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The safety rule you forgot


Dean here! Many of you know that I love to cook, and that I spend a lot of time in the kitchen working on recipes and learning new techniques. One of my favorite resources for this is Cook’s Illustrated, a science- and research-based online magazine that shares both great recipes and thorough product reviews to help home chefs like me make the best decisions in the kitchen.

Recently, the magazine did a review on that most ubiquitous and essential of kitchen safety devices: the fire extinguisher. They tested eight widely available models, judging them on five different criteria:

  • The time it took to put out grease and towel fires
  • Ease of use
  • Overall performance
  • Cleanup (mess and fumes produced)
  • Time to understand operation

It’s that last one that caught my attention, raising an important question—how many of us have ever thought about how long it would take us to understand the safety equipment at our disposal in a real emergency?

Every workplace must have a fire...

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Mental Health in the Workplace


Our program coordinator here at Boreal, Justine, recently completed a Mental Health First Aid course. The course she took teaches participants how to help someone with a mental health problem until a professional can step in.

Mental health is an important topic, and Justine learned a lot from the course that might come in handy at your workplace as well. Here are her biggest takeaways:

  1. Mental health has a stigma because we don’t understand it.

The stigma surrounding mental health is a sort of vicious, self-perpetuating cycle: the stigma exists because so many people don’t really understand mental health issues, and those same issues are hard to talk about because there’s a stigma.

The only way out of the loop is education. The more effort we make to educate ourselves (and our employees), the more we’ll learn how similar mental health issues are to medical issues. One way to get started with learning more is to take a mental health course, like Justine...

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A Better Way to Do Toolbox Talks (and 5 Freebies Just for You)


So. Toolbox Talks.

We heard that groan, and we get it—they’re boring, right? Or at least predictable. It can be hard to come up with new ways to engage your workers in safety topics day after day. And since you have to deliver Toolbox Talks, that lack of engagement can lead to frustration on your part.

Boreal has something in the works that we hope will be a huge help in this area, but first, let’s talk about how to make your Toolbox Talks more interesting and relevant.

Characteristics of a Good Toolbox Talk

  1. Topics are fresh, or approached from a fresh angle.

A great way to make your Talks more interesting is to cover new ground, and one of the best ways to do that is to connect the topic directly to your workplace. How can you do that?

  • Link your Talk to incidents or near-misses that have happened on your worksite recently
  • Relate the topic to recent incidents at other, similar worksites
  • Use Talks to bring attention to issues in the area
  1. Topics are chosen for a...
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3 Things You Should Know About Engineers


Did you know? Although many things may have gone digital, engineering still places a lot of emphasis on completing tasks by hand and on paper.

Engineering is a job where infinite possible answers exist to any problem, and this means we still think through challenges and solutions without the help of calculators and other technology. It’s an iterative process, and now that there are two of us engineers here at Boreal (one of us with 20+ years of experience, and one of us who recently graduated), here’s a peek into our process.

1) Tech makes the job faster, but not easier.

New engineers entering the workforce have the tools and the knowledge to solve engineering problems, but may lack the experience to identify problems. Applications like Excel come in handy for the detailed work of calculating, and 3D modeling makes it easier to visualize, but we are just as often using pencil and paper to come to an ideal solution for our clients.

A good engineer...

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Safety Is Going Digital: Are You Ready?


Imagine a world where everything in your office is digital—and where you never again have to trace the paper trail for your staff’s safety paperwork and training requirements.

Sounds pretty good, right?

This is the age we are coming into. Slowly but surely, we’re getting closer to that elusive “paperless office.” And at Boreal, we’re committed to making sure our clients are as ahead of the times as you want to be. We want to offer our safety products and services digitally in a way that paces the current trend in technology.

To do this, we have four possible ideas to propose. We welcome your feedback about these, as well as any further suggestions you have about services, tools, or resources you’d like to see available. With your feedback, we’ll be able to begin developing digital services that better suit your needs.

1) Automatic Toolbox Talks delivered to your inbox: Toolbox Talks are typically a daily job site...

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Lights, Camera…Safety?


While it might be more obvious to those of us in safety-oriented professions, it’s really true of everyone: safety is always a part of our lives, no matter where we are—even at the theatre! I (Deidra) recently attended a live theatre performance in Rosebud, Alberta, and couldn’t help being fascinated by the safety logistics that went into pulling off the show.

Learning how safety is handled in different arenas can bring something new to your experiences there. So, we got in touch with someone involved in the play to talk safety for a bit.

Nathan Schmidt is Head of Acting and an actor himself with Rosebud Theatre, and he gave us some insight into the world of stage productions—from the safety side of things.

Step One of Theatre Safety

Rosebud Theatre follows certain safety procedures with every show. “The day that rehearsals move into the theatre, there is a safety walk for the cast,” Nathan said. During the safety walk, the cast members learn...

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How Long Before Your Company Makes a Difference?


At Boreal, success for us and our clients is about more than the bottom line. We’re a small company (only four people!), but we’ve learned over the years that getting involved and giving back doesn’t require a large-scale Community Outreach department. It’s easy, sometimes, to put off “giving back” until we’re feeling more secure, but we’re challenging ourselves this year to find opportunities that make a difference for the people and organizations around us. We wanted to share some of the things we’ve been up to, to show how important service is to us—and maybe give you some ideas for giving back, too.

Hockey Fundraiser

Coming up on February 18 is the Downtown Edmonton Progress Club’s 2017 Capital Classic Pond Hockey Tournament. The tournament raises money for two local children’s charities (Uncles & Aunts at Large and Adaptabilities). Boreal is providing the first aid booth at the...

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Get More From Your Training Program



Have you thought about what your training programs will look like this year? Most companies have theirs on autopilot, with little changing from one year to the next. The problem with doing what you’ve always done, though, is that it means you keep getting what you’ve always gotten—and we’re willing to bet you want better for your business in 2017.

Let’s talk about how to get you there.

Evaluating your current training program

Start by asking three questions about your current staff training programs:

  1. Do you think all training is one-size-fits-all? That there are no unique situations or needs that could require a different approach?
  1. Is memory retention an issue? Do workers forget important things they learned in training classes?
  1. Are your workers frustrated with the training they’re required to attend? Do they have problems with the delivery, frequency, quality, or applicability of classes?

A “yes” to any of these...

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What No One Is Saying About Marijuana in the Workplace


One of our articles last year was about how medical cannabis can affect workplace safety. With the upcoming legalization of recreational cannabis, the topic is more timely than ever.

We spoke recently with Alison McMahon of Cannabis At Work about the current state of cannabis use in the workplace, how employers can prepare for the future, and what to expect at the upcoming Medical Cannabis at Work conference in Edmonton.

As an HR consultant with a family member who is a cannabis patient, Alison saw firsthand the problems facing companies with employees who use medical cannabis. Her interest in the subject led to her start Cannabis at Work, which provides education and strategies for employers to help them manage medical and recreational cannabis use in the workplace.

What’s happening now

There are two sides to the issue of cannabis in the workplace: medical and recreational. The medical side gets tricky, because human rights legislation requires that...

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Why We’re Quitting (for the Season, Anyway)


We’re quitting!

For the season, that is. We’ll be back! But Boreal offices will be closed from Friday, December 23, 2016 to Monday, January 2, 2017. Easier said than done.

As small business owners, we know how hard it is to shut it off at the end of the day—or the year, in this case. We put so much pressure on ourselves: to work more, get more done, stay at the office longer. But through experience we’ve learned that we feel more inspired—and can be more productive—when we prioritize work-life balance.

Here at Boreal, we have some practices in place to help us maintain that balance. Stealing these ideas for yourself might just help you stay sane about work this holiday season:

  1. A 35-hour workweek. It’s only 5 hours less than 40, but those five hours can make a huge difference both mentally and physically.
  2. Flexible work hours. Our team commits to being in the office from 10 to 2, but beyond that, we are stubbornly flexible about where...
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