There’s Never an Easy Way

We’ve all cut corners before, skipped a step or rushed through a task. For whatever reason, maybe you’ve done it that way for 15 years, maybe you’re in a hurry or let’s be honest… maybe your just being lazy? Whatever the reason; there is never an “easy way”. It may seem easy at the time but it will catch up to you. Taking a trip down easy street can put everyone at unnecessary risk. There is a reason you are asked to do a task a certain way. For example; you’re asked to tighten a flange bolt and you only hand tighten it and not even in sequence because you are rushing to get to break. Well, you took the easy road but for the employee who’s standing anywhere near that pipe when it’s put under pressure, things will be anything but easy… if they even survive. If it seems easy at the time, there will be a price to pay later. It’s so important to do all our tasks properly; every time. Take pride in your work and your safety.

 

Theft

There is a lot misconception about stealing from the worksite. Some people believe it’s a victimless crime. That these big construction/ oil and gas companies won’t even notice. Wrong! They do notice, according to CBC, employee theft costs Canadian businesses around 1.4 billion dollars every year. So how is this a safety concern? Well in a roundabout way it is. Missing tools or equipment can slow down or completely halt a job, making workers more likely to increase the speed they work at to play catch-up. This can lead to making critical errors and…. POOF! There is an accident or incident. Not to mention the blame game. Have you ever been on site when something does go missing? Everyone gets hammered by supervisors and finger pointing  takes over, making it hard to focus on the task at hand, again making a perfect breeding ground for an incident. 1.4 billion dollars is a lot of money that could have gone to safety programs, staff BBQs or maybe even raises. Stealing from your job site is not a victimless crime and of course, it’s also illegal so it also puts your job in jeopardy. Stealing from your workplace is the very definition of biting the hand that feeds you. We all make good money in the trades… Just buy your tool and equipment like everyone else.

Asking for Help

You are not paid to be the strongest person in the world….or to have magical powers and do the work of ten employees….or even be the all-knowing construction Genie. Yet a lot of people in the trades have a huge problem with asking for help. I’m not sure if they don’t want to slow down the job or they think it’s a sign of weakness or being bird-brained. Whatever it may be, it can cause serious injuries. What’s more embarrassing; asking for help to lift something or doing it yourself and throwing your back out and missing weeks of work? Or; being unsure of something and asking for help or trying to figure it out and hurting yourself? Asking for help, whether it be for assistance or with a question, can keep us from causing an incident for others or ourselves. Therefore, kind of making you the all powerful, never have an incident employee. Which is up there with all-knowing construction Genie.

Keep Learning

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. 😉

Fire Safety While Camping 🔥

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.

Respect at the Workplace

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.

 

Hazards of Excessive Sitting

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.

Labour Laws in B.C.

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.

Happy Mother’s Day

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.

Sting Safety


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.