Health and Safety ReportJune 2009 - Volume 7, Issue 6

In the News

Safety Tips to Keep the Fun in Summerprint this article

Many of us look forward to summer as a time to be outside enjoying the warmer weather, sunshine, water sports, vacations and most of all - having fun. Whether you work or play outside, it is also a time to take precautions to protect yourself from sun exposure, poor air quality and other hazards of the season. Follow these safety tips to reduce the risk of injury and keep you and your family safe in whatever you do this summer.

Pool and Water Safety

Drowning is a serious threat. In Canada men aged 18-49 years have the highest drowning rate. Most drownings occur when they are swimming or boating. Over 80% of the men who drowned while boating were not wearing lifejackets and 40% had consumed alcohol.

Men are not the only ones at risk. An estimated 58 children under the age of 14 drown each year in Canada and another 140 are hospitalized for near-drowning. According to Safe Kids Canada, drowning is the second leading cause of injury-related death to Canadian children aged 1-4. Follow these tips to keep you and your family safe from drowning:

  • Don't lose sight of your kids in or around water. Most incidents happen when children are near water during a momentary lapse in adult supervision. Whether they are playing in, around or even walking by water - keep them close and supervise your children at all times. If you must leave the area for any reason, take them with you. In fact, why not play it safe and use the buddy system for people of all ages!

  • Fence off access to the pool with self-closing, self-latching gates, with fencing that is difficult for curious young children to climb.

  • When boating or doing any water sports, everyone must use approved personal floatation devices (PFDs).

  • Do not rely solely on floatation devices or water wings to keep children safe. They could deflate or come off. This also applies to adults who are not strong swimmers - do not rely on "pool noodles" or flutter boards as floatation devices.

  • Do not drink alcoholic beverages while on the water, or if you intend to go on the water.

  • Learn the safety rules for boating and other water activities before you venture out on the water.

Food Safety

You should always use safe practices when handling and preparing food. However, in the summertime there are extra steps you should take to minimize the additional risks of foodborne illnesses. Bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella can be a hazard any place food is prepared or served and can be more common in warmer weather. Young children and people with pre-existing health problems can be especially vulnerable to food poisoning.
Health Canada offers the following food safety tips:

  • Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often to prevent the spread of bacteria. Wash your hands thoroughly in soap and water especially before and after handling any raw food - such as meat, poultry and seafood. Use hot soapy water to clean all surfaces (refrigerators, counters, dishes, utensils, thermometers, etc.) giving special attention to those that come in contact with raw meat.

  • Chill: Keep cold food cold. Letting food sit at unsafe temperatures puts you at risk for foodborne illnesses.

  • Cook: Cook to proper temperatures to kill harmful bacteria.

  • Separate: Keep raw foods separate from cooked foods to avoid cross-contamination. Do not let ready-to-eat foods like lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, etc. come into contact with raw meat or its juices.

Sun Safety

Exposure to ultra violet radiation (UV) can cause skin cancer, sunburn, premature skin aging, eye damage, and can weaken your immune system. The UV index shows the intensity of the sun's UVB rays. You should be sure to take precautions when you go outside and the UV index is 3 or higher.

  • Avoid unnecessary exposure to the sun, especially to the intense midday rays between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. and be aware that you can get a sunburn on a cloudy day.

  • Protect your eyes by wearing UV blocking sunglasses.

  • Stay in shaded areas for outdoor activities where possible.

  • Protect your skin by wearing protective clothing: a broad brimmed hat, lightweight, long-sleeved shirt, and long pants.

  • Apply waterproof sunscreen to all exposed parts of your body. Ensure that it has a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 and has both UVA and UVB protection. Re-apply every two hours and after sweating or swimming.

Air Quality

In the summertime there are additional factors that can increase air pollution problems - heat and smog being two of them. Poor outdoor air quality can have a negative effect on your health by making it harder to breathe, worsening chronic diseases such as bronchitis, emphysema and asthma, or causing heart problems in some people.

Everyone reacts differently to air pollution and those who are most sensitive include children, elderly people and those with heart or lung disease. In addition, people participating in outdoor sports or strenuous work tend to breathe deeply and rapidly, inhaling more polluted air into their lungs. They may also have difficulty breathing when air pollution levels are high.

Check the Air Quality Index on a regular basis. As the Air Quality Index reading rises, the quality of the air you breathe decreases. To protect yourself and your family:

  • Learn how air pollution can affect your health.

  • Reduce or reschedule outdoor physical activities.

  • Monitor possible symptoms, such as breathing difficulties, coughing or irritated eyes.

  • Follow a doctor's advice to manage existing conditions such as heart or lung disease.

Take care and enjoy a safe summer and a happy Canada Day.

Helpful links:

Check the Air Quality Health Index reading at Meteorological Service of Canada's Air Quality Services

Safer Summer Fun Tips, Health Canada

Life Saving Society World Drowning Report, PDF

OSH Answers on Skin Cancer and Sunlight, CCOHS

World Health Organization: The known effects of UV

Hazard Alerts

Dangers Of Breathing Silica Dust print this article

Silica is the second most common mineral in the earth's crust and a major component of sand, rock and mineral ores. Silica exists in both crystalline and non-crystalline (amorphous) form. It is the crystalline form of silica that is the main concern when considering potential health effects. The most common type of crystalline silica is quartz. Breathing in crystalline silica dust over a prolonged period of time can cause silicosis - a disease in which fine particles deposited in the lungs scar the lung tissue. Exposure has also been linked to lung cancer.

Silicosis is one of the oldest occupational diseases and still kills thousands of people every year, everywhere in the world. Initially, workers with silicosis may have no symptoms. However, as the disease progresses, the affected worker may experience shortness of breath, a severe cough and weakness. These symptoms can worsen over time and eventually cause death. WorkSafeBC released a bulletin warning of the risks involved in breathing crystalline silica dust.

Crystalline silica is found in common materials such as concrete, cement, and mortar, masonry, tiles, brick, granite, sand, fill dirt, top soil, asphalt-containing rock or stone and abrasive used for blasting. Silica dust is released when rocks, sand, concrete and some ores are crushed or broken.

Work in mines, quarries, foundries, and construction sites, in the manufacture of glass, ceramics, and abrasive powders, and in masonry workshops can be particularly risky. Sandblasting as well as any abrasive blasting - even if the abrasive does not contain silica - may pose a silicosis hazard when it is used to remove materials that contain crystalline silica, such as remains of sand moulds from metal castings. Activities such as dry sweeping, clearing sand or concrete or cleaning masonry with pressurized air can create large dust clouds that can be equally as hazardous, even in the open air. The WorkSafeBC Bulletin includes a list of work activities that put you at risk for crystalline silica dust exposure.

Steps employers can take to protect workers

  • Establish and implement an exposure control plan that provides a detailed approach to protecting workers from harmful exposure to crystalline silica dust. The plan should include purpose and responsibilities, risk assessment, health hazard information, engineering controls, written safe work procedures, worker training, washing or decontamination facilities, health monitoring, and record keeping.

  • Substitute glass beads, olivine, or other material for silica sand in abrasive blasting.

  • Change the process - Design buildings with pre-built recesses for plumbing, gas, and electric wiring so there is less need to cut or drill masonry and concrete.

  • Provide engineering controls. Use local exhaust ventilation or water spray systems to reduce dust levels and use barriers to prevent access to the area by unprotected workers.

  • Provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as respirators and protective clothing if engineering controls and work practices are not effective in controlling exposure.

  • Train workers on the dangers of silica exposure, and how to use dust controls and PPE.

What workers can do to protect themselves

  • Learn about the control methods that can protect you.

  • Ask your supervisor how you will be protected when performing dusty work.

  • Follow safe work procedures, and use respiratory protection.

More information and resources

Read the WorkSafeBC Bulletin on the dangers of breathing silica dust.

The dangers of silica and how to prevent exposure, WorkSafeBC

More information about the health effects of quartz silica, OSH Answers

Information on silica substitutes, Occupational & Environmental Medicine, Michigan State University (English)

Crystalline Silica in the Workplace Bulletin, Work Safe Alberta (English)

Partner News

Manitoba Dealing with Men's Depression - Man to Manprint this article

A silent crisis. That's how the Canadian Health Association describes men's mental health - a shadowy crisis that is slowly coming to light. Nearly three million Canadians will experience depression, however in men it is less likely to be diagnosed.

Studies show that men often don't make the connection between their mental health and physical symptoms, such as headaches, digestive problems and chronic pain. They also may face specific social barriers - e.g. that emotions are a sign of inadequacy - that may prevent them from recognizing and seeking help for their mental health concerns.
In Canada men die by suicide about 4 times as often as women, but only receive a diagnosis of depression about half as often.

Often men do not recognize their mental health concerns until they have a great personal and economic cost. Men are more likely to seek help if they have a connection with supportive peers and access to health information. So, while workplaces bear significant costs of men's mental health issues (e.g. increased absenteeism, staff turnover, lower productivity), they are in a unique position to promote employees' mental health.

Klinic's Man to Man Project in Winnipeg, Manitoba is one initiative in place to help reach men through their employers. The Project works to address the issue of unrecognized and undiagnosed depression in men, and how it affects communities and workplaces. The Project provides free services to Winnipeg men and their workplaces by giving a presentation highlighting the signs and costs of mental distress, and strategies to attain mental wellness. Organizations are pointed to information and resources they can use to promote the overall wellness of their employees. The Project provides promotional materials for display in the workplace that invite men to access free, ongoing confidential support for their mental health concerns, at no additional expense to the organization.

By shedding light on men's mental health, men who are suffering from illness can emerge from the shroud of silence and be treated.

More information

Learn more about the Man to Man Project.

Information about depression from the Canadian Mental Health Association


National Forum to Discuss Strategies on Leading Workplace Changeprint this article

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) invites you to explore current issues, discuss possible solutions, and inspire workplace change. On March 8 and 9, 2010 in the National Capital Region, CCOHS will host Forum III: Leading Workplace Change, a two-day national event to explore the role leadership and responsibility play in improving health and building safer workplaces.

Forum III: Leading Workplace Change is a unique event in that perspectives from Canadian government, employer and labour organizations will all be represented, in an effort to bring together their collective experience around effective leadership.

Researchers, policy-makers, organizational strategists, generational specialists, and other experts will share their knowledge of leadership issues impacting the health and safety of today's workplaces, including violence prevention, participatory ergonomics, training and knowledge transfer, and the internal responsibility system.

In addition to a number of informative plenary sessions, Forum III features an opening keynote presentation by best selling author and international improvement leader Jim Clemmer. Jim's presentation, Leading at the Speed of Change will address the importance of strong leadership, which when flowing effectively throughout an organization, can lead to dramatically higher health, safety and overall performance.

Participants will also take part in interactive workshops where they will be involved in identifying new strategies and solutions to promote leadership and affect workplace change.

CCOHS has hosted two national forums. The first took place in Toronto, ON, and brought together nearly 350 Canadians, who shared concerns and debated on the issue of occupational disease. The second, held in Vancouver, BC, focused on emerging health and safety issues in changing workplaces. From both events, CCOHS consolidated recommendations and invited all Canadians to weigh in via a Web survey.

Early bird registration for Forum III opens July 10th. Further information on the program, as well as details on early bird, group and student rates, is available at

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