Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category
- Date: May 3, 2013
Are you ready for summer?
I certainly am. I’ve caught myself several times over the past few days thinking of the lake and spending more time with family and friends. A nice break and something I look forward to. Without too much of a stretch I can see us out at the lake, tents swaying in a light breeze and swatting at the ever present mosquitoes. Now, smelling of Deep Woods and fire smoke isn’t appealing to everyone, but it is my little slice of heaven.
Nothing brings a great time at the lake to a screeching halt faster than someone getting seriously sick or injured, unless you have the tools in hand to care for the situation (and I don’t mean a shovel). Have you looked at that old, battered first aid kit recently? Is there anything in it, other than faded empty paper wrappers and a tube of unrecognizable goo.
First aid kits seldom see the light of day until they are needed and once used, quickly put away and forgotten. Now is a great time to pull it out and check it’s contents, so what are you looking for?
How is the old case holding up? Whether it is a hard shelled case or soft, its purpose is to protect the supplies inside. Check it over for cracks or rips, general cleanliness and a secure closing mechanism. If all is well start taking inventory of the contents. A good start for a first aid kit is:
A first aid book (or booklet) on caring for general injuries, scissors, safety pins, tweezers, gloves and an artificial respiration barrier device. To help someone who is bleeding items such as: 2”x2” and 3”x3” gauze pads (several of each), at least one 5”x9” abdominal dressing and 2” conforming roller bandaging. To cover and protect cuts have a selection of bandage types like knuckle, knee and finger tip as well as a fist full of regular ones. To treat the cut before bandaging have an antibacterial such as Bacteriaban or Polysporin. To relieve minor pain a few aspirin, non-aspirin, ibuprofen tablets and to quell an upset stomach – antacid. Round out your kit with stuff like antiseptic wipes, lip balm and cream to relive stings, bites and sunburn.
You may just decide to get a new kit, for one like we just discussed you should expect to pay about twenty to thirty dollars.
The farther from home and the longer you will be gone should lead you to stock your first aid kit better. Think in terms of what you may need to help someone cope with and get what you would need. A good first aid kit is invaluable when taking care of someone for such a small investment.
If you have a regular group you travel with here’s a thought. Bring them into your planning. Ask your campmates if they have any medical conditions (be polite and respectful). You can now get any additional supplies these conditions may require and add them to your kit. For people on medications I recommend getting a second supply for the duration of their stay. Keep the extra with the first aid kit, if theirs goes missing you have a back up prescription and their time at the lake goes on uninterrupted.
With a little planning and cooperation we can all enjoy our little slices of heaven.
- Date: August 23, 2012
You’re zipping down 41 trying to calculate if you have enough time to stop and refill your coffee cup and not be late. The cell phone on the passenger seat goes off, you reach for it and the next thing you know is you have a deer sitting beside you on top of your cell phone.
It’ll never happen to you, right? Well, let’s see if you are at risk of a deer as a passenger in your vehicle.
Have you ever been driving to Lloyd and realized you see the water tower at Kitscoty but don’t remember passing Kenilworth Lake? Oh – oh, that ain’t good.
We do not realize how many things we do while we drive, especially during our morning commutes. Cell phones and radios, morning newspapers, children, pets and fatigue all add to the haze that is the start of our day. The mental distraction of planning the day while driving or working through a problem all draw your attention away from what you are doing, driving a couple tons of aluminum and plastic down a road. So, how do we drive better? Here are a few pointers to look at to keep you between the ditches.
Don’t answer your phone while driving, let the voice mail get it. If you need to answer it, pull over.
Leave 10 minutes earlier than you need to. This keeps you from feeling rushed and trying to “make time” on the road. You’ll be more relaxed and less aggressive.
Anything stored in your vehicle should be secured. If you do “hit the ditch” anything not tied down will bounce around in the vehicle and could strike you.
Check the spare tire once a month, changing a flat tire with a flat tire is very counter productive.
When driving keep your eyes moving, this helps keep yourself alert. Look ahead, scan the ditches, your mirrors then the dash gauges.
Adjust your driving to the conditions. With the change in weather we need to change the way we drive. Brake sooner and more gradually, slow down for corners and watch for wind gusts that can create those “instant white outs” and occasional snow drifts on the road.
Keep your windshield inside and out along with the headlights clean. With more hours of dark the glare from oncoming traffic on a dirt windshield drastically reduce your visibility.
OK, good habits and driving are a given, but even good drivers get stuck once in a while. Here are a few things you should always have available in your vehicle.
A cell phone to call for help, not just a good idea this is a must.
Extra warm clothes or blanket, you may be waiting a while and the vehicle may not remain running.
A small shovel and cat litter. You can clear away built up snow and kitty litter provides excellent traction on ice.
A candle or external heat source. If you use this inside the vehicle, open a window a little to provide ventilation. These create carbon monoxide and use up oxygen.
Good planning and driving can prevent a lot of problems. Take a look outside before you go. If the weather is “that bad” maybe the best decision is not to go.
- Date: March 13, 2012
Have we had enough of Old Man Winter? I don’t know about you, but I’m in full denial. To help the weather along I’ve started my spring routine. You know, clean the yard (at least the parts I can see), sort and clean all that winter stuff before storing it, and start looking for all that summer gear I’m hoping to make use of soon. This brings us to the cleaning part, what do you use to “clean stuff”. Well, that depends on what you are cleaning. If it is the barbeque and you didn’t clean it before you put it to bed last fall you might need a fairly serious cleaner.
Using chemicals to help clean makes the task much easier and generally gets the thing cleaner. When selecting a cleaning product I look for a few things beyond how well it cleans. Is the product corrosive, poisonous, damaging to plastics or the surface I’m cleaning? The product I would select is the one that is the least corrosive or poisonous, least environmentally damaging and safest for me (does not require specialized personal protective equipment) to use. The good news is there are a swack of great cleaning products that work very well and still do a great job.
Now that you have a lot of the stuff off your storage shelves, before you put the winter gear up, take a few minutes to look the shelves over. Are the shelves starting to bow (bend due to excessive weight), if they are now would be the time to install bracing or have them replaced. Fix them before they fail, this prevents you from getting buried and you nice stuff from getting damaged. When you load all that winter gear a rule of thumb to follow is place the heaviest objects and boxes on the bottom and the lighter stuff up top. It’s easier on you and helps keep the shelving stable, if you over load and overbalance the shelving could collapse or tip over.
When sorting through the summer gear, check it for damage and take care of the damage or cleaning as necessary. Better to do that now than to discover the mice chewed up your tent while you are at the lake. Once done, unless you are immediately heading out to the lake, where do you put your summer stuff? Select a spot that is not “in the way”, like blocking where you walk. Commonly used items like golf clubs, fishing gear, bicycles, etc. should be kept where it can be easily accessed. Less used gear like camping supplies, canoes, etc should be stored out of the way but still accessible. This maintains traffic routes in and out of the storage area to we can get to and safely remove the items we want.
Are you looking at that lawn tractor/mower yet? While you probably aren’t serious about needing it yet it is a good time to do the spring maintenance. Read the manufacturer’s directions and follow them. Generally, check the fluid levels, belts, tires, filters and blades. The manufacturer will indicate which can be repaired/sharpened/cleaned and what you will need to replace to make your equipment function safely. Doing this now avoids using it when it’s not in good condition.
Hey, if the weather really clears up the grass might need a trim. Before running the mower through that yard, take a walk. Check for branches, rocks pushed up by frost and debris. This will save a lot of wear and tear on your equipment and make that first pass a lot more enjoyable. Look for standing water or buckets and tubs that have filled up. You can cut down on the mosquitoes by emptying them and protect children at the same time. Children leaning into them fall in head down and get trapped, cover the rain barrels.
Here’s hoping Old Man Winter is heading out of town until next fall.
- Date: March 13, 2012
Are you ready for your bundle of joy?
I recently learned that friends may be with child. Wow, am I happy for them. My wife and I have two, the younger just starting to walk. That got me to thinking of all the adjustments we had to make in lifestyle, housekeeping habits and adapting our home for little ones. We got the standard advice, found a lot of good information on the internet and occasionally, we got some great tips. I’d like to pass along some of the best I’ve heard and found for “getting ready for the little folks”.
You’ve done the run to the hospital, “mom” is now really a mom, you get a day or two at the hospital and then, can you believe it, they trust you enough to take that fragile ball of goo home with you. I do remember how amazing having a new born in the house is. Many visits from doting relatives and friends, a complete disruption to our sleep with multiple night feedings and helping our daughter adapt to life with a younger brother. Oh, did I mention the absence of sleep. We already had our house “Kid friendly” for our daughter, but she’s four now. We had to go back and look at everything all over again. My best advice is, do this before the birth. After the birth sleep becomes a very precious commodity which you may have very little of. With this in mind let’s start taking a look at some of the stuff you’ll want to get done.
Buy those little plastic electrical outlet inserts. This prevents toddlers form learning about electricity the nasty way. Once you’ve got them, plug them into every outlet that is not in use. In the same section of the store will be cupboard door latches, drawer latches and toilet lid latches. Follow the manufacture’s directions to install them properly. This will save you many hours of trying to fish inappropriate objects out of the plumbing.
Now, let’s tackle the stairs, windows and doors. All stairs should have gates at the top and the bottom, this is especially important for any stairs you use regularly as you may miss closing the door. Many types of gates are available, my preference is for the accordion type that attach to eye bolts. They are very secure when installed properly and can be operated one handed (a nice touch when you have a baby in the other arm). Take a walk through your home and check out how much furniture will provide an excellent path to windows for your new child. While they may not be moving much right away, that changes very fast. Where necessary, rearrange furniture to prevent it from being used to get to and possibly out windows. Falls (stairs and windows) are the leading cause of emergency room visits for children under 9 years of age. For the doors, the most effective child stopping device I’ve found is those door handle covers you have to squeeze to open the door. Certain rooms young children should never be in unsupervised, for example: the bathroom, kitchen, laundry room, utility room or any room you do not want something broken. Many of these rooms have dangerous chemicals, sharp objects, potential fire sources or hordes of little things they can choke on. Do yourself a favor and just keep the door closed.
One last check to see if your home is really ready. Get down on your hands and knees and crawl around. Get a kids eye view of your home and see what they are going to get into. This works really well. Some of the things you’ll spot are sharp corners on coffee tables (pad them up, water pipe insulation works well), extension cords (they get pulled on and junior gets clobbered by the lamp), narrow spots between furniture and walls they could get caught in. If you get into it, it’s kind of fun and you get your first glimpse into what they are going to see when you get them home.
The more of this you get done before bringing your spouse and the new addition home, the more you will be able to enjoy those wonderful little cat naps.
Congratulations, the sleep you give up to have them is made up for by what they bring into your life.
- Date: January 28, 2012
Why not? Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System provides a system for the safe use and storage of chemicals. This includes cleaners, solvents, fuels, compressed gases, insecticides and pesticides. If it is a chemical, this system will help you use it safely. While it is designed for use in workplaces, it doesn’t take any imagination to apply it at home or on the farm.
So, let’s start at the beginning. What chemicals do you have? Look in the garage, storage sheds, under the kitchen sink, in the bathroom and laundry room. Do you have a hobby or work on crafts, look there too. Write down the name, manufacturer and website of each and every chemical you have. We’ll call this your chemical list.
Next, get access to a computer. If you don’t have one, stop off at the library, they have one you can use for free. Now, type in the website or manufacturer into the search area. This should bring you to their website. What you are looking for is Material Safety Data Sheets or MSDS’s. This is the “sheet” that contains all the information you need to know about the chemical you have. If it is your computer at home, make a file and store the MSDS’s there. If not, have them printed and keep a file at home for reference later. Make sure to get the right MSDS for the chemicals you have, match up the exact product name with the MSDS. If you are having trouble finding one, most websites have a contact the company section. Request the information from them and supply your mailing address. They will send you the information you request.
Now that you have the information you need, it’s time to sit down and read it. Don’t let the technical language on some throw you off. If you look them up you get to know the “language” quickly and easily. These sheets tell you how to use and store the chemical safely. What chemicals it should never be mixed with, and if you do mix them, what to do. One section is first aid information and what to do in an emergency involving the chemical. Knowing what to do if someone is exposed to the chemical is important stuff to say the least. A very important section of an MSDS is “Toxicology”. This is the testing and information that must be provided if the product is poisonous. Read this section carefully, this is where the technical language is commonly used. If it is terategenic it has the ability to cause birth defects. A carcinogen can cause cancer. Mutagenic cause genetic mutation (mess up your DNA), this is bad for you and any future children as these genetic changes may be inherited from an effected parent.
Now you understand the chemicals you have, you may chose to remove some and replace them with less harmful ones. Use the information on the MSDS’s to arrange your storage (keep incompatible ones apart) and use them appropriately. About once per year you should “update” your chemical list and go through the process again to make sure new chemicals don’t end up under the sink without you knowing their hazards.
- Date: January 28, 2012
When is a child in the most danger, when they are on a bus or approach/leaving the bus? You and I both know the answer to that one. As drivers it is not only essential that we know the rules but follow them as well.
When backing onto the street or pulling out of parallel parking watch for the kids, they may not be paying attention either.
When driving in neighborhoods with schools, watch out for the kids darting across the road to avoid being late or to catch up with friends.
Slow down. Watch for children playing and gathering at bus stops or walking on the street, especially if there are no sidewalks.
A few thoughts as you come up on the next school bus:
- If the lights are flashing, stop, the children are getting on or off the bus and may cross the road ahead of the bus (out of your immediate sight).
- If the bus is slowing down, do not race to pass it, children may be “racing” to the bus stop across the road.
- Don’t crowd buses, they need space to slow down, turn and stop. Placing your headlights in their mirrors makes this and spotting the children much harder.
As the parents of children, there are some things we can teach our kids to help protect them around buses.
- Get the children to the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.
- When the bus pulls up have them stay at least three giant steps (6 feet) back from the curb.
- Tell your children to wait until the bus stops and the driver has the door open before they approach the bus.
- If children must cross the street in front of the bus, have them take five giant steps (10 feet) ahead of the bus before they cross. This ensures the bus driver can see them and keep the stop lights on to warn oncoming traffic to stop.
With all the distractions of winter driving, decreased daylight and the “I’m running behind” syndrome pushing everybody these days, I’m finding more often being stuck behind a bus is a welcome break. Instead of blowing past the bus at your first opportunity, sit back, unwind a little and enjoy.
- Date: January 28, 2012
Do products like adhesives, sealants and solvents present an increased fire hazard in the shop? If so, what increases the risk of a fire? If a fire occurred involving these materials, what would you use to put the fire out, water?
OOPS, that could be a big mistake.
We need to go back and read the Material Safety Data Sheet, section four for the specific product we are using.
There are three levels of fire hazard these products can present—none (my personal favorite), combustible or flammable.
No fire hazard means exactly that, the product will not burn. This has little to no information in section four of an MSDS.
Combustible means the product will burn. Generally, it must receive heat to produce vapors that will burn. The fire hazard of these products is seriously increased if excess oxygen is also present, they may also burn vigorously and be easier to light if the air has excess oxygen.
Flammable means the product can be easily ignited under normal conditions. This hazard can become extreme in air that has an excess of oxygen.
Now, read the MSDS’s again.
Do adhesives, sealants and solvents present an elevated fire risk? Most often the answer is yes.
If the surface of a floor, wall, cabinet top or frame is coated with a flammable solvent, adhesive or sealant the flames will “run”. This causes a few problems:
1. The flames may spread very rapidly trapping you or running back to the open container and bursting into a much larger fire.
2. The fire may spread to an area that is not accessible and therefore you can’t get to it to put it out.
3. As you attack the fire with your hand held fire extinguisher you push the fire back. To continue your attack you advance and that can be a fatal mistake. While the fire extinguisher put the solvent, adhesive or sealant out the unburned portion of the fuel is still there. As you advance you may be standing in a “pool” of fuel.
Murphy’s Law states—that is when your fire extinguisher will run out.
Never get so close to a fire that you are standing in the fuel.
How are the solvents, adhesives and sealants going to get lit? The possibilities are many, for example:
Grinding—the metal filings are very hot and could easily ignite these flammable materials. Watch where the equipment is throwing the sparks!
Electrical—even a small, quick ground out could cause the wire ends to melt, drop to the floor and ignite flammable materials on the floor or the cabinets. Drills and circular saws have open motors, they commonly throw sparks when dust is present (like saw dust).
Welding & cutting – using this equipment the fire hazard is obvious, look around, not just at what you are doing, but what is being done around you.
This is why no job is done until the clean up is finished and the tools are put away.
- Date: January 28, 2012
Well, it’s out of the frying pan and into the freezer. As I am writing this the temperature has definitely come down as summer comes to an end. With winter on the way let’s look at how to make the winter months a little more pleasant.
How does the cold do us harm? The organs inside our bodies (heart, lungs and brain among others) function best in a very narrow temperature range. Our bodies maintain that temperature during normal conditions. Hot tip, we do not live in a country human beings were designed to function in without thinking ahead! During travel our vehicles may leave us stranded, our homes may lose heating or for a variety of reasons we may chose to venture out in the winter months. This leaves us literally, out in the cold. In the cold our bodies loose heat to the environment, if it is lost faster than it is replaced, we can suffer cold injuries. These range from frost nip and frostbite to hypothermia.
Frost nip occurs when part of the body is exposed to cold and looses heat. The surface skin is cooled and may feel “stiff” and appear pale. A good example is your ears or fingers, they feel stiff and cold, so you go inside to warm up. As you warm up they feel like someone is stabbing them with needles, ouch, that hurts. Only the surface layers are involved and while cold, they are not frozen through.
Frostbite occurs when the skin and underlying tissues are frozen. The feet, hands, nose, cheeks and ears are commonly at risk. This is much more serious than frost nip as the tissue that has been frozen may need to be amputated if the damage is severe. Obviously, frostbite can cause disability and loss of quality of life.
Hypothermia is caused by the internal “core body” temperature dropping below normal. Even a small decrease in internal temperature is dangerous. As the blood cools and is pumped to the brain, heart and lungs they do not function normally. The heart is at risk of stopping, the lungs do not transfer oxygen to your blood as effectively and your brain doesn’t make the same good decisions you would normally. This is not the time to be relying on your body or brain to perform well. You need to think out how to prevent these injuries and what to do if you see signs they are occurring before they happen.
Frost nip is an indicator that you are at risk of frostbite. Deal with it now, before it progresses. Get out of the cold, warm up and drink something warm to help “boost” your internal temperature. Do not go back outside until the effected part or parts are warmed again.
If you start to shiver and you find your mind wandering from what you are doing, evaluate your environment and body temperature. If you are not 100 % good to go, get out of the cold and warm up. Remember, hypothermia changes the way you think, protect yourself before it’s the last thought on your mind. If you are stuck outside: get out of the wind, get wet clothes off and replace them with dry ones, light a fire or warm up using heaters, get active (use your muscles to generate heat and do not just lay down). Avoid exercising to the point you sweat, if your internal clothes are damp you will loose heat again.
Plan for it and the winter can be a fun time to be out. Watch for the signs in yourself and others, if you see the signs act on them and make sure it’s a short time out instead of a preventable tragedy.
- Date: January 28, 2012
Have you ever watched someone working and cringed because you just know it’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of time. You just identified some of the causes of “accidents”. Did you do something about it? If not we just identified another.
In industry we have all but eliminated the use of the word “accident”. They are now referred to as incidents, why the change in names? Change a word and change the attitude! Incidents occur because the causes for them were not identified, controlled and/or ignored. An incident occurs when one or more causes get together, under the right circumstances and voila, an incident. So, how do you lessen the chances for incidents in your life? Well, the good news is it is fairly simple, follow a system to identify what could cause an incident then eliminate or control the cause. If the causes of incidents are controlled or removed, they can not occur.
Let’s look at a simple five step system for identifying and eliminating causes.
Step 1 – Look around and think about what could happen. Think about the environment, tools, weather, and tasks to be done and how you will do them. Then think about what could go wrong.
Step 2 – Figure out how you could prevent what you have identified from going wrong. Keep it simple, simple solutions are generally the best.
Step 3 – Put you solutions into action. This controls the causes you identified from contributing to an incident.
Step 4 – Go to work, but while you are working think about what you are doing, if you see a new problem stop working and start at step one again.
Step 5 – While you are working continuously watch out for new problems, if any arise, go back to step one.
What if you can’t think of a way to control a cause you have identified? You have many resources that you can make use of like: friends, contractors, local business people, the internet, OH&S, WCB, safety professionals and industry trade organizations. If you are willing to take a little time, there are not many problems that can not be solved. If you encounter one, you may consider hiring the job out to professionals that have specific training, equipment and experience to help them cope with the problem you have identified.
The whole point of identifying the causes of incidents is to prevent them from hurting people. With the problems identified we need to take the steps to do this. If not, it’s people that pay the price.