Move your way to better health

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Further to the recent posting on cardiovascular disease research, Dr David Dunstan participated in an online media briefing on 12 January 2010. (Video and audio interviews have begun to appear on line)

It is often difficult to identify control measures for workplace hazards from the raw research data.  Dr Dunstan, this morning elaborated on the possible workplace control measures that employers can design into workplaces in order to reduce the CVD risk from prolonged sedentary work.   Continue reading “Move your way to better health”

Sit down, get to work, get sick

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Sitting for longer than four hours while watching television is likely to increase one’s risk of suffering a cardio-vascular disease (CVD), according to a new study reported in “Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association”  in January 2010.

David Dunstan

The research was headed by Dr David Dunstan, Head of the Physical Activity Laboratory in the Division of Metabolism and Obesity at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Australia.  The study is Australian but can easily be transposed to other countries. (Several audio reports are now available online, one from NPR)

The significance for safety professionals comes not from the published report itself but the accompanying media release where Dr Dunstan speculates on the broader social issues behind his findings:

“What has happened is that a lot of the normal activities of daily living that involved standing up and moving the muscles in the body have been converted to sitting…  Technological, social, and economic changes mean that people don’t move their muscles as much as they used to – consequently the levels of energy expenditure as people go about their lives continue to shrink.   For many people, on a daily basis they simply shift from one chair to another – from the chair in the car to the chair in the office to the chair in front of the television.” Continue reading “Sit down, get to work, get sick”

PPE can be a lazy OHS solution

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One of the occupations with the clearest need for personal protective equipment (PPE) is that of a firefighter.  There are few other industries where PPE has such a high priority in workplace safety but sometimes PPE can still be forgotten.

A report on ABC radio and online  in Australia on 11 January 2010 shows that even in firefighting PPE may be forgotten.  The firefighter was the first one to take a fire hose to a shop fire and did not have on any breathing apparatus (BA).  His fully suited colleagues caught up with him and began fighting the fire.  It appears from this one media report that the firefighter kept his attention on fighting the fire rather than taking a break and putting on his BA.  Shortly after he began feeling unwell.

Research

On 4 January 2010 the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC) released a firefighting information package, based on an early September 2009 workshop, that includes some interesting information about firefighter health and safety.   Continue reading “PPE can be a lazy OHS solution”

Work/life balance needs to grow into sustainability

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Just as government is reigning in the excesses of the financial sector over the last decade or so, there is a strong movement to pull back on the workload excesses. Some of this is through the work/life balance movement.

In terms of occupational health and safety, this movement has a strong base that is reflected in a lot of OHS legislation where individual employees have a responsibility to ensure they are working safely and not putting themselves at risk. This can be a very difficult obligation when one is working in an organisation that does not grant safety or mental health or its social obligations much weight.

Just as government is reigning in the excesses of the financial sector over the last decade or so, there is a strong movement to pull back on the workload excesses.  Some of this is through the work/life balance movement.

In terms of occupational health and safety, this movement has a strong base that is reflected in a lot of OHS legislation where individual employees have a responsibility to ensure they are working safely and not putting themselves at risk.  This can be a very difficult obligation when one is working in an organisation that does not grant safety or mental health or its social obligations much weight. Continue reading “Work/life balance needs to grow into sustainability”

Heat stress (in the middle of Winter)

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For those in the Northern Hemisphere at the moment, the risk of heat stress for workers is an extremely low priority but in Australia, even in the cooler parts and suburbia, the Summer temperatures are tipped to reach 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) over the next few weeks.  Away from the urban and coastal centres, temperatures of 45 degrees C and higher will be common.

The Queensland Government’s OHS regulator has released new guidance on heat stress.  As it was only released on January 5 2010, it is the most current information.  The guidance seems aimed at rural workers and particularly those industries which may have a transitory labour force from cooler climates.

The guidance is useful in that it recommends some engineering solutions instead of just PPE.  For instance,

  • “creating some shade structure (tarp, umbrella) or at least find a tree for outdoor workers’ rest breaks
  • automating or mechanising tasks that require heavy or physical activity
  • reducing radiant heat emissions from hot surfaces and plant e.g. by insulation and shielding.”

Although it would have been good to see some mention of reassessing the need to work in heat at all as discussed elsewhere in SafetyAtWorkBlog.

The Queensland guidance recommends the following heat stress control measures:

  • “use sun protection – hat, sunscreen and light sun-protective clothing
  • drink at least one litre of cool water an hour when working in the sun
  • take breaks during the day in cool shaded areas to enable a rapid return of core temperature to normal
  • acclimatise to outdoor work gradually
  • have eaten during the day to ensure their energy and salt levels are maintained.
  • avoid alcohol, caffeine and drugs which can increase urine output and therefore fluid loss.”

Kevin Jones