Health and Safety Report
Volume 6, Issue 7 - July 2008

In the News

Safety Tips for Work Tripsprint this article

Be safe wherever your work travels take you

It can be a refreshing change, an interesting adventure and a change of pace to leave our familiar work environment and take a trip for work. For some, this is a welcomed change and for others, a way of life. Regardless, a business trip can take you to another city or to places where the food, water, hygiene, climate and environment are very different from what you are used to. Whether or not you think you have "travel savvy," there are precautions you can take and preparations you can make to ensure that you are safe, secure and healthy on your trip.

When you travel

If you will be travelling internationally, consult a doctor or travel health clinic at least four to six weeks before travel so they can determine your need for immunizations and advise you on what preventive medication precautions to take to avoid disease.

When booking flights or travel times arrange whenever possible, to arrive at your destination in daylight. If you must arrive late evening or early morning, reserve a car service in advance to avoid having to find a cab. The conference or hotel may be able to recommend a service for you.

Don't forget your meds. If you take medication for a pre-existing condition, bring enough to last the trip, and some extra in case your return flight is delayed. As a precaution, have a copy of your prescription, or a doctor's note, in case you need to prove that the medication is necessary. Consider dividing your medication supply and keeping it in two different pieces of luggage, in case one piece of luggage is lost or stolen, or carry it with you.

Protect your documentation. Make sure your passport does not expire before or during your trip. Some countries require that it be valid for up to six months after your return home, so check the expiry date. Keep photocopies of your passport and visa, and keep them separate from the original copies. Also keep a record of credit cards, bank cards, and contact telephone numbers, and leave copies with someone back home. At the hotel, store your passport, airline tickets, extra money and other documents in the hotel safe.

Stay connected. Establish a check-in procedure and make sure your friends or family back home know where to reach you. Give someone at home a copy of your travel itinerary and check in with them when you arrive and periodically thereafter. It's also a good idea to find out ahead of time where to contact Canadian government offices abroad.

Know your surroundings. Ask the hotel for advice on safe areas to visit or walk through in the neighbourhood. They will tell you which areas to avoid.

Hide your valuables. Carry your passport, travel documents, plane ticket, traveller's cheques and cash in a concealed money belt worn around the waist. Do not draw attention to yourself by displaying large amounts of cash, expensive jewellery or electronic equipment. If possible, use the bank machine more often or travellers' cheques instead of large amounts of cash. Consider carrying a second "dummy" wallet, with some local currency, a small amount of US dollars, a few old receipts, and expired credit cards to make it look real. Keep some money in an outside pocket to avoid fumbling through your purse or wallet for tips and other small expenses.

Watch your luggage. Do not leave your luggage unattended or in the care of a stranger. On your luggage tag, use only your first initial - not your full name. To further protect your identity, include your business address (not your home address) and use a luggage tag that has a flap that hides your name and address.

Safeguard your hotel room. Ask for a hotel room that is above ground level but no higher than seven stories up, within reach of most firefighting evacuation buckets and ladders. Ask for a room close to the elevators, and ensure it has a peephole, dead bolt and chain lock. Don't let anyone know which room you are staying in. Tell the hotel not to give your room number or name to anyone. If the hotel clerk accidentally says your room number out loud, ask to change rooms. For added security, bring a simple rubber doorstop to place under your hotel room door to prevent it from being pushed open from the outside. Close the door securely when you enter or exit the room, and check that any sliding glass doors, windows and connection doors are locked every time. Do not invite strangers or acquaintances into your room or accept invitations to others' rooms. Arrange to meet in a public location such as the hotel lobby or restaurant.

Prepare to act quickly. To avoid delays in hallways, have your key or card ready to use.

Enjoy your trip and play it safe when you travel.

More about work travel safety from OSH Answers.

Traveller's Checklist and other information from Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

Travel Health, Public Health Agency of Canada.

Fly smart, fly secure" section of Transport Canada's website.

Hazard Alerts

Fallen Power Lines Can Deliver Deadly Joltprint this article

A fire truck hit a patch of black ice and lost control. The truck rolled onto its side and sheared off a power pole. Power lines, each 60-kilovolts, fell onto the truck, creating a series of electrical arcs and widespread power outage in the area. But this is a "good news" story. The four firefighters stayed inside their truck until help arrived. A rescue crew kept the public, as well as responding firefighters on the scene, away from the energized zone. Only when it was safe to leave, the firefighters got out of the truck uninjured.

The general public isn't equipped to deal with fallen power lines, and police, ambulance attendants and firefighters aren't always aware of the danger. On arrival, first responders who see a fallen line should always assume that the line is live. The land surrounding the power line, too, may be energized and dangerous.

It's never obvious that a power line is energized. There are no sparks or movement. Even a line that is not live could soon become live, if automatic switching equipment restores power. The electricity in a power line always seeks a path to the ground. This path might include a tree, a vehicle, or a fence, all of which then become energized.

The ground, too, becomes energized once electricity reaches it. It can spread over a wide area, like ripples in a pool of water, gradually lessening up to zero at about 10 metres from the centre. If the ground is wet, the energy may spread further than 10 metres.

WorkSafe BC recommends these safe work practices for first responders:

  1. Treat downed power lines, and anything in contact with them, as energized.

  2. Park away from the power lines.

  3. Stop traffic and keep people away, at least 10 metres (33 feet) from the fallen power line.

  4. Don't become a victim yourself by touching a downed power line, even with a dry stick or piece of hose.

  5. Call the power company immediately, to ensure the power line will not be reactivated until everyone is safely out of the way.

  6. Do not approach the scene until a power company representative confirms it's safe.

If your vehicle comes in contact with power lines, move the vehicle away if possible to break contact with the power line. If you cannot move the vehicle, stay inside. If someone approaches your vehicle, open the window and call out, telling the person to keep away and call 9-1-1. If ever you are forced to leave the vehicle (because of a fire, for instance), jump out with your feet together. Never touch the ground and the vehicle at the same time. Move away, slowly, by shuffling with very small movements, keeping both feet close together so that the voltage to each foot will be the same.

Fallen power lines are dangerous, but only to the unsuspecting. Remember to trust the electricity experts - not the power lines - and you'll avoid that unpleasant and potentially deadly jolt.

OSH Answers

Destroy the Pests, Not Your Healthprint this article

We use pesticides to kill or control those pesky organisms that can cause damage to crops, people or animals. Pesticides used to destroy, or control pests such as insects, weeds, rodents, fungi, bacteria and viruses can be dangerous substances and can pose a threat to people who work with them.

Workers may be exposed to pesticides in many ways including:

  • when preparing pesticides for use, such as mixing a concentrate with water or loading the pesticide into application equipment;

  • by applying pesticides, such as on an agricultural field;

  • when working in an area where pesticides have been applied such as picking crops.

You are at risk of exposure through your skin, eyes, and mouth and by breathing into the lungs. The health effects of pesticides depend on the type of pesticide and other chemicals that are in the product you are using. Some pesticides can affect the nervous system. Others may irritate the skin or eyes and some pesticides may cause cancer. The severity of effects depends on the amount you are exposed to and how long or often you are exposed. It is very important to always get specific information about the exact product you are using so you can take steps to safeguard your health.

Always read the label and follow the directions for the pesticide you are using.

Minimize your exposure. Always wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) as recommended on the label, Material Safety Data Sheet or product fact sheet. Depending on the pesticide, you may have to wear coveralls, long pants, long sleeved shirts, gloves, boots, goggles, a face shield, a hat, and/or a respirator. There are different types of chemical protective clothing. The specific type you will require will depend on the product. Keep the container below your eye level to help avoid splashing or spilling the pesticide into your eyes and face. If the pesticide comes in a bag, open it with a knife or scissors that won't be used for anything else. Be sure there is good ventilation and lighting in the area where you are mixing the pesticide. Provide temporary extra ventilation, where necessary, to remove vapour or aerosol when spraying indoors.

Don't accidentally eat it. Always follow the recommended waiting time between pesticide application and the harvest (picking or eating) of fruits or vegetables. After you spray a pesticide, all surfaces that may contact food must be washed and rinsed with water before re-use. Also, do not use your mouth to siphon liquids from containers or to blow out clogged lines, nozzles, etc. Wash your hands and face after working with the pesticide, especially before eating or smoking, before leaving for the day or after using the toilet.

Don't accidentally wear it. Keep equipment in good working order and free of leaks. Do not mix, spray or dust into the wind. Change your clothes after applying the pesticide, and wash them in a separate load before wearing them again. Run an empty "rinse cycle" before washing other clothing. Leather boots, shoes, belts, watch bands or jackets splashed with pesticides cannot be decontaminated and must be discarded.

Don't keep it around. Clean up spills immediately and dispose of the waste and empty containers according to directions on the label. Calculate how much product you will need ahead of time and do not purchase or store more than you need.

Don't misuse it. Do not use more pesticide than is recommended (twice the product will not be twice as effective). Only use a pesticide for the purpose it was intended for. Never burn it or pour it down a drain. Always mix the pesticide at the recommended rate and amounts. Many spray pesticides are flammable, so follow the instructions carefully.

Don't spread it. Schedule applications of a pesticide when other workers are least likely to be exposed. Never spray on a very windy day, and make sure the spray blows away from you or from anyone else. To minimize drift, reduce the distance between the nozzle and the target area. Finally, never place rodent or insect baits and traps where children or pets can reach them.

Partner News

Risk Assessment Key Focus of European Union Campaignprint this article

Every three-and-a-half minutes in the European Union, someone dies from work-related causes. That adds up to an annual death rate of 5,720 from work-related accidents, and a further 159,500 from occupational disease. It is hoped that with a few preventive or protective measures, this trend can be reversed.

The European Health and Safety at Work campaign, launched on June 13th in Brussels, focuses on risk assessment as a key factor in preventing work-related injury, illness and death. The campaign, called Healthy Workplaces - Good for you, good for business, is an initiative of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA). It specifically targets high-risk sectors, such as construction, healthcare and agriculture, and small and medium-sized enterprises that often lack the resources to create a healthy workplace.

The EU-OSHA aims to convey a message to employers, trade unions, workers and health and safety professionals: A risk assessment is an effective, necessary measure that can save lives. It is a systematic examination of all aspects of the work, to consider what can cause injury or harm, whether or not the hazards can be eliminated and, if not, how to control the risks.

The campaign seeks to demystify the risk assessment process. Risk assessment does not have to be complicated or bureaucratic. When workers get involved, it is a key element of a healthy workplace. In its campaign, the EU-OSHA will provide clear and simple guidance on how a risk assessment works, to empower all employers to eliminate or control risks.

"With the Healthy Workplaces campaign," says Dr Jukka Takala, Director of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, "we want to encourage enterprises to carry out risk assessment properly, involving everyone in the workplace. We want to promote good practice that can be adapted to other workplaces."

The European Health and Safety at Work campaign will run over two years, 2008 and 2009.


Keeping It Clean - The Air That We Breatheprint this article

Breathing - we do it constantly, automatically, without even a thought. And what about the quality of the air we are breathing? Clean air is essential to our health, especially when it comes to indoor air. We spend alot of time inside, in fact office workers often spend their entire working day in air tight buildings. And yet many people do not realize that the quality of air that they breathe at work can affect their health, comfort and productivity.

People who work indoors often report symptoms such as headaches, shortness of breath, sinus congestion, coughing or nausea. However with the wide range of indoor air contaminants that they are exposed to - carbon dioxide, perfume, dust, gases, toxic vapours, and moulds - it is difficult to link these symptoms to one particular contaminant.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) developed an e-course, Indoor Air Quality: An Introduction, about the importance of indoor air quality in offices and other non-industrial workplaces, such as schools, public buildings and shopping malls. The one-hour course covers the factors that affect the quality of indoor air as well as relevant standards and legislation. It describes "sick building syndrome" and its causes, such as poor distribution of fresh air, pollutants originating inside and outside the building, and humidity. The course provides practical advice on how to investigate and respond to indoor air problems.

Learning more about indoor air quality is the first step to ensuring that air that we breathe is good - pure and simple.

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