Archives for October 2014

A Closer Look at Eye Safety


The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) estimates that 700 Canadians per day sustain eye injuries on the job, often resulting in lost time and/or vision loss. They also claim that 75% of vision loss is preventable. As Canadians celebrate Healthy Workplace Month as well as Eye Health Month in October, we couldn’t help but take a peek at this critical workplace safety issue.

Main causes of eye injuries

  • Wearing the wrong kind of eye protection for the job – Many injured workers rely on eyeglasses without side shields. This allows debris, dust or vapors to get around the lenses and into the eye.
  • Flying particles – Almost 70 percent of accidents that cause eye injuries are a result of flying or falling objects or sparks striking the eye. Most of the objects are smaller than a pinhead and travelling faster than a hand-thrown object.
  • Contact with chemicals – Chemicals cause about 20% of eye injuries. Other contact accidents are caused by objects swinging from a fixed or attached position, like tree limbs, ropes, chains or tools.

Potential eye hazards can be found in nearly every industry, but tend to occur most commonly among craft workers, such as mechanics, repairers, carpenters and plumbers. More than a third of the injured workers were operatives, i.e. assemblers, sanders and grinding machine operators. Laborers suffered about one-fifth of the eye injuries. Almost half of the injured workers were in manufacturing.

Types of protection 

The most common form of eye protection for general working conditions is safety glasses with side protection. The next step up is safety goggles, which provide better impact, dust and chemical splash protection than glasses. In some cases, it may be important to protect the face as well as the eyes. Faceshields can protect the face from spraying, chipping, grinding, and chemical and bloodborne hazards.

Each type of eye protection has a wide variety of specialized options designed to guard against very specific types of hazards. CCOHS has more information on how to choose the right product for the job.

Put These 7 Items On Your Housekeeping List


Good housekeeping is more than a matter of making a work area look nice. It should be an integral part of every workplace safety program. A clean, organized workplace is not only something that you achieve, it is something you and your employees must maintain.

Be Aware of These General Hazards

1: Dirt and dust — Dirt and dust are everywhere! Regular vacuuming can help. Sweeping is another option. However, while in the process of sweeping, a lot of dirt and dust can become airborne. When possible, it is a better idea to use a wet process, such as mopping. Finally, shelves and work surfaces should be cleaned manually.

2: Spills — The best way to deal with spills is to prevent them. Drip pans and guards, for example, can keep certain machines from dripping oil and other liquids directly onto the floor. Smaller spills, such as spilled coffee, are more common. Whatever the spill, it needs to be cleaned up immediately. Be sure you have the appropriate equipment on hand, and talk to your employees about the proper procedures. Hazardous waste spills are in a class by themselves, and require special handling.

3: Waste disposal — Set up appropriate waste receptacles as close as possible to the area where the waste is being generated. You may need special containers for rags doused with oil, paint or other flammables and combustibles. Also, regular collection is essential. Typically, waste containers are emptied on a daily basis into a larger dumpster. Make sure you know the schedule for dumpster pickup and check to see that it is followed.

Prevent Slips, Trips and Falls

4: Floors and walls — Make sure loose tiles, worn carpets and slippery floor surfaces are corrected and keep floors and walkways clear. Avoid using an aisle as a temporary storage place or setting up a work table or piece of equipment in such a way that it obstructs a natural path of travel. It is especially important that walkways leading to emergency exits are free of clutter. Potential obstacles or tripping hazards need to be visible.

5: Light fixtures — Keeping light bulbs and fixtures clean improves their ability to illuminate. In addition, dirty or dusty light fixtures can be a fire hazard.

6: Tools and other equipment — Dirt, dust, oil, and grease on power tools may create electrical hazards. In addition, improperly stored tools can create problems. For example, a tool with a sharp blade that is left unprotected can cause a serious cut. Tossing a box cutter or knife into a drawer can do the same.

Remember Storage Concerns

7: Storage — If you have a storage area where boxes or pallets are stacked, make sure the stacks are stable and not too high. Ensure boxes are properly labeled and kept clear of sprinkler systems and walkways. Boxes should be stored at about waist level and as close to their ultimate destination as possible. Finally, pay special attention to flammables, combustibles, toxic substances and other hazardous materials that require special storage and handling.

Keeping Mental Wellness Top of Mind




In honor of Healthy Workplace Month, we want to encourage you to consider a very important, yet somewhat taboo, topic. If you think mental illness isn’t a factor in your facility, think again. The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) reports that, each week, about 500,000 Canadians will not go to work due to mental illness. The annual effect on the Canadian economy is a loss of over $50 billion. Take a look below, and don’t be afraid to address this critical aspect of workplace health & safety.


What might be affecting workers’ psychological safety –

  • Procedures for communicating feedback, instruction, direction
  • Workload/expectations/stress
  • Relationships with teammates
  • Management style
  • Lack of support/trust
  • Discrimination/favoritism

What might indicate an employee needs help –

  • Missed deadlines
  • Reduced productivity
  • Reduced quality of work
  • Frequent absences or tardiness
  • Relationship issues or conflicts with co-workers
  • Withdrawal or reduced participation
  • Anxiety, fearfulness, or loss of confidence

What might help improve workplace mental health & safety –

  • Education/training
  • Regular, solution-focused reviews
  • Clear policies & supports which reduce stigma and encourage communication
  • Defined job roles & expectations
  • Re-prioritize tasks if an employee is overwhelmed
  • Reduce pressure or stressors where possible
  • Focus employees on tasks that energize them
  • Develop a Workplace Plan in collaboration with the employee

There is no sure-fire way to identify mental health issues in the workplace, but your commitment to maintaining a safe, open, supportive culture will certainly help improve communication and productivity. Availability of literature, mentorships, and confidential support programs can also be useful tools for those who are embarrassed or unsure.

*Let us know how you plan on addressing mental wellness in your workplace.

Who’s Doing What + How = Ergonomics

ErgonomicsErgonomics attempts to match workers with suitable jobs, taking into consideration the type of work, the environment, and the tools being used. As we continue to shed light on various aspects of creating a healthy workplace, it seemed an important topic. Not only will your employees appreciate knowing you are concerned with their day-to-day comfort, but future injuries and associated costs can be avoided too.

Acute injuries due to falls or lifting are best avoided by ensuring the worker doing the job is suited and trained for tasks requiring specific levels of physical capacity. Other, less tangible, ergonomic issues which can cause injury include posture, repetitive movements, and working with vibrating equipment.

What works for one person may not work for the next, but issues are commonly the result of doing the same thing over and over for long periods of time. The ideal ergonomic configuration includes a combination of sitting, standing, and walking. The best position, similarly, is a variety of positions, where loads are distributed equally on several parts of the body, resulting in decreased opportunity for physical strain due to repetition. Consider the following factors in assisting your workers with ergonomic improvements:

  • Workstation set up
  • Body positioning
  • Space around workstation
  • Foot rests
  • Footwear
  • Standing surface
  • Chairs
  • Lifting/ excessive force requirements
  • Temperature
  • Tools
  • Pre-existing medical conditions

Let your employees know that you are concerned with their comfort and well-being by encouraging them to try different chairs, desks, and other equipment. Also you might want to consider having an ergonomist visit the workplace to suggest small but effective safety improvements.

Remember that the ideal ergonomic setup is one that changes frequently, so encourage workers to take short breaks, vary their physical positioning, and express concerns as soon as they arise. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) has a full library of ergonomics resources for you and your workers to better understand this important topic.

*What did your last ergonomic inspection reveal?

Workplace Hygiene Is Everyone’s Job


As the world at large continues to battle Influenza, Ebola, and everything in between, occupational hygiene practices seem more relevant than ever. Here are some things you can do to help (and reasons why you should!):

Supervisor responsibilities:

  • Develop an infection control plan, including tools to help identify pandemic symptoms
  • Watch carefully for new or developing hygiene hazards
  • Schedule regular monthly inspections and update policies accordingly
  • Consider cleaning the workstation of an employee you know has been sick and could infect others
  • Provide –
    • Clear policies, procedures, and regular training
    • Clean hand washing stations and/or sanitizer where facilities are not available
    • Tissues, gloves, antibacterial wipes, etc
    • Antiseptics & disinfectants for kitchens and other shared areas
    • Proper ventilation systems

Worker responsibilities:

  • Get appropriate vaccines
  • Wash/sanitize hands frequently
  • Stay home if you are sick
  • Use a tissue, or cough/sneeze into your arm, not your hand
  • Dispose of tissues immediately & wash your hands
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Do not share cups, glasses, dishes or cutlery

How everyone benefits:

  • Meet compliance standards, minimizing work stoppages and fines
  • Healthy workers are more productive at work
  • Healthy workers require fewer days off
  • Reduced workers’ compensation costs

*The polls are open! Soap & water or hand sanitizer? Speak your mind below…

The Human Side of Workplace Wellness


Ideally your workers are committed to the task at hand, but we all know there is much more to life than that. Most of us are working to live, correct? So don’t shy away from discussing how connecting with others in the workplace and the local community can be beneficial. Connected, happy workers are productive workers. Show them you care, and increase morale and longevity with these simple ideas:

  • Involve employees in company-wide community service projects, encouraging them to submit ideas regularly
  • Designate social and/or volunteer committees so that people who might not ordinarily work together can connect and collaborate
  • Encourage workers to pursue social opportunities inside and outside the workplace
  • Create a Volunteer Time Policy, where workers get paid for one community service day per year
  • Organize on-site wellness seminars and workshops, highlighting –
    • stress reduction
    • connecting with others
    • work/life balance
    • community volunteerism
  • Develop opportunities for workers to connect at lunch and during breaks (walking clubs/contests support physical wellness as well!)

Empowering your workers to make connections that matter in the workplace and community will create a culture of pride, satisfaction, and accomplishment. Fulfilled, active employees are healthier, and better able to help meet the goals of the business. Join Excellence Canada in celebrating Healthy Workplace Month as they look at this and other important aspects of workplace wellness.

Safety News You Can Use


–       The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), in partnership with the Workplace Hazardous Materials Bureau of Health Canada, recently announced a new e-course that will educate workers about the upcoming changes to the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) as it aligns with the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of classifying and labelling chemicals. WHMIS (After GHS) For Workers will be free for the first 100,000 participants, for up to one year.

–       A 17 year old co-op student was killed at a Niagara-area recycling plant just one week after being placed there. The investigation is ongoing, as discussions over co-op students not being covered by health and safety laws continue to heat up.

–       As Canada’s mining industry faces a skilled worker shortage, Women in Mining announced a new Timmins chapter. The organization has been active in Sudbury for five years, and hopes to encourage women to seek careers in mining, an industry where they currently make up just 16% of the workforce.

–       SAFE Work on Wheels, a mobile safety unit designed to generate workplace safety awareness, was launched on September 26th. The initiative was created by SAFE Work Manitoba and features four safety demonstrations: eye protection, fall protection, lifting, and hand safety.

Is Your Workplace Fire-Healthy?


On average, fire kills eight people each week in Canada, according to Fire Prevention Canada. This year, National Fire Prevention Week runs from October 5 – 11th, so now is the time to evaluate your fire response procedures and preparedness in order to ensure a healthy and safe workplace.

Start with a comprehensive assessment, which should include a physical walk-through of the entire facility. Rank hazards as you go, based on severity (high, medium or low), so you have clear priorities as you continue to evaluate and adjust your fire safety plan. Use this list as a guideline, but remember many hazards could exist outside these areas:

  • Storage and waste facilities
  • Ventilation
  • Fire proofing
  • Fire doors, fire walls and separators
  • Fire/heat/smoke detectors & alarms
  • Sprinkler systems
  • Control of flammables & explosives (including dust)
  • Spill control
  • Emergency exit & fire escape access
  • Smoking policies
  • Electrical equipment

Create a master inventory of hazardous materials, along with a corresponding floor plan and checklist which will help you determine the need to improve, implement, or purchase:

  • fire prevention and control procedures
  • an emergency plan
  • proper signage, detectors, extinguishers & other supplies

Also take time to evaluate employee training (including orientation and retraining) in the areas of: preventative measures, inspection techniques, fire extinguisher use, hazard reporting, spill control processes, and emergency procedures.

Be sure and carry out re-assessments whenever your workplace or industry experiences a change in process/activity, personnel, facility renovation, legislation, or materials used. Staying on top of fire prevention and encouraging your workers to do the same will ensure health, safety, and compliance all around. Visit Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS) for more fire prevention information, downloads, and training opportunities.

Questions, comments? Speak your mind below!