Canadian Workers Don’t Understand Disability Risk

September 30th, 2014

Safety equipment ppeAccording to a recent insurance company survey, Canadian workers tend to downplay the likelihood that they will become disabled because of an on-the-job injury. That tendency worries some safety experts, because they feel that workers who are unaware of the potential consequences may be more likely to take an unwarranted risk while on the job.

According to the survey, 45 per cent of Canadian workers believe disability is something that is relatively rare, and they tend to only see it as something that results from a workplace catastrophe. In reality, Statistics Canada says that one out of every seven Canadians are currently disabled, and one out of every four Canadian workers will experience a disability period that lasts more than 90 days at some point during their working lives.

Part of the problem seems to be a disconnect between definitions of “disability.” For example, most Canadians in the survey (72 per cent) consider physical accidents and workplace-related accidents (64 per cent) to be a disability, but fewer than half (45 per cent) consider depression to be a disability. Just as troubling, fewer than one-third of respondents said they believe that anxiety (30 per cent) and diabetes (21 per cent) are disabilities.

Experts find it troubling that most Canadian workers think only physical catastrophes can become disabilities, especially since fewer than 10 per cent of all disabilities are caused by accidents. They don’t seem to recognize that common, chronic conditions, such as those caused by noise, vibrations, exposure to chemicals or even mental illness, cause the vast majority of disabilities. This makes workers less likely to take measures designed to reduce these chronic conditions seriously enough to prevent them, and also makes them less likely to take risks and hazards seriously.

WorkSafeBC Campaign Hopes to Stop the Falls

September 29th, 2014

Stop the FallsWorkSafeBC has begun a campaign designed to reduce the number of workers who are injured due to falls from heights. According to the agency’s recently published 2013 Statistics, between 2004 and 2013, there were 22,610 serious injuries and 92 worker deaths due to falls from height, with most of those occurring within the construction industry. In fact, one out of every four claims made in the construction industry are related to falls, and they represent the most frequent and costly incidents in that particular industry.

The construction workers most commonly injured in falls from height include labourers, roofers and carpenters, with the most common falls coming from ladders or scaffolding or from a roof. The most common reasons for these falls, as cited in the statistical survey, include companies attempting to you’llsave more time and money, a lack of leadership and, of course, a lack of proper training. Other factors WorkSafeBC cites in their research include an overall failure on the part of many companies to create a culture of safety, which results in an increased risk due to peer pressure and the development of poor work habits.

The new campaign attempts to address all of the above, and includes a variety of new resources designed to increase awareness of the hazards that all workers face, and to encourage employers to create a stronger safety culture and better train workers to protect themselves. The materials include a number of hardhat stickers, posters and signage to remind both employers and workers that;

Focusing on safety won’t make your crew look down on you. Falling will. Speak up for safety.”

Runaway Truck on Set of TV Show Claims Worker

September 26th, 2014

WarningOn Monday night, September 15, a terrible accident involving a runaway truck on the set of the science fiction TV series Falling Skies, which is filmed in Burnaby, British Columbia, just outside Vancouver, claimed the life of Amrik Singh Gill, a 59-year-old security guard.

According to WorkSafeBC, the accident happened when an unattended five-ton truck that was parked on a 6% slope suddenly began to roll backward down a hill, pinning the security guard against a tree. At the time of the accident, the tailgate of the truck was down, so that workers could offload equipment in preparation for the next day’s shoot. as a result, Gill was caught between the tailgate and the tree and was seriously injured as result.

Immediately after the accident, Gill was transported to Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, B.C., where they tried to save him. However, he was pronounced dead not long after arrival.

Production on the science fiction tv show was shut down for the next two days. The details of the accident are under investigation by a number of agencies, including WorkSafeBC, the BC Workers’ Compensation Board, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, all of whom are looking at, among other things, the mechanical condition of the truck caused the accident, and why the truck was unattended at the time of the accident. They will be looking closely at issues regarding supervision and training for the crew was working on the truck.

Oklahoma Forklift Topples, Injures Workers

September 25th, 2014

forkliftIn Edmond Oklahoma, emergency responders say two people were called to the Old Towne Lofts for a horrible accident in which a forklift toppled over as a work crew was working on a lift platform that was two stories above ground.

As a result of the accident, which occurred at about 1 PM on September 19, 54-year-old Daniel Birney and his 56-year-old brother, Michael Birney are dead, while a third worker, an unidentified 21-year-old, is in the hospital with serious injuries.

According to witnesses and Edmond Police who were on the scene, the load apparently shifted or something else may have happened that caused the forklift to tip over, causing the workers to land hard on the sidewalk two stories below the lift. One worker was described as bleeding profusely from the head.  A neighbor attempted CPR, but said the worker’s rib cages were badly broken, so the effort was unsuccessful.

At least one investigator with the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was on the scene just after the accident, and is investigating, along with Edmond Police.

New Technology: SwiftGate System of Traffic Control

September 24th, 2014

SwiftGate System of Traffic ControlAbout a year ago, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) temporarily installed a new lane-closing system called SwiftGate at a bridge rehabilitation construction site on Highway 401, in order to test it, and the test seems to be a success.

The SwiftGate system is made up of several modules that are relatively easily installed. Each module consists of a gate with flashing arrows and reflective signs, as well as a solar panel and a control box. The gates are solar powered, take 30 seconds to engage, and are completely wireless. They also operate by remote control, which makes their operation easy, as well.

The way the system is designed, there are very few parts, and little maintenance is necessary. not only that, but all of the elements of the system are modular, so they are easy to replace. The purpose of the MTO test was to see if they could reduce the time it takes to open and close lanes, and whether they could perform that task without a crash truck and without risking worker safety by placing and removing barriers every day.

According to MTO, not only did the use of the SwiftGate system reduce worker risk and increase worker safety by reducing their exposure to traffic hazards, but the ministry also found significant potential cost savings. The bridge rehabilitation involved a complex series of lane closures, based on time of day and traffic levels, that was a pretty intensive test, which it passed with flying colors. According to feedback from the public, drivers were also happy with the increase in visibility and their ability to easily navigate through the construction zone.

More information about the SwiftGate system can be found here.

Lack of Warning Signs May Have Led to Road Worker’s Death

September 23rd, 2014

construction conesAccording to court testimony by the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC), an accident in which a car veered into a crew of road workers on a St. John’s highway was largely due to a lack of road signs in the area before the work zone.

The accident occurred about three years ago, on July 5, 2011. about 1 PM, as a work crew from the city of St. John’s, the Newfoundland Department of Transportation and Works (DTW) and Irving Oil Co. assembled on a portion of the TransCanada Highway to inspect the roadway for premature erosion. It was then that the driver of an SUV swerved to avoid crashing into the vehicle in front of him, then lost control of his vehicle and slammed into three road workers, one of whom died.

For the accident, the City of St. John’s and DTW are each facing seven charges for violations of the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act, while Irving oil faced six counts. And in open court, RNC Constable Barry Osmond, who is the lead police investigator, testified that there was nothing on the road warning drivers that they should be aware of road workers road or that they should slow down. He also noted that, of the nine workers at the worksite, only three were wearing high visibility gear, including one of the workers who was hit. There was no signage before the worksite; the only warning available to oncoming traffic that the worksite even existed was a small amber light on top of one DTW vehicle. He cited all of these are significant factors that led to the accident.

The driver of the SUV was inexperienced, having only been licenced for three months at the time, but he is not facing any charges, and the Constable felt he was not at fault in the accident, in part because of the lack of evidence of any distractions or that he did anything wrong. He said that, based on the evidence, drivers were coming up on these vehicles stopped on the road, and one of them slow down, causing a bit of a chain reaction.

Get Ready for Ontario MOL Materials Handling Safety Blitz

September 22nd, 2014

InvestigatorThe latest inspection blitz by the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) is currently underway, and you should make sure your workplace is ready for it.

The current blitz began on September 15. The focus of this one will be hazards associated with materials handling, including storage, loading and unloading, and the movement of goods throughout the workplace. Inspectors from the MOL will be making visits to a number of factories, plants and other workplaces within the industrial sector, in order to make sure that employers are taking proper precautions to make sure workers are as safe as possible while handling supplies and materials.

In particular, MOL inspectors will be taking a look at the condition of lift trucks, forklifts and other lifting devices, to make sure the machines are not carrying more than their rating allows, and to make sure that all such equipment is in good working order and well-maintained, and that operators are qualified and properly trained and supervised while operating equipment or handling materials.

Inspectors will also be taking a close look at whether or not workers are being provided with safe and secure access to work areas, including making sure that workers don’t have to take unreasonable risk to get into the workplace, and that there are no obstacles to access. They will also make sure that each workplace has a fall protection plan, and that all workers are able to perform their tasks safely, while wearing appropriate fall protection equipment.

In addition to making sure workers are safe in their daily tasks, MOL inspectors will also work to make sure that all materials and supplies in the workplace are being stored in a safe and secure manner.  this particular blitz will continue through October 26, 2014, so if you haven’t been targeted yet, there’s still plenty of time to get your workplace ready.

OSHA Strengthens Workplace Reporting Rules

September 19th, 2014

hazard signThe US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued a final revised rule regarding the reporting of severe injuries to the agency. The new rule places an obligation on all employers to notify OSHA of a worker fatality within eight hours, and when a worker is injured badly enough to require hospitalization, OSHA must be notified within 24 hours.

Under previous rules, employers were required to report every work-related fatality, but they were only required to report hospitalizations when they involved three or more employees. Beginning January 1, 2015, employers must report all individual hospitalizations, as well as amputations or the loss of an eye.

The new rule will apply to all workplaces that fall under federal OSHA jurisdiction, even those workplaces that qualify for an exemption from routinely recording worker injuries and illnesses. Such an exemption applies to employers with 10 or fewer employees. But to make it easy for all employers, OSHA is in the process of designing a web portal for employers, so they have the option of recording every incident electronically, in addition to reporting by phone.

As part of their announcement, OSHA officials reminded employers that every single workplace injury and fatality that occurs is potentially preventable. The purpose for the new reporting requirements will be to place greater responsibility on employers to prevent accidents, by making them more accountable. Any employer who knows that OSHA will always be aware of a serious injury at their workplace will also be more likely to prevent another one.

Young Alberta Workers Killed in Saskatchewan Accident

September 18th, 2014

hardhatTwo young workers from Alberta have been killed in a horrible workplace accident in Fox Valley, Saskatchewan, which is located nearly 40 km east of the Alberta/Saskatchewan boundary.

The accident occurred last week, as a work crew of three men were working on a sewer line, and two of them fell about four metres into sewer lines. The falls were then followed by a partial collapse of the sewer line.

When they arrived, first responders and rescue workers were overwhelmed by noxious fumes, but they were eventually able to pull one of the workers, a 25-year-old man, to the surface. He was then taken to Maple Creek Hospital, where he was pronounced dead soon after.

Not long after that, a local farmer showed up and brought equipment that allowed rescue workers to pull the second victim out. The 24-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police withheld the names of both workers, and simply gave their age and reported that both men were from Calgary. Autopsies were conducted and the Office of the Chief Coroner continues to investigate. in addition to that investigation, Saskatchewan Occupational Health and Safety is also conducting a workplace safety investigation.

“Weak Safety Culture” Led to Québec Train Disaster

September 17th, 2014

Two locomotivesIn a new report from Canada’s Transportation Safety Board last week, the importance of a strong safety culture in a company has never been more apparent than it was last year when a massive oil train explosion in downtown Lac-Megantic, Québec killed 47 people.

The TSB cited a total of 18 factors that played a role in the tragedy, but the most prominent reason cited was that rail company Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railways decided to cut corners, including doing so on safety. In addition to the rail company’s inattention to safe practices, the TSB also blamed Transport Canada for its failure with regard to its oversight responsibilities.

The accident itself was the worst in Canada in 150 years. A little over a year ago, a runaway train containing 72 cars full of oil derailed, then slid down a steep incline before crashing into downtown Lac-Megantic, Québec. The resulting massive explosion leveled 40 buildings.

The train in question had been parked on the rail line overnight before it somehow became loose. According to the TSB, whose responsibility it is to investigate rail, air and marine accidents, at the heart of everything was what they referred to as a “weak safety culture” at the company, including poor training of workers and tank cars that were not properly sealed and protected. Rather than spend the money to upgrade its equipment, the company instead decided to limit the speed of its trains on certain routes. Since the accident, the company has gone bankrupt, so in the long run they didn’t actually save any money.

TSB officials noted that Transport Canada was not auditing railways often enough and was not thorough in their audits, so they were unaware of how rail companies were managing risk. Worse, Transport Canada knew MMA was having difficulties, but they failed to follow up. As a result, the Transport Ministry has promised to act quickly and decisively on implementing all of the TSB’s recommendations.

Several months ago, Quebec prosecutors charged Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Canada Co. and three employees with a total of 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death, and a number of class-action lawsuits against the company have been filed.