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In the News
While the human body is built to be mobile, it was not meant to vibrate. In small doses, vibration is harmless - think of that massage chair at the mall, or your electric toothbrush. Unfortunately, mechanization has introduced significant vibration hazards to the workplace. Although injuries and illness from vibration are preventable, the effects of regular and frequent exposure to vibration can be disabling and permanent.
As long as the exposure level is low, so is the health risk. Workers start to experience symptoms as exposure increases. Some people are more sensitive to the effects of vibration than others.
People who operate mobile machines or who work near stationary machines that vibrate are at risk of exposure to vibration. Among the workers affected are foundry workers, shipyard workers and workers who sit or stand on a vibrating floor or seat. Operators of off-road vehicles may experience considerable vibration, depending on the condition of the vehicle's suspension system, shock absorbers, seats and tires.
People who are exposed to whole-body vibration may experience fatigue, insomnia, stomach problems, headaches and shakiness. The effect has been described as similar to motion sickness, or the general malaise some people feel after a long car or boat trip. Some truck drivers experience health problems, including circulatory, bowel, respiratory, muscular and back disorders, which may be partly associated with whole-body vibration.
To help reduce the risk of injury, ensure a smoother ride. Vehicles and mobile equipment should be well maintained. Suspension systems in the cab, tires and seats will help absorb vibration when well maintained. On lift trucks, sweepers and other mobile equipment, solid tires should be replaced before they reach their wear limits. Having the proper seats also reduces vibration (but always check with the manufacturer, or with a vibration specialist, before replacing a seat).
On off-road vehicles and mobile equipment, certain built-in features can help. Seats with armrests and lumbar support or air-ride suspension, suspended cabs and properly inflated tires help control whole-body vibration in vehicles.
Vehicle operators can improve conditions by learning how to:
Hazard alerts from BC and Nova Scotia involving hits to workers - one from a falling drilling rig hammer and the other from a moving vehicle - emphasize the importance of specific safe work practices to keep workers safe.
Free falling hammer
In BC two workers stood under a raised casing hammer of a drilling rig as they tied some equipment out of the way. The rig had been redesigned without the safeguards for its free fall controls. When the driller walked out from underneath the raised hammer, he bumped against the free fall lever, sending the 900-kilogram (2,000-pound) hammer crashing 2.5 metres (approximately 8 feet) to the holding table below.
The driller's helper who still remained under the hammer was struck by the free falling hammer and suffered a severe leg injury. There were no restraining devices on the casing hammer to prevent it from falling after the control lever was inadvertently activated.
WorkSafeBC suggested the following work practices:
New Research Centre to Study Occupational Cancer
Canada's first occupational cancer research centre is the newest battleground in the fight to eliminate work related cancers. Opened in Toronto, Ontario earlier this month, the centre is dedicated solely to the research of identifying, preventing and ultimately eliminating work related cancers.
While a number of substances (e.g. radon, benzene, coal tar and asbestos) and processes in the workplace are known to cause cancer, some substances that are suspected of being carcinogenic have never been properly evaluated. Some common types of occupational cancer are lung cancer, bladder cancer and mesothelioma (which is almost always caused by asbestos exposure). Research shows that the amount of cancer related to occupational exposure varies with the type of cancer. It is not known for certain to what substances workers are exposed, the level of concentration, or what kind of carcinogens are found in which kind of workplaces. There are many questions and few answers - for now.
The Occupational Cancer Research Centre will work to increase the knowledge base about workplace cancer and bring the results of the research to the workplace, educating and implementing initiatives to improve the health of workers.
The centre is the result of health and workplace safety organizations, businesses, and labour groups joining forces with a common goal of reducing workplace cancer. Funded by Cancer Care Ontario, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, and the Ontario Division of the Canadian Cancer Society, and developed with the United Steelworkers, the centre is operating out of Cancer Care Ontario's office in Toronto.
Dr. Aaron Blair, Interim Director of the centre and renowned expert in occupational and environmental epidemiology said, "The establishment of the Occupational Cancer Research Centre is a major step in identifying carcinogens in the workplace and initiating preventive actions."
Teleworking, telecommuting, working offsite, working from home - whatever label you use, all of these terms refer to people performing their work duties outside of the traditional office environment. Teleworkers use technology such as the telephone, e-mail, the Internet and/or private networks to complete their job tasks and stay in contact with their workplace.
CCOHS' latest publication, Telework and Home Office Health and Safety Guide is written for home-based office workers and professionals, both self-employed and employees. The guide has two main focuses - managing the work and setting up a good, safe home office.
The guide can be used to set up an effective home office as it covers all aspects of ergonomics, safety, work organization and personal security that may be unique to a home environment.
Packed with safety tips, charts, checklists, and illustrations for teleworkers and home-based office workers, the guide provides practical information to help:
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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.
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