Articles & Stories

This page contains health and safety related articles and stories regarding the SafeThink™ strategy. The primary focus is on prevention of illness and injury and, occasionally, topics of special interest may be included.

  • SafeThink™—The Why!  And The Need! 
  • Driving Safely
  • What's the worst thing that could happen?
  • SafeThink™—The Why! And The Need!

    Many people today are very concerned that a significant percentage of our citizens are killed and injured through incidents that are predictable and preventable. We certainly see the financial pressure— predictable and preventable injuries have a very significant financial impact on the Alberta health care system and on all other health jurisdictions in Canada. The personal price to family, friends, and co-workers is huge. And, of course, the personal price to the injured person with respect to the financial, emotional, and physical aspects of life are also huge. The need to prevent injury is evident. Injuries and deaths occur all too frequently, year after year. Some types of incidents steadily increase. Canada is a very dangerous country to work in! Ken Georgetti, president of the 3.2 million Canadian Labour Congress, stated in his April 2008 Day of Mourning talk:

    Canada, believe it or not, is one of the most dangerous places in the world to work. Since the start of this century, more than 7,500 men and women were killed because they went to work . . . That’s nearly 1,000 people every year. With a five-day workweek, three, sometimes four people die every day because of something that happened at work. Whether that something was an injury, an attack, a poisoning or a disease caused by a lack of protection from workplace pollutants – the result is the same.

    Alberta’s recent workplace deaths are: 

    Year 2006 2007 2008
    Alberta Workplace Deaths 124 154 166

    This is a 24% increase in Alberta Workplace deaths from 2006 to 2007 and a 34% increase in deaths from 2006 to 2008. A closer look at the details behind these deaths shows several deaths each year are due to asbestos, a workplace health hazard.

    In Alberta farm-related deaths (these are in addition to workplace deaths) we see:

    Year 2005 2006 2007 2008
    Alberta Farm Deaths 20 20 12 23

    The average number of Alberta farm deaths over the past 10 years is about 18 deaths per year with serious injuries in the 900 to 1,000 injuries a year range.

    In Alberta traffic in 2007, with respect to predictable and preventable deaths and injuries, we see:

    Traffic Deaths Traffic Injuries Traffic Collisions
    458 24,530 153,901

    One can imagine the huge cost to our health care system of 24,530 serious injuries a year, not to mention the huge grief and economic burden for families. And these are only the predictable and preventable injuries. From 2007 to 2008, the number of traffic collisions in Alberta rose to 158,055. This rise of 4,154 collisions from 2007 to 2008 further shows the disappointing upward direction in Alberta traffic collisions.

    Looking at Alberta traffic deaths during 2003 to 2007, we see a disturbing upward trend:

    Year 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 Five Year Total
    Traffic Deaths 385 387 466 453 458 2,149

    With respect to all Alberta injuries and deaths from predictable and preventable hazardous situations in 2006, we see:

    Deaths Hospital Admissions Emergency Dept. Visits
    1,727 51,280 433,129

    The point made by these facts is that there is a lot of room for improvement with respect to preventing incidents. Certainly all of us, young and old, have a responsibility to prevent injuries. We know that people can improve their abilities to be safer. The SafeThink program provides people with improved thinking skills to prevent injury. People learn to use a structured thinking strategy to identify and predict hazardous situations and related controls to keep themselves safe in the workplace, at home, on the road, and at play.

    The need for Albertans to learn new safety skills is clear. The lack of safety skills is a problem in our increasingly fast-paced and complex technology-oriented society. One of the groups we are currently working with to develop SafeThink is a provincial safety advisory committee. This committee has recommended that youth in occupational specializations be the first to develop their SafeThink skills, beginning with Alberta high school students. At Safethink, we support individuals and groups who are interested in helping our youth keep themselves safe.

    Source: Alberta Government

    SafeThink—The Why! And The Need! (pdf 139 Kb)

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    Driving Safely

    Does the work (your driving) involve objects, motion or force that could cause harm?

    This is one of the six SafeThink™ questions that can keep you safe while you are driving or doing tasks at home and work.

    If you answer “yes” to this question, then ask the following questions to identify and predict hazardous situations:

    • What type of harm does the object, motion, or force pose?

    • What conditions, actions, and events could cause the object, motion, or force to harm me?

    • What can I do to prevent being harmed by the object, motion, or force?

    Ask these questions to increase your ability to avoid the consequences of hazardous driving situations!

    Having answers to these questions will go a long way towards keeping you and those you love safe.

    Try SafeThink™ . . . it works. 

    Driving Safely (pdf 143 kb)

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    What's the worst thing that could happen?

    A few evenings ago as I was walking around our neighbourhood, I saw five children riding their bikes over a snow windrow which a city snowplow had piled up on one side of our street. The five children, three boys and two girls, were taking turns riding their bikes across the street and then, very slowly, up and over the windrow. Children on the windrow side of the street suggested to the rider the best place to try to cross. Just before starting across the windrow, the rider would ask: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” The other children would respond with suggestions like, “Your chain could get stuck in the snow as you go over the hill.”

    Because my work involves helping people learn to use questions to keep themselves and others safe, I was especially intrigued to hear these children repeatedly asking the question, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”

    I had to learn more! Where did these children get the idea that a rider should ask this question each time he or she approached the windrow? One of the boys explained they were trying to learn how to control their bikes so they “wouldn’t fall off their bikes at the slow speed” as they rode up one side of the windrow and down the other. The boy said that their teachers always asked questions and had told them that questions help students “learn better.” One of the girls volunteered that they had decided they could improve their bike riding skills if the rider always asked this question at the start of each ride.

    For these children, asking a question for learning was a great way not only to enhance their communication within the game but also to help them improve their riding skills and to keep themselves safe. I was impressed by how these children had transferred the importance of their teachers’ questions to their own play as a tool for learning. I have often seen my own grandchildren and their friends ask questions when they are playing “school” and I’ve concluded that asking and answering questions is a very natural way for children and adults to interact with their environment. This simple children’s game reinforced for me the importance and power of asking questions to keep oneself safe in many different situations throughout the day. And seeing the children’s game showed me that children can learn a question-based, lifelong critical thinking safety strategy at an early age!

    SafeThink™ is built on the foundation of asking questions . . . these children were practicing the essence of the SafeThink™ strategy!

    What's the worst thing that could happen? (pdf 16 Kb)

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