Healthy Living in the North

Safe driving: Expecting the unexpected every day of the year

Halloween decorations

The scary part about Halloween isn’t the ghosts and goblins, it’s that we might only be aware of pedestrian safety on this one day a year.

“Drive like it’s Halloween every night”

This was the name of the Parachute Canada & FedEx media release for Halloween safety in 2013. It is still a great message today.

In B.C., there are an average of 2,400 pedestrians injured and 58 killed in crashes every year. So while it’s a great reminder to be cautious on Halloween when we expect to see more children outside, safe driving is a habit, not a once a year trick-or-treat event. Safe driving is about expecting the unexpected on the other 364 days of the year.

Drivers every day, everywhere can:

  • Reduce distractions
  • Reduce speeds
  • Share the road

Children on Halloween night can:

  • Walk facing traffic
  • Walk down one side of the street then the other – don’t dart back and forth
  • Wear face paint instead of a mask

The scary part about Halloween isn’t the ghosts and goblins, it’s that we might only be aware of pedestrian safety on this one day a year.

Join Northern Health to make safe driving a habit. And this Halloween, make your costume stand out – dress to be seen both on and off the roads.

Amy Da Costa

About Amy Da Costa

Amy Da Costa has worked in Public Health for 12 years. She recently joined the Population Health team as a part-time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention. Amy lives in Kitimat with her husband and two children. They like to camp, swim, and cook as a family.

Share

A family’s plan to prevent drowning

Family in a canoe

Paddling is a fun northern activity for so many families in our region! When you are on, in, or near the water, be sure to wear a life-jacket!

July 17-23, 2016 is National Drowning Prevention Week. Parachute Canada has some important information that really frames this topic for me:

Did you know?

  • Children under 18 are at greatest risk of drowning in rivers, lakes, and ponds.
  • Boys are more likely to drown than girls.
  • Drowning can happen in an instant.

I want to encourage everyone to have a safe summer, but I know that talking to parents about safety can be tricky. It only takes media coverage of one injured child to spark all sorts of harsh judgements and criticisms of parents. Sometimes I wonder if what I write about childhood safety will be viewed as a criticism of things parents aren’t doing. I certainly hope not.

You see, I am also a parent of young children. I am not perfect, not even close. We have “close calls” or times when I feel we have come far too close to one of my children experiencing a preventable injury. Every day, I wonder if I am enough for my children. What I can tell you is that when I parent without support or help, I am in fact setting myself up for failure. No single person is meant to be enough or everything for our children. There is a reason we say “it takes a community.” It really does!

When it comes to water safety, the same is true. No single plan is enough.

Water injuries are predictable. There are many ways to reduce the risk of drowning.

  • Children need to swim within arms’ reach. Drowning is often silent. When kids get into trouble, they do not call, wave or signal; all of their energy is used just keeping their head above water. Visit the Lifesaving Society (BC & Yukon Branch) for more information.
  • Actively supervise all children around water. According to the Red Cross, the absence of effective adult supervision is a factor in 75 per cent of deaths by drowning for children under the age of 10. An older sibling is no substitute for parent supervision.
  • Wear a properly fitted life-jacket every single time kids are on a boat. Young children and weak swimmers should wear a life-jacket on, near, or in the water. Want to learn how to properly fit a life-jacket? SmartBoater.ca has you covered with great video tutorials!
  • Learn to swim. Learning to swim and play safely around water is a life skill in Canada. Enrol in swim lessons at the local pool.

This isn’t a menu of options, where you just pick one. These are multiple ways to protect children and prevent drowning that can all be used together. Even though I may teach my child to ask permission to enter the lake every time, there will always be the one time it gets forgotten. I will blink, look away, and get distracted countless times. Relying on many strategies or supports is not a sign of weakness, it is responsible parenting. And it drastically decreases the risks of incident for my children.

So, parents, you do not have to do it alone! Use whatever resources are available to make sure that water play is safe play!

Want a new tool to add to your water safety plan? Enter our Facebook contest for your chance to win a life-jacket!

Amy Da Costa

About Amy Da Costa

Amy Da Costa has worked in Public Health for 12 years. She recently joined the Population Health team as a part-time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention. Amy lives in Kitimat with her husband and two children. They like to camp, swim, and cook as a family.

Share

We all have a role to play in safety!

Looking for easy to understand information on keeping children safe?

The Parachute Canada website is not just for me to use in my work as an Injury Prevention Lead. It is for me as a parent, as an auntie, and as a community member! And it’s for you! When you have a few minutes, check it out! And what better time than Safe Kids Week?

Safety at home

As kids grow, the hazards change. Did you know that falls are the number one cause of injury in the home? Don’t let their first roll be off the change table. Get tips for safety at home!

Parachute Canada poster

Safety at play

When seasons change, the sport activity changes. Any jarring force to the body or head that causes the brain to knock against the skull can cause concussion. Would you know what to do? Get tips for safety at play!

Parachute Canada poster

Safety on the road

Always use the correct car seat or booster seat on every ride, even short trips close to home. When was the last time you checked to see if the seat you use is meeting the growing needs of your child? Get tips for safety on the road!

Parachute Canada poster

The Parachute Canada website is for everyone. We all have a role to play in safety!

Amy Da Costa

About Amy Da Costa

Amy Da Costa has worked in Public Health for 12 years. She recently joined the Population Health team as a part-time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention. Amy lives in Kitimat with her husband and two children. They like to camp, swim, and cook as a family.

Share

Preventing injuries at home, at play, and on the road: Safe Kids Week 2016

Safe Kids Week poster

The 20th anniversary of Safe Kids Week is all about preventing injuries at home, at play, and on the road!

The warm, sunny days of spring invite us to go outside. Playgrounds fill, bikes are dusted off, and road hockey games are happening in every neighborhood. I love the feeling of freedom that spring brings. As much as I enjoy winter activities, by the time the snow begins to melt, I am eager to hike in the woods on a warm dirt path rather than a frozen one!

This is what I’m thinking as I read the newly released Chief Medical Health Officer’s Health Status Report on Child Health by Northern Health’s Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Sandra Allison. Reading the report, I see my family reflected as part of the larger northern community: “Living in the North,” the report finds, “presents both amazing opportunities and complex challenges for children and families.” We have the great resource of wide open spaces along with some unique obstacles that we face as a region. As a northerner, I do feel connected to my environment and the opportunity that each season presents. I think of my kids, who particularly like counting the worms we come across in our garden!

With these new spring activities starting up again comes the risk of kids being injured as they explore the season. Falls from learning to ride a bike, an inviting lake that is too enticing to ignore, and the start of a new sport all have the potential of injury for a child. My family, like all families, works hard to keep everyone safe but the risk of injury is still present. Injuries are predictable and preventable. In my family, for example, we spend a lot of time teaching our children the rules of the road while cycling.

To help us all keep our kids safe, from May 30 – June 5, Parachute Canada is celebrating the 20th anniversary of Safe Kids Week. This celebration brings awareness to the risk of injury in childhood. Parachute’s Safe Kids Week will highlight ways to keep our kids safe:

  • At home (looking to prevent burns, poisoning, falls, and water injuries)
  • At play (looking to prevent concussions and sports & recreation injuries)
  • On the road (safety on bicycles, in motor vehicles, and as pedestrians)

Did you know that in Northern Health’s region, the leading causes of injury for children and youth are motor vehicle crashes and falls? As a mother of two, this is not just a statistic, but a reminder of the preventable risks to my own family. It’s also a call to action. Join me in celebrating Safe Kids Week in the North. Take some time to check out Parachute Canada’s Safe Kids Week 2016 website and create a way to get involved in your community.

Safe Kids Week banner

How can you prevent childhood injuries in your community?

Natasha Thorne

About Natasha Thorne

After many years in southern B.C., Natasha was drawn back to her hometown of Prince George in 2006 by the lure of extended family, sub-boreal forests, and raising her babes exploring the backwoods of her own childhood. Whether nose in a book or in real life, Natasha is an aspiring world traveller planning overseas vacations so she and her husband can give their two children a wider perspective of living in today's global community. As the full time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention for Northern Health, Natasha is committed to the north and is passionate about supporting the health and well-being of northerners.

Share

Back to school safety!

Young girl with backpack.

Northern Health staff member Bonnie’s daughter is very excited for her first day of school – are you and your kids ready to go back to school safely?

It’s that time of year when the hustle and bustle starts as we get our children off to school and back into routines! The moment the school doors open, the traffic increases, more pedestrians and cyclists hit the roads, children are excited, parents are adjusting to the new routine, and life just seems to quicken. With this increase in pace it is important to slow down and stay safe!

Here are some things to consider:

Traffic Safety

Does your child …

  • Cross at crosswalks or corners?
  • Look before crossing the street?
  • Know and follow traffic signals and rules?
  • Walk to and from school with a responsible person (until they are at least 8 years old)?
  • Make eye contact with the driver before crossing in front of a stopped car?
  • Know to stop and check for cars before crossing driveways, alleys and areas without curbs?
Young girl on school bus.

Does your child arrive at the bus stop early and stand back from the road while waiting? Shellie offers some great questions to ask yourself and your children as they get ready to go back to school!

Bus Safety

Does your child …

  • Arrive at the bus stop early and stand back from the road while waiting?
  • Make eye contact with the bus driver, take three giant steps ahead of the bus, and check for cars in all directions before crossing in front of the bus?
  • Wear bright or reflective clothing if they are walking to and from the bus in the dark?
  • Know what to do if they miss the bus (e.g., go back home, report to a teacher, etc. – but never accept a ride from a stranger)?

Car Safety

Does your child always …

  • Sit in a booster seat appropriate for their height and age?
  • Sit in the back seat until they are 12 years old?
  • Wear their seat belt low across their hips, not their stomach?
  • Wear a shoulder belt (when available) in the middle of their chest, not touching their neck?

Personal Safety

Does your child know …

  • Their full name, address and phone number in case of emergency?
  • The name and number of an emergency contact?
  • The numbers for fire, police and ambulance, or 911?
  • Not to accept rides or gifts from strangers?
  • To tell an adult if they or someone else was approached by a stranger?
  • That it is safer to play or walk with other children than to play or walk alone?
Child wearing backpack at school.

With all of the back-to-school excitement for students, teachers, and parents, it’s important to slow down and stay safe!

Bike Safety

Does your child …

  • Wear a helmet correctly every time they ride their bike?
  • Ride their bike in safe areas like biking trails or roads where the speed limit is lower and traffic is less busy?
  • Know how to check their brakes, make sure the seat is secured at the right height, and that the tires have enough air?

Bullying

Does your child know …

  • About bullying, both physical (hitting, kicking, shoving, tripping) and verbal (mean words, threats, gossiping, name-calling, leaving someone out)?
  • Not to fight back but to be assertive, look the bully in the eye, and tell him or her “I don’t like that, stop doing that,” and to walk away?
  • To tell a parent or adult if they or someone else is being bullied?

You are probably not expecting your child to be injured today. In the words of preventable.ca, “Have a word with yourself.”

Injuries are predictable and preventable. When your child leaves for school, the number one priority is to make sure they get home safe!


A version of this article was originally published in the August 2015 issue of A Healthier You magazine.

 

Shellie O'Brien

About Shellie O'Brien

Shellie is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team with a passion for health and wellness. She enjoys the outdoors, animals, recreational dogsledding, reading, and healthy living. When not at work, she can be found on her rural property with her family of happy, healthy huskies.

Share

Thinking about kids’ safety

Graphic that reads: helmets reduce the risk of severe brain injuries by up to 80%

Each year in Canada, preventable injuries cause 13,000 deaths, 60,000 disabilities and 3 million emergency room visits. Safe Kids Week is a great chance to ask ourselves what we can do to lower those numbers and prevent tragic injuries and death.

“Let’s be careful out there.” This mantra, going back to the 1980s police drama Hill Street Blues, resonates to this day. Consider that preventable injuries kill more Canadian children than any single disease and kill more youth than all other causes combined. Each year in Canada, preventable injuries cause 13,000 deaths, 60,000 disabilities and 3 million emergency room visits.

These figures come from Parachute, a national non-profit organization that describes itself as dedicated to preventing injury and saving lives through education and advocacy. It is also behind Safe Kids Week, which kicks off today and runs from May 4-10. This annual event strives to make us more aware of the frequency and severity of preventable childhood injuries. This year’s theme focuses on cycling and road safety.

Staying safe is an important message to communicate with children. What better way than to start with parents who are role models who influence the behaviours of their children. After all, why wear a helmet on the bike when mom doesn’t? Why stop at intersections if dad seems to just roll through?

There are a number of messages and recommendations aligned with the message of Safe Kids Week, starting with protecting your head. Wear a helmet! It should fit properly and be worn as designed because that protection cuts the risk of serious head injury by up to 80%!

Bikes should fit the kid. Make sure that your child’s bike is the right size for them, that the tires are properly inflated and the brakes work as intended. This is a great way to involve children in maintenance and awareness and it’s fun for them, too. It also helps if your child knows about the rules of the road and understands bicycle safety. Even a four-year-old can learn to stop and look before crossing a road and know to gear up before riding (even if they’re too young to be crossing the road alone).

Parent with a helmet adjusting their child's helmet. Text reads: Be a good "roll" model.

How can you be a good role model for kids? Do you wear a helmet? Obey the rules of the road?

Part of knowing the rules of the road includes knowing to ride on the right side, in the same direction as traffic, but also to stay as far right as possible. And kids should have a bell to announce their presence, especially when they are passing.

Though not a focus of the Parachute Safe Kids Week this year, we also include trampolines for special attention. A recent study by the BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit of children admitted to BC Children’s Hospital found trampoline-related injuries occurred at a rate of 14.1 per 1,000 cases treated at BC Children’s Hospital emergency department (no other hospital was tracked).

Of the injuries identified as trampoline-related, fractures were the most common, followed by bruises and abrasions and sprains. The most likely points of injury were the ankle, elbow and head.

Sure, trampolines can be dangerous, but we realize they are also a lot of fun. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid injury. Safety increases with smart use: limit trampolines to one person at a time; don’t jump onto or off of the trampoline; avoid flips and somersaults which can lead to over-extension of the cervical spine. Active adult supervision is also important.

Summer is a great time to be a kid and helping them to be safe can mean that it will all be fun and games!

Shellie O'Brien

About Shellie O'Brien

Shellie is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team with a passion for health and wellness. She enjoys the outdoors, animals, recreational dogsledding, reading, and healthy living. When not at work, she can be found on her rural property with her family of happy, healthy huskies.

Share

Refusing unsafe work

I was doing a quick Google search, hoping to come up with an interesting link or webpage that put an informative but fun spin on how being safe and healthy during our personal time affects whether we’re safe and healthy at work. After several strike outs, something caught my eye…a link to a page that was titled “Refusing Unsafe Work.”

Which got me thinking…about the irony of it all!

There are laws and policies in place that give us, as workers, the right to refuse unsafe work, and those rights are protected fiercely. And yet, so often when we go home from work, we engage in any number of activities without even thinking about how safe they are, and we’re certainly not concerned about whether or not we have the ‘right to refuse’ to do them.

It’s like there is this weird mentality shift…somehow, when we’re at work, it’s the employer’s job to keep us safe, yet when we’re at home, it’s our job. But if that’s the case, then why aren’t we ‘refusing to engage’ in unsafe practices? Why are we, as a society, still drinking and driving? Not wearing helmets when we’re off-road quadding? Drinking alcohol and not wearing life jackets while boating with friends? Can you imagine the kerfuffle if ANY of that occurred while we were on the job? And the outrage at our employer because they had shirked their responsibility to keep us safe at work?

Oh but wait…I can almost hear you saying, ‘yeah, but that won’t happen to me.’ Wanna bet? It happens to people like you every minute of every day, throughout BC and even more here in the north. So, in the words of preventable.ca

20130917LHewitt-InjuryPrevention1

At the end of the day, it’s pretty simple. If you keep yourself safe at work, you’ll be better able to spend quality time with your family when you go home. If you keep yourself safe at home, you’ll be better able to go to work and spend time with your co-workers and colleagues, doing an excellent job at whatever you do.

The moral of the story? Stay safe, your workplace needs you; but more importantly, stay safe, your family and friends need you!

Lynette Hewitt

About Lynette Hewitt

Lynette Hewitt works in Fort St. John as an Injury Prevention Coordinator for Northern Health. After receiving a BScN from UNBC, Lynette traveled a bit, then returned to her hometown of Fort St. John where she worked in med/surg, public health nursing, and home nursing care before settling into her current role. When not at work, she is trying to keep up with life as a busy wife and mom, which may or may not include time for snowshoeing, hiking, biking, camping, fishing, geocaching and, for a few short months, gardening!

Share