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In the News
No sooner had June arrived than weather stations were issuing heat advisories. Environment Canada is predicting a hotter-than-average summer this year. For some workers, the heat is a serious occupational hazard.
Whether you love or hate working in the sunny outdoors or in hot smelting plant, it can be dangerous. Canadians working in hot environments, such as mines, agriculture fields, roofs, construction sites and bakeries, are particularly at risk in the summer months.
Risks and Prevention
Did you know that an increase in body temperature of just a few degrees could affect your mental functioning? An increase of a few more degrees can result in serious injury or death. Heat may also be the underlying cause of a workplace accident, a fall, or a heart attack.
Heat stress is a buildup of body heat generated either internally (by muscle use) or externally (by the environment) that affects your body's natural cooling system. Without proper precautions, this heat buildup can develop into heat exhaustion or heat stroke, a potentially fatal condition. As the internal heat increases, the worker's body temperature and heart rate rise and the body becomes overwhelmed. When it comes to heat illness - prevention is key.
Tips for Employers
Every year, Canadian workers die on the job because of heat-related causes. As an employer you must manage this risk - evaluate the situation and determine appropriate controls. Depending on the workplace, a heat stress control program may be necessary. You can help reduce the risk by managing work activities so that they match the employee's physical condition and the temperature.
Provide training. Take time to train your workers on the serious health risks of heat illness, how to avoid it, how to recognize the symptoms and what to do if it happens.
Keep workers cool. Demonstrate your commitment to the worker's health by allowing some flexibility in work arrangements during hot conditions. If possible, schedule heavy tasks, and work that requires PPE, for cooler times such as early mornings or evenings. Keep the work area cool, or provide air-conditioned rest areas. For workers on duty in the heat, provide plenty of water and encourage them to drink even if they don't feel thirsty, and to take frequent rest breaks.
Tips for Workers
Do not expect to tolerate the heat right away. It can take up to two weeks for a person to build up a tolerance for working in hot conditions. Adapt your work and pace to the temperature and how you feel.
Take breaks. A simple but potentially life-saving practice, taking a break to cool off in the shade helps prevent your body from overheating. Try for shade or take breaks in an air-conditioned building or vehicle. If you don't have a shady or cool place, reduce your physical efforts.
Keep cool. Stay out of the sun as much as possible. If your job includes some physically demanding tasks, try to save those for the early morning or late afternoon hours when the sun is less intense. Wear lightweight clothing. The risk of heat illness can be greater if you wear certain types of personal protective equipment. If necessary, consider also wearing a cooling vest to help keep your body temperature down.
Stay hydrated. This is essential. As a general guideline, drink one cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes.
Avoid alcohol and drugs. The effects of heat illness may be worse if you ingest drugs or alcohol. If you are on medication, read the label or talk to your doctor to understand how it might cause your body to react to the sun and heat.
Recognize the symptoms of heat stress in yourself and your co-workers. These symptions include rash, cramping, fainting, excessive sweating, headache and dizziness. You may not see or feel the effects so always use the buddy system to monitor one another.
The warning signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, moist, clammy skin, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headache, muscle cramps, extreme weakness or tiredness, fainting, and pale or flushed complexion.
Anyone with these symptoms should be moved to a cool place to rest. Remove or loosen excess clothing (hard hat, boots, shirt, coveralls, etc.) and cool the victim with cold packs or wet cloths such as towels or sheets. If they are conscious, give them half a cup of cold water to drink every fifteen minutes.
Heat stroke is one of the most serious types of heat illness. Unless the victim receives quick and appropriate treatment, they can die as a result of heart failure, kidney failure or brain damage caused by excess body heat.
Warning signs may vary but may include red, dry, hot skin (no sweating), a very high body temperature (above 41Â°C), dizziness or confusion, breathlessness and complete or partial loss of consciousness. Any person with signs or symptoms of heat stroke is in danger and needs to be hospitalized. Get immediate medical help. Meanwhile, move the victim to a cool place. Remove heavy clothing, and apply ice packs or cold, wet cloths to the neck, armpits, wrists and ankles and vigorously fan the body to increase cooling and reduce body temperature.
Heat illness is a serious but easily preventable health risk. By following these basic rules you can enjoy a safe, healthy summer.
More information on heat illness:
OSH Answers from CCOHS
Best Practice - Working Safely in the Heat and Cold (Alberta)
Ontario Ministry of Labour
Automated External Defibrillators in the Workplace
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, more than 35,000 Canadian lives are lost each year due to cardiac arrest. Defibrillation - shocking the heart - improves survival rates by up to 30 percent if delivered in the first few minutes. With each passing minute, the probability of survival declines by 7 to 10%. Making defibrillators easily accessible has the potential to save thousands of lives.
An Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is a machine that can monitor heart rhythms and tell if the heart has stopped beating. If required, the machine can then deliver an electric shock to the heart. Usually this shock will restart the heart.
Work Safe Alberta issued a Workplace Health and Safety Bulletin supporting the use of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) at the work site - provided the employer ensures that AED use is integrated into the first aid program. It must also be integrated into the emergency response plan at the site and be able to be safely used in the work environment.
AEDs are regulated in Canada as medical devices by Health Canada, Medical Devices Bureau (MDB) and require licensing. The Canadian Medical Devices Regulation requires these devices to have labeling that describes the conditions and directions for the safe use of AED, including a requirement that only properly qualified individuals use them.
In Alberta, the OHS Regulation (AR 62/2003), Section 13, requires that workers be competent or be under the supervision of a competent worker. A worker using an AED would have to be "adequately qualified, suitably trained and with sufficient experience" to safely use the AED. AED training is a required component in the Advanced First Aid course.
If the first aid provider is under the supervision of a licensed medical practitioner, the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons has guidelines covering responsibilities of the medical practitioner. The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada also offers guidelines regarding AED.
Technology has made it possible to do many jobs at home rather seamlessly. An increasing number of companies are offering "telework" as an option, especially given the increasing need for flexible work arrangements, the rising cost of fuel, and environmental concerns of commuting.
Where working from home is an option, don't forget to address all workplace health and safety concerns.
Here are some things to consider:
Workstation - Just like in the office, a home-based workstation must include an appropriate, quality desk and chair adjusted to suit the worker's body dimensions. The keyboard must be at the right height so that arms and wrists are in a neutral position. Lighting must also be sufficient, with minimal reflection or glare.
Scheduling - Believe it or not, the most common problem with telework is not that the job doesn't get done. On the contrary, many teleworkers find they forget to take breaks! Without the natural breaks of meeting with co-workers or walking to a printer, the teleworker tends to spend long periods in the same position, doing repetitive motions that may lead to musculoskeletal injuries.
Work environment -The work environment must be free of hazards such as poorly positioned cords or wires, or ungrounded or overheated electrical equipment.
Emergency measures - Teleworkers, just like workers at the company site, should have smoke alarms, access to a fire extinguisher, a carbon monoxide detector, an evacuation plan, first aid supplies, and other measures in place for their safety.
Responsibilities - Your company occupational health and safety policy should outline who is responsible for health and safety issues and worker's compensation if the teleworker is injured. A company representative must ensure the work environment is safe, and stay in touch with the worker. As for the worker, he or she must report accidents or injuries to their supervisor, just as workers at the company site are required to do. Put these details in writing to avoid any confusion, especially in the event of a compensation claim. In this agreement also state which parts of the home are considered "the workplace", and indicate that the employer or a health and safety committee representative has the right to access this area of the employee's home to conduct a health and safety inspection.
You might want to implement a telework arrangement on a trial basis at first, to make sure it works for both the employee and the company. By formally addressing important issues up front, in writing, you can help your staff work safely and productively from home.
For further information, read the OSH Answers from CCOHS
Running a small business isn't easy. From planning to staffing to balancing the books, the day-to-day duties can seem endless. But as with any other key management component, workplace health and safety is important to overall performance and success - no matter the organization size.
Good health and safety practices make good business sense. They protect workers from the suffering caused by accidents and poor health and they help businesses boost productivity, minimize absenteeism, reduce costs, retain staff and maintain a good corporate image.
Moreover, Canadian health and safety legislation applies to all employers, so an effective health and safety program means organizations will not only stay safe, but also stay compliant with the law.
To help small business owners and managers learn about the essential areas of a health and safety program, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) and Vubiz, an international leader in e-learning, have teamed up to develop the new Health and Safety for Small Business Certificate Program.
Available through the E-Learning for Business Coalition, the program is designed to provide small businesses with easy-to-access online training to enhance and expand their health and safety knowledge, and to strengthen their commitment to a safe and healthy workplace.
CCOHS and Vubiz are members of the E-Learning for Business Coalition, which also includes Scotiabank, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA), Export Development Canada (EDC), the National Quality Institute (NQI), the Society of Management Accountants of Canada (CMA Canada), Athabasca University, Forum for International Trade Training (FITT) and the Canadian Association of Management Consultants (CAMC).
"E-learning can reach small business owners and their employees economically, 24/7 and offer opportunities for personal growth and increased profitability. Small firms have to undertake continuous development to compete and survive," said Catherine Swift, CEO of CFIB and Co-Chair of the Coalition.
To earn a program certificate, participants must successfully complete eight courses on key health and safety topics, including health and safety committees, office ergonomics, preventing falls from slips and trips, electrical hazards, and establishing a violence prevention program.
The cornerstone of the program is the Health and Safety for Small Business e-course. Participants will discover why it's essential to develop and adhere to a health and safety program, and walk away with practical tips on how to get a program started.
Relevant information links are provided to aid understanding of concepts, along with a resource section of national, provincial, and territorial health and safety websites.
Participants take the course online and learn at their own pace, in their own environment. At any point, subject specialists are available to answer questions. As with all the courses in the program, experts in the field have developed the content, with review from labour, business and government representatives.
"Overall the e-course is well laid out and easy to read and I would recommend it to employers," said Janice Whalen, Farm Safety Specialist at the Workers Compensation Board of PEI.
The Coalition offers two other certificate programs, in business management and export management, to help the small business community excel. All programs are available in both English and French.
All Canadian workers have the "right to know" about the hazards in their workplace. WHMIS, the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System, helps fulfill this right by providing valuable information about the hazards of certain chemicals and other hazardous materials so you can work safely with them.
WHMIS education and training are required for anyone who stores, handles, uses, or disposes of a controlled product, as well as for their immediate supervisor. Simply put - anyone in the workplace who works with, or near, hazardous materials or who may be at risk must be trained in WHMIS.
CCOHS has created a new e-course specifically for those who have already had some training on the basic concepts of WHMIS. WHMIS Refresher allows you to keep your knowledge of WHMIS and workplace chemical hazards up-to-date and quickly refresh your WHMIS understanding. You will review WHMIS legislation and enforcement, WHMIS labels and material safety data sheets (MSDSs), hazard classes and symbols and learn tips for working safely with controlled products.
When you have completed the course you will have a renewed understanding of the core WHMIS components and how WHMIS contributes to a safe work environment. Note that this course does not cover certain special issues and requirements that may apply to laboratories or in workplaces where chemicals are produced, formulated, or packaged.
The one-hour course reinforces learning by using case studies, quizzes and practical summaries as well as including printable fact sheets and other resources.
Before taking this refresher course, you should have already completed a WHMIS classroom or e-course such as WHMIS for Workers, or WHMIS for Managers and Supervisors.
Pricing and registration information for WHMIS Refresher is available on the CCOHS website
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