Health and Safety ReportVolume 21. Issue 10

On Topic

Health and Safety in the Age of AIprint this article

There are two words that are making their way across Canada’s workplaces, filtering into boardrooms, factory floors, watercooler chats, and everywhere in between: Artificial Intelligence.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the Fourth Industrial Revolution. However, unlike years passed when revolutions transformed our economies by utilizing coal, gas, and electricity, this transformation is happening through technology, changing the way humans live, connect, and work.

What does this mean for the future of work and the health and safety of workers?

Before those questions can be answered, it’s important to remember that AI isn’t just a trend, but a tool. And like any other tool, it requires the training of how to use it properly, and an understanding of the risks and hazards it can pose.

AI: Yesterday, today, and tomorrow

Since the 1950s, AI has grown into a specialty within computer science that aims to replicate human intelligence and problem-solving abilities through the collection and processing of data. In this respect, AI’s goal is to learn from the past and improve the future.

Today, many workplaces use AI to do just that. For example, there’s AI-powered cameras that aid in noticing irregularities when monitoring camera video feeds and AI-powered virtual reality (VR) to help employees learn about potential hazards and how to respond in a simulated environment without the risk of actual injury. There’s also generative AI that can be used for writing and editing documents (such as ChatGPT) and coding tasks like debugging.

In these scenarios, AI can support the work environment by creating efficiencies and handling mundane or difficult tasks.

Understanding the risks of AI

AI can be helpful, but it doesn’t come without risks, including ethical, legal, and safety concerns.

Let’s take the scenario of Lee, the owner of a small landscaping business. Lee has hired a handful of new staff for the season, but instead of providing the appropriate health and safety training, he uses ChatGPT to draft guidelines for workers to read. However, Lee is unaware of AI’s limitations, including its lack of human instinct and the fact that it’s not a reliable source of information.

This means that Lee is exposing his workers to potential risks. Are workers properly trained on all the tools they’ll be using? What if ChatGPT provided outdated information? What happens if workers have questions or don’t understand their roles?

This is just one example of why AI cannot replace or be relied on for a role, especially the kind where human intervention and interaction is needed, like training. Below are a few other risks that AI can pose if not used correctly.

  • New ergonomic hazards: The automation of processes could introduce a new work pace or make work more repetitive and less diversified, increasing the potential for repetitive strain injuries.
  • New physical hazards: New assistive technologies could also lead workers to lift heavier loads, increasing the potential for musculoskeletal injuries. Machines that work closely with workers, like autonomous vehicles, could also be hazardous if they malfunction or break down.
  • New psychosocial hazards: AI and wearable sensor technologies that monitor and manage workers could result in micromanagement, performance pressure, competitiveness, social isolation, and decreased privacy and trust. Workers may also fear being replaced if they can’t keep up. Automation may also cause jobs to lose variety or become less satisfying. These experiences may increase anxiety, disengagement, stress, or job insecurity.

Moving forward with AI

Although there are risks, when managed properly, AI has the potential to help workers do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. If implementing AI in your workplace, consider the following guidelines:

  • Perform a hazard and risk assessment: Make sure new machinery, devices, or processes aren’t introducing new hazards to the workplace or to the workers using them. Ask questions like, “when we introduce this new technology, what can happen and under what circumstances?” and “what are the possible negative consequences and how likely are they to occur?”
  • Educate yourself: Learn about the strengths, limitations, and responsible use of the tools, and how to identify potential weaknesses in what it produces.
  • Involve workers: Involving workers in hazard and risk assessments can encourage positive curiosity and foster trust and acceptance. For example, a drop-in session where workers can learn about the new technology, provide feedback, and ask questions can foster curiosity, not fear.
  • Establish and communicate policies: Include the types of content that can be generated by AI, and how to safeguard sensitive data. Include oversight and review processes by the proper parties, and ensure all practices lead to trustworthy and ethical behaviour.
  • Train workers: AI is a tool, which means workers must be trained on how to safely use it. Because AI evolves at a rapid rate, training must be ongoing, so workers are kept up to date on its capabilities.

New innovations, like AI, can come with many benefits, and like all tools, they also can pose risks. However, with ongoing training, open communication, accountability, and the responsibility that employers have to ensure work environments continue to remain inclusive and safe, AI may have the potential to help—not hinder—the roles of those who use it. 


Tips and Tools

Layer on Protection to Lower the Risk of Respiratory Infectious Diseases print this article

It’s the season for respiratory infectious diseases, also known as RIDs. These diseases include COVID-19, influenza (flu) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). While no single precaution is 100 per cent effective, layering public health measures with workplace health and safety controls provides the best protection. Here are 10 ways to layer on protection and lower workplace risk:

  1. Provide information and resources about vaccination. Use credible sources to inform workers about how vaccines and booster shots can protect themselves and others against respiratory infectious diseases. Include locations of nearby vaccination clinics.
  2. Advise workers to stay home if they are sick. Communicate sick leave policies and expectations for those experiencing symptoms, such as a fever, cough, sore throat, or sneezing.
  3. Ventilate your workplace. Infected people can transmit respiratory infectious diseases through coughing, sneezing, talking, singing, shouting, or breathing, all of which can release respiratory particles. Opening windows and doors and using air filters and fans to enhance workplace ventilation can help minimize the spread.
  4. Go contactless. Have contactless payment options available for customers, such as tap-to-pay systems. Install motion-activated devices to reduce contact with high-touch surfaces, including light switches, doors, and faucets.
  5. Maintain a sanitary work environment. Respiratory infectious diseases also spread through touching contaminated surfaces or objects and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. Regularly clean and disinfect shared spaces and high-touch surfaces, including breakrooms, bathrooms, doorknobs, handrails, and elevator buttons.
  6. Promote a mask-friendly workplace. Well-constructed, well-fitting, and properly worn masks can reduce the amount of respiratory particles people breathe in and out. Masks can be worn seasonally (in fall and winter) if you have respiratory symptoms and need to be around people. Masks can also be worn in settings that are small, crowded, and have poor ventilation, if there are personal risk factors, or if you have people visiting for longer periods of time.
  7. Support proper hand hygiene. Post reminders in bathrooms and kitchen spaces about the importance of frequently washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using a hand sanitizer containing at least 60 per cent alcohol.
  8. Encourage good respiratory etiquette. Post signage to cough and sneeze into a tissue or the bend of your arm. Remind workers to dispose of soiled tissues in a lined waste container and to clean their hands immediately after coughing or sneezing.
  9. Turn to reliable sources for guidance. Consult your local public health authority, government and health and safety regulator for the most up-to-date information on reducing exposure to respiratory infectious diseases in the workplace.
  10. Offer training and education. For control measures to be effective, it’s important for supervisors, health and safety committee members, and new and existing workers to be trained on identifying workplace hazards. Use the resources below to communicate how a multi-layered approach to controlling respiratory infectious diseases can help to protect everyone.



Keeping Up with New Legislationprint this article

Occupational health and safety laws are always evolving. This month’s highlights include amendments to British Columbia’s Safety Standards Act, and changes to Quebec’s Act respecting labour standards.


Canada Labour Code (Part III): S.C. 2023, c. 26, ss. 282-283 makes many revisions in Section 206.5 ‘Leave Related to Death or Disappearance’ and repeals and replaces paragraph 209.4(h).

British Columbia:

Safety Standards Act: S.B.C. 2022, c. 42 amends the Act to change the name of the Oil and Gas Activities Act to the Energy Resource Activities Act. This amendment reflects the changes to the BC Energy Regulator (BCER) (formerly the BC Oil and Gas Commission). The regulator has been given an expanded role of regulating the life cycle of oil, gas, and hydrogen industries within the province. 

Workers Compensation Act: S.B.C. 2022, c. 3 is partly in force adding Division 8.1 (Division 8.1 – Licensing in Relation to Asbestos Abatement) which establishes a licensing framework to carry out asbestos abatement work. This framework is to be governed by the Workers' Compensation Board.


Act respecting labour standards: The remainder of S.Q. 2023, c. 11 is now in force which amends Section 84.4 of the Act regarding work performed during school hours by a child subject to compulsory school attendance.

For more information on recent regulatory changes CCOHS offers a paid subscription service, Canadian enviroOSH Legislation plus Standards, that provides a collection of all the health, safety, and environmental legislation you need in one location.

Partner News

Substance Use in the Trades: Addressing Stigma and Supporting Workersprint this article

Substance use in the trades is an ongoing issue. Three new courses and info sheets offer support for both workers and employers to address stigma and reduce harm.

These free resources were developed in partnership with the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum.

Free Courses

Substance Use in the Trades: Being Aware

Raise your awareness about the impacts of stigma and the importance of a healthy and safe workplace.

Substance Use in the Trades: Harm Reduction

Explore how workplaces and workplace leaders can take a harm reduction approach to substance use and foster a healthier work environment.

Substance Use in the Trades: Supporting Your Well-being

Learn what you can do if you are concerned about your own substance use or someone else’s. This course also provides strategies to improve your overall well-being, including preventing injuries, managing pain, dealing with stress, and sleeping well.

Info Sheets – Share these handouts on the types of stigma and how they harm workers; employers’ responsibilities in establishing hazard prevention programs and policies to address impairment and reduce stigma; and effective strategies for supporting tradespeople.

CCOHS resources on impairment


Breaking the Cycle of Workplace Bullyingprint this article

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

Breaking the Cycle of Workplace Bullying

Despite growing national conversation on violence and harassment in the workplace, bullying continues to affect many workers. The Canadian Union of Public Employee’s (CUPE) National Health and Safety Representative, Dr. Andréane Chénier discusses how some organizations are approaching the issue.

Podcast runs: 11:10 minutes Listen Now

Sitting at Work

Work that involves sitting is not without risk of injury. In fact, varicose veins, stiff necks, and numbness in the legs are reported more frequently among seated employees than those doing heavier tasks. Limited mobility contributes to injuries in the parts of the body that move us: the muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments. In this episode, we discuss how to recognize and prevent injuries while sitting at work.

Podcast runs: 6:10 minutes Listen 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.


The Dick Martin Scholarship Award is Now Open print this article

We’re accepting applications for the Dick Martin Scholarship Award. The contest is open to any college or university student enrolled in an occupational health and safety course or program leading to an occupational health and safety related certificate, diploma, or degree.

Two students will be awarded a $3,000 prize (and their academic institutions will be gifted $500). To be considered, students must complete an online application, submit a cover letter outlining their aspirations of obtaining a career in the health and safety industry, and submit an essay on one of two topics related to occupational health and safety:

  • Prevention Essay: Choose a high-risk workplace hazard. How would you work to solve and create awareness about the issue?
  • Technical Essay: Research an existing or emerging hazard or risk (coverage may include how to identify, assess, and control the risks).

CCOHS will accept applications until 11:59 p.m. EST, January 31, 2024. Scholarship rules, essay criteria, and other guidelines are available on the CCOHS website. Winners will be announced in early Spring 2024.

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