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Workers urged to cover up with treated Hard Hat brims to protect them from UV radiation in sunlight

Australia has the highest incidence of Skin cancer in the world, and 2 out of 3 Australians are likely to develop Skin Cancer before the age of 70 Harsh UV rays in sunlight on a hot sunny day and sometimes even on overcast and cooler days, can cause skin to burn in just 12 minutes. According to BOM (The Bureau of Meteorology) UV radiation in Australia is at its peak during the hot summer months, and is typically very high to extreme and outdoor workers are at some of the highest risk for sun damage, as they can spend several hours a day working under the sun. Effective risk assessments and control measures to reduce the risk of exposure for workers can help control a largely preventable disease like Skin Cancer.

As always prevention of exposure to risk is the best possible solution, for e.g – scheduling work to avoid highest UV exposure times of the day, or conducting work indoors when possible. Barring prevention, employers can engineer solutions like kiosks or awnings and build shelters that provide shade, allowing workers to stay cool and take frequent breaks.

Often however high UV exposure without shade is unavoidable and in such cases barriers between the skin and UV rays are considered some of the most effective control measures. PPE barriers offering shade like a wide brim hat to cover face neck and ears are amongst the standard protective measures recommended by the Skin Cancer Council, and the Department of Health. However, Hard Hats are mandatory and the only allowed head protection for majority of outdoor and hazardous work sites. Incorporating sun protection into existing PPE such as prescribed Hard Hats is important for both employers and workers. Wide brims extending over 7cms, with a UV protection factor of 50+, with coverage for neck and ears that fit with hard hats but don’t compromise the safety functions is the solution recommended by Safe Work Australia.

Brims like the Ergodyne Chill-its 6660 brims, are designed to fit easily over any Hard Hat size and design, even those with attached hearing protection. This allows employers to complement their existing PPE quickly and cost-effectively. Polyester UV +50 treated fabric, extends over the neck and ear for full coverage, and bright Hi-Vis Lime and Orange colours offer superior visibility.

Calls for regulations on maximum levels of vibration exposure in Australian workplaces, to meet international standards

Workers in Australian workplaces are exposed to Vibration in many job roles. The two main types of Vibration are Hand Arm vibration, and Whole Body Vibration; HAV being vibration that travels through the hand and arm into the body, and WBV being vibration that starts at the feet or glutes and then travels into the body. Industries like Mining, Construction, Farming, Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries, Trades, and Utilities are hi-risk industries for vibration exposure through hand tools, power tools, machinery and heavy vehicles.

Legislation and Statistics

The EU Vibration Directive 2002 was key in promoting awareness about vibration hazards in the workplace. Vibration reduction initiatives are supported by legislation in the EU, and maximum vibration exposure is limited at a value of 5 m/s2 for HAV, with employers required to take actions to minimize risk and introduce health monitoring at 2.5m/s2

Some Australian Standards such as AS 2763-1988 and AS2670 – 2001 offer information about Hand Arm, as well as Whole Body Vibration and measures of evaluation of exposure, however all major research works and commissioned reports undertaken till date for the region, recommend investigations into a benefit analysis of the adoption of minimum legislative requirements for vibration exposure.

According to one of the few studies commissioned in Australia, the 2008 National Hazard Exposure Worker Surveillance (NHEWS) survey around 24% of Australian workers were exposed to vibration in the workplace, of which 43% of exposure was to HAV, 38% to WBV, and 17% to both. A key problem identified was the small percentage of workers who were given any training at all and the large number of smaller workplaces that had no control measures in place for Vibration reduction. Some examples of vibration level exposures in Australian mining workplaces as measured by Gary Foster in ‘Assessment of Vibration Exposure in the Mining Industry’ even exceed limits as per EU directives. As a result of these calls, Safework Australia took a significant step forward in 2012 that saw the products of two factsheets outlining a code of practice for both HAV and WBV.

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Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome

Long-term exposure the more common form of vibration HAV, results in a serious condition called Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome, or Vibration white finger often manifesting with a blanching or whitening of the fingers. Symptoms include whiteness, tingling, numbness, muscle fatigue, a loss of grip and very often pain from white finger attacks.

Reducing Risk

Eliminating the cause of vibration or vibration exposure to the worker is the best way of preventing Vibration induced injury. Some ways of doing this could include using non-vibrating tools and machinery to perform the job. Substituting the tool for one with less or reduced vibration, is the next best step. More often than not however, both these options are unavailable. Safety professionals can however reduce the effects of vibration by implementing several alternative control measures. Engineering vibration reducing or dampening measures, to reduce vibration exposure, or regular cleaning, maintenance and replacement of parts and tools to keep equipment and tools functioning smoothly with minimum jerks and jolts.

PPE like gloves provide a barrier between the source of the vibration and the worker, reducing the impact on the hands and arms. Gloves like Ergodyne Proflex 9000 are certified to meet EN 388:2003/ANSI S3.40/ISO 10819-1996/EN420/ standards for anti-vibration, and in addition to reducing the effects of vibration, helps loosen incorrect and tight gripping of tools; another factor contributing to HAVS. Further to providing correct PPE, worker training about the long-term effects of vibration exposure and correct tool gripping practices, tool vibration information, and work schedules tailored to minimize the harmful effects of vibration.

Calls for safety push on offshore rigs after rise in falling objects

With an 800 per cent ¹ rise in the number of falling objects on offshore rigs in Australia this year, companies are being urged to maintain effective safety practices and encourage the use of appropriate safety equipment to minimise risk and injury to workers.

Nine dropped object incidents were reported in the first quarter of 2013, compared to one in the same period of 2012, according to a report by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA).

The report indicated that six out of the nine incidents could have resulted in a fatality. The weight of each falling object ranged from two to 2,300 kilograms, and they fell from a maximum height of 43 metres.
According to an industry supported ‘DROPS calculator’, a mass as little as 700 grams falling from a height of 15 metres has the potential to result in a fatality¹.

An increase in the number of dropped objects on offshore rigs highlighted the need for suitable safety equipment and continued regular safety training.

“With such a significant rise in the number of dropped objects, it is extremely important that workers are provided with appropriate safety equipment and are regularly educated about preventative falling object safety measures to eliminate the occurrence of dropped objects altogether,”

“Dropped objects can include sections of drill pipe from casing, a spool, wire rope, an equipment handle or navigation light fitting. It really doesn’t matter what it is, it’s the weight of the object and the height at which it drops that does the damage.

“Our Squids® Ergodyne Tool lanyard range allows workers to secure tools with a number of attachment options ranging from heavy-duty self-locking carabiners and barrel locks, to quick connect buckles. We also offer Squids® grabbers which are designed to hold gloves, rags, caps, water bottles and more close at hand items.”

Injuries that workers have suffered to date include crush and leg injuries and each outcome could have been a lot worse and potentially fatal. Having the right ergonomic and safety protection equipment like tool safety lanyards is a small price to pay for the safety of workers in productive, high-risk environments and we’re urging all companies to invest in quality products.

References
1. Source: NOPSEMA: Number of Dropped Objects on Offshore Rigs on the Rise (Australia) http://www.offshoreenergytoday.com/nopsema-number-of-dropped-objects-on-offshore-rigs-on-the-rise-australia/

Body stress injuries take a toll on 1 in 3 construction and mine workers

BODY stressing injuries are affecting one in three workers in the construction and mining industries, contributing to lower productivity in the workplace.

Thirty four per cent of serious injury claims in the construction and mining industries involved body stress injuries from 2008-09 to 2010-11,¹ according to Safe Work Australia (SWA).

Body stressing injuries usually occur from conducting a range of manual tasks every day, repetitive movements or poor posture. According to SWA, the claimants’ injuries were mainly due to muscular stress while handling a range of materials and equipment (construction industry) or due to muscular stress while handling mobile plant and transport (mining industry).

More people needed to be aware of the risks of body stressing injuries, which usually present as muscle aches, pains and strains; back conditions or tendonitis.

“Many people do not appreciate that there is a strong probability of suffering body stressing injuries from regularly conducting strenuous manual tasks, such as heavy lifting or carrying,”
“Employees who are injured at work can experience long periods of incapacity, leading to time off work and financial pressures. It can be a very stressful experience.
“We advise all workers to minimise the risks of getting body stressing injuries like sprains and strains by demonstrating good posture, following safety protocol and wearing the right gear. Ergonomic gear like back supports are a great way to reduce sprain and strain injuries and improve the quality of your life.

“The Ergodyne® 100 Economy Back Support is a belt worn around the lower back and the rubber track webbing helps keep support in position. The company is renowned for its experience in delivering workplace back supports, inventing and patenting the first workplace back support 30 years ago.”

Pryme Australia also distributes Ergodyne® wrist supports and knee pads.

Pryme’s tips for preventing body stressing injuries:

  • Follow safety instructions and undertake training
  • Ask for assistance to set up your work area to avoid strain
  • Take regular breaks around the office
  • Talk to someone early if you feel symptoms
  • Research what support is available
  • Review health status with GP regularly

 

Cold Stress, a productivity buster in the workplace

WORKING in cooler conditions without proper protective clothing may be putting employees at risk of cold stress, contributing to poor productivity in the workplace.

People who work outside in cold temperatures, in cold wind or in wet conditions were most at risk, according to the New Zealand Department of Labour’s report Guidelines for the Management of Work in Extremes of Temperature. The report listed a number of New Zealand working environments with the potential to produce cold stress including “work in refrigerated plant in the food processing industry, diving or outdoor work in winter”.

Workplace safety equipment supplier Pryme New Zealand is urging workplaces to take better precaution for its workers and minimise the risk of serious health problems by keeping employees warm and productive.Indoor workplaces also needed good insulation and heating.

Working in a cold environment forced the body to work harder to maintain its core temperature, drawing heat from the body and leading to cold stress.

“Cold stress can impair the body’s ability to perform manual and mental tasks, with muscles stiffening and losing strength and fingers losing dexterity and sensitivity. There is also reduced mental alertness, leading to accidents in the workplace,”

“Workers can also develop cold stress conditions including trench foot, frost bite, frost nip, water immersion or in rarer cases, hypothermia, which occurs when the body’s core temperature drops below 35.5 degrees (oral) or 36 degrees (rectal).”

The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 states that employers must provide and maintain a safe working environment for all of its employees and be able to identify and control hazards. Under the act, employers must ensure Safe Work Practices by ensuring all work in cold conditions is under constant supervision. The act also states that new employees should not be required to work full-time in the cold until they have become accustomed to working conditions as well as the personal protective clothing they are required to wear.

Pryme New Zealand distributes quality N-Ferno® work wear products designed with specially formulated fabrics to ensure multi-climate comfort and protection.

“Over 50 per cent of heat loss is through the head so headwear likes N-Ferno’s® Extreme Series Winter Liner with thermal lining should be worn in cold environments,”

“Footwear should be felt-lined, rubber-bottomed or leather-topped with removable thermal insoles.

“If work needs to be performed with bare hands for more than 10 to 20 minutes, special precautions need to be taken to keep hands warm such as using a warm air blower, a hand warming pack from N-Ferno ®or insulated handles on tools.”

The N-Ferno ®range includes hand warming packs, head warming gear and warming vests.

Sqwincher saves mine site worker’s life

A MINE site worker who was hospitalised for dehydration three times in a month says his condition only improved after he started drinking Sqwincher rehydration drinks.

ACT resident Stephen Thelan started suffering from dehydration symptoms after he began working as a labourer at a Port Hedland iron ore site in northern WA seven years ago.

The conditions were unforgiving – temperatures regularly reached 45 degrees Celsius, there was no shade and he had to wear hot, protective clothing and a helmet every day.

“For the first two weeks I was in hospital three times,” Stephen said. “I wasn’t drinking enough water; I was only consuming 600ML of water a day. I was severely dehydrated. I had cramps, headaches and I felt drained and run down. I was losing lots of salt as well – my clothes started turning white and I started getting rashes. I had to go on a saline drip when I was in hospital.”

Despite drinking more water, nothing seemed to work.

“I was about to head home because I wasn’t surviving up there,” he said. “However, I heard about a company called Protector Alsafe in South Hedland, which recommended I use an electrolyte replacement drink called Sqwincher.”

Stephen said he started using Sqwincher Qwik Stiks in small drink bottles and his symptoms immediately vanished. He later advanced to using Sqwincher in 10L containers.

“Sqwincher really saved my life. It fixed everything – I no longer had headaches, cramps or nausea. It’s great and I still use it today.”

He advised people who were working in the mines to be aware of dehydration.

“If you are prepared for the conditions, you’re a step ahead,” he said. “Drink lots of fluid, either water or an electrolyte replacement drink like Sqwincher.”

Sqwincher is an electrolyte replacement drink scientifically formulated to safely replace mineral salts, replenish fluids and sugars at optimal absorption rates which are depleted as a result of dehydration or through physical exertion. It prevents or reduces the severity of heat stress disorders and provides a supplemental source of energy plus quenches thirst.

Containing important electrolytes such as sodium and potassium, Sqwincher contains carbohydrates for extra energy and water for hydration.