With Canadian Thanksgiving over and done, a new season is upon us. Soon (if not already) the sound of coughing, sneezing and misery will fill the air as people get ill with influenza (commonly called "the flu"). Unfortunately flu season is not something to celebrate. However it is a time to prepare and take precautions to prevent you, your family, and your co-workers from getting and spreading the flu.
ABOUT THE FLU
The flu is a common infection of the nose, throat and lungs caused by the influenza virus. It affects millions of Canadians each year during the winter months (typically from November to April), however according to FluWatch, flu season in Canada 2012-13 arrived in October.
People usually develop symptoms within four days after becoming infected. The symptoms come on quite suddenly. usually starting with a sudden headache, chills and cough followed by achy muscles, fever, extreme weakness and fatigue, sore throat, watery eyes, stuffy nose, and sneezing.
Most people recover from the flu in about a week. However the flu lowers your body's ability to fight other infections, which can lead to other infections such as pneumonia and other complications - even death. Infants, elderly people and those with underlying medical conditions like diabetes, anemia, cancer, immune suppression, HIV and kidney disease are especially at risk for these complications.
People are contagious for seven days after the start of the symptoms; however children, people with weakened immune systems, and those with severe illness may be contagious longer.
The flu spreads easily from infected persons in the form of tiny respiratory droplets that spread when they cough, sneeze or talk. It is also spread when you touch surfaces, objects, or unwashed hands contaminated by the influenza virus. Viruses can live on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours.
On average, each year about 20,000 people in Canada are hospitalized due to the flu and its complications, and 2,000 to 8,000 die, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).
PREVENT THE FLU
Get your annual flu shot.
Getting the flu shot is one of the most effective ways to prevent catching and spreading the flu virus. Each year there is a new vaccine to protect against new strains of the influenza virus which is why you need a flu shot every year. The best time to get the shot is early in the flu season, between October and December. It is especially important for people who are at high risk of flu-related complications to get the shot, including:
- elderly people, aged 65 and over;
- healthy children aged 6-23 months;
- pregnant women;
- those with chronic health conditions such as heart or lung problems, diabetes, cancer, weakened immune systems, kidney disease, severe obesity, and anemia;
- health care workers;
- residents of nursing homes or other chronic care facilities; and
- Aboriginal people.
If you provide essential community services, or work, live, or have contact with people in high risk groups, you could potentially give the flu virus to those in the high risk group. So be sure to get vaccinated against the flu.
Cover your cough and sneeze into your sleeve.
Sneeze and cough into your elbow or sleeve (NOT your hand), or use a tissue. Throw away the tissue immediately after using and wash your hands.
Wash your hands properly, and often.
Hand washing is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of infections. Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds to help remove bacteria and viruses. Be sure to remove any rings or jewellery before washing, and to scrub your hands, wrists, and forearms and between your fingers and under your nails.
Wash before and after eating, after you have been in a public place, after using the washroom, after coughing and sneezing, and after touching surfaces that may have been contaminated. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer, while not effective as hand washing, is a good option to use when soap and running water are not available.
Keep your hands away from your face.
You can catch germs when you touch contaminated objects or surfaces and then touch your face. Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth to prevent the flu virus from entering your body.
When sick, stay home and avoid crowds.
If you have the flu, prevent spreading it to others; stay home from work or school and avoid large crowds. Keep your distance from others until your symptoms are gone. If they get worse, call your health care provider.
Keep it clean and disinfected.
Regularly clean and disinfect common surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, telephones, keyboards and other surfaces that can become contaminated with bacteria and viruses. Viruses can live on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours.
Resources to help you fight the flu
Find out everything you need to know about the flu from Fight Flu Canada.
Get tips on good hygiene practices to reduce the spread of infections and viruses from CCOHS.
Reinforce the "Wash your hands!" message with these large easy peel stickers.
Watch and share the CCOHS video on how to properly wash your hands.
Download our free posters on proper handwashing and healthy hygiene habits to help prevent the spread of germs.
It is the main ingredient of your morning cereal as well as your toast. In fact grain is the main food of humans and domestic animals. However, these tiny grains of goodness can also be perilous to the farmers and individuals who work with them. Over the past thirty years several hundreds of people in Canada and the United States have died by suffocation after becoming entrapped (caught or buried) in grain.
The death of three farm workers by grain entrapment and the near miss of a fourth caused WorkSafe Saskatchewan to issue a hazard alert. Workers who work with grain - loading, unloading, or moving it - must be aware of the hazards of flowing grain and ways to prevent becoming entrapped or buried.
There are generally three different ways workers can become caught or trapped in grain:
1. Collapse of a grain bridge
Mouldy or moist grain can clump together and form a bridge over a hollow cavity that can collapse under a worker's weight. The worker can fall through and become buried in and suffocated by an "avalanche" of grain. Anyone standing under bridged grain is also at great risk of being buried and suffocated as the bridge can collapse unexpectedly onto them.
2. Collapse of a vertical grain wall
Grain that has spoiled can collect in large vertical columns against the bin wall. If workers try to break the grain loose, the grain can avalanche down and completely bury them. The same fate could happen to anyone standing next to a pile of grain on the side of the bin that suddenly collapses in onto them.
3. Entrapment in flowing grain
Flowing grain - a term used to describe the downward and out movement of grain from a storage bin - can entrap and bury a person within seconds. When drawn from below, grain can act like quicksand to entrap and pull a person down. When flowing from above, grain can bury a person in seconds, especially with high capacity loading systems. Many entrapments and suffocations have occurred in high capacity grain transport equipment when victims are either buried during loading from combine or storage, or drawn into the flow of grain as a vehicle is being unloaded.
To reduce the risk of entrapment and suffocation, prevention measures include the following:
- Never allow individuals to enter grain bins or grain trucks when loading or unloading grain.
- Use devices such as a grain bag unloader, auger, or vacuum to enable grains to be unloaded without entering the space.
- Eliminate the need to enter bins by using proper storage techniques to avoid the grain from spoiling.
- Use alternate methods to avoid entering a bin, such as using a long stick from outside the bin to break up possible grain bridges.
- Take precautions to prevent falling into bins. Do not overreach into bin openings.
- Ensure individuals are aware of all grain entrapment hazards and tag these enclosed spaces with warnings of potential injury.
- Lockout power to all grain handling equipment to prevent it from unexpected starting up. Grain should not be emptied or moved into or out of the bin while workers are inside as it creates a suction that can pull the worker into the grain in seconds.
- Take precautions to avoid being entrapped. Break up bridges before entry. Never stand below or next to piled grain within the space.
- Never allow children to enter grain storage areas; lock all grain bin access openings and position bin ladders high and out of the reach of curious children.
Grain bins and trucks are hazardous confined spaces and employers and contractors are required to take specific precautions to protect individuals who work in or near them. Learn about, and comply with, the occupational safety and health requirements specific to these hazards, in your province or territory which include taking these confined space hazard control measures:
- Establish a written entry and rescue plan and ensure that employees are trained and equipped to implement the plan.
- Train all workers for the specific hazardous work operations they are to perform when entering and working inside of grain bins.
- Test the air in the bin for oxygen content and the presence of hazardous gases before entering.
- Ensure that workers have enough air continuously available to them during entry, and if toxicity or oxygen deficiency cannot be eliminated, have workers wear appropriate respirators.
- Station a second person as an observer who is equipped to provide assistance and trained in rescue procedures, immediately outside the bin. Ensure that communications (visual, voice or signal line) are maintained between the observer and the workers who entered the bin.
- If entrance into the space is from the top the person must wear a full body harness and lifeline attached to a mechanical lifting device that can lift the person out.
- Provide workers with rescue equipment, such as winch systems, that are specifically suited for rescue from the bin.
Fatalities and injuries are preventable if employees follow work practices and employers provide training and equipment.
Hazard Alert: Agricultural Workers Suffocate In Grain, WorkSafe Saskatchewan
Flowing Grain Entrapment [PDF] , Health and Safety Ontario
Dangers of Engulfment and Suffocation in Grain Bins, OSHA
CCOHS has two confined space e-courses:
Confined Spaces: The Basics
Confined Space Management
On November 7th more than 200,000 grade nine students across Canada will head off to work with their parents for Take Our Kids to WorkÂ™. This annual, national program from The Learning Partnership gives young people a chance to job shadow their parent or another adult at work for a day, to get an up close glimpse of work life. In addition, the entire community of parents, teachers and employers has an opportunity to get involved in the career development of young Canadians.
Keep the kids safe at work
It is important that young people receive information about health and safety prior to their workplace visit. They need to know and understand their rights and responsibilities for jobs they may hold now and in the future. Parents need this same information and to be aware of the work that their children are doing. They should ask questions about the health and safety concerns and how they are being addressed in the workplace.
Teachers should encourage all participants in the Take Our Kids to Work program to commit themselves to a safe day. On forms, include a section demonstrating that students have read and discussed materials on health and workplace safety before participating.
In preparation for Take Our Kids to Work, workplaces should conduct an inspection prior to the day with a view to youth workplace safety. One of the first things employers should do on Take Our Kids to Work day is hold workplace orientations with the students that focus on health and safety issues relevant to that environment. Students should be supervised all day while they are at the workplace site and should only be allowed to undertake tasks and experiences for which they have been properly oriented. In the work environment, students should be encouraged to speak up about health and safety concerns, ask questions, and comment on situations they observed during the day.
Visit The Learning Partnership website to register your participation, download resources and posters, and learn more about the Take Our Kids to Work program.
Young Workers Zone from CCOHS offers resources for young workers, parents, employers and teachers to help young people be healthy and safe at work.
Learn about the free Teaching Tools.
Watch the free webinar: New Workers: Orientation is Key.
Length: 1 hour
Health and Safety To Go
This month's Health and Safety To Go! podcasts explore computer vision syndrome and feature a timely encore presentation on how to avoid slips, trips and falls.
For most Canadians, computers and tablets are a daily part of home, school and work life. Along with the benefits of using this technology, also come some health risks. Dr. Cheryl Zimmer, from the Canadian Association of Optometrists, discusses Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). Find out how to identify, treat and prevent this common condition that can affect heavy users of computerized devices and those who use computers at work.
The podcast runs 8:45 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
Encore Podcast: Avoiding Slips, Trips and Falls
Join us as we look at ways you can avoid slipping, tripping and falling in the workplace.
The podcast runs 2:44 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
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!
See the complete list of podcast topics. Better yet, subscribe to the series on iTunes and don't miss a single episode.
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) is now accepting entries for the 2012-2013 Dick Martin Scholarship Award. This annual, national award is offered to students enrolled in an occupational health and safety course or program in an accredited Canadian college or university, leading to an occupational health and safety certificate, diploma or degree.
"At the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, we believe that everyone should be empowered and have the knowledge, training and ability to be engaged in a healthy and safe workplace," says Steve Horvath, President and CEO, CCOHS. "Through the Dick Martin Scholarship Award, we are pleased to help support winning students in their pursuit of higher education, in the hopes that they will become future leaders in the field of occupational health and safety."
Two scholarships worth $3000 each will be awarded to one winning university student and one winning college student. This year, for the first time in the program's 10-year history, a $500 award will also be provided to each of the winning students' academic institutions.
To apply for the award, post-secondary students are invited to submit a 1000 -1200 word essay on one of two topics related to occupational health and safety. Essays will be judged on the intellectual content, the practical and theoretical value and the presentation and style. Entry deadline for the Dick Martin Scholarship Award is January 31, 2013.
Established in 2002 by the CCOHS Council of Governors, the Dick Martin Scholarship Award was created in recognition of Mr. Martin's valuable contribution to CCOHS as one of its governors; his powerful voice for the rights of workers; his commitment to securing justice for working men and women; and, promoting action to protect people's environments inside and outside the workplace.
More information about the Dick Martin Scholarship Award, including the online application form, is available on the CCOHS website.
Listen to a podcast with two former recipients of the Dick Martin Scholarship.
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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.
© 2016, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
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