First Things First
An accident victim often relies on a doctor to administer life-saving care. Before reaching medical help, however, another unsung hero can make a big difference in the outcome. The first aid provider, usually someone with no medical expertise but who is trained in how to minimize injury or disability, plays a critical role.
That's why occupational health and safety law requires that a certain number of workers have up-to-date first aid training and certification. Employers are mandated to ensure a safe and healthy workplace reasonably free of occupational hazards. Despite everyone's best efforts, however, workers sometimes get sick or hurt. The first aid provider can help by simply dressing a wound with a band-aid. In the event of a serious illness or injury, however, this person can sometimes provide critical care until medical personnel can intervene. Countless first aid providers have altered or saved lives by stabilizing a patient, stopping excessive loss of blood, maintaining the patient's breathing, minimizing shock, or preventing further injury.
A note of caution - While first aid is certainly valuable, never rely on it as a substitute for skilled, qualified medical attention. In the event of any serious injury or illness, or even if you're not sure of its severity, take immediate action by calling 911, your local Poison Control Centre or your local emergency service for assistance.
First aid: a legal requirement
The first aid requirements of health and safety legislation vary by jurisdiction. Details such as how many first aid kits are required, what kind, how many trained first aid providers each workplace must have, or what first aid equipment should be available in the workplace may differ from one province or territory to another. Most jurisdictions, however, tend to have similar general requirements for first aid. If you check yours it will likely outline the following:
- Where to post first aid information and notices in the workplace;
- Which first aid records and documentation are required;
- What kind of first aid facility to provide;
- What exactly a first aid kit must contain; and
- What certification is required for first aid attendants.
In most jurisdictions, legislation requires that you store your first aid kits in a well-marked, easily accessible location and that you inventory and replenish its contents on an ongoing basis.
Reporting an incident
When first aid is required, responsibility doesn't stop there. Reporting to your supervisor on first aid provided is required by law for many reasons. It brings unsafe conditions to the attention of the employer and health and safety committee so they can immediately take corrective action. It acts as a record, in case an insurance claim might be necessary. Proper incident reporting also helps safety personnel conduct a thorough investigation of what occurred to prevent the same thing from happening again. The law requires that any workplace accident, incident, injury or illness be reported on a specified form. A separate form is also required if you're making a claim to your workers compensation board.
Where to get information
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) has prepared a list of references to the provincial and federal legislation in Canada, where you will find information about first aid. To find out exactly what's required in your jurisdiction, contact your local occupational health and safety authority as listed in Canadian Governmental Occupational Health & Safety Departments.
Subscribers to the Canadian enviroOSH legislation service from CCOHS may also view the full, official text of all health, environmental and safety legislation in Canada by jurisdiction, including first aid requirements. For further information on this service, visit www.ccohs.ca/products/legislation/legislation.html.
A farmer on Prince Edward Island was climbing a ladder, which was attached to a 200-tonne grain tank, to dislodge some grain. The ladder, unfortunately, was in poor condition and had been very poorly installed. As the farmer climbed, both side rails broke and the ladder began to detach from the bin. To make matters worse, the rung that the farmer was holding onto pulled through its bolt holes. The farmer, who was not wearing any fall protection, fell 20 feet and was seriously injured.
According to the Hazard Alert released by the Workers Compensation Board of Prince Edward Island, a subsequent investigation revealed that the grain tank was only four years old. The exterior ladder, however, was made of inadequate building materials and did not meet Canadian Standards Association (CSA) requirements. The ladder, made of aluminum pipe, had weakened both at the crimp points and at the drilled bolt hole sites.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act of PEI, under Section 17, states that a "self employed person shall take every reasonable precaution to protect the self-employed person's own occupational health and safety and that of other persons…" In this case, the farmer would have been much better protected if he had worn fall protection. People who work at heights must be trained in fall protection and wear appropriate safety equipment.
The Act also states, under Section 15, that "a supplier shall ensure that any item, device, material, equipment, or machinery supplied by the supplier to a workplace is, when it is supplied, properly equipped with the safety features or devices required by the regulations".
To prevent an incident of this kind, ladders must meet CSA standards. The WCB of PEI recommends that ladders be welded together rather than bolted, and designed by an engineer.
Ladders are a common source of serious injury. Before climbing, a worker should inspect the ladder for metal fatigue, rust, and cracking on both the rungs and the ladder walls. Any rusted bolts or bent rungs must be replaced. If there are nuts and bolts, they should be tight.
Workplaces, including farms, must restrict access to ladders to prevent children or unauthorized people from climbing. There are a few ways to restrict access - with a ladder block-off plate, which covers the bottom rungs; by removing the bottom four feet of rungs so that the ladder does not go down to the ground; or by using a removable or retractable ladder.
Indoor areas, such as grain tanks, should have an engineered anchor point installed in the roof for attaching fall protection. There should also be step-off platforms every 10 feet, or circular stairs with a railing.
The surest way to protect workers from harm is to eliminate the hazard at the source. This isn't always possible, however, particularly where the hazard is noise. In workplaces where the sound levels exceed 85 decibels, workers are at risk of hearing loss.
Choosing personal protective devices for workers is an important part of a complete workplace hearing protection program. To find the best kind of hearing protector, ask yourself two important questions: Will it protect and will they wear it?
Manufacturers offer a variety of earplugs, semi-insert earplugs and ear muffs, all of which have their advantages and disadvantages.
Ear plugs may or may not be individually molded to fit the ear. Some are reusable, others disposable. Earplugs are easy to use, more comfortable than ear muffs in hot or damp environments, and less expensive. To provide the necessary protection, however, they must be properly inserted. They offer less protection than some ear muffs and are not suitable in areas with noise levels over 105 db(A) (A-weighted decibels).
Ear muffs vary by material, depth of the dome, and force of the headband. The deeper and heavier the dome, the greater the low-frequency attenuation provided by the protector. There should be a proper seal over the ear, but not too tight for comfort. In many cases, ear muffs provide greater protection than plugs. They are easier to fit, tend to last longer, and have replaceable parts. On the other hand, ear muffs cost more than plugs and are less comfortable, especially in hot work areas.
How to choose Other points to keep in mind…
The best place to start is to consult the
Other points to keep in mind…
For more detailed information about how much a hearing protector can reduce a worker's exposure to noise, and to read more about noise reduction ratings and how they work, visit OSH Answers.
Hotline Keeps PWGSC Employees In The Loop During Emergencies
Picture this. You're at home reading a book one evening and the lights go out. By morning, you realize there's a massive power outage extending across several provinces and states. No one knows how long it will last. The question is... do you head to work as usual?
Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) staff need only call their Employee Emergency Information Line to find the answer.
Emergency situations such as the August 2003 blackout in Ontario and the United States northeast create a unique challenge for employers. As both the Government of Canada's property manager and a major employer, the challenge for Public Works and Government Services Canada is particularly acute. The blackout was an opportunity to ensure its emergency procedures were up to date.
It was quickly determined that an Employee Emergency Information Line - or EEIL - could ensure that all employees, regardless of where they lived, would be able to access clear, accurate and timely information about the safe return to work. A hotline would be invaluable during building emergency situations, natural disasters like fires or floods, or a massive transit strike.
While it appeared at first that PWGSC might have to purchase costly equipment to handle the anticipated call volumes, as it turned out, the department's National Service Call Centre in Toronto already had the necessary technology.
The National Service Call Centre was originally created to handle the property maintenance requests of federal employees working in PWGSC's leased or Crown-owned facilities. Operating around the clock, every day of the year, it handles about 1,100 calls and 900 service requests daily, and responds to 80 percent of its calls within 15 seconds. With the call centre's technology and know-how, there was no doubt it could manage the proposed hotline, and for far less than it would cost to go elsewhere. But what would happen to its core business operations?
Marc Simoneau, Manager, PWGSC National Service Call Centre explains: "An emergency situation would generate extremely high call volumes in concentrated timeframes, which could result in a disruption to our core services, as well as issues with the hotline, such as call blockage."
Fortunately, a feasibility study revealed that only a few adjustments were needed at the call centre to accommodate the hotline.
"We estimated that with these minor adjustments in place, the Employee Emergency Information Line could absorb at least 300 calls within a 15-minute timeframe, with roughly 45 of those calls coming in simultaneously," says Simoneau. "The entire project took approximately three months to set up from design to implementation."
For users, the process is seamless. Once the National Service Call Centre is notified of an emergency situation, the message is posted onto the hotline in both official languages within 15 minutes. The notification system is password-protected to ensure the integrity of the process. It can be used simultaneously by all regions, and even by different provinces within some of the regions.
Employees are given a toll-free number to call in case of an emergency. The system recognizes a caller's area code and, once the employee chooses French or English, it automatically generates the designated message for that particular area. Employees calling from a location outside their own area code can wait until the end of the pre-recorded message and then have the option of selecting an alternate area code.
The hotline was officially launched in September 2005 during Business Continuity Planning week. Within the first six months, the line had been activated for seven events - five severe winter storms, a potential transit strike, and a major power outage, which prompted about 5,500 calls. Today, more and more PWGSC employees are using the hotline during emergency situations, with about 500 calls per event.
How To Run A Safe And Healthy Office
Working in an office doesn't generally involve perilous heights, huge motorized equipment or great feats of strength and agility. Does this make offices inherently safe? Not always. Health & Safety for Office Managers, a new e-course from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), teaches office managers and supervisors what they need to know about workplace hazards and how to address them.
A workplace illness or injury is costly, both personally and financially, whether it happens in an office, in a coal mine or in a hospital. Let's say an office worker bends down to pick something up off the floor, gets up, knocks his head on the top of his desk and fall unconscious. Or let's say a shelving unit comes loose from the wall and falls over, trapping a clerk underneath. These are just some of the possible types of injury covered in Health & Safety for Office Managers. The course covers slips, trips and falls, fire evacuation, chemical safety (WHMIS), office ergonomics, indoor air quality, lighting, noise and temperature. It also deals with work-related stress, violence, driving, business travel and more.
This CCOHS e-course explains why it's critical to prevent office illnesses and injuries, and outlines exactly what office managers can do. It gives an overview of their responsibilities under health and safety law, including inspections, accident investigations, how to support the health and safety committee, and how to exercise due diligence. Returning workers - after an illness or injury - to work in a timely fashion is another important issue covered in this e-course.
After completing the course, participants will know and understand their health and safety responsibilities and how the law applies to them. They will be able to identify hazards, address safety issues, and lead others in providing a safe and healthy office environment.
The e-course features case studies, review quizzes, and allows participants to submit questions to CCOHS subject specialists. After the final exam, anyone scoring at least 80% can print a certificate of completion.
Meeting the same high standard as other CCOHS e-courses, Health & Safety for Office Managers was developed by experts in the field and reviewed by representatives from the labour, business and government sectors.
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