OHS Canada Magazine

Technical Safety BC reveals top five safety risks


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May 23, 2024
By OHS Canada

Health & Safety

Carbon monoxide exposure remained the highest-ranked safety issue in British Columbia last year, according to Technical Safety BC’s 2023 State of Safety report.

Each year the organization, which oversees the safe installation and operation of technical systems and equipment, produces a report outlining the leading safety priorities and risks for British Columbia over the past year. Rounding out the top five safety risks identified in the latest report are: the need for safe digging around gas lines; an increased focus on ammonia safety; and the dangers of electrical fire and shock.

“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 BC. “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.”

CO exposure ranked highest safety risk for the second year in a row

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 BC investigated a total of 17 incidents involving CO exposure, up from 10 incidents the year prior, with 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 consistent high risk ranking by Technical Safety BC. 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 per cent of respondents lacked carbon monoxide detectors despite nearly half of them owning gas appliances.

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Concerns around electrical safety among the public and electrical workers 

Electrical safety awareness 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.

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 and the safety of those around them.

The safety risks associated with electrical systems extend to concerns around electrical fires in British Columbia. Electrical fires are one of the leading causes of house fires across Canada. The majority of incidents investigated by Technical Safety BC over the past year involved the improper use of electrical appliances such as heaters, extension cords, and power bars by homeowners, resulting in fires in family homes.

“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 job sites,” 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 decision-making, lack of appropriate signage and communication, and failure to adhere to safety protocols.

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