, , , ,

Exercises to help alleviate muscle fatigue in sedentary work

There are many exercises that can be done which may alleviate the discomfort or even eliminate the onset of serious musculoskeletal disorders (MSD’s). MSDs cover any injury, damage or disorder to the joints of the upper/lower limbs or the back. Work-related MSDs develop over time and can also result from fractures sustained in an accident. Symptoms include muscle spasms, cramping and stiffness, pain and numbness in the joints, numbness or weakness in one leg, pain in the back or buttocks and repetitive strain injury. Causes of MSD’s include keyboard work and repetitive actions, working in tiring and awkward positions, manual handling (pushing, carrying, lifting), climbing stairs and standing in the same position, such as in retail and conveyor factory work. Repetitive work, without allowing time for sufficient recovery can cause muscle fatigue and inflammation.

Since performing exercises whilst at work is likely to cause interruptions, they would need to be performed during work breaks. Breaks should allow workers to vary their posture and should be taken before workers start getting tired, as it is more difficult to bounce back if one is already severely fatigued. Short, frequent breaks are more satisfactory than prolonged occasional breaks. The prevention of MSD’s could be overcome by appropriate work place design and the scheduling of short breaks and stretches. Task variation during periods of repetitive work, such as postural changes, may significantly help reduce muscle fatigue. Breaks that include physical stretching of the body may be more beneficial than just passive breaks.

Whether using a computer work station or at some other sedentary task, one of the first areas to elicit pain is the eye area, due to straining at the screen or at some close object. Exercises to alleviate pain include blinking the eyes more frequently and focusing on distant objects (causes less strain than focusing on nearer objects). If the neck is kept in a certain position over longer periods, upper limb disorders may develop. Neck glides are suggested to alleviate any discomfort. To do this, one should sit up straight, and glide the head back as far as it will go. Then glide forward and repeat 3 times. Shoulder shrugs can be done to help. To perform a shoulder shrug, one needs to sit up straight and bring the shoulders up towards the ears and repeat 3 times. Upper back stretches consist of raising the hands to rest on the shoulders, using the arms to push shoulders back. Keeping elbows down, this should be help for 15 seconds and repeated 3 times. For the hands, a forward press of the hands include gently unlocking ones’ fingers and keeping the psalms away from the body, gently stretching the forearm muscles, fingers and the muscles between the shoulder blades.

Even though some exercises may result in the work flow being interrupted, it is imperative to consider a way of integrating them into the daily work plan. Even though some of these exercises are conspicuous and may cause some embarrassment  (especially when doing them in a busy office!) there is no doubt that some kind of frequent daily stretching can increase circulation, productivity and alertness.

Sources

http://www.hse.gov.uk/

, , , , ,

Burns

The owner of a Leicester care home has been fined £100,000 after a vulnerable 85-year-old resident died from serious burns. The elderly are at risk of injuries from burn incidents. To avoid the risk of burns the care home should carry out a risk assessment identify the areas that potentially lead to an elderly person being exposed to high temperatures. When conducting a risk assessment the following should be considered:

 

  • Hot running tap water
  • Radiators and Heaters
  • Hot pipework in any room
  • Kitchen – all areas
  • Hair tongs
  • Hot water bottles
  • Electric blankets
  • Baths and showers
  • Hair dryers

 

If hot water used for showering or bathing is above 44 °C there is increased risk of serious injury or fatality. Contact with surfaces above 43 °C can lead to serious injury.

The risk assessment of the building should identify the controls to be put in place to prevent potential burn risks to the elderly. Engineering controls can include: thermostatic mixing valves (TMVs); temperature-restricted, instant water heaters.

Sources

http://press.hse.gov.uk/2015/care-home-owner-in-court-over-death-of-vulnerable-resident/

, , , , , ,

The Construction Worker – Manual Handling and Noise

The biggest health risks for the construction engineer can result from manual handling, vibration, biological hazards, dust/fumes, being injured/loss of life due to machinery and noise pollution. This article addresses manual handling and noise.

Manual Handling

Even though manual handling is a part of the construction environment, there is no reason for one to injure oneself. All it takes is a little bit of planning and time to set things up properly so that the workers are not at risk. Handling things incorrectly can lead to musculoskeletal disorders. These disorders are mostly non-fatal, however, they cause much discomfort with many days being taken off work. There is no ‘safe’ weight limit for any one person; it is advised to seek guidance for weight lifting procedures from the Manual Handling Operations Regulations (MHOR) as outlined by the HSE. The employer should not leave it up to the employee to decide whether they should lift the weight. There are duties on the employer under the Manual Handling Operations Regulations to ensure that there are controls in place to minimize the risk to workers. Trolleys, cranes, lifting trucks, leverage devices, pulleys and other aids are all available to be used on the work site so that manual handling is not necessary. Manual handling does not only apply to lifting and lowering but also to pushing and pulling. The workers must be trained in how to lift stuff correctly using these manual aids. If suitable and light loads are ok to be lifted manually, the workers must know how to lift correctly by bending the knees and beginning in the squatting position etc.

Noise

How does ones assess if there is a high noise level? If one has to raise their voice to have a normal conversation when standing about 2 metres apart, for at least part of the day, then noise levels on the site may be at a level which could damage health. Noise can result in many distressing conditions such as tinnitus, difficulty having a conversation or using the phone and general hearing loss. If it is not possible to remove the construction worker from the noisy area or provide them with quieter equipment, then hearing protection and hearing protection zones may be appropriate. However, hearing protection should not be the solution for extended use and over long periods of time. Construction workers should be frequently rotated to other less noisy areas and the work alternated between workers. Workers should be trained in how and when to use the hearing protectors and the aim should be at least below 85 dB of noise at the ear. On a noisy construction site or oneone where it may become a risk to health, a noise risk assessment should be carried out. This may include measuring the noise exposure over the day and observing the working patterns.

Source

http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/faq-noise.htm

, , , , , , , , ,

Asbestos: Prevalence and Effect on Health

Towards the end of the 19th century, asbestos had widespread uses. It was used in the making of concrete, pipes, bricks, cement, pipe insulation, ceiling insulation, flooring and roofing. Its fire-retardant properties were used in many materials that required fire resistant coatings.

The inhalation and close proximity of working with asbestos can cause serious health problems. The first death related to asbestos occurred in 1906. Over the centuries, 1000’s of people have died as a result of exposure to asbestos. This life threatening illnesses affected those who worked in asbestos mines, were involved in the spinning of raw asbestos into yarn, worked in textile factories and were involved in building and construction. Over the war years many died as a result of working on asbestos containing materials that were prevalent on ships, for examples in the pipes and ship fittings. Even persons who were not directly working with asbestos were affected. This included those living in the vicinity of an asbestos factory or even those living with family members who worked with asbestos.

The chemical structure of asbestos is that of fibrous crystals that are naked to the human eye. Asbestos can be classified according to its color, i.e. blue, brown, white and green. In 1985, blue and brown asbestos materials were banned in the UK. White asbestos was outlawed in 1999. In 2011, it has been reported that over half of all UK households contain asbestos. This is because these buildings were most likely built before the 1980’s, before asbestos was first outlawed.

If asbestos in homes and industrial premises is not disturbed and it is left well concealed, it should not pose a major problem. However, if it becomes disturbed, for example, in renovation or when knocking an older building down, it may become a health hazard as the asbestos particles could be free in the air. In these cases it should either be managed by wearing PPE/RPE and following safety guidelines. If it is termed a major hazard, it should only be managed and removed by licenced professionals. Construction companies must ensure their workers understand the risks associated with asbestos should they come in contact with it.

Common places where asbestos can be found (in both industrial and residential buildings) include the lagging in pipes, asbestos containing boards in the ceiling, in older fire blankets, sprayed coatings in ceilings/walls, in gutters and in bath and cistern panels. It should be noted that by removing asbestos containing materials, its fire-retardant properties may also be removed. So, substitute fire protection will need to replace these.

Mesothelioma and asbestosis have been observed in persons who are occupationally exposed to asbestos. Asbestosis is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes scarring to the tissue of the lungs. This is caused by the inhalation and settling of the asbestos fibres in the lungs. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs and lower digestive tract. Pleural thickening of the lungs can also occur. This can cause shortness of breath and discomfort in the chest. All cases of asbestos poisoning can be fatal.

Sources

www.wikipedia.org/wiki/asbestos

http://www.hse.gov.uk/

Image credit

https://www.morguefile.com/creative/Melodi2

 

, , , , , , ,

Controlling Risk in Construction

Assessing risk, controlling and reviewing it are the main elements to working safely on any construction site.

Assessing the work area involves investigating the hazards, i.e who could be harmed (including the environment), how somebody could be harmed and to what extent harm could occur. Common health hazards can come from working with dust, asbestos, noise, vibrating equipment, cement and lead. The consequences of manual handling, and slip and trip hazards are also risks to one’s health. Occupational diseases include asthma, musculoskeletal disorders, occupational cancer and asbestosis and noise related hearing impairments.

In the assessment of risk on a construction project, the mitigation of risks should be part of the construction plans from the beginning. When doing so, one must consider the aims of the project, the amount of people employed, the length (in terms of weeks and even years) and the size of the project. The hazards and their consequences must all be assessed as part of the whole. The workers must be well trained so that they can work in cooperation with management. Both must comply with the law and the onus is on both to report any threatening issues.

Controlling the risks in construction involves completely eliminating them or diminishing them to an acceptable level that is reasonably practical, and complies with the law. This involves working with the safest equipment available, providing appropriate protective equipment (including respiratory) for workers. Other controls may include allowing limited access to hazardous work areas (where only qualified personnel are allowed), rotating the workers that are doing the hazardous tasks and allowing frequent breaks. Having strong protocol and work processes in place, by which workers must adhere to, will result in a ‘work trail’ whereby the risks to health is diminished. In this case, should an investigation be required later, one would be able to identify the likely cause of the situation that has occurred. A lot of responsibility depends on the training of staff, the hiring of competent workers and the preservation of a communicative and progressive work environment amongst them.

As with any work place, especially construction, the work environment is subject to change. Therefore, the risks need to be reviewed at regular intervals, and, most urgently as new changes occur. Changes can include new staff, the introduction of new equipment, new job roles and new changes to the construction phases of the project. Even a change in the weather can have an effect. Consideration must be given to temporary workers, shift workers, young workers and staff whose first language is not English. Temporary or young workers may not be experienced with procedures and so should be competently trained and supervised. Equipment should be tested for safety features and be well maintained. Maintenance work should be carried out safely. Any incidences of ill health should be investigated and a health surveillance system would be advisable. Formal audits may be useful in tackling ‘gap areas’.

Sources

http://www.hse.gov.uk/

Image Credit

https://www.morguefile.com/creative/Alvimann

 

, , , , , , , , ,

Making Good Scaffolding

Good scaffolding design is necessary from the outset. This is to prevent falls, trips, manual handling disorders from occurring, and projectiles from falling and other dangerous situations from occurring. The Work at Height Regulations 2005 require scaffolding to be designed competently so that it is stable and fit for use. The National Access and Scaffolding Confederation has the standards in place for the practice of erecting scaffolding correctly.

Before scaffolding can be erected, one must consider all the functions of it. The will include the site location, the period of time the scaffold will need to be in place, the height and length of the scaffolding, the number of boarded lifts and the maximum working load at any one time. Also, other factors would have to be taken into account, such as the type of access to the scaffold (for example, staircase, ladder), whether there is a requirement for netting and whether a pedestrian walkway is required. The ground conditions and even the weather conditions have to be factored in. There are some scaffolds that require a customised design. These include those involving mobile towers, temporary ramps, access scaffolds with working lifts, marine scaffolds, rubbish chutes and pedestrian foot bridges.

All employees must be trained and understand how to navigate around scaffolding. PPE will need to be worn such as hard hats, gloves (if required), safety shoes, reflective clothing and any other protective equipment. A harness may also be required. Trainee scaffolders should work under a competent supervisor.

Although there are many hazards posed with working with scaffolding, falls from height are one of the greatest hazards. In order to comply with the Work at Height regulations, the employer/self-employed must ensure that the risks are assessed, the risks of working on/near fragile surfaces is managed and that the equipment used is properly inspected and maintained. A visible tag system for use in scaffolding will notify others that the scaffolding has been inspected. There can also be a risk of falling during the erection of the scaffolding; this must be controlled as well. This can be controlled by use of an advanced guard rail system. If this is not used, workers should wear a harness.

Sources

www.hse.gov.uk

Image Credit

http://www.morguefile.com/creative/infinitetrix

, , , , , ,

General Health and Safety in Care Service Provider Establishments

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) regulates the health and safety in all workplaces in the UK, this includes all health and social care settings. There are other regulators in the UK who work in conjunction with the HSE, these include the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the General Medical Council (GMC) and the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC). All accidents and incidents are reportable according to the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR).

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) monitors, inspects and regulates hospitals, clinics, care homes, GP’s, dentists, home and community services and mental health services. Once a provider of care has passed the audits/inspections, they can display their CQC rating in a place where it is visible (also, on their website, if they have one). They must provide their latest CQC service report to the public. Care/medical providers that provide the 14 ‘regulated services’ (as regulated by the CQC) must register with the Care Quality Commission.

There are fundamental standards set by the CQC, by which the quality of care must never fall. These include person-centered care, whereby, the person must have care tailored to meet their specific needs. Also, each person under care must be treated as equals, with dignity, be given privacy and the support so they can remain as independent as they can in their community. The service user must not be at risk in their environment. All staff must be qualified and competent to care for the individual. The premises and equipment must be maintained properly. The individual must be able to give feedback on their treatment, if they wish to do so.

Care givers/providers must ensure certain safety steps are taken to ensure the safety for all. The HSE regulates fire risk, and general fire precautions are enforced by the individual Fire and Rescue Services. Other risks include the incidence of Legionnaire’s disease. This bacteria can grow in hot and cold water systems. The risk of this contamination must be eliminated. The principles of LOLER (Lifting Operations Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998) and PUWER (Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998) must all be understood and administered by both staff and care service providers.

There are many areas of risk that needs to be adequately controlled in home and social care settings. First aid equipment and first aiders must be provided for in care settings. The provision of bed rails are not mandatory in all circumstances; their need must be assessed through a risk assessment. Window restrictors are required whereby people who are vulnerable are not at risk from falling.

In general, both care service providers and their staff have a duty under the Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure a safe and comfortable home and workplace for all.

Sources

www.cqc.org.uk

www.hse.gov.uk

Image Credit

https://www.morguefile.com/creative/MGDboston

, , , , , ,

Fire Risk Assessment in Residential Care Homes

There have been many instances of fires or fire related accidents in residential care homes. It is imperative to carry out a clear, concise and manageable risk assessment that is regularly reviewed and updated as required. The HSE have produced a step by step fire risk assessment process for residential care homes. These fundamentals can be applied to any residential or working establishment. The main steps of the risk assessment include identifying the fire hazards and identifying the people at risk. Following on from this, it includes evaluating, reducing and removing the risks so far as is practically possible. Also, how people in the care home will be protected. There is then a section on recording, planning, informing, training and reviewing.

  1. Identify the Hazards in the Care Home

In order for a fire to start it needs a source of ignition. This is a source of heat which can include smoking materials and naked flames.Other sources include electrical circuits, cooking equipment, faulty equipment, lighting equipment, hot surfaces, malicious damage and equipment owned or used by residents. All sources of ignition need to be identified. The next thing that needs to be identified are sources of fuel. This includes anything that will burn well including laundry, wood, flammable products, plastics, rubber, waste products, hardboard and chipboard. Nearly everything could be included as a source of fuel. Sources of oxygen include the natural airflow, mechanical air conditioning systems, some chemicals (oxidising materials) and oxygen supplies in cylinders.

  1. Identify the people at risk in the Care Home

Those people that are at risk from fire need to be identified. They include the service users and the working staff. It should also be considered who else may be at risk, for example, visitors, contractors etc. Staff who work in isolated areas, for example contractors overseeing maintenance works should be taken into account. Other people at risk include children and visitors who are elderly with limited abilities. As regards the service users, their conditions must be accurately taken into account, for example, those impaired due to medication, those who will need their mobility equipment and level of sensory and cognitive awareness.

  1. Evaluate, remove and reduce and protect those at risk

The risk of a fire starting should be evaluated. This will include whether accidental, by omission or deliberate. An example of ‘by omission’ could be where electrical equipment is not properly maintained. The premises should also be examined for accidents ‘waiting to happen’. Fire can spread by convection, conduction and radiation. Convection is the movement of fire through air, whilst conduction is the movement of fire through materials. The sources of ignition, fuel and oxygen should be reduced to what is practical or completely removed if possible. Fire protection measures should be put in place such as  warning systems. Escape routes should not be blocked and staff should be fully trained in emergency procedures.

  1. Record, plan, inform, instruct and train

The care home providers should be able to satisfy the enforcing authority. Keeping records, having a detailed risk assessment plan, controlling those risks and training staff will result in the adequate control of the risks in case of fire.

  1. Review

One should review the risk assessment periodically or as appropriate. If there are new changes introduced into the care home, these factors should now be part of the risk assessment.

Sources

https://www.gov.uk/

, , , , , , ,

The Construction Worker – Vibration and Hazardous Substances

The biggest health risks for the construction engineer can result from manual handling, vibration, biological hazards, dust/fumes, being injured/loss of life due to machinery and noise pollution. This article addresses vibration and hazardous substances.

Vibration

Hand held and machinery operated tools used in construction can cause permanent injury to the hands and arms and even the whole body if not used correctly. The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 regulates the use of vibrating tools. Vibration affects the nerves, blood vessels, wrists, joints of the hand and arms. This can lead to Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS). Vibrating machines include sanders, grinders, drills, chainsaws, needle guns and concrete breakers. Working in cold weather can increase the severity of HAVS. How one can be affected includes difficulty with simple things like closing buttons on clothes, typing and holding things. In carrying out a risk assessment on vibrating equipment one should consider who will be using what equipment. Persons at high risk would be those that regularly use hammer action tools for more than an hour a day (or 15 mins for medium risk) or rotary tools for more than 4 hours a day (or 1 hour a day for medium risk). Simple ways of controlling risk include eliminating unnecessary vibrating tasks at the design stage or using an alternative process that does not expose workers to vibration. Jigs and suspension systems can be used to take the weight and vibration of the tools away from the worker. Other control measures are rotating workers and making sure they have minimum exposure to vibrating tools. Gloves and warm clothing will keep the worker comfortable. Doing a health surveillance and observing workers will all help to establish safe working practices.

Hazardous Substances

Construction dust is a big risk to one’s lungs. COSHH imposes regulations on employers to mitigate against the risk of hazardous substances to their workers. Ailments include asthma, lung cancer and silicosis. Cement based products like concrete can cause skin problems. Cement powder is also a respiratory irritant. Control measures include using pre-mixed concrete to avoid air borne dust. Gloves, footwear, waterproof trousers and skin care products should all be provided. Lead can be found in construction environments. Lead can be found in existing paintwork (especially in paint materials before the 1980’s) and on lead roofs. Using respiratory protective equipment, disposable overalls and disposable gloves can all help to control the risks against lead. Solvents and isocyanates used on construction sites can also pose hazards. Solvents include volatile compounds such as paints, thinners and glues. Isocyanates are present in polyurethane paints, coatings, foams, glues and flooring. Solvent risks should be reduced where possible, for example, using water based paint and using respiratory protective equipment when spraying. Also, using products that do not contain isocyanates or at least less volatile forms.

Sources

http://www.hse.gov.uk/

 

, , , , , , ,

The Rubber Industry: Safe Breathing

Your lungs are so important. What goes into them and comes out of them determines how you live. Striving for quality of life is inherent in us all. Lung disease is not. We must endeavour to give our lungs the best shot at life, free from carcinogens, irritants, chemicals and fumes.

Rubber manufacturing usually consists of the processes of raw materials handling, milling, extruding, component assembling and building, curing, inspecting, finishing and storage and dispatch. Hazardous substances can include fumes and fine dusts. COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulation 2002) requires employers to assess the risk to health caused by dusts and fumes. Exposure must be prevented or adequately controlled by doing a risk assessment. For controlling dust fumes, employers can use dust suppressed materials, for example, pellets and oil coated powders. Enclosed and automated bag and powder handling is also a safe way of handling dusts. Workers should refrain from handling powders directly; automated system machinery should be in use. An effective local exhaust system should be used and maintained regularly during the work processes.

PPE should be worn, for example, gloves, aprons and safety glasses. Adequate personal washing facilities should be available and separate from the eating and rest areas. Good housekeeping should be the norm and industrial vacuum cleaners used. Respirators would not be needed if adequate fume and chemical controls are in place. However, they may be needed for short term exposures, for example, when filter bag changing or general maintenance. Training of workers in the use of respirators is essential. Because the rubber industry is ever changing, new processes may introduce new risks. Hopefully, they can be learned from without dire consequences happening to highlight the risk. Whilst COSHH doesn’t set out specific requirements for the rubber industry, it does set out the basic system of managing risk to health.

 

Simple steps to making a COSHH assessment in any industry

  • Simply walking around the work place can highlight obvious and taken for granted risks. Some substances will have workplace exposure limits (WELs); the limits need to be maintained.
  • The employer should have safety data sheets on information about their workplace. Workers can be exposed to dust, fume, vapour and dermal contact with liquids and dusts. Some dusts are very fine and might not be immediately apparent.
  • The hazards should be identified, mitigated against and a control system set up to be in place.
  • It should be ascertained who is likely to be harmed, how and when, and, the health severity to the worker.
  • The accident book may be a good reference when redesigning processes to make them safer and when considering a new factory floor layout. There can be lessons learned.

Sources

http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/priced/hsg97.pdf