Health and Safety ReportVolume 6, Issue 11 - December 2008

In the News

Be Safe and Sound This Holiday Seasonprint this article

On top of all of the usual hustle and bustle of the festive holiday season, in Canada the season also ushers in cold snowy winter. Here are some tips to help you and your family stay healthy and safe as you enjoy the festivities of the holiday season.

Manage holiday stress

Don't let the holidays take a toll on your health. With balance and moderation, you can enjoy the holidays in a healthy way. Get help from family and friends when organizing holiday gatherings, as well as for meal preparation and cleanup. Make some time for yourself; even 15 minutes alone without distractions may refresh you enough so you can better handle everything you need to do. Take an evening walk in the fresh air. Listen to soothing music. Whatever it is, find something that reduces your stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm. Don't forget to maintain your "everyday" healthy habits. Continue to get plenty of sleep and make time for physical activity, whether it be dancing to your favourite music or enjoying an outdoor sport. To avoid overindulging on sweets and drinks, eat a healthy snack before social gatherings. Choose fresh fruit as substitute for candy. Another tip is to pick just one or two of your favorites from the array of tempting foods.

Drink safely and responsibly

If you will be going to parties or gatherings over the holidays where alcohol will be served, it is important to plan ahead and drink responsibly to stay safe and avoid injury, to yourself and others. Before the first drink is consumed, decide who among you will be the designated, non-drinking driver. Don't drive if you have been drinking and don't let anyone else drink and drive. Take a taxi, public transportation, or walk where possible.

Limit how much alcohol you drink. A good tip is to alternate alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and space your alcoholic drinks at least an hour apart. Remember to have something to eat with your alcoholic beverage.

Beat the freezing temperatures: stay warm and dry

The best defense against the extreme cold is to dress properly. Be sure to wear:

  • a hat that covers your ears

  • a scarf or knit mask to cover your face and mouth

  • mittens or gloves

  • water-resistant coat and boots

  • several layers of loose-fitting clothing

The outer layer of your clothing should be tightly woven, preferably wind resistant, to reduce body-heat loss caused by wind. Above all, stay dry - wet clothing chills your body quickly. Excess perspiration increases heat loss, so remove extra layers of clothing when you feel too warm. Shivering is your body's way of telling you that it is losing heat - and for you to go inside. If you, or someone with you, were cold and shivering but the shivering has stopped, get inside immediately. No longer shivering is a warning sign of hypothermia and should not be ignored.

Christmas tree safety tips

When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label "Fire Resistant." When selecting a live tree, check for freshness. The needles should be green and hard to pull from branches. The trunk butt should be sticky with resin. Cut a few inches off the trunk of your tree to expose the fresh wood. This fresh cut allows for better water absorption and, along with keeping the stand filled with water, will help to keep your tree from drying out and becoming a fire hazard. Turn off the tree lights when you go to bed or leave the house to prevent the lights from "shorting" out and starting a fire. When setting up a tree at home or at work, place it away from fireplaces, radiators or portable heaters and be sure not to block doorways.

Other fire prevention tips

Place candles in non-tip candle holders and ensure they are away from curtains, the Christmas tree and out of reach of children and pets. Never leave lit fireplaces, stoves, or candles unattended. Install a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector in your home and test them monthly; replace the batteries twice a year (when you change your clocks in the spring and fall).

Handle and prepare food safely

From the buffet table to the office party, food takes centre stage throughout the holiday season. Prevent food-related illness by following these safety steps:

  • To rid raw foods of bacteria, fully cook meats and poultry, and thoroughly wash raw vegetables and fruits.

  • Wash your hands and surfaces frequently and make sure your children do the same.

  • Avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs (including their juices) away from ready-to-eat cooked foods and use separate utensils when preparing and serving.

  • Always thaw meat in the refrigerator, never on the countertop.

  • Refrigerate foods promptly. Perishable foods that require refrigeration should never be left out at room temperature for more than two hours.

  • Store turkey meat separately from stuffing and gravy.

  • Reheat solid leftovers to at least 74°C (165°F). Bring gravy to a full, rolling boil and stir during the process.

  • Use leftover turkey meat, bones, stuffing, gravy and other cooked dishes within four days for best quality or freeze for later use.

More informtion

Get more tips about holiday safety from CCOHS.

Responsible Holiday Drinking fact sheet from Health Canada.

Food Safety Facts For The Holidays from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Extreme Cold: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety from the CDC.

Hazard Alerts

Workers Killed by Motorized Vehiclesprint this article

The recent injuries and deaths of workers killed on the job as a result of being struck by vehicles moving in their work areas, prompted WorkSafeBC and WorkSafe NB to issue hazard alerts.

In New Brunswick workers were killed and injured in two separate road incidents. In the first, a worker who was placing orange traffic cones along the centerline of the highway was killed instantly and two co-workers were injured when an oncoming transport truck crashed into their work area. In the second incident, an experienced asphalt raker who was cleaning up debris near a driveway died after being struck by a van. It was dusk on an overcast night. The victim was putting up the tailgate of the truck when he was struck by a van, thrown and pinned under the truck.

To protect the worker and to advise the public of work being done on or near the highway, proper signage must always be present and visible in Traffic Control Zones.

WorkSafeNB recommends that these safe work practices be followed to ensure the safety of employees in Traffic Control Zones:

  • Workers who are setting up and taking down traffic control devices must wear appropriate personnel protective equipment, including a reflective safety vest, and must exercise caution at all times.

  • Vehicles used to transport the traffic control devices should be equipped with high visibility flashing lights.

In British Columbia, an engineer who was talking on his cell phone walked across a dump truck staging area next to the road that was being preloaded with sand and gravel. A spotter was using hand signals to direct a loaded dump truck backwards along the staging area. The truck driver was maintaining visual contact with the spotter in his side-view mirror. The dump truck's backup alarm was working normally but there were several vehicles with their backup alarms sounding at the same time.

The spotter turned away from the dump truck for about 10 seconds to check for other vehicles, motioning the dump truck to reverse without maintaining visual contact with it. During this 10-second interval, the engineer, still on his cell phone, stepped onto the staging area and stopped behind the reversing vehicle with his back to it - unaware that the dump truck was approaching. The driver could not see the engineer and continued to reverse as directed by the spotter. The spotter did not see the engineer.

One of the dump truck's rear tires snagged the back of the engineer's leg, pulling him under the truck and killing him.

WorkSafeBC recommends the following safe work practices:

  • Establish and enforce safe work procedures for those working around mobile equipment, including the following:
    • the use of cellphones and other communication devices

    • wearing high-visibility apparel

    • making eye contact with equipment operators or spotters when entering mobile equipment work zones

  • Remind spotters or signallers to maintain continuous visual contact with mobile equipment operators.

  • If practicable, ensure that mobile equipment backup alarms are audible above ambient noise levels.

  • If practicable, establish designated pedestrian routes through worksites and use signs to indicate them.

Read the full alert from WorkSafeNB. PDF

Read the full alert from WorkSafeBC.

OSH Answers

Cyberbullying print this article

We are living in a world of constant, instant communication - most of which involves the use of some form of technology. Computers, the Internet, cell phones and other communications technology and social media are widely used - at work, home and school. Along with the many positive aspects of these technologies comes a downside; people who use these communication tools to repeatedly threaten, harass, maliciously tease, or embarrass an individual or a group. These actions are known as cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying can involve:

  • Sending or encouraging others to send unsolicited and/or threatening e-mails.

  • Spreading rumours and/or posting insulting or negative comments about someone on discussion boards, web pages, weblogs, or other social media outlets.

  • Impersonating the victim online and sending inflammatory or controversial messages that reflect negatively on the victim.

  • Harassing the victim during a live chat.

  • Sending the victim pornography or other offensive graphic material.

Tips to prevent cyberbullying

  • Wherever possible use a gender-neutral e-mail address.

  • Create a strong e-mail password with at least seven (7) characters using a combination of letters, symbols and numbers - and change it often. Do not share your password with anyone and do not use the same password for all your computer and website accounts.

  • Do not share personal information in e-mail (even to someone you trust), or public spaces anywhere online, including in chat rooms.

  • Do not use "out of office" facilities in your e-mail if you can avoid it. You don't want to broadcast that you are away or on vacation.

  • Set up two e-mail accounts; use one for business and another one with a different name for use on discussion boards etc. If you start receiving too much unwanted mail, you can cancel or change the account.
  • If you want to remain anonymous, DO NOT list your e-mail address on any Web pages or give your e-mail address when filling out online forms.

  • To prevent someone from impersonating you or reading your e-mail, use encryption (e.g. PGP - Pretty Good Privacy) for person-to-person e-mail. Also, don't leave your computer logged in and unattended. Read an FAQ document about PGP to learn more.

  • Watch for "red-flags", for example someone asking where you live or where you work.
  • Be very cautious about meeting online acquaintances in person. If you choose to meet, do so in a public place and take someone along with you.

  • To protect your privacy and search the Internet more securely, use an anonymous Web browser. Websites collect all sorts of information about you (e.g., what Web browser you used, your Internet Service Provider, IP address, and potentially your e-mail address). Anonymous browsers offer varying degrees of security; some are free and some are not.

  • Get help and advice regarding your safety and privacy concerns from your Internet Service Provider.

  • Make sure your Internet Service Provider, discussion groups and chat networks have an Acceptable Use Policy (no harassment permitted) and that the policy is enforced by the administrator of the site.

Read the OSH Answers from CCOHS to learn how you should respond if you become the victim of cyberbullying.

Download the free anti-bullying poster from CCOHS.

Partner News

Get Updated on GHS Implementation Planningprint this article

Countries around the world have implemented their own systems for the classification and hazard communication of chemicals. While sharing common objectives, these systems differ to varying degrees. In Canada, the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS), established in 1988 is the national workplace chemical hazard communication program.

Recognizing the benefits of standardized, consistent communication, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) agreed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, to develop "a globally harmonized hazard classification and compatible labelling system." This initiative has come be to known as the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).

Canada has been active in the development of GHS on the international scene and is now moving forward with implementing GHS in Canada. GHS will change the way products are classified, and will standardize supplier labels, material safety data sheet (MSDS) format and content requirements. It is anticipated that GHS will enhance the protection of workers and the environment, increase chemical safety, boost efficiency, and reduce trade barriers.
So are we there yet? Not quite, but progress is being made. Join the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) for An Update on GHS Implementation Planning in WHMIS.

During this one-hour webinar on January 7, 2009, Abbey Klugerman, Head of Legislative, Regulatory & International Affairs at Health Canada's National WHMIS Office, will discuss the impact of the GHS on WHMIS, and the development and status of transition plans to the GHS in WHMIS.

All you need is a computer with a sound card and an Internet connection. You'll hear the presentation through your computer's speakers, see the slides on your computer screen, and have the opportunity to submit questions to Mr. Klugerman.

You can even invite as many people as you like into a meeting or boardroom to view it with you, for the one fee.

Learn more and register for the webinar.


Get In On The Health And Safety Discussion At Workscape print this article

CCOHS launches new online discussion board

Can you share some ideas for improving health and safety incentive programs? Do you have any experience with the classification of butane? What about stickers on hard hats? These are just a few of the questions percolating right now in Workscape, Canada's new online community for the discussion of health and safety. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) developed and launched Workscape so that people involved in health and safety can exchange ideas and information to improve the health and safety of Canadian workplaces.

Workscape is free to join. Members can share their experiences as well as post information, comments and questions on any workplace health and safety topic. From chemical safety to ergonomics to healthy workplaces to legislation and compliance, anything that is workplace health and safety related is welcome and relevant.

Members can also find and post messages about job opportunities, conferences, seminars, and training courses. To foster a sense of community, Workscape also features informal areas where members can introduce themselves and network with other health and safety professionals around the world.

"We wanted to provide a service where the health and safety community could come together and talk about emerging health and safety issues, pool resources and knowledge, and get to know each other in an accessible, open environment," explains P.K Abeytunga, CCOHS Vice President and Director General.

Workscape is in its infancy and can only thrive with the enthusiasm and expertise of its members, known affectionately as Workscapers. "We invite everyone who has an interest in workplace health and safety to be a part of Workscape and help create a community that helps all organizations be safer and healthier places to work."

Visit to get started.

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