Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Friday, May 09, 2014

Occupational Safety

"It was ... seven people that were working in a group area and she was attacked by this bear out of that group and dragged off." 
"People tried to stop it and do everything they could. Obviously they are fairly horrified at what they saw and witnessed."
"We need to be part of the investigation and review what took place there. If there needs to be a revision or some additional procedures and policies in place to ensure the safety of workers from wildlife attacks, we are definitely going to do that."
Scott Doherty, union spokesman, Unifor

"They should always carry accessible bear spray with them. Our studies have shown bear spray to be 80 to 90 percent effective in all sorts of different circumstances with black bears and grizzly bears."
Professor Stephen Herrero, Bear expert, University of Calgary
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh File   A black bear forages for food in Jasper National Park, Alta., Wednesday, May 7, 2014. 
Alberta Environment statistics reveal over 40,000 black bears present in the province. They are part of the larger biosphere, creatures of the wild, of the forest, and they are fearsome predators as carnivores. A black bear can weigh up to 200 kilograms. It is a formidable beast. No human being, nor group of people can hope to persuade a bad-tempered, famished animal of that size fresh out of hibernation, from feeding itself.

Suncor employee Lorna Weafer, 36 years old, was performing electrical work at a job site near Fort McMurray as an instrument technician. There were other employees nearby, some six in total. The bear, for whatever reason, selected the young woman. All were working in an industrial area, none were carrying bear spray. They had with them air horns and used them on the theory that loud noise would distract and frighten the bear and lead it to leave its prey. It did not.

Although fatal encounters with bears are rare, they do tend to happen occasionally in such natural areas. There is always a generalized understanding that such beasts may be lurking somewhere close, and people try to be aware, and both proactive and reactive. Bear spray might have helped in this situation. A Suncor spokesperson said that employees working in the bush do carry bear spray, but not staff in busy industrial areas where they least expect such an attack.

Employees are trained to be alert to the possible presence of bears, and to report any they may sight. "I can confirm that an air horn was sounded and workers immediately came and tried to intervene. Despite their efforts, our employee was unable to be saved", explained Sneh Seetal.

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