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Be safe, not sorry: Shop safety tips from the WHSCC

SAINT JOHN, N.B. - Despite being a relatively small province, shop safety is still a big problem for New Brunswick. According to the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission (WHSCC), the n...

SAINT JOHN, N.B. – Despite being a relatively small province, shop safety is still a big problem for New Brunswick. According to the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission (WHSCC), the number of LT claims from general freight trucking in New Brunswick last year was about 225 at a cost of just under $1.4 million. To address this troublesome issue, representatives from the WHSCC spoke at the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association’s (APTA) Technology and Maintenance Conference in Saint John Feb. 26-28.

According to the WHSCC’s numbers, of the 225 claims last year, back injuries were far and away the most costly of all body part injuries while injuries caused by driver overexertion topped the list of most costly injury events. Ed MacFarlane, health and safety officer with the WHSCC, told attendees the importance of seeing the big picture and planning for the future. Some industry considerations when dealing with shop safety include the number of employees working in the garage, the type of work done in the garage and the type of tools and machinery present. Keeping these factors in mind, MacFarlane walked through the various protective measures shop managers should be taking.

Though intended to be used as a ‘last resort’ type of protection, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is often used as a first defense against potential hazards. Types of PPE include eye protection, eye wash, safety footwear, skin protection, hearing protection and respirators.

MacFarlane said eye protection should be used at all times when in the shop. Even getting something small in the eye, like dust or dirt, can still require a claim or a trip to the hospital. Full shields for the face are required when using grinders and an eye wash station should be available at every shop.

Mufflers, rims, shocks, engine and transmission parts can all break bones when dropped from above, which is why proper footwear (CSA approved, Green Triangle and slip-resistant) should be mandatory in all shops.

Skin protection is needed when oils, degreasers, lubricants and solvents are used, because each cause damage to the skin and are absorbed into the bloodstream. Proper gloves or barrier creams should be used and workers should use soap, not paint thinner, for cleaning their hands.

In New Brunswick, hearing protection is required when the ears are exposed to 85 decibels for eight hours, though with every three decibels the noise actually doubles. This means at 88 decibels, protection is required for four hours of exposure, two hours at 91 decibels and so on. Common noise levels for shop tools include grinders at 95-102 decibels and cut off wheels at 105.

With respirators, MacFarlane says you first need to ensure it’s the proper respirator for the contaminant, but also make sure wearers are clean shaven for a proper seal and they keep the respirator away from contaminants. For best protection, he suggests using an air-supplied respirator, especially with contaminants like Isocyanates and Silica, as well as when sand blasting.

Despite their value as a preventive measure, PPE won’t protect workers when working with hoists. Regular checks and maintenance of the equipment as well as proper precautions are required in order to use hoists safely. MacFarlane says lifts must be installed as per manufacturer specifications and workers must be trained to use them in a safe manner. Daily visual inspections and yearly inspections and needed and hydraulic levels must be checked regularly. Some other points with hoists include never leaving a load on a hoist overnight, only loading the hoist to allowable levels and ensuring all lifts have safety features in place.

When it comes to overhead hoists, MacFarlane said that proper slings must be used with proper rigging techniques and workers need to keep clear when lifting and lowering.

“There’s always somebody who wants to get under there and help move the thing. Let the hoist do its job,” MacFarlane said.

General bits of shop safety include having an approved First Aid kit and trained First Aiders, as well as fire extinguishers, fire blankets, and emergency lighting and exits.

MacFarlane also suggests that any shop operated with 20 or more employees become part of a Joint Health & Safety committee so workers can be kept up to date on the latest in safety equipment and procedures.

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