Health and Safety Report
Volume 3, Issue 9 - September 2005

In the News

World Health Authorities Prepare For Influenza Season and Potential Pandemicprint this article

The Public Health Agency of Canada reports that on July 20, 2005 the Ministry of Health of Indonesia announced the country's first death from avian influenza A. The victim was a 38-year-old man, whose daughters, aged one and eight years old, also became ill and died with respiratory distress from influenza-like symptoms in the same month. Other human cases of the strain have been reported in Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and its network of 112 National Influenza Centers conduct ongoing global surveillance of influenza by monitoring influenza activity and isolating the viruses in all continents. The goal for all concerned, is to stop any influenza outbreak from escalating into a pandemic.

The world has faced several threats that had pandemic potential over the last few years, and the World Health Organization predicts the occurrence of the next pandemic is just a matter of time. The greatest influenza pandemic happened in 1918-1919 and caused an estimated 40 million deaths worldwide.

Today, in spite of improvements in health care in the last decades and with increased global travel, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. project that a pandemic today would result in 2 to 7.4 million deaths globally, with the greatest impact in low-income countries. Health Canada estimates that in Canada, 2 to 5 million would require outpatient care and 11,000 to 58,000 people would die during an influenza pandemic.

The likelihood of an influenza pandemic is influenced by certain conditions: an influenza A virus from a major genetic change; a population with little or no immunity to the virus; a virus that is easily transmitted from person to person; and a virus with the capacity to cause serious illness and death.

In contrast to the average, annual influenza epidemics of Canadian winters, which affect five to 20 percent of the population, a severe influenza A epidemic could affect up to 30 to 50 percent of the population. Children are the most likely to become infected with the illness, but the elderly are particularly at risk of serious complications and death.

In the event an influenza pandemic appears, the WHO predicts we could expect:

  • Rapid spread of the pandemic virus from global traffic - leaving little time to prepare
  • Short supplies of vaccines, antiviral agents and antibiotics to treat secondary infections
  • Several months before any vaccine becomes available
  • Medical facilities will be overwhelmed
  • Shortages of personnel to provide essential community services due to widespread illness
  • Prolonged effects of influenza on individual communities with outbreaks reoccurring

Canada has a Pandemic Influenza Plan that addresses preparedness, response and recovery, as well as the general principles of emergency response. The Canadian Pandemic Influenza Plan was developed by the Centre for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control, the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada, in collaboration with the Centre for Emergency Preparedness and Response and with direction from the Pandemic Influenza Committee.

Influenza at work

You can help control the spread of influenza in your workplace by offering free on-site flu vaccine to workers and their families every October or November. In addition, your organization's sickness and absenteeism policy should encourage people to stay home when they are sick and should not penalize those who comply. Educate workers on the importance of washing their hands, and encourage good hygiene practices in general. This can be as simple as covering their mouths when they cough or sneeze. In areas where it is impossible or inconvenient to wash hands with running water and soap, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are an acceptable back-up means of controlling the spread of infection.

World Health Organization on Pandemic Preparedness

Canadian Pandemic Influenza Plan

Influenza Plans from Other Countries

Hazard Alerts

Thermal Metal Spray Poses Significant Health Hazardprint this article

Metal-based coatings are useful for building up worn parts, applying a corrosion-resistant layer or soldering or brazing filler metals. The process of applying them, however, generates toxic dusts, gases, fumes and radiation that can pose a lethal hazard to workers.

A man in Washington State, U.S. died in 2003 as a result of spending two days applying chromium- and nickel-based thermal sprays at a worksite using portable equipment. The temporary worksite had inadequate ventilation. The worker did not have an appropriate respirator, nor was he wearing any other personal protective equipment as he worked.

Thermal metal spraying, also known as flame spraying, metal spraying, plasma spraying, electric arc spraying, metallizing, and hardfacing, is the process in which metals are melted and sprayed on a surface to form a coating. The metals may be melted using a variety of heating processes, and sprayed metals can be pure metals or alloys in the form of powders, wires, or rods. Aerospace, agriculture, automotive, electronic, machine shops, marine, pulp and paper, and transportation are just some of the industries that use thermal metal spray.

The operator and anyone else in the vicinity of the work are at risk of several types of hazardous exposure. Besides posing a respiratory hazard, thermal metal spraying is also a noisy process that can damage the worker's hearing. It poses other hazards as well, including those associated with electrical and mechanical processes, fire and explosion, heat or high temperatures, compressed gases, and infrasound (sub-audible sound).

To protect workers from the hazards of thermal metal spraying, consult your equipment manufacturer and spray-material suppliers about how to ensure that the equipment is being used according to recommended operating guidelines. Find out how to assess the hazards before the job takes place, and how to take appropriate precautions. Workplaces that use thermal metal spraying should provide appropriate safety training for workers, adequate ventilation, programs for respiratory protection and hearing conservation, as well as additional personal protective equipment.

Read the alert from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries

OSH Answers

The Nose Knows: Understanding The Health Reasons Behind Scent-Free Policiesprint this article

When you consider that most of us spend 80 to 90 percent of our time indoors, it suddenly becomes relevant to know that indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than outside air. Indoor pollutants, however, are quite different from the classic idea of pollution - clouds of stinky emissions from smoke stacks. For some people, in fact, the worst "pollution" comes from fragrances that are designed to be pleasing to the nose.

Whether it's a lily-of-the-valley fabric softener or an expensive perfume, some people report that they experience asthma attacks and other health symptoms when exposed to scented products. These products are said to trigger any number of symptoms, which may include headaches, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, malaise, insomnia, respiratory problems, anxiety, and others.

An increasing number of workplaces, schools and hospitals in Canada are addressing the issue by implementing scent-free policies. The Kingston General Hospital, for example, recently introduced a hospital-wide ban on fragrances prompted by workers' complaints that their co-workers' perfumes, colognes and other fragrances were causing significant reactive airway problems. One employee in particular ended up in the hospital's emergency ward because of a reaction to scented products.

Should fragrances be considered a health hazard? While the scent-free movement has its opponents - some claim there is no scientific evidence that second hand exposure to scents can affect a person's health - organizations such as the Canadian Lung Association and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) suggest that scent-free policies are a viable option.

CCOHS advises that in workplaces where chemicals in fragrances are suspected of causing health problems, employers should consider a scent-free policy, in addition to other options such as identifying the exact source of the problem and, if possible, reducing all emissions from building materials, cleaning products and other sources of fragrances. CCOHS also stresses the importance of maintaining good indoor air quality (ventilation) to prevent scents from being spread throughout the building.

Another (potentially delicate) way to address the issue, according to scent-free advocates, is to ask the person to wear less of the offending scent or switch to a lighter fragrance. As a guideline for what might constitute too much of a good thing, CCOHS suggests that no scent should be detectable at more than an arm's length from the individual.

OSH Answers on fragrance-free policies

Partner News

October 24-30, 2005 is Canada's Healthy Workplace Week!print this article

Imagine working at a job where you feel physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually fulfilled. If Canada's occupational health experts have their way, a workplace that contributes to workers' overall well-being will be more than just a far-off ideal - it will become the standard.

According to the Canadian Healthy Workplace Council, factors such as good leadership, communication, job design and decision-making styles are good for a worker's overall health. Healthy workers, in turn, ultimately make up healthy organizations.

In an effort to promote organizational health, October 24-30 is designated as this year's Canada's Healthy Workplace Week. Your organization is invited to participate and the Healthy Workplace Week website maintained by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety along with the Health Work and Wellness Conference and National Quality Institute - explains how.

"Healthy Outcomes" is the theme for this year's Healthy Workplace Week and one of the drivers in the "Canada's Healthy Workplace Criteria" developed by the National Quality Institute and Health Canada. A healthier workplace results in improved outcomes and performance for both employees and the organization as a whole. The Healthy Workplace Week website offers ideas and activities to enhance your personal well-being, to support managers and for organizations to implement - all to help you and your organization achieve and sustain a healthy workplace culture.

If you would like to plan ahead for next year's Healthy Workplace Week, the Long-Term Strategies section of the website can help you develop a strategic, comprehensive approach to workplace health in your organization. The Archives section of the site lets you know ways in which other workplaces have participated in the past. If you need reports and other administrative tools to help you in the process, you'll find everything you're looking for in the site's Resource Well.

You know the dates, you have the resources, so enjoy! The process of promoting health should be fun, just as your day-to-day work should be a physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually healthy experience.


Safety E-Learning That's E-sy and E-ffective!print this article

Canadian workplaces have come to rely on the credible, affordable safety information resources provided by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS). Fuelled by customer demand, CCOHS recently launched several new e-learning courses to help Canadians work smarter and safer.

These online courses allow employees to enroll via the Internet and work at their own pace, at their own convenience. Managers can track employees' progress, and be assured that all employees will receive consistent information and training. The relatively low cost of e-learning allows employers to save the money that, in traditional off-site training situations, would be spent on airfare and hotels, not to mention the lost productivity related to travel time.

The courses, available in English and French, include voice-overs, case studies, checklists and other examples to illustrate concepts. Quizzes throughout, and an exam at the end of each course measure learning progress.

CCOHS recently introduced the following safety e-learning courses:

Ladder Safety

Anyone who uses a ladder at work or at home, or supervises people who do, can benefit from the Ladder Safety e-course. This course provides a practical introduction to working safety with ladders (step, extension, and fixed ladders). It teaches employees how to inspect a ladder before use, how to properly set up of ladder, how to work safely while on the ladder, and how to store and maintain ladders.

Office Health and Safety

This course provides a practical introduction to office health and safety for managers, supervisors, employees, human resource professionals, and health and safety committee members.

The course describes the components of a health and safety program and how to recognize workplace hazards in an office environment. Topics include ergonomics, lighting, workplace stress, indoor air quality, as well as general safety concerns such as safe lifting and storage, slips, trips and falls, hazardous equipment, chemical and electrical hazards, fire prevention and evacuation.

WHMIS for Managers and Supervisors

CCOHS now has an e-course specifically for managers and supervisors. The purpose of this course is to help managers and supervisors understand and meet their responsibilities for safe use of chemicals and compliance to WHMIS (Canada's Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System).

Participants will learn about their WHMIS duties and responsibilities, WHMIS symbols and classes, supplier and workplace labels, and material safety data sheets (MSDSs). The course offers guidance and tips on developing effective workplace training programs, and also covers basic health and safety measures to protect employees and prevent workplace injuries and illnesses.

More in the works!

Other courses from CCOHS that are in production and scheduled for release in the fall include: Electrical Hazards, Personal Protective Equipment and Slips, Trips and Falls.

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