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>Health & Safety Report

Volume 5, Issue 1 - January 2007

In the News
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When Fragrances Offend

A hint of vanilla, a soothing whiff of lemon -- the fragrances found in perfumes, soap, candles, lotions and other products are supposed to be pleasurable, some even stress-relieving. But for fragrance-sensitive people, some of the chemicals used in these products can be irritating or cause allergic reactions.

Fragrances can enter the body through inhalation, ingestion or absorption through the skin. If you are wearing a fragrance yourself, one of the first signs of irritation from - or an allergic reaction to - a fragrance can be a skin rash after using a perfume, cream or lotion. This is a clear warning sign that something is not right. It is important to remember however, that scents can affect not only the person wearing the fragrance, but anyone who comes into contact with them.

Depending on how sensitive they are, the sensitive person might experience symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, headache, itchy skin, hives, itchy eyes and nose, runny nose, wheezing, coughing, difficulty breathing, sore throat, asthma or asthma-like symptoms, and strange tastes in the mouth.

One of the best ways to prevent such a reaction is to avoid exposure to fragrances. This can be difficult considering how many chemical fragrances are present in so many of the products we use every day. It helps to read and understand product labels. Look for "perfume free" or "fragrance free" products, which are the most likely to contain no fragrances.

But, you need to be aware - products labelled "unscented" are not necessarily fragrance-free. According to Health Canada's labeling regulations "fragrance free" or "unscented" means that there have been no fragrances added to the cosmetic product OR a masking agent has been added in order to hide the scents from the other ingredients in the product. Fragrances added to products are not always labelled as ingredients. Fragrance formulas are often well guarded trade secrets, which companies prefer not to reveal to protect their business. This can make reaction to fragrances more difficult to link to particular chemicals.

While there are some who question the "scent-free" movement, others consider fragrances a real health hazard that needs to be addressed. Should your organization be interested in becoming scent-free, the Canadian Lung Association and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) have suggestions for scent-free policies as an option for workplaces and public places.

What you can do about scented products
A workplace scent-free policy is recommended when fragrance chemicals are suspected to be affecting someone's health. If scent-free policies are not in place, work with your workplace to adopt a scent-free, or scent-reduced policy.

  • Post a "Scent-free building" sign (PDF) at your work as a reminder (the Lung Association has one available for download)
  • Encourage all employees to use scent-free products.
  • Purchase scent-free products for use in the workplace.
  • Identify the exact source of the problem, and reduce emissions from building materials, cleaning products and other sources of fragrances if possible.
  • Keep detergents and soaps in sealed containers or a cupboard with a door that completely closes. The room they are stored ideally should be ventilated directly to the outside, although this may not be practical. It is best just to use scent-free products.

More Information

Download the free "Be Air Aware" poster from CCOHS as a reminder to all to "air" on the side of caution when it comes to scented products in the workplace.

Learn more about the health effects of fragrances from the Canadian Lung Association

How to set up a Scent-Free Policy for the workplace from CCOHS

More about fragrance sensitivity from iVillage Total Health

Hazard Alerts
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These Incidents Could Have Been Prevented

Even long-established safety rules like "wear your seatbelt" or "keep sparks away from flammable vapours" are worth repeating, over and over. Take for example, two recent workplace incidents.

Seatbelts are as important on powered construction equipment as they are in cars or trucks. In fact, PEI Occupational Health and Safety regulations state that "The operator of and passengers on powered mobile equipment shall use the seatbelts and restraining devices provided while the equipment is in motion."

A construction worker on Prince Edward Island was seriously injured when the powered equipment he was operating rolled over. The worker was not wearing a seatbelt and was thrown outside the safety of the Rollover Protective Structure (ROPS).

The Workers Compensation Board of Prince Edward Island has issued an alert to prevent further incidents of this kind. The WCB recommends as safety precautions, that all operators of powered construction equipment wear seatbelts or other approved restraining devices at all times while operating the equipment, and that these protective devices be maintained in proper working order. Rollover Protective Structures (ROPS) must be designed to protect the operator from being crushed in the event of a rollover. All operators must receive proper orientation in how to use the equipment they will be operating, the limits of that equipment, and what to do in the event of a rollover.

The Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission (WHSCC) of New Brunswick has issued a hazard alert after an incident which claimed that lives of two workers at a service station. The victims were installing a sump pump in the basement of the service station to remove ground water that had accumulated on the floor.

According to investigations, flammable liquid had accumulated in the basement over a period of time and vaporized. This liquid was either from spilled petroleum inside the garage, or from petroleum-contaminated soil adjacent to the basement floor. A spark - which may have originated from the sump pump being installed or from a water pump in the basement - ignited the flammable vapours that had evaporated from the flammable liquid. This caused an explosion, which killed both workers.

To reduce the likelihood of further incidents of this kind, the WHSCC recommends that the basements and/or crawl spaces in garages be filled in, if possible, to eliminate the accumulation of flammable liquids and vapours. Or, where flammable liquid may accumulate, the WHSCC says employers should use only explosion-proof electrical equipment; install an explosion-proof ventilations system to keep flammable vapours to a minimum; or install a continuous-monitoring device to alert workers of the presence of flammable vapours. Employees should be trained to recognize the hazards associated with the handling, storage and use of flammable liquids.

Read the full alerts:

Powered Mobile Equipment

Fatal Explosion and Fire in Service Station

Information on how to work safely with flammable and combustible liquids from CCOHS

OSH Answers
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Slip Slidin' Away: Winter Driving Tips

Whether you're driving in snow, on slick roads, or on icy-slushy roads, winter driving in Canada is never dull. It's an adventure that requires skill, focus, and all of your senses.

For starters, find out the weather forecast for all the areas you will be driving. If you are experiencing terrible weather or they are forecasting bad weather, consider delaying your trip.

In snowy or icy conditions, you'll be much safer if you forget about rushing. Allow extra driving time. Drive slower than posted speed limits, which are only for ideal travel conditions. Reduce speed when you approach intersections that are covered with snow or ice, and when approaching a bridge (bridges can ice before the rest of the road). Steer with smooth and precise movements, not quick and jerky. Don't be in a hurry to pass other vehicles; wait until it is safe to do so. In addition, avoid using your cruise control so you can regulate your speed more easily.

The old driver's education tip of keeping a "space cushion" around your vehicle is especially important in winter road conditions. At the speed of 60 km/h, where you would normally leave a 45 metres (140 ft) gap, that distance should be increased to 80 metres (over 260 ft) on an icy road surface. As a general rule of thumb, leave twice the following distance as you would on dry roads. Stay in the right-hand lane except when passing, and use turn signals when changing lanes.

Drive using your low-beam headlights. They are brighter than daytime running lights. Using low-beam lights also means you have activated the taillights, making your vehicle more visible. Winter driving requires optimum visibility and control.

Always wear your seatbelt. A surprising number of fatalities still happen because people fail to buckle up.

Winter is a time to expect the unexpected, so be flexible. Consider getting off the road before getting stranded in inclement weather.

Skid control
When you're losing control of your vehicle on a slippery road, do not panic. Immediately focus on where you want your vehicle to go, then look and steer in that direction. Do not brake or accelerate. If you use manual transmission, declutch. Shift to neutral in an automatic, but if you can't do it immediately, don't touch the transmission gear.

When you're driving (and not skidding), on a slippery road, the way to brake depends on the type of brakes your vehicle has. If you don't have anti-lock brakes, use the heel-to-toe method repeatedly until you come to a full stop. This means keeping your heel on the floor and using your toes to press the brake pedal firmly just short of locking up the wheels, releasing the pressure on the pedal, and pressing again in the same way. This is repeated until you come to a full stop. When braking with anti-lock brakes, also use heel-and-toe method, but do not remove your foot from the brake pedal until the vehicle comes to a complete stop.

For further information on winter driving, including what to do if you're stuck or stranded in the snow, visit OSH Answers online at www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/safety_haz/icesnow.html

Partner News
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Making Saskatchewan a Safer Place to Work

"Safety is everyone's responsibility" - in Saskatchewan. This is the theme of the multi-year awareness campaign about injury prevention and safety in the workplace spearheaded by WorkSafe Partners - Saskatchewan Labour and Saskatchewan Workers' Compensation Board. Is it working? Surveys of Saskatchewan residents indicate high awareness and strong endorsement of the campaign, with almost 50% saying they have changed the way they do things at work because of WorkSafe.

The WorkSafe ad campaign has been instrumental in reaching and impacting workplace participants through television, billboard, newspaper and radio ads. These ads feature testimonials from workplace representatives who speak to the importance of workplace health and safety.

In addition to real-life characters, cartoon characters have been used to capture attention and promote workplace injury prevention. Topics for these have included fall prevention, lifting safely, taking stretch breaks and wearing safety gear. While awareness plays an important role, the WorkSafe initiative also relies on information resources to assist workplaces. The Worksafesask.ca website has been available for 5 years and is fast approaching the milestone of having been used 1 million times. This site has been popular due to its resources which help workers and employers prevent injuries and illnesses in their workplace. As a collaborative effort between WorkSafe Partners and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), the Worksafesask.ca collection focuses on Saskatchewan resources, along with key resources from other Canadian and international contributors.

With 1,200 documents on 90 work-related topics, Worksafesask.ca has grown steadily in its topic coverage over the years. These include important topics on issues such as stress, return-to-work, OHS programs, young workers and more. New topics such as workplace health and mental health, along with the addition of fragrances in the workplace to the indoor air quality topic, ensure that the web service is timely and relevant. In addition, Worksafesask.ca provides practical information about training and education, as well as posters and other media.

WorkSafe Saskatchewan's goal to promote a positive safety culture seems to be thriving, and is a prime example of how CCOHS and its partners are working together to improve access to health and safety information in Saskatchewan workplaces.

Visit the WorkSafe website at: worksafesask.ca

CCOHS News
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National Forum to Discuss Health and Safety Issues Emerging from Changing Workplaces

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) will host Forum '07, a national event to explore health and safety issues emerging from changing workplaces, on September 17th and 18th 2007 in Vancouver, British Columbia.

CCOHS hosted its first national forum in 2005 and brought together nearly 350 Canadians, who shared concerns, debated issues and made recommendations on the issue of occupational disease. The theme of Forum '07 is "Emerging Health & Safety Issues in Changing Workplaces: A Canadian Discussion." The Forum brings together experts, workers, employers and governments from across Canada to share their knowledge and experience and discuss problems and solutions. Forum participants will take part in interactive, informative workshop and plenary sessions and benefit from the discussions and presentations by leading Canadian and international experts.

Canada's workplace is changing. The workplace is changing with a growing number of workers in Canada being employed on part-time, temporary, and contract basis, holding multiple jobs or being self-employed. And the workforce is also changing due to aging, an increase in women working, and more diversity. Forum '07 will explore the effects of increasingly non-traditional, less-stable employment, particularly the impact on workers' health and safety.

In addition to the evolving workplace, other topics to be covered at Forum '07 include:

Gaps in Protection, Accountability and Responsibility for OH&S in Changing Workplaces. The changing workplace presents gaps in worker protection and raises the question of who is accountable and responsible for health and safety in the workplace. How do our existing laws and traditional definitions apply to contingent work arrangements? This presentation explores whether workers in precarious (less stable) work situations fall under the same OH&S standards as permanent employees and if existing health and safety legislation fully protects them.

Emerging Technologies and Processes. Rapidly changing technologies are impacting workplaces and the risks of injuries. This presentation discusses the new and emerging risks and strategies in equipment design and workplace systems and processes that can be implemented to control the hazards and increase the safety of workers.

Work Organization and Stress. Work schedules, workload demands, control and worker security are all affected by the more flexible and leaner production practices in work organization. Forum '07 will explore the impact of changing workplaces on the health and mental health of employees and organizations, as well as prevention strategies.

Forum 07 seeks to provide an opportunity for participants to explore and better understand how these challenges impact the health and safety needs of workers. The Forum is expected to generate as much interest and enthusiasm as its first national event, and stimulate creative solutions among Canadians to help ensure people can be safe and healthy at work.

Check the Forum '07 website often as registration and exhibiting information and other details are added.




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