Archives for November 2012

When Disaster Strikes, Safety Still Tantamount

Seton Canada

The recent death of a veteran Hydro worker in Sarnia, Ont. is a tragic reminder of the dangers workers can face in the aftermath of a disaster.

The worker was electrocuted while repairing downed power lines knocked out by Hurricane Sandy.

This is the kind of tragedy that keeps safety managers up at night. No one wants to have to tell someone’s family that a worker won’t be coming home again.

Natural disasters not only cause panic and fear, they also pose elevated risks to workers.

The hazards are both apparent and hidden: With great devastation all kinds of materials are strewn for miles and they may contain toxins such as mercury, lead or asbestos.

At the same time, public infrastructure is also broken open with raw sewage and mixed with floodwaters. There are also inherent dangers from the carcasses of small animals and human victims.

Additionally, the adrenaline-driven urge to save lives often prompts volunteers, and even professional rescuers, to take risks they would not ordinarily take.

When disaster strikes, the key fundamentals of safety should always be top of mind, says Relief 2.0, an international collaborative disaster recovery agency of volunteers and partner organizations which promotes efficient disaster response.

No matter how heroic their actions, rescue and relief crews must always maintain safety protocol. That means wearing…

  • Masks – N95 grade or higher with ample re-supply
  • Activated carbon or charcoal based masks should be a consideration
  • Waterproof and durable gloves
  • Approved eye protection that must also be worn at all times

Based on experience – noting a 10 minute assigned task can turn into a three hour ordeal – Relief 2.0 recommends each person carry a small backpack or fanny pack with…

  • Three to five protein bars
  • A fully charged communication device and one that works on location, remembering cell phone service is often knocked out at natural disaster scenes
  • A flashlight
  • Topical antibiotics
  • Painkillers
  • Disinfecting wipes
  • 16 to 32 ounces of water.

“Remember, if you are not safe, you will not be able to provide support or assistance to anyone and may end up becoming a burden yourself,” the group advises.


Caring For Safety Eyewear: 5 Must-Do’s

Seton Canada Safety

Just like any other piece of equipment, personal protective equipment and specifically safety eyewear has to be kept in top-notch condition and worn the right way for maximum protection.

You can find all your eye safety solutions here.


Construct Canada

Construct Canada is at Toronto’s Metro Convention Centre, South building

Attending Construct Canada this week? You’re not alone. This year’s event promises to be one of, if not the largest Canadian building and design construction expo. And it’s all geared to helping facilitate the exchange of ideas, best practices and product knowledge.

Running from Wednesday November 28 to Friday November 30, Construct Canada is at Toronto’s Metro Convention Centre, South building. The seminars run from 8-4 and the exhibition runs from 10 until 5pm

Sarah Segal, Director at Informa Canada, responsible for producing the 24th Construct Canada promises a great event that will facilitate the exchange of ideas, best practices and product knowledge.

“We are bringing together the best in class service providers and suppliers as well as providing educational seminars,” she said. There is also a continuing emphasis on sustainability.

With over 1,000 exhibits, Construct Canada, Home Builder & Renovator Expo, PM Expo, Concrete Canada, and the DesignTrend Pavilion will feature the latest in product technologies best practices and applications for the design, construction, operating, retro fit and renovation of all building types.

Featuring more than 400 speakers and more than 200 presentations, it’s hard to choose just a few to feature, but here are some that caught our eye:

The National Building Code for Part 3 Buildings: Changes to the Fire Code and Other Updates

Wednesday from 10:30 to noon…Changes have been proposed to the fire, life safety, and accessibility requirements in the National Building Codes Parts 3 and 9, as well as the National Fire Code. Lead by senior technical advisors to the National Research Council, the seminar will address a number of topics including use of photo luminescent exit signs along with stair, guards and railings.

Managing a Multi-Generational Workforce: A Practical Guideline

Wednesday from 1pm to 2:15pm…Intergenerational clashes are increasingly common as Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y work shoulder to shoulder on the jobsite and in the office. Each generation has a different set of expectations but at the end of the day, it’s up to you to get everyone pulling in the same direction. This seminar offers some strategies and suggestions to help you better manage an intergenerational team.

Do Mobile Apps Have a Role in Construction?

Wednesday from 1pm to 2:15…You probably use your mobile phone every day to text and talk but more and more people are using apps on their phones to help them better their efficiency and even job safety. This workshop will focus on business and construction trends on the use of mobile apps in the field.  The presentation will group them into categories by job task as well as providing advice on whether to purchase apps off the shelf or to build an app from scratch.

Collaborative Construction with Cloud Technology

Thursday from 10:30 to 12:00pm…Technology is changing how construction is being planned and managed and before long, these technologies will be industry standard and will have implications for all construction professionals. You will leave this workshop with applicable tools and resources that will enhance your personal and professional proficiency.

Live Demonstrations

Want to know what’s new around sustainability in the industry? Swing by booth 143 throughout the show for live demonstrations and installation of products that contribute to sustainability.

And of course, Seton will be there too! Come swing by the Seton booth – booth 1006 – and say hi to Shawn, Rebecca, Michael and the rest of the Seton gang. Seton is proud to be a sponsor of Construct Canada 2012.




Business Disaster Planning Starts With Safety

Business Disaster Planning Starts with Personal Safety

Tsunami warnings, earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods – the True North Strong and Free has been through a lot recently.

It’s a reminder that disaster can strike at any time. Sometimes it’s natural and other times it’s human caused, like theft, sabotage or error. And every business is vulnerable.

So why do some businesses bounce back and others go under? Some of it is luck. After all, you can’t control a storm’s path or where lightening will strike. But some of it – a lot of it – comes down to planning. And a lot of businesses fall way short.

There are some basics to cover in disaster planning, including essentials like:

  • protecting data
  • shifting operations to a remote location
  • securing inventory from further damage

But one trumps all others: personnel safety. And it’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the law.

Decision makers who ignore or gloss over red flags which later prove to be early warning signs of a catastrophic event could find themselves being held criminal liable for injuries and fatalities.

In any disaster, when the dust settles and the lights get switched back on again, you should ask of yourself and your team what you learned, what worked, what didn’t, and what you’d do differently.  If things have gone poorly, you will be judged against:

  • What you knew
  • When you knew it
  • What actions you took to protect your employees (in other words, did you take the right actions)
  • When did you take those actions?  (did you take those actions at the right time)

Effective disaster planning means taking time to sit down and actually think through a variety of disaster scenarios and what would need to happen in order to keep your workers safe.

It also means ensuring you have the correct disaster preparedness products on hand at all times since disasters are rarely scheduled events.

It’s best to work in a team and to encourage each other to challenge assumptions. In fact, it’s critical.

The City of Richmond BC advises that a good plan is prepared ahead of time and updated at least annually.

Your plan should address employee safety and basic survival first, followed by:

  • emergency operating and financial procedures,
  • communications
  • transportation
  • alternative office facilities
  • alternate data processing arrangements.

As well, you should have emergency kits on hand filled with:

  • Water
  • First aid supplies
  • Radios
  • Flashlights
  • Batteries
  • Heavy gloves
  • Food
  • Sanitation supplies

All of which should be in “secure, accessible locations.”

Communicating the plan to employees on a regular basis is essential. Everyone must also know where the plan is located and there should be hard copies of the plan easily accessible in case power and computers are knocked offline.

All equipment, whether on the plant floor, in the offices, warehouse, job site or house should be secured and anchored to prevent it toppling onto workers and causing secondary casualties.

While most workplace safety jurisdictions demand it, employers and employees should know what hazardous materials are on hand  in case the event exposes them or others to it in large quantities. Everyone should also be trained in basic first aid and CPR and know their evacuation routes. The kits should be properly marked to been seen during power outages.

And while it may seem outside of your responsibilities, it is in the best interests of the company to encourage your workers to have their own disaster plan for their families. No one can work effectively trying to help the business recover if their own families have been hurt or the state of their well-being is unknown.

A plan can’t prevent disaster but it can save lives and livelihoods – if and only if it’s in place and everyone knows how to use it.



WSIB Rules Change Jan. 1 2013

WSIB Rules Change Jan. 1 2013

As of January 1, 2013, nearly everyone working in the Ontario construction industry must have Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) coverage or risk not being able to work.

The requirement for WSIB coverage for workers is not new. Construction employers currently must have WSIB coverage for all of their workers regardless of what trade or role they perform.

“What is new,” explains Keith Subryan, WSIB Director of the Employer Service Centre, “is the law has changed to include business owners as well.

“This means that in the construction sector most independent operators, sole proprietors, partners in a partnership and executive officers without workers will also need to have WSIB coverage. Executive officers and partners whose businesses are already registered with the WSIB also must begin to report their own earnings and pay premiums,” Subryan says.

There are exemptions for those who work exclusively in home renovation and for one designated executive officer or partner of a company who doesn’t perform construction work. Visit this website to find out the details about these exemptions.

As well, on this site, you’ll see this question “What do you mean ‘construction’?’ Be sure you click on “construction” for a detailed list of what business activities are required to have coverage.

Registering is a simple online process that takes about 15 minutes.

The cost of coverage will vary from company to company. It depends on two things: the business activity and the insurable earnings of the individual.

The calculation is based on the premium rate per $100 for the business activity multiplied by earnings.

For example: Someone doing ‘mechanical and sheet metal work’ is in rate group 707, which has a premium rate of $4.16 for 2013. If their insurable earnings are $45,000, their total premiums for 2013 will be $1,872.

Here’s the way that is calculated: $45,000 insurable earnings x $4.16 / $100 = $ 1,872.

The WSIB wants to make sure that everyone understands his or her obligations under the law. Failure to comply with the new legislation is an offence. However, for the first year the WSIB won’t be prosecuting offences related to registration and clearance obligations under Bill 119.

In 2013, the focus on education and awareness. If the WSIB learns that someone isn’t complying, this year every effort will be made to ensure that those who aren’t registered understand their responsibility to register and have coverage.

The terms “clearance” and “coverage” are not synonymous and shouldn’t be used interchangeably.

A clearance is proof that a contractor is registered and in good standing with the WSIB. When a clearance is in place, the general contractor is not liable for any premiums or other amounts owed to the WSIB by the contractors or subcontractors they hire.

Before mandatory coverage came into effect, the onus to get a clearance from a contractor or subcontractor was on the general contractor. It was recommended but not mandatory.

Now that’s changed. WSIB clearances are mandatory starting January 2013. General contractors who hire contractors or subcontractors must require a WSIB clearance from them before any construction work can begin.

No coverage = no clearance = no work. It’s that simple. Now it’s the law.

Both the general contractor and the contractor or subcontractor have obligations for clearances.

  • General Contractors must get a clearance before contractors or subcontractors can begin any construction work.
  • Contractors must have WSIB coverage and report and pay their premiums on time so they are eligible for a clearance.

Change is never easy, but the WSIB has been working hard to make this transition easier for you. Through eServices on the WSIB website, you can get or check clearances, register, report and pay premiums 24/7, even on your cellphone.

Finally, it’s important to stress what you’re getting for your workplace insurance coverage in the construction industry. If people are injured at work, the WSIB offers a broad range of benefits including:

  • Wage loss benefits start the day after the injury
  • Benefits include Loss of Retirement Income paid to injured workers from age 65
  • All necessary and appropriate health care costs are covered
  • Work reintegration and retraining services are available if needed
  • Special allowances are paid to severely impaired workers including an Independent Living Allowance
  • Survivor benefits can include lump sum and monthly awards for spouses and dependent children plus all reasonable expenses for funeral and burial services
  • Access to construction-specific workplace health and safety training programs, products and services from Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA)

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story contained some erroneous and misleading statements, which have now been corrected. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused. January 11, 2013

Young Worker Safety: Memorial Quilt

Young Worker Safety

When Nova Scotia fabric artist Laurie Swim completed work on Breaking Ground, a quilted public memorial to the 1960 Hogg’s Hollow disaster and the five young Italian immigrant workers killed underground, she was convinced she had just finished one of the most heartrending projects of her career.

Almost immediately, Swim learned that what had happened in a subway tunnel more than forty years earlier was not a thing of the past. Workplaces remained potentially deadly for some workers. And in 21st Century Ontario, a dramatic number of those fatalities were young workers.

“The idea of a memorial quilt to young workers who had been killed on the job was suggested to me as a project. At the time, I wasn’t certain I wanted to undertake such an emotional task.

“But we had a teenaged son, who would soon be seeking summer employment.  Like all parents, we wanted him to be safe.”

And so began the process of building support, and eventually designing and sewing The Canadian Young Workers Memorial Quilt – an 18’ X 9’ quilted memorial to 100 young workers killed at work. The quilt consists of 10 panels, each containing the pictures and stories of 10 young workers. A 5’ X 9’ centerpiece – a young man with arms outstretched – used Laurie’s son, Jake, as a model.

Laurie secured a classroom in a boarded-up school in her neighborhood and work on the Young Workers Quilt began with a team of 20 volunteer quilters.

“As I read the case histories, emotions of anger, sympathy and grief passed over me,” Swim recalls. “These deaths mostly happened on the first days and weeks of the job, due to the young workers’ inexperience and the lack of training in situations where they were under-supervised.”

The quilt was a stunning reminder of the particular vulnerabilities of young workers. Each piece had the victim’s photograph printed on fabric, their history with details of how they died, their name and age and a personal token from the family stitched into the fabric. The quilt was unveiled at an emotional ceremony packed with tearful bereaved parents, at a downtown Toronto hotel in 2003.

Inspired by Laurie Swim’s art and forged by the families of young workers who died on the job, a non-profit organization was born. Called Threads of Life, it aims to increase awareness of workplace safety for all ages.

Threads of Life is the voice of victims of workplace tragedies – the families whose loved ones died or suffered life-altering injuries or occupational disease as a result of workplace accidents.

“The 1,400 families who are part of Threads of Life are just the tip of the iceberg,” says executive-director Shirely Hickman. In 1996, Hickman lost her 21-year-old son Tim in an explosion at the London, Ontario arena where he worked part-time.

“None of us who go out to speak about our experience would have ever envisioned ourselves as public speakers,” says Hickman.  But Threads of Life speakers tell their stories straight from the heart, with a powerful impact on their audiences.

The quilt, renamed the LifeQuilt by the group, is taken out occasionally for special appearances. It is now 10 years old, expensive to ship and in need of repair from all its travels.

Swim, who continues to craft huge quilted public memorials, wishes it were  ‘out there’ for the world to see, in a permanent display, much like the “Breaking Ground” memorial quilt, which is on permanent display in Toronto’s York Mills subway station, near the site of the Hoggs Hollow disaster.

“The Canadian Young Workers Memorial Quilt took the issue of young worker safety out of the closet,” says Swim. “It put the personal stories of young people killed on the job into the public realm through the testimony of their loved ones.”


FOOTNOTE: After 10 years of travel, the LifeQuilt is currently with a conservator for maintenance, while the partners of Threads of Life prepare to discuss how best to use it in future outreach efforts.

To honour the contribution her organization has made to families who have suffered from a workplace tragedy, Hickman and two Threads of Life volunteers, Lisa Kadosa and Eleanor Westwood, this year received Queen’s Diamond Jubilee awards. Hickman was nominated by Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters for her leadership in founding Threads of Life and for her “outstanding contributions in the field of workplace health and safety.”

10 Tips To Prevent Workplace Slips, Trips and Falls

Falls on construction sites are the leading cause of injuries and fatalities, a steady trend that isn’t likely to change as Canada’s construction sector grows to become the 5th largest in the world over the next decade.

Consider these statistics from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety stressing the fiscal and human costs of falls:

  • 60,000 Canadian workers are injured in fall accidents annually, either on level surfaces or from heights
  • 15% of all “time-loss injuries” accepted by workers comp, etc. are fall accidents
  • 40% of these accidents occur from a height where Fall Protection measures should have been taken but were not.
  • These “avoidable falls” combine to cost Canadian businesses between $20 to $100 million dollars

These 10 simple tips can help to avoid the dangers of workplace trips, slips and falls.

Seton Safety

Workplace Bullying: A Silent Epidemic

Work Bully

Bullying is as toxic in the workplace as it is on the schoolyard. Considered a “silent epidemic,” workplace bullying is a critical safety, occupational and public health concern. Some businesses are beginning to acknowledge its dangers, but many deny it though it’s illegal in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Quebec and soon will be in British Columbia.

Bullying Awareness Week (November 12-17) is a good opportunity to start the conversation around workplace bullying. Left to fester, it causes stress related health issues in almost half of its victims and costs companies their reputations and sometimes their best employees.

Bullying also causes distractions and anxiety that put jobsite workers and others at risk and hurts the bottom line.

Bullying is learned behaviour and often people who were bullied become bullies. The competitive culture of many businesses can also fuel bullying.

A bully is a supervisor or boss, a worker or a group of workers who feel a desperate need to take control of one person by repetitive, harmful, non-physical, covert and deliberate mistreatment. This focused attack against one person, the target, is a form of psychological violence and according to the Canadian Safety Council one in six workers has been bullied.

It can be hard to recognize workplace bullying or know if you’re a target of bullying.

Here are 10 examples of workplace bullying:

  1.   Spreading malicious rumours and gossip
  2.   Physically abusing or threatening abuse
  3.   Intimidation
  4.   Withholding necessary information or purposefully giving false information
  5.   Constantly criticizing
  6.   Unwarranted or undeserved punishment
  7.   Undermining or deliberately impeding a person’s work
  8.   Insulting, swearing or shouting at a person when others can witness it or, conversely, when no one else will witness it so that the behavior is plausibly deniable.
  9.   Socially excluding or isolating someone
  10. Treating one worker differently than others and expected him to work longer hours

Are you being bullied?

If you’re repeatedly experiencing any of these abuses from one particular supervisor, manager, co-worker or group of co-workers, you may be the target of bullying.

A target tends to be anyone who poses a threat to the basically insecure bully, who is more technically skilled and experienced than the bully, for example, or better liked, more independent and non-confrontational – someone perceived to be less powerful or in a weaker position.

Being bullied can result in the target’s lost productivity, absenteeism and financial problems and increased stress levels, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

If nothing is done to stop this bullying, the target can lose his self-esteem, suffer musculoskeletal problems, sleep and digestive disturbances, depression, and family tension and stress. Flourishing in a hostile environment of denial, secrecy, ignorance and fear, in many cases, bullying results in the person targeted quitting his job.

What do you do if you think you are being bullied?

  1. Talk about it with your friends, family and any co-workers you can trust
  2. Start keeping a detailed journal of every bullying incident, including date, location, time, nature of the experience, your feelings and any action you take
  3. You can take informal personal action by informing the bully that his behaviour is unacceptable, but if you do, be sure to have a witness, friend or union rep with you.
  4. Formal action is reporting the incidents in writing to a senior manager or human resources personnel.

Ultimately, bullying will only stop if employers recognize its existence and begin to change the company culture enabling it.

Here’s what employers must do:

They must ensure their supervisors and managers are not bullies by building “anti-bullying priorities” into hiring practices, advises Aaron Schat of McMaster University’s DeGroot School of Business.

  1. They must create zero-tolerance policies for workplace bullying with full commitment and support from senior management.
  2. When a bullying complaint is filed, they must treat it seriously and act on it quickly.
  3. Gather evidence from workers who may have witnessed a bullying incident.
  4. They must fully embrace the fact that bullying in the workplace is bad for business and for the morale of all workers and act accordingly
  5. They must not reward the bully but instead those who have the courage to step forward and those who step up and refuse to be a bystander when they see bullying happen.

Have you experienced workplace bullying or witnessed it? Talking about it is the first step in stopping it. Share your story. You could really make a difference.

How WWI Is Responsible For Modern PPE

How WWI is responsible for Modern PPE
We owe our veterans so much. They safeguarded freedoms we take for granted and profoundly shaped the world as we know it. As Remembrance Day approaches, we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

But did you know that the contributions of our veterans can not only be felt in their sacrifices for Canada’s efforts in peace and freedom, but also in the innovations they brought to the workplace?

It was these innovations that kept our veterans safe in the trenches during World War I and that later influenced modern day personal protective equipment (PPE).

The concept of PPE is a relatively recent idea. As far as the government’s priorities on worker safety in the late 19th century and early 20th century were concerned, it centered mostly on worker’s compensation. The belief was that hazards in high-risk trades such as mining and construction were unavoidable. Essentially, workers had to rely on their colleagues to not kick a hammer off of the ledge above them or on their ability to get out of the way quickly if that happened. Needless to say, injury on the job was obscenely high and the cost to employers at this time was relatively low.

Eye protection is one of the earliest forms of PPE to be adopted in the workplace. Like most safety gear, it wasn’t commonplace. However, goggles were frequently used by pilots in World War I to protect their eyes from debris at high altitudes. What worked while flying airplanes also worked when avoiding debris on the job.

A particularly fascinating story is the creation of the hardhat: It was developed by E.W. Bullard, a young American soldier, who patented the “Hard Boiled Helmet” in 1919. Originally made from steamed canvas, glue and black paint, this rigid helmet was developed for the mining industry and based on the steel helmet he wore as a soldier. Effective in protecting workers from falling blunt objects, it was quickly adopted for use in US Naval yards and in the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge. By 1948, Canada adopted their first standards for hardhats.

The discovery of neutralizing agents suitable for air-purifying respirators came through tragedy. During World War I, German forces deployed 168 tons of chlorine gas in the first use of chemical warfare. Over 6,000 troops fell within 10 minutes, leaving only the Canadian reserves with their makeshift respirators made from urine soaked cloths. The ammonia neutralized the chlorine while the water dissolved it, and this was the first recorded response and defense against harmful chemicals. Now respirators are commonplace protecting workers from paint fumes to dust particles.

In the modern workplace, hard hats are made of strong high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and feature a suspension that provides an extra cushion of protection; respirators are mechanically assisted with cartridges, and eye protection comes in every variety of shape and sizes. We wouldn’t necessarily have this technology if it weren’t for our returning veterans sharing the tools they relied on to keep them safe.

Take Our Kids To Work Day


This Wednesday November 7 is Canada’s Take Our Kids To Work (TOKTW) Day – an annual event sponsored by The Learning Partnership, a national charitable organization that supports public education.

The idea of an annual event to help Grade 9 students begin to think about career options began in 1994.  Today, more than 250,000 Grade 9 students across Canada participate in workplace events supported by more than 75,000 participating employers.

In some workplaces, TOKTW Day features special programming and work simulations for visiting students. Others simply allow students into the workplace to job-shadow and observe.

Some key health and safety considerations should be kept in mind. This is all the more important in light of a tragic 2000 incident in which two teenagers participating in a TOKTW event were accidentally killed.

Some helpful hints:

  • Employers should make health and safety considerations a top priority before designing a program for TOKTW Day.
  • Students should be oriented to the workplace when they first arrive and have the day’s program fully explained to them.
  • Students should be properly supervised at all times.
  • TOKTW participants are not covered by legislation insuring the workplace safety of regular employees (eg. Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Act). To that end, employers should check with their liability insurers to make sure they have adequate coverage for student visitors.
  • Students should be equipped (and have explained to them) with proper personal protective equipment (PPE) – such as helmets, safety footwear, gloves, ear plugs, eye protection, et cetera – before they access workplace areas.
  • Students should be prohibited from handling or accessing hazardous materials, power tools and motorized vehicles.
  • If it is decided that your workplace is just too hazardous by nature to permit student visitors, it would be a useful workplace safety exercise to design a program for interested students that points out these hazards and still gives them a sense of what the workplace is like. Get creative!

With proper planning and attention to health and safety considerations, Take Our Kids to Work Day can afford a rich opportunity to make safety a top concern for kids, as they embark on planning their careers.

Have fun and stay safe!