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December 30, 2013

Protecting Your Most Precious Cargo: Work Related Road Safety

A large number of workers drive to and from their job everyday. Also, thousands of workers in British Columbia drive while they are on their job – these workers include not only courier and truck drivers but also construction workers, sales people, and OHS consultants like the Safety Solutions at Work team. We dedicate this December newsletter to promote road safety, just because the cargo is too precious to be damaged!

Statistics

Numerous unexpected factors on the road make driving a potential risk. According to WorkSafeBC statistics, 24 workers were killed each year by occupational motor vehicle crashes on average. For the five years between 2006 and 2010, the cost of claims to WorkSafeBC stemming from car crashes involving workers was almost $42 million.

Safety Solution at Work’s Effort

As a safety consulting company, we believe that managing risks to employees who drive at work requires more than just compliance with traffic rules, which is why Safety Solutions at Work developed and implemented a complete Road Safety Plan. The elements of our Road Safety Plan include:

  • Ergonomic scanning of employee’s vehicles, to make sure that the driver’s position is adjusted to the most comfortable level to avoid distraction.
  • Dealing with fatigue in driving: employees are encouraged to stop at a safe place (such as parking lot or rest area), set the alarm and nap for 10 to 15 minutes. Most importantly, employees are encouraged to get plenty of sleep before commencing to work.
  • Pre-planned journey: setting up appropriate routes, incorporating realistic work schedules, taking  into consideration the road and weather conditions.
  • Controlling the risk factors from vehicles: Winterization of the vehicle, winter tire change and safety kit inside the car.
  • Administrative measures: obtaining of driver’s abstract as part of recruitment process, reviewing of driver’s performance on a regular basis.

Winter Driving Training

On December 23, Safety Solutions at Work did a special training session regarding Winter Driving Technique. The training route is Apex Mountain Road, which is well known as a winter driving challenge with icy and slippery conditions, dense fog and sharp turns.

Screen Shot 2013-12-23 at 10.53.12 AM

  • Trainer: We were pleased to invite Jacob Larson to introduce the physics of driving and conduct a road test to Safety Solutions at Work employees.
  • Trainees: Victoria Baschozk, Phillip Chen, Shannon Haladay
  • Training checklist:
    1. Maintain a safer (i.e. longer) following distance, as it takes longer to stop on a slippery road.
    2. Hazard perception.
    3. Speed control. In winter, it is safer to drive slower than the posted speed limits.
    4. Avoid sudden moves. Break and accelerate slowly. Expect and respond to turns and lane changes well in advance. Avoid sudden steers to prevent spinning.
    5. Cope with skid. In case of skid, remove foot from accelerator, DO NOT use the brake, and turn steer to the direction of where the rear wheel is sliding to.

Useful links

Employers have the responsibility to take all reasonable measures to manage and control the risks associated with driving, and ensure that practical steps have been taken to protect workers from harm in the same way as they would for other hazards in the workplace.

Season’s greetings from Safety Solutions at Work!

SSAW Christmas Photo

Posted on: December 30th, 2013 by Phil Comments
November 15, 2013

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
October 21, 2013

Vibration: Not always fun!

For the past few weeks, I have spoken with a few clients regarding the concern over occupational exposure to vibration. So for October’s newsletter, I will be focused on the generation, evaluation and control of occupational exposure to hand-arm vibration.

Vibration: Not always fun!

We may come across vibration through our daily life, such as the one that Mrs Brown is exposed to in the following video:

However, as an OHS consultant, we focus only on vibration which is generated at workplace and which may harm you. This type of vibration includes Whole Body Vibration (WBV) and Hand-Arm Vibration (HAV). WBV enters the whole body through a vibrating floor or seat, which could happen among vehicle/heavy equipment/marine operators. HAV, which attracts most of the concern over vibration, affects the hands and arms. Hard-arm vibration is ubiquitous across the industry, which could happen among operators of chain saws, chipping tools, jackhammers, grinders and others who operate hand-held vibrating tools.

Why should vibration be of concern?

Hand-arm vibration is associated with a variety of health outcomes:

  • Neurological effects. The health outcomes are progressive, which include: numbness, tingling, reduced sensory perception and dexterity.
  • White finger (WF) syndrome, which refers to the attacks of whitening (i.e. blanching) of one or more fingers when exposed to cold. Vibration-induced white finger is the most common syndrome among workers using hand held tools.  The development of WF syndrome is gradual, which may take several years to develop. If you take measures after the worker’s fingers have blanched, IT IS ALREADY TOO LATE!
  •  White finger syndrome
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon, which refers to a disorder of blood circulation in the fingers and toes. This condition aggravates with cold exposure. Crucial facts: 50 percent of 146 tree fellers examined in British Columbia had Raynaud’s phenomenon. 30% of 1540 forestry workers in Quebec had Raynaud’s phenomenon. After 20 years of chainsaw use, over 50% the workers had Raynaud’s phenomenon. (Resourced from Canadian Council of Occupational Health and Safety)

What are the regulations out there for HAV?

Vibration exposure can be quantified by acceleration, which is a measure of how quickly speed of vibrating object changes with time. A complete assessment of exposure to vibration requires the measurement of vibration acceleration in meters per second squared (m/s2). Vibration exposure direction is also important and is measured in a well-defined directions.

American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) sets up exposure limit for hand-arm vibration, which is then adopted by jurisdictions such as WorkSafeBC. The standards are summarized in the table below. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the workers are not over-exposed to the limits stated below.

Total daily exposure duration TLV of the dominant axis, frequency-weighted, rms, component acceleration
4 hours and less than 8 hours 4 m/s2
2 hours and less than 4 hours 6 m/s2
1 hour and less than 2 hours 8 m/s2
less than 1 hour 12 m/s2

 What should I do if vibration is of concern at my workplace?

  • Initiate the measurement right away. Several variables may determine the worker’s exposure to vibration, such as duration, types of tools used, worker’s posture and hand-grip force. Only through personal measurement performed following industrial standards can you assess vibration exposure and make sure that the workers are not over-exposed. Safety Solutions at Work is pleased to announce that we provide occupational hygiene services, which includes vibration measurement!
  • Be aware of noise too! CCOHS suggests that there might be a correlation and combining effect between vibration and noise exposure: Since most vibrating machines and tools produce noise, a vibration-exposed worker is likely to be exposed to noise at the same time. Studies of hearing loss among lumberjacks revealed that, for equal noise exposure, those with vibration-induced white finger (VWF) had greater hearing loss than those without VWF. The reason for this effect is still unclear. Safety Solutions at Work can perform the measurement of noise and vibration at the same time, thus significantly reduces the cost of survey.
  • Choose your tools wisely. If possible, choose vibration reducing hand-arm tools.
  • PPE. There are vibration reducing gloves commercially available. However, it should be only used as supplemental measures, as their efficacy in reducing vibration with frequencies of highest risk of exposure is questioned.
  • Keep warm. Low temperature might also contribute to the blocking of circulatory system around hand and arm and might make the VFW syndrome more severe.
Posted on: October 21st, 2013 by Phil Comments
September 16, 2013

Protect the Hidden Victims of Workplace Hazards

This September is the 12th anniversary for the 911 attack. It is truly a tragedy for us to remember and commemorate; however, from an occupational health perspective, the tragic story is still going on, as the list of hidden victims keeps expanding.

With the collapse of the World Trade Center, building material such as asbestos and fiber glass were pulverized and spread all over the area. Firefighters, policemen, communication workers, and janitorial workers involved with the clean-up process are exposed to contaminants which are potential carcinogens or may cause permanent lung dysfunction.

However, it was not a long time ago since these occupational hazards were realized by the media and public health authorities, and the recognition and compensation remains to be an issue, which is demonstrated in the video below.

The Hidden Victim of 9/11 (Youtube)

This case reflects the dilemma faced by OHS professionals: On the one hand, the issue of workplace safety has been realized widely, and continuous effort has been put to eliminate them.

On the other hand, occupational diseases, as a result of the chemical, physical and biological exposure at workplaces remains to be unsolved: It is estimated by International Labour Organization (ILO) that almost 80% of fatalities at workplaces are caused by occupational disease. In Canada, many provinces have made great progress in reducing the number of workplace injuries. However, the overall number of work-related deaths remains unchanged. The reason is that deaths caused by work-related disease have increased steadily over the past two decades.

Why is occupational disease not getting the deserved attention in spite of the catastrophic outcomes?

First reason is that compared with occupational injuries, whose cause could be identified by accident investigation following certain procedures, the identification of occupational disease is much more complex. Of course we can indicate some chemicals as being “toxic”, but the definition of “toxic” is so broad that it hardly makes any sense in associating the certain disease with exposure. Take occupational cancer as an example, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) evaluated the carcinogenicity of around 900 chemicals; however, consider the numerous chemicals that exist at workplaces, those evaluated are just the iceberg above surface. 

The second reason for the lack of awareness is that occupational diseases seldom develop on a single day. Take occupational cancer for example: cancer is a chronic disease, the latent period between exposure and disease occurrence could be decades. This is a huge barrier when linking disease with exposure.

With so many gaps remaining to be filled, preventative approaches have been made to protect workers from the emerging risk of occupational risk: provincial regulations have set up exposure limits for the chemical, physical and biological hazards, and for those with potential to induce cancer and other permanent damage, it is the employer’s responsibility to keep the exposure level “As Low As Reasonably Achievable” (i.e. ALARA).

As part of the due diligence for employers, initiating an air testing is the fundamental step to prevent the occupational disease!

Posted on: September 16th, 2013 by Phil Comments
September 3, 2013

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

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