Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
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Health and Safety: Teaching Tools



Why do we worry about energy exposure? Have you ever been exposed to energy? If I punch you it hurts because you are exposed to energy.

If you fall from a ladder you are a victim of gravitational energy. How many of you have watched astronauts in a space ship? They don't fall because they are not pulled down by energy.

Energy can enter our body. It can enter through our skin (heat, cold, vibration, radiation, electric shock), through our ears (noise, music, shouting), or through our eyes (light, lasers, sunlight). Excessive energy exposure can cause pain and injury. If exposure occurs day after day, we may develop a disease and possibly a disability.

Physical hazards include exposure to slips, trips, falls, electricity, noise, vibration, radiation, heat, cold and fire.

The following table summarizes the sources of physical hazard exposure and their health effects.

Sources and Health Effects of Physical Hazards

Types Possible Sources Health Effects Prevention
Noise Noisy machines Hearing loss, Stress, Annoyance Buy quieter machines and equipment. Build enclosures and barriers to stop noise from reaching people. Wear ear protection. Reduce exposure time.
Hand / Arm Vibration Operation of vibrating hand held equipment White finger, Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) Select tools with antivibration mounting. Cover handles with vibration absorbing material. Minimize time of use. Avoid cold exposure to hands.
Whole- Body Vibration Working on a vibrating platform, driving farm tractors or other heavy vehicles, especially on rough terrain Back disorders, Wide range of health conditions. Vibration isolator mounted seats for vehicle operators. Vibration isolator mounted rotating machines. Vibration absorbing covering on floors where people stand and work for a long time.
Hot Environments Working near furnaces. Summer outdoor work Heat stroke, Heat Syncope (fainting) Dress in light loose clothing to allow sweat evaporation. Acclimatize yourself at a slow pace before starting full work. Pace your work or play to avoid over-exertion. Drink plenty of water frequently even if you are not thirsty. Take rest in a cool place or shade if you feel very hot. Ask for training to recognize symptoms of heat stroke. Seek immediate medical help if you notice that someone might be getting heat stroke.
Cold Environments Working outdoors in cold weather. Working in cold storage. Hypothermia, Frostbite, Trench foot Dress properly. Learn to recognize hypothermia symptoms. Seek medical help if you notice someone developing hypothermia. Seek warm shelter if you start shivering excessively or feeling confused.
Hyperbaric (High Pressure) Environments Diving "Bends" or decompression sickness, joint pain, breathing or ear disorders. Make sure that you have proper training and equipment.
Hypobaric (Low Pressure) Environments High altitude work Disorders of the lungs, Mountain sickness (headaches, nausea, vomiting) Do not over-exert. Stop climbing if breathing problem continues. Seek first aid
Ionizing Radiation Working near x-ray machines. Handling radioactive materials. Uranium mining. Working in nuclear energy power plants. Working in nuclear research laboratories. Radiation sickness within hours or days after exposure to very high radiation levels. Cancer after several years of low-level exposure. Spend the least possible time near a radiation source. Stay as far away from a radiation source as possible. Use a shielding device such as a lead barrier to stop radiation before it reaches people. Use gloves, aprons etc. to prevent contamination of hands and the body.
Non-Ionizing Radiation Exposure to electro magnetic waves, lights and lasers. See the chart below. Does not produce ions in the body chemicals. Reach by causing heat and other effects Stay away from sources, use recommended personal protection, seek first aid and medical attention.
Ultraviolet Sunlight, Arc welding, Blacklight lamps, Germicidal lamps Skin Cancer, Eye damage, Retinal damage Avoid midday sun (11 am - 3 pm). Seek shade when outdoors. Apply sun protection cream on exposed skin. Wear appropriate clothing to prevent UV exposure to the skin. Avoid staring at sun or bright light sources.
Light, Lasers Lasers, Welding Retinal damage Never, ever look into a laser beam.
Microwave and Radio-frequency Microwave ovens, radio and TV transmission, radar, antenna, cell phones Heating of the body, Central Nervous System (CNS) effects Stay as far away from a source as possible. Use appropriate shielding such as making sure that the microwave oven door seals properly so that no radiation leaks when the oven is on. Avoid all unnecessary exposures.
Power Frequency Electromagnetic Field (ELF) Working near electric power transmission or distribution lines. Indications of leukemia in children. Do not work or play under the power lines or near power distribution transformers.
Slips, Trips and Falls Slippery and cluttered floors and working surfaces. Bodily injury, broken bones, permanent disability When working at heights: Use proper safety equipment; Follow safe work practices; Keep the floors free from clutter, debris and spills; Clean up spills immediately.
Fires Chemical reactions, heat, ignition, electrical short circuit, static electricity, friction. Burns, inhalation of toxic fumes Follow fire prevention rules. Set off alarm and leave the house or school as soon as possible. Call 911 for help.

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