On-Site Magazine

Top safety risks include shocks, fires and explosions

By Adam Freill   

Construction Health & Safety Risk Management

Technical Safety B.C.'s latest state of safety report highlights safety risks where we work, live and play.

Burn damage to hard hat and safety glasses after an electrician was exposed to an arc flash when performing voltage tests. (Photos courtesy of Technical Safety B.C.)

Carbon monoxide (CO) exposure was once again the highest-ranked safety issue in British Columbia in 2023, according to Technical Safety B.C.’s 2023 State of Safety and Annual Report. The Top Five Safety Risks identified in the report highlight the need for safe digging around gas lines, an increased focus on ammonia safety, the dangers of electrical fire and shock, as well the persistent risks of CO.

“British Columbians should be able to trust that the places they work, live and play are safe,” said Phil Gothe, president and lead executive officer at Technical Safety B.C. “Our State of Safety and the Top Five Safety Risks highlight not only the areas of focus for our team, but represent a call to action to all those across the safety system.”

Carbon monoxide exposure continues to pose the most significant risk for British Columbians, ranking as the top safety risk in the province for the second consecutive year. In 2023, Technical Safety B.C. investigated a total of 17 incidents involving CO exposure, up from the 10 incidents the year prior. One incident resulting in a fatality.

The severity of carbon monoxide exposure, combined with the critical need for greater public attention around carbon monoxide safety precautions have both contributed to the issue’s consistently high risk ranking. A 2023 survey revealed only 42 per cent of British Columbians conducted annual servicing of their gas appliances by licensed contractors. When gas appliances are not properly maintained, they can cause carbon monoxide exposure incidents. Additionally, 42% of respondents lacked carbon monoxide detectors despite nearly half of them owning gas appliances.

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Electrical safety awareness has also emerged as a key priority for British Columbians, with electrical fires, and electrical shocks appearing among the Top Five Safety Risks for the province in 2023.

Electrical shock or arc flashes can cause serious injuries. They often occur when licensed and qualified electricians are faced with challenges in following safe work procedures, including working on energized equipment to avoid inconveniencing a client, not wearing the necessary, but bulky, protective equipment, and/or misunderstanding the extent of hazards in the work area, says the safety organization.

Investigations also revealed incidents that involved unlicensed individuals with no electrical qualifications working with, or near, electrical equipment, creating additional risk to their own safety, as well as those around them.

The safety risks associated with electrical systems extend to concerns around electrical fires in British Columbia. The majority of incidents investigated by Technical Safety B.C. over the past year involved the improper use of electrical appliances such as heaters, extension cords, and power bars.

“This year’s report highlights that many of the top safety risks not only result from unlicensed work or the incorrect use of technical equipment, but also the decisions made at jobsites,” added Gothe. “This reinforces the need for greater understanding and collaboration across all participants in the safety system to increase awareness and ultimately reduce incidents and injuries.”

The number of reported safety incidents in the province decreased in 2023, with 398 incidents reported in total. Beyond equipment failure, major factors contributing to safety incidents included human error or decisions, lack of appropriate signage and communication, and failure to adhere to safety protocols.

According to the report, the 2023 Top Five Safety Risks from regulated technologies under the Safety Standards Act were:

  • Carbon monoxide exposure.
  • Ammonia safety.
  • Gas line strikes.
  • Electrical fires.
  • Electrical shocks.

The full State of Safety 2023 Report can be accessed on Technical Safety B.C.’s website.

www.technicalsafetybc.ca

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