Tuesday, May 6, 2008

  • 36 injuries led to days off work
  • Student leaves tomorrow for Ghana
  • Other notes under a springtime sun
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs
  • bulletin@uwaterloo.ca

36 injuries led to days off work

Slips and trips, burns, repetitive strains and bumps from heavy objects accounted for 373 injuries to UW staff and faculty members last year, though only 36 of the incidents were serious enough that somebody had to take days off work. The figures come from the annual injury report issued by UW’s safety office, which is responsible for submitting data to the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and letting the campus know how UW’s record looks.

“The number of lost-time injuries in 2007 (36) was more than 2006 (32),” writes safety director Kevin Stewart. But he points out that over several years, the “frequency rate” of injuries has been “fairly stable”. Under the WSIB’s system, the rate is measured as the number of injuries for each 200,000 hours worked by employees. UW’s score over the past five years has ranged from 0.47 to 0.62.

A second measure used by the WSIB is the “severity rate” of injuries, which counts not just how many people were hurt but how long they had to be off work as a result. The severity rate for UW stood at 36 four years ago and has now risen to 51, largely because of staff members who were hurt on the job in previous years and never did return to work, so that the lost days continue to accumulate.

More recently, says Stewart, UW has been putting effort into a “return-to-work accommodation” program that encourages injured workers to come back as soon as they can, perhaps working part-time or taking a different, less strenuous job. The severity rate “will start to decline”, he predicts, “as UW starts to benefit from the return-to-work changes in the longer term.”

He also notes that UW’s data shows significantly higher frequency and severity rates of injury than the average for the WSIB’s “Rate Group 817”, including colleges, schools, museums and other institutions. Typically, such organizations have few on-the-job injuries, and group 817 pays one of the lowest WSIB premium rates, just 34 cents for each $100 on the payroll. UW enjoyed a financial break worth some $200,000 a year when it was moved into the low-injury, low-premium 817 group seven years ago.

“However,” he says, “Ontario universities in general have the highest frequency and severity” among employers in group 817, and “UW, within Ontario universities, tends to have proportionally more employees in higher-risk areas, such as food operations and custodial, as some universities contract these services out.”

Sure enough, a chart in the injury report shows that 71 of last year’s 373 injuries were associated with “housekeeping and custodial service” and 66 with food services. However, the most dangerous activity of all on the UW campus apparently was “walking”, with 100 injuries reported during 2007 (up from 57 in 2006).

Injuries can happen anywhere — 34 were reported during clerical and office work, 16 from laboratories, 14 from shops, 2 from classrooms. And while “slips and trips” ranked first in the kind of injury, other categories that turn up in the report include needle sticks, insect and animal bits, motor vehicle accidents and even two assaults.

The injury report concentrates on employees, the group that the WSIB is concerned with. A brief note indicates that in addition, there were 56 known “student and visitor” injuries during 2007. Stewart says most such incidents probably aren’t reported to the safety office.

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Student leaves tomorrow for Ghana

from a memo sent out last week by civil engineering student Sam van Berkel

I'm departing for Ghana on May 7. Ghana is a developing country in West Africa of about 20 million people. I'm going to be there for three and a half months as a Junior Fellow volunteer with Engineers Without Borders Canada. I've been involved with the University of Waterloo Chapter of EWB as a director, as a vice-president and now as an overseas volunteer. I'm incredibly excited about the experiences that await and would like to share them with those who are interested. If this sounds like you, be sure to bookmark my blog and check back often.

I will be living and volunteering in the Tolon-Kombungu District of Northern Ghana, 45 minutes outside the city of Tamale. When not spending time with my host community I will be volunteering with the Ghanaian Ministry of Food and Agriculture at one of their district offices.

Although the EWB and the Ministry are involved with a variety of different crops, the majority of my time in Ghana will be spent working with rice. There are three specific projects I will likely be focusing on. Nilrifacu (Northern Region Intensive Lowland Rice Cooperatives Union) is a farmer group that is about three years old. I will be helping them gain computer skills, develop a rice packaging, labeling and inventory system, establish a selling point in the market and generally be better organized and function more effectively. Nerica (New Rice for Africa) is a project of the African Development Bank which seeks to introduce a new variety of rice that can be grown upland (no need for the intensive water of lowland varieties). And the Eat Ghana Rice Campaign is a behavior change campaign. Ghanaians eat a lot of rice. A Ghanaian-Canadian I interviewed described Ghana as "more Asian than African". The current social trend is to buy imported rice because it is whiter, free of imperfections and generally perceived as higher quality. Unfortunately, imported rice is not only less healthy than Ghanaian rice, but does not support the Ghanaian economy. I will be helping partner with market women, restaurants, schools, and other groups to promote the positive aspects of eating local rice.

While I recognize the incredible difficulties associated with creating measurable change in four months, I also feel that unless what I do overseas is directly useful for the Ghanaian people, I am not justified in being there (at least not in the name of development). I hope to bring the following characteristics to the projects mentioned above: Knowledge of development theory, leadership and management techniques, and behavior change and social marketing; skills in information technology and management, giving and receiving feedback, and communicating with a western audience; attitude learned through use of the scientific method as it relates to rigorous analysis, methodology and documentation, as well as a concentrated drive and determination for success.

I want to inform Canadians about Ghana and the challenges facing people in developing countries. In contrast to having impact overseas, I think the opportunities to have impact in Canada are broad and limited only by my own efforts. I hope to share my experience with as many people as possible and to use the interest it generates to get people thinking about their own roles in promoting human development. I want to see more of my friends and family buying fair trade products; I want to see the government move closer to untying Canadian aid so that it goes to fighting the real causes of poverty rather than subsidizing Canadian industry; and I want to see an end to unfair trade policies that force developing countries to remain resource intensive economies rather than developing value-added industry.

My intention is not to "save" the Ghanaian people, nor do I believe they need saving. On the contrary, I expect the vast majority of progress in reducing poverty in Ghana has come from Ghanaians themselves and will continue to do so. I also recognize the destructive legacy left to developing countries by western policies of colonialism, failed structural adjustment programs and forced trade liberalization. This being said, I still feel that westerners can have a positive role to play in development. I also think that bringing people together from different parts of the world, particularly north and south, is essential. Until Canadians have a better understanding of what it means to be Ghanaian and vice versa, progress on international issues will always be limited.

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Other notes under a springtime sun

If you think things are busy and congested now at the site of the new Accounting and Finance wing, north of the Humanities building, just wait till tomorrow. The enormous chiller units that will sit under the building are scheduled to arrive after lunch tomorrow, and unloading with the aid of a large crane is expected to last until some time Thursday. “There may be some obstruction to the parking bay on the ring road and general access to the top end of Hagey Hall,” warns Don Haffner of the plant operations department.

At the Graduate Student Research Conference held at the end of April, scores of students showed off their research in oral papers or posters, and six of them received awards. Winners’ names were announced at the end of the conference, and here they are. In the “health, life and environment” category, best poster award went to Steven Denniss (kinesiology) and best oral presentation award to Erin Skinner (psychology). In “humanities and social sciences”, the best poster came from Gabriel Li (architecture) and the best oral presentation from Meyyappan Narayanan (management sciences). And in “physical science, math and technology”, best poster winner was Arvind Dorai (systems design engineering) and best oral presentation winner was Douglas Stebila (combinatorics and optimization).

[Students at Uganda's desk] Psychology student Vivian Li, who’s active in the student Foreign Affairs Society, reports that 13 delegates from that group went to New York in late April, took part in the National Model United Nations Conference, and brought home an Honourable Mention for overall performance. More than 150 colleges and universities from all over the world participated in a 4-day simulation of multiple United Nations committees, authentic enough that it was allowed to use the actual General Assembly hall at UN headquarters (left). The UW squad represented Uganda and met with the Ugandan permanent mission to the United Nations, ambassador Adonia Ayebare. Political science and history student Andrew Poon received an "Outstanding Delegate" award for his performance in a "Special Court for Sierra Leone" simulation.

“Under the B, it's bingo time again!” writes Karen Dubois of the dean of engineering office. “Engineering's bingo is once again raising money for the United Way.” It's easy to play, she says: e-mail her (kldubois@uwaterloo.ca) to buy one card for $2 or three for $5. The game began yesterday, with three numbers drawn each day and e-mailed to participants. “At the same time,” Dubois adds, “you can play Survivor Bingo — ideal for people who don't want to check winning numbers each day. Both bingos are open to all bingo aficionados including staff, students, faculty and people outside the university.” Details about how to “call Bingo to make some cold, hard cash and, at the same time, help support the United Way” are online.

And . . . a note in the Daily Bulletin a few weeks ago, to the effect that the UW Child Care Committee was doing a survey of needs and attitudes, has brought “an amazing response” from more than 300 people, says the chair of the committee, biology professor Kirsten Müller. “We are coming to the end and will begin analyzing the results,” she writes, and she’s offering a final chance for people to answer the survey before that phase of the work starts. There are separate online starting points for individuals who currently have children and those who don’t.


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[The chicken and the egg]

Eggs-iting news is on hand: "Food Services is proud," writes marketing coordinator Heather Kelly, "to start serving free-run eggs. We'll be cracking those free-run eggs in Mudie's and ML's Coffee Shop (and at REVelation when they reopen for the fall term). A proposal was presented to the Food Services Advisory Board by the UW Vegetarians group and the decision was made to bring this initiative to our campus."

Link of the day

Childhood Depression Awareness Day

When and where

Cisco ‘careers and certifications’ open house 10:00 to 2:00, Davis Centre rooms 1301 and 1304, details online.

Centre for Family Business, based at Conrad Grebel University College, one-day workshop on “Coaching for Success”, Wednesday, details online.

President David Johnston Run for Health (3rd annual), Wednesday 4:30 p.m., 5-km run or 2.5-km walk around ring road, relay teams welcome, registration free, details online.

Columbia Lake Health Club lunch-and-learn session: “10 Ways to Lose 10 Pounds” Wednesday 5:30, boardroom at TechTown, 340 Hagey Boulevard.

Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics lecture: Gerard ’t Hooft, Utrecht University, Netherlands, “Science Fiction and Reality”, Wednesday 7:00 p.m., Waterloo Collegiate Institute, ticket information 519-883-4480.

Pension and benefits committee Thursday 8:30 to 12:00, Needles Hall room 3004.

Surplus sale of UW equipment at central stores, East Campus Hall, Thursday 12:30 to 2:00 p.m.

Math alumni reception at Ontario Association of Mathematics Educators convention, Thursday 5:00, Sheraton Parkway North, Richmond Hill.

Warriors Band practice (new members welcome) Thursday 5:30 to 6:30, Physical Activities Complex room 2012.

Last day to add a spring term course: May 9 (distance education), May 16 (on campus).

Graduate Student Leisure Research Symposium (16th annual) Friday, Lyle Hallman Institute auditorium, details online.

Leadership expert and author Robin Sharma speaks at Wilfrid Laurier University, Friday 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., Theatre Auditorium, tickets $40 online.

Carousel Dance Centre spring performance, “The Wizard of Oz”, May 9-11, Humanities Theatre, details online.

Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery presents Wilhelm Nassau, formerly of Wilfrid Laurier University, “The History of Ceramics”, Friday 4:30, 25 Caroline Street North, admission $5; to be followed by “The History of Glass” May 30.

CBC radio broadcasts the Wintermeyer Lecture by UW dean of arts Ken Coates, “Losing the Arctic? The Role of the North in Canada’s Future”, given in November at St. Jerome’s University, Friday 9:05 p.m. on Radio One.

Going Green workshop series sponsored by Grand House student co-op: “Natural Landscaping” May 10, “Cob Building” May 17, details online.

Spin-a-thon to support Sears National Kids Cancer Ride, Saturday, May 10, Columbia Lake Health Club, 340 Hagey Boulevard, information online.

Da Capo Chamber Choir, based at Conrad Grebel University College, concert “Three Reaching Beyond”, including premiere of “Moonset” by Jeff Enns, Saturday, May 10, 8:00 p.m., St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, Kitchener, tickets $20 (students and seniors $15).

Mother’s Day brunch at University Club Sunday, May 11, 11:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., $24.95 per person, reservations ext. 33801.

Fiscal year end for 2007-08: deadline for accounting transactions before April 30, 2008, to be submitted to finance office, East Campus Hall, is May 12.

Learning about Teaching annual symposium May 12-14, details online, including Presidents’ Colloquium Monday May 12, 2:00, Humanities Theatre: Marilla Svinicki, University of Texas at Austin, “Changing Students’ Attitudes about Who’s Responsible for Learning,” reception follows, all welcome.

Spring Gardening ‘tips and tales’ with David Hobson, local garden columnist, presented by Employee Assistance Program, Thursday, May 15, 12:00 noon, Davis Centre room 1302.

John Bullen, university secretariat, retirement open house Thursday, May 22, 4:00 to 6:00, University Club, RSVP ext. 32749.

You @ Waterloo Day open house for students considering offers of admission from UW, Saturday, May 24, displays and booths in Student Life Centre 10:00 to 2:00.

Symposium on GPU and CELL computing hosted by Sharcnet, Tuesday, May 27, information online.

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