OH&S Consulting News - Nov 2016
Is your site ready for the Cyclone Season?
Source: DMP Website 19th October 2016
The upcoming cyclone season could see a higher than average number of cyclones hit the North West according to the Bureau of Meteorology's Australian Tropical Cyclone Outlook for 2016 to 2017.
The bureau's outlook found that the Northwestern sub-region, which includes the Pilbara and Kimberley, has a 63 per cent chance of more tropical cyclones than average and a 37 per cent chance of fewer tropical cyclones than average.
Typically, five cyclones form in or pass through this area each season.
Simon Ridge, the Department of Mines and Petroleum’s Executive Director Resources Safety, said the bureau's advice was a timely reminder for mining and petroleum operations throughout the State to ensure contingency plans are established and can be activated when needed.
“It is critical that mining and petroleum operators have adequate plans and provide appropriate training to protect workers from hazards at the workplace, including natural hazards such as cyclones,” Mr Ridge said.
A joint safety alert developed by DMP and WorkSafe offers the following advice for workplaces in cyclone-sensitive regions.
Employers should develop emergency procedures and plans in conjunction with advice from DFES and other regional emergency planning groups where their work sites and camps are located.
The emergency plans should include details for making the site safe and ensuring the safety of personnel as far as is practicable. This should include the removal or restraint of loose objects and structures and evacuation of personnel. The plans must be communicated to all personnel likely to be on site during the cyclone season.
Every accommodation unit or donga and every transportable building on work sites in cyclone sensitive regions should be adequately secured.
During the Blue and Yellow Alert Cyclone Warning phase, a safe and orderly evacuation of non-essential personnel from the work site or camp should be considered before high intensity cyclones pass by.
To prevent injuries during transfer, any personnel remaining on site during the cyclone should be moved to a designated appropriate shelter well in advance of the arrival of the cyclone.
Where personnel are required to stay on site, adequate stocks of food and other essential items should be available during the period when the site may be cut off due to high winds or flooding.
During the Red Alert Cyclone Warning phase, when all power has to be isolated or in the eventuality of damage or interruption occurring to the power supply or telephone and internet connections, an adequate means of reliable emergency backup communication should be available on site to make contact with external emergency services should help or assistance be required.
Each site should continuously monitor cyclone warnings issued on radio, television or the Bureau of Meteorology or DFES websites. Battery-powered radios should be available in the event of power interruptions on site.
Additional information on preparing for cyclones can be found at:
The cyclone season officially begins on 1 November.
Managing Heat Stress in the Workplace
Source: Safety Solutions Newsletter 25/08/2016
Occupational Matters By Samantha Sims, Occupational Hygienist Monday, 22 August, 2016
In hot workplace environments such as manufacturing or extractive processes where heat is added to the environment, heat stress can be an occupational workplace concern. Australia’s hot climate can also exacerbate extreme heat condition for some workers.
According to the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, a worker’s core temperature needs to be below 38°C to prevent heat stress effects. To put this figure in real terms, when core temperatures reach 40°C, a person can have symptoms such as: seizures, loss of consciousness or, worse still, death.
Heat stress was recently put under the spotlight at a food manufacturing site as some of its employees who worked near hot ovens were experiencing heat exhaustion symptoms such as headaches. The business decided its occupational responsibility was to perform heat stress monitoring to determine a solution.
A personal heat stress device was worn by an employee for half the shift and exceedances were recorded by the monitor. For an accurate prediction of an employee’s body core temperature, a personal monitor is the best method to apply, as an earpiece records the wearer’s personal temperature in real time.
During the monitoring period, the air temperature of the working conditions varied according to the work being performed. Normally the air temperature is 32°C, which may be bearable or equal to a hot Australian summer’s day. But, when the employee was exposed to the oven area of operations, the air temperature was raised an additional 5°C to 37°C, and this resulted in increasing the employee’s core temperature 2°C. The elevated body response was due to the operator’s movement as well as the personal body’s response to heat, producing a core temperature of 38.8°C for the employee.
In order to determine a solution to heat stress in a workplace, factors that should be considered include clothing, personal fitness, metabolic energy or personal core temperature, category of work practices, work break allocation and ambient temperature. All these factors can influence the core temperature.
In hot occupational workplace conditions, engineering controls can be implemented and should be the first heat stress reduction step before the use of PPE. Controls which can greatly improve a workplace’s ambient environment include:
Introducing spot coolers, which can be directed to operating areas;
Improving heat barriers surrounding the heat source, which will prevent hot spots that can cause a sudden jump in an employee’s core temperature;
Installing an extractor system, which will release hot air outside and replace it with cooler ambient air;
Applying a cooling system to the whole area, which is the ultimate solution to eliminate temperatures that could cause heat stress.
PPE such as face shields and cooling vests should also be encouraged and can be worn to prevent a core temperature exceedance which occurs at 38°C.
Implementing procedures for 15-minute breaks every hour in an enclosed air-conditioned space nearby can also greatly reduce the risk of workers experiencing heat stress.
Other occupational workplace procedural additions that could help include:
Intermittent health checks on heart rate, fitness and medicine use (ensuring employee privacy is maintained);
Staff training on heat exposure and the importance of rehydrating and complying to heat stress PPE practices; and,
Supervisors to complete a staff heat exposure management practice to record shift ambient temperatures between lines, to ensure staff have no health complaints and are wearing additional heat stress PPE when working in hot environments, such as near the ovens in the example above.
Workplace environments ideally should be kept to 28°C temperature for a moderate work load or work rate category during the shift. Moderate work rate is typically 300 calories per hour used by the body’s metabolism.
Heat stress is an important occupational exposure to monitor and prevent, especially in Australia.
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Five warning signs of Employee Fatigue
WFS Australia (WorkForce Software)
Source: Safety Solutions eNewsletter 15/09/201 by Safety Solutions Staff
Fatigued employees are a risk in the workplace. They can be underproductive and even dangerous in critical situations.
Reduced alertness due to fatigue results in nearly 10,000 serious workplace injuries in Australia each year. Businesses must be able to recognise the signs of fatigued employees and how to correct their workload to provide them with greater balance.
“Many employees keep quiet about feeling overworked and overwhelmed. Leaders that can spot those fatigued workers can address the issue before it gets out of hand,” said Leslie Tarnacki, vice president and general manager of Human Resources, WorkForce Software (WFS Australia).
WFS Australia urges business leaders to be vigilant for five key warning signs of employee fatigue:
Unusual emotion: Be aware of employees acting out of character, such as showing emotional distress, moodiness or having a bad attitude in the workplace.
Consistent lateness: Some employees will run late in every aspect of their lives out of bad habit. However, if a normally punctual employee arrives late to work every morning, it can indicate poor work-life balance.
A cluttered workspace: Pay attention to employees’ desks and workstations. While some people prefer a more chaotic environment, a messy workspace can be a symptom of overwork.
Forgetfulness and disregard for the team at large: Ongoing forgetfulness can affect an entire team. It can waste other employees’ time and hinder their performance. It can also be a sign that the employee in question has too many things to think about and isn’t on top of their workload.
Productivity dips despite longer hours: The more hours you work, the less you get done. Productivity often decreases the longer employees spend at work.
One third of Australians do not take their allocated annual leave. It is important that businesses keep track of employees’ time-off entitlements and ensure they take adequate leave. This can help boost business productivity and staff morale.
“Business leaders should ask potentially fatigued employees explicit questions, such as: ‘Do you have too much on your plate?’. From here they can review their workloads and make necessary adjustments,” said Tarnacki.
“Investing in workforce management software can eliminate overscheduling employees to prevent workplace fatigue, and protect both employees and the business’s bottom line by notifying managers when employees have worked too many hours or not had a long enough break between shifts.”
 Monash University: Cooperative Research Centre for Alertness, Safety and Productivity, 2014
 The Australian Institute, 2012
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Preventing Occupational Asthma
Source: Safety Solutions ENewsletter 13/10/2016
Occupational Matters by Samantha Sims, Occupational Hygienist
Occupational asthma occurs when a work-related action causes symptoms such as recurring soreness or watering of eyes, recurring blocked or runny nose, bouts of coughing, chest tightness, wheezing, breathlessness and persistent chest problems. Typically, these symptoms will improve during weekends or holidays.
Asthma can be divided into two types: sensitiser-induced and irritant-induced asthma, which is also known as reactive airway dysfunction syndrome (RADS).
Sensitiser asthma occurs over a period of time, whereby the immune system produces antibodies to foreign substances/microbes. The antibodies created by the body are proteins which destroy the foreign matter. During an asthmatic reaction these ‘immunoglobulin E’ antibodies attach to specific cells in the lung, and this physical process is a sensitive reaction. A sensitive reactive individual, when re-exposed with IgE antibodies, will release leukotrienes, which causes the physical narrowing of air passages.
By comparison, RADS appears after a single exposure and symptoms occur normally straight away, though they can appear within a 24-hour period after exposure. Symptoms can reappear later with a re-exposure event.
To prevent occupational asthma from affecting workers, Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) should be reviewed before used in a process. If labelled R42, it is a sensitiser by inhaling, and if labelled R42/43, it is a sensitiser by inhaling or by skin contact. If the sensitising agent cannot be eliminated by the employer, then a health surveillance program is required before the employee is exposed to the agent. They also require the correct level of personal protective equipment.
If a workplace has sensitising agents in its manufacturing process, air testing is mandatory by WHS legislation. An Occupational Matters hygienist is able to complete a comprehensive occupational hygiene assessment of contaminant concentrations or complete a risk assessment for your workplace.
Safe Work Australia has further information on this topic.
To read more click here