The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Benzene in Home Garages Poses Risk to Health

Graham Marshall - Sunday, May 26, 2013
If you have a garage attached to your house, you could be at higher risk of developing leukemia or other forms of cancer. 

That's because benzene and other fumes from car exhaust could be entering your house.

Benzene is a volatile organic compound, or VOC, that’s found naturally in crude oil and thus in gasoline and vehicle exhaust.

There are already low levels of benzene in the air all around us due to air pollution from motor vehicle exhaust. 

Researcher's from Health Canada’s indoor air section has conducted studies measuring levels of the gas in homes across Canada. 

Benzene levels in houses with attached garages were found to be around three times higher than of other houses without garages.

And even after a car is turned off, the engine will continue to emit benzene into the air as it sits in the garage. 

Paints and solvents that many homeowners store in their garage may also emit benzene as they slowly evaporate. 

Health Canada, the World Health Organization, and the European Commission recommend that people reduce their exposure to benzene as much as possible. 

Studies have shown that benzene can definitely cause problems if people are exposed to high levels over long periods of time.

Workers in industrial settings exposed to high levels of benzene have been shown to have a much higher risk of leukemia.

Benzene is dangerous because of the damage it can do to the blood. 

It causes bone marrow not to produce enough red blood cells, while also damaging the immune system by not creating enough white blood cells.

Homeowner are advised to never idle a vehicle inside a garage, but to let it warm up outside. 

Other recommendations for minimizing the transfer of garage air to the home include:

   Make sure the weather stripping around the door to the garage is continuous and in good shape;

   Have spray foam insulation installed to seal the wall between the house and garage. Then drywall can be installed over top to further reduce air leakage;

   A similar approach can be taken to seal the ceiling space between the garage and any rooms above. This will also help reduce energy costs and keep the floors warmer; and

   Another approach involves installing an exhaust fan to vent garage air to the outside. The fan would also help depressurize the garage relative to the house, thereby preventing air movement from the garage to the house, even if leaks exist.

Importance of Travel Insurance

Graham Marshall - Friday, May 03, 2013

While we were on holiday in Bali this past week, the importance of having good-quality travel insurance was brought home!

We were eating Canapes and drinking evening cocktails when one of our family party was inadvertently stung by a bee on the tongue.

It appears that the bee had fallen, unnoticed, into a Mohijto!  Ouch.

Anyway, a quick call out of a local Doctor and the need for a strong steroid injection and some anti-histamine drugs soon had everything under control.

But this wasn't cheap!  So the holiday insurance was well worth while.

And it just goes to show, that although we can all be good at hazard spotting, risk is never, ever, zero; so mitigation and recovery controls (such as insurance) are always appropriate.

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.

Clearing Snow from Public Paths is a Good Idea

Graham Marshall - Tuesday, January 22, 2013

With the recent snow across the UK, good neighborly people should be reassured that there is no legal risk for clearing snow from public paths outside your home; providing you take sensible precautions that most folks would find "reasonable".

Being told that you shouldn't be clearing up snow for 'health and safety reasons' is a load of rubbish!

There is really no need to fear being sued if somebody fell on snow that had not been swept up.

If you are actively making things better rather than making a situation worse, it is going to be very difficult for someone to successfully bring a case against you.

So clearing the snow is simply one demonstration of our community-spiritedness across the UK.

Clearing a path for the postman, or doing our neighbours' drives when we do our own should not be stopped for spurious "health and safety" reasons - no such reasons exist.

The Government even published the Snow Code a couple of years ago to reassure people that they need not be put off clearing paths because they're afraid someone will get injured.

It said: "Don't believe the myths - it's unlikely you'll be sued or held legally responsible for any injuries if you have cleared the path carefully."

So "health and safety" is not a barrier to doing the neighbourly thing, in fact just the opposite!

With the snow now falling all across the UK, everyone can do their bit. Even small efforts can make a big difference.

Accident Deaths in the UK

Graham Marshall - Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Falling over at home is now twice has likely to kill people in the UK in relation to being killed in a car crash.

Since the early 1990s, when there were more people killed in car wrecks in the UK, the number of accidental deaths in the home has risen to about 5,000 per year.  But deaths in car accidents have fallen by a third to about 2,000 each year on UK roads.

The report into accidental death in the UK, published by the Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents shows that falls account for most accidental deaths in the home; and accidental poisoning by carbon monoxide is another major killer.

The RSPA noted that road safety improvements have come about because of a systematic road safety strategy led by the Department for Transport, but that accident prevention in the home had been "sidelined" by the National Health Service (NHS) which focused exclusively on treating people rather than preventing harm.

Aussie BBQ Safety Tips

Graham Marshall - Thursday, November 22, 2012

As BBQs are brought out for the summer season across Australia, we're warning people to be careful when firing up the grill or filling up the gas cylinder.

There have already been a spate of recent petrol station fires and a series of LPG and barbecue fires caused largely by wear and tear on gas hoses and burners.

The petrol station fires have been caused by unsafe decanting of LPG into smaller cylinders for use in barbecues.

LPG cylinders should be placed on the ground to limit the risk of static electricity build from the flow of gas.

They should also never be left unattended while being filled as this can lead to overfilling and gas escaping.

In NSW alone, the fire service has dealt with 64 barbecue fires and 67 leaking or damaged LPG cylinders and hoses, most from barbecue cylinders.

If LPG cylinders and hoses looked old or perished, they should be checked by a specialist at local barbecue, camping or caravan stores. He said a new hose and regulator for gas cylinders could be purchased for less than $50.

Here are some other safety tips for this year's BBQ season:

 Never use an LPG cylinder indoors or in a confined space;

 Check cylinders for rust or damage and make sure connections are clear and fit properly before lighting;

 Follow the manufacturer's instructions and use the correct start-up and shut-down procedures;

 After use, make sure the gas is turned off at the cylinder;

 Never put flammable liquid on to a BBQ;

 Keep children away from the BBQ and store lighters and matches in a secure place;

 If a gas leak occurs and it is safe to do so, shut off the cylinder immediately and allow any gas to disperse; and

 In an emergency, get away, stay away and call triple-0.

Preventing Electrical Fires

Graham Marshall - Sunday, November 18, 2012

This is the final post in our week-long special focus on electrical hazards.  We're finishing-up the campaign with a focus on the danger associated with electrical fires; and to prevent them and manage them if they do occur.  So read on for the tips of the day: 

 ●  If any of your  tools give off any mild electric shocks, replace them immedaitely; 
●  Replace light switches that cause flickering; 
●  It's generally OK for switches to feel warm, but if they feel hot they need to be replaced; 
●  Replace all damaged power cables and extension cords; 
●  Never attempt to push a three-prong plug into a two-holed socket; 
●  If you don’t have the expertise and certification for electrical work, don't attempt DIY repairs; 
●  Fight any electrical fire with an appropriate fire extinguisher; 

●  Learn how to use a fire extinguisher effectively;

 ●  If your circuit breaker trips-out after you’ve reset it, it's a warning that there’s a short-circuit in your home or office; 
●  Turn off electrical appliances when they’re not in use; and

●  Keep all flammable and combustible materials away from heaters and any appliances that get hot.

Electrical Safety in the Outdoors

Graham Marshall - Saturday, November 17, 2012

Making sure that you're safe when using or working near electrical power sources is just as important when you're outside your home or office as it is for when you're working or relaxing indoors.

As part of our focus on electrical safety this week, today we're providing some tips on protecting yourself from electricity in the great outdoors.  So here are the tips of the day:

●  Always keep a safe distance from overhead power lines;

●  Check for underground buried electrical services before digging ("dial before you dig");
●  Keep garden trees pruned and far away from the power lines which may enter your home as well;

●  Never fly kites, balloons, or model airplanes near overhead power lines;

●  Never situate or climb on a ladder that could fall on or very close to a power line;

●  Be on the lookout for power lines when using a chainsaw or other outdoor equipment;

●  Never swim in your pool (or other water body) during an electrical storm;

●  If a power line is knocked down to street level, do not touch it;

●  If you see fallen power lines, contact your local authorities immediately;

●  Never climb the fence that surrounds any electrical substation;
●  If your pet, ball or other property  finds its way inside a fenced sub-station, call the electric company;

●  Keep electrical appliances and out of the rain, off of wet surfaces, and away from pools, ponds, or water: and
●  Only allow outdoor outlets on a circuit guarded by a Residual Current Device (RCD) or Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI).

Light Globe Safety Tips

Graham Marshall - Friday, November 16, 2012

Question: How many psychologists does it take to change a light globe?

Answer: Only one - but the globe really has to want to change!

It's an old joke; but getting a shock or being killed when messing with electricity is not so funny.  So here are some tips as part of our electrical safety campaign which relate to the use of light globes around your home and office:

●  Use bulbs with the correct wattage. Higher wattage bulbs may cause overheating;

●  Always screw bulbs tightly; beware loose bulbs, which could cause shorts-circuits leading to electrical fires;

●  Always unplug or switch off the light or lamp before replacing a light bulb;
●  Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL);

●  CFL globes provide the same level of light at a lower wattage level.  So they're safer and better for the environment.  They'll also save you some money in the longer-term; and
●  If a CFL bulb breaks, open the windows and evacuate the room for 15 minutes before cleaning up the breakage.

Power Socket Safety Tips

Graham Marshall - Thursday, November 15, 2012

Today's focus as part of our electrical safety campaign is on the safe use of  power sockets.  Read below for the key tips on this topic:

●  Block unused outlets with a solid cover plate or childproof caps. Few electrical safety tips are more important when you have young children in the house;

●  Ensure that all wall-mounted power sockets ("outlets") are encased with solid, secure plates so that all the wiring is enclosed;
●  Do not overloading power sockets or outlets with large numbers of extension cables and temporary power box's;;
●  Never place anything into the power socket holes except for the appropriately-sized plug; and
●  Always install a residual current device (RCD) or ground fault circuit interrupter in your home and office.

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