Safety Glass on Shower Doors not really Safe

The glass in your shower is “safety glass” which means that it’s designed to shatter into little pieces. The problem is that those little pieces don’t separate fast enough or stay stuck together causing large shards of glass that can seriously injure whoever is in the vicinity.

Injuries from shattered shower doors may sound like an anomaly but the Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that they are 300 injuries a year treated in hospitals that are caused by this little reported issue.

To find out how this happens and what you can do to protect yourself in your home, check out the CBS news report:


OH YES I DO HAVE THE RIGHT TO REFUSE unsafe work Federal Changes or NOT!

Today’s blog post is a post from a guest bloggers, Terry Penney (see contact information at the end of the post)


The definition of danger reads as follows:

“any hazard, condition or activity that could reasonably be expected to be an imminent or serious threat to the life or health of a person exposed to it before the hazard or condition can be corrected or the activity altered.”

In Canada

Amendments to the Canada Labour Code impact the right to refuse dangerous work the NEW LIBERAL GOVERNMENT SAID THEY WOULD REPEAL THESE CHANGES!!!!

Refusal of dangerous work

As it relates to an employee’s right to refuse dangerous work, there have been four key changes to the definition of “danger” under the code.

First, under the prior definition of “danger”, an employee could refuse work which posed an “existing or potential” hazard or condition. The “existing or potential” qualifiers have been struck from the definition. Now an employee can only refuse to perform work in the face of present hazards or conditions.

Second, the old definition permitted an employee to refuse to work in respect of a “current or future activity.” The “current or future” qualifiers have been struck, so that an employee must actually be engaged (or ordered to engage) in the alleged dangerous activity at the time the work refusal is made.

Third, prior to the amendments an employee could refuse work if he or she reasonably expected the activity would cause “injury or illness.” Now, an employee must meet the higher threshold of demonstrating he or she reasonably expects the activity would cause “an imminent or serious threat” to “life or health.”

The right to refuse dangerous work

Any employee subject provincial or federal legislation has the right to refuse dangerous work as long as they have reasonable cause to believe that it presents a danger. Specifically the Code states that an employee may refuse in the following circumstances:

  • to use or operate a machine that constitutes a danger to the employee or to another employee;
  • to work in a place;
  • to perform an activity that constitutes a danger to the employee or to another employee.

The HEALTH AND SAFETY LEGISLATION contains certain exceptions regarding the right to refuse dangerous work. These exceptions include: if the refusal puts the life, health or safety of another person directly in danger; or, the danger in question is a normal condition of employment.

An employee wishing to exercise the right to refuse dangerous work shall immediately report the dangerous situation to the employer. If more than one employee has made a report of a similar nature, those employees may designate one employee from among themselves to represent them during the work place committee’s or representative’s investigation.

The employee shall also specify to the employer whether he or she intends to pursue the matter under the Code or under a collective agreement, when applicable, to deal with the refusal. The employee’s decision cannot be changed unless both the employee and the employer agree to do so. If the employee decides to exercise recourse under the collective agreement, the Minister will not intervene.


Disciplining employees

Unchanged by the amendments is the fact an employee may be subject to discipline if he or she willfully abuses his or her right to refuse dangerous work. It has been held that a purported work refusal is not an appropriate means of generally challenging an employer’s policies or procedures or to criticize a training program. In addition, an employee (or group of employees) should not utilize the right to refuse unsafe work as a way to gain an advantage in a collective bargaining process.

While discipline is permitted in appropriate circumstances, the code places specific requirements on an employer who issues discipline in response to a work refusal. First, discipline cannot be issued until the investigations and any appeals from those investigations have taken place. Second, at the employee’s request, an employer must provide written reasons for the disciplinary action taken.

Although the recent amendments to the code have not changed the provisions relating to disciplinary action, the narrowed definition of dangerous work may assist employers by removing vague and speculative words such as “potential” or “future” harm.

As a result of these amendments it is important that federally regulated employers ensure their supervisors and managers are aware of the new rules and trained in how to respond to a work refusal. Employers should also review and update their internal investigation protocols and discipline assessment tools to ensure compliance with the new requirements.

REMEMBER   legislation holds employers responsible to protect employee health and safety. Enforcement is carried out by inspectors from the government department responsible for health and safety in each jurisdiction. In some serious cases, charges may also be laid by police or crown attorneys under Section 217.1 of the Canada Criminal Code (also known as “Bill C-45”). This section imposes a legal duty on employers and those who direct work to take reasonable measures to protect employees and public safety. If this duty is “wantonly” or recklessly disregarded and bodily harm or death results, an organization or individual could be charged with criminal negligence.


OSHA Finally moving on Combustible Dust Issue

A memo published on the OSHA website on Dec. 31, 2013 finally makes some progress on the issue of combustible dust hazards. We’ve talked about this a lot on this blog (just do a search for “combustible dust” to follow all the posts, especially those that relate to the accusations from the Chemical Safety Board about OSHA’s dragging their feet).

The memo attends to classify products to find out if they have the potential to fall in the combustible dust hazard category.

It lists three different ways to attempt to classify products:
1. Lab Tests – If available, lab tests should clearly identify potential combustible dusts
2. Published test results – NFPA and OSHA have already published a list of substances that may pose a hazard (
3. Particle Size – Any substance with a particle size of 420 microns or less.

While this is not the final word, or even a full-fledged standard, it does give inspectors and safety officers something to go on to help identify potential problems and take steps to keep an explosion from happening.

GHS Got you scrambling? There’s help!

Unlike in the movies where exposure to hazardous chemicals result in mutation that give people superhuman abilities and powers, in real life exposure to hazardous chemicals results in adverse health effects (some of which can take years to show up) and, in many cases, death.

Because of this a massive undertaking entitled the “Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals” (GHS) has been under way since the middle of last year (March 2012).

Essentially what GHS is doing is to replace the MSDS with a standardized system that applies across the different countries from which chemicals are being imported and exported to.

Feeling a little overwhelmed? Not sure where to get started?

The OSHA Hazard Communication page, dedicated to GHS will get you well on your way and should answer most, if not all of your questions.

You’ll find comparisons sheets between HazCom 1994 and Hazcom 2012, OSHA Briefs, Fact Sheets, Quick Cards, Downloadable Pictograms and a whole lot more.


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Identifying Risk with a simple equation

As a safety officer you often feel like an over anxious parent spending all your time trying to identify all possible risks your workers might be exposed to and implementing changes to protect them from those risks. It sometimes feels like there no end to the mischief that they might be able to do, especially in a plant with machines running, forklifts driving, trucks offloading, etc… So how do we go about identifying and prioritizing the risks?

Here’s a simple equation that can help: Risk = Severity x Likelihood

Create a chart with severity on one axis and likelihood on the other. Whenever both are high you’ve identified a risk that needs to be addressed immediately. Your chart should look something like this:

Anything in the bottom left quadrant is a low priority risk. Anything in the top right quadrant is a high priority risk that needs to be addressed immediately. multiply the numbers and high numbers show a high priority.

Once you have identified your high risk items you can create another chart with risk on one axis and “number of exposures” on the other. This new chart would incorporate the number of people who might potentially be injured if this risk is not addressed. On the vertical axis, plug in the number you got from chart 1 above. On the horizontal axis, adapt the numbers to reflect the number of workers you have at your particular location, plant, etc… If your location had 50 people, for example, the chart will look something like this:


Obviously a high risk that one person might be exposed to once a month isn’t going to be as high a priority as one that is numerically equal in the first chart but which has the potential of affecting 20 people daily.

Running around trying to identify and solve all safety related issues all at the same time is a recipe for frustration and isn’t going to be very effective. Identifying which risks are the ones that need to be addressed first will help you know how to allot funds, time and personnel and make you much more effective in creating a safe environment.

Wood Dust Hazards

When we purchased and moved into the building that we presently own, it was being used as a woodworking shop where high end office furniture was built. In spite of the fact that the previous tenants used vacuums to suck up the saw dust we found dust everywhere. Even now, years later, we find that dust still accumulates for where it leaks in areas we didn’t access or clean out properly.

Wood dust can seem fairly harmless. It is, after all, natural. Wood dust however can cause a number of health related issues such as asthma, chronic bronchitis and other respiratory problems. The sawdust from certain types of wood has even been found to be toxic.


In addition to the health issues are the other safety issues. The most obvious one, is of course, the fire issue. Saw dust is wood and wood burn. Additionally, saw dust can act as insulation trapping heat. This can cause the dust to combust and spread flames to all other areas where saw dust is present. A fine “mist” of sawdust can lead to an explosion.


Saw dust can also create slippery floors, especially when some type of liquid is added to the mix.


Some dos and don’ts relating to cleaning up wood dust:

  • Do not use compressed air to “blow” it away. All that does is to send it all airborne only to settle again later. It also can cause eye injuries and respiratory problems as it sends the wood dust flying around in the air.
  • Do wear the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment such as face shields, dust masks, goggles and/or safety glasses.
  • Install and use the proper vacuums. Make sure that you are using enough suction and power. Inspect it regularly and keep it clean.
  • Make good housekeeping a habit. A little time at the beginning and at the end of each day or each project can save a ton of time later.


It never ceases to amaze me that the same people who will make sure that everyone knows that they will not sacrifice their health for their employer (and rightly so) often aren’t quite so hard on the boss when the boss is themselves. In their own workshop, the very safety measures that they are so adamant about at work go out the window at home.


Be smart, be healthy, be safe!

6 Easy Steps to Establishing a Respiratory Program – Step 1

  1. The Exposure Assessment

    Before you can try to implement a respiratory program, you need to know what you are protecting against and you need to know how much of it your workers are being exposed to.

    The “what” might be easy or it might not be so easy. In the case of a specific substance or chemical it becomes pretty obvious what it is that you are trying to protect against. In other cases, such as certain welding applications, the “what” might not be as obvious. Certain welding procedures off gas. The nature of the gas might not be obvious and a little research might be involved. A good example of this is Hexavalent Chromium which is produced during the welding of stainless steel. If you want to understand how bad hexavalent chromium is, watch the movie “Erin Brokovich”. Because it is only present in hot work applications like this, it might not be obvious that this is something that needs protecting against. A bit of research concerning stainless steel welding, however, will quickly uncover this hidden danger.


    Once the “what” has been determined, the “how much” needs to be the next question to answer. Because of the constantly changing nature of most jobs (indoors vs. outdoors, temperature, humidity, procedures, etc…), it is almost impossible to know how much of a particular substance is in the air at any given time. Fortunately, OSHA isn’t unreasonable. OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard 1910.134(d) states: “The employer shall identify and evaluate the respiratory hazard(s) in the workplace; this evaluation shall include a reasonable estimate of employee exposures to respiratory hazard(s) and an identification of the contaminant’s chemical state and physical form.”

    They don’t require you to give exact counts, minute by minute based on every single variable, but they do ask that you include a “reasonable estimate”.


    There are several ways that you can get this reasonable estimate:

    1. The simplest way is to call on an Industrial Hygienist who can do sampling and air monitoring to get you the documents you will need to present if you should be inspected by L & I. To find a local contact, visit
    2. Contact OSHA directly for one of their free consultation programs. There are advantages to doing this. OSHA can give you clear steps and guidelines to make sure that you will pass inspection. The consultation is confidential. You will be given time to implement the changes that they suggest and “any unsafe and unhealthful working conditions that the consultant uncovers, will not be reported to the OSHA inspection staff.”(see:
    3. Air monitoring equipment is also available that can sample the air for you and give you accurate measurements. If you have little or no experience with air monitoring, it is probably best to call someone who understands it and can help you determine what you need (You can call our instrumentation department, for example at (800) 213-7092).
    4. Contact the air monitoring company directly. While most do not sell direct, their experts can help guide you, not only in making sure that you have the right product, but also guide you to a distributor who can sell you the necessary equipment.

However you go about it, you will need to make sure that you have documented proof of the work you have done at this stage in case you are inspected. L & I will want to know that you have made the proper assessment necessary for the next steps.

Tomorrow: Step 2 – The Written Program