The Ministry of Labour is warning outdoor workers in Ontario to be on the lookout for blacklegged ticks. These ticks can bite and infect people with bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi, which is the agent of Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease if left untreated.
Generally, ticks live from early spring until late fall. People who work outdoors, especially in wooded areas or tall grasslands, are urged to take extra precautions. This includes construction workers, utility workers, utility arborists, and powerline technicians.
Prompt removal of attached ticks (within 24 to 36 hours) can decrease the risk of infection.
Early signs and symptoms
The bacteria can be transmitted if a tick is attached to the skin and feeding for at least 18 to 24 hours. When a person is infected, symptoms usually develop within one to two weeks and include the following.
Workers are encouraged to seek immediate medical attention if any of these symptoms develop. Patients treated early usually make a complete recovery.
What should employers do?
- Determine if your workers may be at risk of exposure to ticks.
- Take every precaution reasonable to protect them.
- Ensure workers are trained to understand:
- the risk of tick bites and Lyme disease, especially those who work outdoors in wooded, bushy areas or in tall grasses
- how to identify blacklegged ticks
- how to prevent tick bites or minimize exposure
- how to treat a tick bite.
- Provide appropriate personal protective clothing as required.
What should workers do?
- Spray or apply a bug (tick) repellent to exposed skin and outer clothing. Make sure it contains 20 to 30% “DEET” and read the manufacturer's instructions before applying it.
- Inspect your entire body immediately after outdoor work and pay attention to the armpits, in and around ears, behind knees, areas with body hair, and the navel and groin areas.
- Take a shower soon after being outdoors.
- Check any equipment or gear that you may have brought with you outside for ticks.
- Put clothes in the dryer for one hour on high heat to kill any ticks.
- Wear protective gloves when handling dead animals.
- If you find a tick, inform your employer so other workers in your crew can be informed.
- If any of the symptoms of Lyme disease develop, contact your doctor immediately.