Protect yourself from Lyme disease
If you work on a farm, in a forest, on a railroad, or do construction, landscaping or utility line work, you may be at risk for Lyme disease. If you work (or play) outdoors especially in the woods or around bushes, high grass or leaf litter, you are at risk of being exposed to tiny ticks that can bite and infect you with Lyme disease.
In 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed 30,000 and 8,500 probable cases of Lyme disease. The disease is passed to humans by the bite of black-legged ticks infected with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. The Lyme disease bacterium normally lives in mice, squirrels, chipmunks and other small mammals, and the ticks usually live in woods or tall grasslands in Canada, the United States, Europe, and Asia. People cannot spread Lyme disease to each other.
Symptoms of Lyme disease
Tick bites are usually painless and you may not even know you've been bitten. The symptoms of Lyme disease can vary from person to person, however one of the first signs of infection is a circular rash, often referred to as a "bull's eye" because of the rings spreading from the bite site. The rash may appear three days to a month after infection.
You could also experience fever, chills, joint and muscle pains, headache, fatigue and/or swollen lymph nodes. Usually people will feel mildly ill and get a peculiar skin rash. However in some cases the bacteria can spread to the joints, heart, and brain and cause serious health problems. The good news is that Lyme disease can often be effectively treated, especially if detected in the early stages.
Lyme disease can be difficult to recognize and it is often confused with other diseases. It is important to check with your doctor if you feel you may have Lyme disease. Pregnant women should see a doctor immediately as Lyme disease can lead to serious complications, including stillbirth.
What employers can do to protect their workers
- Provide training for workers about Lyme disease: how it's spread, the risks of exposure and infection, how they can protect themselves from ticks, and why it is important to report all tick bites and related illnesses.
- Recommend that workers wear light-colored long-sleeved shirts, long pants tucked into their socks, and a hat when possible.
- Provide workers with repellents (containing 20% to 30% DEET) to use on their skin and clothing for protection against tick bites.
- When possible, have workers avoid working at sites with woods, bushes, tall grass, and leaf litter.
- If work in these higher-risk sites can't be avoided, try to reduce the tick populations by removing leaf litter, cutting back tall grass and brush, controlling the rodent and small mammal populations, and discouraging deer activity.
What workers can do to protect themselves from tick bites
- Take extra care to protect yourself in the late spring and summer when young ticks are most active.
- Use an insect/tick repellent that has 20% to 30% DEET (follow the manufacturer's directions for use). Apply it to your skin and outer clothing, avoiding your eyes and mouth.
- Prevent ticks from attaching to your skin by wearing a light coloured, long-sleeved shirt that fits tightly around the wrist, long-legged pants tucked into your socks or boots, and a hat when possible. Light coloured clothing makes it easier to spot and remove ticks.
- Perform a complete body inspection after being in an area where ticks may live. Check for ticks on and under clothing. Be sure to check your armpits, in and around your scalp and hair, navel, groin, and behind your ears and knees.
- Remove ticks within 24 hours to reduce your risk of infection with Lyme disease.
- Grasp the tick firmly using needle-nose tweezers, as close to your skin as possible.
- Pull the tick's body away from your skin with a steady motion without squeezing it as this can cause the harmful bacteria to be released into the body.
- Clean the area with soap and water.
- Save the live tick for testing by putting it in a sealed container or double zip lock bag. Bring the tick to your doctor or your local health unit office to be sent for testing for Lyme disease.
- Wash and dry work clothes in a hot dryer to kill any ticks present.
- Learn the symptoms of Lyme disease so you can recognize it and be treated promptly.
- Tell your doctor that you work outdoors where ticks may be present.
Higher risk areas for tick infection
In Canada there are areas that may be higher-risk for contacting ticks and Lyme disease:
- Quebec - Monteregie and Estrie regions in the southeast of the province
- Ontario - Long Point; Point Pelee National Park; Rondeau Provincial Park; Turkey Point; Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area, and St. Lawrence Islands National Park in the Thousand Islands region of eastern Ontario
- Nova Scotia - Lunenburg and Bedford areas
- Manitoba - Buffalo Point area
- British Columbia - most of the province, but the largest tick populations are on the lower mainland, Vancouver Island, and Fraser Valley
These areas continue to change as the tick population moves. Ticks can be spread by migrating birds and the animal population.
Learn more about Lyme disease and take precautions to protect yourself from tiny ticks that can cause big health problems.
More about Lyme disease:
- Lyme Disease OSH Answers, CCOHS
- Lyme Disease : Frequently Asked Questions, Government of Ontario
- It's Your Health: Lyme Disease, Health Canada
Ticks and Lyme Disease, Public Health Agency of Canada
Canada Communicable Disease Report: The rising challenge of Lyme borreliosis in Canada
Lyme Disease Home Page, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Lyme Disease Alert Fact Sheet (PDF), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
BC awareness campaign to protect roadside workers
You can't help but notice the bright orange cones that line our roadways, especially in the summertime, that signal work is being done. This "cone zone" doesn't offer much protection for the thousands of roadside workers from being seriously injured or killed by a passing vehicle.
There are a wide variety of workers in the cone zone who work in potentially high-risk environments close to traffic including municipal workers, landscapers, flag people, tow truck drivers, road construction and maintenance workers, telecommunications and utility workers, and emergency and enforcement personnel. Many have had to dodge drivers who didn't slow down enough or pay attention when traveling through their work zone.
To make drivers more aware of the dangers, the Work Zone Safety Alliance recently launched the "Cone Zone" campaign, a road safety initiative that encourages drivers to slow down, pay attention and be respectful when driving near roadside workers. The objective of the campaign is to reduce the number of deaths and injuries of workers at the side of the road by increasing awareness of their vulnerability in the cone zone.
In the last ten years, WorkSafeBC reports that 386 workers, typically working in cone zones, were struck by motor vehicles. Of that number, 46 percent were classified as serious injuries and 12 resulted in the death of the worker.
The campaign's message is clear and simple: slow down and pay attention in the cone zone. These workers are vulnerable and have the right to be safe.
To avoid the frustration that often comes with the hold-ups in work zones drivers should plan their routes to avoid known cone zones and allow extra travel time, drive at the posted speed limits, and leave plenty of space between their vehicle and the one in front of them.
The "Slow Down in the Cone Zone" campaign is sponsored by WorkSafeBC, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, and the BCAA Road Safety Foundation.
Learn more about roadside worker safety from WorkSafeBC.
Download and view the poster from WorkSafeBC. (PDF)
Health and Safety To Go
CCOHS produces free monthly podcasts on a wide variety of topics designed to keep you current with information, tips and insights into the health, safety and well-being of working Canadians. You can download the audio segment to your computer or MP3 player and listen to it at your own convenience...or on the go!
This month's edition of Health and Safety To Go! features podcasts on how to protect yourself and your skin from the summer sun and offers safety tips for landscapers.
In this month's face to face episode, Summer Sun Safety, Gillian Bromfield of the Canadian Cancer Society sheds some light on summer sun safety, and the steps you can take to protect yourself from the harmful effects of sun exposure. The podcast runs 3:44 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
Safety Tips for Landscapers outlines some of the hazards workers face when landscaping and offers general safety precautions to take to work safely. The podcast runs 2:34 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
Encore podcast: Working in the Heat: How Hot is Too Hot?
Jan Chappel, Senior Technical Specialist at CCOHS, discusses heat stress and how to stay safe when working in extreme heat. The podcast runs 6:11 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
See the complete list of podcast topics. Better yet, subscribe to the series on iTunes and don't miss a single episode.
CCOHS and iHR Solutions have partnered to create and develop a unique set of e-courses to help companies and workers handle the difficulties and issues that arise when human interactions go wrong. Learn how to deal with hostile customers, robbery, and hostage situations.
Dealing with Difficult or Hostile Customers
Dealing with the general public on a daily basis normally involves minimum stress. However, there may be times when customer or client concerns escalate into a stressful or potentially explosive situation, for both the staff and the customer. Gain an understanding of the stresses and pressures that exist when dealing with customers who are volatile or hostile in this hour-long e-course.
You will develop a broad skill set to cope with these potential interactions. In addition, you'll learn practical communication and coping techniques to handle the situation and enhance your personal performance.
Dealing with Robbery
If you are in the unfortunate position of being involved in a robbery, you need to be aware of your body's physical and mental reactions. This awareness, in combination with safety procedures and techniques, will allow you to safely communicate with the robber and to handle the highly stressful situation.
This course provides managers, supervisors and workers with the mental and practical skills to successfully deal with a robbery incident. Identify different types of robberies, understand the psychological aspects involved, and discover advice and techniques that can be used to defuse both soft and hard robberies. You'll also learn about post-robbery procedures, from the practical aspects to the emotional aftermath.
Dealing with a Hostage Situation
One of the most stressful experiences a worker can be subjected to is being held against his or her will. Research has shown, however, that preparing for "the worst" - by having a basic understanding of what may happen and how it may affect you - can reduce the impact of such an event.
Although a hostage situation is unlikely, the possibility cannot be discounted and the impact to the individual and company can be high. This course provides management at any facility, store or branch, with the knowledge and practical skills to deal with a short-term hostage event. The course will look at the possible background to such an event, the psychological pressures on all concerned, the key requirement and skills of rapport building, and the resolution of such an incident.
Learn more about these and other e-courses from CCOHS.
I am one of a few women working in a corrections facility. There is a group of men I work with who are continually whispering and laughing at me, commenting about my body and appearance and embarrassing me in front of our peers. The sexual innuendo has gotten worse and to the point that I want to avoid the lunchroom altogether. The guys tell me to lighten up, that it goes with the territory but I feel humiliated and stressed about the situation. What can I do?
The behaviours you describe suggest that you are being bullied at work. Bullying lies somewhere between violence and harassment and is usually seen as acts or comments that make you feel isolated in the workplace and can even involve negative physical contact. Bullying usually involves repeated incidents or a pattern of behaviour that is intended to intimidate, offend, degrade or humiliate a particular person or group of people. The actions can be both obvious and subtle.
Currently there is little occupational health and safety legislation in Canada that specifically deals with bullying in the workplace. Quebec legislation includes "psychological harassment" in the "Act Respecting Labour Standards". Some jurisdictions have legislation on workplace violence or workplace harassment in which bullying is included. In addition, employers have a general duty to protect employees from risks at work. This duty can include both physical harm and mental health.
What you can do
You do not have to tolerate behaviour at work that is unreasonable and offends or harms you. You have a right to be safe at work. There are steps you can take if you feel that you are being bullied, discriminated against, victimized or subjected to any form of harassment.
Tell the coworkers who are bullying you, very firmly, that their behaviour is not acceptable and ask them to stop. You can ask a supervisor or union member to be with you when you approach them.
Document the daily events. Keep a factual journal in which you record the:
- date, time and details of what happened
- names of witnesses
- outcome of the event
Keep copies of any notes, memos, e-mails etc., received from the people who are harassing you.
Report the harassment to the person identified in your workplace policy, your supervisor, human resources manager or a delegated manager. If you feel your concerns are being minimized and you are not satisfied with the response you receive, proceed to the next level of management.
Do not retaliate. You may end up looking like the perpetrator, and it will only cause confusion for those responsible for evaluating and responding to the situation.
There is more information and help available:
Read the fact sheet on bullying in the workplace from CCOHS.
Get the Violence in the Workplace Prevention Guide.
Download the free poster, Bullying is Not Part of the Job.
Listen to the free podcast: Violence and Harassment in the Workplace (runs 7:13 minutes).
Take the free Violence in the Workplace: Awareness e-course.
Still need more help? Contact the confidential Inquiries Service at CCOHS, free to all Canadians, by calling 1-800-668-4284 or using the contact form on the website.
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The Health and Safety Report, a free monthly newsletter produced by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), provides information, advice, and resources that help support a safe and healthy work environment and the total well being of workers.
© 2017, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
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