Are you a safety MVP?

Nominations are now open for the 2018 Canada’s Safest Employers awards!

Now in their 8th year, these prestigious awards recognize companies and organizations with truly exceptional health and safety practices in place. Unlike most other safety awards, these are national in scope — proving you are the best from coast to coast.

We’re looking for employers from the following categories:

  • Building and Construction
  • Chemistry – NEW!
  • Health Care
  • Manufacturing
  • Mining and Natural Resources
  • Oil and Gas
  • Public Sector / Non-profit
  • Transportation
  • Utilities and Electrical
  • Services

Click here to nominate your company for Canada’s Safest Employers awards.

But if your company is the cream of the crop, then you also need to apply for Canada’s Best Health + Safety CultureAward. This is the top prize of them all. This high-level award takes a close look at leadership, accountability and sustainability.

Young workers are near and dear to our hearts. That’s why we have an extra special Young Worker SafetyAward open to employers in all industry sectors that employ workers under the age of 25. The winner will have orientation, communication and mentoring tactics that resonate with this vulnerable group of workers.

But we don’t stop there. There are even more awards you might be interested in:

Wellness Award: We’re looking for companies with programs in place for a variety of well-being, fitness, nutrition and health programs.

Psychological Safety Award: The winner of this award knows that psychological safety is just as important as physical safety. We’re looking for programs that support the mental health of workers.

Heat Stress in the Workplace

By Terrence Thomas, CRSP, OSSE Technical Advisor

The human body normally operates at an internal temperature of between 36° and 38° C. It also has an amazing ability to discharge excess heat from the body by increasing blood flow to the skin and sweating.

However many factors including air temperature, humidity, air flow, physical activity, clothing and personal factors can impede this ability to keep body temperature from exceeding the safe range, resulting in heat stress.

The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) defines heat stress as “the net heat load to which a worker may be exposed from the combined contributions of metabolic cost of work, environmental factors (i.e., air temperature, humidity, air movement, and radiant heat) and clothing requirements.”

Metabolic cost of work considers issues such as body heat produced chemical processes, exercise, hormone activity, digestion, etc. while clothing requirements consider what a worker is wearing (light, loose clothing, heavy work uniform, impervious clothing).

Employers in food/beverage processing or general manufacturing need to be aware of the potential risk of workplace heat stress. The employer should be able to identify situations where heat stress may be present and implement steps to control the situation. There are only short periods each year where outdoor heat stress can be an issue in BC, however the potential for indoor heat stress can extend year round in certain situations.

Examples of food processing workplaces that could face indoor heat stress situations include bakeries, breweries, candy/chocolate manufacturers and coffee/tea processors. General manufacturing workplaces could include foundries, smelters, roofing product manufacturing and fibreglass insulation manufacturing. The examples provided are not an inclusive list but employers should have the ability to determine the heat stress level at any given time.

Part 7, Division 4, regulations 7.26 – 7.32 of the WorkSafeBC Occupation Health & Safety Regulation (OHSR) spell out the legal responsibilities regarding heat exposure while the accompanying guidelines provide further information to allow employers to comply with the requirements.

Regulation 7.27 states the regulations apply to a workplace if
(a) a worker is or may be exposed to thermal conditions which could cause heat stress,
(b) the thermal conditions could result in a worker’s core body temperature exceeding 38°C (100°F)
(c) the thermal conditions are in excess of the levels listed in the screening criteria for heat stress exposure in the heat stress and strain section of the ACGIH standard for un-acclimatized workers.

Regulation 7.29 requires that if a worker is or may be exposed to the conditions in section 7.27 the employer must
(a) conduct a heat stress assessment to determine the potential for hazardous exposure of workers, using measures and methods acceptable to the Board, and
(b) develop and implement a heat stress exposure control plan meeting the requirements of section 5.54(2)

The Exposure Control Plan must contain the following elements;
(a) a statement of purpose and responsibilities;
(b) identification, assessment and control;
(c) education and training;
(d) written work procedures, when required;
(e) hygiene facilities and decontamination procedures, when required;
(f) health monitoring, when required;
(g) documentation, when required.

Identifying Heat Stress

Heat stress illnesses range from heat rash which is normally a minor health issue through heat cramps, then heat exhaustion and finally heat stroke which is a major life threatening illness which requires immediate medical attention.

Heat Stroke is a life threatening condition that requires immediate transportation to a medical facility. Symptoms include headache, confusion, hot flushed skin and lack of sweating.

Heat Exhaustion symptoms include nausea, headache, excessive sweating and cool, clammy skin. Treatment consists of removing to cooler environment, providing water and cool compresses. Evaluation by a medical professional is required if heat exhaustion is suspected.

Heat Cramps are muscle pains caused loss of fluids and body salts due to excessive sweating. Treatment includes moving to cooler environment and maintaining proper hydration while active.

Heat Rash is caused when sweat is trapped against the skin by clothing causing red pimples looking like blisters to appear. Treatment includes moving to cooler, dryer environment and keeping skin

Combustible Dust: More than just a Sawmill Issue

Contribution from Lorne Davies, Specialist Safety Advisor – Combustible Dust: Combustible dust has been at the forefront of prevention efforts since the catastrophic incidents at Babine Forest Products in Burns Lake and Lakeland Mills in Prince George. However, combustible dust has been causing serious incidents, fatalities and property damage since the beginning of manufacturing.

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) created the first combustible dust standard in the early 1920s to try and reduce the fatalities caused by combustible dust. Unfortunately, the standard was not compulsory and the accidents and fatalities continued to occur. Singled out by regulators, the grain industry was forced into prescriptive controls after an explosion caused multiple fatalities and in 1987 OSHA developed regulations specific to their industry. OSHA is currently working on a new standard for combustible dust to further understanding of the hazard and update existing regulation.

So why is combustible dust such an insidious hazard? The risk lies in the fact that dust can lie dormant for years waiting for the right conditions to develop to support a fire, a flash or a deflagration event. Serious events are infrequent which leads to complacency by workers and management who are accustomed to dust accumulations in the facility.

For example, areas hard to reach such as overhead cable trays and pipe runs are often overlooked in housekeeping programs. Unfortunately the lack of understanding about the risks can lead to egregious violations, such as the 2008 Imperial Sugar disaster where workplace inspections documented that sugar dust had accumulated to ankle, knee and waist deep levels in the plant.

The catalyst for the catastrophic event is usually some small change to the process material, configuration, equipment or output. In Imperial Sugar’s case, the installation of enclosed conveyors to reduce contamination was the contributing factor to the incident. Lumps of sugar that blocked the conveyor were left unaddressed which resulted in an overheated bearing igniting the sugar dust inside the conveyor. The ignition inside the enclosed conveyor met all the requirements for a dust explosion: ignition, fuel, oxygen, dispersion and confinement.

Had sugar not been allowed to accumulate in the rest of the facility the primary explosion would have been contained in the conveyor. Instead, the shock wave of the primary explosion lifted sugar off the floor and roof structures saturating the air with dust causing a massive secondary explosion that propagated throughout the plant. This avoidable incident cost 14 people their lives, caused 38 more injuries and the complete loss of Imperial Sugar’s Port Wentworth facility.

The chart above llustrates the occurrences of dust explosions in the process industries in the U.S. in 2008.

Most managers and workers are not aware of how combustible the material they are working with is. Materials which are not normally flammable, like iron, can be if reduced to a small particle size. Simple materials such as corn, starch, grain, rubber, flour and sugar have all had explosions causing fatalities. Metals such as aluminum and magnesium have particularly violent explosions. The wood and paper industries have also had explosions that have caused fatalities.

In order to keep our plants safe we all need to understand the principles that allow deflagration and explosion to occur. The first step is educating workers and management to ensure they understand the hazards and how to take the necessary steps to prevent the conditions that could lead to a fire or explosion. Included in this is an understanding of the characteristics of the materials in the process and at which state of the process they become combustible. When the hazards are understood then strategies can be developed to mitigate them. Combustible dust has been viewed by many to be a wood dust problem however the graph above shows that it is every manufacturers concern.


RIMEX Rises to Safety Challenges


On December 17, 2015, RIMEX Supply Ltd. reached an important milestone in the advancement and improvement of their industrial health and safety standards, when they were awarded the Occupational Safety Standard of Excellence (OSSE) certification. The OSSE award is sponsored by the Food Industry Occupational Safety Association – Manufacturing Industry Occupational Safety Alliance (FIOSA-MIOSA), who provide a comprehensive and rigorous program to promote health and safety management in BC’s food and manufacturing industries. The program is endorses a best practices approach cooperation with WorkSafeBC. FIOSA-MIOSA provided in-depth guidance to set the highest possible standards for company-wide health and safety.

RIMEX is also proud to announce that their Agassiz manufacturing facility is the winner of the WorkSafeBC’s 2014 Innovations Contest. The Agassiz manufacturing team worked together on an ergonomics/safety project to reduce manual lifting and noise levels. The company used a participatory approach, consulting with their workers to improve the processing of half and full lock rings for wheel rims. Formerly, workers were lifting and lowering the rings (which weigh up to 50 kg.) as many as eleven separate times in the manufacturing cycle. Now, a streamlined process has been implemented in which each ring is lifted only twice. Workers actively developed, tested, and improved the solutions throughout the process.

We were very honored to be considered for this award. We try to involve our employees in all decisions which affect them and their working conditions. This was truly an example of the kind of success you can achieve with a participatory approach,” said James Read, RIMEX’s Agassiz Manufacturing Operations Manager.

Additional ergonomic improvements at Agassiz have involved reducing noise levels by introducing a rubber damper between steel plates in the stamping process. Plans are also in the works for further improvement, including adding a rotating table to turn the hefty lock rings and employing a hoist to eliminate manual lifting.

In parallel with its OSSE and WorkSafeBC successes, RIMEX is adopting the proven principles of “Lean Production”, which is a systematic method for eliminating waste within a manufacturing system.  The Lean concept focuses on enhancing production processes that add value, and reducing those that don’t. The principles of Lean manufacturing can be traced back to Henry Ford’s automobile revolution, but perhaps the most well-known contemporary proponent of the Lean system is Toyota, a company whose steady growth has focused attention on the benefits of Lean practices. The Lean system offers administrative tools and recommends procedural techniques that enable manufacturers to optimize production and increase value for customers.  RIMEX is capitalizing on the Lean formula by eliminating less efficient practices and exceling at the essential ones.

James Read acknowledges, “As we’ve started our journey down the Lean Manufacturing road, we’ve been carefully and correctly guided into the participatory method. The rewards are obvious, especially for the positive morale that derives from true teamwork, calculated empowerment and education.”

As RIMEX Supply Ltd. flourishes and grows, it strives to improve productivity… but always puts safety first.  It embraces and enforces that responsibility in protecting it employees, conducting its work and contributing to the community.

We are proud to include RIMEX Supply Inc. in the OSSE Hall of Fame