Health and Safety ReportVolume 10, Issue 11

On Topic

Don't Park Your Safety at the Lotprint this article

Tips to Keep You Safe Going To and From the Parking Lot

Whether you park your vehicle conveniently close to work or in the garage a few blocks away, your personal safety may be at risk while walking to or from your workplace. Many people feel most vulnerable when they are leaving or returning to their parked car when it is dark, particularly at night.

The good news is that there are some basic safety principles that you can use to help keep you safer in parking lots and when traveling to and from your car.

Parking at the lot

  • Choose your parking spot wisely. Park as close as possible to your destination, in a highly visible and well-lit area. Avoid parking near shrubbery or on garage levels that are empty or rarely used. When you are in a parking garage, park near the parking attendant, close to the elevators, or near well-lit pedestrian exit traffic areas.

  • Back your vehicle into the parking space so that you are facing "out" when you get in or out of your vehicle. This gives you a better view of your surroundings and allows you to drive away more quickly if you are being approached by a stranger.

  • Take notice of where you parked so you don't have to wander around the parking lot to find your car upon your return.

  • Keep your valuables, including brief cases, purses, money or loose change, electronics (laptops, GPS), and anything with your name or address on it, secure and out of sight. Lock them in the trunk if you have to leave them in the car.

  • Keep your license, registration and insurance card with you.

  • Lock the doors and close the windows when you leave the vehicle.

  • Do not hide spare keys on your vehicle.

  • Vary your routine by parking in different spots at different times to avoid becoming an easy target.

  • If you are driving alone, join a car pool or have someone meet you at the lot.

  • Before you leave the car, look around carefully to see if there are any suspicious activities or people lurking about.
  • Make a plan ahead of time of what you would do in the event of an attack or if you felt threatened, noting the nearest safe exit route.

Walking from the car to work

Be prepared when you leave the car for work:

  • Be alert to your surroundings and walk quickly and confidently to the exit or elevator.

  • Have your keys or cardkey ready to unlock or access the doors at your workplace.

  • Stay on well-lit streets, and in the centre of the sidewalk away from hiding spots such as bushes, doorways, alleys, and parked cars. Cross the road if necessary.

Returning to your vehicle

When it is time to leave your work and walk to your car, take steps to stay safe and avoid making yourself an easy target:

  • If you are walking to and from the car after dark or in a high-risk neighbourhood, try to walk with a friend, co-worker, or a security officer. Give your escort a ride back to the main entrance so they do not have to walk back alone.

  • Walk to the lot with someone you know and trust, or in a group. If you have to walk alone, have a co-worker watch you from a window and wave to them on the way to your vehicle. Wave even if no one is watching to give the illusion that someone is watching you.

  • Plan your route and avoid shortcuts through dark untraveled areas, staying in the centre of the walkways in well-lit areas.

  • Walk to your vehicle with your car keys in your hand to avoid digging into your pockets, purse or briefcase in the middle of an empty lot.

  • Walk confidently with purpose. Keep your head up and be aware of your surroundings, watching for anything or anyone that looks suspicious. Look directly at people but do not stare at them. Trust your instincts when you feel something is not right.

  • Stay alert; don't wear headphones or be distracted by talking or texting on your cell phone.

  • Have a whistle or other personal alarm handy (tip: attach to car key chain).

  • Have the keys ready to unlock the door as you get near the vehicle, and only unlock it once you are at the vehicle.

  • As you approach your car, look around, inside, and even underneath the car to check if anyone is hiding. If you are suspicious, walk to a safe place and call for help.

  • If there is a large truck or van parked next to you, you may want to enter from the passenger side.

  • Once you are inside your car, lock the doors, turn on your headlights, and leave; don't sit in the car doing other things. If you must use your phone, drive to another well-lit location to do so.

If you are being followed

  • If you feel that you are being followed, go quickly to the nearest public place (an open store or business) where people can offer help if needed, and from where you can call for help.

  • Do anything you can to get attention: scream, yell, blow your whistle, or honk the car horn.

Parking is something that many of us do every day. Take precautions to reduce your risk and be safe when using parking lots.

Read the OSH Answers on parking lot safety from CCOHS.

In the News

Breast Cancer Risk and Your Jobprint this article

New Study Identifies Occupations Linked to Higher Rates of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in industrialized countries; in North America, the rates are amongst the highest in the world. Some of these cancers will be related to work, but very little research has been done in this area. A recent Canadian study set out to identify occupations associated with elevated rates of breast cancer.


The six-year study was conducted in Essex and Kent counties of Southern Ontario, a region with a higher incident rate of breast cancer that has continued over time. Researchers examined the occupational histories of 1,006 women who had breast cancer, and 1,146 randomly selected women who had no prior history of breast or ovarian cancer.

Information on up to 12 jobs and reproductive risk factors (e.g. number of live births, use of hormone replacement therapy and oral contraceptives, and family history) was collected for each participant.

Each job was coded by industry sector. An expert then assigned an exposure classification code to indicate the likelihood and intensity of exposure risk to carcinogens and/or endocrine disruptors; and ranked the exposure as "low", "moderate", or "high".


The results of the study confirmed already known relationships, for example, between increased risk of breast cancer and smoking history, and decreased risk of breast cancer and a larger number of pregnancies.

The study also identified specific industries that are associated with higher rates of breast cancer including:

  • farming - 1.36 times higher risk; risk factors may include pesticide exposure

  • bars-gambling (e.g. casinos, racetracks) - 2.28 times higher risk; risk factors may include exposure to second-hand smoke and shift-work

  • automotive plastics manufacturing - 2.68 times higher risk; risk factors may include exposure to estrogenic chemicals (e.g. phthalates and bisphenol A)

  • food canning - 2.35 times higher risk; risk factors may include exposure to pesticide residues and bisphenol A

  • metalworking - 1.73 times higher risk; risk factors may include exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and metalworking fluids

The breast cancer risk for pre-menopausal women was highest in automotive plastics manufacturing (4.76 times) and food canning (5.70 times).

Limitations of the study

It is important to note that the researchers did not have concrete information on individual worker exposures to specific chemicals or the amount of exposure. In addition, the exposure assessments of the participants were based on work histories identified through a questionnaire. This methodology could lead to misclassification and affect the validity of the data. Changing industry trends (i.e. industrial process, chemicals used) may also result in misclassification.

Nevertheless, this exploratory study identified several important associations between occupational exposures and breast cancer. The information gained will form the basis of future, more targeted, research. Moreover, it underlines the importance of taking detailed occupational histories of cancer patients.

The research continues

In November, 2012, the Canadian Cancer Society announced that they are funding a new study that will examine the human and economic impact of workplace exposure to 44 known or suspected carcinogens and their links to 27 types of cancer. The goal of the four year study is to get a detailed picture of the impact of workplace cancer on Canadians by estimating the number of new cancer cases and cancer deaths that can be attributed to the workplace, as well as how much it is costing the healthcare system. It is hoped that the study will produce information that can be used to help prevent workplace-related cancers.

Read the full PDF of the study.

More information from CCOHS

Fact sheet: Occupations or Occupational Groups Associated with Carcinogen Exposures

Fact sheet: Occupational Cancer

Free awareness course for healthcare professionals:
Occupational and Environmental Cancer: Recognition and Prevention

Health and Safety To Go

Podcasts: Emergency Preparedness and Substance Useprint this article

This month's Health and Safety To Go! podcasts explore emergency preparedness and feature a timely encore presentation on substance use and the workplace.

Feature podcast: Emergency Preparedness in the Workplace

We don't always know when an emergency will occur; they can happen fast, with little warning. What we do know is that planning ahead and preparing can help you and your organization cope better during and after a major disaster, and minimize the impact on families, workplaces, and the community. This podcast offers tips for workplaces in developing an emergency preparedness plan.

The podcast runs 3:40 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.

Encore Podcast: Substance Use and the Workplace

In this episode we examine the issues surrounding substance use and the workplace with Dr. Matthew Young, senior policy analyst at the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse, and Barbara Butler, president of Barbara Butler and Associates Inc.

The podcast runs 12:20 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.

Tell us what you think and win!

Help us improve our Health and Safety to Go! podcast program by participating in our brief survey, and you could win a $25 Starbucks card. Just complete the survey by December 14, 2012 at 5:00 p.m. ET to be eligible.

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!

Better yet, subscribe to the series on iTunes and don't miss a single episode.

CCOHS Resources

Emergency Planning Fact Sheet

Substance Abuse in the Workplace Fact Sheet

Emergency Response Planning Guide

Emergency Preparedness for Workers e-course


Safe Driving: Backing Upprint this article

Backing up is risky business! In organizations with vehicle fleets, almost half of all reportable vehicle incidents are a result of backing. These incidents take a human and economic toll often resulting in property damage and in some cases, injuries or death.

It is important to understand why these types of crashes happen so you can take effective action to reduce or eliminate backing incidents.

CCOHS has released an e-course, Safe Driving: Backing Up, designed to help you reduce the chances of becoming involved in an incident while backing up a vehicle.

You will learn the seven fundamentals of safe backing, including how to avoid the need to back up, looking back, circle check, how to back up slowly, using a guide, avoiding distractions, and practice.

Developed in collaboration with Thinking Driver, the course includes videos to provide an interactive e-learning solution. There are quizzes to help measure and encourage learning.

When you have completed the course you will know how to identify:

  • Strategies to reduce the need to back up

  • How and when to complete a circle check

  • How to ensure you have a good field of vision to the rear when backing is required

  • Safe speeds for backing manoeuvres

  • Distractions that can increase risk

  • How to practice your skills to improve your ability to back up safely.

This course is recommended for all employees who drive either company or personal vehicles (for company purposes), and can also help all employees learn the methods of safe backing for their own personal benefit. The course can be completed in about one hour.

Learn more about, or order the Safe Driving: Backing Up course.

For more information on Thinking Driver, visit

Last Word

Respect - Everyone Deserves Itprint this article

When your job involves serving the public, you may find yourself in situations where you have to deal with angry, frustrated and even aggressive customers or clients. Everyone deserves to work in an environment that is respectful and free of bullying, threats, and abuse.

Bullying behaviours and threats of violence affect the overall health of an organization. CCOHS has released a new poster for you to display where you or your employees are likely to interact with visitors, clients, and the public, as a reminder that respect is a two-way street. Everyone deserves to be treated with courtesy.

Download the free PDF or order the large, glossy double-sided print, with English on one side and French on the other.

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