Embedding the safety landscape in Ryde

Not surprisingly, local government is one of the high risk industries when it comes to musculoskeletal disorders. As part of SafeWork NSW’s strategy to reduce these types of injuries, our ergonomics team is working with local councils to provide training, guidance and advice on Participative Ergonomics for Manual Tasks (PErforM).

City of Ryde Council has put this training into action, making some significant changes to keep their workers safe and healthy.

Led by their enthusiastic Work Health and Safety Coordinator, Bryan Cropley, City of Ryde Council conducted risk assessments and devised controls to address a number of high risk hazardous manual tasks. They talked with their workers, managers and relevant parties and came up with some excellent safety solutions.

The problem

One of the identified risks was lifting the compactor or ’vibe plate’ from the back of a ute. It took two people to lift and lower the 70 kg machine, six to eight times per day. The lift was awkward and dangerous for workers.

The solution

City of Ryde workers now use a12 volt electrical hoist to lift the machine. The unit is able to lift and lower the compactor between the ute and the ground without using any force or awkward postures.

Workers have embraced the change. “This job is now much easier than it used to be,” they said.

“It only needs one worker now, enabling the second worker to focus on other tasks.”

Next steps

SafeWork is continuing to provide City of Ryde with the support and assistance that they need to build their capability.

City of Ryde is doing exactly what the WHS Roadmap for NSW 2022 is talking about – embedding the health and safety landscape in NSW workplaces. By gaining safety leadership from the top and middle management, consulting and communicating with workers, they have used safety in design to create a safer workplace.

Find out what the WHS Roadmap for NSW 2022 means for you.

Reduce sprains and strains in 5 simple steps

For many businesses, manual tasks are an important part of getting the job done. But even the simplest task can pose a risk unless you take a few steps to keep your workers safe.

A manual task involves using your body to lift, lower, push, pull, carry or otherwise move, hold or restrain any person, animal or thing. Most jobs involve carrying out some type of manual tasks, but not all of these are hazardous.

These tasks become hazardous when one or more of the following risk factors are present:

  • repetitive or sustained force
  • high or sudden force
  • repetitive movement
  • sustained or awkward posture
  • vibration.

Injuries can occur from a number of different tasks – such as sitting for too long, doing the same task again and again, over-reaching and handling heavy items.

Preventing injuries from everyday tasks like these can seem near impossible and you may feel like you’ve tried everything, but by taking just five simple steps you’ll see the number of sprains and strains start to shrink.

1. Find the risk factors
Identify the things that cause the injuries. Common culprits include repetitive, sustained or sudden force, repetitive movement, awkward posture, exposure to vibration and performing manual tasks for a long duration.

2. Get your workers involved
Workers who perform the manual tasks can often give you the best idea of potential hazards. Ask them questions like “what makes you sore at work?” and “which jobs do you avoid doing?”

3. Don’t rely on safe lifting training
While your workers should definitely be trained to lift safely, on its own it’s not enough. Change the risk factors to eliminate the hazards.

4. Use higher level controls
This means you don’t have to rely solely on people to do the right thing – they fix the problem at the source.

Where possible, introduce controls that eliminate the risk altogether. If elimination isn’t possible then design out the risk, such as using an engineering solution. Finally, use substitution so that safer methods, tools or equipment are used.

5. Use a simple risk management approach
Identify, assess, control and review the risks. It’s as simple as that.

It’s all a lot to take in, so we’ve developed a short video to explain these steps and provide some examples of what you can do.

Visit the SafeWork NSW website for more manual handling resources, and be sure to check out our series of free manual handling workshops.

Manual tasks – one, two, three… ouch!

If you work in aged care you’ve probably experienced some type of injury due to hazardous manual tasks or slips trips and falls.

These are common injuries in this line of work, the most common in fact, and workers in residential and aged care have a higher than average chance of being injured at work – most likely a manual handling injury.

Manual handling claims make up 36 per cent of all injury and disease claims in NSW and the aged care industry clocked up more than 5000 in the three years from 2011/12-2013/14.

Manual handling injuries account for the majority of claims in residential and aged care, and, reflecting the higher proportion of women who work in the industry; women between 40-59 years old represent the most claims.

SafeWork NSW recently wrapped up a pilot program targeting 24 small, medium and large nursing homes and found room for improvement in the following areas:

  • manual handling policies and procedures
  • investigating and identifying risks
  • preventative actions using higher level controls such as design and engineering controls
  • active involvement of workers in the development of policies, procedures and controls for hazardous manual tasks.

Tony Robinson, SafeWork NSW Director of Specialist Services, said further work will seek to engage management staff to improve key hazard controls such as creating effective policies and procedures, consultation with workers, injury investigation systems, and design and engineering controls.

“The project established that compliance was reasonable in lower level controls like training, however with injury rates what they are, clearly more needs to be done at a management level to recognise risks and establish action plans to reduce those incidents,” Tony said.

“The most frequently injured body parts, for staff who work frontline with patients, are the lower back and shoulders, so knowing this, consult with staff about which tasks are likely to cause injury and then take steps to provide a solution.”

The types of manual tasks considered ‘hazardous’ are those that involve:

  • repetitive or sustained force
  • high or sudden force
  • repetitive movement
  • sustained or awkward posture
  • exposure to vibration.

Hazardous tasks should be assessed according to risk level, which is the likeliness that hazard will cause injury, and the severity of potential or actual injury.

“If you are maintaining an up to date injury register, you will be able to see which types of activity have caused and are most likely to cause injury,” said Tony.

“Establish safe work systems for transferring patients, repositioning patients in bed, transferring patients from beds and chairs, transferring for toileting and bathing and assisting patients who have fallen.”

“This is labour-intensive work so you really need to consider complementing safe work systems with investments in equipment design particularly for tasks that create a high risk of injury.

“We are here to help. SafeWork NSW has resources that can assist in dealing with musculoskeletal pain and performing manual tasks safely.”

Visit our website for fact sheets, PErforM (Participative Ergonomics for Manual Tasks) workshops and free advisory visits or call us on 13 10 50.

Smooth office operators make for better business

Maximising productivity in your office is always easier if your workers are happy and content.

While office employees are much less vulnerable to serious injury than workers in industries such as construction, there are still risks and other factors that can impact their health and safety – and your bottom line.

In an office environment, risks might be someone tripping and falling headfirst into a sharp or blunt object, or electrocution when using a malfunctioning device. But more likely, adverse health effects stem from poor manual handling activity, incorrect workstation set-up, or lack of rest and exercise breaks from computer activity.

If unchecked, these problems can affect productivity, morale and sick leave rates, leading to the need to hire temps or pay overtime.

Clearly it is in the best interest of your business that you run a tight ship when it comes to work health and safety, so where should you start?

Here are some top tips for office workplace safety:

  • Spend some time walking around your workplace, ideally with your work health and safety representative, looking for potential hazards.
  • Hold a meeting with your staff and ask them to flag any issues or concerns, as one of the best ways to identify workplace safety issues is by asking your workers.
  • Examine injury records for repeat incidents, ask staff about possible issues and watch worker activity to see if you can identify any potential problems. You should end up with a list of risks to tackle.
  • Critical to long-term worker health and comfort is proper workstation set-up, especially if duties are mainly desk-bound. Failure to get this right can gradually lead to neck, back and shoulder pain and, in extreme cases, a repetitive strain injury resulting in lengthy sick leave. Ensure your workers know how to set up their desk properly and take regular rest and exercise breaks.
  • One of your top priorities should be addressing injuries caused by manual handling, or hazardous manual tasks. These may be caused by carrying, stacking, lifting, rolling, sliding, pushing or lowering loads as a result of awkward postures, forceful exertions, repetition, duration and vibration. The best way you can help workers is by changing the way they perform tasks by using mechanical aids such as height adjustable trolleys and changing the duration and repetition of tasks.
  • Another priority is to eliminate the risk of workers slipping or tripping by reducing hazards from uneven or worn floor surfaces, spillages, poorly-lit walkways and clutter.
  • Zeroing in on the risk of falls may just require investing in a sturdy mobile step ladder that meets Australian Standards for commercial or industrial use; look for the label on the item when purchasing equipment. A major cause of office falls is workers trying to reach things by standing on chairs or other unsafe objects. Ladder misuse is another clanger, so make sure any ladders are in good condition, get used properly and are regularly checked for wear and tear. Always have three points of contact with the ladder and if possible, anchor the ladder or get someone to hold it.

Click here for more tips and advice on office workplace health and safety, or call us on 13 10 50.

Wicked boss keeps workers safe

Staff at Wicked Berries create dream treats in a model workplace, thanks to the diligence of their not-so-wicked employer.

A focus on worker safety and getting back to basics has helped Wicked take out Best Workplace Health and Safety Practices in a Small Business at the 2014 WorkCover SafeWork Awards.

Wicked Berries specialise in indulgent chocolate dipped strawberries and deliver their products Australia wide.

Packing and handling forms a big part of the work involved, which comes with its own safety risks, but Wicked’s Director, Mr Kerry O’Sullivan, a former baker well-aware of workplace safety, is set on making sure his facilities are safe.

“I guess because it’s not something a lot of businesses tend to focus on; because we’re doing franchising I just made it a habit of ticking all the boxes on that side of things,” Kerry said.

While the micro business employs just five staff, developing a work health and safety system was a key strategy to support the growing business in the long term.

The company is currently branching out as a franchise and they know work health and safety is a crucial factor to attract staff and ensure productivity.

“Imagine having 40 or 50 franchises and then having to implement it all later,” said Kerry.

“If it’s happening right from the start it forms part of the procedure for everyone.

“If everyone’s safe at work it means better productivity and a better workplace. That’s proven. It covers so many different aspects of a business.”

To win the award, Wicked Berries had to show what risks were identified, how they were addressed and what the outcomes were.

Kerry listed hazardous manual tasks such as the storage and handling of stock boxes, movement of stock and high shelving as challenges they overcame through better practice.

Their innovative safety improvements and adjustments have helped to secure longevity for their enviable zero ‘injuries resulting in time off’ record.

Some of the changes they implemented were machinery safeguards, anti-fatigue mats and visible safety procedures, but by far the most useful and easy were storage boxes that are colour-coded by weight.

“Colour coding boxes was the most dramatic change. The colour coding definitely works It’s so simple,” said Kerry.

“Going up ladders for stock posed a problem.

“Now that heavier items are shelved lower down, workers only have to lift light stock from the top and they’re happy about that.”

Wicked Berries also instituted procedures like staff induction and risk control training and franchisee training and information, making sure work health and safety is deeply embedded in the culture of the business.

Kerry believes the key to his winning workplace is walking the walk and says the award gives them credibility as a workplace with integrity that cares about the welfare of its staff.

“Having everything in place is one thing, enforcing it is another,” Kerry said.

“Get the basics right first.

“Assess your business independently, judge it on its own merits and find out what needs to be addressed.

“Your employee is number one so find out the risks and tackle that.”

Breaking news

This month’s Breaking News includes information about safety coaches, DHL cargo bikes and a tyre innovation by Goodyear.

Get a free personal safety coach
Road freight transport companies (with 50 or fewer employees) that operate in the Sydney metropolitan area, Newcastle, Hunter, New England or Central West areas can apply for a free safety coach. A safety coach has the skills and experience to teach you how to comply with your workplace safety and workers compensation obligations.

Your safety coach will assess your workplace and help you develop an action plan to address any safety issues. They’ll return within six weeks to see how you have progressed. Register for your free safety coach now.
By engaging a safety coach, you also become eligible for a $500 small business rebate, which will help you introduce safety solutions into your business.

Pedalling into the future of short-haul trucking
Global parcel-delivery giant DHL is introducing a new essential transporter to its fleet. The company has replaced 33 trucks with 33 cargo bikes in the Netherlands, resulting in a massive reduction of carbon-dioxide emissions. Not to mention saving around $575,000 a year. Read more here.

No more flat tyres
Inflating your tyres too much can cause them to tear, while not having enough pressure can lead to punctures and damage to the suspension. With this in mind, Goodyear has created tyres that monitor pressure, and automatically inflate using just a regulator and a tube. Read more here.

Case study: increased safety, reduced costs

Backs Transport employs drivers to collect and deliver goods such as furniture, white goods and general freight. They were contracted by Goodfellows to deliver a fridge to one of their retail customers.

What was the problem?

Kevin Peterson, the delivery driver, was sub-contracted by Backs for this delivery, as Backs’ three drivers were all engaged in other deliveries. Kevin’s truck did not have a tailgate lifter. To get the fridge off the truck, Kevin ‘man-handled’ and manoeuvered it to the ground. Placing it on a trolley, unsecured, he then pulled it across a rough grassy area and, single-handedly, up a narrow flight of steps, nearly dropping it several times. Ignoring the homeowner’s offers of help, Kevin eventually got the fridge to the kitchen, albeit with a few dents and scratches. A number of factors contributed to the problem, notably:

  • Poor communication between Goodfellows and Backs about the delivery site – e.g. access, stairs, uneven ground
  • no risk assessment done by the driver about the site and the work to be done
  • no tailgate lifter and inadequate lifting and carrying equipment
  • not enough workers for the job
  • poor manual handling techniques.

What was done to solve the problem?

Unimpressed by Kevin’s work practices, the homeowner contacted Goodfellows and WorkCover to complain. This prompted an inspector to visit Goodfellows and, subsequently, Backs, to inform them that they both shared work health and safety responsibilities where contracting is involved.

Business benefits

The median cost of a workers compensation claim in this industry is $3500. When an incident occurs it costs a business at least 10 times the cost of the claim in lost productivity, property damage, replacement costs and working days lost. By looking at the incident and what could be put in place to prevent it happening again, it is possible the business would save an average of $35,000.

Key outcomes

  • Making sure at least two people are allocated to each job where deliveries include heavy items
  • securing loads onto trolleys when handling large bulky items
  • having a tailgate lifter available on all trucks used by the business, including hired trucks
  • providing information about the site where the goods are to be delivered – a map showing stairs, ramps, parking and ground conditions
  • having a ‘no delivery’ policy if the delivery site or conditions make it unsafe to complete the work
  • training workers in safe lifting and loading/unloading techniques
  • having a customer service policy when difficulties arise with deliveries.

For more information about work health and safety in the road freight transport industry, call 13 10 50 or visit the road freight transport section of our website.