New OHS info on Working Alone and Occupational Violence

One of the most difficult safety management challenges is the control of hazards associated with working alone.  The most effective control is to not work alone, but the difficulty comes because this option requires expenditure.

WorkSafe Victoria recently released an information sheet on this hazard and listed the following hazard control options:

  • Buddy system
  • Environmental design
  • Communication or location systems
  • Alarms
  • Movement records
  • Training
  • Knowledge sharing

WorkSafe wisely says that most workplaces will require a combination of these options to control the hazard of working alone.

Trying to reduce the hazards of working alone is a terrific indication of the economic health of a business, the level of safety commitment of a business owner or manager, and the state of safety knowledge in the company. Continue reading “New OHS info on Working Alone and Occupational Violence”

Understanding people is understanding safety

SafetyAtWorkBlog reader Ken Malcolm submitted this comment in response to Yossi Berger’s article of 21 March 2011 but I think it warrants a post of its own:

It is often said two safety professionals never agree however I do agree SA law has been ineffective.  However let me explain why I think this way.

I am in Victoria, in the business of making sustainable changes in the workplace.  I am convinced that prescriptive legislation does not cut it when you want to improve safety, as Lord Robens recognised.  All you get are thicker law books and people less willing to read them.  In most businesses I consult to, they have a problem and the problem is quite simple.  They have excellent systems but nobody is implementing or enforcing them; or the employees are just not following them. In many cases they have an eager OHS Manager with perfect sets of graphs and records; he or she is busily tracking failure.  What they can’t do is drive a culture change.  BTW, safety culture is what you get when the boss isn’t there.

The requirement to find hazards and manage them according to the unique circumstances of the work environment and of the persons within it, does affect culture if this process is supported by senior execs and fostered or encouraged properly.  Laws that encourage that approach are desirable.  With regards to getting tough, fear motivation does not achieve lasting change and with a normalisation of deviance, greater risks are tolerated by degree until people are climbing on safety rails to clean equipment 6 metres from the ground.  Continue reading “Understanding people is understanding safety”

Only vampires work nightshift

For several years now evidence has been growing that nightshift is unhealthy.  Nightshift and other shiftwork can produce digestive problems, fatigue and impairment, increased breast cancer risks…….  OHS and workplace experts seem to avoid the question “should nightshift be allowed?”

Recently, a senior executive met with nightshift staff in a remote branch office.  The nightshift work was office- and computer-based.  The executive described nightshift as a “lifestyle choice”.  This comment infuriated some of the more placid employees to speak up and take the executive to task.  Their point was that the job has deadline constraints that have existed for well over twenty years but this does not mean that any of the employees would not jump at the chance of undertaking the same tasks in daylight.  Could the nightshift tasks be undertaken in daylight, in a new shift arrangement and still meet the client’s information needs?  The question had not been asked and, as a result, nightshift became the unquestioned status quo.  Status quo meant that any health hazards associated with the work were similarly seen as unchangeable and therefore not worth assessing. Continue reading “Only vampires work nightshift”

Even more caffeine research

There is a lot of research going on at the moment into coffee and caffeine.  There seems to be no particular reason but perhaps the increasing sales of “energy drinks” may be relevant.

The latest caffeine-related research is reported in the online edition of Neuropsychopharmacology and is entitled –

“Association of the Anxiogenic and Alerting Effects of Caffeine with ADORA2A and ADORA1 Polymorphisms and Habitual Level of Caffeine Consumption”

(This paper is on my bedside table next to an Inspector Rebus book and the new book from Chris Morphew – not)

This quite complex article is mentioned here as some newspapers and websites are likely publish some of the content of a media release on 3 June 2010 in the context of “another coffee story”.  Research in this area can spark discussion in some media about the dangers and benefits of coffee, in a similar way to how people respond to reports of eating too many tomatoes that may turn you puce, for instance.  Below are parts of the media release that is easiest to understand and are likely for the media to cover:

“The sensation of alertness that comes from a cup of coffee may be an illusion. Continue reading “Even more caffeine research”

All exposure standards must consider hours of work

The last sixty years’ of research into the effects of hours of work, shiftwork, associated workload, fatigue and affects on social life and families has produced many findings, but no general detailed agreements.  There are interesting debates about who and what to research, what methods to use, what to measure and how to interpret results.  In the meantime workers and managers continue to work in difficult circumstances that research suggests has an impact on hormone secretion patterns, and, for example, on cardiac health, gastrointestinal health and breast cancer.

Here are a number of specific statements about hours of work, fatigue and fitness for work.  Total agreement on these statements can’t be achieved but they would generally be supported.   Continue reading “All exposure standards must consider hours of work”

Shiftwork saviour? – Caffeine (sort of)

Caffeine is a commonly used stimulant in many workplaces around the world.  As such, it is often considered to be the friend of the shift worker and a new analysis of research findings may make that friendship stronger.

According to a new study from Cochrane researchers:

“The results of this systematic review suggest that caffeine may be effective in improving performance in persons engaged in shift work or suffering from jet lag, although it may not be possible to confidently translate such an improvement in performance to a reduced injury risk.” Continue reading “Shiftwork saviour? – Caffeine (sort of)”

European OHS statistics show the way for other regions

On 19 January 2010 EuroFound began the fieldwork necessary for the next in its series of surveys of working conditions in Europe.  According to the media release:

“Eurofound launches the fieldwork for the fifth European Working Conditions Survey, involving face-to-face interviews of workers in 34 European countries. This critical and timely research tracks the current state of working conditions in Europe, highlights the quality of work and employment, and monitors changing trends. The first findings of the survey will be presented at the end of 2010.”

The beginning of fieldwork is far less interesting than the end of the fieldwork but the announcement does remind us of the statistics that the organisation has been able to amass since 1991. Continue reading “European OHS statistics show the way for other regions”

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