The annual Southeast Environmental and Safety Seminar (SEESS) on March 20 at the Saskatchewan Energy Training Institute in Estevan offered a series of informative and often entertaining speakers for the 175 people who attended the event.
The keynote speakers were Mike Barnett, who is the president and director of operations for WorkSMART Ergonomics Ltd.; and occupational therapist and motivational speaker Sylvia Yaeger.
Barnett spoke about the prevalence of back injuries in the workplace, and how those injuries can be prevented. Back injuries are the most frequent and the most expensive claim that she sees.
"Employees have a certain level of responsibility to look after their backs, as does the company, to make sure that they don't hurt their backs," said Barnett. "So I need them both to step up to the plate and to look after themselves."
Many back injuries occur at jobs and activities that were designed years ago.
"We have to start looking at how these jobs are designed," Harnett said.
Harnett, who has a degree in athletic training and conditioning, and formal ergonomic education, has been associated with every type of industry: oil and gas, mining, food, health services, transportation, manufacturing and government work.
She also offered the audience updated tips on how they can reduce back injuries. For years, people have been told how to lift properly, by lifting with their knees, and keeping their back straight.
"That's a very old philosophy, and it's one of the ways that actually increases risk to not only our backs, but to our knees," said Harnett.
Harnett suggests that people bend at their hips, rather than their knees.
"It's not just how heavy something is, it's the posture you're lifting it with, and the stability of the load, and if you're pushing and pulling, it's the surface you're pushing across," said Harnett.
She also discussed the things that people do every day that take a toll on the back, including driving. It's the worst thing for the back, because of the posture of the back while seated, and the vibrations of the vehicle on the road.
Yaeger discussed the need to prevent stress on the job site, which will help reduce workplace injuries. She believes that stressed out employees make more mistakes, need more time off work and are less safe on the job.
Not only did her presentation focus on stress, but it offered tips to reduce repetitive strain injuries and prevent burn out.
Other speakers included Todd Han from the Ministry of the Economy; Tim Kalynchuk from the Worker's Compensation Board; Terry Gibson from the Southeast Airshed Association; Jennifer Nielsen from Good Lands Environmental; and Greg Lewis from Matrix Solutions. They discussed a number of topics related to creating a safer and more environmentally friendly workplace.