BCWWA Takes Water Safety Seriously

BCWWA water

We all take water for granted. Turn on the tap and out it comes, clean and clear water.

But the BC Water and Waste Association (BCWWA) takes its water dead seriously.

BCWWA is British Columbia’s leading resource water and wastewater news, information and events for the people working in this vital industry and for the public.

Representing 4,700 members – “the people who ensure water quality and quantity from source to tap and back to the source” – in British Columbia and the Yukon, this not-for-profit association is mandated to “safeguard public health and the environment on all matters related to water and wastewater.”

“British Columbians are making great strides towards becoming more aware of their water and the need to value and protect it, but we still have a long way to go,” BCWWA CEO Daisy Foster said recently.

“British Columbians use more water per day on average than the rest of Canada. People may think we have an abundance of water here in BC, but that’s not true for all areas of our province.”

Climate change, population growth, industrial and agricultural use, and aging infrastructure all put pressure on the water supply and the ability to get clean safe water to our taps and return used water safely to our environment, she said.

BCWWA is responsible for number of important initiatives that endeavor to educate the public and ensure that water and wastewater workers are at the top of their game, maintaining the highest safety standards and providing a voice for their industry.

Here’s what the BCWWA does:

  • An educational resource, BCWWA offers a wide variety of training workshops and seminars to its members.
  • Through its wide range of committees they can further their education and expand their skills, share expertise and knowledge, facilitate for change and network with each other. These committees also provide them with a mechanism to engage governments to inform them about water policy and other water issues.
  • The BCWWA hosts the largest annual water industry conference and trade show in Western Canada. This year’s 41st conference One Water: Endless Opportunities  took place last week in Kelowna.
  • Every year, BCWWA organizes Drinking Water Week and other public awareness initiatives.
  • BCWWA certifies cross connection control testers  in BC.

Water conservation and what happens to water when we’re finished with it are both significant concerns for the BCWWA and the costs associated with them are felt by all of us, in every province.

Enform: The Go-To Place for Safety

Huge auto-dump yellow mining truck night shot and excavator

With a major corporate shuffle, revitalized objectives and a new product focused on occupational safety for young and inexperienced workers, a long overdue spotlight is shining on Enform, the premier safety association for Canada’s upstream oil and gas industry.

When Cameron MacGillivray took Enform’s helm as President & CEO last year, he brought a clear commitment to give this association a higher profile and a more powerful voice as a safety advocate, training, product and service provider and the leading resource for the Canadian Petroleum Industry.

“Our goal is for Enform to be the go-to place for safety,” MacGillivray said. “Even though Enform is a non-profit organization, we are running a business and that means defining clear objectives and priorities and continually improving.”

These new objectives include:

  • Improving performance.
  • Enhancing operational integrity.
  • Raising organizational effectiveness.
  • Evolving with the industry.

Another addition to Enform’s corporate team is geophysicist and business analyst Jeff Rose, Chief Operating Officer, who will oversee business practices and implement a new strategic plan.

“I have been where safety hits the road – from offshore drilling to seismic, from building pipelines to fracking. I know the importance of safety,” he said.

Enform has four major priorities:

  • As the upstream oil and gas industry’s leading resource for proven safety and training programs last year, 220,000 certificates were issued to oil and gas workers across three western provinces.
  • As a strong safety advocate, with a number of safety resources  that promote and foster a safety culture, Enform is staying ahead of the learning curve, transforming attitudes and changing behaviours on the job.
  • As a facilitator Enform is structured to bring groups together to communicate openly about safety issues and reach consensus on shared challenges in this rapidly growing and developing sector.
  • As a provider of wide range of important and timely products and services that will continually improve worker safety performance and company systems within the industry.

Enform recently introduced a free online safety awareness-training program, eGSO – Electronic General Safety Orientation – to complement employers’ existing orientation programs for new and inexperienced workers.

“The industry is our customer and Enform has a wealth of resources that can be used to its advantage,” MacGillivray said.

Those resources and a wealth of knowledge will be the focus of Enform’s 2013 Petroleum Safety Conference “Owning Safety” from May 5-10 in Banff, Alberta.

Though a thorough evaluation of systems and processes to crystallize how Enform can best meet the industry’s needs is being conducted, management activities ultimately boil down one basic fundamental – making sure people go home safely every night.

A Health and Safety Plan Success Story

st. boniface

At Winnipeg’s St. Boniface Hospital, a steady 15-20 per cent decline in reported job-related injuries and accidents over the last four years has significantly reduced costs associated with those incidents.

This on-going downward trend is the result of a thorough, dynamic and resilient occupational health and safety program at one of Manitoba’s oldest and the second largest healthcare and research facilities, a 530-bed teaching hospital with a campus of 4,000 health care professionals and support personnel.

Safety advisor, Quim Reis, CRSP joined St. Boniface Hospital in 2005 as part of the Occupational Health and Safety Team to design, implement and maintain its workplace health and safety program. He sums up the impetus of this plan in one word, “communication.”

Hospitals are uniquely challenging workplaces, completely different from industry, he said. Occupational health and safety in a hospital includes the safety of workers, patients, visitors and volunteers in an environment filled with medications and highly hazardous laboratory chemicals like Formaldehyde, radioactive materials for cancer treatments, Ethylene Oxide for sterilization and anaesthetic gases, to name a few.

Operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, workers face a vast array of potential, risks and hazards:

  1. Physical – lighting, electricity, vibration, noise, temperature, humidity, radiation
  2. Chemical and Mineral – gases, mists, vapours, solids, dusts, fumes, liquids
  3. Communicable and Biological – blood-borne diseases, viruses, bacteria, moulds, sharps/needles sticks
  4. Ergonomic – repetition, awkward and static posture, force (including contact stress), work environment, patient handling
  5. Safety – slips, trips and falls, housekeeping, moving equipment and parts, anything that can cause traumatic injuries
  6. Work Organization and Psychosocial Environment – pace/intensity, social support/relations, workload/demands, control/latitude flexibility for non-work responsibilities, violence.

This recent reduction in reported workplace incidents at St Boniface Hospital reflects a number of improvements in workplace safety including real-time reporting of injuries; interim and long-term corrective action plans to prevent future injuries; a broad array of prevention programs and systems.

“We’ve shifted the culture at St. Boniface Hospital to support workplace safety,” he said.

Bringing more than 20 years of occupational health and safety planning experience and leadership to St. Boniface Hospital, mainly in industry, “I live and breathe safety,” Reis admitted.

“But developing a workplace health and safety program is just the first step,” he stressed. “A health and safety program won’t be effective if it is kept in a binder collecting dust. Resources are required to ensure its sustainability and continuous improvement.”

The goal of St. Boniface Hospital’s Occupational Health and Safety plan is to maintain a workplace free of hazards that could cause injury, illness or property damage, through:

  • Compliance with the province’s health and safety laws and regulations,
  • Educating staff, physicians, researchers, students and volunteers about workplace hazards and teach safe work practices
  • The expectations that all staff follow safe work practices in their daily work and protect themselves and their fellow workers while doing their jobs.

The St. Boniface Hospital occupational health and safety program includes, but is not limited to the following components:

  1. Health and safety training, awareness and education
  2. Accident/incident reporting and investigation
  3. Workplace safety inspection programs
  4. Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) and Safe Work Procedures (SWP)
  5. Occupational Hygiene Program
  6. Chemical Safety Program
  7. Musculoskeletal Injury Program
  8. Disability Management Program
  9. Respiratory Protection Program
  10. 10. Occupational Health Program

Mandatory occupational health and safety training begins with a two-day General Hospital Orientation for all new employees.

On Day One, they are given a review of St. Boniface Hospital’s “health and safety commitment,” workers rights, a review of emergency codes and evacuation plans, general Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) training and testing.

On Day Two, patient care providers receive specific training on patient handling and other employees learn about safe material handling and office ergonomics.

It’s impossible to explain all the complex systems contributing to the cultural shift in workplace safety at St. Boniface Hospital and the reduction in accidents and injuries, but here are some highlights.

All St. Boniface Hospital workers in its 120 departments and units participate as members of a multi-tiered Central Workers Safety and Health Committee. It includes many sub-committees throughout the hospital programs and involves continuously monitored mini-training programs that help maintain the overall plan. Workers constantly report to each other, at training sessions and to OH&S.

One mini-program is a “How to Conduct Safety Inspections” training session held three times a year to ensure that new committee members and newly-hired managers and supervisors know their responsibilities for safety inspections held each quarter, Reis said.

Workers are trained to complete and review Job Hazard Analyses (JHA) and must take JHA competency tests. They consult and contribute to the development of health and safety policies related to their specific jobs and provide input on specific Safe Work Procedures (SWP). They attend annual Health and Safety refresher training courses throughout the year.

“One of the challenges in a hospital is ensuring all employees are able to attend education and training sessions,” Reis said. “This can be difficult for nurses and healthcare aides as they cannot leave their work responsibilities to attend a training sessions and it can be frustrating at times.”

An electronic system is used for reporting all injuries, illnesses and “near misses,” creating an instant “incident report,” Reis states.

This report is automatically emailed to OH&S staff, occupational health nurses and the Workers Compensation Board representative in Human Resources. These reports include interim corrective actions, root cause analysis and long-term corrective actions.

Recently a major crisis was averted because of the speed and efficiency of this electronic reporting system.

During an Asbestos Management refresher training session a couple of property management staff reported that some asbestos insulation on our ventilation piping systems was crumbling in several of our mechanical rooms.

“This prompted an investigation and immediate action was taken,” Reis said. “An Asbestos Abatement Contractor was hired and is removing the asbestos containing materials in the mechanical rooms as we speak. This prevented our ventilation systems from possibly spreading carcinogenic asbestos fibres throughout the hospital.”

St. Boniface’s Occupational Health and Safety motto is “continuous improvement,” Reis said. “We regularly review and look for ways to improve our programs.”

How do you measure success?

“We can say that over the last four years our WCB rates have consistently gone down every year, but for a program to work, it needs commitment, support and cooperation from all levels of employees and management – organizational commitment, not any individual in particular.”

How do you measure commitment and support from management?

Quim Reis

Quim Reis

“When they let you do your job as a safety professional. We have that at St. Boniface,” Reis said.

How do you measure support and cooperation from workers?

“You ensure their involvement and you thank them for their contribution. You let them know their contribution is valued. You always provide feedback and demonstrate that as a safety professional, you take their concerns seriously.”





Alberta Gets Tough OHS Laws and Compliance


By the end of this year, Alberta’s Ministry of Human Services will have 132 workplace safety inspectors on the road, a 29.3 per cent increase since 2011, when the rate of lost time injuries spiked for the first time in 10 years.

Beefing-up the province’s safety inspection force was prompted, in part, by the unprecedented growth in urban commercial and new home residential construction across the province in recent years, according to Brookes Merritt, a ministry spokesperson.

More recently and especially now, he added, the development of the oil sands reserves in the Wood Buffalo region in the North, which includes Fort McMurray, has imposed a greater need for safety inspectors who can specialize in mining safety, construction safety, as well as transportation and forestry safety.

The officers are mobile and are deployed throughout the province in numbers commensurate with the level of activity in a given industry, depending on the industry, he added.

“Statistically, these industries are among the most hazardous work environments,” Merritt stated in an email. “The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) department’s focus on these sectors, in addition to upstream oil and gas industries, and the health and safety of young workers, reflects the rapid pace of economic development in this region.

This new, expanded and specialized safety inspection team will not only continue to conduct and report on their Focused Inspection Campaigns as they always have in the workplaces of employers with “historically less-than-stellar health and safety records,” Merritt said. “We do this through various methods:

a)    By repeating inspections of known non-compliers to ensure previous commitments to improve health and safety are being met;
b)    The Employer Review Process holds Certifying Partners accountable for ensuring conditions of certification are maintained;
c)    The Employer Injury and Illness Prevention Program identifies specific employers with a Disabling Injury Rate that is at least 2.5 times greater than the provincial average. This program pairs employers with OHS officers whose goal Is to educate them about the legislation, and assist them in developing health and safety practices that will reduce injury rates.

Merritt said, “I can tell you the most frequent cause of injury is ‘slips, trips, and falls’ a large proportion of which are due to the failure to wear PPE when working from heights. Falling from heights is the most consistently reported workplace injury in the construction sectors.”

Now, safety inspectors will have additional responsibilities, heightened authority and will be indispensible in enforcing the Ministry’s tough new OHS legislation, Bill 6, the Protections and Compliance Statutes Amendments Act, which affects the Occupational Health and Safety Act and two other pieces of legislation.

In October 2012, when it was first introduced, Human Services Minister Dave Hancock said, “There will be no more slaps on the wrist in Alberta; a worker or employer who puts health and safety at risk, or is misleading or unfair in their business dealings, will be held accountable.”

According to Bill 6, which passed in December 2012, Alberta’s OHS department can levy “administrative penalties” against employers for up to $10,000 per day if they break the law and to workers for hundreds of dollars through a ticketing system for on-the-spot safety violations.

Details of Alberta’s provisions for ticketing and penalty systems are currently being developed, but the “administrative penalties are expected to begin being levied this fall,” Merritt said. “Ticketing – which requires retraining for officers – is expected to begin implementation next spring.”

Industry reaction to Bill 6 “has been ‘muted’ thus far, Merritt stated. “Industry and labour organizations have been accepting of the changes, but we have yet to see what reactions will be once penalties are levied.”

A few sparks were flying, however, the week after Bill 6 was first announced. In a November 1, 2012 Calgary Herald news story, written by former Herald reporter Kelly Cryderman, the Alberta Construction Association (ACA), which represents 2,000 construction companies, strongly opposed the new administrative penalties and ticketing system.

“There’s a presumption that employers are the bad guys, and we’ll just ramp up the fines and we’ll fix those bad guys,” Ken Gibson, ACA executive director is quoted as saying. “It’s not evidence-based. There is no suggestion we can see that it actually is going to work.”

Not all businesses or labour groups opposed these penalties, Cryderman wrote.

“At the end of the day, workplace safety is primarily the responsibility of employers and government, as regulator,” said Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.

Furthermore, Dave Fennell, senior safety advisor for Imperial Oil Resources said, “Right now there are employers in the province of Alberta who are not taking safety seriously,” citing one week last fall when five Alberta workers died on separate job sites.

Of six Alberta safety experts consulted only one was willing to comment on Bill 6 – Edmonton-based safety consultant and best-selling author Alan D. Quilley, CRSP of Safety Results.

“The model of crime and punishment hasn’t worked really well in other areas of law…speeders continue, distracted drivers really haven’t changed their behaviour, banks still get robbed and the war on drugs…well we know how that’s working,” Quilley said. “This appears that the government is doing something…mission accomplished, from the government’s point of view.

“Lasting change rarely comes from these types of ‘enforcement’ interventions. It does increase the discussions about the need for safety management, so that’s a positive thing,” he said.




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.”

February Is Heart Health Month

Job Safety

“The workplace affects the well-being of the worker and the health of the worker affects the success of the company,” said Betty Hoyt, vice president of health promotion at New Brunswick’s branch of the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation (CHSF).

February is Heart Health Month and a new CHSF report released on February 4, has found that the majority of Canadians, especially boomers from 48 to 67 years old, have a distorted view of their heart health, which puts them at risk of living longer but not living healthier.

“According to Statistics Canada, on average, there’s a 10-year gap between how long we live, and how long we live in health. This gap is mainly due to heart disease, stroke and other chronic conditions,” states this new Reality Check report.

Most of us spend the majority of our lives at work, where health and safety is or should be a priority. Integrating workplace wellness programs into occupational health and job safety programs, especially in the high-risk, high stress construction and mining industries, makes sound business sense, Hoyt says.

Workplace wellness refers to the health of the entire company in the broadest sense of the word:

  1. The employee
  2. The environment or culture of the workplace
  3. The health of the company’s bottom line

“All companies are required by law to have Health and Safety Committees, but many workplaces do not yet put the same emphasis on wellness in the workplace as they do on health and safety,” Hoyt said during a recent telephone interview from her St. John office.

“We’re finding that some companies start with separate Health and Safety committees and Workplace Wellness committees and then put those two committees together,” she said.

A number of New Brunswick companies are committed to workplace wellness in addition to health and safety including the Irving Companies, several potash mining companies and others, Hoyt said.

“But there does have to be a commitment from management, a mind set, a buy-in to wellness, that you might not see under the umbrella of health and safety,” she said. “When companies make that commitment, the return on investment is really building the business case for wellness in the workplace.”

A management-driven commitment to workplace wellness complements a company’s health and safety program with the following benefits for both employers and workers:

  1. Improved health and well being
  2. Increased morale and job satisfaction
  3. Healthier workplace culture
  4. Fewer injuries
  5. Increased productivity
  6. Fewer insurance and workers’ compensation claims
  7. Reduced personal healthcare expenses
  8. Fewer absences
  9. Decreased presenteeism – i.e. workers may be at work but not working at their full potential
  10. Better retention and recruiting
  11. Decreased turnover
  12. Enhanced business reputation and customer loyalty

Maintaining your heart health is more than a full-time job, says Hoyt. “It’s a 24/7 strategy and it’s also a question of work/life balance. Too much stress can have a negative impact on increasing your blood cholesterol and blood pressure, which is the number one cause of heart disease and stroke. Smoking and alcohol consumption increase blood pressure, too.”

In the U.S., February is also Heart Health Month. Since 2004, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have developed a health promotion strategy combining workplace wellness and occupational health, and worker safety called Total Worker Health.

According to the CDC, Total Worker Health is a strategy integrating occupational safety and health protection with health promotion to prevent worker injury and illness and to advance health and well-being.

To help you and your workers find out what your heart health risk factors are the Heart and Stroke Foundation has made it easy with the launch of a new website called Make Health Last to help motivate and support Canadians live heart healthy lives, longer. There are tips and tools, a risk assessment quiz that takes only 10 minutes and even an iPhone app to help address the five controllable lifestyle behaviours that threaten your heart health. Click on

Hoyt’s New Brunswick branch of the CHSF has taken a strong position on workplace wellness and published online several resource guides to help you incorporate a wellness program into your company’s health and safety strategy. They’re available free on line, here.

And to find out more about coping with workplace stress, the Saskatchewan branch of the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation offers you these tips.

February is the month to celebrate Valentine’s Day and Heart Health. Why not start now. Your heart will thank you for it.


Construction Safety Inspection Blitzes

Job Safety Blitz

Slip, trips and falls on level surfaces and falls from heights, particularly in construction, remain the number one cause of critical injuries and fatalities, when the rates of other types of workplace injuries are decreasing more quickly.

In 2011, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board approved 11,733 compensation claims for lost-time injuries due to incidents in which workers fell while at work. Same level falls resulting from slips and trips account for 65% of all fall-related injuries. Falls from heights account for 34% of fall-related injuries – and many of the work-related deaths that occur in Ontario.

“These workers deserve to be protected from these potential hazards in the workplace,” says Robert W. Landry, provincial Construction Health and Safety specialist with the Occupational Health and Safety Branch of Ontario’s Ministry of Labour.

During February and March, Ontario’s Safe at Work program is stepping up its workplace safety, prevention and enforcement strategy with Inspection Blitzes focusing on the hazards and risks involving slips, trips and falls, and ladder use in the construction and industrial sectors.

“This inspection campaign is to reduce overall lost-time workplace injuries and accidents. It’s an enforcement strategy, a prevention strategy. These fall rates seem to be constant and we’re struggling with that,” Landry says.

Ministry inspectors will randomly visit construction projects that are doing high-risk work and with histories of non-compliance to check that employers, supervisors and workers are complying with Ontario Health and Safety Act requirements and regulations.

Workers can be at risk of falling due to:

  • Poor lighting, slippery surfaces, inadequate “housekeeping” (a messy, cluttered work area) and other such deficient working conditions
  • Missing protective devices (e.g., guardrails)
  • Unguarded openings in floors, work surfaces or walls of buildings or other structures
  • Misused equipment or equipment in poor condition (e.g., ladders, scaffolds, and suspended access equipment)
  • Lack of appropriate personal protective equipment (equipment not available, not used, or misused)
  • Poor work practices (e.g., unclear job procedures, lack of training, or workers rushing to meet deadlines)

Inspectors will be looking for “any evidence of lack of traction” between footwear and surfaces – wet floors, puddles, and oily or icy surfaces. Construction workers must wear suitable CSA-approved footwear – boots, not shoes, which should be “slip-resistant, not worn, not defective, and properly fitting,” Landry says. “Laces should be tied securely, because if they’re not tied, footwear could fall off, or workers could trip. Most important, these boots must be worn at all times on a construction project.”

These inspections, which can take up to two days, go into considerable depth, Landry says. “We know the non-compliant sites and workplaces and our inspectors will want specifics.”

On site, ministry inspectors ask to meet with Project Supervisors, Health and Safety Supervisors, and health and safety worker representatives. They will check minutes of health and safety meetings; ask about fall accidents and how they were addressed.

Inspectors will also be checking to make sure employers are providing safe and appropriate equipment for their workers, as well as safety training, supervision and instruction materials to protect their workers’ health and safety on the job.

In order to check a worker’s safety competency, inspectors may ask them to demonstrate their knowledge on:

  • How to recognize, assess, and control fall hazards
  • The application of the right controls, including effective fall prevention and fall protection methods (Employers must also provide hands-on training that is equipment- and application-specific.)
  • Proficiency in the safe and proper use of personal fall prevention and fall protection systems and their components – travel restraint, fall restricting, fall arrest systems or safety nets. Workers must be competent and have the skills and expertise to select, inspect, set-up, and use appropriate fall prevention and fall protection systems
  • How to work at heights safely and in compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulatory requirements
  • Access equipment: safe use of ladders, scaffolds, elevating work platforms, and suspended access equipment.

Ladder safety, in particular, poses significant fall hazards in construction, Landry says.

“There have been a high number of incidents, where workers were critically injured or killed in falls from ladders,” Landry says.

In the five-year period from 2006 to May 2010, there were 396 fall incidents causing critical injuries and 127 of those were from ladders – 32 per cent of these accidents were caused by the unsafe use of ladders.

During that same period of time, there were 83 fatalities and 10 were from the unsafe use of ladders.

“We’ve worked with industry representatives and our partners at the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association to develop a Ladder Use in Construction Guideline,” Landry says. “This guideline was prepared to assist workplace parties in understanding their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Construction Regulation. The Ministry of Labour views the guideline as a set of industry practices that when implemented as part of a constructor/employer’s health and safety program will help in reducing workplace accidents involving ladders.”

In cases of non-compliance, Ministry of Labour Inspectors will be issuing tickets on the spot during this enforcement campaign. These tickets, for a variety of offences, range from $195 for failing to wear protective footwear to $295 failing to wear a full body harness connected to fall arrest system while on suspended equipment.

“During this blitz, we want the message to be to get your safety plans in order, get your managers and supervisors on site up to speed,” Landry says. “Because falls are one of the leading causes of death and injury, our inspectors are always enforcing fall protection. Sometimes people cut corners for production, but you don’t cut corners when it comes to safety.”

WSIB Rule Changes: Addressing Your Concerns

Job Safety Seton

Our November story on the new Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB) changes for the construction industry elicited a lot of comments, questions and concerns about the impending changes.  And we wanted to address them.

Despite these concerns, according to the Ministry of Labour senior communications advisor Bill Killorn, this new regulation, Bill 119, is about improving health and safety in the construction industry and reducing underground economic activity.

“We heard from stakeholders that the underground economy puts businesses that play by the rules at a competitive disadvantage,” he says. “With this legislation, Ontario will be better equipped to prevent workplace accidents and diseases.”

One reader asked: If the sole owner of a small limited company that does not employ workers is now required to pay dividends, is he now eligible to collect insurance if injured on a commercial site?

“Yes,” says Christine Arnott, WSIB spokesperson. “Once someone is registered with the WSIB, if they do get injured at work, they will have access to the broad range of benefits and services that the WSIB provides.”

  • 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)

Another reader commented about private insurance compared to WSIB coverage: If they (WSIB) make it mandatory that we pay, I’m sure a good lawyer will be sure to make it mandatory that they pay. I have private policy that is way better and far less expensive.

“Cost of coverage will vary from company to company,” Arnott says.“The important thing is that we will be providing valuable workplace coverage for people in the construction industry.

“If business owners do get injured at work, they will have access to the broad range of benefits and services that the WSIB provides (listed above). We can’t speculate on the coverage that private insurers might provide or their rates.

Even if independent operators, sole proprietors, members of partnerships and executive officers of corporations already have private insurance, this new legislation, Bill 119, requires that they also have WSIB coverage.

“Private coverage does not replace this legal requirement for WSIB coverage,” Arnott states.

“The WSIB provides a competitive, but different no-fault insurance product that protects you from costly lawsuits and has predictable rates, tax-deductible premiums and reliable benefits. Benefits paid by the WSIB can be more comprehensive and cover a broader range of services than those included in most private insurance policies.”

For answers to your questions about the new mandatory WSIB coverage for construction, check out this FAQ page.

“WSIB coverage provides benefits that private insurance often does not,” Killorn says.

“Originally, this law, Bill 119, was introduced in 2008 and we’ve been working with the industry since then, doing calculations on this proposed legislation,” Killorn said.

“At the end of the day, it’s about protecting workers in the construction industry. We wanted everyone to be covered by the WSIB. It’s about keeping workers safe, and heaven forbid, if an accident should happen, they are covered by the WSIB.”






Realistic Indicators of Workplace Safety

Seton Canada

Accurately measuring workplace safety may seem easy, but it’s not. Time-loss injury rates and the number of accidents and fatalities during a specific period is an industry standard for measuring safety – with zero as the ultimate goal. In fact, WorkSafe Saskatchewan has set its sights on zero injuries and fatalities with an aggressive “Mission Zero” campaign for workplace safety.

But, is this the best, most realistic indicator of workplace safety?

On April 20, 2010, an explosion and fire on the BP Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 workers and injured 17 others.

Yet, prior to this disaster – the largest spill in petroleum history – BP’s Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig operated for seven years without a single time-lost incident or major environmental event, according to Judy Agnew, Ph.D., Senior Vice President, Safety Solutions at Aubrey Daniels International in her latest book Safe By Accident? Take the Luck out of Safety, Leadership Practices that Build Sustainable Safety Culture.

“Looking backwards at how many people have been hurt and lost time injury rates doesn’t tell us what people are doing to prevent accidents” now and in the future,” she says. “When a company has a zero incident rate, it gives the impression that everything is under control and safety’s just fine, so what happens is people can focus on other things.”

Agnew calls these statistics “lagging” indicators, measurements of what went wrong. She stresses that they are not only a poor measure of workplace safety; they’re “the root cause” for many of these injuries and accidents.

Do you want to gamble on the safety of your workers and your workplace waiting for an accident to happen to address safety problems in your workplace? Doesn’t it make more sense to prevent those injuries and accidents before they happen by using more realistic or “leading” indicators instead of “lagging” indicators?

“Such measures – lagging indicators – tell us how many people got hurt and how badly, but they do not tell us how well a company is doing at preventing accidents and incidents,” Agnew says. “Incident rates can get better or worse with absolutely no change in safety conditions at work.”

Zero Time Loss Injuries

Aiming at zero time-loss injuries is completely unrealistic and in safety management achieving those goals doesn’t prove anything, according to Alan D. Quilley, CRSP, Alberta safety consultant and author of several books including The Emperor Wears No Hard Hat. “

“Even if zero harm is accomplished for a measurable period of time, it doesn’t offer prove that people accomplishing it have done their work safely,” he says.

Quilley has a problem with absolutes like “zero” or “perfection” because, he says, no one is perfect and “nothing in human experience has proven us to be perfect performers at anything. Humans make mistakes.” It’s part of our nature. It’s how we learn and grow, he says.

“Misusing injury data to demonstrate the existence of safety,” Quilley says, “is akin to claiming that because you go to a general practitioner every year, you will be healthy – and not being sick all year is proof of that.”

Traditionally, in safety management, there’s this link between lack of injury and safety goals. “Zero injuries at any time period does not prove anything, except that you haven’t had any injuries,” Quilley says.

“There is no such thing as a perfect measure of safety, so don’t waste time trying to find or create one,” Agnew states. Instead, develop good ways to create “leading” indicators for workplace safety that can signal and prevent future events. Here are a few of her guidelines.

“Leading” indicators should:

a)    Allow you to see small improvements in performance
b)    Measure the positive: what people are doing versus failing to do
c)    Make it clear what needs to be done to get better
d)    Increase constructive problem solving around safety
e)    Provide frequent feedback. Feedback should help workers get better, not just be information. Let performers know how they are doing daily and weekly so they can see the impact of their improvements



9 Ways To Keep Workplace Compliance In Check

Seton Canada

It’s so easy to let good safety practices slide. Like anything else, reminders are always helpful and even the most well established workplace safety practices can benefit from them. So, at the beginning of this New Year, here’s a workplace safety primer to help you keep compliance in check and decrease workplace injuries and fatalities.

1. Safety Management By Walking

Every day, spend a few minutes walking through the areas you supervise and create a checklist to ensure you pinpoint any potential hazards or concerns. Keep an eye on your workers as they work. Make sure they’re wearing the right PPE for the job and following safety procedures.

2. Do Frequent Job Safety Assessments

You know each job in your department so well you can spot every potential hazard. If a different, better method will eliminate that hazard, then introduce it and offer training. If PPE is required, make sure it’s readily available. Have a list of safety requirements and be sure they’re followed.

For example, Slips, trips, and falls hazards at the entrances of construction sites, like rough, uneven ground and icy or muddy surfaces are the second most common area of non-compliance. Be sure to have good fall protection plans in place to prevent incidents.

3. Keep The Safety Conversation Going

At every opportunity you can, talk about safety with your colleagues and workers. Make sure you’re up to date on any new safety information and strategies that affect your workers and your workplace.

4.  Problem Solve With Teamwork

Create Safety Teams for solving potential workplace problems. The team members can gather information, analyse possible causes of safety problems, develop and test solutions. They can also implement strategies and monitor results. Working on a Safety Team makes workers feel they’re sharing responsibility for workplace safety for everyone. The added advantage is that it’s a great way to build good company morale. When other workers see what’s going on, they’ll want to join. Teamwork works well in all departments in a company or corporation, not just on construction sites or in mines.

5. What Shape Are Your Workers In?

Be aware of the physical health and conditions of your workers. Out of shape workers or workers returning to work following injuries or with disabilities may not be up to performing their regular jobs. They may need to be temporarily accommodated and reassigned different, less taxing and safer work. Monitor fatigue and illness in your workers – it can affect performance and put them and others at risk.

6. Monitor Changing Attitudes and Behaviours

You’ve all heard this: “Safety is our number one priority.” But when deadlines loom, safety tends to fall back to number two. It’s easy to get careless and take risks. Motivating workers to have safe attitudes consistently can make a significant difference in terms of injuries and fatalities. Safety must be central to a company’s culture, policies, activities, and core values.

“It’s important to have the process be habitual,” stresses Alberta Safety consultant and author Alan D. Quilley, CRSP. The process, the task, needs to happen, not randomly, but safely every time, like buckling up your seatbelt.

7. The Distractions of Technology on the Job

The distractions of listening to music, talking and texting on cell phones while operating heavy equipment and doing other safety sensitive jobs can be disastrous.

Cell phones cause two kinds of risks: distractions and entanglements. According to the HRInsider.ca, Canada’s Online Guide to HR Compliance and Management, in New Brunswick recently, “a road construction worker talking on his cell phone was so distracted that he stepped in front of a half-ton truck.”

Entanglements, like jewellery, are often banned in certain industrial workplaces. Cell phones can get entangled in machinery or interfere with the proper use of PPE.

Occupational Health and Safety legislation hasn’t addressed these newer technologies yet, with the exception of Alberta, where cell phone use is restricted in one small industrial sector – near electronic detonators in blasting operations. That means it’s up to you to recognize the hazards cell phones pose and not leave it up to chance.

8. Reward Safe Behaviours

Everybody wants recognition and approval for a job well done. When it comes to building a safe and compliant workforce, nothing succeeds like success and feeling rewarded for a job well done with positive feedback fills the bill. Tell workers who are following sound and safe work practices that you’re pleased with their work and that their attention to safety is of great value to your company.

9. Make Time To Listen

Be accessible to your workers and be sure they know you are there to answer their questions and listen to their concerns. Focus on them when they come to see you. During Safety Talks encourage your workers to ask questions and let them know your “door is open,” if they want to see you privately.

Alan Quilley has a great way of summing up how crucial safety and compliance are on the job. It’s all about personal responsibility.

“The best safety device I know of is to care about each other,” he says. “If you see something creating a risk or someone taking a risk that they don’t have to take, then intervene. I’m really just suggesting that you don’t walk by and expect that ‘someone’ else will do something about a problem.”

Have a safe new year.