Protecting Outdoor Workers from West Nile, Zika, and Lyme Disease
Written by Jenn Miller, Curriculum Development Coordinator
Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act employers must take reasonable precautions for the protection of workers, and this includes protecting outdoor workers from exposure to West Nile virus, Zika virus, and Lyme disease. While you may be thinking that it isn’t possible to protect outdoor workers from naturally occurring workplace hazards, you must recognize that risks to outdoor workers can be mitigated and reduced. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that such action is taken.
UNDERSTANDING THE HAZARDS
The Occupational Health and Safety Act, defines occupational illness as “a condition that results from exposure in a workplace to a physical, chemical or biological agent to the extent that the normal physiological mechanisms are affected and the health of the worker is impaired.” Currently in Ontario, outdoor workers are at risk of exposure to three primary illnesses: West Nile virus, Zika virus, and Lyme disease.
WHAT IS WEST NILE VIRUS?
West Nile is a virus spread primarily through mosquito bites. Mosquitos feed on infected birds, then bite humans and pass the virus through their bites. West Nile is less commonly transmitted by blood transfusions, organ transplants, or pregnancy and/or breastfeeding. While the risk of contracting West Nile in Canada is low, it is highest among populations that work outdoors. 80% of people who contract West Nile do not show symptoms. The remaining 20% can experience fevers, joint pain, headaches, flu-like symptoms, and in very rare cases, brain swelling, meningitis, or death (1).
WHAT IS ZIKA VIRUS?
Like West Nile virus, Zika is spread through mosquito bites. Not all mosquitos are infected. In Canada, reported Zika exposure is rare. However, there have been a small number of cases recorded. Most people who contract Zika, experience mild symptoms and recover fully with little or no medical intervention. The danger of Zika exposure lies in the risks it poses to unborn babies. Unborn babies with mothers who have Zika virus are at risk of serious birth defects, including microcephaly. This is a very serious defect of the brain, associated with incomplete development. The risk to outdoor workers includes both pregnant workers and those who may expose pregnant partners to the virus, as Zika virus is also passed through sexual transmission (2).
WHAT IS LYME DISEASE?
Unlike West Nile virus and Zika virus, which are passed through infected mosquitos, Lyme is transmitted by blacklegged ticks, or deer ticks. Not all of these types of ticks are infected. Lyme disease is transmitted only by tick bites, and cannot be passed from person to person, or animal to person; however, animals may carry infected ticks to people. In Ontario, there is a risk of encountering infected ticks almost everywhere, but the risk increases in parks and grassy areas, especially in long grasses, wetlands, and bog areas. Symptoms of Lyme are flu-like. If you’ve been bitten by a tick and do not feel well, you should see a doctor. In order for Lyme to be transmitted, a tick must feed for 24 hours (3).
HOW DO I PROTECT MY OUTDOOR WORKERS?
Workers at risk of being exposed to West Nile, Zika, and/or Lyme disease through mosquito or tick bites can all be protected by following the same general set of guidelines. Insect repellents must contain DEET (a brand of diethyltoluamide, a colorless oily liquid with a mild odor) to be effective. The amount of DEET correlates to the amount of time for which it is effective. For example, spray containing 4.75% DEET will effectively repel mosquitos and ticks for an hour, where repellent containing 23.8% DEET will work for up to 5 hours. It has been proven that sprays with 50% DEET or more are not effective longer – efficacy for DEET tends to plateau at around 50%. The following tips apply to all outdoor workers, regardless of the exposure hazard that is most prevalent in your area:
Wear long sleeved shirts and pants to minimize skin exposed to ticks and mosquitos
Tuck your pants into your socks
Wear light coloured clothes mosquitos are less attracted to light colours, and ticks are more easily found on light coloured items of clothing
Follow all directions on insect repellent sprays
Use an insect repellent that contains DEET, and be aware of the amount of time you will be protected
Re-apply DEET-containing insect sprays as recommended by the manufacturer
Follow these specific tips to reduce West Nile, Zika, and Lyme disease exposure risks:
West Nile virus:
Minimize exposure to mosquito bites by eliminating areas containing standing water in your worksite, such as dump buckets of water or wheel barrows
Remove items that could become standing water breeding grounds, such as barrels, old tires, or tarps
Take particular care at dusk and dawn, when mosquitos are most active
Educate workers with partners who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant
Do not allow workers who are pregnant or may become pregnant to work outdoors in Zika-infected areas
Consider providing workers with extra PPE, such as gloves and hats with mosquito netting that covers the face
Wear a hat if contact might be made with overhead vegetation
Avoid long grasses
Immediately after work, do a thorough body inspection to check for ticks
Inspect gear thoroughly for ticks
Report any ticks you find on yourself or your gear to your direct supervisor
If you find a tick, place it in a secure container. Any health professional or unit can arrange for the tick to be tested if necessary
WHAT IS MY OBLIGATION AS AN EMPLOYER?
Employers must do what is reasonable to protect outdoor workers from exposure to the risk of occupational illnesses such as West Nile, Zika, or Lyme disease. The best way to do this is to develop a policy and safety program that educates outdoor workers on the risks of mosquito and tick bites, and how to avoid them. Leading industry practice suggests that employers with outdoor workers provide insect repellent that contains DEET, and any other PPE deemed reasonable to reduce the risk of exposure.
CAN WORKERS REFUSE TO WEAR INSECT REPELLENTS?
Workers do have the right to refuse work if they feel that the risk of exposure to mosquito or tick bites is a serious threat to their health and safety. If a worker is concerned about the risk of West Nile, Zika, or Lyme, they must discuss it with their supervisor and the Joint Health and Safety Committee. Rest assured, a reasonable solution can almost always be found. If one cannot be found, the work refusal process must be followed.
Although the risk of exposure to West Nile, Zika, and Lyme is low in our region, employers must be aware that it is their responsibility to protect outdoor workers. In many instances, insect repellent and common sense are all that’s needed to ensure a safe and productive outdoor working experience.
From September 19 – October 31, 2016
The Ministry of Labour will be conducting a Chemical Handling Blitz. You can prepare for the upcoming blitz by:
Ensuring MSDS and SDS sheets for all chemicals used in your workplace are legible and in an accessible location (1)
Reviewing all MSDS and SDS sheets to ensure they are up to date. If you find that any of your chemicals have MSDS or SDS sheets that are out of date, contact the supplier for a new MSDS or SDS. Update MSDS to SDS using the Globally Harmonized System wherever possible (2)
Ensuring your workers are trained under WHMIS 1988 and/or WHMIS 2015, depending on the pictograms or symbols displayed on the chemical labels in your workplace (3)
Ensuring proper controls such as providing proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are in place to protect workers against chemical hazards according to the chemical manufacturer guidelines (4)
Ensuring policies and procedures are in place for:
the safe use, storage, handling and disposal of a hazardous product
procedures in case of an emergency involving a hazardous product (5)
The Ministry of Labour will be conducting a zero tolerance/repeat offenders inspection blitz from September 1 – October 31, 2016. Don’t get caught being a repeat offender! Ensure you are complying with the Employment Standards Act by participating in or providing:
Written by Jeff Thorne, Manager of Training and Consulting
HOW DO YOU DEFINE IF YOU’RE A SUPERVISOR IN YOUR WORKPLACE?
Many organizations fail to clearly define who fulfils the role of the supervisor; it’s more than just a title! The Occupational Health and Safety Act defines a supervisor as a person who has charge of a workplace or authority over a worker. There are two separate parts to the definition.
Charge of a workplace refers to broad control over the planning and setup of the work and how the work is carried out. Authority over a worker can be seen as a more specific power to ensure that a worker complies with directions, set standards, policies or procedures.
Under the Act, supervisors must make sure that workers work within the law, use required equipment, clothing, or Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and inform workers of hazards. They must also provide written instructions on the measures and procedures to be taken for worker protection, and take reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of workers under their supervision.
Failure to clearly identify who the supervisor is, may place team leads or lead hands within the supervisor realm. So make sure that titles and responsibilities are clearly defined. If you are a supervisor, you need Supervisor Health and Safety Awareness training. If you are a worker, you need Worker Health and Safety Awareness training. Still not sure? Give us a call! 1-800-815-9980
Effective July 1, 2016 noise protection requirements have been extended to all workplaces under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Key changes include:
Workers exposed to noise will have a maximum time-weighted exposure limit of 85 decibels over an 8-hour shift.
Employers will be required to impose measures to reduce a worker’s exposure to noise based on a “hierarchy of controls,” including engineering controls, safe work practices, and using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Employers will be required to provide training on proper use of PPE, such as hearing protection devices. (1)
Written by Jeff Thorne, Manager of Training and Consulting
RENTING EQUIPMENT – WHAT ARE YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES?
Have you ever rented a tool, or piece of equipment that wasn’t in the best condition, but decided to use it anyways? Have you given thought to what might happen if that tool failed and who could be held responsible?
An often-overlooked area within the Occupational Health and Safety Act outlines the Duties of Suppliers (s.31). In Ontario, every person who supplies workplace equipment of any kind under a rental, leasing, or similar arrangement must ensure that the equipment complies with the Act and regulations, is in good condition, and (in specified circumstances) is maintained in good condition.
One of the most publicized cases in Ontario dealing with equipment that was supplied, and not maintained in good condition, was the case involving Metron and Swing N Scaff Inc. Five workers fell 13 stories when the 40 ft. swing-stage, supplied by Swing N Scaff Inc., broke apart in the middle and collapsed. Swing N Scaff Inc. pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that a suspended platform and/or a component supplied to Metron Construction Corporation was in good condition. They were subsequently fined $350,000. Metron was also charged.
When renting equipment, make sure it is supplied in good working condition. Depending on the nature of the equipment rented, you may need to check for annual and pre-operational inspection records, structural inspection records, engineering reports, and/or maintenance records. If the equipment is not in good condition, do not accept it. It’s not worth the risk!
Ergonomics Awareness Month is coming up. How will you celebrate?
Written by Jenna Kressler, Operations Assistant
In our daily life, we use our muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints to perform movements, such as walking, sitting, standing, lifting, and carrying. Though these tasks may seem basic, repetition and over-use can put strain on our bodies, which can result in pain and discomfort, and may eventually lead to a musculoskeletal disorder.
Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSDs) are a group of painful injuries and disorders that affect muscles, tendons, and nerves. While the back is the most commonly affected, the shoulders, neck, elbows, hands, and wrists can also develop WMSDs. WMSDs are the leading cause of lost-time work injuries reported to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board in Ontario (1).
Some contributing factors that may cause WMSDs are, but may not be limited to (2):
Posture and movement
Pace of work
Force of movements
Lack of influence or control over one’s job
Increased pressure (e.g., to produce more)
Lack of, or poor, communication
Perception of low support (from a manager or co-worker)
Some symptoms of WMSDs are, but may not be limited to (1):
Pain with or without movement
Swelling, tenderness, and/or redness
Reduced or limited range of motion
Engineering controls and administrative controls are two approaches that are accepted for reducing ergonomic hazards in the workplace. Engineering controls reduce or eliminate a worker’s exposure to a hazard. For example, you can alter a workstation, provide ergonomic equipment, or make modifications to existing equipment. Administrative controls do not change the physical environment, but they reduce the negative effects of poor ergonomics. For example, rotating workers tasks to eliminate repetitive job tasks and establishing written policies and procedures on how to perform a job task in a more ergonomic fashion (1).
Breaking up your workday with stretches or other physical activity, whether individually or as a group, can encourage workers to feel comfortable and be more productive at work.
What will you do to celebrate Ergonomics Awareness month this October? We have some ideas to get your planning started!
Nominate daily stretch leaders in October and have them lead a 5-minute stretching session in the morning and afternoon
Mobile boom cranes can be an essential part to some construction or industrial projects. These cranes have the potential to cause serious injuries and loss of life when not operated safely by a competent, well-trained person. As a mobile boom crane operator, you are required to deliver or move materials or equipment to a variety of sometimes very challenging locations. You want to ensure that you are ready for any scenario that is thrown at you, but require thorough training to feel confident tackling any job task, or you haven’t been trained in more than three years, and would like a refresher.
Identify hazards specific to the equipment and job site
Identify and discuss common crane components
Perform thorough pre-operational inspections
Discuss stability principles and load charts
Execute a safe lift plan
Identify safe hoisting and operating techniques
Discuss relevant legislation
With additional practical experience with a competent mobile boom crane operator, you will be on your way to making many safe, and efficient transfers or deliveries! Become an industry leader in equipment safety with trained operators at your workplace to reduce the risk of mobile boom crane related injuries, illnesses and loss of life.
Alternatively, after completing the Safe Operation of a Mobile Boom Crane Train-the-Trainer course, you will be able to provide training to your workforce at a time and place that is convenient for you, as often as you would like. Or, have one of our experienced trainers come to your workplace to deliver the program for you.
If you want to increase your knowledge and understanding of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), and take an active role in identifying ergonomic risks, and providing solutions to help minimize MSDs in your workplace, this is the course for you!
The objective of this course is to provide participants with knowledge and understanding of MSD concerns and ergonomic risk factors. Participants will be empowered to take an active role in identifying non- neutral postures through use of a checklist and audit based review. This includes use of our “Workplace Athletic Rules” to permit retention and knowledge of basic ergonomic principles. Following identification of risks, use of “go-to” solutions will be reviewed to permit high level ergonomic/MSD risk containment.
This program has been designed to include applied case studies to ensure that all participants not only understand the principles covered, but are also competent using and applying them.
By the end of this course, participants will be able to;
Understand ergonomic principles and basic risk factors
Use and apply the “Workplace Athletic Rules” to identify postural concerns
Use the Ergo Eye Audit worksheet to identify potential areas of ergonomic concern
Brainstorm possible risk mitigation/elimination of areas of concern
Apply principles and concepts to applied scenarios immediately to complete high level risk identification
Written by Jennifer Miller, Curriculum Development Coordinator
At OSG, all of our staff are Health and Safety Leaders. This month, we are featuring two outstanding leaders: Sarah Davies and Sara Smith. SARAH DAVIES
Sarah Davies has been a part of the OSG training team just under a year. She brings with her years of experience teaching adults, as she was a professor at Fanshawe College prior to joining our team. Her goal is to provide relevant and accurate information so that employers can contribute to their employee’s growth and well-being. Sarah is a competitive soccer player, and enjoys participating and watching almost any sport! We have all heard that bringing the teacher an apple or other fruit will win their favour – but be sure you don’t bring Sarah any mangoes! She absolutely despises them!
“Safety is everyone’s business!” -Sarah Davies
For over 6 years, Sara has been a Client Relationship Manager at OSG. However, she actually got her start in the accounts receivable department, and has been part of the OSG family for a total of almost 8 years. Her work goal is to help clients stay ahead of legislative changes, and to enhance their health and safety programs to ensure that all workers get to return safely home at the end of the day. Outside of work, one of Sara’s goals is to travel to as many places as possible. She also enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking and skiing. Sara was born in the Czech Republic and moved to Canada at age 14. Now, she enjoys as much time as possible with her family.
“Safety works when everybody participates.” -Sara Smith
Next time you are in OSG’s London office, say hello to Sarah or Sara. They are OSG Safety Leaders who embody safety culture in the workplace.