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Taking Action on Incident Investigations

Incidents suck. I know.

But you know what's even worse?

When you have an incident and it's all in vain. No one learns anything. The safety program doesn't improve. Somebody just gets hurt or property gets damaged and every feels like crap and morale goes down and everyone goes on their merry (aka shitty) way. It doesn't have to be that way. Incidents suck, but there CAN be positives that come from them. Read on, friend...

Why did it happen?

Incident investigations aren't good or bad, they're learning opportunities. Yes, the incidents themselves can be bad, but the investigations should start with the goal of "let's figure out how we can stop incidents like this from every happening again". If we conduct a thorough incident investigation but we can't prevent similar incidents from happening, then all that effort is in vain.

In the March 2020 issue of Occupational Health & Safety, Robert Pater's article "Dynamic Leadership Means Going Beyond Asking...

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Create Your Own Alternate Reality

The 1998 movie "Sliding Doors" looks at 2 parallel realities. In one reality the Helen (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) just misses her train (the doors slide closed...get it? Sliding Doors) and in the next reality she just barely catches her train. The movie looks at the differences and similarities Helen's reality resulting from the sliding doors. It's a "what if?" type of thought experiment.

We can conduct our own alternate reality thought experiments by investigating near misses. A near miss (or near hit) is a gift wrapped tool you can use to analyze your safety program, your procedures, your resources, and really just about anything else you can think of.

What If?

A near miss presents a risk-free opportunity to ask "what if?" questions, and these questions can look into the future...

If this was an actual lost-time incident how would it affect production?

and the questions can go into the past...

Would the potential for an incident be lowered if we changed things at the very...

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Not my fault! What happens after an incident?

Let's play the blame game!


There's been an incident. An excellent field level hazard assessment controlled the risk, but also included additional PPE in the event the control make sure you treat your FLHA like a critical piece of PPE. Anyway, who do we blame? Quick answer is NOBODY. We're looking for a root cause, we're not looking to place blame. Why? Well, if we looked to blame someone for an incident, you'd likely find everyone involved to be far less cooperative, or overly cooperative in looking to throw someone else under the bus. In Canada we even have a law that says you can't testify against yourself...but thankfully we're talking about an incident investigation and not a trial, so you don't have to worry about that law. 

But I really, really want to blame someone...

Gord Winkel, teaching professor at the University of Alberta specializing in safety, and former Syncrude VP, gave...

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You Want a Headstart Over Your Competition?

The Race

Imagine you are at the starting gate of a race (any race - cars, horse, a foot race, riding giant's your imagination!). It's you and all of your competition. Not just race competition, but your business competition. Take a second and think of them all now. Who is beside you at the starting line?

Now, look to the finish line. You know what's there? The finish line is winning the dream bid. And only one of you will get it.

The starting pistol explodes and you and and your competition are off! You can see the finish line clearly and you're barrelling towards it, competition at your heels!

All of sudden hurdles pop up! Where the hell did they come from?!?!

First - YOUR PEOPLE - do you have the right workers with the right skill sets to ace the job? Sure you do! While clearing the hurdle you glance over your shoulder and see one of your completion stumble...

Next hurdle - do you have the EQUIPMENT needed for this job? Of course you do! This type of...

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Racism as a Workplace Hazard

Unless you live under a rock, you are well aware of the global movement towards racial equality that is happening right now. Change is not only happening in the streets of the US, but it's happening in governments around the world, in corporations, non-profits, churches, and schools, and in city councils right here in Canada.

Change is indeed happening, on a massive scale. Changes in policing, changes in attitudes, changes in marketing, changes in accountability. You know what else is changing? We're seeing workplace behaviours change, and we're going to see them change for the foreseeable future.

Racism as a workplace safety issue

Already, there have been movements towards calling out harassment and racial inequality in the workplace. We've seen high profile cases in the news at the local, provincial, federal and global levels. What I've noticed however, is that small businesses can sometimes fly under the radar.

All small businesses still have leaders...

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Back to Work Part VI: Work Refusals

Have you read this article on yet? It's about workers refusing to return to work due to COVID. Each province's OHS legislation says something similar - that a worker can refuse dangerous work. Essentially, workers have the right to refuse to carry out any work they reasonably think will put themselves, or others, in danger. In the context of COVID, this can be related to concerns such as lack of protective equipment or concerns around physical distancing.

I can understand workers' concerns, here in Edmonton, just yesterday, a couple of local restaurants shut down due to customers testing positive for COVID. There is a outbreak at Edmonton's Waste Treatment Plant. No wonder workers may be a bit on guard about contracting COVID at work, especially after being told for the last 3 months that it was too dangerous for them to go to work.

What's the process behind a work refusal?

A worker's first step is to report their refusal, and the reasons for their...

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Math is Fun!

1.4 vs. 2

Dean once took a graduate class in "Decision Support Systems" taught by Dr. Mohamed Al-Hussein at the University of Alberta. He did a lot of work with Excel models in this class. The models were built to help make decisions (get it...decision support systems?). Dr. Al-Hussein made it very clear that the models did not make the decisions, they merely helped people make informed decisions.  

This week, just for fun*, Dean made a decision support system in the form of a graph. It shows how quickly COVID-19 and the flu can spread through a population. It's a simple exponential function like this (please don't be scared of the math, it's fun!): 

y=number of people infected 
x=number of transmissions or "touches" 
n=average infection rate 

The numbers are debatable, but some of the figures I've seen indicate one flu carrier can infect 1.4 people (yes, there's no such thing as 0.4 of a's a statistical average). One...

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Back to Work Part V: Stress

This blog post wasn't part of my original plan when we started mapping out this series, but a recent story from a friend prompted a change in strategy. As with our previous Back to Work posts, this is aimed at businesses that are re-opening in the midst of COVID-19.

To reiterate: the world is not normal, the economy is not normal, businesses are not operating normally. The third planet from the Sun is still in the midst of a global pandemic...but despite this, some businesses are re-opening and trying to safely operate in the weirdness. 

Businesses will likely have new procedures for cleaning, client relations, shipping & receiving, and scheduling. This is going to be new territory for a lot of businesses which means your 3:30 pm appointment might become a 4:00 pm appointment or even a 4:30 pm appointment. Businesses will adapt to the new reality, but there might be some bumps along the way.

Look After Your Employees

Unfortunately, some clients will not like the...

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Back to Work Part IV: The 3 Workers Rights

As I write this, some in our home province of Alberta, businesses that closed because of the pandemic have been opened for just over a week. There are similar stories across the country, with some ares still under heavy restrictions and some areas with most restrictions lifted.

So, as there's a lot of people going back to work it seems like a good time to talk about the three Basic Workers Rights and how they relate to work in the time of the great pandemic of 2020.

These rights are common across the country - all workers in Canada have the right to know about workplace hazards and have access to basic health and safety information on the work site, the right to participate in health and safety activities, and the right to refuse dangerous work.

The Right to Know

This right seems fairly reasonable, right? There's even a clichéd saying that goes with it: "Forewarned is forearmed". If you know the hazards in your workplace, you'll be better able to control those hazards...

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What the actual f, 2020??

Remember when we thought the massive fires in Australia would be THE story of 2020? Man, those seemed like such innocent times.
And then COVID came along, and we all stopped talking about Australia and the entire planet was consumed (and rightly so) by talk about the virus? We all locked down, and watched the news on TV or our computers compulsively to get the latest COVID numbers. Of course, we assumed that THIS was the defining story of 2020.
And then, came the killing of George Floyd on Monday, May 25 by Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin. Protests throughout US cities and beyond (London, Berlin, and already here in Canada, including Montreal and Toronto) have ignited. 
So many of us are glued to our TVs or our social media and are realizing that this isn’t just another news cycle. This is a pivotal time in history, with black people and black allies saying 'enough is enough'. 
2020, man. Holy shit. What a year.
So, what does...

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