Health & Safety Professionals Inc. wishes everyone a happy and safe Labour Day weekend.
At HSPI we understand that the Labour Day weekend means a lot of different things to different people. For some, it is about celebrating the achievements of workers and organized labour and for some it may be taking the time to prepare for return to school or the end of summer. In all cases, it is important to stay safe! Either way, you are celebrating.
As Health and Safety Practitioners, HSPI takes pride in working with our clients to implement safety systems and practices in their workplace. We also recognize some strategies that are critical in a work environment, apply the same outside of work. For instance, HSPI works with clients to develop comprehensive hazard assessments and hazard control plans to ensure workers are safe at work. The same hazard assessment can also be used to plan for staying safe on a long weekend like the one that is coming up.
In this blog post, we have used our Hazard Management Tool to give an example of some of the hazards you might face when planning a weekend at the cottage with family or camping in a tent with friends.
To start, we look at the acronym R.A.C.E. which stands for Recognize, Assess, Control, and Evaluate.
The first step to any hazard assessment is determining what the potential hazards are. For a weekend at the cottage or camping in a tent, this could be things like:
- Driving to and from the cottage
- Making the campfire
- Going fishing with family or friends
- Lighting fireworks
It is also important to look at what specifically could cause us to get injured if we are doing one of these activities. For this example, let’s consider a cozy night by the campfire! Before everyone can gather around and roast marshmallows there is work to be done. Is there a proper fire ring? Did we buy pre-cut wood, or do we need to cut it ourselves? Let’s assume that we already have pre-cut wood, but there’s no kindling around to light the fire. This means we are going to have to split wood or find another way to get the fire going.
After you determine what the hazards are, you need to know how serious the hazard could be. To do this, we ask 3 questions:
- How serious could an injury be if something happens?
- How frequently does someone have to do the task?
- How likely is it that someone will get hurt if there are no hazard controls in place?
In the case of someone splitting wood into kindling, the possible injuries can be very serious. Possible even permanent or death. Depending on the amount of time you want the fire to burn, this could also be a frequent activity. Finally, with no training on how to cut wood or other hazard controls in place, it is likely that an injury could occur. This means that this is a Very High-Risk activity.
Now that you understand the level of risk, it’s important to develop controls. To develop a hazard control plan, you need to understand what the minimum legal standards are, what you are currently doing to control the hazard, and what more could be done.
Although in this example we are looking at a camping trip, let’s assume that we are going to follow Ontario Health and Safety law, even at home! Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), a worker must be informed of the hazards they might face on the job, be provided with appropriate protective equipment, and receive supervision. There are many more factors to consider, which is why it is important to have a professional conduct a hazard assessment for new or high-risk work.
The next step is determining your current hazard controls. For this example, we will assume that you are already well trained on cutting wood and have the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Some other considerations on any holiday include things like, is the person doing the task old enough? You may also have to consider if you or the person doing the job are sober. It is very important to never drink and attempt to drive, operate heavy machinery, or work with dangerous equipment like axes, saw, wood splitters, or any other equipment or tools that you may have.
Finally, consider what more could be done to reduce the risk further. Some considerations here could include:
- Buying kindling instead of cutting it yourself
- Using a fire starter kit instead of using kindling
- Gathering up small pieces of wood that are around the campsite instead of cutting wood
- Using a gas fire, such as a propane or natural gas-powered fire pit instead of a traditional campfire
Not all proposed controls will fit every situation. It’s important to adopt controls that fit with the activity that you are doing and still control the risk.
After deciding on what controls you will implement, it’s important to redo the assessment. This determines if the risk level is lower or if new hazards have been created. For example, by changing to a propane fire, we reduce the risk of cutting wood. A person can’t cut themselves with an axe if they don’t need to use the axe. It does, however, introduce hazards associated with the use of propane.
You may also layer multiple controls. For example, let’s say that you decide to buy kindling that has been pre-cut. You can also add a fire starter kit to help reduce the time and effort needed to get the fire going. Together, this reduces the need to cut any additional wood to get that perfect marshmallow roasting fire going!
By purchasing pre-cut wood and a fire starter, we have eliminated the need to use an axe and substituted lighting scraps of paper and cardboard on fire with a single fire starter. If we look back at our initial assessment, we have now reduced the seriousness of a potential injury significantly. Instead of potentially seriously injuring yourself with an axe, you may have a few splinters from handling the kindling. Similarly, the frequency of cutting wood is significantly reduced. So is the likelihood of a potential injury occurring.
By following the steps in R.A.C.E, we have taken a Very-High Risk activity and reduce the overall risk rating to Low. This doesn’t mean that we can simply buy kindling and fire starter kits, and this will guarantee that everyone will be safe. Hazard Assessment and Control are fluid processes and it’s important to stop and think about the hazards that you are exposed to as you are working. If the situation changes, reassess!
It’s important to remember that health and safety isn’t just what you do at work. Health and safety is about making sure that whatever it is that you do isn’t going to harm you in some way. We all have loved ones that we need to go back to, whether it is from work or from any other social activity.
If you want to learn more about how to complete a formal hazard assessment at your workplace, HSPI offers public courses, private training for businesses, customized consulting, and more. Reach out to us to see how we can support you incorporate health and safety into your work and everyday life.
From the whole team at HSPI, have a happy, healthy, and safe Labour Day weekend!