WorkSafeBC Wants You to Shift into Winter Driving Mode

October 30th, 2014

winter driving It should come as no surprise that winter is coming to British Columbia, and WorkSafeBC is trying to get people to think about preparing themselves and their vehicles for the season, which brings with it treacherous driving conditions. Based on statistics, winter is simply the most dangerous time of year for all types of drivers. WorkSafeBC the notes that the number of injury or fatal crashes that are caused by driving too fast for conditions present tends to spike in December every year.

To back this up, WorkSafeBC said that every area of the province sees roughly the same type of spike. For example, Vancouver Island sees these types of crashes increase by 32% in December when compared to October, while the Southern Interior region sees the number of such crashes triple, from 26 in October to 97 in December. Province-wide, there are usually about 121 crashes in October, compared to 234 crashes in December.

Recently, the Winter Driving Safety Alliance conducted a survey throughout British Columbia, asking respondents about their driving habits during the winter. Not surprisingly, 57 per cent consider themselves to be good drivers, and cited other drivers as the big problem.

Because it’s an issue of life or death, WorkSafeBC believes everyone should be preparing themselves for driving in winter, and they should also want to keep their vehicle in good shape. To help drivers do that, WorkSafeBC has tips to help everyone prepare for winter driving on their Shift Into Winter website.  And for the first time, the website has included an Employer Tool Kit, which is designed as a resource for employers and supervisors of workers who have to drive as part of their job. With the tool kit, employers and supervisors will have step-by-step assistance in helping them assess and plan for dealing with winter driving hazards and quite possibly reduce the number of traffic accidents.

Every year, on average, 23 workers are killed and nearly 1,300 others suffer injuries that cause them to miss time from work each year because of work-related motor vehicle incidents (MVIs). Unfortunately, most of those come during the winter months. The Shift Into Winter road safety campaign hopes to build awareness and educate drivers about winter weather-related driving hazards and how to avoid them.

Cal/OSHA Criticized by U.S. OSHA

October 29th, 2014

inspectorCalifornia’s Department of Industrial Relations Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is better known as Cal/OSHA, was the subject of an audit earlier this year by the U.S. Department of Labor, and according to the report, which was released last week, they found a few deficiencies that could prove worrisome for the state agency.

The first problem they found was that Cal/OSHA was significantly understaffed, which the Department of Labor found made it very difficult for the state agency to fulfill its mission. The audit report noted that the state of California had more game wardens limited occupational safety inspectors. The report suggested that if Cal/OSHA were able to make more workplace inspections, companies may be more inclined to comply with state labor regulations. Approximately 15% of employers consider the safety of their workers to be a high priority, but that spikes after a visit from Cal/OSHA inspectors. In all, the state agency has 170 field workers to ensure safety for 17 million workers at 1.3 million California workplaces. That number is down from 195 inspectors in 2011.

The other problem found by the Department of Labor was that Cal/OSHA simply takes too long after an inspection to issue citations. The problem with this is, many employers wait until they receive a citation to attempt to eliminate a hazard. That puts many employees at risk.

Predictably, Cal OSHA disagrees partly with the Department of Labor’s assessment, releasing a statement saying that the state of California exceeds federal OSHA and other state OSHA plans in many important areas, and that their focus is prevention. They noted that they “seek to achieve that through strong, clear, and consistent enforcement.” The response did express concern with staffing, but noted that they now have the funding to fill 27 vacant positions, and they hope to add 15 more to that number in the near future. The agency also noted that they respond quickly to all serious accidents and employee complaints.

Many Yukon Employers to Pay Lower Workers’ Comp Premiums

October 28th, 2014

hardhatIn a sign that building a strong safety culture in the workplace is beneficial to a company’s bottom line, according to the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board, approximately 2,000 Yukon businesses will get to pay lower workers’ compensation premiums next year.

The news comes as the WCHSB announced its 2015 assessments this week. These assessments are based on the number of workplace injuries over the course of several years. While 2,000 businesses will pay approximately 4% less next year, nearly 1,000 to see the rates stay roughly the same. Unfortunately, the news is not all great, because more than 500 businesses will actually see their premium rates go up.

Resource industries within the territory will see the biggest decreases. Those include construction, short-haul trucking, placer mining and trades, including welding and plumbing. According to the WCHSB, the lower rates are directly related to the adoption of safe work practices. By creating a safer work environment, and limiting the number of lost-time injuries, workplaces get a break in the long run. This is yet another benefit of creating a strong safety culture in the workplace.

The agency doesn’t want anyone to think that their work is done, however, just because premiums are decreasing for many businesses. While the cost of injury claims has been declining, there were five workplace deaths and more than 1,300 workplace injuries this year. Because of this, the board has announced a plan to increase the number of workplace inspections.

Ontario Industrial Workplace Hazards Blitz

October 27th, 2014

MOLFrom November 3 through December 14, 2014 the Ontario Ministry of Labour will send inspectors into industrial sector workplaces throughout the province, including manufacturing, chemical, and automotive plants, as part of a safety blitz designed to alleviate hazards that could lead to serious injuries at those workplaces.

As part of the blitz, inspectors will focus on making sure machines are properly guarded, locked out or blocked, as appropriate. By making sure machine guards are in place, workers are prevented from having access to the machine’s moving parts. Lockout prevents machines from starting up unexpectedly at the worst possible time, while blocking prevents a machine from moving or falling during maintenance or repair.

In addition to machine hazards, inspectors will also be checking to make sure that all workplaces have a strong internal responsibility system in place, and that such a system promotes compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations. They will also check to make sure that workers are protected from exposure to chemicals that could cause disease and that those workers who have to work in situations that require repetitive motions and awkward postures are properly protected from musculoskeletal and other disorders.

In 2013, 17 per cent of the compliance orders issued by Ministry of Labour inspectors were issued for violations having to do with machine guarding and lockouts in industrial workplaces. In 2012, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board received lost-time injury (LTI) claims from 1,976 workers who were caught in or compressed by equipment; 305 workers with serious abrasions caused by vibrations or friction, and 367 workers who had body parts amputated.

Report: Ontario Mall Collapse Caused by Decades of Neglect

October 24th, 2014

Hardhat Safety manualAccording to a scathing judicial inquiry report, the deadly cave-in of the Algo Centre Mall in northern Ontario two years ago was the result of neglect, incompetence, dishonesty and greed by the long parade of owners, engineers and municipal officials over several decades.  The scathing report says that everyone involved simply allowed the structure of the mall to rust to the point of collapse. While some of the failures were minor, others were major, and they all demonstrated a startling level of “apathy, neglect and indifference through mediocrity, ineptitude and incompetence, to outright greed, obfuscation and duplicity.”

In June 2012, the mall’s rooftop parking deck on the mall collapsed into the mall after decades of water and salt penetration finally took their toll. Two people were trapped in the rubble and died; 74-year-old Doloris Perizzolo and 37-year-old Lucie Aylwin, while 19 others were injured. According to the report, the events that led to the disaster began to happen back in the 1970s, when the mall was in its planning stages. They note that putting parking on the roof was a bad idea in and of itself, but that it was made worse by a defective roof design and the use of untested materials in the creation of the parking lot.

Over its 33 year existence, the building received extensive scrutiny from architects and engineers, leading to nearly 30 visits, inspections and reports from various experts and agencies. Unfortunately, none of these resulted in any sort of fix for the leaks that were so common that many referred to the centre as the “Algo Falls.” Experts seemed to ignore the “moral and ethical foundation” of their vocation, as well as failed to realize the effect of the rust on the integrity of the mall’s structural steel, according to the report, which suggests that engineers performed inspections that were “so cursory and incomplete as to be essentially meaningless,” and that they were more concerned with making the clients happy than protecting the public.

The report was especially harsh in its criticism of Robert (Bob) Wood, the last engineer who signed off on the structural stability of the mall just a few weeks before the collapse, and whose work and conduct were described as “markedly inferior.” Previously, Wood, who is facing criminal charges in connection with the collapse, admitted to falsifying his report to appease the owner of the mall. His inspection report was described as being “was similar to that of a mechanic inspecting a car with a cracked engine block who pronounces the vehicle sound because of its good paint job.” In addition, municipal officials ignored numerous public complaints and warnings regarding falling concrete and large leaks. Even the Ontario Ministry of Labour, which had offices in the mall, was unresponsive to numerous complaints.

The report makes 71 recommendations, include setting minimum maintenance standards for buildings, more inspections with more teeth, and an expanded emergency response capability, even though the one area of praise in the entire report was for the initial local emergency response. The Ontario government has promised a quick review of the recommendations.

LOTO Lockout/Tagout App Gets Update

October 23rd, 2014

Lockout Tagout AppThe use of mobile devices in the workplace is spreading to many areas that have nothing to do with IT, but which have everything to do with making equipment safer.

One prime example of this comes with a smartphone and tablet app developed by Toronto-based Master Lock that it calls LOTO (Lockout/Tagout). The app specifies a series of procedures that workers must follow when they are either shutting down or reactivating machinery. By using this app, safety and compliance officers can be reasonably sure that all energy sources and equipment have been properly locked out before servicing, which reduces the likelihood of workers being injured or killed.

Just recently, the company updated the module, so that it includes the following:

  • Authoring Procedures with Audit Scheduling: This module makes it easier to set up recurring annual audit schedules, as required by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). By automating the scheduled audits, it’s less likely they will be missed.
  • Compliance: App users can give themselves as much time as they need to properly prepare for planned equipment shutdowns, as well as the ability to prepare for audits up to 90 days in advance.
  • Real-time Visibility: This gives app users visibility into equipment that doesn’t currently have a published LOTO procedure in Field iD. This helps ensure that all equipment has procedures available for those times when a lockout is needed. The complete view of all locked out equipment allows app users to stay on top of all on-going maintenance and work.

This app allows managers to create a list of lockout procedures, and also includes photos showing a machine’s isolation points. When a worker scans a procedure sheet attached to the machinery using the app, the app will take the employee through each step of the proper procedure. In addition, the app will record the time and date of each step.

OSHA Delays Crane Operator Certification until 2017

October 22nd, 2014

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued a final rule that will extend the deadline for crane operators to be tested and certified by three years. Based on this rule, crane operators will now have until November 10, 2017 to obtain a valid certification. Those operators without a valid certification as of that date will not be able to run a crane at a construction site anywhere in the United States. Originally, operators had until November 10 of this year to obtain their certification, but industry groups pushed back on the original rule and received the extension.

After its original February 10, 2014 proposal to extend the deadline, OSHA received more than 60 comments. Some experts were concerned about language and the rule that would’ve required tests to be organized based on the type and capacity of the crane. Others question whether passing a standardized test was sufficient for employers to determine the competency of the operator. According to some commenters, however, such decisions should be left to employers.

A number of experts questioned the validity of existing certifications. OSHA investigated and concluded that, of the four nationally accredited examiners, two were not in compliance with existing rules. This is based on the fact that they only tested to the type of crane and not capacity. Because of this, OSHA realized that fewer than 15 percent of current crane operators are certified properly in compliance with the current rule, which require certification to type and capacity, so they extended the deadline. During the delay, the agency says it will conduct a more thorough examination of its crane operator testing requirements and decide whether or not to draft a new rule. It will also use the time to encourage the other 85 percent of crane operators to be tested  and certified based on the new requirements.

Ontario Enhances Ebola Protections

October 21st, 2014

Due to increasing concerns over the possible introduction of the Ebola Virus in Ontario, the provincial government has released details of its enhanced preparations to protect the health and safety of residents. The new measures were developed based on guidance from in workplace health and safety specialists for workers in health care, as well as experts in occupational health and safety.

The purpose of these enhanced measures is to strengthen the ability of frontline health care workers to contain and treat any infectious illness, whether it’s Ebola or any other illness. The measures will hopefully further protect everyone’s safety including that of the health care workers who have to deal with these cases.

Many of  the new measures being taken will seem very familiar to oh&s professionals. They include the use of new personal protective equipment, such asN95 protective respirators, as well as more stringent training requirements for those who are tasked with containing and treating Ebola. They have also designated and set up specific hospitals in Ontario as referral hospitals to treat potential Ebola cases and all possible Ebola specimens will be screened exclusively at Public Health Ontario’s provincial labs beginning this week. They will also assign appropriately outfitted ambulances to transport potential cases of Ebola to the specially designated hospitals for treatment.

The current Ebola outbreak began in West Africa in March 2014, but has grown quickly enough that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Ebola a public health emergency of international concern on August 8, 2014. So, far, ten patients in Ontario have been tested for possible Ebola infection, but all tested negative, and there are no confirmed Ebola virus cases in the province.

Canada Labour Code Changes Take Effect Oct. 31

October 20th, 2014

Canada Labour Code Workplaces throughout Canada should be aware that several amendments Part II of the Canada Labour Code will take effect October 31, 2014, and the changes will have an impact on all federally regulated employers.

The purpose of Part II of the code is to protect the health and safety of workers by preventing accidents and injuries, by allowing workers the right to refuse work when they have a reasonable belief that the work is dangerous enough to cause the injury. The new changes actually change the definition of “danger” under the code when it comes to refusing work.

Over the last few years, concerns have been raised regarding the number of work refusals that were not justified. According to statistics from the Department of Finance, approximately four out of every five work refusals were later determined to be situations in which no danger was present.

Because of this, the new amendments were passed, redefining “danger” in a more restrictive way. Under the new rules, work refusals will only be justified in situations where a worker is faced with imminent or serious threat to his or her life or health. The actual text of the amendment reads:

“Any hazard, condition or activity that could reasonably be expected to be an imminent or serious threat to the life or health of a person exposed to it before the hazard or condition can be corrected or the activity altered.”

Under the new amendments, there is a new process in place for investigating the circumstances behind a work refusal. First, the employer and the worker are required to conduct an internal investigation of the work refusal, and attempt to resolve the complaint internally. If the complaint cannot be resolved internally, it will be referred to the Ministry of Labour, which will have greater oversight and accountability when it comes to occupational health and safety enforcement. The Ministry will have the discretion and flexibility to conduct its work in the most efficient manner possible. For example, they now have the discretion to refuse to investigate refusals to work they deem to be, frivolous, trivial, or made in bad faith.

Newfoundland Workers Electrocuted

October 17th, 2014


hydrolinesAccording to the RCMP in eastern Newfoundland, a horrible worksite accident has left two men dead and two others injured in hospital. The accident happened when the four workers came in contact with electricity.

Witnesses say the four men were doing roofing work on October 6 at around 3 p.m. at the Bay Roberts town office. The workers were employed by Dun Rite Roofing, a local roofing contractor. The two workers who were killed were apparently on the ground, and moving a metal ladder into position when it apparently came into contact with – or at least close to – overhead power lines. Police are unsure of exact details. Some of the details about how it happened are still unknown. At the time, a misty rain were falling in the area.

The two workers who were killed were cousins in their mid-30s. Two other men remain in hospital, although doctors say their injuries are probably non-life-threatening. Newfoundland occupational health and safety officials are on the scene, investigating the details of the accident.