Sunburns – Part 1

I know we aren’t even into the full swing of summer yet, but for some of us the sun just peeking out gives us anxiety. Even though some people; mostly those with very light colored skin and hair need to take extra precautions when working outdoors, it needs to be on everyone’s mind. Our ozone layer isn’t what it used to be. With big holes in it, nothing is protecting any of us from UV rays. So here are a few things to think about while working in the sun.

There are a few things that can make you more sensitive to ultraviolet rays. Like mentioned above, being very pale or having light colored hair can make you more susceptible to burning in the sun. That doesn’t mean you are safe if your complexion or hair is darker. If you had a bad sunburn in the past, you are more likely to burn again. Also certain medications and facial creams can put you in the high risk category too, so read your labels. Sunburns are very painful and can cause serious health issues in the future including melanoma, skin cancer and blindness. Please don’t think you are safe from long term damage if you’re in a vehicle. UVA rays can penetrate the vehicle window. According to the New England journal of medicine these rays can penetrate the epidermis and upper layers of dermis, causing thickening of the epidermis, stratum corneum, and destruction of elastic fibers. So how do you protect against short and long term damage when you work outside or stuck in a work truck all day? Let’s get into that tomorrow.

Making a Plan to be Safe

I hope you’ve had a great long weekend, but now it’s time to refocus. It can be hard to get back into the groove after a few days off. Here are some ideas to help you stay safe.

It’s always a good idea to make a plan. Any task can seem overwhelming without a clear plan. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s easy to lose focus. So take some time before every task and outline where you will start your task and how you will do it. Once you have a plan, stick to it. You should also be thinking ahead. What do you need for this task? Making sure you have the proper PPE and tools. To stay focused, you may need some micro breaks. A trip to the tool crib to get supplies is a great micro break. Your plan should also point out safety hazards. After a few days off and then jumping head first into our work, we can definitely miss things. So take the time, do a walk around and ask coworkers. You should ease back into your usual work pace. Being all gung ho off the bat can land you in first aid. So just ease up a bit. Take a day or two to get your brain back into the swing of things, then you can hit the gas. Try and get rid of distractions; like cell phones, music and that coworker that just won’t stop talking (okay… don’t “get rid” of them, ask them politely to save it for break). Lastly, look for changes. I know you’ve only had a couple of days off and there’s a good chance everyone else did too; however, maybe some people worked some overtime and things are moved around. Maybe the weather has moved things. Either way, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the jobsite again.

Having a clear plan will only take a few minutes for you to do. It will help you stay focused, be prepared, and be safe. So take the time to plan ahead.

Lawn Mower Spring Start-Up

Ah..the snow is gone and the grass is finally turning green. Finally, time to trade in the snow shovels for lawn mowers. Just like any other power tools in our garage or shed, mowers need to be well maintained for performance and safety reasons.

To do a quick spring tune-up is pretty quick and easy. Be sure you’re wearing proper PPE; such as gloves, safety glasses, boots, long pants and sleeves and of course ear plugs while actually cutting the grass. You’ll be dealing with fluids to do this, so make sure you’re working in a safe spot and protecting the ground from a spill of any kind. Have your owner’s manual readily available.  If you don’t have it or can’t find it, you can usually look them up online. Start with an empty gas tank and spark plugs removed. Any gas over 90 days can cause problems for you and your mower. Clean the blade and under deck. This is a good time to inspect a blade for bends, cracks or any damage. If you see damage, get your blade sharpened, repaired or replaced. It’s a good idea to get it sharpened annually anyway. Then change the oil. The owner’s manual will instruct you on how to do this. Be sure to dispose of the old oil safely. Then you can change out the spark plugs and air filter; again, refer to your owner’s manual. Lastly, you want to lubricate wheels, cables, choke and throttle.

Maintaining your power tools at home is just as important as it is at work. If you don’t feel totally comfortable doing this yourself, you can always take your mower into a local small engine repair or garden center to have a professional do it for a fee. Bottom line is these machines can seriously injure you, so keep them well maintained and always use caution when operating one.

Eye Wash Stations

If your workplace uses any sort of chemicals, there should be an eyewash station close by. Fortunately, they are not used very often but that can also make them blend into the background. Most wash stations are used so little that they begin to collect dust or maybe even used to store random stuff. Would you know where and how to use an eye wash station if you needed to?

First and foremost, a wash station is not where you store anything. In fact, they need to be readily accessible. This means nothing blocking access to them and nothing covering them. They also need to be cleaned and maintained on a regular schedule. So, with that out of the way… would you know what to do if you splashed some corrosive chemical in your eye?  Here are some quick instructions to help you out.

First, get someone to call for emergency help. Then get help walking to the station. Keep your eyes closed and head down. Once at the wash station, start it. Sometimes this is a hand lever and sometimes it’s a foot lever. Remove any contact lenses immediately. Keep eyes wide open with the water pouring over them. Do not rub your eyes. Do not try and remove any foreign objects from your eyes. Move your eyes around and get all surfaces, under, over and beside. Even if you think you only had contact with one eye, it’s a good idea to clean both. Do this until the emergency crew has shown up; or, for at least 15 minutes and then get someone to take you to the hospital.

Most people have never really checked out a wash station. However; when you are blinded and in pain, is probably not the best time to try and figure out what you’re doing. So, walk over and take a look. Try it out. Hopefully you’ll never have to use it, but it’s good to be prepared.

Safe Dig Month

April first is the beginning of Safe Dig Month. You should be seeing a lot of tweets, posts and commercials for this, as awareness is being raised for safe digging practices. I know we have all heard the “click or call before you dig” slogan. Yet every year there are injuries and damaged underground infrastructure caused from digging. So how can you pitch in? It’s super easy…. Call or click before you dig! Whether you are at work or at home, always play it safe. Don’t forget to remind your neighbors or co-workers to do the same, they will thank you for it in the end. Make sure you leave yourself enough time. It usually takes 3 business days for utilities to be located and marked. This is free of charge, so why take the risk?

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.


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.


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.


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!