Partners in Prevention 2012: Taking precautions

by Array

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario: Rack safety and warehouse ergonomics were among the session topics offered at a recent health and safety trade show.

Partners in Prevention 2012 was presented by Health & Safety Ontario, an agency of the provincial government.

Over the course of two days, more than 4,500 people and 250 exhibitors attended the event, held in Mississauga, Ontario. Speakers ranged from television presented, Mag Ruffman, known as the ToolGirl, who spoke about being safe at home while making household repairs, to Renzo Dalla Via who presented a session on CSA-ISO guidelines for nanotechnology and addressed some of the potential health issues that could be caused by nano-engineered products and materials.

In one session a forktruck was used as part of the presentation. After demonstrating how to use the ergonomic and safety features in a forklift, including the foot step, the swivel seat, and the rear-mounted grab handle, Keith De Bruin, general sales manager at Liftow Ltd turned the vehicle over to Ivan Sziapetis, an ergonomist with Workplace Safety & Prevention Services.

“There’s a problem lift-truck operators face and that’s full-body vibration. It may be very, very costly to repair all the floors in a workplace, and there may be nothing you can do about a ramp at a dock that a forklift needs to go over, but there may be something you can do about the speed people take those ramps.”

He also noted that drivers need to be cautioned to properly dismount forklifts, and not jump down from them.

“Think about your weight, jumping off a lift truck. You hit the concrete floor, and all of the sudden it has to come to a sudden stop. You’ve got your ankles and your needs to absorb some of the force—think of your ankles, your knees, your back and your hips and the crumple zone—and you’re talking of a force ten times your weight coming down. So the way a person gets on and off a lift truck may still have a major impact on person’s back health.”

Sziapetis then proceeded to brief the attendees about the difference between good health and safety training and poor training.

He recommends, for example, that safety training consist of more than simply giving employees a hand-out, telling them to read it and then getting them to sign a paper acknowledging they’ve done so.

“Some companies think that means you’re not liable if a worker gets injured, but it offers you absolutely no protection, and there may be better ways of documenting the fact that worker took the training.”

He also cautions against showing a video, which can lull workers into sleep, especially when training “warehouse workers who are used to moving around. They sit in a darkened room to watch a video and it’s a nice opportunity for them to have a nap”.

When teaching something like proper lifting techniques, he recommends doing live demonstrations.

While Sziapetis could demonstrate both good and bad lifting techniques, Chuck Leon certainly doesn’t want to demonstrate the bad things that can happen if warehouse racking collapses. Leon, a consultant with Workplace Safety & Prevention Services, teaches courses about how to identify safe racks, and how to manage rack maintenance regulations established by various levels of government. He developed an interest in the topic after an accident occurred in Brampton where a worker was killed by collapsing rack.

“Racks rarely collapse, but when they do, it could be catastrophic,” he cautioned.

He stressed that even though it’s up to everybody to ensure that racks are in good, order, ultimately it is the duty of the company to ensure they are safe, that they have been properly maintained, and that they were repaired by qualified personnel.

“As a company, you have to take every precaution that’s reasonable for the protection of your workers,” he said.

“Remember, you can delegate responsibility to people, but the company cannot delegate accountability. That’s going to be to the company.”