Health and Safety ReportVolume 10, Issue 12

On Topic

Holiday Hazards: Stress, Snow, Cold and Flamesprint this article

Tips to Keep You Safe and Sound During the Holidays

Along with the joys, and hustle and bustle of the festive holiday season, can also come greater than usual safety risks. In addition to the hazards that go along with cold, snowy weather, the financial, emotional and physical demands of the season can be very stressful. Here are some tips to help you and your family stay healthy and safe as you enjoy the festivities of the holiday season.


Dressing for it

Take steps to protect yourself from snow and freezing temperatures and prevent frostbite, slips, falls, and hypothermia by dressing properly.

Be sure to wear:

  • a hat that covers your ears

  • a scarf or knit mask to cover your face and mouth

  • mittens or gloves

  • water-resistant coat and boots

  • footwear with good treads

  • several layers of loose-fitting clothing

The outer layer of your clothing should be tightly woven, preferably wind resistant, to reduce body-heat loss. Above all, stay dry - wet clothing chills your body quickly. If you, or someone with you, were cold and shivering but the shivering has stopped, get inside immediately. No longer shivering is a warning sign of hypothermia and should not be ignored.

Shovelling snow

Shovelling snow can be hard work and whether you shovel at work or at home, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from the hazards of the task: cold exposure; fatigue; muscle strains; back injury and even a heart attack.

  • Make sure you are physically fit for the job.

  • Warm up with stretching and flexing exercises to loosen up your muscles before you begin shovelling.

  • Use a lightweight shovel (about 1.5 kg or a little over 3 lbs), with a blade that isn't too large, and a handle that is long enough so that you don't have to stoop to shovel.

  • Push the snow rather than lift it. If you must throw it, take only as much snow as you can easily lift. Shovel at a steady pace - around 15 scoops per minute - without becoming fatigued. Turn your feet to the direction you're throwing; don't twist at the waist.

  • Take frequent rest breaks and drink some warm non-alcoholic fluids.

Driving in it

Bitter cold, snow, slippery roads, and unpredictable weather conditions are just a few elements of a Canadian winter that can make driving conditions risky. If you really must drive when weather conditions are nasty, prepare yourself for any emergency that you may encounter. Keep a winter driving emergency kit in your vehicle with the following:

  • shovel, battery booster cables, and sand or traction mats

  • snow brush, extra anti-freezing windshield wiper fluid

  • road flares, reflective vest, flashlight

  • blanket, warm clothing, gloves, and warm footwear

  • empty can for melting snow

  • matches or lighter, and emergency candles (use only with an opened window to prevent carbon monoxide build-up)

  • snack bars or other "emergency" food and water

  • insulated bottle of hot beverage

  • first aid kit

  • a fully charged cell phone

If you get stuck in a storm or bad weather, call for help and use the contents of your emergency kit to stay safe and warm in your vehicle. We can't predict the weather, however we can prepare for it.


Fire hazards are plentiful during the holidays: the dry evergreen tree, candles and electric lights you use to decorate or set the holiday mood, or the cosy fire blazing in the fireplace.
There are precautions you can take to prevent fires.

Candles and fireplaces

Never leave cooking food or burning candles, fires, or cigarettes unattended. Put candles in non-tipping candle holders and keep them well away from anything that could catch fire, such as curtains or the Christmas tree, and out of reach of children and pets. This advice also applies to space heaters. Always use a secure screen in front of your wood burning fireplace to contain embers and sparks. Install a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector in your home and test them monthly. Keep a working fire extinguisher handy.

Decorative lights

Use lights and extension cords that are in good condition (no frayed wires, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets/plugs, excessive kinking or wear). Turn off decorative lights when you leave work and, at home, turn them off when you are asleep or away. Don't overload electrical outlets.

The tree

Prevent the evergreen tree from drying out and becoming a hazard. Keep the stand filled with water. Turn off the tree lights when you go to bed or leave the house to prevent the lights from "shorting" out and starting a fire. When setting up a tree at home or at work, place it away from fireplaces, radiators or portable heaters, and be careful not to block doorways.


The holidays can be a special time of year, however for some, the financial, emotional and physical demands of the season can be stressful, cause anxiety and even trigger depression.

Don't let the holidays take a toll on your health. With balance and moderation, you can enjoy the holidays in a healthy way. Get help from family and friends with holiday gatherings, as well as for meal preparation and clean up. Make time for yourself. Take an evening walk in the fresh air, listen to soothing music, or find something that reduces your stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm. Try to maintain your "everyday" healthy habits such as getting plenty of sleep, and making time for physical activity, and making healthy eating choices.

If spending time with family is stressful for you, set limits on the amount of time you spend with them. Holidays can bring up feelings of loss and a sense of being alone and disconnected. If you have a friend or family member you trust and can talk to, try to spend some time with them or connect with them by phone. Give yourself permission to feel any sense of loss or emotions that you may feel during the holiday season. If you are continually feeling sad or anxious, irritable and hopeless, physically ill, are unable to sleep, and/or can't face your daily tasks, don't hesitate to contact your doctor or visit the hospital emergency room, especially if these feelings don't go away.

Other holiday tips

Tips & Tools

Handcart Ergonomicsprint this article

Using manual material handling equipment such as a handcart to move a load instead of carrying it can make the job a lot easier and safer for workers.

However, even with the added convenience there are hazards involved with pushing, pulling, and guiding handcarts, especially if the equipment is not used properly. These Hazards include overexertion; extremities and limbs being caught, bumped or crushed in the cart and other objects; slips, trips, and falls; and back, muscle, and joint strain injuries.

By lowering the amount of force that a worker has to use to push, pull or maneuver items, you can greatly reduce the risk of injury. Therefore the following precautions will help reduce the risk of injury associated with using handcarts.


Aisle Conditions

Keep aisles clear of clutter. Ensure aisles are wide enough to allow the worker to stand behind the cart and push, and corners can accommodate the moving cart without stopping and starting.


Use winches for large ramps; on smaller ramps use power assists (battery powered pushing devices). If there are multiple ramps, consider using powered carts, or include a hand or foot brake on the cart to help the operator control heavy loads.

Floor Condition

Keep floors in good repair and clean (free of debris, dirt, dust, liquids, or spills). If floors are very uneven, consider using powered carts.



Use a larger diameter wheel to decrease the amount of force needed to operate. A harder caster/tire generally reduces the amount of force required to roll, while a wider tread generally requires greater force. Pneumatic (air filled) wheels should not be used for heavy loads as they may "flatten", placing more tread in contact with the floor and causing the worker to use greater force to move the cart.


Use swivel castors on the same end of the cart as the handle. Handles on pallet trucks should be long enough to prevent the worker's feet from being struck by the body of the pallet truck.

Fixed horizontal handles should be at a height between 91 cm and 112 cm above the floor. Vertical handles (usually used for narrow carts) allow a worker to place hands at comfortable positions for their height. Handles fixed to the cart's surface should not be more than 46 cm apart. Wider separations increase the load on smaller shoulder muscles.

Handles should be thick enough to grip easily - 2.5 cm to 3.8 cm. Fixed handles mounted in the horizontal direction should have a minimum length of 20 cm.

Cart size

Large carts (longer than 1.3 m and/or wider than 1 m) are difficult to manoeuvre and should not be used in workplaces with narrow aisles. Do not exceed the manufacturer's recommended load limits.


Operators should be trained on appropriate body positioning for the type of cart and load being handled, and receive training on how to manoeuvre heavy loads.

Operators should walk at an appropriate cart speed (typical walking pace of 3-4 km/h).

Read the full OSH Answers on handcarts.

See table of Recommended Limits in the Selection of Hand and Powered Trucks and Carts.

Partner News

Free Webinar on New National Workplace Mental Health Standard print this article

Mental health problems and illnesses are rated one of the top three causes of both short- and long-term disability, typically accounting for approximately 30 per cent of these claims in Canada. To help Canadian workplaces address this, the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), the Bureau de Normalisation du Quebec and CSA Group are releasing a National Standard of Canada on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace in mid-January.

Learn more about this new standard by tuning in to a complimentary live webinar on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 12:00 PM EST. The webinar will include MHCC President and CEO Louise Bradley and MHCC Workforce Advisory Committee Chair Charles Bruce, who will walk through the voluntary new tool and discuss practical approaches to improving psychological health and safety in the workplace. More information will be available soon on the MHCC website and social media networks.

Health and Safety To Go

Podcast: CCOHS Year in Reviewprint this article

Featured Podcast: CCOHS Year in Review - 2012

This month's Health and Safety To Go! podcast features a lively interview with CCOHS President and CEO Steve Horvath as he shares his thoughts on the year that was and the year ahead, and also delivers a holiday message.

The podcast runs 8:17 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.

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!

See the complete list of podcast topics. Better yet, subscribe to the series on iTunes and don't miss a single episode.


Mental Health Awareness Courseprint this article

Learn why mental health in the workplace matters

About one in five Canadians experience mental health issues at some point during their working years. According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, it is estimated that mental illness costs the Canadian economy more than $50 billion per year in terms of healthcare service use, lost workdays and work disruptions. A healthy Canadian economy - and a healthy workplace - relies on healthy minds.

CCOHS and High Point Wellness Centre have partnered to create a series of e-courses on mental health in the workplace. The first course, Mental Health: Awareness, planned for release late December, provides an introduction to the complex issue of mental health in the workplace, and explains why it is so important. You will learn the difference between mental well-being and mental illness, factors that put people at risk, and the roles of early intervention and promotion of mental well-being at work.

This 30 minute free awareness course provides the foundation for the more detailed courses in the mental health series which are scheduled to be rolled out over the next five months:

  • Mental Health: Health and Wellness Strategies

  • Mental Health: Signs, Symptoms & Solutions

  • Mental Health: Psychologically Healthy Workplaces

  • Mental Health: Communication Strategies

This course is recommended for employers, managers, supervisors and front-line workers interested in learning about mental health at work. To access this online e-learning course, all you need is a computer, access to the Internet - and you are ready to go! The course is designed to help you learn at your own pace and in your own environment at your own convenience.

Learn more about the High Point Wellness Partnership

CCOHS and High Point Wellness Centre have partnered to create this series of e-courses on mental health in the workplace. High Point Wellness has over 80 years of experience in the Canadian and American market places providing health care solutions for a variety of public & private industries, insurance sectors, workers' compensation and consulting organizations. For more information, visit

Register for the free awareness course.

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