On Saturday April 28, 2018, workers gathered across the country to mark the National Day of Mourning for workers who were killed, injured or suffered illness on the job.
In Toronto, an empty black streetcar was driven through the city streets on Friday night to draw attention to the many workers who never make the commute home.
In 2017, there were 227 workplace related fatalities in Ontario according to the Workers Safety and Insurance Board. That was up from 208 recorded in 2016. We are seeing similar increase in the excavation industry - over 5100 buried utility damages in 2017, an increase of 586 since 2016.
There is more and more safety awareness effort and legislation being created to increase workplace safety. With this, there is a growing need for specific training and education as it related to individual industries. Everyone knows that they can refuse unsafe work- but how do you know it’s unsafe? Some are obvious, some are not.
Working at heights without a safety harness is unsafe!
Not having the proper PPE when working with chemicals is unsafe!
Digging or drilling a hole in the ground is...unsafe...safe...??
Do you know that a gas line could be right under your feet where you’re about to dig or drill? Did someone train you that you must call for locates before you dig and show you how to properly read and make decisions based on the locate paperwork you receive? Do you know the purpose of the above ground utility structures around your work area and how they are serviced underground? Do you know when STOP work and get help if the locate paperwork and marks on the ground don’t add up before you dig? Do you know that not KNOWING the intricacies of the public and private locate process can injure or take a life?
These are all the questions employees and employers should be asking when it comes to buried utility infrastructure. Here are 3 key factors needed for employers and employees must have when excavating around buried utility infrastructure:
1. Education and Training
Having a process in place to properly train all staff that excavate around buried utility infrastructure should be every company's main priority. Creating layers of safety is what stops an incident from happening. Everyone from upper management to those workers with the boots on the ground, need to be trained on their critical role in the excavation process. Having a solid educational system in place helps in many ways including increased safety awareness and culture; evidence of due diligence in the event of an incident; and, helps that everyone gets home safe at the end of the day.
2. H&S Policy and Procedures
Having a proper health and safety policy and set of procedures in place for excavation projects around buried facilities is critical to show due diligence when a damage occurs. In the event of a claim or lawsuit, insurance companies and law firms will ask to review your company’s excavation policy and procedural documentation. Not having these in place can reduce your chance of winning your case or even being covered by your insurance. These policies should be reviewed and updated on an annual basis to ensure they are current with new industry best practices, legislation, and lessons learned within your organization from the previous year.
3. Damage Investigation and Lesson learned
When a facility damage occurs on an excavation project, companies should perform an investigation to determine the root cause. From this investigation a lesson learned document from the incident should be prepared to share the knowledge with your organization to produce positive outcomes to reduce any recurrence.
We work hard to provide for our family and loved ones. Let’s all KNOW before we dig and work together to create a safer working environment when excavating around buried utility infrastructure so that we arrive home safe at the end of the day.