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Safety or Profit? Which comes first?

A few years ago, I attended a meeting of safety professionals. It was a regular monthly luncheon of a professional group I belong to. The speaker started his talk by asking "What is the most important thing for our companies?" Being a room of safety people, the murmurs tended towards "safety" as the answer. The speaker boldly proclaimed "That's right, the answer is PROFIT!" to a mildly stunned audience. 

...but...but you've always been taught that safety is #1. Well, maybe we can call it a tie, maybe we can say you can't have one without the other. No one is in business to lose money, but everyone has obligations to meet. Cutting corners to save time, or using the wrong materials to save money is like gambling...and the house always wins, so sooner or later you're going to lose and it's going to cost you...a lot. So, you need safety as part of a profitable business. If you feel your safety program is preventing you from being profitable then chances are you're doing it...

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Back to Work Part II: What are the Hazards in Re-Opening?

A lot of businesses have had to close because of COVID-19. This sucks, I know, but as I write this, in mid-May 2020, several businesses will be re-opening very soon. Provincial governments are requiring businesses conduct hazard assessments prior to re-opening. In the world of occupational health and safety, this type assessment is often called a Job Hazard Analysis (JHA). A properly completed JHA is designed to protect your workers, the work environment, and the public from hazards associated with your work. The government of Alberta has released some sector specific guidance documents here, for additional reference. 

In this post, we want to explain the process for creating and implementing a JHA. If you follow along, you'll be able to conduct your own hazard assessment for your business and prepare for re-opening.

Note: we'll be writing this for an audience that does not come from a safety sensitive sector. If you have a background in something like construction, or...

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Back to Work Part I: Communication

So, it looks like Canada is going back to work after spending a few months holed-up because of COVID-19, but we've got some new rules to follow, and rightly so. Nobody wants infection and transmission rates to blow up again. The provinces are starting to release guidance documents for business owners to help get their employees back to work. To help small businesses, we've put together our own guide to bridge the gap between provincial guidance documents and reality.  

Guidance documents from government will tell you what you need to do, but I'll help you figure out HOW to do it. Deidra and I want to see business re-open SAFELY.

Before we get going any further, I don't want to get political at all. Whether or not you like the government they've given us rules and guidelines to follow. I'm not going to editorialize on what I think of them, I just want to help people get back to work safely. 

I'm using the Alberta government guidance document found here, but a...

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I do this stuff so you don't have to

I don’t know how many times I’ve had a client say to me: I’m so happy you are doing _____________ so that I don’t have to. The blank could be anything: attend a workshop put on by Alberta OHS, take a workshop on auditing, take a university course on due diligence, re-write a policy based on new legislation, or get on a conference call with an owner client to understand their contractor requirements.

I’ve also had clients say to me: do you really like doing this stuff?

Luckily, I love what I do. And I love that I can help you out so that you can get back to doing what you do best. The best part? What I do for one client always benefits all of my clients.

  • When I was first asked by a client to figure out what I-CAB was all about, it didn’t take long for another client to need to be on I-CAB as well and luckily I had that knowledge in my back pocket.
  • I’m happily sorting out the ins and outs of the new ACSA Audit Protocol for one client right...
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Confession: I call my kid ‘dumbass’

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Yep, it’s true. Dumbass. To her face. All the time.

Mind you. I pronounce it dum-bass. And she knows it means ‘I love you’. But still.

Let me tell you the story: When she was just learning to read, we had a fridge magnet identical to the one you see above. In a typical, sounding-out-the-word kinda way, my daughter asked me, so very innocently, ‘Mama, what does dum-bass mean?’, and of course we thought it was adorable. And over 10 years later we still use that word as a term of endearment for our now 16-year-old daughter.

But, if someone didn’t know the story, and just read the headline, they might think that I’m the worst mother ever (I suppose you might still think I am). Calling someone a dumbass, isn’t really all that nice, is it? If someone called me a dumbass, without a clear and loving back-story to it, I’d be pretty ticked. And if someone called me a dumbass in the workplace? Well, that’s just unacceptable! Could it...

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New Safety Legislation – I Bet You’ve Got Questions!

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o, have you heard about Alberta OHS’s new Act, An Act to Protect the Health and Well-Being of Working Albertans? We’ve had a ton of people ask us questions about the Act, why it’s changed, how it affects Alberta businesses, etc. So we thought we’d put together an FAQ so that you can all find the answers right here! So, let’s go!

Why did they have to change the Act anyways?

Alberta’s OHS Legislation hasn’t had a major review and overhaul since it was enacted in 1976. That’s 42 years! It hasn’t changed a whole lot since I was 4 years old! Imagine how much the workplace has changed in 42 years. How much the safety culture in the workplace has changed in 42 years.

What’s the main purpose of these changes?

The new legislation will give workers three basic rights:

  • the right to refuse dangerous work
  • the right to know of potential hazards
  • the right to participate in health and safety discussion and in health and safety committees
  • ...
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Safety Should Never Be a Burden

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Too often I hear from clients that they don’t want safety to be a burden on their business. And as a small business owner I totally get it! Putting money and time into anything that isn’t billable needs to be

  1. Worth it
  2. Lean, in terms of time and money
  3. Not a hassle for my workers to implement

Here at Boreal, we are firm believers that safety should never be a burden to a small business. Yes, sometimes it can feel like it, especially when you are faced with legislative requirements and client requirements, and of course your own operational needs. But there are ways in which you can make sure that your safety program meets the criteria above. Here are our suggestions:

Spend Your Money Wisely

If you’re going to out-source the development of your safety program, do your research. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, buy a generic safety program off of the Internet!! I have to admit, this is often where Boreal makes a good bit of our income: fixing crap safety manuals that people...

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Safety Isn’t Just for Construction Sites

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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...

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A False Sense of Security

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It is unfortunate that humans have not developed to the point where we don’t need practical self-defense, but the reality is there are people out there looking to to others harm. Schools and classes and seminars teaching self-defense are abundant, as are online videos showing a variety of self-defense moves. If you follow the self-defense moves in many of these videos, such as this one, you too can be lulled into a false sense of security.

Wait a minute, I hear you saying, isn’t this a blog about safety?

Looking at self defense from a safety standpoint, the hazard is being attacked, and the inadequate hazard controls are the poorly thought out self defense moves. I have studied martial arts since 1991 and have a black belt in wing chun kung fu, and a blue belt (hopefully a black belt one day) in Brazilian jiu jitsu. It looks like I should know a bit about self defence, but I don’t. I don’t get into fights because I usually dispatch my opponents with my rapier...

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Mental Health, the Workplace and You

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Picture someone: they eat a lot of junk food and have a pretty poor diet in general. They don’t exercise, they have a sedentary job, they can’t wait to get home from work so they can sit on the couch and watch Netflix, and they probably smoke and drink too…but they’re not sick. Is this person healthy? Most people would say “no”. (Also, sorry if this is you. I’m not picking on you, much of this description comes from personal experience at one point or another in my own life. I promise. I’m just trying to make a point, please read on.)

Let’s look at someone else: they are under a lot of stress at work, both from deadlines and difficult coworkers, maybe someone dealing with family problems, and they’re concerned about the economy and future job prospects. They are exhausted about reading about terrorist attacks and mass shootings and climate change and all of the other overwhelming aspects of today’s world. On top...

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