ohs

OHS Committee Conducts Inspection of ARC Building

The Athabasca Joint Worksite Health and Safety Committee met in Athabasca two weeks ago. One of the duties of the OHS committee is to inspect the worksite on a quarterly basis to identify hazards and recommend ways to eliminate or control the hazards.

The committee took the opportunity to inspect the ARC building. The committee was joined by staff from facilities who offered useful advice and commentary. By the end of the inspection,  seven hazards were identified as having the potential to cause injury.

Ergonomics

Several staff identified concerns about their current desk and chair arrangements. These staff were directed to fill out an ergonomic assessment request form (see below for link).

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Electrical

A power bar located immediately beside a kettle was moved to prevent a short circuit. An assessment of the electrical load on that circuit will take place.

Working alone

Two spaces where staff frequently work alone were identified. Working alone means help may unavailable in the event of an injury or medical episode. An immediate administrative control was implemented. Discussion of an engineering control will take place at the November OHS committee meeting.

Bad Smell

Several staff identified a recurring sewer-like smell, possibly resulting from the traps in bathroom floor drains drying out. Discussion about how to prevent the reoccurrence of this issue will take place at the November OHS committee meeting

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Blocked Passageways

Approximately five offices had very narrow exits due to the position of furnishing or other materials. These narrow exits could create tripping hazards and/or interfere with emergency exit from the building. Additional research into the required width of exit passageways was required and the issue will be addressed at the November OHS committee meeting.

Debris blocking the west loading dock exit of the ARC building was flagged and cleaned up by facilities. This debris included mixed hazardous substances.

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 Tripping hazards

Several tripping hazards were identified as requiring remedy. Ironically, many were anti-fatigue mats stored such that they interfered with walkways.

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Bookshelves

Approximately 30 seven-foot bookshelves were identified as tippy and creating the potential for a crushing hazard. Other shelves had items stored on top, making the shelves even more tippy. The construction of the ARC building may preclude the effective use of straps or brackets, suggesting lower or more stable shelves may be required.

These hazards and potential control strategies will be discussed at the November meeting of the joint committee. Additionally, the committee will discuss concern about the locking of the inner gym door in the main building after hours and improvements to AU’s OHS training materials for new staff.

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Additional inspections of the rest of the campus will take place over the next few months.

If you have a concern about a workplace hazard or need to report a near miss or injury, you can fill out the required form here.

You can also contact the union representatives on the Athabasca OHS committee:

AUPE: Dan Schiff and Leona Fox

AUFA: Rhiannon Rutherford and Bob Barnetson

CUPE: Evelyn Chernyk and Glynnis Lieb

If you wish to request an ergonomic assessment, you can fill out the required form here.

Rhiannon Rutherford and Bob Barnetson

AUFA Worksite Health and Safety Committee Members, Athabasca

OHS Committee Members and Training

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At its September retreat, the AUFA executive appointed members to AU’s four joint health and safety committees. These committees (which also have representatives from the employer, AUPE, and CUPE) are required by the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act. OHS committees help:

  •  employers respond to health and safety concerns of workers,

  • develop health and safety policies and safe work procedures,

  • develop and promote education and training programs,

  • participate in work site inspections and investigations,

  • investigate worker reports of dangerous work and refusal to work, and

  • with health and safety orientations for new employees.

The AUFA committee representatives are:

Athabasca: Rhiannon Rutherford and Bob Barnetson

Edmonton: Myreene Tobin and Robyn O’Neill

Calgary: Patrick Lahey

Trail: Ryan Yee

Tim Byrnes: Sherry Tebbenham

The executive appreciates the willingness of these members to serve. The executive also appreciates the long-time service of Doug Kariel, who has stepped down from the OHS committee.

These committees are important because of AU’s poor track-record of complying with the OHS Act and remedying obvious OHS hazards.

AUFA and AUPE are cooperating to host a lunch-hour OHS presentation on the Athabasca campus next week. This training is intended to remedy the poor-quality OHS training provided by the university this summer. It will focus on explaining what OHS rights workers have and how workers can meaningfully exercise those rights at AU.

The presentation will take place from 12-1 in Governing Council Chambers in Athabasca on Monday, October 21. There will NOT be a teleconference or Adobe Connect option. If there is demand, the presentation can be repeated at other AU sites.

Additional training specifically for OHS committee members will be provided through the Alberta Workers’ Health Centre over the course of the year.

Jolene Armstrong

President