Tips for emergency preparedness
Earthquakes, mud slides and flooding of monumental proportion; it's not uncommon to hear about disasters such as these occurring around the world. Canada, however, has also had its share of disasters with flooding in Western Canada, tornadoes in Ontario, hurricanes on the East Coast, and power outages from wind and ice - just to mention a few. Emergency Preparedness Week is May 6-12, 2012. So, this is a perfect time to ask yourself if an emergency were to occur at work or at home, would you know what to do? Would you be prepared?
No one knows exactly when or where an emergency will occur; they can happen fast, with little warning. What we do know is that planning and preparing ahead can help you and your organization cope better during and after a major disaster, prevent fatalities, injuries, and property damage, and minimize the impact on families, workplaces, and the community.
Prepare at home
There are three main steps that families should take to prepare for any emergency that may arise:
- Know the risks in your community. Understand what natural and technological disasters are most likely to happen in your community to help you understand what to prepare for.
- Make a family emergency plan. Once you know the types of disasters that are most likely to happen, make a plan to evacuate your home and/or community (if needed) and keep your family fed, warm and safe for 72 hours or until help can reach you. Determine what special accommodations you must make for anyone with disabilities and/or special needs, as well as your pets.
- Get or make an emergency preparedness kit with enough food, water and other supplies to meet your family's needs for at least 72 hours. Store the supplies in sturdy, easy-to-carry containers such as suitcases on wheels or backpacks in case you need to evacuate your home.
Both the Red Cross and the GetPrepared.ca websites have advice and detailed instructions on each step, the links to which are provided at the end of this article.
Prepare at work
Preplanning by workplaces is essential to being able to handle unexpected situations effectively and protect employees, reduce damage to buildings and equipment, and help get operations up and running normally as soon as possible. During an emergency, decisions have to be made quickly. To avoid chaos, it's important to know in advance who to call, what to do, and who will be in charge.
Employers have a responsibility to develop an emergency plan, share it with their employees, test and review it regularly, and revise it as necessary to reflect any changes that have occurred in plant infrastructure, processes, materials used, and key personnel.
The emergency plan includes:
- all possible emergencies, consequences, required actions, written procedures, and the resources available,
- detailed lists of personnel including their home telephone numbers, their duties and responsibilities,
- floor plans, and
- large scale maps showing evacuation routes and service conduits (such as gas and water lines).
There are steps you can take to develop a plan for your workplace:
- Conduct a vulnerability assessment to determine which technological (chemical or physical) and natural hazards pose a threat; the possible major impacts of each (i.e. work disruption, casualties, damage to equipment); how likely a situation is to occur; and what is necessary to prevent it from happening.
- Involve others in the planning process - such as the joint occupational health and safety committee - to get valuable input.
- Establish appropriate emergency procedures based on the vulnerability analysis.
- Clearly define specific duties, responsibilities, and the chain of command for reporting the emergency, activating the emergency plan, alerting and evacuating staff, handling casualties, containing the situation, and communicating with the external agencies, media, and others as required.
- Identify evacuation routes and alternate means of escape and inform and rehearse them with staff.
- Specify safe locations for staff to gather for head counts to ensure that everyone has left the danger zone. Assign individuals to assist employees who have special needs.
In the words of Benjamin Franklin, "by failing to prepare you are preparing to fail." Let Emergency Preparedness Week serve as a friendly reminder to plan ahead and be prepared - for anything.
- Emergency Preparedness, RED CROSS
Step by step guidance on writing an emergency plan, OSH Answers, CCOHS
Map of Natural Hazards that Affect Canada, PDF
Emergency Preparedness for Workers e-course, CCOHS
Emergency Response Planning e-course, CCOHS
Emergency Response Planning Guide, CCOHS
Emergency Preparedness Week 2012
Emergency Preparedness Guide for People with Disabilities/Special Needs (available in seven languages and in Braille in both English and French), Government of Ontario
Tips & Tools
Selecting the proper tool for the job and fitting it to the individual is important for productivity and worker health; however even people working at a correctly designed workstation and using the best available tools can get injured. It happens when their work is poorly designed. If you work with hand tools or plan the work of those who do, here are some tips for work organization to help prevent musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs):
Change it up
Jobs that use only one kind of tool for one or a few tasks, using the same movement and same part of the body, can overload those muscles, ligaments, tendons or tissues and cause pain and injury. A job that involves a variety of tasks allows you to change your body position to distribute the workload over different parts of the body, and to give overused muscles some relief and recovery time.
- Rotate tasks among workers that are different in the type of movement and body parts used, having them move from one task to another according to a schedule.
- Add more tasks to the job.
- Assign a larger part of work to a team of workers with each member sharing several different tasks.
Pace - don't race
A fast pace of work is a strong risk factor for MSDs. If the pace is too fast, the muscles involved do not have enough time to recover from the effort and restore enough energy to continue the work. If the pace of work is imposed externally - assembly line speed, for example - adjust it to the speed that is acceptable for the slowest worker.
Incentive systems that reward for the quality of work naturally determine the "right" pace of work. In contrast, incentive systems that reward for the amount or quantity of work increase the risk for MSDs and may affect quality as well.
Break it up
Work and rest breaks provide time for the muscles you are using on the job to rest and recover, and help prevent injury. The work break is a time period (even short periods of time, literally seconds) between tasks which allow you to relax muscles involved in operating tools. Rest breaks, the period after work stops, not only allow for refreshment, but also can be used to stretch and relax.
Take time to adjust
When returning to work after a long absence, or when starting a new job, you should have an adjustment or acclimatization period to get in shape. It should allow you to refresh old work habits or get used to a new routine. An adjustment period is a very important part of injury prevention. Inexperienced and new workers, as well as "old timers" returning to work after a period of recovery and rehabilitation, are more prone than most workers to both injury and re-injury.
Training workers on the safe use of tools, and on the hazards involved in working with them, has always been extremely important. As new materials, new technologies, and new equipment replace older ones faster then ever before, the importance of training is even greater. Before introducing a new tool or equipment, as well as any change in the way the job has been done previously, the worker should be given refresher training that includes new information about the changes being introduced. Even the best-designed tool, or the most ergonomically correct workstation, or the most up-to-date work organization will fail to prevent injuries if the worker is not properly trained.
More information on hand tool ergonomics from CCOHS.
People have a right to be safe at work, and be free to live out their lives without illness or injury caused by the job they do or where they work. In the next few days, awareness and the importance of worker safety will take centre stage as organizations across North America celebrate Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week.
NAOSH Week, May 6-12, is a time in which attention turns to the importance of preventing injury and illness in the workplace, at home and in the community. With the theme of Making it Work, organizations all over North America are planning their activities for Health and Safety Week.
CCOHS has a selection of free webinars and podcasts for you to use for your own NAOSH Week event, to help raise awareness and ultimately improve the health, safety, and well-being of your employees.
Psychological Health and Safety: An Employers Guide
Dr. Merv Gilbert and Dr. Dan Bilsker will tour you through Psychological Health and Safety: An Action Guide for Employers, a new online resource that is geared towards all Canadian employers. The webinar will include a brief description of the underlying research and framework, an overview of the contents, and recommendations for implementation. Organizations that implement some of the recommended actions will be encouraged to share their experiences in order to inspire and instruct others.
Tuesday, May 8, 2012 1:00 pm EST Register for the live event.
Mentally Healthy Workplaces: Strategies for Success
Join Donna Hardaker from the York Region Canadian Mental Health Association as she discusses mental health protective factors and how to take care of both ourselves and others in the workplace. You will learn to recognize risk factors including conflicting tasks, work overload, and unreasonable work pace. Discover how skill discretion, decision authority, perceived fairness, and leveraging your workplace's social support network could help your teams build a more mentally healthy workplace.
Available on demand. Watch it now.
Help Your New Workers Stay Safe
Young, new and migrant workers need special attention because it has been shown that they are at more risk of injury than their more experienced counterparts, especially in the first four to six months of employment.
In this webinar, Jan Chappel, Senior Technical Specialist from CCOHS will discuss how experience has shown that a successful training or outreach program will cover the overall training needs, recognize the difference between education and training, and incorporate best practice approach for reaching young, new or migrant workers - and acknowledge the differences between these groups.
Available on demand. Watch it now.
Workplace Injuries: A Personal Story
Bill Bowman, a victim of a workplace injury shares his personal story and how he and his family were impacted by the tragedy. Bill also describes the work of Threads of Life, an organization that provides support to families affected by workplace tragedies.
Length: 9:24 minutes Listen to the podcast on demand.
Violence and Harassment in the Workplace
Jessie Callaghan, Senior Technical Specialist, at CCOHS discusses workplace violence and harassment - how to protect your employees, tips for prevention and the requirements under Ontario Bill 168.
Length: 7:13 minutes Listen to the podcast on demand.
Tips for a Job Safety Analysis
CCOHS covers the basic steps to conducting a job safety analysis.
Length: 3:49 minutes Listen to the podcast on demand.
About NAOSH Week
NAOSH Week strives to focus the attention of employers, employees, the general public, and all workplace safety and health partners on the importance of preventing injury and illness in the workplace, at home and in the community.
NAOSH Week is led by the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE) in partnership with the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), and Labour Program, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC). NAOSH Week continues to be a truly continent-wide event, celebrated in Canada, along with North American partners in the United States and Mexico.
For more ideas and information about NAOSH Week, visit the website.
Choose from a list of recorded webinars for your own event.
Find a complete list of all CCOHS podcasts.
Health and Safety To Go
This month's Health and Safety To Go! touch on worker fatigue, and feature a timely encore presentation podcast on roadside safety.
Feature podcast: Worker Fatigue
CCOHS explains how fatigue affects worker safety and offers tips on minimizing the effects of fatigue.
The podcast runs 4:24 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
Encore podcast: Roadside Safety
Mark Ordeman, Manager of Transportation at WorksafeBC discusses the safety hazards faced each day by those who work on or near roads including emergency responders, construction workers, utility workers and tow truck drivers.
The podcast runs 5:13 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
CCOHS produces free monthly podcasts on a wide variety of topics designed to keep you current with information, tips, and insights into the health, safety, and well-being of working Canadians. You can download the audio segment to your computer or MP3 player and listen to it at your own convenience... or on the go!
See the complete list of podcast topics. Better yet, subscribe to the series on iTunes and don't miss a single episode.
The date is saved, the program is finalized, the venue is booked, and the stage is set for CCOHS' Forum IV. And in about six months, workers, employers, and government representatives from across Canada will gather in Halifax with experts from Canada, the United States, and The Netherlands, to share their collective knowledge and experience around the issues related to worker health, safety and overall well-being.
CCOHS' Forum IV: Better Together will take place October 29 and 30, 2012, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It will explore the issues of mental health in the workplace, harassment and bullying, healthy workplaces, and the impact of psychosocial work factors on musculoskeletal (MSDs).
This dynamic program includes the following presentations:
- The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander: Breaking the Cycle of Violence in the Workplace with Barbara Coloroso, international bestselling author
- Are Psychosocial Factors Risk Factors for Musculoskeletal Symptoms and Disorders? Presented by Birgitte Blatter, Business Line Manager of 'Healthy, Vital and Safe Work' at TNO in the Netherlands
- How Healthy is Your Workplace When it Comes to Mental Health? Presented by Donna Hardaker, Mental Health Works Specialist, Canadian Mental Health Association York Region Branch
- Bullying at Work: Overcoming Organizational Resistance with Dr. Gary Namie, social psychologist and widely regarded as one of North America's foremost authorities on workplace bullying
- Towards a Healthy Workplace: Some New Thinking about Psychosocial Issues at Work with Kevin Kelloway, Canada Research Chair in Occupational Health Psychology at Saint Mary's University, Halifax, Nova Scotia
- Psychological Health and Safety: An Action Guide for Employers presented by Merv Gilbert, principal partner at Gilbert Acton Ltd., and Dan Bilsker, Psychologist, Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health & Addiction (Simon Fraser University)
- Journey to a Healthier Workplace: A Case Study presented by Julie Fischer, Trillium Health Centre
This will be the fourth national health and safety conference for CCOHS, and if this event is anything like previous forums, the debates will be lively, the questions - compelling, and the hallways will be filled with animated exchanges.
More importantly, people will leave the conference inspired to find and implement solutions to make their workplaces healthier and create environments in which people can thrive at work.
The tripartite panel discussions and interactive workshops provide a unique opportunity to share diverse perspectives and for delegates to participate in the discussion. There will be simultaneous French language interpretation and professional certification maintenance points awarded.
Reasons to register sooner rather than later
The first sixty registrants will be entered into a draw for a Blackberry Playbook, which will take place at the Forum. Participants registering on or before July 31, 2012 will save $100 with the early bird rate.
More information about the program and registration including group, membership and student discounts is available at www.ccohs.ca/events/forumIV.
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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.
© 2015, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
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