Maintaining professional standards by looking outside the discipline

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I am a great believer that solutions to hazards in one industry can be applied or adapted to other industry sectors.  Regular readers of SafetyAtWorkBlog are aware of the cross-referencing between general workplace hazards and some solutions from the sex industry.

However, solutions can come from other countries as well, and not just from the United States.  Last week, a car bomb set off by Basque separatists in the University of Navarra in the northern city of Pamplona resulted in 248 people being treated for respiratory trouble, coughing and nausea from inhaling unidentified gases.  A university spokesperson, Javier Diaz, reportedly said that the fumes were generated by repair works that “are related to the terrorist attack.”

This occurred seven years after the 9/11 attacks in New York and after the resultant and widespread reporting of persistent health issues suffered by relief workers and emergency services personnel.  Yes, fumes are different from airborne particles of asbestos but the hazard, and the control mechanisms, are similar.  The lessons of exposure by emergency workers in disasters are obviously still to be learnt.

This morning, 10 November 2008, we wake up to a Russian submarine disaster that immediately reminds us of the tragedy of the Kursk in 2000.  Overnight 200 submariners and shipyard workers were affected in  the K-152 Nerpa submarine from exposure to freon gas.  Three servicemen and seventeen civilians have died.  Initial reports say that the gas was released when the fire extinguisher system was activated.

Russian submarines off the east coast of Russia can easily be dismissed by newspaper readers and business professionals as largely irrelevant but the media has said that 

“A Russian expert has reportedly said that a lack of gas masks among too many untrained civilians may have elevated the death toll in the submarine.”

Does insufficient PPE and training sound familiar? The release of gas in a restricted area?

For OHS professionals everything is relevant to making the best decisions possible for clients and employers.  The trick is to allocate the appropriate level of relevance to the information.  Risk managers and OHS professionals need to filter information from the widest possible pool of knowledge in order to provide the best advice.

We are not all Russian shipyard workers in a just-built submarine but, increasingly, we could be helping people from the rubble of a collapsed building, or helping in the aftermath of a natural disaster or a terrorist attack, or advising on a fire safety procedure and safe design of buildings.  We need to read, listen and digest so as to maintain and improve our personal core body of knowledge.

Safety professionals should be the “child in the crowd”

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One of Hans Christian Anderson’s most popular tales is The Emperor’s New Clothes.  For those unfamiliar with the story an English translation is available.

But in summary, an emperor hires two swindlers to make him the finest clothes.  The swindlers pretend to create a gown from the best material and tell their client that it happens to be invisible to fools.  The emperor parades through the town in his new outfit an a young child yells out that the emperor is, in fact, naked.  The townsfolk see through the swindle.

It is the job of OHS professionals and advisors to be the ones to point out the obvious to business or to burst the preconceptions that are hampering safety improvements.  Interestingly, there are no repercussions for the child in the tale and, once shown the fallacy of his beliefs, the emperor continues with the parade.

It is also worth bearing the many lessons of the Emperor’s New Clothes in relation to the purchase of personal protective equipment, project briefs, verification of qualifications and the sycophancy of colleagues.

It is helpful to think that once back at the palace, he revoked the contract with the swindling tailors but that is outside the original tale.

Are turban’s as safe as helmets?

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A safety colleague of mine, Daniel Lo, posed an interesting question in a SafetyAtWorkBlog comment

“Are there any scientific studies of the crash impact that a turban could take compared to that of a regulated helmet?”

I would extend that to hard hats, motorcycle helmets and bicycle helmets. 

Let me pose a scenario that may help focus discussion. If I was wearing a turban and someone hit me on the head with a hammer, would I receive the same level of harm as if this happened whilst I was wearing a hardhat?

Daniel has posed a terrific question and I hope someone can help.

 

There are a lot of issues related to the wearing of turbans instead of helmets.  I think a good brief discussion of the issue of Turbans and helmets can be found at http://www.helmets.org/turbans.htm 

Another issue occurred in Canada where the riding of a motorbike with a turban instead of a helmet was discussed in court.  The argument was that a turban could unwrap in high winds.  The article did not discuss the issues of a turban as a safe replacement for a motorcycle helmet.

Basic information about turbans can be found at the SikhWiki

Is there anything worn under your PPE?

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Associated Press has reported on an initiative by a US postal worker to have a kilt as an option for his work uniform.  According to media reports, Dean Peterson has lobbied his union colleagues to push for the clothing option because

“Unbifurcated Garments are far more comfortable and suitable to male anatomy than trousers or shorts because they don’t confine the legs or cramp the male genitals the way that trousers or shorts do.”

This is not the first time that kilts have been seriously proposed as workwear. Workplace kilts are already on sale and I remember an Australian building worker wearing one some years ago. Utilikilts is probably the best known supplier of this garb.

Whether I would wear one after over 40 years of long trousers I am not sure but with increasing hazards of working outdoors in summer, I think the kilt should be seriously considered. However I would be interested in hearing of any reasons to not permit this option on the workplace safety grounds.