Health and Safety ReportVolume 19, Issue 6

On Topic

Summer, Sun, and Your Skin print this article

Summer is here, and as COVID-19 restrictions begin to lift, many businesses and workplaces across the country are getting back to work. For many workers, such as patio servers, day camp leaders, and campground staff, that means working outside and enjoying the weather. These workers will join many other occupations whose work exposes them to the sun, including agricultural workers, fish harvesters, landscapers, and drivers, as well as oilfield and construction workers.

One of the most common health hazards to outdoor workers is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. With the depletion of the Earth’s ozone layer, the ability to filter out harmful UV rays decreases and exposure to ultraviolet radiation, especially UVB increases. Ultraviolet radiation absorbed by our skin’s living cells damages sensitive substances that affect its growth and appearance, which can lead to sunburn, accelerated skin aging, skin cancer, cataracts, and other eye diseases.

The risk to skin

Sunburn – The familiar sunburn is usually the first indicator of overexposure to the sun’s rays. The reaction isn’t always immediate, but sunburned skin can turn bright red in colour within 15-20 hours. Brief and intense exposure can have different short-term effects on the person depending on their skin type and conditioning, and long-term exposure has been linked to serious forms of skin cancer.

Increased rate of skin aging – Prolonged and repeated exposure to the sun’s rays can damage the skin in ways similar to the aging process. Skin loses its elasticity and develops blemishes, freckles, and wrinkles. When this exposure is prolonged over years, the damage becomes irreversible.

Skin cancer – If unprotected exposure to sunlight continues for several years, damaged skin has an increased chance of developing skin cancer. High levels of long-term exposure, such as working outdoors, is more often associated with squamous cell tumours. This type of skin cancer tends to develop where maximum exposure to radiation occurs - forehead, cheeks, nose, lower lip, and tops of the ears. If caught in time, this type of cancer can be removed with a good chance of total cure.

Remind workers to examine their skin regularly for any unusual changes, and to see a doctor for anything that looks suspicious like new moles with abnormal characteristics.

Protecting Workers

Exposure to UV radiation is a concern for people who work under the sun. Through awareness of the hazards and by taking measures to prevent exposure to sunlight, the risks can be reduced.

Reduce exposure – If possible, avoid scheduling work in direct sunlight between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm, when the sun’s rays are at their strongest. When scheduling work outside those hours isn’t feasible, set up shade structures or use umbrellas, buildings, trees, or canopies to shield against direct sunshine. Rotate workers between site locations to help reduce UV exposure and encourage breaks in areas where workers can cool down and have access to water. Remember that workers can get sunburned on a cloudy day and exposure may increase with UV rays reflecting off surfaces such as water, sand, snow, or pavement.

Wear protective clothing and eyewear – Wide brim hats, helmets, and clothes made from tightly woven fabrics, such as denim, can help protect workers from ultraviolet radiation. Long-sleeved shirts and pants may not be comfortable in extremely hot weather, but they do help protect the skin. Keep in mind that some fabrics, like cotton, are less effective when they get wet. To protect the eyes and the surrounding sensitive skin, look for wrap-around sunglasses that absorb both UVA and UVB radiation.

Use sunscreen – Follow the instructions on the label and always check the expiry date. Apply plenty of waterproof sunscreen 20 minutes before working in the sun. The sunscreen should have a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30, and both UVA and UVB protection. Re-apply sunscreen every two hours, or as directed on the label, and more frequently if you are sweating. Note that sunscreens are not intended to extend your time in the sun, but to reduce the effects of UV rays when you are in the sun.

By reducing the amount and intensity of sun exposure, workplaces can minimize the risks of UV radiation to protect their workers. Enjoying the warm summer air can be a pleasant part of some jobs, but it’s important that workers understand the risks and employers control the hazards so that everyone can be sun-safe and enjoy the season.

 

Resources:

 

Tips & Tools

Ride Safely with These Garden Tractor Tipsprint this article

While the hum of a garden tractor engine may signify that summer has arrived, it can also serve as a reminder of the need to operate it safely.

Like a riding lawn mower, a garden tractor can be suitable for everyday tasks such as cutting grass. But with more features such as hydraulics and power take-off, and a number of possible attachments similar to those in full-size tractors, garden tractors are more suited for heavy duty jobs. Before you hop on, there are a few things you need to know.

Before the work begins:

  • Make sure you’re fully trained. Read, understand, and follow the instructions in the manufacturer's operating manual. Make sure you’re properly trained to safely operate the machine. Questions? Ask a supervisor or trained employee for assistance.  
  • Know your tractor. Conditions such as slopes or wet grass can cause a tractor to roll over, so understand the terrain and if your tractor can handle it.
  • Check it out. While the engine is cool, check the oil level and refuel, if needed. Inspect the tractor prior to starting, and make sure the tractor and all safety devices, shields and guards are in good working order. Also check the area that needs to be worked on for any debris that could be thrown by the blades, and ensure that people are kept away from the work area.

While you ride:

  • Wear the proper attire and personal protective equipment, like close-fitting clothing, long pants, safety footwear, hearing protection, eye protection, and head protection. Tie back long hair and anything that may get tangled in moving or rotating parts of the tractor.
  • Drive safely, avoiding any sharp or fast turns, holes, ditches, and embankments. Avoid driving over gravel or rocks when blades are rotating, and never let a tractor "bounce", which can cause you to lose steering control. If the tractor is equipped with a seatbelt, make sure it is worn.
  • Begin forward motions slowly. Gunning the engine and jerking your foot off the clutch is a fast way to flip a tractor. When backing down a steep grade, do it slowly in a low gear and avoid using the brakes, and if possible, back tractors up steep slopes, and come down forward instead.
  • Ride solo. Never allow other people to ride on the tractor, especially on its hood or draw bar.
  • Wait until it’s safe to clear or unclog the mower. Check the manufacturer’s instructions before performing any maintenance or work on the tractor. This includes ensuring the brakes are set, the tractor is in park, the engine is turned off and the ignition key is removed. It’s also important to make sure the blades have completely stopped rotating.
  • Keep the tractor safe from others. Do not operate the tractor near others. Park the tractor in a safe spot, on a flat area, away from the public. Don’t leave a tractor unattended, unless the power is off, and the ignition key is removed.

A garden tractor can be a helpful tool for outdoor workers, but it must be used with proper training. Before you take a ride, take time to learn more about the machine, the terrain, and how to safely complete the task at hand.

CCOHS Resources:

Partner News

Substance Use on the Jobsite: Challenges and Support Measuresprint this article

Construction workers and those working in jobs with many physical demands may experience injury or pain at a higher rate. Without proper guidance, those who use opioids or other substances to deal with this pain may be at an increased risk for experiencing harms. Research has shown that for workers in fields like construction and the trades, this can sometimes be the case. In fact, current and former construction workers in British Columbia made up the largest share of opioid-overdose deaths between 2007 and 2016.

Fortunately, workplaces can support their workers in several ways. This includes but is not limited to breaking the stigma of substance use, which can prevent workers from seeking help due to fear of losing their jobs.

Listen to our podcast conversation with the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction to learn more about the use of opioids, cannabis and alcohol on the jobsite; the challenges faced by workers and employers; and how workplaces can support their employees’ health and safety.

 > Substance Use on the Jobsite: Challenges and Support Measures

 

Podcasts

Supporting Workers After a Traumatic Brain Injuryprint this article

CCOHS releases new podcasts each month to help you stay current and informed on workplace health, safety, and well-being in Canada.

New Podcast: Supporting Workers After a Traumatic Brain Injury

Brain injuries can be among the most serious of workplace injuries. To get a better understanding of the impacts on employees, employers, and how to support staff as they return to work, listen to this podcast with researchers from the University of Toronto’s Acquired Brain Injury & Society Team.

Podcast runs 18:02 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.

Podcast: Protection from Summer Pests

Unpleasant encounters with ticks and mosquitos can lead to diseases such as Lyme disease and West Nile virus. This episode provides helpful information outdoor workers can use to protect themselves from these pesky summer pests.

The podcast runs 4:49 minutes.  Listen to the podcast now.

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

CCOHS News

Free Course on COVID-19 Risk Assessments and Safety Plansprint this article

The health and safety of all workers should be a priority for employers, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, whether they are working onsite, at home, or plan on returning to work.

To support managers, supervisors, and health and safety committees in keeping their workers protected, CCOHS has developed a free online course on COVID-19 risk assessment and safety plans. These plans outline the steps to reduce exposure; procedures to monitor exposure and health; and what to do if someone reports or shows signs or symptoms of infection.  

Learn about both work and personal factors to consider when assessing and preventing the risk of exposure, reviewing a safety plan to ensure it is effective, and keeping up to date with current COVID-19 guidelines.

Take the course for free: COVID-19 Workplace Risk Assessment and Safety Plan

New COVID-19 guidance is available on:

New COVID-19 guidance is also available on:

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Videos

Other free pandemic courses and resources from CCOHS:

 

Last Word

Participate in a Survey on Psychological Health and Safety during COVID-19 print this article

A CSA Group Research Project

Are you someone with an active role in your organization’s mental health strategy or psychological health and safety management systems? You’re invited to respond to this research survey from the Canadian Standards Association.

The survey is focused on identifying your organization’s primary concerns related to psychosocial factors and hazards, plus gathering information on practices, programs, and policies that are having a positive impact on your employees’ mental health.

The research is intended to appreciate the significant changes and challenges being faced by employers, share lessons learned, and inform revisions to the National Standard on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace.

The study is being conducted in collaboration with researchers from Saint Mary's University and Howatt HR Applied Workplace Research Institute.

After completing the survey, you will have the option to receive a copy of the final CSA Group Research Report.

The survey takes about 20 minutes to complete.

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