The Importance of Safety Measurements

April 1st, 2015

Safety equipment ppeIf your workplace isn’t measuring its health and safety performance, you may be missing out as an employer. There are several advantages to measuring performance, not the least of which is that the gathering of information and data will allow you to quantify the effectiveness of the strategies and procedures you have put in place.

But more than that, by developing health and safety data tracking methods and measuring how well you’re doing, you will develop a basis for continual improvement. That also means it’s important that your measurement system be accurate. If it is not working properly and you’re not getting reliable information, your safety management system will be undermined, and your management team really won’t know which systems are working and which ones need to either be tweaked or dropped altogether.

It is not unusual for companies to find the development of health and safety performance measures to be a difficult task. Part of the reason for that is that most businesses are geared to measuring performance based on specific numerical measures such as profit, return on investment or market share, whereas measuring health and safety performance isn’t based solely on the number of illnesses and injuries, but also such issues as lost time and intangibles like worker morale.

A well-developed measurement of health and safety should answer a number of questions for the company, including:

  • What are our overall health and safety aims and objectives, and how close are we to realizing them?
  • How are we doing this year, compared to past years?
  • How efficient is our health and safety management?
  • How well are we controlling hazards and risks, and how does that compare with other companies in our sector?
  • Are we developing a supportive health and safety culture, and is our health and safety management system affecting every part of our organization?

Each level of management and supervision should have access to information appropriate to their position within the company, but it may also be necessary to be able to demonstrate to various stakeholders, such as shareholders and occupational safety regulators that you have a health and safety system in place, and that it’s effective. That means effectively measuring the performance of your safety management system is vitally important to the health of your company and its bottom line.

Saskatchewan’s Injury Rate Down, Still Too High

March 31st, 2015

Saskatchewan WCBLast week, the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) officially released its 2014 injury rates and the news is not bad, comparatively speaking. According to statistics, the province saw an overall reduction in the workplace injury rate, even though they saw an increase in the number of workers.

For 2014,  402,894 workers were covered by WCB in Saskatchewan, which is about 4,000 more workers than covered in 2013. Despite that increase in workers, the total injury rate for 2014 was 6.99 percent, which was significantly lower than the 7.80 percent reported for 2013, and even lower than the provincial goal for 2014, which was 7.50 percent.

Besides the improvement in overall injury rates, the number of accepted Time Loss claims dropped to 9,715 in 2014, from 10,116 in 2013, and Time Loss injury rates dropped to 2.41 percent in 2014 from 2.54 percent in 2013.

That doesn’t mean the province is patting itself on the back just yet. While there has been an overall downward trend over the last decade, and that’s encouraging, the province’s Time Loss injury rate is still nearly 50 per cent higher than the national time loss injury rate average of 1.65 per cent, as reported by the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC).

As part of an ongoing effort to improve that record, Saskatchewan Occupational Health and Safety has engaged in a new strategy that focuses their prevention efforts on employers with the greatest number of workplace injuries. They claim that the early results are encouraging, and that such targeted intervention do improve workplace injury rates in those companies.

Two Workers Killed in Toronto Construction Accident

March 30th, 2015

Swing StageAt least two construction workers were killed last killed late Friday morning, March 27 at a condo construction site close to Toronto’s High Park as a result of an accident that occurred while they were working from a “swing stage,” a hydraulic platform from which they were working about six storeys up.

At this point, the investigation is just underway and officials aren’t sure whether the swing stage broke or if the men simply fell from it, although witnesses who saw the accident suggest that the scaffolding they were standing on broke in half at one point. One worker, who was described as being in his 50s, was pronounced dead at the scene, while a second worker in his 30s was transported to St. Michael’s Hospital with serious injuries, where he was later pronounced dead.

The primary contractor at the worksite, Daniels Corporation, released a prepared statement declaring that “The health and safety of everyone on all of our job sites is of the utmost importance. We are cooperating fully with all of the regulatory officials and authorities having jurisdiction or investigating this accident.”

According to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board’s 2014 report, while motor vehicle accidents are the most common cause of workplace fatalities in Ontario, falls are second on the list. Also, the report notes that workers in the construction industry are more likely to die on the job than those in any other Canadian industry.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour is on the scene, investigating.

 

Young People in Newfoundland & Labrador Urged to Become Safety Leaders

March 27th, 2015

EducationLast week, Canada’s Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women, the Honourable Dr. K. Kellie Leitch spoke to students at the College of the North Atlantic about the necessity of educating and empowering young people.

Many of the students who listened to the speech are hoping to one day become health and safety professionals, and the Minister wants young people to feel empowered to become workplace health and safety experts, so as to protect themselves while they are on the job.

After the speech, the Minister held a meeting with a number of students, where she asked their views on the challenges young workers face with regard to occupational health and safety, especially with regard to their lack of experience, their fear of speaking up, and even the importance of eliminating the stigma that surrounds workplace mental health issues.

All of these issues are important, from a health and safety standpoint. While the injury rate among workers aged 15-24 years in federally regulated workplaces declined by about 8 per cent per year between 2005 and 2011, workers in that age group were still more likely to be injured on the job than all other workers. In 2013, more than 30,000 workers in that age group were injured seriously enough to require time off.

OSHA’s 10 Most-Cited Violations for 2014

March 26th, 2015

OSHA logoEach and every year, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) releases its list of the 10 most-cited violations it uncovered during workplace safety inspections the previous year.

This list is good to know, because it can help employers prepare for OSHA inspections and avoid problems. On average, OSHA finds 3.1 violations per inspection, with the average penalty for a serious violation being around $2,000. Of course, about 80% of violations are serious or higher, which cost more.

So, without further ado, here is OSHA’s list of the Top 10 Safety violations for 2014.

#10 – Electrical Systems

 For 2014, the agency cited a total of 2,427 violations for electrical system violations, including failure to follow manufacturers’ instruction when installing equipment, using temporary electrical wire or making sure there is enough clearance for electrical equipment. .

#9 – Machine Guarding

Coming in at number 9 on the list, OSHA cited 2,520 federal violations last year with regard to machine guarding. Machine guarding is extremely important, because moving machine parts can constitute major workplace hazards and rotating and moving parts, flying chips, sparks and other dangers are not properly guarded can lead to serious worker injuries.

#8 – Electrical Wiring

When it came to electrical wiring, OSHA cited 2,907 violations in 2014. Electric shock is a real hazard, because as little as 50 milliamperes can kill a worker. And even if it isn’t strong enough to kill, the shock could lead to injury, or could cause a fall or jolt a person into another hazard. Workplaces could be conducting constant inspections and making sure all electrical equipment is properly grounded.

#7 – Ladders in Construction

A perennial classic, OSHA cited 2,967 violations in 2014 involving ladders at construction sites. Ladders come in number of varieties, but all should be in compliance for the job. When selecting a ladder, take into account the length needed, the duty rating and the environment in which the work will be performed. You don’t want to be using a metal ladder to work near electrical lines, for example.

#6 – Lockout/Tagout

In 2014, OSHA cited 3,117 violations related to lockout/tagout procedures for all kinds of equipment. Employers should always have proper lockout/tagout procedures in place and make sure they are always followed before work begins on a machine.

#5 Powered Industrial Trucks

OSHA cited 3,147 violations in 2014 having to do with  powered industrial trucks, such as forklifts, motorized hand trucks, pallet trucks and other such vehicles. Violations often involved the design, maintenance and operation of the vehicles, and among the violations were failure to follow operator training and certification requirements or to maintain the vehicles properly.

#4 – Respiratory Protection

OSHA cited 3,843 respiratory protection violations last year. In part, this is because relatively new standards came into effect, and now include fit testing, the kinds of fit tests allowed and the procedures for conducting them. Employers have a responsibility to protect workers from air contaminants.

#3 – Scaffolding

OSHA cited 4,968 scaffolding violations last year. The mere fact that scaffolding is present at job site constitutes a hazardous work environment, with falls and . Structural instability all dangerous possibilities. Employers are required to protect workers who are on or near scaffolding by following established guidelines.

#2 – Hazard Communication

A perennial problem, OSHA cited a whopping 6,148 violations last year related to hazard communication, which is also known as the “Right-to-Know Law.” Many of these violations are because labeling rules have changed, and all employees should be properly trained in hazard communication. Also, every chemical hazard in the workplace should be properly identified as well.

 #1 – Fall Protection

This is almost always at the top of the list, and 2014 was no exception, as OSHA cited 7,516 violations for fall protection. Employers still don’t seem to understand that, when a worker is at a height of six feet or more, there is greater risk and that worker needs to be protected. Every worker at a height of more than six feet is required to be equipped with fall protection gear that complies with the ANSI-Z359 safety standard and OSHA 29 CFR.

If They Work on Your Site, You’re the Employer

March 25th, 2015

3d human at a stop poseIt’s worth remembering that, in Ontario and elsewhere, the definition of the term “employer” is much broader now than it was previously, and a recent guilty plea and significant fine should serve as a sobering reminder of the change.

In the recent case, the company in question, Marmora Freezing Corporation, pleaded guilty for its failure “as an employer to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.” The charge was pursuant to section 25(2)(h) of the OHSA. More specifically, the company admitted to its failure to make sure no pedestrians were present in an area with bad lighting and terrible sight-lines.

They did this, despite the fact that the worker who was hurt and eventually killed were security guards that were placed there by a temporary placement agency.

The accident that led to the charges occurred on December 13, 2011, when one of the security guards reported for duty on a shift that begin at midnight and immediately left the building for a smoke in the smoking area, which happened to be along the travel way outside of the building. One his way there, however, a car driven by another worker hit him and knocked him to the ground before leaving the scene. Right after that, a tractor/trailer reversed down the travel way, catching the fallen worker by the trailer’s mud flap and pushing him along the travel way nearly 100 metres to his death.

An Ontario Ministry of Labour investigation noted that the security guard was dressed in dark clothing, with no light or reflective components, and that there were no barriers in place to protect pedestrians from vehicles in the travel way. According to a Ministry ergonomist, who tested the visibility of surroundings, any driver would have had sight-line difficulties in the area, and that lighting was inadequate for ensuring the visibility of pedestrians.

As a result of the guilty plea, Marmora Freezing Corporation was hit with a fine of $150,000, and they were also assessed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That brings the total paid by the company to $187,500. In part, this is because companies that employ temporary workers are considered the “employer” for OHSA purposes in most cases.

Saskatchewan Construction Company Guilty of OHSA “Flagrant Disregard”

March 24th, 2015

gavelAlthough Thue Construction Company attempted to blame a fall on the unlaced boots he was wearing, a Saskatchewan court has found the company guilty of five violations of the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act for an accident in which an 18-year-old worker, Jacob Ulmer, fell at least 20 feet and suffered serious injuries, including a broken wrist and two broken vertebrae.

It was Ulmer’s first day on the job, and had been working for about 6 or 7 hours when he was hurt. He had been assigned to work on roof trusses that were 20 to 25 feet high, but he had not been provided with fall protection equipment, and he had received no training at the time of the fall.

The owners of Thue Construction argued in court that Ulmer was an independent contractor, and not their employee, but the court rejected that argument, especially when they found out the owner’s son was Ulmer’s direct supervisor. They made note of a number of other reasons he was obviously an employee, such as the fact that Ulmer considered himself an employee, that no one had suggested that he was a contractor, and that the company had set aside money to pay him.

Not only did the company not protect Ulmer from the hazards of working at heights, they also failed to report the accident to Saskatchewan Occupational Health and Safety, who testified that they had received notice from Worker’s Compensation. For that the company was convicted of failing to report an accident to OHS in which a worker is in a hospital for 72 hours or more.

In addition, Thue Construction was convicted of failing to train the worker, failing to provide proper fall protection equipment and headgear, as well as failing to provide competent supervision. The court also noted that the company’s argument that Ulmer’s boots were untied was irrelevant, because it was the company’s duty to provide proper supervision, and to ensure proper safety procedures were followed. If they had done everything they were supposed to do, then the worker’s untied shoe may have mattered. But as such, it didn’t.

OSHA to Hold Road Worker Stand-Down in Georgia

March 23rd, 2015

Work Zone SafetyThe U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has partnered with the Federal Highway Administration, the government of the state of Georgia to sponsor a one-hour Safety Stand-Down at construction sites in Georgia all this week. The Stand-Down is being held as part of activities meant to coincide with National Highway Work Zone Awareness Week, which runs this week, March 23-27.

For the Stand-Down, employers will voluntarily stop work at construction sites between 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. on one designated day this week, in order to provide road workers with work zone safety training, so they can better protect themselves from the dangers they face, including distracted drivers, flying debris and passing vehicles. Among the leading causes of road construction-related injuries and deaths include flying objects and vehicles striking workers.

The Federal Highway Administration and OSHA recommend the following tips to keep read workers safe:

  1. Develop and implement a solid traffic control plan, using clear signage, signals, and message boards to communicate instructions to drivers and keep them traveling safely near work zones.
  2. Provide workers, especially flaggers, with high-visibility clothing and hard hats. Make sure flaggers are standing in a safe, well-lit location where they can be easily seen by drivers.
  3. Consider using portable traffic signals or remote signaling devices instead of flaggers wherever possible, especially during bad weather or at night.
  4. Wherever it’s possible, use physical barriers to separate workers from traffic.
  5. Establish safe routes for workers who have to travel by foot within the work zone, to protect them from construction vehicles and equipment, and traffic hazards.
  6. Make sure all workers in the work zones are properly trained with regard to safe work practices, as well as the hazards they are exposed to.

Bridge Worker Falls 60 Feet Near Seattle

March 20th, 2015

Bridge ConstructionIn the state of Washington, a worker died Thursday, March 12 on a road construction project on Highway 520 project, when he fell 60 to 70 feet from a nearly finished bridge deck. The worker was a 34-year-old carpenter who had worked with prime contractors Kiewit-General-Manson for more than seven years.

The fall occurred at around 4:30 p.m., from a bridge deck that hung over the east shore of Lake Washington. When he fell, the worker landed on a hard surface. He was given CPR by State Troopers and then rushed by ambulance to Harborview Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.

According to the Washington Department of Labor & Industries, Kiewit has no previous safety violations on the fixed part of the bridge. However, records from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) show that the companies were cited for four violations in 2014 on floating barges and pontoons, where OSHA has jurisdiction. They were cited for several violations, including failure to secure a drill press against tipping; failure to properly adjust a bench-mounted grinder; and failure to provide an eyewash station where workers handled acid batteries. They were also cited because scaffolding inside a pontoon wasn’t mounted on wide base plates, according to OSHA regulations. The investigation that led to the charges came from an October incident in which a worker fell inside a pontoon and suffered leg injuries.

Kiewit-General-Manson construction crews suspended work the next day, although other companies continued to work on land east of the bridge, as well as on a future western connection in Seattle.

Truck Operator Death Costs Ontario Recycler $225,000

March 19th, 2015

Recycling TruckOntario-based Halton Recycling Ltd., which operates as Emterra Environmental, pleaded guilty last week and was fined $225,000 for an incident that caused the death of a worker who was directly employed by an employment agency, as he operated a side-loading waste collection truck to pick up municipal recycling in Blandford-Blenheim Township.

The truck is capable of being operated from a sitting position on the left side or from a standing position on the right. This allows the operator to stand and drive in those instances when there are many stops and the operator has to leave the vehicle frequently.

On the day in question, the worker was operating the truck from the right side while standing, and lost control of the truck on a curve. While attempting to regain control, he fell out of the truck, hit the pavement and sustained head injuries. He was transported to hospital, where he died later that day.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour and th Provincial Police conducted an investigation, which revealed that the truck had been traveling at a speed of 77 kilometres an hour (km/hr), even though they were in a rural area and pick-ups were as much as a half-kilometre apart. According to the Halton Recycling health and safety manual and an American National Safety Standard, the vehicle was not designed to operate at speeds of more than 32 km/hr from the right-side standing position, because doing so is unsafe and illegal. Operators should always operate from the left-side sitting position when operating at more than 30 km/hr or for long-distance driving.

Investigators also found that a number of the company’s drivers routinely broke these rules, driving while standing on the right at speeds of 60 – 80 km/hr and on rural routes, where pickups were far apart. They also found that an occupant safety restraint device in the truck was not in use at the time of the accident, that a right-side door safety restraint device was broken and that the right-side cab door was not closed and latched. According to the same safety standards, all driver restraining devices must be used at all times while in transit.

Halton Recycling pleaded guilty to failing, as an employer, to take all precautions reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker, as provided for in Section 25(2)(h) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. More specifically, the company failed to take the reasonable precautions of ensuring that a worker who was operating a waste material collection vehicle from the cab’s right-hand side and stand-up driving location did not exceed a speed of 32 km/hr and was protected by closing and latching the passenger side door or its safety restraint device.

The company was fined $225,000 by Justice of the Peace Michael A. Cuthbertson, who also imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That means a company is out $281,250 because they didn’t make sure their equipment was in good working order and that their vehicle operators didn’t operate safely.