Monday, 20 May 2013

Noise Problems? You Need PPE Right?

When organisations think that they have a noise problem there’s any easy fix right? Just get some hearing defence and the problem goes away, or so some think but that is a really bad idea.

Firstly you need to identify whether you do or do not really have a problem. There are a number of low cost noise sampling machines on the market; these give a decent guide as to whether there is a noise problem. There is an even more simple approach – if you can’t reasonably hear a normal conversation at a distance of 2 meters then you may have a problem with noise. If you use any of these techniques to eliminate the need for further action I would recommend that you record these measurements and that you repeat them periodically.

If there is any indication that you do have a noise problem you should first try to eliminate it. Unfortunately this often means stopping the noisy activity, which is often unreasonable. Maybe you could reduce the noise by buying new machinery, which may be quieter (safer) by design, perhaps improving maintenance of equipment could reduce the noise too. Consider the possibility of moving noisy processes out of the work areas containing the most people or even placing them in sound booths. Sometimes it is not just the level of noise that we expose people to that causes the problem but the amount of time that they are exposed for. Perhaps task rotation could help to reduce the risk of noise induced hearing loss.

PPE, in this case hearing defence, is a weak control. It relies on people understanding the problem, the limitations of the hearing defence and how and when it must be worn. Also, when we issue hearing defence we are relying on people to wear it. There are a number of versions of the hierarchy of risk control. PPE is at or near to the bottom on just about all of them, there's a reason for that.

If you must rely on hearing defence to protect people at work from your noise issues you will first need to identify the nature and extent of the problem. Commission a noise survey to identify the levels and frequencies of your noise. You will need the resultant report to identify the appropriate level and type of protection. Different types of hearing defence work better at certain frequencies than others, some are more appropriate in certain environments or for certain activities.

If you select hearing defence on the basis that anything is better than nothing you should bear in mind that the PPE that you buy may be excellent protection in some circumstances but not necessarily yours and over attenuation (too much protection) can be even more dangerous than no protection at all.

Having settled on PPE as your chosen control you will need to confirm that it is affective. Knowing that your hearing defence is the correct type for your noise doesn’t mean that it is working, perhaps people do not wear it or maybe they don’t wear it correctly. I have even seen cans with their foam inserts removed, so the wearer could hear the radio and chat with their colleagues. Medical surveillance (audiometric testing) is the solution.

Noise is just one of many of the problems that we need to control in the workplace. If you would like to know about more of the hazardsthat we need to consider take a look at this link.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Location Hazards

The intention of the project is to confirm that you understand the risk assessment process. Risk assessments must be capable of communicating the particulars relating to the problems faced in your workplace.

You could test whether your project achieves this by getting someone who hasn’t been involved in your assessment to read it and confirm to you that their understanding aligns with your intended meaning.

Here’s an example of a location hazard along with some pointers on common mistakes:

Description of the location
The directors desk is situated in front of a south facing window

Most common mistakes
The description needs to be in relation to the hazard. There are many ways that we could describe the director’s desk such as the director has a mahogany executive desk. Irrelevant! Although this may be true unless the colour of the desk causes a problem its inclusion here is not required.

Description of the Hazard
During summer months the director sits in direct sunlight, exposing him to the harmful rays of the sun and to uncomfortably hot conditions.

Most common mistakes
One word answers and lists of consequences are the most common problems here. A hazard cannot be describe in a single word and a consequence is not the same thing as a hazard.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Bored, Bored, Bored, Bored

Is that how you feel during training? I know that I have on some of the courses that I have been force fed.

There's no reason for training to be boring, it's the sign of a poorly designed course or an inept trainer. For those who want to do the IOSH Managing Safely course your in luck. There is a trainer that gets everyone involved, that makes learning an enjoyable experience and has a fantastic success rate with this course.

Not only is this IOSH Managing Safely course great fun but you don't need any qualifications to get onto it. Discreet provisions are made for people that cannot, for whatever reason, spell or have no confidence in their ability to write.

There's a course starting tomorrow but don't worry, it's not too late, there is at least one course every month and sometimes as many as 3 courses in a month. If you're feeling nervous about doing your IOSH Managing Safely training don't be. Instead check this out.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Control of Substances Hazrdous to Health (COSHH)

Care must be taken when considering hazardous substances at work. They can enter the body in a number of ways. They can be absorbed through the skin or instilled through the eye sockets, they can also be inhaled, swallowed or injected.

They can take many forms including solids, liquids, gases and vapours. Their nature varies too. some are corrosive, others are dangerous to the environment, explosive, toxic/very toxic, flammable/extremely flammable, oxidising or even a biohazard. Some substances may posses more than one of these natures.

How we use these substances can change how they might affect us and when we mix substances we can also change their nature and their ability to cause harm. Take bleach for example, mixing it with other substances can have the following affects:

Ammonia can be found in many places such as general cleaning products, glass cleaners, urine (litter trays) and paint. Mixing bleach with ammonia creates chloramines resulting in toxic gas.

Acids can be found in vinegar, glass cleaners, some dishwasher detergents and rinse aids, toilet cleaners, drain cleaners, calcium removers, stone and brick cleaners etc. Mixing bleach with acids can produce chlorine gas.

Things get worse if this chlorine gas is mixed with water, these produce hydrochloric and hypochlorous acids, which can be absorbed.

Oven cleaners
Mixing bleach with some oven cleaners can produce hydrogen peroxide.

Don’t panic. Bleach is perfectly safe if it is used appropriately. Substances such as this, when held in above domestic quantities, are regulated for by COSHH. You can learn more about this, and other hazards, on the IOSH Managing Safely course.

Monday, 30 July 2012

IOSH Managing Safely

Here's a new IOSH Managing Safely post worth looking at whether you are looking for a course or for help with your IOSH project or Managing Safely assessment:

IOSH Managing Safely

Thursday, 26 July 2012

IOSH Managing Safely - Activity Hazards

If you are completing your IOSH Managing Safely project you will be aware that you are expected to differentiate between various hazard types.

The activity hazards are important because if you get one of these wrong (in part 4) you will lose all of the associated points in the remainder of the project (parts 5 & 6).

Take care!

Activity hazards are those things that cause problems by the doing.

So, what does that mean? Stay with me here -

Let's take a look at cutting sheet metal with an angle grinder:

The cutting disc is partially exposed and the operative could cut themselves on this rotating disc. This is an equipment hazard, it is the disc that causes the problem.

The area is poorly lit and operatives cannot see sufficiently well. This could cause them to accidentally come into contact with the disc. A location hazard. It is the nature of the light in this place that gives rise to the problem.

When using the disc cutter the operative is bent over the material for prolonged periods. This is an activity hazard. It is the bending/stooping that causes the problem.

When you complete your project you will need to be descriptive in your answer.

For each hazard you will need to describe the work activity. In our example a poor answer might be "cutting sheet metal". It doesn't describe fully what is happening. "cutting 5mm thick sheet metal using an angle grinder with 4" cutting disc, on a 700mm high worktop" might be better.

In describing the hazard we would need to identify that it is the stooping or bending hazard that is being considered. If it is being done for prolonged periods or repetitively you should include this too.

In identifying how many people are affected, along with their occupation, we should ensure that this part is consistent with part 1. Do not start identifying new people here and don't just copy your list from part one.

When you get to part 5 and you are asked to identify the work activity there is a key word missing from this column, "description". So, we don't need to apply the full detail that we provided in part 4. "Cutting sheet material" might be enough.

Part 5 also asks us to identify the hazard, the hazardous activity and the expected consequence. That's 3 different things. In our example "stooping for prolonged periods whilst cutting sheet material" might be our hazard; "causing fatigue or strain to the lower back" might be the hazardous event and "resulting in muskuloskeletal disorders such as muscle or tendon damage or ruptured intervertebral discs" might describe the expected consequence.

The people affected should be cross checked against those identified in parts 1 & 4.

The risk estimation is massively subjective but if you have identified that you hazard could result in death and you estimate the consequence as anything less that 5 you may have a hard point to argue. Similarly, if tripping is the problem there would probably be a higher likelihood than 1.

In part 6 you will need to identify an appropriate control such as "provide adjustable height work benches". This process may still include some stooping and bending but this control has reduced the amount of bending etc significantly. Such a control would reduce the likelihood of the operative suffering and injury as a result of bending and stooping. So long as there is still an element of bending in the process the hazard still exists and we would probably not have affected the consequence with this control.

When you re-estimate your risk make sure that you correctly identify the element that you have reduced (the likelihood or the consequence).

You can get more help with your IOSH Managing Safely project available here.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

IOSH Managing Safely with Guarantees

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