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.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

End of Year Events

Karen Langenmaier, the BCTF Health and Safety Officer sent out this reminder on end of year events. It seemed appropriate to reproduce it here.

Hi all, I’ve had a few questions regarding WCB coverage in the event that a teacher is injured during a sports day or extra-curricular lunch time activity that are so popular at this time of year.

The short answer is "yes" teachers are covered.

However, the long answer is more important:

1. the event must be a school organized and sanctioned event.

2. the administrator must know and approve of the event.

3. there should be some paper work that confirms the above.

The reason for this is that in the event a teacher is injured, WCB has in the past tried to deny claims saying that the activity was on the teacher's own time and therefore not part of their work.  We know that extra-curricular, while not part of our "educational" work, is still part of an historically accepted practice that IS part of our work.  Just to make sure that all areas are covered however, make sure that the administrator knows of all the teachers taking part and sanctions the event.

Having said all this, the best advice we can offer is: remember how old you are and that even though that competitive fun edge comes out, your body won't respond as well as the students'. Don't push your physical limitations.  Prevention is way better than compensation!

Yours in health and safety,

Karen Langenmaier

Monday, May 9, 2011

May Madness

A    A warm welcome to Michael Colussi, the new Health and Safety Officer for the District. Michael has an extensive background in Heath and Safety. The GVTA looks forward to working with him to continue to improve health and safety in the district. 

     Be sure to send your month meeting minutes into the the District via Mr. Colussi or Dennis Dudley. We review the minutes, fire drill reports and inspections each month to see if  trends are developing that the District Committee needs to take action upon. 

     One area that can have an influence on health and safety is stress. The newly published research report by the BCTF called Worklife of BC Teachers cites the following as major stressors:
  • feeling pressured by the demands of multiple tasks and limited time
  • the complexity of the classroom, in terms of class size and class composition
  • a lack of support for teachers in their efforts to meet students' needs
  • a lack of support to deal with problematic student behaviour
  • relationships with a small number of parents were difficult and strained
  • reporting caused a periodic increase in stress
  • inadequate time for preparation and marking     
     The causes and results of stress may be different depending on career stage, gender and age. Newer teachers, for instance, find the job insecurity stressful. Regardless of the cause, working under stress can lead to illness or cause one to become distract and thus pose a safety risk to themselves or others. Another area of stress that can occur is stress from a critical incident. Staff who are apart of or witness a critical incident can experience emotional or psychological symptoms which may impair their ability to perform well at work or outside of work. WorkSafe BC identifies the following issue as problematic. "After a critical incident, workers’ feelings about their jobs and the workplace can be seriously affected. Workers may become disillusioned with their workplace if they believe that their problems are not being taken seriously, or that they are not being given adequate support." (Coping with Critical Incident Stress at Work: 2002)

     Health and safety is everyone's business. Please look out for each other and speak up when you have a health and safety concern.
Be Safe!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Update: 911 issue

In conversations at the District Health and Safety meeting, it was agreed that the policy is out of date and needs updating. The new Occupationa Health and Safety Officer, Michael Colussi, confirmed that the existing policy is in contravention of Provincial Statutes regarding First Aid and First Responders.
A district teacher is a trained First responder and provides training in first aid. Kirk Doherty from Lambrick Park responded to my previous email about Emergency Calls with some very useful information. I have added it to this post for your reading as it is instructive. Here is his advice:

"As I'm sure you know, according to OHS Regulations (see below), a designated OFA attendant's authority for treatment of an injured worker trumps an administrator's authority (or district policy for that matter). As an OFA attendant, under no circumstances would I seek an administrator's approval to call an ambulance for an injured staff member. As the OFA, that decision is mine to make (unless the injured worker refuses medical treatment or there's someone present with  higher level of first aid certification).

Similarly, it is my understanding that lay rescuers (anyone who has taken a first aid course but is not a designated first attendant at the site) are protected by the Good Samaritan Act only if they act as a reasonably prudent person within the limits of their training. Every lay rescuer course I am aware of (and certainly the ones I teach) emphasizes the "call first" approach for serious medical emergencies and recommends that the rescuer call 9-1-1 if at all in doubt. A rescuer who waits for an administrator's approval to call an ambulance or calls an administrator to assist with the determination as to whether an ambulance is needed or not is not working within the limits of his or her training nor acting as a reasonably prudent person and could be placing themselves outside the protections of the Good Samaritan Act should things go badly.

With that in mind, a school administrator who insists on providing authorization for an ambulance in case of an injured worker would, I suspect, be playing with legal fire as there is nothing in her training which makes her qualified to determine whether an ambulance is needed or not. I can't imagine the district wanting to be exposed to this kind of liability in order to save the cost of an ambulance.

Finally, with respect to choices for staff members responding to another injured staff member, the choice should not be to call 9-1-1 then inform the school administrator or try to contact a school administrator, etc. for assistance with assessing the situation if unsure.  Rather, staff members responding to an injured co-worker should provide care within the limits of their training and experience (including calling 9-1-1 if deemed necessary by the first responder) and/or contact the designated Occupational First Aid Attendant (using procedures established for that particular worksite) if the injury/situation is beyond the scope of their training. 


Kirk Doherty
Lambrick Park Secondary School"
Be Safe!

Monday, April 4, 2011

911 Calls

In case of emergency, call 911. Well maybe! It seems that a conflict arises between what citizens are told what to do and District Policy.
Recently, a staff member wanted to call for an ambulance to assist a staff member who was stricken by an ailment. In the following staff meeting the principal informed the staff that no one was to call an ambulance, but must call the administrator who will make the determination of whether an ambulance is needed.
This policy, created in 1975, goes against the training all First Aiders and First Responders. 911 was set up to provide every citizen the opportunity to get important assistance whenever they need it and everyone is able to access the service. Informing the office first, in the case of an emergency, can delay valuable time which may cause irreparable damage the the patient. Furthermore, to restrict access to the 911 service is a denial of a civil right! The Health and Safety chart devised by the District, states that one of the fist ways of responding to a health and safety issue is to call 911!
Through the District Health and Safety Committee, the GVTA is demanding a review of the policy and a clarification of the phrase, "Authorization must be by the principal or his delegate." We believe that this does not mean a first responder must wait to get permission from the office before calling 911. Every employee should have the right to call911 if in his or her assessment immediate support is necessary. Unofficially, the district has stated the term "or his delegate" means the person on the spot. However, this point is still ambiguous.
It is my suggestion that if in the assessment of the person who first responds to an emergency you have two choices: a) call 911, then inform the school administrator or b) call the office and get help in the assessment. If you cannot contact the school administrator, call 911 if in your estimation it is an emergency.
Please discuss the Board Policy 5141.3 at your next H&S meeting. Ask your administrator his or her position on this policy. I would appreciate being made aware of any decisions your committee makes or the position of your administrator. The next District Health and Safety meeting is on April 14.

Be Safe!

Monday, January 24, 2011

What the Heck is WHMIS?

We have all heard the term WHMIS and maybe the term MSDS. They are an integral part of worker safety in the workplace. Unfortunately many people outside of the site safety committees are aware of these two important aspects.
WorkSafeBC defines the purpose of WHMIS "...is to reduce injury and disease by communicating specific health and safety information about controlled products so the information can be used to reduce exposure to hazardous materials." To this end, WorkSafeBC publishes a list of six classifications. A product is classified then three elements are used to communicate health and safety information: WHIMS labels, Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and WHMIS education and training programs.
In every school and work site, WHMIS and MSDS posters should be clearly displayed. During inspections we often find these posters displayed in the custodian's room. In fact they should be displayed on the Health and Safety bulletin board for all workers to see. Many times during school inspections we find products in classrooms, staff rooms and offices that are restricted by WHMIS regulations. Staff will bring in a cleaning product, for instance to ensure the cleanliness of an area. They get upset when we remove the offending product. However, if you keep in mind that the regulations are for your protection and the protection of ALL people in the work site, in this case students, you will appreciate the removal of the product. The school district will provide you with appropriate cleaning products for any surface you want cleansed. If an outbreak, such as the H1N1, a special bleach product will be used by the janitorial staff to disinfect the work site. If you are unsure of a product you brought in, always check with your custodian.

A reminder to all GVTA health and safety representatives, the training day for us February 9th at SJ Willis. The day will start at 8:30 and finish at 3:00pm. A lunch will be provided probably soup and sandwiches. The topic of the day will be inspections and an inspection of the site wil be done to allow practice of the skills presented. If you are unable to attend and another teacher wishes to go please send him or her. We have requested this training and want to get a good turnout. If you are attending please let Janet Langston know at jlangston@sd61.bc.ca.

As always, be safe out there!

David Futter