The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Close the Gap Day

Graham Marshall - Thursday, March 21, 2013

Today marks "Close the Gap"  Day, Australia’s largest ever Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health campaign!

But Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People still die 10-17 years younger than other Australians.

Closing this health gap cannot be done overnight.  We need a long-term commitment with adequate funding, and investment in real partnerships.

Since 2006, the Close the Gap campaign has achieved an enormous amount.

This has only happened with community support.

In 2012, over 130,000 Australians joined National Close the Gap Day to show their support, to talk about, to spread the word, and to take action to improve, Indigenous health.

This year, we've joined the the campaign and registered our own Close the Gap Day event.

Tips to Prevent Lower-back Injury

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Following the common cold, lower back pain resulting from poor manual handling technique is the most common cause of lost work time.  In the USA alone, back pain results in $126 billion in compensation pay-outs and medical expenses each year.

Tips to prevent back injury at work or at home include:

+  Practice good posture and try to stay physically-fit;

+   Use mechanical lifting aides whenever possible;

+   Before manually lifting an object, apply "Think 6, Look 6" and size-up the task;

+   If an object is too big or too heavy to handle on your own, ask someone to help;

+   When lifting, stand close to the object, bend your knees and keep your back straight as possible;

+   Try to lift objects using he muscles in your legs and arms working together;

+   Hold objects close to your body when carrying them;

+   Never twist your body from the waist when handling a load;

+   If you need to turn, do so my moving your feet; and

+   Be careful when setting a load down.

Workplace Ergonomics

Graham Marshall - Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The objective of ergonomics is to achieve the maximum-possible efficiency between the human body and the environment in which activity takes place.

It's about fitting the environment to the person in order to reduce the chance of injury and maximize the benefits available (e.g., time, production, effort, etc).

Here are some tips for ensuring the ergonomic aspects of the workplace are considered:

+   Modify the environment to suite the people working there;

+   Minimize the need for repeated motions, forceful exertion, prolonged bending, and exposure to vibration.

+   Use mechanical methods to lift or move objects rather than human labour;

+   Provide "comfort" mats for people required to stand for long periods;

+   Alternative and schedule harder tasks with easier ones;

+   Offer and enforce regular rest breaks; and

+   Maintain an appropriate workplace temperature and lighting conditions; and

+   Minimize noise.

Tips for a Succesful Exercise Program

Graham Marshall - Monday, March 18, 2013

Exercise is a major element in the quest to remain fit and healthy throughout the lifespan.

It is important, however, for folks who are re-starting an exercise program after a long lay-off to exercise safely.

So if you want to reap the benefits of regular exercise, apply the following safety tips:

+   Get a medical clearance from your Doctor before starting your new program;

+   Begin slowly and then increase your program intensity and duration;

+   Follow all the safety guidelines for using any work-out equipment;

+   Ensure you use proper footwear and other necessary protective equipment for your chosen activity;

+   Inspect your equipment before each use;

+   Warm-up and stretch before starting your exercise program.  The cool down and stretch again at the end of the session;

+   Try to incorporate several physical activities into your exercise routine;

+   If you experience sharp or severe pain during your work out - stop!

+   If pain persists, see your doctor.

Simple Steps to Prevent Eye Injury

Graham Marshall - Sunday, March 17, 2013

There are a half-million eye injuries reported in the USA each year.  About 70,000 of these injuries occur in work places and result in lost time and increased costs.

But there are simple steps that every worker, and people in their own homes can take to keep eyes free from harm.

+   Firstly, keep workplace and household chemicals locked away from children;

+   Store chemicals in the appropriate container;

+   Almost anything that can splash into the eye can damage it, so make sure to wear appropriate eye-protection;

+   Always use safety guards which are fitted to powered equipment;

+   Pick up yard debris before using lawn-mowing equipment;

+   Wear eye-protection when cutting the grass and during other general gardening activity;

+   Use sports-specific eye-protection to avoid eye injury during sport activity; and

+   Always make sure protective eyewear fits properly and is replaced if damaged.

Simple Steps to Prevent Noise-induced Hearing Loss

Graham Marshall - Saturday, March 16, 2013

Hearing loss due to exposure to industrial noise is the number one disability in the World; which is sad since it is so easily prevented.

Noise-induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) occurs when sounds which are greater than 85-decibels (dB) damage the delicate, sensitive structures within the human ear.

Common causes of NIHL result from exposure to noise from chainsaws, hammer-drills, bull-dozers, powered lawn-mowers, motorbikes, diesel trucks, and factory machinery.

The Keys to preventing NIHL include:

+   Remain aware of noise as a hazard and take measures to protect yourself from high noise (above 85 dB);

+   If possible, remove or relocate noisy equipment from the working zone;

+   Limit the period of exposure to noise above 85 dB; and

+   If you must work in a noisy environment, always wear appropriate hearing protective devices, including earplugs, ear-muffs or noise-cancelling head-phones.


Should Offices Ban Kettles?

Graham Marshall - Friday, March 15, 2013

Should people in an office be denied the use of a kettle due to health and safety reasons?

And do people walking around office buildings with open topped cups containing hot-liquids represent a "health and safety" issue with regard to the chances of people spilling hot liquids?

Any employer who does not want to provide facilities for making and consuming tea and coffee in the office can use "health and safety" as an excuse.

But in reality, there is absolutely no Legislative reason to ban kettles or to stop people walking around with hot drinks.

Of course, Employers and Property Owners have the right not to provide kettles and over facilities for employees; but in such cases, the employer should come clean and own up to their real reasons for doing so.

They should stop hiding behind the myth of "health and safety reasons".

As an aside to this issue, I recently had a phone call from an employer in a telephone call centre asking if there was a legal requirement to provide staff with toilet paper in the loos, or whether he could get people to bring their own loo paper to work?

Does the Brace Position Work?

Graham Marshall - Thursday, March 14, 2013

You've all seen the video when you fly whereby you're advised to adopt the brace position if your  aircraft is required to make an emergency landing.

But is it the best thing to do in an emergency?

There are certainly numerous conspiracy theories regarding the purpose of the procedure.

Some have suggested that it is only useful for preserving passengers’ teeth for dental records, allowing for easier identification after a crash.

Another is that the position actually increases that chance of death, by breaking your neck, and is subsequently recommended by airlines to reduce medical insurance costs.

The idea being that ongoing compensation payments may cost more than a single payment to the relatives of a deceased passenger.

In reality, however, the brace position is globally recognized as an appropriate safety technique for passengers.

In Britain, the brace position was modified in 1993 following research into cabin safety by the University of Nottingham after the Kegworth crash in 1989.

The Kegworth disaster on January 8, 1989 resulted in the deaths of 47 of the 126 passengers on board.

The other 74 passengers were seriously injured.

The absence of fatalities on board the U.S. Airways Flight 1549, which landed in the Hudson River, has been partly attributed to passengers adopting the position.

The Discovery Channel's "Mythbusters" used crash test dummies and sensors to prove that the brace position would significantly improve your chances of avoiding serious injury during a plane crash.

To adopt the brace position, you should place your feet and knees together with your feet firmly on the floor.

Feet should be flat and further back than the knees. In the event of an impact, this position helps prevent your legs being broken against the base of the seat in front.

You should try to bend as far forward as possible.

If it's in reach, you should rest your head against the seat in front, with hands placed on the back of your head.

Hands should be placed on top of one another.

Do not interlock your fingers interlocked.

Elbows should be tucked in to your sides.

The head should be as far below the top of the seats as possible.

This position prevents flailing of the arms, minimizes the risk of broken fingers and protects your head from flying debris.

The position varies slightly in the US. Rather than placing hands on the back of the head, passengers are advised to place them on top of the seat in front, or to hold their ankles.


Barminco Sacks 15 Employees over Health and Safety. Really?

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The case of Barminco in Western Australia sacking 15 of its employees for doing a silly dance routine during a break highlights how organizations can routinely use "health and safety" reasons to justify a Management decision made for other reasons, not associated with safety at all.

Other common examples of the way "health and safety" reasons are used to justify a range of management decision are highlighted below.

In the first example, a hotel which used to supply room service meals to an guests in a short-stay apartment block next door has said that it was no longer possible to offer this service because of "health and safety" reasons.

In a second example, a Chinese Restaurant refused a patron the use of finger bowls, again citing "health and safety" reasons.

In a third example, a local swimming pool told patrons picking up children that they had to wear plastic shoe-covers prior to entering the pool area for "health and safety" reasons.

And in the fourth example, a large department store told a shopper that they had to remove a shoulder-carried backpack for "health and safety" reasons.

In all four cases, there are no health and safety regulations which could possibly be interpreted as a reason for failing to deliver food, failing to provide finger bowls, demanding the use of shoe-covers or demanding that backpacks be removed.

Rather, in each case it is an individual company policy and - not a legal health and safety requirement.

And in all cases, Management should clearly state their real reason for a decision rather than hiding behind the health and safety excuse.

In the first two examples, it is probably a decision based on the economics of supplying the service that is at the heart of the Management decision.  In the case of the swimming pool, it is probably something to do with a lack of cleaners to wipe the floor.  And in the case of the Department Store, it is probably something to do with either shop-lifting reduction or an attempt to avoid accidental breakage.

In the case of Barminco, I believe it is clearly the embarrassment and reputation impact of the video rather than any real "health and safety" reason for the sackings.  But citing Health and Safety allows the Management to take the moral high ground.

And as a HSE Professional, this willingness by decision-makers to hide behind "health and safety reasons" is unhelpful to real safety promotion programs.

Hierarchy of Control for Work at Height

Graham Marshall - Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Working at height is one of the biggest causes of fatalities and major injuries.

Falls from ladders and through fragile roofs are all too common.  

Work at height means work in any place, including at or below ground level, where a person could fall a distance liable to cause injury.

But employers and individuals can take simple, practical measures to reduce the risk of falling while working at height.

Employers must make sure that all work at height is properly planned, supervised and carried out by people who are competent.

This means workers need the skill, knowledge, and experience to work up high.

This must include the use of the right type of equipment for work at height.

To prevent or minimize risk when planning for work at height, consider what needs to be done and take a sensible, risk-based approach to identify suitable precautions.

At the Risk Tool Box, we promotes the use of the hierarchy of control to minimize the risk of a falling.

The hierarchy should be followed systematically and only when one level is not reasonably practicable should the next level be considered.

If at all possible, start out by avoiding work at height so as to eliminate the hazard.

If possible, work from the ground or partly from the ground.


If work at height cannot be avoided, use appropriately engineered equipment to minimize the risk of a fall occurring; the distance a person could fall; or the consequences of a fall if one occurs.

 Engineered controls include scaffolds, edge-protection, nets, soft landing systems, reach-poles, systems to lower objects (e.g. lights) to the ground, and measures that protect the individual.

Always make sure the surface/access equipment in use is stable and strong enough to support the worker’s weight and that of any equipment.

Also think about procedures and other "administrative" controls.

Can workers get safely to and from where they want to work at height?

Have you thought about emergency evacuation and rescue procedures?

Is the equipment used for work at height well maintained and inspected regularly?

And remember...

Don’t overload ladders;

Don't overreach on ladders or stepladders;

Don't use ladders or stepladders if the nature of the work is deemed to be ‘heavy’ or if the task will take longer than thirty minutes or so to complete;

Don't use ladders if workers cannot maintain three points of contact at the working position; and

Don't let anyone who is not competent (someone who doesn’t have the skills, knowledge and experience to do the job) carry out work at height.

And lastly, consider the requirement for personal protective equipment.

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