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.

Top Cause of Worker Injury Claims revealed to be Sprains and Strains.

Sprains and Strains or Musculoskeletal injuries account for nearly 43% of all serious work-related injury claims in Australia. According to Safework Australia Work Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSDs) are the most common condition for which workers’ compensation claims are currently lodged. Of these injuries, up to 10% are knee-related and up to 38% are back-related, making complex joints like the knees and back an injury hotspot, for workers.

Complex joints such as the knee, wrist, ankle, back etc. are made up of soft tissue such as ligaments and tendons that provide support and flexibility to the bones and surrounding muscle. Overstretching, damage, or tears to such tissue can result in a sprain or strain. Such injuries can be a one off incident or a series of incidents leading to chronic wear and tear injuries.

In Australia most musculoskeletal injuries can be accounted to Body Stressing, tasks or through impact injuries caused by a Slip, Trip or Fall. Body Stressing injuries account for 40.8% and Slips, Trips, Falls account for 20.9% of Sprain and Strain injuries.Workers who perform repetitive manual tasks or who are exposed to physical labour are at a high risk for Sprains and Strains. Industries like Contract Cleaning, Health Care, Aged Care, Manufacturing, Transport and Logistics, Warehousing and Construction are amongst the highest risk sectors for Sprains and Strains. According to Clean Start Contract Cleaners are only second to Concrete Construction Services.

Work-related factors are the primary causes of Sprains and Strains at work. Manufacturing workers have a very high incident rate due to muscular stress while lifting, carrying or putting down objects repeatedly, while Construction workers’ injuries are often due to repetitive movements and low muscle loading. While body stressing causes the vast majority of sprains and strains, slips trips and falls, or impact injuries can also result in significant tissue damage. Slippery surfaces, sharp or moving machinery and falls from heights can all contribute to WMSDs
Individual Factors such as age, overall health, and training also tend to influence WMSDs. Sprains and Strain incidences rise with age, to peak in the 40-44 age group.

Employers and OHS professionals can take several steps to reduce the risk of WMSDs for workers.

Ergonomic Solutions
– Using the right positioning, or raising work off the floor eliminating the need to work
– Tools and Equipment designed to perform work without requiring the worker to kneel or bend for eg. Rolling Stools, Tool Extensions.
– Choosing less impact-full and rough surfaces to perform work on when possible, and taking small breaks to relieve stress on the knee.
PPE Solutions
– Choosing Cushioning barriers like kneeling pads, knee pads or portable cushions to reduce impact on the knees.
– Correct cleaning and fitting of kneepads and other PPE to provide optimum comfort and protection.
Other Solutions
– Use ladders and supports to descend or ascend from heights, avoiding jumping and impact
– Wearing correct footwear on slippery oily or rough surfaces to avoid trip and falls.
– Rostering work time to avoid long periods of squatting, kneeling and/or bending for any one worker.
– Maintaining a healthy weight and strengthening the leg-muscles, back muscles or muscles surrounding the knee.

The use of PPE is considered the last line of defence against WMSDs. Used correctly ergonomic PPE such as Back Supports, Knee Pads and Kneeling pads can provide support cushioning and serve as a reminder to use correct bending lifting or kneeling techniques.

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.