April 28th is National Day of Mourning

National Day of Mourning

Every day, an estimated three workers die in work-related incidents and more than 900,000  workplace injuries are reported every year. In Alberta alone, there was a record high number of 188 workplace deaths. With fatalities rates on the rise, it is time to realize the need for change.

Today, April 28, is the National Day of Mourning. On this day, the whole nation pays its respects to all workers who have been killed, injured or disabled on the job, or who suffer from occupational diseases. In 1984, the Labour Congress first declared April 28th as Canada’s Day of Mourning. This year marks its 30th anniversary.

The National Day of Mourning is held yearly not just to commemorate the dead, ill and injured, but also to raise awareness of the importance of workplace safety and health, and its role in preventing these needless occupational tragedies.

Organizations and individuals are encouraged to take a proactive role in promoting health and safety in the workplace. Take the time to recognize fellow workers who have been affected by work-related illnesses, injuries and deaths. Offer a moment of silence for them. Wear ribbons and armbands to show your support. You can also do this by looking for ways to improve the safety and health conditions of your facility.

Seton Canada is with you in honouring and remembering those who have lost their lives in the workplace. We are committed to promoting safety awareness in the workplace. Here are some ways that you and your company can do to increase safety and health awareness at work:

Promote employee safety at work. Put up safety signs in your workplace to remind everyone of the importance of safety and following safety rules and regulations. You can also post infographics on the number of worker deaths in Canada each year and the leading causes of workplace deaths and illness.

Be a safety mentor. Mentoring is an effective way to train new workers on the ins and outs of the job – including the correct safety practices. This can be a separate program or can supplement your current OHS program to decrease injuries and incidents, cut claims, and create a more safety conscious work environment. Use safety training tools for a more comprehensive training program.

Learn from it. Find the lessons to be learned from a workplace injury or fatality. Figure out the causes and find solutions to prevent such incidents from happening again.

Most workplace deaths are tragic events that could have been preventable. With proper training and awareness on safety regulations,  the number of workplace fatalities can decrease. National Day of Mourning is the day to honour the dead, but it is also a day to remind us of the need to protect the living.

But today, let us all take the time to wear our armbands and ribbons, light a candle, and observe a moment of silence for our fellow workers who are no longer with us.

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Conveyor Accident Stories: What’s Gone Wrong?

Conveyor Belt Safety

From food processing and bottling plants, to automotive manufacturing and construction sites, conveyor belts today are like veins to many industrial units’ anatomy. They efficiently transport materials and goods within the site in almost the same manner nutrients are distributed throughout the body. But just like when blood vessels are pushed to a dangerous extent and fail to keep up with excessive intake, the increase of demand for this technology and human-machine interaction gives rise to occupational safety risks.

Between 2005 and 2008, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) reported 48 serious conveyor-related injuries in Ontario that cost an average of 68 workdays and $7.3 million. In that same period, the Ministry of Labour recorded two (2) fatalities. These accidents mostly occurred during cleaning, maintenance on a moving conveyor, recovery of a jammed article, and normal production activities like sorting and packing.

But what could have have gone wrong that turned an otherwise ordinary workday into a horror story?

Last June, an 18-year-old Lavington worker got caught in a conveyor belt and was later pronounced dead.  In 2011, a meat processing plant employee in Toronto became injured after his arm was pulled into still-moving conveyor cogwheels. A 31-year-old worker in Alberta was pulled into conveyor drum pulleys and sustained serious injuries in that same year.

What did these victims have in common? They were all cleaning a conveyor one way or another.

Being an essential machine for industrial production, it’s no surprise that the need to keep it in optimum condition poses some conveyor hazards. Lifting of guards to provide better access for cleaning, dismissing basic lockout procedures, or rashly reaching into a running belt to remove a caught item are conveyor safety no-no’s but are unwittingly committed even in the presence of safety labels. Come up with a long list of reasons behind these slip-ups, but one can argue that it’s all a gap in training and constant awareness.

Employers must not throw workers into the water and expect them to swim immediately. It’s important for every employee working with and around conveyor systems, especially those who clean and maintain it, to undergo training using industry standards on conveyor safety. Site-specific refresher sessions conducted by experienced supervisors and appropriate safety signs and posters around the workplace play a big role in keeping everyone mindful of safety procedures.

Stepping up to the plate doesn’t stop there.

In 2010, a tubular steel manufacturer in Ontario pleaded guilty and paid a hefty sum of $140,000 for not securing conveyor guards which could have prevented a bundle of tubes from striking one of their workers. In Carberry, Manitoba, a business also pleaded guilty and was fined $50,000 in 2012 after a 15-year-old boy straddled a moving conveyor belt, fell and got pulled under the metal brace resulting in bone fractures and internal injuries. Workplace Safety and Health “found there was no safe way for workers to cross the belt.”

Conveyor guards didn’t get their name for nothing. It is designed to prevent transported objects from falling and to protect people from pinch points and the objects themselves, making it an imperative safety device. And if the conveyor system occupies a significantly large space, constructing a throughway that may run along or cross over or under the belt is also a must.

Industrial resources like conveyors are great tools that allow for faster and more efficient production. However, informed care must be taken to prevent accidents that may harm the operators and workers in its vicinity. After all, a company is only as strong as its greatest assets — people.

 

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