Lyme Disease: How to prepare your outdoor workers

Close-up of a person's index finger with a small blacklegged tick attached to it. The image gives a clear idea of the relative size of the tick.

Download WorkBright’s free poster that can be printed and displayed in your workplace to help workers recognize blacklegged ticks. 

Lyme disease is caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, which is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. This bacterial infection was first discovered in Lyme, Connecticut, in 1975 and has since become a major public health concern in North America. In Canada, Lyme disease cases have risen sharply, with over 17,080 cases reported between 2009 and 2020, and over 2,000 cases reported in 2020 alone.

Ticks That Carry Lyme Disease are Commonly Found in Wooded Areas, Tall Grass, and Bushes

Blacklegged ticks are commonly found in wooded areas, tall grass, and bushes, and are most active during the spring and summer months.

A tick bite can cause Lyme disease and serious health effects.

The most common symptom is a bullseye-shaped rash around the tick bite site, which usually appears within three to 30 days after the bite. Other symptoms may include fever, headache, fatigue, and muscle and joint pain. If left untreated, Lyme disease can lead to more serious complications, such as arthritis, heart problems, and nerve damage, and even death. It’s important to note that not all ticks are infected with the bacteria, and not all tick bites result in Lyme disease.

There are several things employers can do to manage the risks of Lyme Disease for outdoor workers.

Provide instruction to workers before the start of tick season and frequently remind them throughout.

Ensure they understand the risks of Lyme disease and health effects, how to identify blacklegged ticks, what should be done when working outdoors, and how to properly remove ticks.

Ensure workers dress appropriately when working in areas where ticks could be found.
This includes wearing:

    1. closed footwear
    2. tucking pants into socks
    3. long-sleeved shirts and pants,
    4. light-coloured clothing

Provide insect repellent that contains DEET or icaridin, and ensure it is used before working in areas where ticks could be.
Repellent should be sprayed on clothes and exposed skin. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and NEVER spray repellent on hard hats.

Have workers carefully inspect their body for ticks after working outdoors.
The groin, belly button, armpits, head and behind the ears and knees are places where ticks like to hide.

Instruct workers to shower after working in areas where ticks could be found.
This will help wash away any ticks that may have been missed. It’s also a good idea to put clothing in the dry for 10 minutes on high heat to kill any ticks that may be left on clothes.


Procedures for removing a tick

If a worker finds a tick lodged in their body, it’s important they never squeeze or flick it off.

    1. Use tweezers to grasp the tick.
    2. Gently pull the tick straight out without squeezing or twisting it.
    3. Wash the skin with soap and water.
    4. Apply a disinfecting rub such as alcohol or iodine.
    5. Store the tick in a container that has a screw cap and contact your local public health unit for instructions. 


Download a free copy of WorkBright’s poster to display in your workplace as a great reminder of what workers should watch out for.

Ontario Government: Lyme disease

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