Canadian Safety Blog – Continual Improvement Efforts

Hi folks…sorry that I haven’t posted any updates lately.  Most of my recent blog efforts have been behind the scenes.  You’ll probably notice a few updates recently.  Here’s a list of new features at the Canadian Safety Blog:

  • One thing you’ve probably noticed is that I’ve made the blog more…Canadian.  The banner pic was actually taken while I was in Ottawa back in 2006 at a CSSE Conference (check out the CSSE Conference page for more information about the 2011 CSSE Professional Development Conference in Whistler BC).  It was a wonderful event and I had the chance to go out one late summer afternoon and get some nice shots of our Parliament buildings and some other interesting sites.  Check out the gallery in the sidebar for some cool photo’s that I’ve taken over the years.
  • I’ve added an email subscription area on the sidebar.  If you’d like an email sent to you to let you know when there’s a new post please enter your email.  I don’t sell or use your email for any other purpose.
  • You’ll notice a graphic slider at the top of the post area.  This slider links to some of the more popular posts on the blog.  I’ve been watching the google searches that point to the blog and these posts seem to be the ones getting the most traffic.  Check them out by clicking on the graphic of interest.
  • I’ve added some Google ads to support some of the costs of the blog. Over the last 6 months or so I’ve made $19.06..total.  Once I reach $100 Google will send me a cheque. I’ve got a long way to go before I see any money.
  • I’ve also added a couple of Twitter widgets in the sidebar – one for my personal account @safetyforge and the other one (in red) is actually a summary of all tweets with the words “Canada” and “Safety” in them.  Please do check out the blog on a regular basis to see what’s happening on Twitter.
  • Paper.li is a fascinating web-based Twitter newsletter.  It takes information from a Twitter account or from a search term to put together a daily summary of the more popular happenings on Twitter.  I’ve added a Canadian Safety and Safety Forge paper.li widget to my blog.  Check out the links to see what paper.li is all about.  This is a great way to view Twitter content!
  • A number of RSS feeds are in the sidebar as well.  I’ve selected feeds from most of the provincial safety jurisdiction, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, Canadian Business Online news and safety jobs in Alberta.  Another great resource for safety jobs can be found at the CSSE Career Depot.  If you have a job opportunity and are looking to attract candidates please do consider using the Career Depot to post a opportunity.
  • I’ve updated my profile information in the About the Author tab at the top of the blog.  You’ll find a photo of me and some information about who I am.  Not only that, but I’ve added some motivational theme music (fully licensed) that will start up once you go to the page.  Turn up your speakers and enjoy!…I know…I’m a little weird sometimes…

So again, thanks for reading.  I’ve found the blogging experience to be wonderful and I’ve learned a lot about the web and social media as a result of this effort.  The blog provides me an outlet for my thoughts, opinions and creativity.  My hope is that it provides you, the reader, with some interesting safety and health information and ideas on how you can leverage social media to get your message out there.  I am firmly convinced that we all, as individuals, can make a difference in this world. We just need to stand up and speak our minds.

I’d be interested to get your thoughts on the Canadian Safety Blog…like me, it’s a work in progress.

Thanks for listening to a Canadian Safety Guy trying to cause safety to happen at work…..Andrew

Early Workplace Safety Experiences Shared

In May, I had the great honour to attend the US Launch of NAOSH Week in Washington DC with the folks from ASSE and OSHA.  For the past four years I have represented the CSSE at the US Launch as the CSSE Secretary and Chair of the Canadian NAOSH Week Committee.   I normally provide greetings from Canada to the guests at the Department of Labor and then have a second opportunity to tell a story during an event at the US Capitol Building. Here is the safety story (text of speech) I shared with the folks at the Capitol Building:

Thank you again for this wonderful opportunity to share the US Launch of NAOSH Week with you.  This is my fourth year as part of these celebrations and I’m always humbled by the commitment of the Safety Poster Contest entrants and their families.  You are truly the next generation of safety advocates and workplace leaders who will bring about much needed change so that all workers will return home at the end of the work day to their friends and families.

During this brief time that we have together, I’d like to share with you some of my first experiences in the world of work and workplace safety.  I’d like to take you back to my first real summer job when I was a younger man of only 20 years of age.

I had been going to school in Ottawa, our nations’ capital, and had made plans to stay in Ottawa versus going back to my hometown of Sarnia in Ontario.  I was going to sublet an apartment and work in the convenience store at the campus residence centre and was excited about spending the summer in the beautiful city of Ottawa.  Five dollars an hour was good pay compared to the same money sweating at the restaurant at home that I normally worked at.

While I was busy making these plans my father was too. You see my father worked at one of the large petrochemical plants in Sarnia’s Chemical Valley.  At one time the Chemical Valley was the largest collection of gasoline, rubber, plastics and specialty chemicals industries in Canada.  It was my father’s hope that I could get a summer job at his plant to make some real money for school.  So he had me put in an application.

It was John Lennon who said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making plans.”

My plans to stay in Ottawa were going to have to change.  I’d gotten that job at my father’s plant and I’d be making the huge wage of $11 per hour.  $11 dollars per hour…I liked the sound of that…just imagine….more money than I had ever made before.  I’d be able to pay for school and have money left over.  It really wasn’t a hard decision to make.  5 bucks vs. 11 bucks…easy.

So the school year was finished.  My dad drove to Ottawa, picked me up and drove me back home to Sarnia.  Time to start earning that money.

The new workplace was big, complex and like nothing I’d ever seen before.

I’d heard stories about it from my dad.  He’d tell me about his work and how safety was his number one priority.  He’d tell me about his responsibilities as a maintenance supervisor and his work on the plant fire team.  I even remember the story about the time he had to kick some contractors offsite for not following safety rules.  My dad was the first safety leader I knew and he’d become one due to the culture that was part of the plant.  All good stuff, but man was this place big…and serious.

The first few days was orientation….safety orientation.  Three days…we met the safety pros, the hygienists, and even got to learn how to put out real fires with fire extinguishers.  We also heard about how important safety was at the company. It was a real eye opener.

While the orientation was going on, we were also starting to get dribs and drabs of information about our jobs…what we’d be doing.  I was good to do anything…afterall what kind of hard stuff could they give me…I didn’t really have any skills…it would have to be something simple.  So…I’d be working at the Inspection Lab for the refinery side of the business, where they did quality checks on the different gasoline and chemical products.  OK…but what would I be doing there?

Later in the day…more details…it looked like I’d be a Truck Driver.  I know, you’re thinking, wow that’d be a nice job…driving around the plant picking up samples and dropping them off…no problem…well just one…I did have a drivers license but it was for a motorcycle….the only car, or truck, I’d ever driven had been in a video game…

So being a young man of little experience…what did I do…I said nothing and started to get more and more nervous as the orientation continued.

I was even starting to have scary thoughts and dreams of driving the truck and getting into accidents and hurting myself and others.  By the end of day 3 that was enough, I fessed up and told them I couldn’t drive but I would get my license as soon as I could.  They were a little miffed as my admission meant they needed to change their plans to accommodate me.  The crazy thing was they’d never asked on the application or before giving me the job if I could drive a truck.  Being my first real job I already thought that I wasn’t making a very good impression.

So to work…I ended up working in the Inspection Lab testing samples of gasoline and diesel fuel.  Not a bad job.  After about a month I finally did get my drivers licence so I could drive around the plant as the need arose.  Good thing as I was to be given a project that would take me all over.

So the summer passed…I’d been working for a few months and it was time to start the new project.  I was toured around by one of the staff techs, a nice fellow who took the time to show me around the plant and show me the ropes.  I liked working with him – he wasn’t mad at me like my regular supervisor was over the driving thing.  The new project was great.  In the afternoon, after I’d done my lab checks, I’d have to go to every place in the plant that had a sample point to stick a metal sample point identification tag to it.  It was great…I got to go all over…climb huge oil tanks…butane spheres…you name it I saw it.  I thought it was really cool…until I got to the big bunker oil tank…my problem was with the signs…they scared me.

The big bunker oil tank was huge.  You had to climb up a large winding metal staircase to get to the top where it was sampled from.  What did the signs say that got me all concerned?  Danger…H2S…could be fatal if inhaled.  Not only did the signs scare me but I was also starting to think back to one of the sessions from the safety orientation where they talked about the dangers of hydrogen sulfide…it smells like rotten eggs and in large amounts it would shut down your ability to smell it and then if concentrations got higher it would kill you.  This stuff is nasty and it is known for killing in groups.  Normally, the first person would go down and then someone would see that they were in need of help and they would go to help them and themselves be overcome.  I realized that before I went up those stairs I needed to talk to someone.  I went to see my supervisor.

So we had a chat – him and I.  I told him about the signs, the tank and my concerns about my safety.  He was good.  He listened.  Then he came up with a solution.  Here’s what we would do…the truck driver would come with me when I went to the tank the next time.

The driver would have a respirator to supply air ready and if I collapsed on the stairs he would put it on and come and get me.

It was now that I realized that being a truck driver was a good thing.  I also realized that I didn’t really like the plan that much.  I had a much better, safer solution.  That tank wasn’t going to get a sample tag.  I also realized that at the end of the day it was my life and I really didn’t like someone else making these important decisions for me.  I had to be responsible for myself.

It was a good job with some good lessons learned.  I’d gotten excited about safety and decided not to go back to University but instead to take the safety program at the local community college.  This is where I got my start.

I learned that even though we set high expectations on employers to exercise care, ultimately we are responsible for our own lives and need to make our own decisions about the risks that we accept.

Individually, we have the most to lose and the most to gain.  I also learned to speak up and ask the difficult question or say the difficult thing.  Sometimes things have to be hard before they can get any better.

The work that I do and that many in this room do is vitally important to our fellow workers and their families.  Businesses and other organizations have a duty of care to protect their people.  The efforts of the safety professional are the expression of that duty.  We save lives and make working conditions better so that we can all share in the dream of a prosperous life.

Thanks for listening and hopefully learning from my experiences.  I’ve really enjoyed sharing this day with you.  Please accept my thanks and the appreciation of the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering for this amazing NAOSH Week celebration.

Safety Rant – A National Model for OHS Legislation

A few years ago I had the great pleasure of working for a large MRO company as their National Health and Safety Manager.  At the time, the company operated in nine provinces and two territories and had over 160 locations from coast to coast to coast.  Operating a health and safety system built around OHSAS 18001 required a significant time investment performing legislative scans as we were implementing the system and maintaining it.

Yesterday, there was an interesting conversation on CCOHS’s HSCanada listserv about the politization … no…politicization …hmm …I’m not quite sure how to spell that …how about politics and OHS.  It got me thinking again about the challenges of going out on a regular basis to the various provincial and territorial websites to see what the standard was for a variety of specific requirements that would impact our procedures and practices.

Think about all of the differences in requirements for confined spaces, fall protection, asbestos management, health and safety committees, work refusals, responsibilities, first aid, etc. as you move from one province to another.  Are the actual hazards and control measures that much different if you’re working in a confined space in downtown Edmonton versus downtown London (ON)?   Why do some jurisdictions in Canada require JHSCs for workplaces with over 10 workers versus others that don’t even require a committee at all?  Why is a formal first aid assessment required in BC but not in Nova Scotia?  At the end of the day do these differences make work safer?

Think of all the effort expended by provincial regulators in the development and maintenance of their health and safety laws and information services.  Every Ministry of Labour, WorkSafe, WCB, etc.  has mostly the same mandate and delivers similar services.  I will admit that there are different approaches to the way they do their business.  Ontario uses the big stick.  BC has a terrific information service and marketing approach.  Alberta depends on organizations to do the right thing.  The service delivery matches the societal expectations of the provincial culture.  The foundational services should be the same.

So…back to the issue at hand…how do we manage all of these differences.  At the company, we did our research and picked the most stringent standard from amongst the provincial requirements and adopted it in our procedures…most of the time.  On occasion, a requirement from a specific region would be, in our opinion, significantly more stringent than the rest.  In such a case, we would adopt a basic requirement meeting the norm in most provinces and then in the specific region adopt the tougher one.  Some aspects of BC’s first aid requirements come to mind as an example of this approach.

Let’s talk about another approach that has been used for fire protection…the National Fire Code.  The NFC sets out requirements for fire and life safety in commercial, industrial, institutional and other occupancies.  It is a model for other provinces to consider and adopt fully or with some modifications.  In my experience…it works.  You have a pretty good feeling that fire and life safety practices are very similar from one provincial jurisdiction to another.   Its not completely perfect as some municipalities like to do their own things too, but all in all its not bad.

How about WHMIS?  It was developed by a multi-partite group of stakeholders at the federal government level and then adopted by the provinces.  As you go from region to region, WHMIS requirements are basically the same.

WHY THEN DOES EVERYTHING ELSE HAVE TO BE DIFFERENT?

WHY IS IT THAT EACH PROVINCE’S LEGISLATON IS FORMATTED DIFFERENTLY TO THE POINT WHERE IT CAN BE LIKE TRYING TO FIND A NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK WHEN COMPARING REQUIREMENTS?

Um…sorry for shouting…

I like simple…I fear that complex is not sustainable….I’m concerned that we’re wasting resources crafting the same legislation, guidelines, young worker safety programs, etc. over and over again.  I know that health and safety is exciting work and what we do here is better than anywhere else, but its not a competition…safety is a collaborative exercise.

Can we not just build a national framework for OHS legislation and then all live in peace and harmony?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Could we at least agree on the 5, 10, 35 things that are the same and spell them out for everyone in a clear and concise manner?

Whew!…I’m done talking…for now at least.  What do you think?

…Andrew…a Canadian Safety Guy

Forging Safety Forge Part 1

Many of you may know about me from my travels in the safety world, in Ontario and in Alberta.   I’ve been an internal resource at the City of London and with Acklands-Grainger.  I’ve also worked as an external safety consultant with the IAPA and RiskCheck.  All in all, I’ve been at it for a little bit over 20 years.

Last year…oh so long ago…beginning of December actually…I decided that it was time to create my own future as a private consultant.  I also wanted to spend a little bit more time closer to home in Edmonton.  At least that’s my plan so far.

With this challenge in mind I needed to create a new identity for myself.  I needed to create a company and start promoting myself and my offerings.

I could have picked something simple…hmm…Andrew Cooper Consulting…a little boring.  Do you know how many Andrew Coopers there are out there?  The first ones that come to mind and show up in google are either underwear models or hollywood photographers.

It appeared that using my name wasn’t going to be very helpful, especially if I wanted to attract people to my soon to be created website.  It was time to do some research on the net.  I needed to see what was available out there in terms of business names and safety domain names.

Big surprise…with the internet being really popular over the last 15 years or so…all the good names and domains were either being used or had been registered.  I really didn’t want to spend a lot of money to purchase an existing safety .com domain name.

Back to google to search for a tool to help me come up with a name and an available .com domain.  You have to like google…and the web really…there is so much information out there to help you with your business; if you know what to look for.  Its funny, but I always used to use a few keywords to find what I’m looking for on a search engine.  Recently, I’ve taken to actually entering a full phrase or question and I’ve been finding that I’m getting better results out of my searches.  Try it sometime.  But I digress….

I found a terrific resource on the web – Dot-o-mater – an online tool for combining words and themes to create a domain name.  It will also check to see if the domain name is available.  Excellent tool and incredibly helpful.  It took me a few hours of trial and error.  I felt that it was important to have the word “safety” or “risk” in the name of my new business.  I also wanted to make sure that I could get a .com domain extension.

Hours later I had used pretty much every combination of safety or risk that I could think of.  I was gravitating to names that included some type of industrial design theme.  So what came up?  What did I consider?

How about Safety Wright?  or Riskitect? Safety Foundry? Risk Forge? Safety Forge? Safe Workitect? Safe Happenings? Safe Work Strategies? Safety Plan?

I know what you’re thinking…gee…these are some pretty exciting names…lol.  Which one of them resonated with me?  Which one could I build a brand around?

At the end of the exercise, Safety Forge was the strongest choice in my mind.  It included the safety word.  It created an impression of creation; of strength.  Also, the .com domain name was available.

So Safety Forge…or…Safety Forge Consulting it was.  Next steps…domain registration…business registration…but that will have to wait for Part 2.

…Andrew…a Canadian Safety Guy

Canadian Safety Blog – Day 1

Hello there in Safety Land Canada!

This is my first blog post on my new blog.  I’m starting on a grand new adventure in 2010.

I decided recently that it was time to go out on my own and start my own consulting practice (www.safetyforge.com).  I’ve been in the health and safety field in Canada for a little bit over 20 years now.  I’ve worked for quite a number of large and small employers in Ontario and Alberta as an internal resource (aka Safety Coordinator, Manager, etc.) and as an external consultant.  Some of you would have also seen me at the IAPA in Ontario or with the CSSE around the country.  I’d like to think that I’ve seen a lot of what’s out there, but I know that safety is a life long journey and the profession is continually improving.

So as part of my journey…I’ll be offering my opinion (and mine alone) on a variety of matters related to the practice of workplace safety in Canada.  Am I an authority?  I don’t know.  I only know what I’ve learned and experienced in my time trying to make workplaces and communities safer.

I’d like to hear from you as well.  Got something to share…please do so.  You think I’m full of &^%…let me know too.  So let’s get started!

….Andrew…a Canadian Safety Guy