Health and Safety ReportVolume 22, Issue 04

On Topic

Ticks: Tiny Bugs, Big Health Threat print this article

Spring has sprung, signaling ticks to wake up from their winter slumber and workers to take precautions against tick-borne diseases.

Ticks spread illnesses by latching onto animals like deer, rodents and birds, to feed on their blood. If the animal is infected, the tick will ingest pathogens, or germs, with the blood. Now it can pass on disease-causing pathogens to its next host through its saliva. Generally, the risk of pathogen transmission increases the longer the tick is attached to the skin.

While most species don’t pose a threat to humans, the blacklegged tick (deer tick) and western blacklegged tick can spread Lyme disease. These blacklegged ticks are spreading to new areas in Canada in part due to climate change, as they can be active any time temperatures are 4 C and higher.

Although Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in humans in Canada, the tiny, eight-legged bug can also cause anaplasmosis, babesiosis, Powassan virus disease, and tick-borne relapsing fever.

Common symptoms of tick-borne diseases include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, nausea, and vomiting. Symptoms of Lyme disease can include a circular rash at the site of the bite that looks like a bull’s eye.

People may not notice a tick bite because it is usually painless. Preventing bites, properly identifying ticks, and carefully removing them from your skin can reduce the risk of contracting tick-borne diseases.

Who’s at Risk?

Anyone working outdoors, especially in areas with tall grasses, shrubs, or low-hanging branches, can get a tick bite. Risk is heightened when working in wooded areas and with or near animals on which ticks feed.

Outdoor workers, such as parks, agricultural, and forestry workers, are at higher risk of a tick bite.  A risk assessment and risk checklist can help employers identify risks and take precautions. Taking a layered approach to hazard controls, where multiple precautions are introduced at the same time, is the most effective approach to protecting workers against ticks. When introducing precautionary measures and controls, use the hierarchy of controls to effectively reduce risk.  

Protecting Workers’ Health

Measures that can help prevent the spread of tick-borne diseases include avoiding job sites with woods, bushes, and tall grass, and managing landscaping around work areas by keeping trees pruned, grass mowed, and removing leaf litter.

Workers should stay on well-cleared trails and maintained paths, tie back long hair and wear light-coloured long-sleeved shirts and pants. Wearing closed-toe shoes, tucking shirts into pants, and pulling socks over pant legs, is also advised.

Applying insect repellent containing DEET or Icaridin to clothing and exposed skin can help reduce risk, as can wearing permethrin-treated clothing. Always follow the directions on the labels.

After outdoor work, workers should do a full-body tick check. Showering can help to find unattached ticks. Putting dry work clothes in a dryer on a high heat setting for at least 10 minutes will kill unattached ticks. If washing work clothes, hot water should be used, and clothes should be dried on high heat as ticks can survive warmer wash cycles.

Report and Support

Workers who experience a tick-borne disease should contact their employer and healthcare professional. They may also be required to notify the government department responsible for health and safety and worker’s compensation board.

Getting a tick-borne disease can impact a worker’s physical and mental health. Employers can support their workers with time off through a sick leave policy, as well as providing access to mental health supports, including an employee assistance program, if available.

CCOHS Resources:


Melanie Kowalski-Fleming's Story print this article

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

Day of Mourning: Melanie Kowalski-Fleming's Story   

“Mark was not one to go to the hospital. If he could duct tape or crazy glue it to fix it, he would. This was so much more than what duct tape or crazy could fix.” Melanie Kowalski-Fleming’s life changed forever the day her husband fell off a ladder at work. Hear her powerful story.

Listen to the podcast now.

Encore Podcast: Safety Tips for Landscapers

With landscaping season ramping up, here are some tips for working safely.

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.

Last Word

Day of Mourning: Honour Workers and Recommit to Safetyprint this article

April 28 marks the National Day of Mourning, a day to remember workers who lost their lives or were injured due to a workplace tragedy. It’s also a day to renew our commitment to improving workplace health and safety by taking action to prevent further injuries, illnesses and deaths. Pause at 11 a.m. in a moment of silence to honour workers who died and those whose lives were impacted.

Visit our Day of Mourning web page for information and resources you can share, including posters, podcasts and social media cards, to help spread awareness and support prevention efforts in your workplace.

Join a local Steps for Life walk

Every year around the Day of Mourning, Threads of Life hosts Steps for Life walks to support families affected by workplace tragedy.

Join thousands of walkers across the country and organize a team to participate in your local Steps for Life walk.

Partner News

Resources to Help Prevent Occupational Diseases print this article

For many workers, their jobs can take an unexpected toll on their physical health. An occupational disease can be disruptive, disabling, and even fatal. Recognizing and preventing occupational disease presents unique challenges, and requires the elimination or reduction of hazardous exposures, and the control of risks.

The Prevent Occupational Disease website, developed by the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) in partnership with CCOHS, features links to current and credible occupational health disease resources from Canada and around the world.

It also includes links to key tools designed to help address three specific occupational hazards:

The Heat Stress Toolkit (coming soon) helps employers, managers, supervisors, workers, committee members, and others to support and protect heat exposed workers. It includes heat stress awareness and prevention guides, a physiological monitoring guide, posters, infographics, videos, and an updated Heat Stress Calculator. 

To help protect workers against harmful exposure to silica, Ontario construction workers and employers can access the Silica Control Tool. This tool allows workplaces to conduct hazard assessments and implement safe work practices.

The Physician/Clinician’s Toolkit provides health care professionals with a centralized connection to resources and information about occupational disease.


Sign Up for Free Safety and Health Week Eventsprint this article

Safety and Health Week is just a few weeks away. Sign up for our free online events from May 6 to 11.

Safety and Health Week National Launch
Monday, May 6 | 11 am EDT

Join our national partners, Health and Safety Professionals Canada (HSPC) and Threads of Life, as we kick off Safety and Health Week 2024 virtually. Hear inspiring stories from special guests, watch the finalist videos from the Focus on Safety National Youth Video Contest, and share in the excitement as the winner is announced.

Championing Trans Inclusive Workplaces
Tuesday, May 7 | 11 am EDT

Creating workplaces that prioritize safety, equity, and inclusivity for trans and non-binary employees benefits us all. Renowned diversity and inclusion champion Dani Gomez-Ortega explains what you can do in your day-to-day work to make a more welcoming, inclusive, and supportive environment.

Plain Language Helps Workplace Health and Safety
Wednesday, May 8 | 11 am EDT

Everyone has the right to understand information related to their work, safety, or health. Plain language writing and design expert Jocelyn Pletz demonstrates the connections between plain language and design principles, and effective health and safety communication.

For more inspiration and ideas on how to celebrate Safety and Health Week in your workplace, visit

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