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.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Water Quality

Welcome back Health and Safety reps to a new year. You no doubt returned to find signs up and water fountains bagged and tagged. While the District is moving as quickly as it can to remediate the problem in schools, it will take a few more months to remediate every school.

In the meantime here are some links to follow for more information and some FAQs that have come across my desk.
a) The District has posted information regarding the testing and results from each school here: SD 61. The map of the school is helpful in identifying troubled spots, however, does not indicate where in that school the spot is located. Your custodian will have a map. I suggest that the JOHS Committee obtain a map for teachers to view.

b) The filters installed by the District are of a high standard. Some fountains and staff room sinks have been fitted with the filters.

c) VIHA advice about using water (found here) recommends using cold water for cooking and drinking . Run the tap for 15 to 30 seconds before using.

d) Boiling water does not get rid of the lead. In fact it can increase the lead in the kettle as the lead accumulates as the water evaporates.

e) There is no health risk associated with washing your hands or brushing your teeth with the water.

f) Your custodian will flush the system each morning. Any spot that has a significantly higher than maximum level reading, the spot will be flushed more often.

g) Here are the recommendations from the company who undertook the testing:

1) If lead levels are below 50 mg/L replace taps and retest. If lead levels remain above 10 mg/L, add a filter. 
2) If lead levels are > 50 mg/L, replace taps and add filter. 
3) If still getting high lead after putting in filter and replacing taps, may need to replace fountain or do further investigation to determine source of lead contamination. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Educational Leave

Health and Safety Reps are entitled to eight hours of educational leave each year to attend Board approved courses.The term Board refers to the Workers Compensation Board. Courses taken must be related to Occupational Health and Safety topics. An Occupational First Aid Course is not the same as a First Aid course. To be covered by the following Regulation, it must be Board approved.

Section 135:
(1) Each member of a joint committee is entitled to an annual educational leave totalling 8 hours, or a longer period if prescribed by regulations, for the purpose of attending occupational health and safety training courses conducted by or with approval of the Board.

(2) A member of the joint committee may designate another member as bling entitled to take all or part of the member's educational leave.

(3) The employer must provide the educational leave under this section without loss of pay or other benefits and must pay for, or reimburse the worker for, the costs of the training course and reasonable costs of attending the course.
You will notice in part 3 it states must pay wages, benefits, the cost of the course and any reasonable costs of attending the program. Reasonable costs is mileage, meals and hotel if needed. You would use the per diem amounts set out by the School District Policies.

The Terms of Reference for your JOHS committee sets out how to go about asking for training. The words come from the WorkSafeBC policy on establishing process for applying for training. You do need to inform your committee of your request for training. Presumably they will approve it. It is important that the approval goes into the minutes and the Committee informs Christine Merner of the request.
Should you committee not approve the request, you can send it directly to Christine for approval. If you need go through this process, please let me know so I can support you. As long as the course is Board approved, it should not be denied.

Be Safe,


Monday, April 25, 2016

May 1-7 Health and Safety Week

According to WorkSafeBC, here is a typical year in statistics for BC in Public School Districts. The data wascollect between 2007-2012.

Facts about Public School Districts

  • 60 school districts
  • 90, 500 workers
  • just under 1,600 time-loss claims
  • just under 45, 000 lost days of work
  • over $7.2 million claims costs
Who is getting injured in Public Schools?
  • 28% Maintenance/custodial workers
  • 22% Educational Assistants
  • 15% Elementary school teachers
  • 11% Secondary teachers
  • 24% others (includes principals, vice principals, bus drivers,...)
How are they getting injured?
  • 30% slips trips and falls
  • 28% overexertion injuries
  • 11% struck by an object (of which 22% of the time the person was struck by a student)
  • 8% acts of violence and force
  • 23% all other accident types
Demographics of Injured Workers
  • 59% female, 41% male
  • 10% under 35 years of age
  • 21% 35-44 years of age
  • 42% 45-54 years of age
  • 26% over 54 years of age
The Result of Violence in Schools
  • 67% of public school workers were educational assistants
  • 15% were elementary teachers
  • 9% were secondary teachers
  • Over 50% of the public school workers getting injured as a result of violence were 45 years of age or older and 89% were female

Monday, April 18, 2016

April 28 Day of Mourning

On 1991, the Federal Government legislated April 28th as a Day of Mourning to recognize those people who were killed or injured due to their work. This year the BC Labour Heritage Centre in conjunction with the British Columbia Teachers Federation, WorkSafeBC and BC Federation of Labour have created a educational package for schools to deliver the message about worker rights for new and young workers.

BC has the lowest age in which a child can enter the work force: 12 years old. The youngest in North America. These organizations want to make new and young workers aware that they run a greater risk of being injured on the job than workers in any other age group. The statistics are chilling.

  • ​​In BC, an average of 27 young workers have time loss injuries every day.
  • Every week, seven young workers are permanently disabled in BC
  • Close to one third of all occupational injuries happen to young workers
  • On average in BC, over 150 people are killed every year due to their work
  • On average, approximately 1,100 workers across Canada are killed every year due to their work

We always argue for our own safety at work. Just like learning conditions, better and safer working conditions for us means better conditions for our students. Health and safety is everybody's business and it is important that we inform our students as well.

You can check out the resources at this link:  http://www.labourheritagecentre.ca/domschoolsproject/ 
Hold a minute of silence on April 28th. Put up posters or have students make them. Download some of the activities from the website such as the script to be read over the announcements. Let's lower the risks for young workers, our students.

Be Safe.

Friday, April 8, 2016

New concussion resource for teachers helps children and youth with recovery

News Release from the BCTF Health and Safety Division

Vancouver – BC Children’s Hospital is launching a new evidence-based tool for educators to help prevent, recognize and respond to concussions in the classroom.

The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online, free resource that school professionals can use to help children as they return to school after time off from a concussion or if they sustain a concussion while at school.

Outdoor activities and sports like hockey, soccer and football are a fun way for children and teens to stay active. But if an impact happens that involves a direct blow to the head or other part of the body, it can result in a brain injury known as a concussion.

Developed by the BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit at BC Children’s Hospital and the University of British Columbia (UBC), the CATT provides educators with recommendations about classroom adjustments to help students as they recover and to avoid potential life-long complications.

After a head injury, a lot of ordinary things at school can bring back concussion symptoms. Stimulation from other kids in the classroom, loud noises on the playground, and the stress of school work can trigger headaches, nausea, dizziness and confusion.

Teachers can go to www.cattonline.com to find out about modifications they can make for a concussed student such as reducing reading and homework, shortening the school day or adjusting deadlines for projects and tests. The tool features short, five-minute videos with sports stars like pro hockey player Sidney Crosby that provide kids with tips about staying safe during play.
The CATT also has specific information for medical professionals, parents, players and coaches. Smartphone-accessible forms and tools help parents and coaches track symptoms in order to respond to a head injury and record information that may be helpful to medical professionals.

The resources in the CATT are updated on a monthly basis. The tool was developed based on the latest research and best-practice recommendations by researchers provincially, nationally and internationally, with funding from the Ministry of Health, Child Health BC and the BC Children's Hospital Foundation.

School Professionals can read specific information and attain resources at this link: http://educators.cattonline.com/

Friday, February 5, 2016

Are you ready for The Big One?

A few weeks ago, our area felt the effects of an earthquake whose epicenter was just off the inland coast of Southern Vancouver Island. Every year our staffs and students practice the ‘duck and cover’ procedure followed by an evacuation of the building. Yet when this one struck outside of school hours, I remained on my couch wondering what had happened. I did not duck and cover, even though I have practiced this procedure every year for over 21 years!

Perhaps it is the infrequent nature of earthquakes that we physically experience that causes us to hesitate. We wonder if it is an explosion, or a large truck passing by before hitting Google to see what happened. The telltale signs of a fire are easy to identify as are flooding, and power outages. The windstorms of November pointed out some gaps in the School Emergency Preparedness Guide in dealing with some of the calamities that can accost our worksites.

The School Emergency Preparedness Guide sets out the protocols for dealing with emergencies that may best the workplace. From Lockdowns to Earthquakes, procedures and protocols are identified. Your school will also have handbooks describing the procedures to follow in the event of one of these emergencies. Procedures change as well, so it is a good document to review by Joint Occupational Health and Safety committees. For instance, many sites still have search and rescue teams to go through the school once students have been evacuated in an earthquake scenario. Yet, that is no longer required for safety reasons. Only trained First Responders should enter a building after an earthquake. How many of you are still doing that job?

Maybe we wont react exactly as we are supposed to in an emergency situation, but we can be prepared. I encourage Health and Safety reps to check out the School Emergency Preparedness Guide to ensure your school is practicing the proper protocols. You can find the document on the Staff Portal at the District website. It is under Human Resources/Health and Safety page.
As for the gaps identified from the windstorms, the District Occupational Health and Safety committee is working to include those in the Guide as soon as possible.

Be Safe,