Archives for March 2013

How To Plan Your Mobile Safety Tote

Job Safety Seton CanadaMost emergencies hit without much warning.

Whether the emergency is natural or human-caused, preparedness is critical to protecting your workers and business.

Just ask the 33 Chilean workers, who in 2010, were trapped in a collapsed mine for over two months.

Fortunately, they survived.

However, not all emergencies have happy endings.

In 2010, the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine & General Workers’ Unions estimated there are at least 12,000 global mining deaths per year.

Emergencies happen, the key is how to prepare for them before they surface.

One way is to make sure mining work sites have first aid kits and mobile safety totes.

Standard St. John’s Ambulance first aid supplies include bandages, gauze, gloves and so on, but mobile safety totes are larger and water resistant plastic emergency kits which are meant for job specific items.

Wallbridge Mining Company Project Geologist, Natalie MacLean says Wallbridge’s emergency collection features water, a fire starter, rope, a flashlight, a tow strap, duct tape, an axe, soup mix and energy bars.

“The kit is labelled (including a list of contents and additional support supplies to bring) and staff are aware that it is for emergency purposes only,” says MacLean.

The last thing needed is a compromised tote that is missing vital materials which could help someone in desperate need.

Because communication among workers is critical when it comes to emergency planning, the Wallbridge Health & Safety representative decided what materials filled the kit with input from field staff and management.

When planning mobile safety totes, H & S reps, field supervisors, workers and management ideally should join the brainstorming process to guarantee a well-rounded understanding of what potential accidents may arise and what specific contents are required to assist workers in those emergency situations.

Be sure to also collectively decide on the most accessible tote locations based on the quickest routes to accident-prone areas.  As a group, identify the problem work spaces and consider the tote’s weight when determining how fast it can be transported to those potential accident zones.

“We developed our kit fairly recently,” MacLean adds, “and thankfully have never had to use it; hopefully we never have to.”

Another tip is to properly label the mobile safety totes with a list of their items and make sure staff are aware they are for emergency purposes only.  The last thing needed is a compromised tote that is missing vital materials which could help someone in desperate need.

Yes, an emergency might arrive without an advanced warning but with strong communication and effective planning, mobile safety totes can protect workers from becoming grim statistics on a safety report.


Protecting Young Workers

Every day in Ontario, an average of 70 workers under the age of 25 are injured on the job, and some lose their lives. That’s three injured each hour.

Young workers – and new workers of any age – are often keen to learn and can bring new ideas and renewed energy to a workplace. But if you hire workers, you have obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to protect them.

“Young workers often can’t recognize health and safety hazards and hesitate to ask questions,” says George Gritziotis, the chief prevention officer at Ontario’s Ministry of Labour . “The truth is new and young workers are much more likely to be injured on the job. They need to be provided training and they need to be supervised.”

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New Changes Will Affect All Ontario Workers

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Consultations are underway to draft new Ontario Health and Safety rules which will require all workers covered by the OHSA receive health and safety training as of Jan. 1, 2014.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour is currently seeking input from stakeholders and plans to issue a draft of the new regulations by July and implement them as of the New Year 2014.

The changes are being driven by the 2010 Dean Commission Report, officially known as the Expert Advisory Panel on Occupational Health and Safety and chaired by former cabinet secretary Tony Dean.


The recommendations are more evolutionary than revolutionary but seek to entrench a culture of safety in Ontario workplaces.

One of the recommendations is for every Ontario “worker and supervisor to undergo mandatory information about workplace rights and responsibilities before they start their job.”

It will require every construction worker to have entry-level training on construction site safety, rigorous training standards for working at heights and tougher penalties, especially in high risk tasks where death and injury could result.

Seeking Input for Regulations

Chief Prevention Officer George Gritziotis says he doesn’t expect much in the way of push back or complaints from employers as he seeks their input for the draft regulations.

“The report was a collaborative report,” he said. “And most employers in Ontario probably meet or exceed the standard we are looking at. And we’d like to hear from them too because I want to know what they’re doing that works.”

For those who may fall short, he said, it’ll be more of a fine tuning upgrade, but for those who haven’t got the resources, there will be books and online programs to help them understand their new responsibilities and a path on how to meet them.

The Task Force also noted cost is tantamount on many employers’ minds in these tough times. It said about $220 million from employer’s WSIB premiums is spent on Health and Safety service delivery now and that the suggested changes, including mandatory training, could be accomplished within the existing framework and cost allowances.

“While greater investments would further improve prevention or enforcement, or both, the Panel believes that our recommendations can be fully funded within the current spending allocation,” the report said. “The Panel believes that, if implemented, these changes would support better health and safety outcomes in the workplace and improved value for the investment that employers make in prevention and enforcement.”

Gritziotis couldn’t agree more: “Investing in health and safety tells employees you care. They’re more likely to be more productive and more loyal.”

New Rules will be Retroactive

The new rules would apply to all workplaces covered by the OHSA including industrial plants, construction site, health care, farming and mining.

However, the rules will be retroactive so employers will have a transitional period between July 1, 2013 when the new rules will be published and Jan. 1, 2014 to ensure existing workers and supervisors complete their awareness training.

Supervisors and Workers

The rules will apply to both supervisors and workers and all categories going forward however, those employers who already have a program in place which demonstrably meets or exceeds the new standards and can document their employees have been through it will be “deemed to be in compliance.”

The changes are just the beginning says Gritziotis, the man in charge of putting it all in place.

“Tony Dean’s report made 46 recommendations,” he said. “I consider it the most important kind of change in Canada in Health and Safety because it goes beyond just young workers and we’re saying it is for all workers and supervisors. It’s going to have immediate impact in a positive way.”

New Requirements

New requirements for new training programs regulations will be made under the OHSA.

The proposed new regulation would also include existing provisions currently found in O. Reg. 780/94 (Training Programs). The existing O. Reg. 780/94 would be revoked.

The plan is that new training requirements could be added to this new regulation as they are proposed, approved and made.

In addition, the Ministry proposes to make a consequential amendment to O. Reg. 414/05 (Farming Operations) in order to make the requirements apply to farming operations.

Proposed Minium Rights and responsibilities of workers and supervisors under the OHSA:

Workers must know:

  • Roles of workplace parties, health and safety representatives, and joint health and safety committees
  • Roles of the Ministry of Labour, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, and Health and Safety partners
  • Hazard recognition
  • Right to be informed of hazards
  • Reference to an employer’s obligations to provide information and instruction to workers about controlled products as required under Regulation 860 (WHMIS) of the OHSA
  • Latency and illness related to occupational disease

Supervisor Awareness

  • Rights and responsibilities of workers and supervisors under the OHSA
  • Roles of workplace parties, health and safety representatives, and joint health and safety committees
  • Roles of the Ministry of Labour, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, and Health and Safety partners
  • Recognition, assessment, control and evaluation of hazards
  • Where resources and assistance are available

Source: Ministry of Labour

Ladder Safety Saves Lives

Building workers inside large construction site, wide angle view

“In construction, the single biggest risk of injury is falling from a ladder,” said Mike Chappell, coordinator of Ontario’s Construction Health and Safety Program.

“Ladders are the most commonly misused piece of equipment in the construction industry,” he stressed.

From 2006 to May 2010, there were 396 fall incidents causing critical injuries. Of those, 127 or 32% were caused by the unsafe use of ladders. During the same period, there were 83 fatalities from falls and 10 to 12% involved ladders.

A pro-active move to reverse this disturbingly high percentage of ladder-related injuries and deaths is driving this month’s Ministry of Labour (MOL) construction safety inspection blitz on Ladder Safety and Fall Protection Hazards.

Here’s a brief thumbnail of the main recommendations for ladder safety:

  • Use a ladder simply for access and egress.
  • Increasingly, scaffolds and platforms are preferred for working at heights above three metres and elevated work platforms and cherry pickers for work areas that are even higher.
  • If there’s no other alternative, work must be performed on a ladder above three metres and if workers cannot maintain three-point contact, it’s imperative for your workers’ safety to provide the right fall protection equipment – harnesses, lanyards and/or lifelines – while they perform their work.

“Often this type of protection for workers is overlooked by employers deciding to use ladders,” Chappell stated.

A far more comprehensive outline of regulations and recommendations zeroing in on the specifics on how to use ladders safely with appropriate fall protection is detailed in the Ladder Use in Construction Guideline   developed in cooperation with the MOL and published last year by the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) based on the Ontario Health and Safety Act (OHSA). It’s definitely worth reading.

One safety measure recommended in this guideline is that employers do Ladder Risk Assessments before deciding to assign workers to use ladders rather than scaffolds when working above grade. This three-part process described in the guideline involves a systematic assessment of the potential risk of the ladder, the worker and the environment.

Although Chappell says it’s an excellent safety tool, he admits these Ladder Risk Assessments are often not done and other safety experts agree.

“In the real world, guys are not going to go through hours of paper work for a 10-minute job,” said Robert Gill, CHRP, CRSP of RMG Consulting Group, Inc.

“I know there has to be something done to curb that 32%, but this is new and the construction industry isn’t yet fully receptive to it.”

Ladders are safe if used properly, but it’s the human element that makes them dangerous, Gill said.

“Workers leave damaged ladders on site that can cause accidents. Another common hazard is when a worker is on a ladder near the edge of a building. If he goes up the ladder and his body is above the guardrail, without a rope guard, harness, lanyard and fixed support, he can fall,” said Gill.

Safety expert Greg Leader of Leader Industries sees lots of workers in the field working from ladders, but too often ladders are used precariously, he noted. Workers straddle ladders on the second rung, without three-point contact and can easily lose their balance and fall backwards.

“Ladders are always going to have a place in this industry –– good quality ladders that are up to code with good quality fall protection equipment –– as long as workers are tied down and the ladders are strongly anchored,” he said.

Guardrails should be the first line of defense, but if that’s not possible, then use ladders with fall protection methods, Leader said.

“The reality is that nobody starts a job to do it unsafely. If a worker is working at three metres or 10-feet, and if the ladder is the only way he can do that job, they must be tied off with fall restrain protection.”

Chappell added that “Ladders are so common, often used at home and they’re not considered hazardous by the average person so users become complacent about the risk in working from ladders.”

“Often workers say they’re only working at height for a ‘second,’ but workers don’t actually use ladders for a second, even if they say they do,” Chappell said.

“They shouldn’t use ladders for extended periods because it’s ergonomically dangerous and workers become tired. Also workers believe if they aren’t maintaining three-point contact, they can save themselves by grabbing side rails as they begin to fall, but by the time they realize they’re falling, it’s too late,” he said.

“We have to change the culture and stress the urgency for employers to invest in good, high quality equipment,” Chappell said. “I often hear people say that they’ll use a ladder and it’s only going to take a minute, but it takes less than a minute to fall. Often the injured worker doesn’t get up from those falls.”

A Safety Manager’s Best Friend – The Checklist


A job safety checklist can save lives, money and lead to a more productive working environment.

According to the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC),  between 2008 to 2010, there were 700 construction job-related deaths which accounted for 23.3 percent of all Canadian workplace fatalities during that period.

Could properly planned and executed safety checklists have prevented some of those deaths?

It’s a possibility.

Aquicon Construction recognizes their value. It uses standardized safety checklists which are developed with its third party safety consulting firm, Advantage Ergonomics Canada (AEC) Safety Solutions.

Here’s what AEC President, Tyler Scott, has to say about the importance of safety checklists.

What do you put on those lists and why?

First Aid Kits, Ladders/Scaffolds, Fire Safety, Fall Protection, Electrical Safety, Guardrails, PPE (Heat, Feet, Ear & Eye), Overhead Power lines, Public Way Protection, Floor Openings and Ventilation to name a few.

We have chosen these items because they are the main areas of infraction on a construction project.

What makes a good checklist and why?

A good checklist recognizes a problem, assesses the severity of the issue and provides a recommendation to eliminate the problem.

How often do you create & update safety checklists?

Our standardized checklists are reviewed and updated annual, but each checklist is used on our construction projects and project specific information is added to our standardized checklists.  This provides our field staff with the basic information and prompts them to add their project specific information for each type of checklist.

How many people are involved in your checklist creation process and why?

Typically three people. One representative from Senior Management at Aquicon Construction, one representative from AEC Safety Solutions and one representative from our field staff.  This provides input from three unique backgrounds to help compile a proactive and project specific checklist.

How many types of safety checklists do you have?

We use one main checklist (project safety inspection) which addresses all potential hazards on a construction project. It documents who is responsible for an infraction (constructor or employer) and provides instruction for correction. This is performed bi-weekly and randomly by AEC Safety Solutions on all our projects as we find a third party provides an excellent resource to our in house staff.  Project supervisors and project health and safety representatives also conduct these inspections regularly. Overall, Aquicon has approximately thirty checklists available for project specific items such as overhead wires, confined space, lockout/tagout, emergency procedures, etc.

What real results have you received by using a job site safety checklist?

We have the responsibility of all workers on the project. We have seen a reduction in the number of infractions for our sub-contractors as our inspection reports address the issues on the project with the subcontractors and copies are sent to their office to provide corrective action when necessary.

Job safety checklists can be life-savers, but only if they’re well thought out, implemented properly and employees follow them.

Without this team effort, more heartbroken families will deal with the tragic consequences.


Red Cross Month

March is Red Cross Month and that’s a good reminder that First Aid is as important as any other safety training in the workforce.

Last year, 1 in 68 construction workers were injured on the job. Whether it’s a slip and fall or a heart attack, time is of the essence.

The Canadian government has longstanding legislation that dictates workplace requirements for on-site First Aid responders, kits and/or facilities.

Being prepared and quick EMS response can reduce the severity of an injury by as much as 50%.

A basic First Aid kit and training can make construction a safer industry.

First Aid


A Woman’s Work Isn’t Always Safe!

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Women now outnumber men in Canada’s national workforce. But, when it comes to construction and mining it is still predominantly male, even though women recruits are on the rise.

The Canadian Construction Sector Council predicts that between 2011 and 2019, Canada’s construction industry will face a shortfall of skilled workers and will need to recruit 320,000 new workers. To meet this demand, one of the main focuses is on recruiting women.

The responsibility to ensure that worksites are safe for men and women falls on the shoulders of management. Sadly, many of the resources management relies on include safety data that is biased, under represents women and ignores that women’s workplace experiences are significantly different from that of men – physically, biologically and socially.

Creating a work safe environment for women starts with strong leadership by employers and management. Without a solid infrastructure to support communication and teamwork, women are more likely to experience harassment, may choose to not report hazards for fear of bullying and may not ask for help in fear of appearing “weak.”

A lack of onsite washroom facilities is an issue recognized by the United Steelworkers Union. Women who work with hazardous chemicals often have nowhere to remove dangerous chemical residue or discard soiled clothes, needlessly putting female workers at higher risk.

Identifying and mitigating most hazards are second nature to managers and seasoned workers. The next step is knowing whether the hazards affect female workers differently than males and ensuring everyone is trained and protected.

Some great resources to get you started:

  • Women Building Futures is an Alberta-based not-for-profit organization dedicated to training women and serving as a resource for employers. WBF supplies skilled female labourers and employer workshops focusing on best practices.
  • For more information on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that fits the needs of your diverse workforce, can help you. Please contact Marie-Claude Beaudry @  or call 1-800-891-5716 ext. 2351


National Sleep Awareness Week

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March 3 – 10 is National Sleep Awareness Week and it’s a reminder that fatigue on the job can be a health hazard, increasing the risk of accidents and elevating the chances of a disabling injury.

No one is more at risk than the estimated 25 to 30% cent of the working population who work nights, evenings, rotating and irregular hours.

A 2010 study by researchers at the University of British Columbia concluded that evening and night shift workers are almost twice as likely to be injured at work as those working regular day shifts.

The UBC study analyzed data on 30,000 working Canadians in Statistics Canada’s Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics. Researchers noted that while work injuries in Canada declined overall between 1996 and 2006, injury rates for night shift workers remained unchanged.

That comes as no surprise to Dr. Robert Whiting, a senior project manger with the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, or to Dr. Cameron Mustard, head of the Institute for Work and Health.

“It is a real problem,” says Whiting, who recently convened a one-day symposium on the health hazards of shift work.

“Shift workers, particularly those who work at night, are vulnerable on three counts: fatigue, lower levels of supervision and less co-worker support. And more incidents are generally reported on the 4th successive night shift than on the first.”

Whiting says working at night, or on an irregular schedule, plays havoc with an individual’s natural circadian rhythms, creating internal confusion in the body.

“We are not a nocturnal species,” says Mustard, noting that human beings are biologically programmed to get sleepy at night, even after 6-8 hours of sleep.

As well, many night workers have problems with the quality of their daytime sleep, as they contend with families and surroundings that are busiest during the daytime.

“The third piece of the puzzle”, says Mustard, “is the way work changes in the evenings and overnight.” With less co-worker and supervisory support, the risk of injury increases at night.

Researchers have found the body responds better to staying up later than being forced to perform earlier in the cycle, says Whiting. With that in mind, shift schedules should consistently move workers from earlier to later shifts, rather than vice versa, to allow for easier transitions.

Whiting says research has also indicated shifts should be switched more often, with “no more than three days on a rotation, with at least a day off in between the next three-day cycle.”

When you regularly change your shift, it is easier to make the transition, he says, rather than working one shift for a very long time, then enduring a change. “The body makes the switch much easier if it changes regularly.”

Workers often express a preference for 12 hour shifts, notes Whiting, as it gives them lots of time off in the shoulder periods and allows them more flexibility in their personal lives.

“But there are more accidents on 12-hour shifts,” he argues, “especially when the job requires a high level of concentration.”

Establishing a strategy in the workplace for dealing with the health effects of shift work should be a team effort, with consultation all around.

There is increased recognition that organizations scheduling staff for evening and overnight work benefit from what is called ‘self-rostering.’

Says Mustard: “There will always be people who prefer to work at night, and with computers, this is easy to organize. Airlines have been doing this for years.”

Whiting agrees: “You need to involve the workers who are doing the shifts. There are always compromises to be made. It is also important in scheduling to ensure workers don’t get isolated on a shift rotation, and that there are managers and senior staff on site working.”

What is NOT a good idea, says Mustard is the use of stimulants – caffeine being the #1 choice – to get through the night. Higher octane stimulants, such as amphetamines, are even worse. Similarly during the day, night shift workers who take sleeping pills, sedatives or even ‘natural’ remedies such as melatonin to help them sleep are making a poor choice.

Finally, Whiting argues that shift work is not strictly a younger worker’s game.

“Older workers have established routines and are probably better candidates for the physical discipline of shift work,” says Whiting.

As well, using shift work as a reward system or symbolic of the workplace pecking order  “is not good for social cohesion in the workplace. If there is some element of social prestige awarded to working days, night workers will feel punished and less satisfied on the job.”