Staining rags blamed for fire

Spontaneous combustion
Cloth rags used for staining were the cause of a recent house fire in the Okanagan Valley. Chief Wayne Williams of the Penticton Fire Rescue said that it’s believed that the rags spontaneously combusted in the container which was left outside the building near the garage. Once ignited, the fire jumped to the building and eventually engulfed the structure in flames.

Certain animal and vegetable oils will break down under the correct circumstances. This breakdown causes an exothermic reaction (it releases heat). As more heat is released, the breakdown process is speeded up and even more heat is released. If there is adequate fuel, insulation, and ventilation, this process can break into open flaming combustion.

This process is called spontaneous combustion. The process is not really spontaneous; rather it is a process that follows normal laws of chemistry. Terms like ‘auto-ignition’ or ‘self-heating’ are more appropriate.

Spontaneous combustion only works with animal and vegetable oils. Mineral oils (like motor oil) don’t break down and build up heat the way animal and vegetable oils do. However, if stain rags are thrown in with motor oil soaked rags, the stain rag can cause ignition and the motor oil can accelerate the fire.

Many woodworking stains are made with vegetable oils (like linseed oil). These stains are great products. The user just needs to remember the hazard when applying these products. A cotton rag used to apply stain has the perfect surface area-to-mass ratio to run this exothermic reaction clear to ignition. A small amount of stain can catch fire quickly given the right circumstances. In some cases, stain rags have set for days before igniting.

Stain manufacturers are aware of this hazard. That’s why these products have consumer warning labels on how to dispose of stain rags properly. Chief Williams recommends disposing of the rags in an airtight container so that no oxygen can fuel the fire. Soak the rags in water and seal them in an airtight container. Remove containers as soon as possible by bringing them to the landfill site for safe disposal.

Chief Williams states that these types of fires are not unusual. He recommends taking proper precautions to avoid fires caused by staining rags.

Posted on: July 24th, 2021 by Victoria Comments

Violence prevention is about training and communication

Violence prevention in the workplace There is increased awareness about preventing violence in the workplace. For example Worksafe BC has introducted new legislation around violence prevention for Late Night Retail outlets. Violence prevention is also a focus in the health care industry, public transportation, public sector and internally in large companies.

Safety programs have traditionally looked at violence prevention as preventing robbery or physical attacks in the workplace. The recent ‘Grant’s Law’ takes this approach. How can we prevent workers at late night retail stores and gas stations from being harmed in a robbery?

Robbery is very real threat with high potential for physical harm to a worker and to the public and should be taken seriously. Setting up a store layout to minimize robbery is important. Establishing safety measures such as pre-pay for fuel is also important. However, it is only part of the picture.

What about the interactions between worker and client that have the potential to escalate into violence? Take the example of workers who come into conflict with the public during customer service. “What’s taking you so long?” “You ran outta…!” “What do you mean, I can’t….?” Throughout the day, workers are faced with verbal threats and aggressive communication. A worker needs training in communication techniques to effectively deal with this type of communication.

Communication techniques that diffuse the potential for violence can prevent incidents. Workers need to be trained how to be assertive without triggering aggression. Often violence prevention training focuses on self-defense. The greatest defense is to prevent attack by de-escalating the situation. Companies can focus on empowering their workers to know how to handle a situation. No physical barriers, security cameras, or security personel can protect workers from verbal threats. A worker must rely on the ability to communicate effectively. Investing in communication training is a critical part of a violence prevention program.

Posted on: July 13th, 2021 by Victoria Comments

WorkSafe BC Stay on Top Enforcement Blitz 2012

Worker without safety gearWorksafe BC will be conducting an enforcement blitz to ensure compliance among roofers and framers working on single-family residential projects. The enforcement blitz called Stay on Top will run from June 25 to November 3, 2021.

“Falls from heights are a leading cause of serious injuries for workers in the residential construction industry,” says Al Johnson, WorkSafeBC director of Worker and Employer Services. “We hope the increased consultation, education, and enforcement provided by our safety officers will make an ongoing difference in preventing the often devastating injuries to workers falling from heights.”

The focus of these inspections will be to educate employers on planning, supervision, and safe access to the worksite in order to prevent injuries. However, employers should be prepared for the potential of fines for non-compliance.

Worksafe BC expects the following from employers (this includes contractors).
1. Employers must plan and supervise all work on site to prevent falls from heights. Worksafe will be looking at work from roofs, ladders, scaffolds, floor and roof openings. An employer is expected to monitor that workers or sub-contractors are following working from heights procedures. Work conducted at a height of 25′ or over requires a written fall protection plan that must be kept on site for reference.

2. Employers must ensure that workers use fall protection. It is not enough to tell them that they are expected to use fall protection. There must be a system to monitor compliance and follow through if workers are not complying. There must be evidence that there is a consequence for workers who do not follow procedures.

3. Fall protection equipment must be inspected and maintained. There must be evidence that fall protection is inspected before use. This could include notes in supervisor log books, an inspection checklist for fall protection gear or a record of regular checks for damaged equipment. WorkSafe BC officers may ask to inspect your gear. They have the right to remove damaged fall protection equipment out of service.

4. There must be a safe access to all work locations. Access and egress around foundation walls is an ongoing problem in residential construction. Also, there is a trend from local contractors to neglect framing in stairs before building the next level. WorkSafe BC regulations require that stairs are installed before work on next level begins. Access from one floor to the next by use of an extension ladder is not acceptable.
The expectation is that there is a suitable ladder, stairway, work platform, scaffold, walkway or ramp to access all work locations safely. This includes access and egress to excavations.

WorkSafe BC will continue regular inspections of construction sites during this time. Do not expect that a WorkSafe officer would neglect other safety requirements during the focus on working from heights. Employers should continue to coordinate all safety activities including first aid, site inspections, housekeeping and general safety training.

Safety Solutions at Work provides residential construction contractors with a practical and affordable program to manage their safety requirements.

For more information on the Worksafe BC Stay on Top Enforcement Blitz, check out or contact Safety Solutions at Work.

More information about safety management can be found in your free report: Ten Key Safety Action Items You Can Do NOW to Prevent Your Company from Legal and Financial Ruin!

Posted on: July 10th, 2021 by Victoria Comments

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