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Make Safety a Habit

North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) week is an annual, continent-wide Occupational Health and Safety event which involves employers, workers, and OHS professionals to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses. The topic of 2014′s NAOSH Week (May 4 to 10) is “Make Safety a Habit“. Safety Solutions at Work would like to dedicate the April newsletter to  creating safe and healthy habits among your workers.

 

The nineteenth century author Thomas Carlyle wrote: “Habit is the deepest law of human nature”. We all have formed habits in our lives, some of which are good while some of which are bad. It is through developing good habits that we accomplish our success. Let’s examine some of the things that we can do in helping forming our “safety habits”.

 

1. Pick the safe behaviour

One example of such positive behaviour would be developing the good habit of wearing personal protection equipment (safety goggles, high-visible vest, respirators, earplugs, etc) when required. Another good example would be tying up a ladder when setting it up to get access to the roof, preventing it from slipping. Making positive behaviour a habit will significantly change the long-term negative outcome.

 

2. Remind yourself until safe behaviour becomes a habit

There are several strategies to remind yourself to keep up safe behaviour until it forms a habit. Regarding the previous example of wearing PPE, my work partner and I always do a mutual check with each other before either of us enter into the high hazardous area. Another strategy I use to remind myself to bring PPE to worksite is to place them close to your lunch box: Eating lunch is the habit I developed and fortified for the past 27 years, so should be wearing PPE. Also, you can use calendars or notes to remind yourself to acquire the new behaviour.

 

3. Set benchmarks

The goal of setting up the benchmark is to measure your progress. You will know when you review your behaviour if it’s working or not. If you’ve been successful, move to the next step; if not, move to the next step!

 

4. Correct or celebrate

Through measurement and reflection we’re going to know by our own evidence what is working and what isn’t. If you’re being successful, then celebrating is a good idea. Congratulate yourself for your accomplishment. Feel empowered by your ability to change your habits into positive actions. If success hasn’t been realized yet, you need to revisit the plan and strategies and figure out what didn’t go well. Was it the plan itself or perhaps the fact that you didn’t execute the plan as you imagined it? There is no substitute for a good plan in achieving success.

 

As we know, the purpose of all safety efforts is to prevent accidents and injuries to human beings. As human beings, we all have the inclination to choose the easy method of doing something, or the fastest way to do it, without regard to safety. By developing safety habits, we gradually form safe work habits that carry through into our daily work, and combat the lazy inertia of bad habits. This discipline is one of the best safety devices available.

 

Posted on: April 1st, 2014 by Phil Comments

Put An End To The Unsafe Workplace

Pic with Trevor Linden

Running a small business is never easy! As a small business owner, I am aware of the challenges of managing service delivery, marketing, sales and finances. A company owner wears many hats. My company helps businesses manage a very important legal obligation- workplace safety. The laws governing Occupational Health and Safety are complex and can be overwhelming. My team of experts helps companies understand workplace legislation and find practical solutions for their safety program.

Recently employers have been given a new challenge from WorkSafe BC: Address the issue of mental health in the workplace.  Since the implementation of the new workplace legislation that came into effect on November 1st, 2013, employers across this province are required by law to eliminate bullying and harassment in the workplace.

Workplace Bullying and Harassment is defined as “any inappropriate conduct or comment by a person towards a worker that the person knew or reasonably ought to have known would cause that worker to be humiliated or intimidated, but excludes any reasonable action taken by an employer or supervisor relating to the management and direction of workers or the place of employment. This includes behaviour from the public or a client to a worker. 

As the company owner, I have a legal obligation to do everything reasonable to protect my workers from conduct or comments that can be considered intimidating or humiliating.  Recently, my employee was on a sales call in a local store.  The intent of the sales call was to educate the store manager about the new legislation on Workplace Bullying and Harassment and to offer our professional services to develop a training program for his workplace.  The manager grabbed my employee by the shoulders and spoke to her in an intimidating way.  There is no question that his conduct and words were intended to intimidate.

The irony of the situation slapped me in the face.  Here we are trying to educate business owners about Workplace Harassment and Bullying and my employee is the one who is attacked.  As a result, I took the step to develop even more procedures for my sales team who work alone and engage extensively with the public.

Harassment and bullying has long been the topic of conversation in schools, but as a society we have been silent on this issue in the workplace.  Harassment and Bullying are critical risk factors for mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.  At the recent MAKE IT SAFE!  Conference in Vancouver, BC held by the food and manufacturing industry occupational safety association, hundreds of delegates gathered to tackle this issue.  Trevor Linden, founder of Club 16, spoke about the need for companies to demonstrate leadership.

Trevor Linden told us: “Leaders create a culture.”   Great companies are taking leadership to eliminate toxic work environments.  Successful business leaders understand that a healthy and happy workplace is a profitable workplace.  I have been fortunate to work with great industry leaders such as the Jim Pattison Group.  These companies are creating a culture of respect in the workplace.

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In my recent conversations with the WorkSafeBC prevention officers in charge of Workplace Harassment and Bullying, many employers are still unaware of the new legislation. WSBC is already receiving numerous reports of Bullying and Harassment cases.  Often in these cases the reporting procedures were unclear for the workforce and the employer did not complete an effective investigation into the complaint. Workplace Bullying and Harassment is very similar to other safety related issues.  An employer has the opportunity to eliminate problems before they happen.

Now is the time for business owners to take action! If an employer can think through the possible situations that can lead to Workplace Harassment and Bullying, there is a greater chance that the employer can eliminate any conflict before it begins. If an employer can take the time to draft clear procedures in the event of a complaint, the easier time the employer will have addressing the complaint. A critical component is to fully understand and think through the investigation process. What would the employer need to document? How can the investigation get to the root cause of the problem?

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I work with numerous companies to help them put together programs for Workplace Harassment and Bullying. My clients have the attitude that they want to take initiative to foster a respectful workplace. Happy workers are effective workers. A toxic work environment will poison relationships with customers and clients and choke productivity. The leaders in the business community are embracing this legislation to create workplaces where people are happy to go to work.

 

Posted on: January 31st, 2014 by Victoria Comments

Prevent Bullying and Harassment at Your Workplace

November is a memorial month, to remember those who contributed their lives in the line of duty to fight for peace and freedom. This November also has special meanings for the workforce in the province, as WorkSafeBC approved OHS policies focused on preventing workplace bullying and harassment. The concept of “workplace hazard” keeps evolving, from  the obvious safety hazards, to more subtle chemical/physical exposure. And now it is time to say “NO” to workplace bullying and harassment.

What Constitutes Workplace Bullying and Harassment?

Before discussing the definition of workplace bullying and harassment, I would like to share this workplace video clip with you. Does this account for a workplace bullying and harassment?

According to WorkSafeBC definition, Workplace Bullying and Harassment

  • Include any inappropriate behaviour or comment by a person towards a worker that the person knew or should have known would cause that worker to be humiliated or intimidated.
  • DO NOT include any reasonable action taken by an employer or supervisor relating to the management and direction of workers or the place of employment.

So… if we look at the firing lady, the dismissal decision itself is not workplace bullying and harassment activity. But doing this with mouth full of Chinese food? Probably yes.

Other examples of bullying and harassment include:

  • Vandalizing personal tools/belongings
  • Spreading malicious rumours
  • Targeted isolations

 

What Shall the Workers Do If He/She Is Bullied at Workplace?

As a worker, you should not engage in bullying and harassment activities. However, if you become the target, you should file a complaint of the incident, any witness, and the detailed description of word/activity. If you are diagnosed with any metal disorder as a result of workplace bullying/harassment, it is covered by WorkSafeBC compensation.

What Shall the Employer Do to Prevent Workplace Bullying and Harassment?

  • Living in a non-ideal world, we all know that managers and supervisors undergo stress and pressure of increasing productivity, reducing cost and keeping the whole system work on a daily basis. That is why they impose management actions on the employee, such as changes in workloads, deadlines, transfers, and disciplinary actions. However, managers and supervisors should ensure performance problems are identified and addressed in a constructive, objective way that does not humiliate or intimidate.
  • Employer should develop a written policy statement declaring that workplace bullying and harassment is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. Employers must also make sure workers are made aware of the policy statement.
  • Initiate investigation into filed complaints regarding workplace bullying and harassment.

What Are the Challenges Foreseen?

  • Unlike safety issues or chemical exposure which are quantifiable, it is fairly difficult to draw a cut-off line to define bullying and harassment.
  • We are proud of the cultural diversity of BC, which are reflected in the workplace. Sometimes, cross-cultural misunderstanding can lead to conflict, which can escalate to bullying and harassment.
  • Workplace bullying and harassment might come from multiple sources, such as customers, client, sub-contractors. It requires teamwork between the management, HR, and OHS professional to develop the prevention program.
  • Cyber-bullying (a potential path of bullying and harassment if you mistakenly add your supervisor & coworkers as Facebook/Twitter friends…)

 

Posted on: November 15th, 2013 by Phil Comments

Introducing Occupational Hygiene Services!

Hello everyone, I am Phillip (Hanchen) Chen! I just joined Safety Solutions at Work as an Occupational Hygienist last month. It has been a fun month for me, especially when I walk into the workplace and introduce my role as an “Occupational Hygienist”.  I get amusing questions about my role as an occupational hygienist such as: “Are you responsible for keeping the patient’s teeth clean?” “Nope, but dental hygienists do”. “Do you remind workers to wash their hands?” “Yes, we promote workplace health, but we do more than that!”

So, what do Occupational Hygienists do beyond providing workers with soap?

Why do we need to use the soap? Probably because our hands are dirty. At workplaces, the “dirt” could be more complex with amorphous forms. A big part of our job is to recognize and assess the dirt!

Let’s suppose that when a worker walks into the factory to start his job, what could he be exposed to and what could harm his/her health? Chemicals for sure. Solvents, degreasers, resins could be released into the work environment and then the worker will inhale those into the lungs. Dust of course, especially when he works in a sawmill or welding shop. Noise and vibration are ubiquitous issues as well. So, as occupational hygienists, we can go to the field and assess worker’s exposure to this wide variety of chemical, physical and biological hazards.

Why do we do that? – To protect the worker’s health for sure!  The value of them being healthy at work is of key importance to the family, community and society. Also, provincial regulations  set up limits of these hazards!

Which kind of soap do choose? There are lots of factors to consider, such as your skin type, the cleaning efficiency and $$$. To fully protect workers from the occupational hazards, we also advise control measures, by taking all the factors into consideration. To achieve that, we work with civil and environmental engineers, safety engineers, chemical suppliers, protection equipment manufacturers and the employer to provide comprehensive protection to the workers.

“Hygiene” as a science, deals with the promotion and perseverance of health. In spite of the differences on the technical aspect, “Occupational Hygiene” deals with the health and well-being at workplaces, which is  consistent with the general concept of “Hygiene”. Thus, I would like to share a picture of Hygieia, who is the Greek goddess of health. It is nice to realize that the title on my card has sort of association with Hygieia.

Posted on: September 3rd, 2013 by Phil Comments

The Enemy

I am more powerful than the combined armies of the world. I have destroyed more people than all the wars of all nations.  I massacre thousands of people every year.  I am more deadly than bullets.  I steal over $500 million each year.  I spare no one and I find victims among the rich and poor alike, the young and old, the strong and weak.   Widows know me to their everlasting sorrow.  I loom up in such proportions that I cast my shadow over every field of labour.

I lurk in unseen places and do most of my work silently.  You are warned against me, yet you heed me not.  I am relentless, merciless and cruel.  I am everywhere-in the home, on the streets, in the factory, at railroad crossings, on land, in the air and on the sea.

I bring sickness, degradation and death, yet few seek me out to destroy me.  I crush, I maim,  I will give you nothing and I may rob you of everything that you have.

I am your worst enemy.

I am carelessness

Posted on: November 20th, 2012 by Victoria Comments

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