WHMIS & Worker Allergies

A recent fatality on an Edmonton construction site, suspected to be due to anaphylactic shock, stresses the importance of ongoing hazard assessments and WHMIS. Allergies are common and should be considered in assessing hazards when using any product for work. Also keep in mind that many substances are hazardous, even if they do not have a WHMIS symbol or other type of warning.

Allergies can range in variety and severity. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can occur very rapidly and can result in death. Some allergies for supervisors and safety leaders to consider include:

  • insect stings and bites (e.g. bees and wasps)
  • foods and beverages (e.g. nuts, alcohol, shellfish)
  • synthetics (e.g. latex)
  • environmental (e.g. cat / dog / horse dander, cigarette smoke, pollen)

Identifying biological hazards, and ensuring workers fully understand them through proper training, helps control against allergy related incidents. Further, employers must ensure safety data sheets are readily available and that workers know how to access them. Finally, employers should determine, as best they can, any allergies workers might have, whether to include access to an EpiPen or similar device in the event of an allergic reaction emergency.