All posts by Jean Lian

Time change disrupts sleep patterns

While spring may be one step closer, the daily grind could feel even more trying for many employees who lost an hour of sleep as Daylight Saving Time (DST) kicked in on March 12. And sleep experts are highlighting the effects of disrupted sleep patterns and what it could mean for those who work in safety-sensitive positions.

“Springing ahead can cause all sorts of problems for people, including loss of sleep or accumulation of sleep debt and adjustment in the circadian clock, making it harder to fall asleep at night,” Dr. Charles Samuels, the medical director of Calgary’s Centre for Sleep and Human Performance, said in a statement from the Centre dated March 7. He suggested that people should make sure to get enough sleep on the weekend and go to bed later for a few nights after the weekend to minimize sleep disruptions related to the time change.

Dr. Samuels is an expert on the effect of sleep deprivation and disruption on human health and human performance.  He is also the lead investigator in a long-term study with the Calgary Police Service to explore the impact of rotating shift work on health and performance of police officers. The project is part of a North American collaboration including Harvard University, New York State University in Buffalo and Washington State University.

As modern society pushes the limits of human capacity to cope with the demands of a 24/7 society, physicians are seeing the emergence of new epidemics that can be linked to a lack of quality sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation can contribute to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and other medical conditions, the statement from the Centre noted.

For those whose jobs require them to be constantly on the road, FedEx Express Canada and Parachute, a national charitable organization tasked to prevent injuries, are reminding drivers and pedestrians to exercise extra vigilance on the road, as driver fatigue is a factor in roughly 20 per cent of all fatal crashes in Canada, according to 2010 statistics from the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators in Ottawa. Many collisions occur between 3 and 6 p.m., when drivers are coming home from work.

“As a global express transportation company, FedEx Express puts safety above all, both in the workplace and on the road,” said Pina Starnino, vice president of operations at FedEx Express Canada. “For us, safety is more than just an essential work practice — it is a commitment to our neighbours in the communities we serve.”

And for almost half of Quebeckers, it could take anywhere from one day to a week to adjust to the time change, according to a survey out of Montreal published on March 6. According to an online poll conducted for Bon Matin bread by Léger from Feb. 6 to 10, DST has a negative effect on the behaviour and mindset of Quebec’s population. Poll results indicate that one-third of Quebeckers experience difficulty waking up, one-fifth report a lack of energy and 13 per cent indicate irritability when the clock turns forward.

British Columbia gears up for ride-sharing service

The British Columbia government is introducing a series of improvements to make the taxi industry more competitive as ride-sharing services are allowed to operate in the province by the year’s end.

“British Columbians have told us that they want ride-sharing services, and we are moving forward to make it happen,” Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, said in a statement on March 7.

Peter Fassbender, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development and Minister Responsible for TransLink, said that conversations with taxi companies and drivers over the past year have indicated a need to ensure fairness so that they can compete effectively with ride-sharing providers. “This is why we have worked so hard to develop these measures,” he said, “which reflects what I heard through extensive consultations and will allow ride-sharing companies to operate, but also allows the taxi industry to be competitive.”

According to the statement from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, the province will invest up to $1 million to help the taxi industry develop an app with the capability of shared dispatch, so that members of the public can hail and pay for a taxi with a Smartphone in the same way that they would for a ride-sharing service. The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) will invest up to $3.5 million to install crash-avoidance technology in all taxis, streamline the claims process and work with the cab industry to make their insurance more flexible and cost-effective. Depending on the number of kilometres driven, these savings could hover in the range of 25 per cent.

Other changes that the provincial government plans to make include the following: working with municipal governments and the taxi industry to remove red tape and overlap within the system; retain the exclusive rights of taxis to be hired by phone, at a taxi stand or flagged down at the curb; and address the current shortage of cabs to provide more choice, accessibility and opportunity for both consumers and drivers. The province will also work with municipalities and other stakeholders to allow all drivers, including taxi operators, the same access to provide services across municipal boundaries.

The same safety standards will also apply to both taxis and ride-sharing providers. Class 4 licences will be phased out for taxi drivers, and taxi and ride-sharing companies will be responsible for maintaining records to prove that all drivers have an unrestricted driver’s licence, are at least 19 years old and have passed criminal-record and safe-driving record checks and to ensure that vehicles have passed regular mechanical inspections.

Starting in the summer, the provincial government will seek additional input from taxi drivers, ride-sharing and taxi industries, police, airports, municipalities, ICBC and RoadSafetyBC.

Recommendations on farm employment standards released

A working group tasked to review employment and labour standards for Alberta’s agriculture sector has recommended that farm workers should not get overtime pay. Family members who work on farms should also be exempted from all employment and labour standards, as the application of standards would be “impractical and unfeasible, as well as burdensome without providing any benefit.”

On the recommendation relating to overtime provisions, the report noted that most jurisdictions in Canada exempt the agriculture sector from overtime. As work hours in the farming sector are unpredictable due to the nature of work, an overtime rate would lower the base pay rate and present “complications” in calculating pay.

The report by the Employment Standards Technical Working Group was posted on the website of the Alberta government on March 6. Members of the public will have until April 3 to provide feedback on the recommendations made by six technical working groups, which started reviewing employment and labour standards for the province’s agricultural sector last May.

Alberta’s minister of labour Christina Gray said in a statement that she was pleased to share the working group’s first set of recommendations. “We would seek feedback as we go through the process,” she said, “and I encourage Albertans to look at the recommendations and provide their honest and rank responses.”

Oneil Carlier, the minister of Agriculture and Forestry, called the recommendations “an excellent starting point” to ensure that waged non-family farm workers enjoy the same rights and protections as other workers, while preserving rural Alberta’s way of life.

Other recommendations included the following:

  • The type of work assigned to farm workers under the age of 16 must not be detrimental to their health, education or welfare, and parental consent must be obtained by employers;
  • Work hours for waged, non-family farm workers aged 12 and 13 should not exceed 20 hours of work per week;
  • Waged, non-family employees should have four days off every 28 days; and
  • Minimum wage should apply to waged, non-family farm and ranch employees, except those who work in primary production like greenhouses, nurseries, sod farms and mushroom farms.

The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) responded to the release of the working group’s report by urging the provincial government to implement strong basic rights protections and regulations for all farm and ranch workers.

“We are calling on the government to show continued leadership in standing up for some of Alberta’s most vulnerable workers by enacting employment standards that stand up for Alberta’s farm and ranch workers,” AFL president Gil McGowan said from Edmonton. “Given that the vast majority of agricultural workers in Alberta are not unionized, whatever regulations are put in place for the Employment Standards Code will serve as the basic floor of minimum rights for most Albertans working in the agriculture sector.”

McGowan also raised concerns on three recommendations: expanding paid, non-family youth employees in the industry for 12- and 13-year-olds; adding new exemptions for primary production like greenhouses; and exempting employment standards for family members who work on farms.

“When you allow kids that young to work for pay, it is a suggestion that they should be able to do potentially dangerous jobs such as operating heavy machinery,” McGowan suggested. “Our concerns about this are primarily about safety — we have to keep our kids safe.”

The provincial government said it would start drafting legislative amendments based on the recommendations and public feedback received.

Canadians want more flexibility in work schedules: survey

TORONTO, Ont. — Just slightly more than half of Canadians surveyed are happy with their current work schedule. This puts the nation in the tenth spot out of 25 countries surveyed and slightly above the global average of 50 per cent, according to a June 21 statement announcing the new research findings from global recruitment company Randstad, headquartered in Amsterdam. Out of 15 job functions polled, Canadians classified as economist or consulting are the most satisfied (77.7 per cent) with their current schedules, while those working in education (45 per cent) are the least satisfied. Against their global counterparts, human-resources and recruitment officers and information-technology specialists rank fifth and sixth most satisfied respectively, at 61.3 per cent. “The work environment in Canada, like workplaces globally, is changing rapidly,” Marc-Étienne Julien, chief executive officer of Randstad Canada, said in the statement. “Employers looking to remain attractive in the eyes of today’s workforce need to evolve, align with changing attitudes and offer flexible workplace solutions that work for the business and its employees.” The data revealed that Canadians work 36 hours per week on average, with 30 per cent currently work more than 40 hours per week. Of the 7,041 Canadian employees polled, 30 per cent indicate that they would prefer variable hours, while nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) say they would like to work remotely at least occasionally, just above the global average of 64 per cent. Results indicate that even the older generation is seeing the benefits of flexibility, with 21 per cent of employees aged 45 to 65 expressing their preference to work remotely every day. This compares with 13 per cent for workers aged 18 to 24 and 16 per cent for those aged 25 to 44. The survey also reveals that nearly half (48 per cent) of those polled prefer flexible over standard hours, even though this might involve working longer days and shorter weeks or flexible work days every week. “The data demonstrates that, like their peers around the world, Canadians are expecting more and more flexibility from their employer, which should drive HR managers to engage with individual employees to identify their specific needs and drivers,” Julien suggested. He added that when employees feel that they can fit their work schedules into their life, rather than the other way around, they tend to be more engaged, happy and willing to contribute. “It is just good business.”

Social-media campaign targets youth safety

TORONTO, Ont. — Parachute, a Toronto-based national charity helping Canadians keep preventable injuries at bay, has launched a province-wide social-media campaign to educate youth about workplace safety. As many students take on summer jobs during this time of the year, #Safe4Life offers a virtual space where youth can ask questions and discuss their experiences with workplace safety. According to a statement from the organization issued on June 21, new and young workers in the province are three times more likely to be injured. A poll, which includes 500 young workers, finds that nearly half of them aged 16 to 19 admit they would be embarrassed to ask about workplace safety hazards, and nearly one quarter of young people say they do not understand worker rights. More than half of young people who currently work, or have worked before say they were not given safety equipment. Among those who were properly equipped, only 35 per cent use it most of the time. “Every day in Ontario, an average of 20 workers under the age of 25 sustain lost-time injuries or are, unfortunately, killed on the job. New workers are more likely to be injured and less likely to question safety practices in their workplaces,” said Louise Logan, president and chief executive officer of Parachute. “We want to change the conversation and encourage young workers to stay #Safe4Life.”

Road-safety initiative eyes truck drivers

ORILLIA, Ont. — The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) teamed up with the Ministry of Transportation on June 16 for Operation Corridor, a 24-hour enforcement and education initiative aimed at commercial truck drivers to ensure that they drive safely and that their trucks are properly inspected and maintained. Among the truck-related collisions on OPP-patrolled roads between 2011 and 2015, 260 of them resulted in at least one fatality. Many of the crashes involved multiple fatalities, with 321 people having lost their lives, according to figures from the OPP. Of the victims, 281 of them were drivers and passengers in other vehicles involved in the crashes; the other 40 victims were drivers of transport trucks. In other words, for every transport truck driver who gets killed in these collisions over the five-year period, seven other lives are lost. While most of these truck-related incidents were the result of a collision, every year, the OPP investigates road incidents involving tires or other equipment dislodging from transport trucks and flying into the path of other vehicles. In many of these instances, the driver and/or other car occupants are seriously injured or killed. “As our latest data tells us, crashes involving commercial motor vehicles usually result in a higher number of multiple fatalities when compared to collisions involving regular-sized vehicles,” OPP Deputy Commissioner Brad Blair, provincial commander of traffic safety and operational support, said in the statement. “Although our officers see many safe drivers on our roads every day, those who are not need to know just how devastating and costly it can be when they fail to make safe driving decisions or do not undertake proper maintenance and truck inspections.”

Employees are judges in new workplace award

TORONTO, Ont. — A new accolade, one in which winners are determined by an organization’s own employees in recognition of companies that are successful in fostering the total health of their workers, was introduced on June 21 by Morneau Sheppell and The Globe and Mail.  “Providing a safe, healthy and positive work environment is key to maintaining good health in employees,” Alan Torrie, president and chief executive officer of Morneau Shepell, said in a statement. “Through the Employee Recommended Workplace Award, we are excited to honour and recognize employers that have been successful in making a positive difference in the health of their employees.” As the name of the award suggests, the Employee Recommended Workplace Award is the first of its kind in which employees are the judges. Employees of participating organizations fill out a 10-minute online survey in which they are asked to rate themselves on the four key pillars of total health: physical, mental, work and life. Employees who have completed the survey will receive a personal report and score, and winning organizations are chosen based on the numeric score of all employees. Extending beyond a basic employee-engagement survey or health-risk assessment, the survey also identifies areas that are challenging to employees and provides individuals with access to resources to help manage their work and personal lives. Employees who have completed the survey will get new insights into their own personal health risks, in addition to coping strategies to balance work and life demands. This, in turn, helps to reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and improve engagement, the statement noted. “Workplace stress is found to have a higher impact on engagement than personal stress, causing a growing concern for many companies,” said Phillip Crawley, publisher of The Globe and Mail. “While organizations have a vested interest in helping to minimize their workers’ stress and promoting their mental and physical well-being, we are finding that few employers are tackling this challenge successfully. We hope that through the introduction of the Employee Recommended Workplace Award, more employers will begin implementing programs to foster the total health of employees.” An editorial segment published by The Globe and Mail will recognize the winning organizations. Winners will also receive an Employee Recommended Workplace Award badge for their respective websites and honoured in an awards ceremony profiled by The Globe and Mail in February 2017.

Winner of Manitoba’s farm-safety drawing contest unveiled

WINNIPEG, Man. — Ayesha Badiola from Steinbach, Man., who has been named the winner of SAFE Work Manitoba’s annual SAFE Farms drawing contest, not only won an iPad, but also a spot in the 2017 SAFE Farms calendar. “While Ayesha’s picture was drawn randomly from all contest entries, I also want to commend her for her very colourful and artistic take on storing chemicals on the farm safely,” Jamie Hall, chief operating officer with SAFE Work Manitoba, said in a statement dated June 17. The SAFE Farms drawing contest received 147 entries this year from children aged six to 12 from across the province. Children were asked to submit pictures that show how to find a safer way when faced with one of four common hazards on the farm: livestock, grain, farm equipment and chemicals. Drawings to be included in the 2017 SAFE Farms calendar, which will highlight the best of this year’s contest entries, will be selected based on number of likes received through SAFE Work Manitoba’s Facebook page. “SAFE Work Manitoba has narrowed down our finalists, but now we need Manitobans’ help in picking the drawings to be included in the 2017 SAFE Farms calendar,” said Jeff Shaw, prevention consultant with SAFE Work Manitoba. “Get the whole family involved in picking your favourites and take the opportunity to talk to your kids about safety on the farm.”

Slow down when passing first responders: Saskatchewan campaign

REGINA, Sask. — During the week of June 20, Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure teamed up with the RCMP to educate the public on the importance of slowing down when passing emergency workers. ”We are pleased to partner with the RCMP to raise awareness about the importance of obeying speed laws and driving attentively when passing first responders,” Highways and Infrastructure Minister Nancy Heppner says. “First responders are working to keep us safe; we need to do our part to ensure their workplace is as safe as possible.” According to a June 17 statement from the Government of Saskatchewan, drivers in Saskatchewan are required to slow to 60 km/hr in both directions on two-lane highways and both lanes travelling the same direction on four-lane highways when passing vehicles with their lights activated. This includes emergency vehicles such as law-enforcement cars, fire trucks, ambulances, tow trucks and equipment from the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure and the municipal government. Last year, 478 speeders were ticketed during two traffic safety events. Fines start at $210 for speeding 10 km/hr faster than the maximum 60 km/hr. “Our goal is to prevent close calls and disastrous situations from happening,” said RCMP Southeast Combined Traffic Services Staff Sgt. Pete Garvey. “Partnering with the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure increases our visibility on Saskatchewan roads.” A second safety event will occur in mid-October, the statement noted.

WSIB releases report on Ontario’s workplace health and safety

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) has released a report highlighting trends in injuries, illnesses, recovery and return to work in Ontario’s overall prevention system and industry sectors. By the Numbers: 2015 WSIB Statistical Report is updated annually and provides data and information about health and safety in Ontario’s workplaces.

“The 2015 By the Numbers report shows clearly that the vast majority of injured workers are recovering and returning to work within a month, and that is encouraging news,” said Thomas Teahen, the WSIB’s president and chief executive officer. “We are proud to be able to help injured workers resume their lives, support their families and loved ones and participate in their communities.”

The following were among the statistics featured in the report: return-to-work staff made more than 21,000 visits to Ontario workplaces in 2015; more than 91 per cent of injured workers were off loss-of-earnings benefits within one month of return-to-work staff involvement; the board served more than 5.3 million workers and more than 300,000 employers, registered almost 230,000 claims and issued $2.58 billion in benefit payments; and the overall lost-time injury (LTI) rate was less than one per cent in 2015, continuing a decade-long trend of Ontario having among the lowest LTI rates of any jurisdiction in Canada.

The report’s website has a new feature called Report Builder, a self-service tool that allows users to customize the WSIB information they need for building unique reports. This year marks the first time that the report includes statistics on occupational disease claims, the statement added.