Managing hazardous chemicals

Exposure to chemicals is 100 per cent preventable. Without the proper controls, they can cause cancer, respiratory illnesses, skin and eye irritations, and fire and explosion-related injuries.

There are literally thousands of hazardous chemicals used in the workplace – paints, pesticides, cleaners and fuels, to name a few. They come in various forms – powders, solids, liquids and gases.

You must manage health and safety risks when storing, handling or using hazardous chemicals at a workplace by using the hierarchy of controls.

This video demonstrates what to consider when applying the hierarchy and how to go about choosing the appropriate controls.

You should review your chemical management strategies and use controls higher in the hierarchy in combination with lower level controls for the greatest effect.

You should also ensure that your workers receive training and supervision and consider the risks associated with storage, handling and disposal.

Through the implementation of the Hazardous chemicals and materials exposures baseline reduction strategy, the level and impact of workplace exposures to hazardous chemicals will be identified and reduced.

A priority list of 100 chemicals, based on national and international research has been developed, in which formaldehyde and crystalline silica rank first and second.

Read the codes of practice for more information on how to manage work health and safety risks and managing risks of hazardous chemicals in the workplace.

Jason’s story: A young life lost

Jason Garrels was just 20 years old when he died at a construction site in 2012. He had only been working there for nine days and his death was preventable.

In this video, produced by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, Jason’s family and friends share their experiences to raise awareness about the importance of workplace safety, the need for effective communication between subcontractors on construction sites, and appropriate supervision and supportive mentoring for young workers.

It also brings to attention the importance of housekeeping in preventing incidents, and allowing emergency access to sites if an incident does occur.

Statistics show how vulnerable children and young people are in the workplace. They can be oblivious to hazards in their surroundings, are often unaware of their rights and responsibilities, and may not be confident to speak up about safety concerns.

On 28 April each year, countries around the world pause to commemorate workers who have died as a result of a workplace incident or occupational disease.

Each year, Unions NSW and SafeWork NSW hold a service on the day to honour and remember those who lost their life at work.

At the service, families are invited to add ‘memory cards’ and flowers to the Memory Lines sculpture in honour of their loved ones.

We encourage employers and workers across the state to take time on International Day of Mourning to think about the significance of work health and safety and how workplace incidents can affect those around them.

For more information about young workers, visit our website.

The best way to improve employee’s mental health

In Australia, more than six million employees take sick leave every year due to mental illness. Moreover, untreated mental health conditions are resulting in $10.9 billion being lost every year due to absenteeism, reduced productivity and compensation claims.

A world-first study published in Lancet Psychiatry, led by researchers at the Black Dog Institute and University of NSW, suggests that basic mental health training for managers can result in significant benefits for employees.

The research looked at the effects of a four-hour mental health training program delivered to Fire & Rescue NSW managers.

It found that the training was associated with a return on investment of $9.98 for each dollar spent on training and major reductions in work-related sickness absence. It is also the first study to show that training managers about mental health can have a direct impact in improving occupational outcomes for workers.

‘Having a supportive manager can make a huge difference to a person’s mental wellbeing, and as this study shows, giving basic mental health training to managers can bring significant changes to both confidence and behaviour among staff,’ says Samuel Harvey, who leads the Workplace Mental Health Research Program at the Black Dog Institute.

Get it right: ask an inspector

Based in St. Mary’s, Enviro Pallets manufactures timber pallets. It’s a small business, with just six full time workers – plus a handful of labour hire workers from Ability Options, an agency that supports people with disabilities.

Manufacturing pallets is a high risk industry and, following a request for service, a SafeWork inspector visited the premises and met with Mark Duffin, the factory manager, to offer some health and safety advice.

‘The workplace had a number of safety hazards,’ said Cris Jelley, Assistant State Inspector.

‘These included issues relating to poor housekeeping, machine guarding, traffic management, forklift safety, and handling and storage of hazardous chemicals.’

‘I issued numerous improvement notices,’ said Mr Jelley.

Regardless the severity of the notices, Mr Duffin saw it as a wake-up call and, over the next three months, he encouraged and welcomed further interactions with Mr Jelley.

Mr Duffin organised a massive clean-up of the workplace, fixed his chemical issues, fitted and improved guarding on machinery, improved traffic management, made walkways for pedestrians, issued personal protective equipment to everyone and, most importantly, sought his workers’ input on safety improvements.

‘The improvements have made my business safer and more productive,’ said Mr Duffin.

‘I have realised through your help, Cris, that it is more beneficial to be proactive than reactive, and I thank you for that – never too old to learn.’

An inspiration to us all

David Nugent owns a cattle farm near Wagga Wagga and does some contract work supplying hay and operating heavy machinery to supplement his income when times are tough.

Twenty years ago, David was seriously injured when his arms became caught in a hay baler as he was trying to fix a fault. As the baler pulled his arms in with such force, he suffered chest and head injuries along with extensive injuries to both arms. He was trapped for more than an hour before being rescued by a passing motorist and rushed to hospital.

David spent five months in hospital, had his right arm amputated above the elbow and numerous surgeries to save the left arm, including orthopaedic reconstruction, skin grafting, vascular grafting and infection control.

David knew nothing other than farming and was widely known in his community for solving problems and finding solutions. And this horrific tragedy did not deter him. His motto: the farm will not beat me.

With the help of a rehabilitation provider, prosthetic technician, case manager, family and friends, he developed a comprehensive return to work program and purchased modified equipment through SIRA’s vocational rehabilitation program. He made changes to the farm set-up, re-designed his work practices, and researched widely to find equipment that would satisfy his needs.

David credits a determined, problem-solving attitude and a great team as the principal reasons for his remarkable achievements.

Although the incident happened 20 years ago, David continues to receive medical treatment for his injuries but has returned to his pre-injury duties as a self-employed cattle farmer, hay contractor, bob-cat operator and earth mover.

David’s achievements were recognised last year when he won the 2017 SafeWork NSW Award for Recovery at Work Achievement Award for Injured Workers.

Register today for the 2018 SafeWork NSW Awards.

 

Best Individual Contribution to Workplace Health and Safety (WHS manager) winner

Glenn Stewart, Work Health and Safety Manager for Calvary Healthcare, is another proud 2017 award winner.

Glenn joined Calvary, a non-for-profit health organisation, in 2011. With more than 12,000 staff and volunteers, Calvary operates 15 public and private hospitals, 15 retirement and aged care facilities, and a national network of community care centres.

No sooner had he joined Calvary, Glenn set out to develop a group workplace health and safety strategy from the ground up – there was no safety system in place. A significant challenge was the geographical spread of the organisation, so he developed an intranet site that provided a single platform for all health and safety resources. He introduced online forums and discussion boards, audit tools, fact sheets, procedures and manuals.

Glenn also implemented a national safety excellence award program that recognised individuals and teams, a monthly safety scorecard, and a national management review process. He was particularly conscious of the need to engage with workers, health and safety representatives, committees and senior management.

Glenn’s initiatives have been a catalyst for other system and technological changes throughout the organisation. These same initiatives have also resulted in the frequency rate of lost time injuries falling from 60 to three since 2011.

Registrations for the 2018 awards are now open.