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In an effort to keep you safe in a diverse society, Canada is starting to change an important safety tool

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New pictorial exit signs reflect a desire to help those
who don’t speak English or French

With every new building that gets the go-ahead in Ontario, the familiar red signs that read “exit” in English or “sortie” in French are one step closer to disappearing for good.

Those signs are gradually being phased out in favour of green pictographs showing a silhouetted person, nicknamed the “running man,” making their way towards a door.The shift is driven by the country’s changing demographics, said Phil Rizcallah, director of the National Research Council’s building regulations group.

These old red-and-white exit signs are slowly disappearing across Canada as provinces gradually adopt the National Research Council’s updated building code. (CBC Ottawa)

“We have a larger number of immigrants moving into the country. We also have a lot of visitors coming to convention centres, to museums, [to] international events,” Rizcallah told CBC Ottawa on Wednesday.

“They would be more apt to recognize these signs, versus an “exit” or “sortie” if English or French wasn’t their primary language.”

Rizcallah also said the signs can be photoluminescent, which means they give off light without electricity, and are coloured green to represent “go” or safety — rather than red, which traditionally represents “stop” or some sort of hazard.

Code updated in 2010

The NRC updated its model building code in 2010 and provinces have gradually been adopting the new regulations, said Rizcallah.

The Ontario government chose to shift toward green exit signs a few years ago and has required every new building or major building renovation undertaken since Jan. 1, 2014 to include them, which explains why so many of the green exit signs are popping up now.

“People start to recognize [the signs] in malls. People start to recognize them in schools, in museums and after a while they start to become more commonplace,” said Rizcallah.

Rizcallah said most provinces have adapted the green exit signs and those who haven’t, such as Quebec, are expected to do so by the end of the year.

International standard

The new green signs are based on those seen in places such as Europe, Japan and Australia, Rizcallah said.

In Ontario they have been installed in places such as Toronto’s Pearson International Airport and Ottawa’s Rideau Centre, where Amal Farah said she approved of the new design.

Amal Farah, who immigrated to Canada from Somalia, says she's a fan of the new design. (CBC Ottawa)

Amal Farah, who immigrated to Canada from Somalia, says she’s a fan of the new design. (CBC Ottawa)

“I’m an immigrant. I struggle in English all the time,” said Farah, who arrived in Canada from Somalia more than two decades ago. “If the signs help, it’s much better.”

Rupert Yeung, who works at the Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre helping new Canadians get settled, also likes the signs.

“If we can have some international signs that can be understood by people travelling around the world, I think it’s great,” Yeung said.

Some people who spoke to CBC Ottawa expressed concerns the change in design would cause confusion, but Rizcallah said the council’s human behaviour experts have told them people will learn that the signs mean “exit.”

Remaining Safe on the Job

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Writer: Joanne Sprung

If you have ever been injured on the job or know someone who has then you likely realize how frustrating it can be. Aside from the physical pain it can cause, some workplace mishaps can set you on the sidelines indefinitely and even haunt you for life.

In the United Kingdom the total number of workdays lost due to work-related health issues has fallen from 39.8 million in 2002 to 28.2 million in 2014. This has been largely attributed to improved health and safety protocols in the work environment. Still, health and safety continues to be a big topic of discussion among occupational experts around the world. This is because Europe, the United States and Canada have not only struggled with how to deal with lost man hours, but also the burden work-related accidents place on our healthcare system. Occupational therapists say the injury numbers are still too high; that the office and the factory need to be safer.

Occupational Health Advisor, Linda MacMinnis tells Illumineris that developing a “safety conscious” culture is a good first step in preventing unnecessary mishaps.

“It’s impossible to eliminate every single hazard, but focusing on safety will significantly reduce the incidence of work-related accidents and illness,” MacMinnis says.

While each workspace is unique, health and safety advisors believe there are a few key points everyone should keep in mind to ensure a safer atmosphere.

Don’t take shortcuts

We all want to get the job done on schedule, but taking shortcuts or doing things too quickly can often lead to accidents. Stick to the instructions and be aware of the surroundings.

Know the layout

Make sure you are familiar with the building you work in, including all the exits; stairways and other possible escape routes. In the event of an emergency you will need to know where the closest and safest exitis.

Inspect company vehicles

Workplace driving accidents can be costly for employers. All vehicles should be inspected on a monthly basis to ensure they are safe for the road

Dress properly

If you work outside, dress appropriately for the weather conditions. For example, in winter cover your head, feet, face and hands- these parts of your body are more prone to frostbite. If you work inside, wear proper safety equipment. For example, boots, goggles, gloves and face protection. When you are exposed to extreme heat, make sure you take frequent breaks in a cool rest area and drink plenty of fluids.

Tidy your space

Poor housekeeping can lead to freak accidents so clean up paper, clutter, spills and other debris from your work area. Report slip-and-trip type hazards as soon as you notice them.

Lift carefully

Back related injuries are very common and in many cases the cause is lifting improperly. If you are unsure about lifting something discuss it with your superior.

Always use the right tools

Do not proceed with the work if you do not have the proper tools to do the job.

Take appropriate breaks

It is important to be fresh and alert. This will help you avoid both injury and burnout. Try doing the most difficult tasks of the day at times when your concentration is the best.

Stay sober

Alcohol and drugs are involved in an estimated three per cent of workplace fatalities so stay sober on the job.

No matter what your job, it is important to stay healthy and injury free. Many work places have a health and safety committee so if you have specific questions about safety in your work environment you have a group within easy reach.

Tragic events like 9-11, the 2014 Quebec Nursing Home Fire, as well as the shootings on Parliament Hill in Ottawa are a reminder of just how important a quick/safe exit can be.

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Writer: Teresa Madaleno

Local fire departments spend a great deal of time promoting the merits of a good residential exit plan. Canadian Firefighters battle more than 50,000 residential fires every year. However, this does not include the thousands of calls they get to public buildings and workplaces.

Canadian Occupational Health and Safety Regulations cover building safety standards in this country. Business owners should have a safe exit strategy in place as well, not to mention follow occupational Health guidelines.

If a Canadian business violates a COHS regulation an individual could face a $25,000 fine or up to 12 months in prison, while corporations could be looking at a fine of up to $500,000. More important though is the fact that you don’t want anyone to get hurt or worse, killed in the event that something goes wrong at work.

Taking the time to put a plan together is just common sense no matter what size or type of business is it. According to workplace safety experts with the COHS, as well as the U.S Department of Labor, when putting together an emergency exit plan, it is a good idea to examine a wide variety of emergencies situations that could potentially take place in your work environment. You will need to determine what, if any, physical or chemical hazards might exist in your workplace. If you have more than one worksite or building then you will have to put together a different exit plan for each.

Your plan should include the following, at the very least:

  • A method for reporting fires and other emergencies
  • Emergency escape procedures, route assignments, & workplace maps
  • Designated safe (refuge) areas
  • An evacuation policy/procedure
  • Clearly marked exits
  • Procedures for employees that remain on site to perform critical duties
  • Names, phone numbers of people who may need to be contacted within or outside of company

Over 200 fires occur in U.S workplaces every year, injuring approximately 5 thousand people. Just imagine if none of them had an emergency exit strategy in place.

For more information on formulating a good exit plan consult with the health and safety regulatory body in your jurisdiction