Health and Safety ReportNovember 2010 - Volume 8, Issue 11

In the News

Shift Work Can Be Hazardous to Your Health print this article

UBC study links shift work to higher risk of work injury

With shift work on the rise, so too may be the risk of workplace injury. A recent study by researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC) concluded that Canadians who work night and rotating shifts are almost twice as likely to be injured on the job as those working regular day shifts.

The study examined data on 30,000 Canadians collected as part of Statistics Canada's Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics. Trends in work injury were compared among workers involved in different types of shift work from 1996-2006. The findings showed that even though the overall rate of work injuries in Canada decreased during this time, the rate of injuries for night shift workers remained stable.

The study found that night shift work was associated with a higher incidence of work injury for both women and men. However, only women had a higher risk of work injury related to rotating shifts, increasing their risk overall compared to men. The researchers suggest that because women are more likely to have childcare and household responsibilities, they may have more difficulties adjusting to shift work and getting enough good quality sleep. Shift work can disrupt normal sleep patterns and cause drowsiness or fatigue, which can lead to workplace injuries.

In the past few decades, the number of Canadians working shift work has risen substantially. The number of women working shifts increased by 95% during the study period, mainly in the health care sector - almost double the 50% increase of men, occurring mostly in manufacturing and trades.

Injuries related to shift work come with a hefty price tag. In 2006, 307,000 work-related injury claims associated with shift work represented more than $50.5 million in costs to Canada's workers' compensation system. The study authors recommended that governments and employers consider policies and programs to help reduce the risk of injuries among shift workers.

Although an obvious solution to the risks of shift work would be to eliminate it altogether, this may not be a practical option for many workplaces. According to CCOHS, there are two basic levels where improvements can be made to help reduce the effects of shift work:

  1. the organizational level - primarily through the design of shift schedules, education and better facilities, including conducting a risk assessment for every task to be performed during a specific shift

  2. the individual level - helping workers to get better sleep, eat a healthier diet, and reduce stress.

You can find more information and comprehensive advice on how to cope with shift work and prevent related injuries on the CCOHS website.

About the study

The study was funded by the WorkSafeBC-CHSPR Research Partnership. One of the co-authors of the study is Paul Demers, director of the Occupational Cancer Research Centre in Toronto and clinical faculty member at the UBC School of Population and Public Health.

Find a full copy of the study or read the abstract.

Tips & Tools

Don't Let Safety Go Up in Smokeprint this article

How to work safely with flammable and combustible liquids

You may work with them in your home or in your workplace: gasoline, turpentine, diesel fuel, paint and acetone. These are just a few examples of liquids that are flammable or combustible, meaning they can catch fire or ignite easily.

A liquid is determined to be flammable or combustible based on its flashpoint (the lowest temperature at which it ignites). Flammable liquids ignite at lower temperatures than combustible liquids. Under the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS), flammable liquids have a flashpoint below 37.8°C (100°F). Combustible liquids have a flashpoint at or above 37.8°C (100°F) and below 93.3°C (200°F).


The most obvious hazard of a flammable or combustible liquid is the danger of a fire or explosion. At temperatures above their flashpoints, flammable and combustible liquids give off enough vapour to form mixtures with air that can be easily ignited and burn. The ignition source can be a spark, a flame, friction, a hot surface or any other source of ignition. "Hidden" sources include static electricity, light switches and other electrical devices like power tools. If sprayed or misted in air, flammable and combustible liquids may burn at any temperature if there is an ignition source. Once ignited, flammable and combustible liquids can spread fire widely by flowing easily under doors, down stairs and even into neighbouring buildings.

The vapours formed by flammable liquids are usually invisible and hard to detect without using special instruments. Flammable and combustible liquids can be absorbed into materials like wood, cardboard and cloth and continue to giving off hazardous vapours even after a spill appears to have been cleaned up.

In addition to the danger of a fire, there may be other hazardous properties of flammable or combustible liquids. Some flammable and combustible liquids can cause health problems, such as skin or eye irritation, or acute toxicity, and some are corrosive to the skin. Many undergo dangerous chemical reactions if they contact incompatible chemicals such as oxidizing materials, or if they are stored improperly.

Most workplaces use some type of flammable and combustible liquid in the form of fuels and many other common products like solvents, thinners, cleaners, adhesives, paints, waxes and polishes. Everyone who works with these liquids must be aware of their hazards and how to work safely with them.

Basic safety tips

  • READ AND UNDERSTAND the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for information about the hazards and necessary precautions for working safely with all the materials you are using.

  • PREVENT the release of flammable vapours and mists into the workplace air to minimize the risk of a fire or explosion.

  • USE only in well-ventilated areas.

  • KEEP containers closed when not in use.

  • BE AWARE of any health hazards associated with the flammable and combustible liquid and follow recommended safe handling procedures.

  • STORE flammable and combustible liquids away from incompatible materials (e.g., oxidizers).

  • USE the smallest amount of flammable liquid necessary in the work area.

  • CLEAN up spills immediately. Use approved containers for disposal of rags and other work materials.

  • USE non-sparking ventilation systems and equipment. Eliminate ignition sources (sparks, smoking, flames, hot surfaces) when working with or handling flammable and combustible liquids.

  • GROUND all metal drums, transfer vessels, hoses and piping to prevent buildup of static charge. Ground clips must contact bare metal.

  • USE only containers and dispensing equipment (faucet, pump, drip can) that are approved for use with flammable liquids.

  • PRACTICE good housekeeping by keeping areas clear of materials that can burn.

  • REPORT leaks, spills and ventilation failures to your supervisor immediately.

  • UNDERSTAND and PRACTICE emergency procedures so that you know what to do if it becomes necessary.

  • DO NOT HEAT containers or distribution systems containing flammable or combustible liquids.

  • DO NOT USE flammable or combustible liquids for anything other than their intended uses.

More information

General safety tips on how to work safely with flammable and combustible liquids, CCOHS

CCOHS' free WHMIS Classifications Database can be used to help identify flammable and combustible materials.

CCOHS' CHEMINFO database provides detailed information on the hazards of chemicals and their control measures.

WHMIS Quick Facts, Health Canada and CCOHS (PDF)

Partner News

Motorized Vehicle Operators Urged To Buckle Upprint this article

WorkSafeNB launches new seat belt campaign for the workplace

"Buckle up and stay alive - because you're not the only one along for the ride!" This is the message WorkSafeNB is promoting in a new campaign targeting workers who operate motorized vehicles such as forklifts, tractors, and backhoes. The campaign launched in November with radio ads, and is supplemented with materials such as a hazard alert, poster, and decals.

WorkSafeNB reports that since 2005 three workers have died because they were not wearing their seatbelts and several near-misses and serious injuries have occurred. The campaign is intended to remind both workers and employers that seatbelts must be worn not only in cars and trucks, but in heavy equipment and other motorized vehicles, and that the law will be enforced.

Richard Blais, chief compliance officer with WorkSafeNB said that many workers who wear seatbelts in their personal vehicles do not wear them in the powered mobile equipment they use at work. The motorized vehicles are equipped with two different types of roll over protective structures (ROPS) - those with a cab and those without, he explains. "We don't know why they don't wear their seatbelts - whether they feel these vehicles go too slow to pose a risk or that they believe the ROPS will keep them safe. But speed isn't a factor. Collisions at low speeds can result in injuries, and in vehicles with ROPS, the deaths are occurring when drivers are ejected and the machine rolls over on top of them. And in one instance, a worker in a vehicle with a cab was ejected through the cab's open door.

WorkSafeNB is hoping to change the culture around powered mobile equipment. They want to make operators aware of the risks of not wearing a seatbelt, not only from being ejected outside the vehicle but also to minimize the risk of injury inside an enclosed cab.

While the campaign's message is an emotional one, asking workers to think about family (they're not the only ones along for the ride), WorkSafeNB will take a hard approach to enforcement of seatbelt use. Health and safety officers will ensure not only that seatbelts are being used, but that seatbelts are present and in proper working condition. Violations may result in written orders, fines, and even stop-work orders.

Take the forklift safety quiz from WorksafeNB. (PDF)

Visit the WorkSafeNB website.


Young Workers' Safety Takes to the Classroom print this article

Every year, young workers are critically injured or killed on the job. Secondary school teachers can play a vital role in developing awareness of workplace health and safety issues in young people. It has been proven that integrating workplace health and safety education into the classroom has helped in the prevention of accidents and injuries.

Available in either PDF or hard copy binder editions, Health & Safety Teaching Tools is packed with more than 200 pages of safety information, tips, classroom activities, handouts, and quizzes. The binder version also includes a companion CD of accompanying slides in PowerPoint and PDF formats, for use as student handouts.

Teaching Tools is divided into five chapters covering the major topic areas of workplace health and safety that are likely to impact young workers: chemical hazards, ergonomics, physical hazards, biological hazards and sociability issues.

Features include:

  • KEY POINTS - Each chapter contains topic sections covering critical hazards.

  • SLIDES - Each slide visually enhances the text being presented. Print these slides for your students so they can take notes while you present the material.

  • ACTIVITIES - Ideas for activities that reinforce the concepts presented are provided in each section.

  • HANDOUTS - Copy and circulate these to your class for reference and to help them prepare for tests.

  • TESTS - Assess your students' knowledge with sample tests provided at the end of each topic section.

  • ADDITIONAL RESOURCES - Looking for further information? Check out the listing of recommended resources included at the end of each chapter.

Learn more about Health & Safety Teaching Tools on the Young Workers Zone.

Last Word

Look, Listen and Learnprint this article

There are lots of new tools to check out this month from CCOHS to help you work safely and be healthy at work:

LOOK for the newest posters on Healthy Living at Work and Day of Mourning. Download them for free or order the glossy printed versions, perfect for displaying in your workplace.

LISTEN to the latest free podcasts.

Every month new free podcast episodes are added to the Health and Safety to Go program. You can listen now or if you can download to your MP3 player and listen when it is most convenient for you.

Quick Guide to Indoor Air Quality Listen now.

Examine the symptoms of poor indoor air quality and what you and your workplace can do about it.

Length: 4:43 minutes

Workplace Fire Safety Tips Listen now.

CCOHS talks with Rocco Iamello of Ottawa Fire Services about the basics for fire safety in the workplace.

Length: 9:52 minutes

LEARN with the latest recorded webinars:

Best RTW Practices for Workers with Musculoskeletal and Mental Health Conditions

Make the Move: Staying Physically Active at Work free

Implementing Healthy Eating Programs in the Workplace free

You can see a complete listing of all podcasts, posters, and webinars on the CCOHS website.

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