WorkSafeBC Urging Workers to Play It Cool in the Heat

July 6th, 2015

WarningWorkSafeBC is reminding employers and workers that, while many people get to head to the beach during record-breaking heat waves like the one they’ve experienced recently, many construction crews continue working, and engaging in hard, physical work in the hot sun can be dangerous if proper precautions aren’t taken.

So far this summer, according to Environment Canada, 64 temperature records have already been broken in cities and towns throughout the province, including a sweltering 40.6° C, recorded last week in Warfield, a West Kootenay community, with Osoyoos, a town several hours east of Vancouver, clocking in at 40.4°C. The heat isn’t expected to abate anytime soon, so employers, supervisors and workers need to take precautions to keep everyone safe.

WorkSafeBC often checks up on at-risk jobs sites during the hot summer months, and they have several suggestions for coping with the hot weather, starting with trying to avoid the temptation to go shirtless or wear tank tops. It seems counterintuitive, but covering yourself means less heat, not more, and the more heat, the greater the tendency to become dehydrated. And speaking of dehydration, they also recommend making sure workers have plenty of water to drink; not sugary or sweet soft drinks or tea, but plain, fresh water.

They also recommend cycling workers out of hot areas and providing shaded areas for frequent breaks. When doing a daily hazard assessment at the beginning of every workday, which all construction sites should be doing, the heat should be considered one of the key hazards. Since provincial Occupational Health and Safety Regulations require employers to conduct heat stress assessments and to develop and implement heat stress prevention plans to control exposures anyway, this should be routine on hot days.

In addition, workers should also be trained to spot the early signs and symptoms of heat stress, which can include dizziness and confusion, fatigue, fainting, headache pain and cramping, as well as nausea, vomiting, dark urine, diarrhea, profuse sweating and rapid heartbeat. They should also know what to do when and if they spot it. To treat a worker with any of these symptoms, it’s necessary to get them into shade and have them drink plenty of water. If the symptoms persist for more than 15 minutes, call a doctor.

Heat stroke is far more serious; in addition to the above symptoms, it can also include dry red skin, a body temperature over 40°C, reduced blood pressure, loss of consciousness and possibly inability to sweat. Because heat stroke is potentially fatal, emergency medical personnel should be called.

It’s hot out there, and WorkSafeBC wants construction workers and employers to play it cool.

OSHA Innovates with New Hazard Identification Training Tool

July 3rd, 2015

OSHA Training ToolThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released what it is calling their Hazard Identification Training Tool; an interactive game-based training tool for those interested in teaching or learning the core principles and concepts of hazard identification. It is available for everyone, including small business owners, supervisors and workers.

The “game” works this way; users enter a virtual world, where they can visit one of four scenarios; OSHA Visual Inspection Training, Manufacturing, Construction and Emergency Room.

For the section entitled “OSHA Visual Inspection Training,” which is where OSHA recommends starting, the user can choose from six different pieces of equipment. For example, choosing “Housekeeping” takes them to a screen featuring a worker with a cleaning cart and they are handed a Hazard Checklist, which can be checked off using three tools: Inspect Equipment, Observe Operations, and Involve Worker. Once the user completes the inspection, OSHA gives you your results and the reasons behind the answers.

With this new innovative tool, OSHA hopes to make learning how to inspect and prepare the workplace for hazards a little more interesting. The Hazard Identification Training Tool can be found on OSHA’s homepage at

Nova Scotia Gets Creative With OHS Penalty

July 2nd, 2015

Electrical_HazardA court in Nova Scotia court has approached a violation of the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act with what can only be described as a “creative sentence.” In addition to paying a significant fine of $35,000, the company will also have to make 150 hours of safety presentations within a space of 18 months.

The violation happened when a journeyman electrician began work on a still-energized system and was electrocuted in the process. The company not only did nothing to make sure they complied with the Canadian Electrical Code; the court found that the company had failed to develop and implement any policies or practices to address workplace safety anywhere in the workplace. Their rationale for doing so was classic; they apparently felt that, since the worker was an experienced electrician who was very safety-oriented, there was no need.

The Nova Scotia OHSA allows the court to impose a “creative sentence option,” so after fining the company $35,000 and acknowledging that the company was extremely small, insolvent and out of business, they decided to add a community service element to the order, which required the company to make the presentations, detailing the facts of the case, including the workplace safety issues, and how they violated regulations. In all, the presentations were required to total 150 hours and be completed within 18 months.

Colorado Workers Hit by Lightning

July 1st, 2015

LightningHere’s a reminder that it’s important for employers and supervisors to watch the weather in all ways this time of year because, in addition to the possibility of heat-related illness, thunderstorms can pop at any time and create an additional hazard. According to the National Weather Service, lightning strikes kill nearly 50 people per year, with hundreds more seriously injured.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration is looking into an incident in Colorado on Wednesday, June 24, in which five construction workers were injured, including one seriously, as they were working on the building of an apartment building in northeast Colorado Springs and the building was struck by lightning.

According to Colorado Springs fire officials, firefighters were called to the scene at 1:35 p.m. local time, after receiving a call that three people may have been hit by lightning. When they arrived, they found five construction workers in their mid-30s who were injured because of the lightning strike. Two of the workers refused to be transported to a hospital, but three of them were, one of them in critical condition.

The Colorado Springs Fire Department reported that they have responded to numerous lighting strikes throughout the region over the past few weeks, including several hits to buildings, and several fires.

OSHA is investigating the incident, and there is a significant level of concern over situations like this. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has issued an advisory to contractors, suggesting that every employer develop and implement a policy to warn workers when severe weather could include lighting strikes and to create a plan to move workers into a safe place in that event. They have also warned workers to avoid high places during a storm, including rooftops, scaffolding, utility poles, ladders, trees, and to stay away from large equipment, such as front end loaders and cranes.

WorkSafe Saskatchewan Campaigns for Young Worker Safety

June 30th, 2015

young workerWorkSafe Saskatchewan is reminding employers, supervisors and workers in the province that it’s summertime, which means there are a lot more new and young workers flooding into workplaces, so they should take extra care regarding the health and safety of those workers.

Every year, about 6,000 young workers under the age of 25 are injured on the job throughout Saskatchewan each year, with the injury rate for young workers peaking in July and August. Among the most common causes cited for the increase in injuries are their lack of training and their lack of experience, of course, as well as a lack of supervision. Younger workers have a tendency to want to please their new employer, and to rush through their tasks. They tend to not understand their rights as workers. Often, young and new workers are given the same assignments as those with more seniority, which means they are more prone to injury.

As part of their campaign, WorkSafe Saskatchewan is urging supervisors to make sure to give new and young workers proper orientation, training and supervision at all points in their employment and to make sure they are open and approachable, encouraging young workers to answer questions and then answering them completely and thoroughly, because getting the right answers to a question can save an injury or even a life, according to most research.

Of the 6,000 young worker injuries that happen annually, there are 2,750 hand injuries, including cuts, burns and strikes; 1,000 back injuries, mostly due to heavy lifting, reaching or twisting, and more than 2,200 injuries to legs, arms and eyes. The construction industry is the one that sees the most young worker injuries.

Project Manager Found Guilty in Scaffolding Deaths

June 29th, 2015

JusticeIn the wake of a Christmas Eve tragedy in Toronto in which four workers were killed and another sustained serious injuries after a scaffold collapsed and sent them plummeting 30 metres to the ground, the project manager who sent the work crew 13 storeys high without making sure they were properly secured was convicted of criminal negligence Friday.

The project manager, Vadim Kazenelson, was found guilty of five counts total, including four counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm. In his judgment, Ontario Superior Court Judge Ian MacDonnell said Kazenelson was aware that proper fall protections were not in place, but despite that, he allowed the workers to get on the swing stage. Inhe nevertheless allowed his workers to board the swing stage. He cited the manager’s “wanton and reckless disregard” by failing to act to rectify an obviously hazardous situation and by allowing the weight of six workers and their tools on the swing stage.

On the day of the accident, the crew was in the process of repairing a number of concrete balconies on an apartment building when the swing stage split in two as it hung outside a balcony on the 13th floor. That sent five workers — Alesandrs Bondarevs, Aleksey Blumberg, Vladamir Korostin, Dilshod Marupov and foreman Fayzullo Fazilov — 30 metres to the ground. All but Marupov died, and he suffered fractures to his spine and ribs. The workers ranged in age from 21 to 40 years old and were from Latvia, Uzbekistan and Ukraine. A sixth worker — the only one who was properly secured to a safety lifeline, survived because he was  suspended in mid-air. That worker, whose name was Shohruh Tojiddinov, testified during the trial that Kazenelson didn’t insist that all workers on the crew attach themselves to lifelines.

The construction company involved in the case, Metron Construction Corp., previously pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal negligence causing death and was fined $750,000 back in September 2013, while the company that supplied the swing stage, Ottawa-based Swing N Scaff Inc., was also fined $350,000 for their failure to ensure that the platform was in good condition. Both fines were accompanies by a 25 per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That’s a lot more money altogether than the cost of providing lifelines to five workers.

Kazenelson will next appear in court Oct. 16, at which time Judge MacDonnell will begin the process of sentencing.

OSHA Cites Drilling Company for Fire

June 26th, 2015

Drilling rigLast week, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Lamont, Oklahoma-based Dan D Drilling Corp. with 10 violations as a result of a drilling rig fire that occurred last December 2014, killing three rig workers and leaving two others seriously injured. As a result of the citations, the company faces $221,200 in fines.

In the fire, 27-year-old Bellah Keenan and 26-year-old Gary Keenan died at the scene of the fire, while 26-year-old Mark Pittman Jr. was badly burned and died from his injuries about two weeks later. Two other workers were hospitalized from burns they suffered in the incident. According to OSHA, the fire was likely started by an open-flame heater located on the floor of the rig; something OSHA cited the company for in a similar incident just a year and a half earlier. In their report on this incident, the agency noted that “the company knew this was hazardous, but chose to ignore the hazard.”

Of the ten OSHA citations, two were willful violations, for using open-flame heater on the rig floor and for failing to provide and ensure that employees were wearing flame-resistant clothing. There was one repeat violation was for failing to provide emergency escape from the rig derrick platform. The company received a similar citation in a March 2013 drilling site in Tonkawa. There were also seven citations for serious violations including failure to provide adequate railings; improper labeling; inadequate shower facilities for those working with corrosive materials; for failure to protect against electrical hazards and filing to properly train workers on chemical and physical hazards.

Young Worker Falls Six Metres in Newfoundland

June 25th, 2015

OSHA Fall Safety Stand-DownThe small community of Trepassey, which is located on the southern shore of Newfoundland on the east side of the province, is mourning the tragic death of a young construction worker who was the victim of a terrible workplace accident on Tuesday, June 16 at about 8:30 a.m.

The 20-year-old construction worker, later identified as CJ Curtis, who was an employee of a local contractor, Southern Construction, was helping to repair the roof of Glamox Lighting Corp. when he stepped backward onto some plastic tiles and fell through a skylight, landing on a concrete floor more than six metres below. According to witnesses, Curtis was not tethered at the time of the accident.

Curtis was airlifted to the Health Sciences Centre in St. John’s, where he was at first listed in critical condition, but later succumbed to his injuries.

RCMP has determined there was no criminal wrongdoing; however, Newfoundland and Labrador Occupational Health and Safety officials are also investigating the incident. It is not likely to go well for the company. There is simply no excuse for a worker of any age, let alone one with what was likely minimal experience, to not be wearing basic fall protection. This once again shows that almost all terrible accidents can be prevented by doing something simple, like making sure workers at heights are tethered.

OSHA Cites Nebraska Company in Loader Operator Accident

June 24th, 2015

Front-end loaderNebraska-based Gehring Construction & Ready Mix Concrete Inc. finds itself facing nearly $15,000 in fines from the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) after an incident in which a 26-year-old worker died on the job after he was struck in the head by a metal tow rope connector as he was operating a front-end loader.

According to the OSHA investigation, the operator of the front end loader was attempting to tow a concrete truck using a tow rope and a chain after it became struck in the sand. Unfortunately, a link on the chain failed, which caused the tow rope to snap back, which launched the metal tow rope connection through the cab’s window, striking of the cab striking the employee.

OSHA said the worker’s death might have been avoided, if only the company had implemented proper procedures designed to protect the worker from struck-by hazards. Because of their failure to protect workers, OSHA has issued two serious violations to the company; one under the OSHA general duty clause, for failing to provide a workplace free of hazards, and the other for their  failure to properly train workers with regard to safe towing methods, including the use of appropriate towing components and connecting techniques.

The company also received an addition citation for failing to notify OSHA of the death within eight hours following a work-related incident. The company notified OSHA two days after the incident.

Second Contractor Cited for Young Worker Fall

June 23rd, 2015

Workers at heightIn the second case in which a construction company has faced charges due to the death of a young worker who was part of a crew building high-rise student housing in Waterloo, Ontario, Maison Canada Holdings last week pleaded guilty and was fined $120,000 for their part of the tragedy. They were the the constructor of the project.

The incident occurred on Oct. 11, 2013, at a job site located at 185 King Street North in Waterloo, as the young worker was assisting with the delivery of concrete blocks to the roof. He was on the 12th storey of the building at the time, when a tower crane placed a skid of 3,500-pound concrete blocks onto wood planking in the roof. The placement led the skid to rest at an angle, which created a potential hazard, so the roof workers decided to move the skid to be re-landed so it was more flat.

The load was re-strapped and lifted up and out, at which point the load suddenly slid toward an exterior parapet wall that surrounded the roof top. Unfortunately, the young worker was situated between the parapet wall and the skid of blocks, so when the skid trolleyed out and crashed through the exterior parapet wall, it knocked the young worker four storeys, or just over 13 metres to a mast climber, which is a type of powered scaffold. As a result of the fall, the worker sustained head and leg injuries and later died.

Though the young worker was trained in fall protection, he was not using any when the accident occurred, and since the parapet wall was less than two feet high, it did not constitute a guardrail. Maison Canada Holdings pleaded guilty to failing to store and move material or equipment in a manner that does not endanger a worker, as required under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

As a result, the company was fined $120,000, which was augmented by a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That means a younger worker is dead and the company’s bottom line saw a $150,000 hit, just for not making sure everyone had fall protection.