Welcome to the Health and Safety Blog

I would like to welcome you to a new dimension for the Health and Safety office of the Greater Victoria Teachers' Association. Here you will find messages, advice, links and other gadgets related to health and safety, as well as our teaching profession.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tis The Season to be Safe

Decorations on the walls, paper everywhere, glue, sparkles, scissors, and solstice celebrations running amok and that is just Benula's office! The weather has been its usual self and we even had snow and ice. It is a beautiful time of year, but the safety issue are many.

It is a usual and tiresome refrain I know but please do not stand on chairs and tables to get to higher levels. Your school has step ladders and/or step stools. If there are no step stools in the school your health and safety committee can make a recommendation to order some. The chairs are not made to be stood on and some staff this year have been hurt as the chairs collapsed under the weight. Likewise with tables, which get used to stand on. When they are pulled to a wall, you end up standing on the edges of the table. The weight is not evenly distributed and they can tip over. A reminder that paper is for bulletin boards only and not the walls. The fire code only allows so much paper coverage in a school or classroom. It is frustrating I know, but better than having to tear it down under an order from the fire marshal.

Janet Langston and I met and reviewed all the health and safety minutes and school inspections. Some clear and definable issues popped out. Clutter and high storage being the most notable. Heavier items and boxes must be stored on lower shelves. Lighter stuff up higher. If it is not possible, have your custodian put in a requisition to have the items secured. Some school's' closets were overflowing, as were various old changing rooms and storage rooms. Have your principal order a bin from facilities. They will come and clean the area out for you for free!

And now a final health and safety message, watchout for low flying reindeer and overloaded sleighs. If you are hit  by Santa's sleigh or slip on a reindeer puck while at work, make sure you fill out a Form 6 and see a doctor. Paper cuts from rapid gift opening need to be cleaned and dressed by the school first aid attendant. If and when the final bell sounds on December 17th, please do not rush to the front doors, but depart through the nearest exit in an orderly manner.
Merry Christmas!

Be Safe!

Monday, October 25, 2010


As the end of October speeds towards us and the spectre of Halloween looms with the inevitable clean up of egged schools and sugar hangovers beseiging our students, let us remember that inspections are part of this yearly process.
Hopefully your committees have met and the minutes posted as well as being sent to Janet Langston. Part of the process of site based committees is to conduct at least one inspection of the school. It is nice if one was done near the beginning and one later on. I believe a notice to conduct an inspection by October 15, should have been sent by the District Health & Safety officer. The WCB Act requires the inspection to be done during the worling hours of the work site. This means that your inspection should be done during school hours, when the students are in session. If you do this prior to school starting or the end of day, you might miss the hazards that can cause injuries. There is release time for this inspection. Conducting the inspection in the morning or afternoon also helps get a different perspective on the conditions that can cause workplace hazards.
Another process is to mix upp the make up of the inspection crew. It does not always have to be the administrator and the janitor surveying the school. Sometimes it is noce to do a "specialty" inspection. Decide on just a few critieria to survey, intead of doing the whole school. This not only saves time but allows you to focus on items that might be causing reoccurring problems. Furthermore, have new members of the committee do an inspection with an experienced member.
Inspections are crucial for the safe environment of all workers on the premises as well as the students we serve. The information also helps the District Health and Safety Committee look at issues that maybe arising on a district level.
Be Safe.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

End of September Already

How quickly time has passed and so many things are up and running. I am sure many of you are knee deep in district wide assessment, curriculum planning, staff meetings, team meetings and department meetings at your school and another meeting is the last thing on your mind.
A reminder to new committee members and experienced members alike, your school must have  a Health and Safety committee up and running before the end of the September. Before September is out, your committee needs to send the minutes of that first meeting to the District Health and Safety officer, Janet Langston. Hopefully your committee has organized an inspection for the coming weeks to ensure the worksite is a safe and health workplace.
Look to see if there are properly labeled cleaning products, boxes and storage containers are stored in a safe manner. Heavier boxes need to be on lower shelves or closer to the floor. Check to see if exits are clear or if there are items such as filing cabinet that might block the egress of room occupants if it fell over. Furthermore, as medical room supplies are replenished, due ensure that chemical ice packs are only used for field trips. Chemical ice packs that are one time use only must be disposed off after use. They are not meant to be reused or refrozen. These packages do breakdown and one teacher was serious burned as a result of an chemical ice pack leaking onto her skin.
Remember, your duty as a worker is to be aware of health and safety hazards and to report unsafe situation. Every worker is required to "...take reasonable care to protect the worker's health and safety and the health and safety of other persons who may be affected by the worker's acts or omissions at work..." (Worker Compensation Act: Part 161)
Be Safe.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

New School Year 2010-2011

Greetings from your new 2nd Vice President to a new school year. The bulk of my duties in this role are Health and Safety. I am your contact person if you are heving difficulties with health and safety issues in your place of work. The administration and then,  the health and safety committee in your school or work area are your first port of call if have a complaint. My role is to support the teachers when you are not getting action on your concern. I am also representing you with two other colleagues on the District Health and Safety Committee. This committee is an oversight agency that deals with trends, conducts worksite inspections and develops and institutes  policies and practices for safer worksites.
While my jurisdiction is teachers, in actual fact the law regarding Workers Compensation is more black and white. There are employers, ie, the Board of Trustees and there are workers. From the Superintendent on down to the principals, teachers secretaries, educational assitants, grass cutters and all other manner of empoyees of School District 61, we are all workers in the eyes of the law. While we might recognize some occupations as more hazardous than others, the manner of occupational hazard varies from job to job. It is only recently that occupations like nursing and education have had their own brand of occupational hazards brought to life. Teachers are prone to slips, falls and strains as much as the others. Some teachers work in classrooms that have traditional hazards like wood shops and home economic classes to name two, but increasingly teachers are exposed to other forms of health and safety issues like H1N1, violence and unsafe work environments.
The best thing about Health and Safety is the legislation. It brings about action and the regulations are not disputable. WCB can be brought in to write orders to resolve an issue if the employer does not remediate the problem. In many cases, the action is swifter than the grievance procedure. To his end, we will be looking to add Health and Safety items to the bargaining table this year. Many other locals have H&S clauses which can given added weight to the topics as violations of them bring in  the grievance produre as well as WCB.
It is incumbent on all of us as workers to look out for the health and safety of our fellow employees. From this viewpoint teachers, principals educational assistants and custodians are all in the same boat. Be safe!
David Futter