Positivity in Occupational Health and Safety

I reckon that the occupational health and safety professional at any given job site is often the least popular person around. He or she is seen as the person who just makes everyone miserable with their constant nit-picking and criticism.

This, to me, is one of the fundamental problems the safety industry faces, and we tend to do it to ourselves.

The focus in the safety business tends to be very negative—What are the hazards? What did the worker do wrong? What documentation was forgotten? What process failed?

For instance, I’ve seen any number of inspection forms that are designed to document problems, with little or no thought to documenting what was good! After a while, the expectation is that every time a site inspection happens, it means there will be a bunch of negativity thrown around and everyone, from the top of the totem pole to the bottom, gets into that negative frame of mind.

But it is still possible to turn that wagon train around and blaze a new trail. Something I always insist on is that every documented inspection have at least one positive comment written on it. If the workers had their pre-job hazard assessments complete, write it down—and tell the workers you appreciate their efforts! If the housekeeping is in good shape, make note of it. If everyone is wearing the proper Personal Protective Equipment, congratulate them on doing things the right way.

Provide positive reinforcement for the things you want to see and you’re likely to get more of the same. More than that, you might start to change the perception that the safety team are nothing but low-down varmints looking to cause trouble.

Take time every day to talk to your team out in the field, get to know them, learn about their lives and what makes them happy. And celebrate all the things they are doing right. By fostering an environment where safety is not seen as a negative and a burden, you’ll get better buy-in, more personal investment into the process and a generally better attitude from the team.

When participating in a safety meeting, make sure to discuss the good things that people are doing to keep each other safe—talk about goals achieved, people who took the initiative to fix something before it became a problem, new procedures that will improve the health and safety of everyone.

Incentive programs to reward good behaviour can sometimes have pitfalls—sometimes they become an expectation regardless of performance; sometimes people who get away with bad behaviour get rewarded anyway. But planning an effective incentive program that rewards positive behaviour can be a great addition to your safety program when properly executed.

Obviously, if something is noted that poses an imminent hazard to life and health, work needs to be stopped immediately and the situation must be addressed. Likewise, if a substandard act or condition is present on site, it needs to be corrected. The key function of safety—to prevent injuries, damage, and loss of process—must always be kept in mind.

But don’t allow the job to be all about finding the deficiencies. Don’t set yourself up for everyone to get stressed out every time you come talk to them. Always remember that a pat on the back for a job well done is at least as important as a boot to the rear when something is wrong.

Article originally published in Buck Up! Magazine, Issue 2, December, 2014

Jim can be reached at jim@flannerysafetyconsulting.com

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OHS For Farms Is Coming Soon to Alberta

Photo: Tracey Flannery

Photo: Tracey Flannery

Revised 4-Dec-2015

Alberta’s New Democratic Party was the only major party in the 2015 provincial election to even mention Occupational Health and Safety in their platform. Now, as they really start getting to business, they have officially introduced a farm safety bill that will take effect on January 1, 2015.

Bill 6 can be reviewed here.

As of this moment, Alberta is the only province in Canada where farming and ranching is not covered by OHS legislation. The Conservative Party, which had held office provincially since 1971, had consistently dragged their heels on this issue rather than risk angering a significant part of their support base. But the NDP, with their fresh take on business-related policy, are determined to ensure that every employee in Alberta enjoys the same protection.

The move affects about 60,000 workers—about as many people as are currently living in Airdrie—in 43,000 farming and ranching businesses. The bottom line is that all these people will enjoy protection under Alberta’s OHS legislation as well as mandatory Workers Compensation Board coverage, something they have not had in this province before.

It should be noted that recent clarifications by the government indicate that Bill 6 will have no impact on family farms and ranches—the OHS, WCB and employment standards revisions are strictly going to be directed at the protection of employees, so wives, sons and daughters who are not drawing paycheques as employees will be able to carry on as before—this is potentially a can of worms, so it will be important to stay current on any developments on this front as it may be perceived as creating a competitive advantage for some businesses over others.

Although the farming and ranching industry will have to get up to speed on OHS in only a few weeks, it still remains to be seen exactly what compliance for this industry will look like—there are currently no parts of the OHS Act, Regulation, or Code that pertain to farms or ranches and it will undoubtedly take some time to incorporate those things. In fact, in accordance with Bill 6, the OHS Code will not apply to farms and ranches until revisions to the Code have been made to address the farming and ranching industry.

What we can say for sure are that the general requirements of Alberta’s OHS Act and Regulation will now apply. Beginning in January, workers will have the right to know, the right to refuse unsafe work, and the right to participate in the safety process. Employers will have the obligation to identify and control workplace hazards and to ensure their workers understand what those hazards and controls are.

Although the Code will not officially apply until 2017, in order to exercise due diligence it is probable that farms and ranches will need to be at least somewhat familiar with some of the pertinent parts. Aside from hazard assessment and control (OHS Code, Part 2), there are several parts of the Code that might apply to farms and ranches, for example:

  • Chemical and Biological Hazards (Code, Part 4),
  • Emergency Preparedness (Code, Part 7),
  • First Aid (Code, Part 11),
  • Lifting and Handling Loads (Code, Part 14), and
  • Powered Mobile Equipment (Code, Part 19).

Farms have been able to take on WCB coverage to this point, but have not been required to do so. That’s also changing on Jan. 1 with farms and ranches expected to provide WCB for employees in the same way as other business in Alberta. Because there are so many businesses that will need to set themselves up with WCB coverage, farms and ranches will have until April 30, 2016 to get set up in one under one of the four industry codes, with premiums ranging from $1.70-$2.97 per $100 of insurable earnings.

Further details on WCB for farms and ranches can be found here.

Flannery Safety Consulting can help with your questions about OHS, WCB and the impact the coming changes will have on the farming and ranching industries. Give us a call at (403) 715-4162 or email us at jim@flannerysafetyconsulting.com.

You can also follow us on Facebook and on Twitter.

Movember

Photo on 2015-11-01 at 12.38 PM

I’ve been thinking about this for a couple years now, but here in 2015 I finally decided to take the plunge and take part in Movember.

Pleas head over to my Movember campaign page and give generously for the worthy cause of finding a cure for prostate cancer. My target is $500, but I’d love to blow that goal out of the water.

More to come….

Competence

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“Competent” is one of those words that pops up every now and then in Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety legislation that many people don’t think too much about, which is a huge mistake. That word means something and when you see it, you need to pause and put some thought to you’re game plan going forward.

According to the definitions found at the beginning of both the Alberta OHS Regulation and Code:

“competent” in relation to a person, means adequately qualified, suitably trained and with sufficient experience to safely perform work without supervision or with only a minimal degree of supervision.

Perhaps you are someone who grew up on a farm. At a very young age, you began helping out with chores and one of them was operating a forklift used to offload bales of hay for the farm animals. By the time you got your driver’s licence at age 16, you were an expert forklift operator. You have plenty of experience and your parents and relatives may have given you a bunch of training in how to run that piece of equipment. But until you’ve gone through a forklift training course and received a certification to prove that you’re adequately qualified, you can’t be deemed competent and can’t, by law, operate a forklift as part of your occupation.

There are lots of situations where this kind of thing comes up. For instance, all scaffolds must be inspected and tagged by a competent worker prior to use and every 21 days thereafter. (Code, Part 23, 326(3)). Again, you may have been putting up scaffold for most of your career, but unless you’ve been properly deemed competent, you’re doing it illegally and could be fined.

Bottom line: If you’re looking through the legislation to see what the Alberta OHS expectations are for a particular circumstance and you see the word “competent,” you need to stop and ask yourself three questions: Am I adequately qualified? Am I suitably trained? Do I have sufficient experience? If the answer to any of those questions is “no,” you’ve got some things to take care of prior to beginning that work or you could find yourself in a whole heap of trouble.

Flannery Safety Consulting provides services in the Lethbridge area. If you have any questions or inquiries, please don’t hesitate to contact Jim Flannery at jim@flannerysafetyconsulting.com or (403) 715-4162.

You can also follow us on Facebook and on Twitter.

How Can Flannery Safety Consulting Help You?

Flannery Safety Consulting offers clients safety consulting, training and management. Whether it be for building or improving your safety program, group training, or monitoring your safety activities, we can assist you in achieving your safety goals.

So much of the safety world seems to be wrapped up in the negative, focussing on what can go wrong, how many injuries or incidents a company has had, etc. We strive to make your experience a positive one, looking at what is being done right and building on that.

Flannery Safety Consulting has a number of different ways to help you:

  • Assessment of your company’s unique safety needs and requirements
  • Assisting in the creation and/or improvement of your safety program
  • Assisting in development of safe work practices and safe job procedures
  • Assisting in developing custom forms to fit your company and advice on whether a paper format or an electronic one is best for you
  • Help with registering in the Partnerships in Injury Reduction (PIR) program through Alberta’s WCB and selecting a certifying partner to best suit your needs
  • Pre-audit evaluation of your program to ensure it meets Certificate of Recognition (COR) or Small Employer Certificate of Recognition (SECOR) standards
  • Assisting in rolling out the safety program to your company
  • Help and advice on managing your WCB account
  • Ongoing monitoring and support for your safety program
  • Assistance in incident investigation, injury claims management
  • Training in generic and company-specific WHMIS

Jim Flannery is an NCSO with 16 years of experience in the construction safety field. He has worked for companies with as few as six workers as well as multi-national corporations, giving him a broad-based understanding of construction safety in a variety of scales and scopes. He has completed the University of Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety certificate program and is a Gold Seal-certified Safety Coordinator. Jim has a BA in English, has a quarter-century of construction experience under his belt both on the tools and off, and is a part-time freelance writer.

If you have any questions or inquiries, please don’t hesitate to contact Jim Flannery at jim@flannerysafetyconsulting.com or (403) 715-4162.

You can also follow us on Facebook and on Twitter.

Legislative Compliance

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A good place to start when considering what your company needs as far as a safety program is concerned is to look at what your local laws require. Here in Alberta, there are a number of safety requirements noted within Alberta’s Occupational Act, Regulation and Code. Among them are:

  • Worker’s Right to Know, including access to OHS legislation, WHMIS, practices, procedures, availability of specifications to workers, and adequate training (Act and Regulation)
  • Worker’s Right to Participate in the safety process (Code)
  • Worker’s “Right” to Refuse unsafe work (Act)
  • Report all serious incidents to OHS officers (ie. injury requiring hospital stay of more than 48 hours; fatality; unplanned fire or flood; collapse of crane; collapse of structure) (Act)
  • Orders or notices must be posted where workers can see them until the order or notice is satisfied; Acceptances must be posted or shared (Reg)
  • Written hazard assessment of the work site prior to work beginning, at reasonable intervals afterwards, when a new work process is introduced, when operations change, and before the construction of significant additions or alterations to a work site (Code)
  • Practices and procedures must be written, depending on the work to be performed (Code).
  • Appropriate number of first aiders and first aid equipment on site (Code)
  • Appropriate number of toilet facilities on site and per gender (Code)
  • Up-to-date and readily accessible MSDS for all controlled products (Code)

And this really just scratches the surface.

Once this framework is laid out, a company should be in good shape to demonstrate due diligence in dealings with Workplace Health and Safety officers. Further, it lays most of the groundwork for acquiring a Certificate of Recognition (COR) through Alberta’s Partnerships in Injury Reduction (PIR) program.

Having a COR gives a company a minimum five percent rebate on their WCB premiums—in some cases up to 20 percent, depending on the company’s historical performance. For a company that already has a good record of avoiding workplace injuries, this is easy money put back in your pocket for the simple act of protecting your most valuable asset: your people.

Flannery Safety Consulting can help you develop an effective safety program that brings you into compliance with Alberta’s OHS legislation. We can also guide you through the process of achieving a COR. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Jim at jim@flannerysafetyconsulting.com or by phone at 403-715-4162