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Manitoba launches SAFE Work on Wheels

Safety education trailer visits construction and manufacturing worksites


(Canadian OH&S News) — SAFE Work Manitoba (SWM), the province’s main organization for workplace safety education, is delivering its message to construction and manufacturing workers in a new way: through a mobile presentation, called SAFE Work on Wheels.

The new program uses a trailer to visit worksites and safety events across the province, delivering a free presentation that illustrates the hazards and pitfalls of working without precautions. Workers and employers learn about eye protection, fall protection, safe lifting and hand safety. SWM introduced SAFE Work on Wheels on Sept. 26, at a construction site at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.

“It was well-received,” said Warren Preece, a spokesperson for SWM, about the launch. “It brings home, in a visual and dramatic fashion, the importance of [personal protective equipment].”

SAFE Work on Wheels puts on four dramatic visual demonstrations to make its points. Presenters show the importance of eye protection by shooting a nail gun at a pair of safety glasses and at regular glasses. They also prove the value of safety harnesses and shock-absorbing equipment with a dummy falling from a high crane, while another demonstration illustrates the benefits of cut-resistant gloves. There’s even a robot that shows why it’s better to lift heavy things with your legs rather than with your back.

Preece described the presentation as an interactive process with audience participation. “When they talk about fall protection, they’ll ask the audience, ‘How high do you have to be before you need fall restraints?’ and stuff like that,” he said. “It’s sort of a two-way conversation with workers around safety.”

Erna Braun, Manitoba’s Minister of Labour and Immigration, agreed that SAFE Work on Wheels has all the right components for an effective educational tool. “I’m a former teacher, so I was quite impressed with how they do the whole presentation and the instruction part of it,” she said.

“When we look at the principles of good teaching, you’re engaging your students,” Braun added, noting that the four people manning the presentation did exactly that. “The demonstration part, too, is really quite critical. It gives the workers and employers an opportunity to actually see what happens when something’s done improperly.”

SAFE Work on Wheels is part of Manitoba’s current Five-Year Plan for Workplace Injury and Illness Prevention, which is in its first year. It’s a variation on a concept already in use throughout Manitoba and Saskatchewan, where mobile presentations for fire safety and construction safety, respectively, are operating.

One of the advantages of a mobile unit, Preece explained, is that it can bring safety education to all kinds of workplaces and events all over the province, from remote rural areas to central Winnipeg. “It really takes safety out in an impactful way into workplaces and outside of the perimeter,” he said, “in terms of showing staff, in what’s really quite an engaging way, the importance of preventative safety measures.”

The initiative is designed primarily for workers at construction sites and factories — “It isn’t for an office environment,” according to Preece — but the presentation can be revised and adjusted for different types of jobs and sectors if need be.

Manitoba’s workplace injury rate has already declined by more than 40 per cent over the past decade, according to Braun. “But we continue to look at ways in which we can create awareness,” she said. “Every worker has a right to a safe workplace, and this is one of our many tools that we’re trying to use to decrease the injury rates.”

To date, the program has received only positive feedback from participants. “I think it will be extremely successful,” said Braun.