Key Words

As a young worker, you’ll probably come across many new words as you enter the work world. It’s important that you know precisely what these words mean when you encounter them in your safety training.

Click on the words below to view the definition

Absorption

The entry of a substance into the body through broken or unbroken skin.

Acute Effect

A change that occurs in the body within a relatively short time (minutes, hours, days) following exposure to a substance.

Acute Exposure

A single exposure to a hazardous agent.

Administrative Controls

A category of controls that alter the way the work is done, including timing of work, policies and other rules, and work practices such as standards and operating procedures (including training, housekeeping, and equipment maintenance, and personal hygiene practices).

Asphyxiant

A vapour or gas that can either reduce the oxygen content in the air or interfere with the body’s ability to use oxygen. Exposure to an asphyxiant can result in loss of consciousness or death due to the inability to breathe.

Autoignition Temperature

The lowest temperature at which a substance will spontaneously ignite in a normal atmosphere without an external source of ignition, such as a flame or a spark.

The autoignition temperature is not to be confused with the flash point, which requires an ignition source.

Biological Agent

A living organism (for example, a virus or bacteria) that affects the body, a part of the body, or any of its functions.

Boiling Point

The temperature at which a liquid changes to a vapour.

Carcinogen

A chemical, physical or biological agent that can cause cancer in humans or animals.

Chemical Agent

A chemical substance that affects the body, a part of the body, or any of its functions.

Chronic Effect

A change that occurs in the body over a relatively long time (weeks, months, years) following repeated exposure or a single over-exposure to a substance.

Chronic Exposure

Repeated exposure to a hazardous agent.

Combustible (Flammable)

Capable of catching fire and burning.

Usually a material that has a flash point above 37.8°C.

Competent Worker

Three characteristics are used to describe a worker as “competent” in Alberta:

 

(1) Adequately qualified – the worker has some type of qualification, usually earned  through a formal education program, training course, etc., or a combination of education and practical experience. With certain exceptions such as professional designations, the employer is responsible for evaluating and deciding if a worker is adequately qualified. The employer should be able to justify the basis on which a worker is considered to be “adequately qualified”.

 

(2) suitably trained – the worker must have training that is appropriate to the tasks, equipment, etc., that will be performed or used. In addition to this training, the worker must receive safety training, the minimum requirements of which are described in section 15 of the OHS Regulation. The employer is responsible for evaluating and deciding if a worker is suitably trained. The employer should be able to justify the basis on which a worker is considered to be “suitably trained”; and

 

(3) with sufficient experience to safely perform work without supervision or with only a minimal degree of supervision – determining whether a worker has sufficient experience to safely perform the work is the employer’s responsibility. A worker’s qualifications, training, and experience are no guarantee that work will be performed safely. The employer should be able to justify the basis on which a worker is considered to have “sufficient experience”.

Contaminant

An unwanted material (for example, radioactive, biological or chemical) that is likely to harm the quality of the working environment. The most common workplace contaminants are chemicals that may be present in the form of dusts, fumes, gases or vapours. (See also food-borne contaminants).

Controls

Measures designed to eliminate or reduce hazards or hazardous exposures. Examples include engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment. Hazards can be controlled at the source, along the path to the worker, or at the worker.

Corrosive

A substance that will burn the skin or the eyes on contact.

Cumulative Trauma Disorder

A problem with the muscles, tendons or nerves that happens over time due to overuse. Examples include carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis.

Also known as Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI).

Due Diligence

The taking of every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of the health and safety of workers.

Elimination

A category of controls that includes removing the hazard from the workplace, or substituting hazardous materials or machines with less hazardous ones.

Emergency Plan

Detailed procedures for responding to an emergency, such as a fire or explosion, a chemical spill, or an uncontrolled release of energy. An emergency plan is necessary to keep order and minimize the effects of a disaster.

Engineering Controls

A category of controls that uses physical/engineering methods to eliminate or minimize the hazard. Examples of engineering controls include ventilation, isolation, elimination, enclosure, substitution and design of the workplace or equipment.

Exposure Limits

Exposure limits are established concentrations which, if not exceeded, will not generally cause adverse effects to the worker exposed. However, because of wide variation in individual susceptibility, a small percentage of workers may experience discomfort from some substances at concentrations at or below the established limit; a smaller percentage may be affected more seriously by aggravation of a pre-existing condition.

 

Exposure levels are intended for use as guidelines or recommendations in the control of potential health hazards and are not fine lines between safe and unsafe exposures, nor are they a relative index of toxicity.

Exposure Records

The records kept by an employer or company doctor or nurse of an employee’s exposure to a hazardous material or physical agent in the workplace. These records show the time, level and strength of exposure for each substance or agent involved.

Flammable (Combustible)

Capable of catching fire and burning.

Usually a material that has a flash point above 37.8°C.

Flash Point

The lowest temperature at which a liquid will give off enough vapours to form a mixture that will burn if ignited. The lower the flash point, the higher the risk of fire.

A material that has a flash point below 37.8°C is considered flammable/combustible.

Food-Borne Contaminants

Bacteria, viruses, mycotoxins, parasites or other matter that causes illness when consumed via food. Proper food-handling procedures help ensure that food is not contaminated and will not make people sick.

Food Retail and Food Services Code (Alberta)

The Food Retail and Food Services Code of Alberta provides food safety standards and operational guidelines for workers and employers in the food industry.

Globally Harmonized System of Labeling and Chemicals (GHS)

An internationally standardized system that defines and classifies the hazards of chemical products and communicates health and safety information on labels and safety data sheets (MSDS). Canada has implemented WHMIS 2015, a national chemical classification and hazard communication standard for workplace chemicals that incorporates the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (or GHS).

H2S (Hydrogen Sulfide)

Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless gas with the characteristic foul odor of rotten eggs; it is heavier than air, very poisonous, corrosive, flammable, and explosive.

H2S often results from the bacterial breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen gas, such as in swamps and sewers; this process is commonly known as anaerobic digestion. H2S also occurs in volcanic gases, natural gas, and in some sources of well water.

H2S is a highly toxic and flammable gas (flammable range: 4.3–46%). Being heavier than air, it tends to accumulate at the bottom of poorly ventilated spaces. Although very pungent at first, it quickly deadens the sense of smell, so victims may be unaware of its presence until it is too late.

For safe handling procedures, a hydrogen sulfide material safety data sheet (MSDS) or safety data sheet (SDS) should be consulted.

Hazard

The potential of any machine, equipment, process, material or physical factor to cause harm or damage to people, property or the environment.

Hazard Assessment

A written process to recognize existing and potential hazards at work before they cause harm to people, property or the environment.

Hazardous Material

Any substance that may produce adverse health and/or safety effects to people or the environment.

Hazardous Substance

Substances that, following worker exposure, can have an adverse effect on health.

 

Examples of hazardous substances include poisons, substances that cause burns or skin and eye irritation, and substances that may cause cancer. Many hazardous substances are also classified as dangerous goods.

Health and Safety Manual

A Health and Safety Manual is a key component of your workplace health and safety program, defining the responsibilities of each position as well as the procedures to be followed in order to maintain and healthy and safe workplace. All employees should have access to the health and safety manual at all times and should have their responsibilities as defined in the manual communicated clearly to them upon hiring.

Health and Safety Program

A systematic combination of activities, procedures, and facilities designed to ensure and maintain a safe and healthy workplace.

Heat Exhaustion

Over-heating of the body.

Heat exhaustion symptoms may include heavy sweating and a rapid pulse. It’s one of three heat-related syndromes, with heat cramps being the mildest and heatstroke being the most severe.

Causes of heat exhaustion include exposure to high temperatures, particularly when combined with high humidity, and strenuous physical activity. Without prompt treatment, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, a life-threatening condition.

Heat Stroke

A potentially deadly condition in which body’s ability to control its temperature and cool itself sufficiently breaks down as a result of prolonged exposure to or physical exertion in high temperatures.

The most serious form of heat injury, heat stroke can occur if your body temperature rises to 104°F (40°C) or higher. Heat stroke requires emergency treatment.

Untreated heat stroke can quickly damage the brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles and the damage worsens the longer treatment is delayed, increasing the risk of death.

Hypothermia

A potentially fatal condition in which the body temperature drops below normal (37°C or 98.6°F). It most frequently develops from being exposed to very low temperatures, occurring when the body loses heat faster than it is able to produce it. Left untreated, hypothermia can eventually lead to complete failure of the heart and respiratory system, resulting in death.

Ignition Source

A source of energy, such as heat, flame, sparks or static electricity, that is capable of causing a fuel mixture to burn.

Incompatible Substances

Materials that could cause dangerous reactions if they come in direct contact with one another.

Industrial Hygiene

A science that deals with the anticipation, recognition, evaluation and control over hazards in the workplace. These hazards may cause sickness, harm to employees health, discomfort and inefficient performance on the job.

Also known as Occupational Hygiene.

Inhalant

An airborne gas, vapour, fume, mist or dust that can have an adverse effect on a person’s health, cause intoxication or cause discomfort when breathed in.

Irritant

A substance which, in sufficient quantities, can inflame or irritate the eyes, skin or respiratory system (lungs, etc.). Symptoms include pain, itchiness and/or redness.

Job Safety Analysis

A job safety analysis (JSA) is a procedure which helps integrate accepted safety and health principles and practices into a particular task or job operation.

In a JSA, each basic step of the job is broken down to identify potential hazards and to recommend the safest way to do the job. Other terms used to describe similar procedures are job hazard analysis (JHA) and job hazard breakdown.

Latent Period

The time that passes between exposure to a harmful substance or agent and the first sign(s) of damage or illness.

Lockout/Tagout

A specific set of procedures for ensuring that a machine, once shut down for maintenance, repair or other reason, is secured against accidental start-up or movement of any of its parts for the length of the shutdown.

  • Lockout: the isolation of energy from the system (a machine, equipment, or process) which physically locks the system in a safe mode. The energy-isolating device can be a manually operated disconnect switch, a circuit breaker, a line valve, or a block.
  • Locking/Lockout Device: any device that has the ability to secure the energy-isolating device in a safe position.
  • Tagout: a labeling process that is always used when lockout is required.

The process of tagging out a system involves attaching or using an information tag or indicator (usually a standardized label) that includes the following information:

  • Why the lockout/tag out is required (repair, maintenance, etc.).
  • Time of application of the lock/tag.
  • The name of the authorized person who attached the tag and lock to the system.

The person who placed the lock and tag onto the system is the ONLY individual permitted to remove them.

Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)

A form that contains detailed information about the possible health and safety hazards of a product and how to safely store, use and handle the product.

Under the federal Hazardous Products Act, suppliers are required to provide an MSDS for all hazardous materials as a condition of sale.

WHMIS 2015 has aligned with the Global Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS), which uses Safety Data Sheets (SDS’s). See also: WHMIS and GHS.

Mutagen

An agent that causes sudden and permanent changes in one or more hereditary features, generally by modifying one or more genes (changes to genetic material). The changes may or may not be passed on to offspring.

Occupational Hygiene

A science that deals with the anticipation, recognition, evaluation and control over hazards in the workplace. These hazards may cause sickness, harm to employees health, discomfort and inefficient performance on the job.

Also known as Industrial Hygiene.

Occupational Illness

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.

Parts Per Million (PPM)

Parts of gas or vapour per million parts of air by volume at room temperature. For example, 1 cubic centimetre of gas in 1 million cubic centimetres of air has a concentration of 1 PPM.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Any device worn by a worker to protect against hazards. Some examples are respirators, gloves, ear plugs, hard hats, safety goggles and safety shoes/boots.

Physical Agent

A source of energy (for example, noise, radiation, vibration, heat) that affects the body, a part of the body, or any of its functions.

Preventive Maintenance

A system for preventing machinery and equipment failure through scheduled regular maintenance, knowledge of reliability of parts, maintenance of service records, scheduled replacement of parts and maintenance of inventories.

Procedure

A step-by-step description of how to do a task, job or activity properly.

Reactivity

The capability of a substance to undergo a chemical reaction with the release of energy. Unwanted effects include pressure build-up, temperature increase, and formation of harmful by-products.

These effects may occur because of the reactivity of a substance to heat, an ignition source or direct contact with other chemicals in use or in storage.

Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

A problem with the muscles, tendons or nerves that happens over time due to overuse. Examples include carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis.

Also known as Cumulative Trauma Disorder.

Respiratory Hazard

Respiratory hazards can include airborne contaminants such as biological contaminants, dusts, mists, fumes, and gases, or oxygen-deficient atmospheres.

Safety Culture

Safety culture refers to the ways that safety is addressed in a workplace. It often reflects the attitudes, beliefs, perceptions and values that employees at different levels share in relation to safety.

Safety Data Sheet (SDS)

Safety Data Sheets are summary documents that provide information about the hazards of a product and advice about safety precautions. SDSs are usually written by the manufacturer or supplier of the product.

In some circumstances, an employer may be required to prepare an SDS (e.g., when the product is produced and used exclusively in that workplace).

SDSs provide more detailed hazard information about the product than the label.

See also: WHMISMSDS and GHS.

Solvent

A substance that dissolves other substances. Many solvents are flammable.

Tag Line

Tag lines, which are usually made of nylon rope or other non-conductive material, are used to:

  • help workers control the motion of a suspended load. To do so, they must be of sufficient length to allow control of the load and must be used in a manner that ensures the worker holding the line will not be struck by the load;
  • allow workers to stand a safe distance away from the load; and,
  • provide some protection from electrocution as nylon rope is a poor conductor of electricity.
Teratogen

An agent that causes birth defects by harming a developing fetus or embryo.

Also known as an embryotoxin.

Time-loss Injury (or Lost-Time Injury)

An injury where a worker is compensated by a Board/Commission for a loss of wages following a work-related injury (or exposure to a noxious substance), or receives compensation for a permanent disability with or without any time lost in his or her employment (for example, if a worker is compensated for a loss of hearing resulting from excessive noise in the workplace).

Toxic Substance

Any substance that can cause acute or chronic effects to a person or is suspected to cause disease or injury under certain conditions.

Volatility

The tendency or ability of a liquid to quickly vaporize into the air. Examples of volatile liquids include alcohol and gasoline. Liquids that are volatile must be carefully dispensed and stored. This includes paying special attention to temperature.

Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)

An information system implemented under the federal Hazardous Products Act and provincial occupational health and safety laws to ensure communication of information on hazardous materials.

The information delivery system under WHMIS requires:

  1. Labels,
  2. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), and
  3. Worker education and training programs.

Canada has implemented WHMIS 2015, a national chemical classification and hazard communication standard for workplace chemicals that incorporates the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (or GHS) for workplace chemicals.

See also: MSDSSDS and GHS.

Workplace Inspection

A regular and careful check of a workplace or part of a workplace in order to identify health and safety hazards and to recommend corrective action.

Workplace factors that have the potential to cause injury or illness to employees include equipment, materials, processes or work activities, and the environment.

Zoonotic Infection/Disease

An unwanted material (for example, radioactive, biological or chemical) that is likely to harm the quality of the working environment. The most common workplace contaminants are chemicals that may be present in the form of dusts, fumes, gases or vapours. (See also food-borne contaminants).

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