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On-the-job safety more important now than ever

December 6, 2013  By  Mike Jiggens

By Myron Love

Once upon a time, says Tim Garner, when society was more rural, young people learned while growing up how to operate equipment and handle manual tasks safely.

“I have taught at a college for 25 years,” he said, speaking to Manitoba golf course personnel attending the Manitoba Golf Superintendents Association’s 2013 Manitoba Golf and Turf Conference (Nov. 13-15 in Winnipeg).

“For the first 20 years, I didn’t have to teach anyone how to drive a vehicle with standard transmission. Today, 90 per cent of students don’t know how to drive anything with a standard transmission. The younger generation has grown up with TV, Nintendo and cell phones. They lack real world experience. You have to develop safe work practices and job procedures to make up for that lack of life experience.”

That’s one reason why comprehensive safety manuals are becoming so important for golf course operations, he noted. The other reason is that the mountain of health and safety regulations continues to grow.

Garner is the president of PD Solutions. He is a professional agrologist with the Alberta Institute of Agrologists and operates his own spraying company. He spoke four times at the MGSA conference. His third presentation was an overview of hazard assessments for handling pesticides.

Garner noted that he put together his own health and safety manual for handling pesticides.

“It took me four years to get my manual completed and approved by the proper regulatory bodies,” he said. “My manual runs to 300 pages.”

His manual includes sections on health and safety regulations, developing hazardous assessments and critical tasks and associated hazards for pesticides, as well as other tasks.

Garner observed that government occupational health and safety regulations are “hammering us.”

“The manuals are thick,” he said. “The regulations can be painful and take a long time to put into place. The goal is to make sure that people are trained properly so that there are no accidents.”

The road to a safer workplace starts with the definition of a competent worker, Garner said. A competent worker is one who is qualified, suitably trained and has enough experience that he can work without supervision.

The employer is responsible for maintaining a safe workplace, making sure all employees are competent to do their jobs and keeping employees informed about potential risks. Employers also need to understand and implement all legislation that applies to safety in the workplace as well as being aware of potential hazards and what controls are in place.

“With new employees,” Garner noted, “the health and safety committee should go over general rules, use of equipment and safe work practices among other matters.”    

The employee also has responsibilities. These include not doing anything that may endanger others, complying with safe workplace practices, refusing to perform unsafe work, and being upfront about pre-existing physical conditions.

Garner identified four major components of workplace risk: the environment, the people, the materials they work with and the tools and equipment they use.

The different types of environmental hazards include exposure to chemicals and biological elements, the physical environment (such as loud noise and exposure to hot and cold elements) and ergonomic situations resulting from poor tool design, for example.

Your workplace health and safety manual, Garner added, should also list workplace hazard assessment and control practices. This would include assessing the level and probability risk and the implementation of prevention and monitoring strategies.

“There should be in the manual an inventory of all jobs and a risk assessment for each one,” Garner said.
For handling and spraying pesticides, for example, the risks he cited revolve around frequency of exposure and severity and probability of loss.

“In your shop and workplace, you should try and write down all the things that could go wrong,” he advised his audience. “You could have an accidental spill. You should always have your spill kit nearby.

“Mixing and loading are among the most hazardous times. Eye goggles and face shields as well as standard pesticide PPE should be required. And back strain is another common issue.”

He added that cleaning sprayers at day’s end also potentially poses a high risk of danger of exposure.  
“You need to wash the equipment regularly and keep it in good shape,” he advised. “And it is very important to dispose of the rinsate properly.”

If you are building a new shop, Garner suggested that you be aware of having good ventilation to reduce the likelihood of exposure to fumes as well as unauthorized access in the pesticide storage area.

“You should also ask someone in your provincial government what changes in pesticide storage are coming down the pipe in the next 10 years so you can incorporate the required changes in your building plans,” he recommended.

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