A Summer Job Should Start A Future, Not End A Life
Gaining early work experience is a great way for young people to get a head start on their careers. However if their focus is exclusively on learning new job skills and making a good impression, safety can fall by the wayside.
In 2005, 60 Canadian workers aged 15 to 24 were fatally injured as a result of workplace hazards. Another 52,920 young workers were injured on the job. Each of those numbers represents a loved one. Somebody's young son was killed when he became crushed between the trawl door and main stern roller of the fishing boat he was working on. Another family lost a loved one when their young construction worker fell 20 feet from a deck, through a hole that was partially covered by plywood.
As exciting as it is for young people to enter the workforce, they are entering an unfamiliar environment with new people, new rules, and hazards they have never encountered before. The employee/boss relationship is new and can be intimidating. It is our responsibility as adults to make sure they think and act with safety in mind.
The parent's role
Parents have a responsibility to talk to their children about workplace hazards, just as they have taught them how to safely cross the street. Encourage them to think about potential hazards in the workplace, such as unguarded machinery, chemical products, tools, working alone, working at heights, and any other hazard that applies to their job.
Engage them in conversation about their work. Find out about the tasks they perform; what training and orientation they receive; what equipment, tools or chemicals they work with and how they protect themselves; and whether the supervisor keeps them informed on how to avoid injury.
Talk to your children about their rights and responsibilities for safety at work, and the responsibilities of their supervisors and employers. In particular, they should know they have a legal right to be informed about workplace hazards and how to protect themselves; a right to participate in activities that will improve their working conditions; and a right to refuse unsafe work. Tell your children to report an injury or illness immediately to their supervisor - no matter how small.
The employer's role
Employers must ensure that safety measures and procedures are in place and always followed, to protect all workers. They must ensure equipment, materials and protective devices are in compliance with health and safety law, and that young workers are trained on - and use - these protective measures at all times. Workers, especially young ones, should be encouraged to alert their supervisors immediately if they see something that could endanger their safety. And when health and safety concerns are reported, employers must respond promptly to address them.
Hiring a young worker means taking the time to provide thorough safety training specific to the job tasks, and letting the worker know that safety is more important than productivity. When the boss clearly cares, a young worker is less likely to rush through a job and neglect safety just to make a good impression.
You can help contribute to a safer generation of young workers! There is lots of great information on how to protect young workers on the Internet.
Slopes and Sparks - Safeguard Against Unforeseen Dangers
Halfway down a small hill, your truck makes an awful rattling sound under the hood. You leave the ignition running, open your door…. Stop right here! You shouldn't get out to check things out and you certainly shouldn't walk to the front of the truck.
Don't even think about proceeding to pop open the hood and investigate. Instead, think about the three workers in British Columbia who recently, in separate incidents, were fatally struck by their own vehicles after exiting the cabs to troubleshoot or do repairs. Their trucks, much like yours, were idling without the parking brake applied. Like you, they had parked on a slope.
WorkSafeBC issued a hazard alert to remind people of safe work practices. Trucks are heavy. Wheels roll. Always be aware of these basic facts. When troubleshooting or doing maintenance or repairs, you need more than just your vehicle's braking system to protect yourself and others around you. Shut off the engine, place the transmission in a low gear or other specified "park" position, and/or chock the wheels. Apply the parking brakes on the tractor and trailer before exiting the truck; trailer hand valves sometimes release, so don't rely solely on the hand valve.
Inspect brakes at the start of your shift in your pre-trip inspection, and other times as required. Where possible, park on flat terrain with the wheels chocked.
A rolling truck is very different from another potentially fatal hazard - a pile of pulverized coal in a cement plant - but the rule is the same: Look beyond what appears to be stationary, and always try to see the unforeseen dangers.
On a completely different topic, the United States Department of Labor, Mining Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) recently issued an alert regarding fuel firing explosions in cement operations and suggested some best operating practices to help prevent future injuries.
In the metal and non-metal mining industry, fuel explosions are not uncommon. Eighty percent of those explosions occur in the cement industry's handling, preparation and firing of coal. In the United States there have been 36 fuel firing explosions in the cement industry since 2001. Countless workers sustained minor injuries or narrowly escaped getting hurt, while seven people sustained severe burns or inhaled flames or superheated gases.
Any place coal dust is found, there is potential for an explosion. This includes coal pulverizers, dust collectors, cyclones, kilns, conveying piping and ductwork. During the cement-making process, the coal is usually inerted with a gas such as nitrogen, so that it won't react ignite and explode. Problems sometimes occur, however, during startup or shutdown, or if the inerting system fails. Ignition can be caused by metal pieces fed into coal grinders, which create sparks, or by static electricity or other sources.
Cement workers should be aware of this explosion hazard and ensure their coal systems are designed to include bins for mass-flow; sloped ducts and piping to prevent accumulations of coal; sensors to detect smouldering coal; proper ventilation; fire suppression systems and other safety measures.
When working with coal dust, safe work practices include keeping temperatures low in the mill outlet, avoiding hot system restarts, cooling the system before opening for inspection or maintenance, repairing leaks, cleaning up any spillage, wearing PPE when troubleshooting. All operations, maintenance and support personnel must be trained on coal firing hazards and best practices.
Be Thorough, Be Safe
Stopping workplace injuries and illnesses before they happen involves an important step: inspecting the workplace for hidden - or sometimes obvious - hazards. There's more to a workplace inspection than just looking around. It also involves listening to people's concerns, fully understanding jobs and tasks, determining the underlying causes of hazards, monitoring controls, and recommending corrective action.
Routine, thorough workplace inspections by a trained and dedicated inspection team can make all the difference. The OSH Answers website from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) contains detailed information about the important steps involved in a workplace inspection.
How to plan for a workplace inspection - This means planning which aspects of the workplace to examine (including who, what, where, when and how), and which equipment is most likely to develop unsafe or unhealthy conditions because of stress, wear, impact, vibration, heat, corrosion, chemical reaction or misuse. The workplace should be inspected including areas where no work is done regularly, such as parking lots, rest areas, office storage areas and locker rooms. Planning requires a careful look at the workplace environment, equipment and processes.
Hazards to look for - Workplace inspectors should be familiar with biological (e.g. mould), chemical (e.g., cleaners, adhesives, paints), ergonomic (e.g., computer workstations), safety (e.g. slip and trip hazards) and physical hazards (e.g. noise, radiation), and where to find them.
How to complete an inspection report - There's quite a lot to this process. Inspectors will need a diagram of the work area, a complete equipment inventory, a chemical inventory, as well as other checklists and reports.
The inspection schedule - Every workplace should have a schedule stating when inspections will take place and in which areas; who carries out the inspections; and how detailed the inspections will be.
Doing the actual inspection - Inspectors must wear personal protective equipment (PPE) where required and when inspectors encounter imminent danger, they may request that equipment be shut down or locked out until hazardous equipment can be safely operated or repaired. They will draw attention to priority items that present an immediate danger to workers. OSH Answers offers detailed guidance and advice on how to inspect a workplace.
What the final inspection report should contain - An inspection report allows for the next step: taking corrective action. The report can contain a check to be sure that items from the previous report have been acted upon or documented as well as all newly observed unsafe conditions and safety recommendations The report specifies the exact location of each hazard and a detailed description of what's wrong, and what needs to be done. Its purpose is to make management aware of the problems in a concise, factual way.
Follow-up and monitoring - Once an inspection is completed, it's not over. A dedicated health and safety team regularly reviews the information to identify where immediate corrective action is needed. Getting to know inspection reports is a good way to identify trends and really get to know the organization's particular health and safety strengths and weaknesses.
All the best with your workplace inspections!
Down with the Din
Noise exposure limits for Ontario workers in industrial facilities are dropping from 90 dBA for an eight-hour period to a time-weighted average of 85 dBA as of July 1, 2007. The December 30, 2006 issue of the Ontario Gazette published these changes, which appear as an amendment to section 139 of the Industrial Establishments Regulation (Regulation 851) under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
It's music to workers' ears. This change marks the first significant update to noise limits since their introduction 30 years ago. The change includes a new time-weighted averaging method that provides a more accurate way to determine how much noise a worker is exposed to.
Workers who are exposed to high noise levels from machinery and other sources are at risk of hearing loss, and other adverse effects including physical and psychological stress, which reduces their productivity and affects their safety. Noisy environments may contribute to incidents and injuries by making it hard for workers to hear warning signals. The degree of damage sometimes goes unnoticed for a while, because hearing loss is not a painful condition, but a "silent" problem that often occurs gradually. Once damaged, however, hearing cannot be restored.
A lower daily exposure to noise helps to prevent hearing loss. The changes to Ontario's noise exposure limits reduce the limit from 90 to 85 dBA with a 3 dB exchange rate and allow for a more accurate way to measure noise exposure over an eight-hour period.
According to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, hearing loss from exposure to high levels of noise in the workplace resulted in close to $100 million in compensation costs for companies between 1995 and 2004. It is a serious occupational illness.
All workplaces in Ontario covered by the Regulations for Industrial Establishments and the Regulations for Offshore Oil and Gas Operators will be covered by the new noise exposure limit. Other industrial sectors, such as the mining and construction sectors, do not have set noise exposure limits, however their employers are still required to take all reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of workers.
Eleven Canadian jurisdictions have a noise limit of 85 dBA, most of which use a 3 dB exchange rate. This means that the allowable workplace exposure time is halved for every 3 dB(A) increase in sound level rate. As well, eight Canadian jurisdictions have adopted a ceiling exposure limit.
The new changes in Ontario are a result of consultations between industry associations, labour organizations and unions, health and safety partners (including hearing associations), media, and Ministry of Labour enforcement team members. The Canadian Hearing Association supports the changes.
Emergencies And Legalities - CCOHS' Latest E-Course Offerings
CCOHS is on a roll! The Centre's popular collection of health and safety e-courses continues to generate demand for more. Anyone with a computer and Internet access can learn at their own pace, and in their own environment, with these e-courses reviewed by experts from government, employers and labour. In keeping with the same format and high standard of current, reliable information, here are the latest e-courses from CCOHS:
Canada Labour Code, Part II: An Overview
Employees in federally-regulated businesses or organizations will gain a basic understanding of what the Code requires, and how to apply it to the workplace. This one-hour course includes case studies and other examples, which illustrate the concepts. It is a useful starting point for anyone who will be taking more in-depth training on health and safety committees, WHMIS, and other specific occupational health and safety topics.
This e-course introduces the Internal Responsibility System, and the rights and responsibilities of managers, supervisors, employees and health and safety committee members. It is intended to help participants identify and control work hazards, resolve complaints and work refusals and assist in an accident investigation.
Emergency Preparedness for Workers
Workers will learn how to prepare for and respond to workplace emergencies in this one-hour e-course. It covers the rights and responsibilities of employers and workers, and how to identify potential emergencies, activate the response, and evacuate, as well as other information on emergency preparedness, response and training.
Emergency Preparedness for Workers is suitable for anyone working with an emergency response plan for their workplace. Health & safety committee members making informed recommendations for their organization's emergency response plans will also benefit from this e-course.
Emergency Response Planning
Preparing for an emergency protects lives, property, and the future of the organization. This introductory course covers an essential part of a company's workplace health and safety program.
Participants in this one-hour e-course will receive guidance for developing and implementing a response plan for workplace emergencies, which may also include emergencies off-site that affect the organization's staff. The course also covers how to identify and assess potential emergencies and how organizations can respond.
Topics include: key steps to emergency preparedness; establishing the planning team; identifying potential emergencies and assessing risk; assessing your organization's emergency response capabilities; building the emergency response plan; implementing the plan: preparing to respond; and evaluating effectiveness and continuous improvement.
This course does not address community-wide emergencies (pandemic planning) that are not directly related to the workplace.
The Emergency Response Planning e-course is targeted to anyone with responsibility for developing, implementing and maintaining emergency response plans; managers and administrators; health and safety committee members; and supervisors.
The Health and Safety Report, a free monthly newsletter produced by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), provides information, advice, and resources that help support a safe and healthy work environment and the total well being of workers.
© 2009, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety