saying you can’t unwind and enjoy a big event like St. Paddy’s Day, but if you have to be on site the next morning try and ease up. Make sure to not go overboard, drink a lot of water and call it quits with enough time for you to get a good night’s sleep and recover. Try and keep your big party nights for when you have no work the next day. If you do overindulge on “Sunday funday” it’s best to call in sick rather than putting yourself and co-workers in danger. I wouldn’t make a habit out of this, you may end up unemployed with no pot O’gold. ☘️

Harness Fit

Okay, you’re wearing a harness! Yay, that’s half the battle. But are you wearing it correctly? If you’re just throwing it on without adjusting or checking it, you might as well not bother. If it’s just hanging off you, it likely will not even work in the case of a fall, or you could find yourself in a situation like Mr. Red Hat here. It only takes a minute or two to ensure you have it on properly and those two minutes could save your life, save you from a serious injury, or at least save you from a harness wedgie 😬. If you’re working at heights, you will always have a partner, so get in the habit of checking each others harness for the correct fit. You don’t want to get stuck “hanging out” with your partner all day, do you? For step-by-step instructions on how to don and doff your gear, head over to our YouTube page.

Food Safety (At Lunchtime)

After coming fresh off a ruined weekend, thanks to food poisoning… I thought we’d better go over some food safety tips. Hopefully, I can save you from a horrible weekend like I just endured.

I can’t tell you how often I have seen workers leave their lunch on their lunch table all day. Food such as meat, sandwiches, leftovers, eggs and so on left out at room temperature for longer than one hour is no longer safe to eat. Room temperature is the ideal temperature for bacteria to grow rapidly in food, it’s considered the “danger zone”. So use the fridge to store your food. I have never been to a worksite lunchroom without a fridge, but if you work where there is no fridge or spend your days working from a truck, make sure you use a cooler with proper ice packs to keep food cool. Eat your food within 3-4 days. After that, the likelihood of getting food poisoning increases. Don’t try to go by the smell or taste. Most bacteria that causes food poisoning is odorless and tasteless. When reheating food, cook till it has a temperature of 165°… I know we don’t all have food thermometers on us while at work, so just make sure it’s steaming hot. If using a microwave, stir often to make sure it has been cooked evenly. Always eat on clean surfaces, not the plate you bring on Monday and take home to be cleaned on Friday. Of course always, always wash your hands before you eat.

Food poisoning is no fun! Even washing my produce and my hands (maybe too much, my love for hand sani is real), storing food properly, cooking till the internal temperature is adequate (my love for my meat thermometer is up there too) and never cross contaminating; still here I am laying in bed writing this. So I guess what I’m saying is, even if you follow all the food safety rules there is a small chance you could still get food poisoning. We aren’t always in control of the food we eat. Following the rules significantly lessens your chances. I mean I haven’t had food poisoning in 25 years, so I think that’s something right? When in doubt, throw it out. Serious words to live by.

EWP Anchor Points

We obviously all know the importance of tying off while wearing fall protection and working on EWPs. But it’s not just as simple as attaching your lanyard to whatever is close by. It has to be done correctly; there are some serious do’s and don’ts in regard to tying off. Let’s go over them. When on an EWP, you must only tie off to approved anchors. These anchors must be authorized by the manufacturer, not the handrail your partner says he’s been using for years. (Please! never tie off to handrails and make sure no one else does either!). Each anchor has been made to withstand the fall arrest force of one person, so never double up.  Overloading on an anchor could result in failure of the anchor during a fall… Which is kinda when you need it the most… Just saying. Make sure you don’t tie off to anything other than approved anchors such as handrails (just touched on this above), and other parts of the lift or any other structures. Doing so can leave you in a situation similar to the above cartoon or worse. If the EWP is moved, you will be pulled from the platform. So, just clip on to your approved anchor in your lift. If you don’t have training, get it before you step foot on that lift (P.S we can help you with that!). Even if you have all your tickets, be sure you are familiar with the operators manual and have been deemed competent by a supervisor. Then it should be smooth sailing!

Daylight Savings Time

I’m all for more sunlight during daytime hours, however; daylight savings can really mess with you, especially when we spring ahead and lose a whole hour of sleep. Most of us are probably dragging our feet a bit today. It’s amazing how losing one little hour can really throw you off. For some of us, particularly if you have children, the effects of losing this hour could last all week. Fatigue can cause a reduction is reaction time, performance, and the ability to make sound decisions, thereby, increasing the chances of an incident to occur. So even though it seems like one measly hour, it can have serious effects. Here are a few things you can do to make it through the day and the week, if needed.

Try and eat healthy regular meals and snacks. At coffee break, maybe forgo the cigarette and donut for a healthy snack and water. Try and avoid heavy and fatty foods, they will just weigh you down more. Eating every 3-4 hours will help keep you moving. Speaking of moving, you need to do just that. If you have to go for a 5 minute walk to get blood flowing again, then do it. Maybe this is the time to head to the tool crib or wash cart. I know this sounds crazy but…try and avoid caffeine, yes coffee. I know you’re thinking that if you’re tired you should pound coffee all day, however; when the effects of coffee wear off, you will be even more exhausted than initially. If you can, try and get to bed a little earlier til you feel more alert.

For some of you, daylight savings time doesn’t affect you at all (lucky!) and some of us, especially the ones who have kids that fight this time change thing to the bitter, bitter end, either way, we all get sleepy at work sometimes. These tips are good for everyday.  Just remember the more alert you are the less likely you are to cause an injury or to be injured.

Statistics in Alberta

I know safety talks can get dry and boring. Most of the time we are thinking “I work safe, why do I have to sit through this?” But here’s the thing… Everyone “says” they work safe, yet injuries and deaths are still happening. Just like drinking and driving… No one does it, yet accidents and deaths are still happening.  So let’s get real for a quick minute. Here are some stats from the government of Alberta regarding injuries and deaths in the workplace in 2017. Approximately 3 in 100 workers were injured. An average of 29 workers are injured every day from overexertion. Men are 1.5 times more likely to get injured than women. The highest risk is for those aged 15-24. 134 workplace deaths happened in 2017 in Alberta. 35 of them workplace incidents. The stats for 2018 are not completed yet but I can already tell you from the available information from the government of Alberta that workplace deaths are up. So, please tell me again how everyone is working safely! We can do better than this. YOU can do better!

The Importance of Reporting Incidents

No matter how small you may think an incident is, you need to report it. This isn’t you being a “company worker” or a “rat”. This is you looking out for yourself and your coworkers. There is a misconception that you will be fired upon reporting an incident. However, you will be more likely to be let go if your employer finds out later that you hid the incident and didn’t report it. Not only does your employer have a legal obligation to report all injuries (anything more than on site first aid) to the Worker Compensation Board within 72 hours of it happening, but the quicker your case is sent in, the quicker you will see compensation, if you need it. Even if you think it’s something small, and you don’t report it and it turns out to be a serious injury, WCB will not receive claims in Alberta after 24 months. Even then, there has to be certain circumstances that they will allow a claim that long after an injury. So by reporting any injuries, you are covering your own butt and making sure you’re at least covered by WCB if things go sideways. Not to mention, reporting near misses and incidents is how we learn. Sadly people had to fall from heights to make fall protection the standard, workers lost their eyesight to make safety glasses mandatory and so on and so on. So you reporting an incident could ensure an investigation that leads to the problem being solved; thereby, saving the next worker from injury or death. If that’s not looking out for your work buddies, I don’t know what it is.