In 1988, I (Dean) was a skinny, eager high school student with his first real job. That real job was working in a retail clothing store in West Edmonton Mall. I vividly remember straining my bicep trying to move some boxes (Why do I vividly remember this? It’s because my coworkers joked that I didn’t really have any biceps to strain…hahahaha).
For many people, workplace safety means safety on construction sites, or in the oil and gas industry. It certainly doesn’t mean safety in retail, or healthcare, or law enforcement, or the hospitality industry, or tourism; yet safety permeates all workplaces. Workplace safety affects you, whether you know it or not. If you need evidence, please refer to the above story. Also, folks in non-safety sensitive industries better start paying attention to safety legislation, and quick. Legislation has always said that employers have had the responsibility to keep their workers safe, but with Alberta’s new Bill 30: An Act to Protect the Health and Well-Being of Working Albertans coming into effect June 1, 2018, it has become even clearer that all employers must ensure the safety of their workers, and that all workers, from management to supervisors to front-line workers share in those responsibilities.
Anyways, let’s take a look at safety in some industries that aren’t usually part of your typical safety training video:
The field level hazard assessment (FLHA) is part of any good safety program, but how do you make a FLHA travelling at 110 km/h? Canada’s national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), are tasked with many law enforcement duties including keeping our highways safe. When confronted with a speeding vehicle, an RCMP member will have to complete an FLHA while travelling at highway speeds. Hazards and risks may include: potential to create an accident because of a hasty u-turn, losing control of the vehicle because of road conditions, putting others at risk because of a high-speed chase. The RCMP member will also make the deteriminations: Can I catch the speeder? Will the public be more at risk if I let them go? Should I just call for assistance? This safety factors will all be evaluated and a course of action will be determined in, quite literally, a few seconds…a high speed FLHA.
I asked a friend who works in a kidney dialysis unit what their biggest safety concern is. I expected the response to have something to do with a biological hazard (blood and other bodily fluids), or dealing with sharps (needles, etc…). The answer: trying to catch fainting patients. Imagine a nurse trying to catch a 150 lb patient who’s come in for dialysis, and now imagine a nurse trying to catch a 300 lb patient who’s come in for the same treatment. What are potential solutions? Well, wheelchairs are used for patients who may have an increased risk of fainting. What else could be done here?
A client who works in the hospitality industry told me about their biggest safety concerns. I assumed (again, incorrectly) the biggest safety issues would be belligerent patrons require intervention by the bouncers, but I was wrong. Biggest safety issue: servers slipping on the floor because of spilled drinks. How do you prevent people from spilling drinks in a bar? What would your FLHA say? How do you control this type of hazard in a fast-paced, dark, and crowded environment? (And let’s not even get into the harassment hazards that are rampant in the hospitality industry…that’s for another article all together).
Deidra worked as a tour guide and boat driver at Maligne Lake in her younger years. While she luckily never had to deal with any emergencies (other than the odd tourist thinking he could swim in the glacial lake without going numb in seconds and having to be hauled out), the boat drivers were well prepared. Hands-on fire extinguisher training, first aid training, man-overboard training, preventative maintenance training (while on the water) and other emergency training were all part of the extensive training and licensing that the boat drivers and tour guides received prior to the tourists arriving for the season. Who knew that tour guides had so much safety background?
If you work in a safety sensitive industry, safety is just a part of your everyday, isn’t it? And it’s not just in the background; there are daily hazard assessments, safety meetings, inspections, job hazard analyses, etc. But even in industries that aren’t safety sensitive, workers are constantly doing what they need to do to keep themselves, their co-workers, and they public safe. We encourage all workplaces to discuss safety with their employees, to ensure that workers have the training they need, and to keep communication lines open to ensure that your workers know that you truly care about their health and safety. And if you are an organization that never needed to think about a safety program in the past, and are not sure where to start, give us a shout. We are busy developing resources to help retail, restaurants, offices, non-profits, and other commercial operations get started with a basic safety program and ensure they are able to meet the requirements of Alberta’s new OHS Act.