Health and Safety ReportVolume 3, Issue 6 - June 2005

In the News

Catching Some Rays? Practice Sun Safety!print this article

Hello Canada, and welcome to summer! The good times are here - working while working on your tan, lazy weekends by the pool, even Canada Day festivities - and with them, the big, bright sun that seems so rare and precious here in the great white north. Not so fast. As promoters of safety, it is our duty to remind you of the danger in soaking up those sunny rays.

People who work in the outdoors might have what appears to be a healthy glow, but they are exposed to a very real occupational hazard: the sun's ultraviolet rays. Lifeguards, summer camp councillors, agricultural workers, landscapers, construction workers, fishermen, open-pit miners, and anyone else who works in the outdoors should avoid sun exposure and wear sun protection.



Minimizing the risk

Avoid unnecessary exposure to the sun, especially to the intense midday rays between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. If you can, plan outdoor work for early morning or late afternoon, and work in the shade as much as possible.

Keep in mind that clouds don't necessarily protect you, and that 10 to 85 percent of the sun's UV rays can reflect from water, white sand, concrete, or even snow and ice. Skin and eyes may require extra protection against these indirect, reflected rays.

The ideal protective apparel to reduce sun exposure is close-weave, light-coloured fabric, with long sleeves and full-length pants or skirts. Loose-fitting, cotton fabrics are comfortable and cool, allowing sweat to evaporate. Protect your eyes with sunglasses that are UV rated. And don't forget about your head. A wide brimmed hat or "Foreign Legion" style cap with flaps to protect neck and ears, offers the most protection.

As for sunscreens, they should be applied to skin that is not covered in addition to, not instead of, working in shade and wearing suitable clothing, hats, and sunglasses. Sunscreens are not intended to extend the exposure time to sunlight, but rather to reduce the effects of sunlight when you must be in the sun. Apply sunscreen 20 or 30 minutes before you are exposed to the sun and when applying, wipe it generously onto the skin, rather than rubbing it in. Your sunscreen should block both UV-B and UV-A and have a SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15 or more. Be sure to reapply it every two hours or after swimming or exercising.

Skin Cancer Alert: Keep a Regular Check on Moles and Freckles

It's important to check your skin every few months for irregularities such as moles, especially in those areas that are most often exposed to the sun. See a doctor if you have unusual skin conditions that don't heal in four weeks, sore ulcers or a scaly patch on the skin, a white patch on the lips that doesn't heal, or moles that grow quickly, change shape or colour, or bleed repeatedly. Get medical care for anything that looks suspicious rather than wait until the problem becomes untreatable.

Most often, skin cancer is the result of overexposure to the sun. UV rays cause skin cancer by creating changes in the cells of the skin. Tans and sunburns are both signs that UV rays have damaged the skin. Burns and skin damage can occur quickly and stay with you for life. At the same time, skin cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer. By practising these simple precautions you can make the most of summer and reduce the risk.

More Information:

OSH Answers

CCOHS Groundskeepers Safety Guide

Probing the sun’s rays for skin cancer links - Canadian Cancer Society

Hazard Alerts

Return of the Pest print this article

Mosquito season is upon us. The Public Health Agency of Canada is reminding Canadians to take preventative measures to protect themselves from West Nile Virus.

There were 26 reported human cases last year, a significant drop from the 1,494 reported in 2003. However the decrease was possibly due in part to the unseasonably cool and wet spring and summer we had. This year is shaping up to be hotter, so the risk for contracting West Nile Virus still exists, the agency cautions.

West Nile Virus is spread by mosquitoes that have fed on the blood of infected birds. Depending on a person's general state of health, symptoms of the virus generally range from none at all, to mild flu-like symptoms (fever, headache and body ache). The risk is more serious in older people or people with chronic disease and weakened immune systems, who may experience health complications such as encephalitis, meningitis and other kinds of neurological, potentially long-term illness. Currently there is no specific treatment or vaccine for West Nile Virus.

The simplest and most effective way to reduce the risk is to avoid mosquito bites. Since mosquitoes breed in stagnant water, Canadians are advised to regularly drain the water in areas such as bird baths and eaves troughs, and to remove old tires, buckets, or other items where water may collect.

If you hear of a case of West Nile in your area, the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends the following precautions:



  • Make sure your door and window screens have no holes, and that they fit tightly.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and a hat.
  • Wear light coloured clothing - mosquitoes prefer dark colours.
  • Choose an insect repellant that contains DEET or other approved ingredients, and follow the product directions carefully.


The risk of infection from West Nile Virus starts in mid-April and lasts until the first hard frost in late October.

For further information, Canadians can call 1-800-816-7292.

Additional online resources:

Read the alert.

CCOHS OSH Answers

Public Health Agency of Canada

Health Canada

OSH Answers

Handyman's Special: Safety Tips for Using Hammers, Saws, and Other Hand Toolsprint this article

Sometimes, big hazards come in small packages. While hammers and saws may not be the largest equipment used in the workplace, improper use of these and other hand tools is a common cause of injury. Below are a few tips that will make the task easier and keep you safe.



Tool maintenance is important. Keep tools in good condition. Inspect them for defects before use, and replace or repair any defective tools or parts, such as worn jaws on wrenches, pipe tools and pliers. Make sure that the handles on axes, hammers, or other tools fit tightly. Keep cutting tools sharp. Keep all tools clean and dry, and store them properly after each use.



Know when to discard a tool. For example, a hammer with mushroomed or chipped face, or with cracks in the claw or eye sections, is a hazard that should be thrown out!



Choose the right tool. It's always important to select the right tool for the job, according to manufacturers' directions. Substitutes increase the chance of having an accident. It would be unsafe and ineffective, for example, to use a slot screw driver as a chisel, or to use a wrench as a hammer.



Ergonomically, a good general rule is to use tools designed to allow the wrist to stay straight. Avoid using hand tools with your wrist bent. A saw handle, for example, should keep the wrist in a natural position in the horizontal plane.



Wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Wear safety glasses, goggles or face shield and well-fitting gloves appropriate for the hazards to which you may be exposed on the job.



Practice good housekeeping. Clutter causes accidents. Keep the work environment clean and tidy.
Know the safe way to handle tools. Anyone who uses hand tools should be properly trained in which tools to use for which application, and how to use tools safely.



The "hand tools" section of OSH Answers outlines safe work practices such as these:


  • Do not carry tools in a way that interferes with using both hands on a ladder, while climbing on a structure, or when doing any hazardous work. If working on a ladder or scaffold, tools should be raised and lowered using a bucket and hand line.
  • Pull on a wrench or pliers. Never push unless you hold the tool with your palm open.
  • Point sharp tools (e.g., saws, chisels, knives) laying on benches away from aisles and handles should not extend over the edge of the bench top.
  • When using a saw, make sure the teeth and blades are properly set. Apply pressure on down stroke only. Hold stock being cut firmly in place. Use a helper, a supporting bench or vise to support long stock if required.
  • When using a hammer, look behind and above you before swinging. Watch the object you are hitting, and strike the blow squarely with the striking face parallel to the surface being struck. Always avoid glancing blows and over and under strikes (hammers with bevelled faces are less likely to chip or spall).


Read OSH Answers for detailed tips on the safe use of hand tools.

Partner News

Safety is a Universal Language: Signs of the Timesprint this article

A manufacturing plant in Manitoba recently unveiled a series of pictorial signs designed to help reduce the number of workplace injuries involving English-as-a-second-language (ESL) or literacy-challenged workers.

The six signs clearly depict safety procedures, such as how to properly lift a heavy object or the proper way to position your hands when typing on a computer. The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) organized and funded the project, with the help of a $36,000 grant from the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba.

The CME estimates 35 to 40 per cent of shop floor workers in the province's manufacturing plants are ESL or literacy challenged, and that about 25,000 Manitoba workers could directly benefit from the safety-signs project.

"We had been hearing from several of our members that it is difficult to train their workers in workplace safety if they don't fully understand English," said Doug May, advanced manufacturing co-ordinator for the Manitoba division of the CME.

The idea of using pictorial signs came from one of the province's largest manufacturers -- Winnipeg-based Palliser Furniture. Some of Palliser's employees, including Uwe Betzing, a senior designer in the company's marketing department, also played a key role in designing the signs. The unveiling of the signs took place at Palliser's manufacturing plant in May.

Palliser will also be the first company to test the effectiveness of the signs. ESL workers will have an opportunity to recommend any changes that should be made.

"We have people from 70 different countries who speak 40 different languages in our operations," said Paul Gibson, Palliser's vice-president of corporate human resources. "So we really wanted to make our health and safety communications as clear as could be."

Before approval of a final design, the signs will also be tested at several other manufacturing plants. The goal is to produce 24,000 signs and distribute them free of charge to CME members in Manitoba, or to non-CME members for a shipping and handling fee. The signs should be in Manitoba workplaces by September 2005.

CCOHS News

First Aid Recommendations from CCOHS Updatedprint this article

In the early 1990's Jessie Callaghan of CCOHS drew on the results of her 10 years of research on first aid for chemical exposures to author the publication "The Material Safety Data Sheet - A Practical Guide to First Aid."

With another decade of monitoring the science behind first aid practices, CCOHS is updating the first aid recommendations that are used in its CHEMINFO database. The results of this evidence-based review are also being published in a long-awaited update to "The Material Safety Data Sheet - A Practical Guide to First Aid", which will be available from CCOHS by end of June 2005. The process used to update CCOHS's first aid recommendations and this publication was presented to the Society of Chemical Hazard Communication by Jessie Callaghan in April 2005.

The purpose of first aid is to minimize injury and disability. In serious cases, first aid is necessary to sustain life. The First Aid Measures section on a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) provides recommendations on how to minimize the effects of an accidental exposure to a chemical product. The recommendations describe measures that trained first aid providers are able to safely use at the scene of a chemical exposure, before obtaining medical assistance.

"The Material Safety Data Sheet - A Practical Guide to First Aid" presents a system for preparing and/or evaluating first aid recommendations for chemical exposures in the workplace. The publication identifies key questions on the health, fire and reactivity hazards of a chemical product and provides the user with a decision tree (flowchart approach) for arriving at accurate, consistent first aid recommendations for each route of occupational exposure (skin, eye, inhalation and ingestion). The publication is intended to be used by people who have a basic understanding of chemicals and their hazards and who write or evaluate first aid recommendations for Material Safety Data Sheets.

There was a great effort make in identifying the scientific basis for first aid procedures recommended by CCOHS. Topics reviewed include:


  • the administration of emergency oxygen;
  • neutralization following skin contact;
  • the duration of flushing with water following skin or eye contact;
  • using pH paper to evaluate the duration of flushing;
  • using flushing solutions other than water;
  • inducing vomiting following ingestion;
  • the use of syrup of ipecac;
  • oral dilution with water or milk or a neutralizing agent following ingestion;
  • the use of the "universal antidote"; and
  • the use of activated charcoal.


This updated review resulted in the following important changes being recommended from the original 1990's first aid recommendations for chemical exposures:

  • Remove clothing earlier following skin contact with a chemical. Some authorities estimate that exposure can be reduced by an estimated 75-90% by removing contaminated clothing. Of course, the amount will vary depending on the degree of contact and saturation of the clothing, but common sense suggests that quick removal of clothing will quickly interrupt exposure.
  • Do not take milk following the ingestion of a corrosive chemical. The research available shows there may be only marginal benefit to taking milk instead of water. Since milk is not as readily available as water, time should not be spent looking for it.
  • Take a smaller amount of water (2-8 oz (60 to 240 mL) instead of 8-10 oz (240-300 mL)) following the ingestion of a chemical. Some research shows that ingestion of a large amount of water can actually increase the toxicity of some chemicals.
  • Advising the use of Automated External Defibrillation (AED) for chemical exposure that has caused the heart to stop beating (very toxics). This recommendation is based on the success of AED programs in increasing survival.


The full publication "The Material Safety Data Sheet - A Practical Guide to First Aid" is available free-of-charge in PDF from the CCOHS website. Print copies will be available shortly as well, for a cost.

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