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>Health & Safety Report

Volume 2, Issue 4 - April 2004

In the News
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New regulations require emergency plans for hazardous substances

Some Canadian companies have already started replacing their hazardous chemicals with safer ones. Besides choosing safer alternatives, some companies are cutting back on the amounts of hazardous chemicals they use. This encouraging turn of events is in response to federal legislation recently enacted to protect Canadians and the environment from accidental release of hazardous substances.

The Environmental Emergency Regulations, developed under section 200 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) 1999 came into force on November 18, 2003. The federal government lists 174 hazardous substances that are harmful to human health and/or the environment. Under the new regulations, facilities that store or use any of the listed substances above the "threshold quantity" are required to prepare and implement environmental emergency (E2) plans, and file notices indicating that they have been tested and implemented.

Environment Canada reports that the most common causes of chemical releases are equipment failure, human error, metal corrosion and storms and floods. An environmental emergency plan enables a company to better respond to these events.

The E2 plan should cover the four phases of emergency management: prevention, preparedness, response and recovery. The site-specific plan must ensure appropriate risk management measures are taken to prevent, as much as possible, accidental releases into the environment. The E2 plan should describe steps to be taken in response to typical release scenarios, and specify details such as the necessary equipment to keep on hand in case of emergencies. The plan should outline what training is required for staff and list up-to-date contact information for government and emergency services.

Under the new legislation, facilities that use the listed substances above the specified quantities have until November 18, 2004 to implement their plan. Organizations will be required to file various notices with the government indicating that they have complied. The Environment Canada website offers guidance on how to file notices, and provides other tools to assist companies in their implementation of an E2 plan.

Once reviewed, the notices/declarations (minus any sensitive information) will be posted on the CEPA Registry, where they will be available to the public.

Environment Canada will periodically review and evaluate the regulated list of hazardous chemicals, as well as other components of the new regulations. All pesticides in Canada are currently being evaluated and may eventually be added to the list of substances that require an environmental emergency plan.

Hazard Alerts
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Cold water kills quickly

The crewmember of a BC crab fishing boat fell overboard while trying to hold a trap that was slipping off the boat. As the man entered the water, he let go of the trap and remained at the surface. Crewmembers threw various lines and floating objects in an attempt to help, but the man made no attempt to hold onto them. He was finally pulled on board after 11 minutes in the water. He was unconscious and could not be revived.

Neither the BC crab fisherman nor the other crewmembers were wearing a personal flotation device (PFD), life jacket, or immersion suit. The water temperature was 9C (48F). WorkSafe BC has issued an alert warning the public of the dangers of cold water.

Drowning is the number one cause of death in B.C.'s fishing industry, and a major cause of death wherever people work on or near the water. Accident investigations repeatedly show that a person's physical fitness or ability to swim in warm water will not save him or her in cold water. Hypothermia can be a factor, but that takes time - usually more than 30 minutes. The killing factor is often that first shock of cold water on the body.

Exposure to cold water changes how your body functions. The first shock takes your breath away. Within a few minutes, your hands are so cold you cannot hold onto anything. You cannot pull yourself out of the water. Swimming becomes difficult or impossible as your breathing and muscles are affected by the cold. Eventually hypothermia sets in, but by then it may still be too late for a successful rescue.

Recommended precautions WorkSafe BC recommends the following safe work practices to ensure the safety of workers at risk of falling into cold water:

  • Where possible, install a lifeline or other guarding to prevent crew from entering the water.
  • Wear a personal flotation device (PFD) if there is any risk of falling overboard.
  • Practise emergency drills so that all crewmembers are able to recover a person overboard as quickly as possible.
  • Ensure that someone on the vessel is trained in first aid and CPR.
  • Ensure that the equipment used for a specific procedure has been designed to perform that procedure.
  • Have an effective means to call for help when working in remote locations.

OSH Answers
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Workplace Stress - Keep it at a Manageable Dose

You've heard it before: "a certain amount of stress is okay." It's true. The human body knows how to respond to stress. At the first sign of imbalance or strain in our lives, our hearts beat a little faster, we breathe a little faster, and our blood pressure and metabolism increase. Other temporary responses, such as increased production of blood sugar - give us that extra jolt of energy to help us meet our daily challenges at home and at work.

While a manageable dose of stress causes some of the jittery symptoms described above, extreme or prolonged stress can develop into severe depression, chest pain, stomach problems, teeth grinding, withdrawal, and a host of other disturbing health effects.

Are our jobs to blame? In a 2001 Canadian Mental Health Survey, 51 percent of Canadians said work contributed to serious stress (that number has increased, from 39 percent in 1997). Not surprising - since we spend most of our days at work.

While there are possibly hundreds of work-related stressors, workplace stress in general can be summarized as the harmful physical and emotional responses that can happen when there is a conflict between job demands on the employee and the amount of control an employee has over meeting those demands.

Consider these factors:

  • Unique characteristics of the job
    Do I have enough to do? Too much to do? Is there constant noise? Is the shiftwork making me tired?
  • Role in the organization.
    Am I clear on where I fit in the organization?
  • Career development.
    Do I feel secure? Is this job getting me anywhere?
  • Relationships at work
    Are my interactions with others causing tension?
  • Organizational structure/climate
    Do I like how the company is run, and how I'm treated?

Ways to deal with stress
If you find your job is less than ideal, there are ways to improve it! CCOHS' OSH Answers offers several suggestions on how to control or eliminate job stressors. Meanwhile, try these simple solutions to beat stress so that it won't beat you:

  • Learn to relax. Throughout the day, allow yourself some deep breathing and stretch breaks.
  • Meditate.
  • Exercise. (In the 2001 Canadian Mental Health Survey, Canadians said exercise and meditation were far more effective than talking about their problems).
  • Take charge of your work life by taking 10 minutes every morning to set realistic goals and priorities, and organize your day.
  • Laugh. It's almost impossible to let life get you down if you see the humour in it.
  • When stress becomes too much, do not be discouraged. Help is available.

Partner News
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NAOSH Week: Build a Safe Beginning May 2-8, 2004

All working Canadians are invited to participate in an annual, continent-wide initiative to promote health and safety in the workplace. North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week, May 2-8, 2004, is an opportunity for Canada, the USA and Mexico to raise awareness of the importance of preventing occupational injury and illness.

Every year, companies find fresh ways to strengthen their commitment to workplace safety. Some celebrate NAOSH Week with an awards ceremony to recognize employees who have demonstrated safety initiative. They may focus on education, offering safety training and seminars, or invite a safety inspector to help them reduce occupational hazards. Some promote safety with articles in the company newsletter, in newspapers, or through the local radio station. And others get creative - with NAOSH Week "fashion shows" displaying personal protective equipment and apparel; safety quizzes for employees; safety poster contests for kids; safety fairs; safety luncheons; or even safety parades! Regardless of how ambitious the effort, anything goes, as long as the event helps spread the word about workplace safety.

A Brief History of NAOSH
The very first NAOSH Week was launched in June 1997. During the North American Free Trade Agreement talks, government labour department representatives from Mexico, the United States and Canada discussed workplace safety within the boundaries of the three nations. As a result of those discussions, the Canadian Society of Engineering (CSSE) changed the former "Canadian Occupational Health and Safety (COHS) Week" to include the U.S. and Mexico, officially making the annual event a continent-wide effort.

The CSSE continues to lead NAOSH Week with the help of its partners, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) and Human Resources Skills Development Canada's Labour Program in concert with North American partners in Mexico and the United States.

This year's theme "Build a Safe Beginning" reinforces the importance of and need for ongoing training, and increases awareness of the health and safety issues of those most at risk - young and new workers.

The national launch of NAOSH Week will be held in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada on Monday, May 3, 2004. Activities and events will run May 2 - 8, 2004 in communities, businesses, schools, colleges and universities throughout North America to demonstrate and distribute important safety information, and highlight occupational safety "best practices" to help in the prevention of accidents.

For ideas on how to participate, or to order promotional NAOSH Week merchandise, visit the NAOSH Week website.

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e-Learning - Coming to a screen near you

A respected trainer is taking the classroom to your computer monitor. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) has built an excellent reputation for its health and safety courses and workshops. Traditionally held at CCOHS or at clients' worksites, these popular training sessions are now meeting the public demand for e-learning.

Anyone interested in gaining practical workplace safety skills and knowledge can now learn from the comfort of their own computer. With CCOHS' new e-learning, students can access course material - and authoritative reference material from CCOHS' extensive collection - through the Internet. Vubiz, an international leader in e-learning development, has partnered with CCOHS to create an e-learning version of CCOHS' popular Health and Safety Training for Managers and Supervisors course.

CCOHS is developing several other e-learning courses, including Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) For Workers and Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) For Employers, which will be added to their portfolio in the near future. These courses, delivered through the Internet using a web browser, are user-friendly, with easy features such as a printable notepad, book marking, "help bubbles," links to supplementary resources, and easy navigation to any section of the course. The programs offer a virtual tour to help e-learners get started, and interaction with the course instructor is available for extra guidance.

The benefits of e-Learning
For most working Canadians, learning about occupational health and safety is not only a benefit - it's a legislated requirement. Here are some reasons why many companies prefer e-learning as a way to train their staff, managers and supervisors:

  • People can learn at their own pace, and at their own convenience.
  • No waiting. The training is available on demand, 24/7.
  • Progress evaluation. The multi-user license includes a feature that reports on who is taking a particular course, and how well they're doing.
  • Money wisely spent. Every training dollar goes to actual training instead of airfare and hotels.
  • Everyone receives the same information and the same high standard of training.

If you're considering e-learning for your health and safety training, all you need is a computer, access to the Internet and a browser. For further information or to register, contact CCOHS Client Services at 1-800-668-4284 or via e-mail.

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.

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