62% of Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC members say workplace safety is improving

According to a survey done by WorkSafeBC, 3 out of 5 manufacturing company’s feel that workplace safety is improving in their industry. The survey, conducted in February of 2016, was sent to 1,623 member companies of the Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC and resulted in 192 completed surveys. The largest audience represented in the results were small employers, making up 71% of the 192 responses. Of those who were aware of the Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC, 98% were satisfied or had a neutral position on the organization’s performance on promoting health and safety.

The Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC is a not-for-profit health and safety association with the goal of reducing the injury rates in the manufacturing sector and transforming the culture of organizations with an emphasis on making safety a business priority.

Other survey questions covered topics including the general perceptions around safety in the Food Processing and Manufacturing industry, the awareness of the Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC among manufacturers and their satisfaction with the services provided.

The Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC’s most preferred resources, as determined by the survey, are occupational health & safety (OHS) resources such as booklets, videos and manuals. Members also appreciate and find value in receiving OHS news, regulatory changes and other industry relevant updates from the organization. Although a less common form of engagement for their members, 8 out of 10 companies who received an in-person visit from a safety advisor stated their needs were met by the service.

In addition to manual resources being the most utilized out of all the available options, members reported that resources like booklets, videos and manuals was their top choice for what they needed out of their health and safety association. The Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC, in response to the needs of its members, has produced new resources including the MSI Prevention Guidebook, 5-Phases of OSSE guide and has expanded its online learning centre to include a free resources section available to all members.

Second in priority for Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC members is training. The Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC has responded to these needs with an expanded course offering, including courses on confined space awareness, workplace inspections and combustible dust. These courses complement the existing offering bringing the total number of in-person and online training courses offered by the Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC to 9.

The Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC continues to strive to meet the needs of its members and is in a position to adapt to the changing needs of their membership. New strategies to provide members with maximum impact, including the small employer engagement program launched in 2016, offers a blended approach to building an occupational health and safety program through advisor visits, training in-person and online and access to the SPS (Safety Support System) program to fast-track a company to a safer workplace.

Quality assurance is a key priority of the Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC. Members who have engaged with the organization through an advisor, training or an event are given opportunities to provide feedback that will be used to further shape the resources and engagement strategies of the organization.

For more information on the results of the Sentis research survey on the Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC, go to https://safetyalliancebc.ca/about/board-governance/research-and-reviews/.

Accident leads to a career in safety

Summerland, BC, by Susan McIver– A work-place welding accident set Sheldon McKee on the path to a career in safety helping other workers stay alive and healthy.

“I had a head injury which permanently affected by balance and I couldn’t weld anymore,” McKee said. “What do I do now?” he recalled asking a friend involved in safety work.

Today, McKee is a safety advisor specializing in confined spaces for the Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC. The Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC is an industry-driven and funded association dedicated to setting health and safety standards for manufacturers and food processors. Recently, the Chilliwack-based association opened a satellite office in Summerland.

“We decided on Summerland because most of our Okanagan clients are in the south,” said McKee.

Wineries account for the majority of his clients followed by breweries and a few manufacturing firms. Agriculture is relatively safe with 29 out of a total of 1,508 work place related deaths for the period of 2005-2014, as reported by WorkSafeBC. However, many South Okanagan residents will recall at least two deaths from tractor rollovers and two from winery workers who had fallen from a ladder into a fermentation tank.

“Tractors are not all terrain vehicles. Be careful operating them and read the manufacturers specifications on proper maintenance and safety features,” McKee said. This includes garden tractors. More than one small tractor has regretted disabling the safety switch which turns off the engine while the operator is out of the seat.

“It’s a common mistake for people to think of safety as belonging only to the work place,” McKee said.

Protection equipment such as safety glasses, sturdy footwear and face shields should be used when operating all power equipment even home weed and brush trimmers.

“I still treat a chain saw with the utmost respect,” McKee said.

Regarding the winery deaths, McKee said, “The men most like lost consciousness when they inhaled carbon dioxide gas, a fermentation by-product, which was released when they opened the hatch.”

He recommends that wineries have gas monitors capable of detecting carbon dioxide. Confined space hazards include too little or too much oxygen, toxic gases, and entrapment or engulfment in bins and hoppers.

“Think outside the box about confined and partially confined spaces—engine spaces in large tractors and trunks, irrigation pump stations, and crawl spaces,” said McKee.

Consider ways to prevent or minimize entry and how to facilitate a rescue if necessary. Potential hazards can also be found underground. Buried electric and gas lines can be a danger in vineyards when excavating for the installation of water pipes or new gas lines. “You may have no idea of existing lines that were put in years ago,” McKee said.

Proper training in use of equipment is essential, for example, how to keep orchards girettes from tipping over.

Common problems in this area include dehydration from heat and wildlife. “Many of our foreign workers don’t understand that bears can be dangers,” McKee said.

Workers and home owners alike tell McKee, “I’ve been doing this for ages and never had a problem.”

“The sad truth is one day you may have a big problem” he said.

Safety saves employers money through the elimination of the need to pay wages for injured and replacement workers, lower WorkSafeBC rates and decreased damage to tools and equipment.

“I’m here to help identify potential problems and what can be done to eliminate or reduce them,” said McKee, who can be reached at (250) 808-4079.

Susan McIver is The Penticton Herald’s Summerland reporter and agricultural columnist.