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As a Canadian immigrating to Norway, I have a basic understanding of how other immigrants have to adapt to their new environment. Yet, as an English-speaking North-American I lack insights into many of the problems that people from developing countries, speaking non-European languages, and writing with non-Latin alphabets, have to cope with.

While I can’t do much to help local immigrants learn to speak or write Norwegian, despite these being important tools that allow for a better integration into the community, I can encourage immigrants to acquire skills in areas that will enhance their ability to obtain work, or start their own businesses. These are:

  1. Health, Environment and Safety, with an emphasis on workplace safety, human factors and ergonomics.
  2. Mechatronics, with an emphasis on basic electronics and programming.
  3. Entrepreneurship, with an emphasis on disruptive innovation.
Laura Knight 1943 Ruby Loftus screwing a Breech-ring
Laura Knight 1943 Ruby Loftus screwing a Breech-ring Ruby is not using eye or hearing protection, and her hair net does not keep all her hair in place.

YouTube is a great place for learning new skills. Unfortunately, there is no certification available with their videos to state that health, environmental and safety practices conform with best practices. For example, a large number of woodworking videos involve people working with inadequate hearing and eye protection.

So, the first piece of advice is to gain a basic understanding of workplace safety, human factors and ergonomics before one learns about other skill sets. A good place to begin is with Wikipedia:

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, also has valuable insights:

Despite the following video being made in 2015, and despite my mixed feeling about Volkswagen, this short video shows the direction ergonomics is heading:

The second piece of advice is that mechatronics is an area with considerable growth potential. Because it is so complex, it is difficult to know where to start. Here my advice is to learn elementary electronics and programming with an Arduino. As a teacher, I actively used Jeremy Blum’s Arduino videos:

The third piece of advice requires people to relate to disruptive innovation. This is explained in Clayton Christensen’s book, The Innovator’s Dilemma. It is also explained in numerous YouTube videos, including this one:



Ethan & Ethel 01: Personal Safety Equipment

Welcome to the Unit One Work Space, Ethan & Ethel. Here, everyone is required to wear appropriate clothing and safety equipment.

A lot of information about personal protective clothing and equipment is available from WorkSafeBC:

Unit One uses the regulations here as guidelines for setting its own policy. Sometimes the rules are even stricter than those the government requires.

Identity Cards and Patches

At Unit One, everyone is issued an identity card. This contains a lot of information that could be needed in acute situations. For example, it lists name, birth date, blood type (if known), current medications, chronic medical conditions, allergies, personal contact information, and contact information in case of an emergency.

While this information is also stored in an encrypted format in the Unit One database, it is important to have this information physically available. Computers don’t always work.

Unit One Billi Sodd
Birthdate: 1950-01-01
Medications: Insulin
Allergies: none
Blood Type: O
Emergency Contact: Ivan Sodd 604-527-4660

The ID card also lists courses you have taken such as first aid and hot work, as well as the machines your are qualified to use.



Expiry Date

First Aid Basic 2019-01-01
Hot Work Basic 2020-01-01
Table Saw Supervisor 2020-01-01
Mitre Saw Supervisor 2020-01-01
Band Saw Supervisor 2020-01-01
Planer Basic 2025-01-01
Router Basic 2025-01-01
CNC Lathe; Mill 2025-01-01
Electronics DC; AC 2050-01-01
3D printer Basic 2050-01-01
Laser cutter None

A Unit One ID patch is available to sew onto work jackets. This includes the Unit One logo, and your name. Its colour indicates your work status: orange – novice, must work under supervision; yellow – qualified, allowed to work without supervision; white – supervisor, allowed to train and supervise other people; blue – member of the board of directors.


Personal clothing must be of a type and in a condition which will not expose the worker to any unnecessary or avoidable hazards. First of all, this means that no dresses or skirts are allowed, girls. This is because trousers are safer to work in. Because there is a danger of contact with moving parts of machinery or with electrically energized equipment, clothing must fit closely about the body,

Everyone at Unit One wears trousers. This model includes space for knee protection. (photo: Jula)

Neckwear, bracelets, wristwatches, rings or similar articles may not be worn, except for medical alert bracelets. Similarly cranial (that means head) and facial hair must be confined, or worn at a length which will prevent it from being snagged or caught in the work process.

Everyone at Unit One must have suitable gloves to protect hands from abrasion, chemical or other injury.

Flame resistant clothing must be worn when performing hot work, including welding.


Unit One provides safety headgear in situations where there is a danger of head injury. Our headgear is colour coded (see above).

Orange headgear, worn when needed. The orange colour indicates that the person wearing it is a novice who can work only under supervision. (photo: Jula)

Eyewear & face protection

Properly fitting safety eyewear must be worn if one is handling or exposed to materials which are likely to injure or irritate the eyes. In some cases these must be fitted with sideshields.

safety glasses
Eye Protection (photo: Jula)

If there is a risk of face injury, suitable face protection must be worn.


Footwear must be of a design, construction, and material appropriate to the protection required. The following factors must be considered: slipping; tripping; uneven terrain; abrasion; ankle protection and foot support; potential for musculoskeletal injury; crushing potential; temperature extremes; corrosive substances; puncture hazards; electrical shock; any other recognizable hazard.

Hearing protection

While we have a supply of ear plugs at Unit One, we encourage people to use ear muffs. These offer less noise-reduction variability among users, are designed so that one size fits most head sizes, are not easily misplaced or lost, and may be worn with minor ear infections. However, they are less portable and heavier than ear plugs, may be less convenient for use with other personal protective equipment, may be less comfortable with hot work, and may interfere with the wearing of safety glasses because wearing glasses breaks the seal between the ear muff and the skin, resulting in decreased hearing protection.

ear muffs
Ear Muffs (photo: Jula)

Respirators and face masks

We typically use non-powered, air purifying half facepieces with sorbent cartridges when working with organic solvents. If dust is the issue, we use face masks.

Respirator used when working with organic solvents. (photo: Jula)

First Aid kit

At the entrance to Unit One there is a first aid kit that contains most items that should be used to treat minor injuries. This kit is never locked, and is accessible to everyone.

first aid kit
This is the first aid kit we have at Unit One. The lock has been disabled so that anyone can access it. (photo: Jula)

Fire extinguishers

Unit One is equipped with two fire extinguishers, suitable for all types of fires. These are located at opposite ends of the workshop.

fire extinguisher
Unit One is equipped with two fire extinguishers, one each at either end of the workshop. (photo: Jula)

Next time, we will be focusing on air quality management.