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Asbestos Exposure at Work

Asbestos Exposure at Work

Asbestos exposure at work is the primary cause of mesothelioma and asbestosis. Being around asbestos puts people at risk for several types of cancer and serious pulmonary diseases. While asbestos was widely used in construction until recently, some occupations have higher risks of exposure to asbestos in the workplace.

 

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is the name given to a group of naturally occurring mineral silicates. Asbestos is strong, inert, resilient and flexible and therefore almost indestructible. On paper, this material would appear as the ideal material. Indeed, until recently it was used in a wide range of products requiring heat resistance and insulation properties. However, today we know without doubt that asbestos is responsible for asbestos-related diseases such as cancers of the chest and lungs. These diseases will not occur immediately and can take from 15 – 60 years to develop.

There is no safe level of exposure to any form of asbestos! For additional information about asbestos in the workplace, please see eLearn Safety blog entry from 16th June 2023 titled Asbestos in the Workplace.

 

Why is Asbestos Exposure Dangerous?

Asbestos exposure is very dangerous. Asbestos produces its effects because of the size, strength, sharpness and rugged shape of the tiny fibers it releases. In addition, some of its chemical characteristics play a role. The health hazards arise when these small fibres become airborne and enter the body. The body’s natural defence mechanisms can reject large, visible dust particles and fibres. Unfortunately, small fibres reaching inner tissues are those that are both difficult to remove and the most damaging. They are particularly dangerous because they cannot be seen by the naked eye under normal circumstances. Furthermore, they are too small (less than 5 microns in length) to be trapped by conventional dust filter masks.

To learn some essential information about asbestos hazards, we recommend the eLearn Safety fully online Asbestos Awareness course. The aim of this course is to provide information on the identification and the prevention of occupational illness from exposure to respirable asbestos fibres.

 

Asbestos Exposure at Work

Asbestos exposure at work mostly refers to construction related activities. However, not only construction workers can become exposed to asbestos. In addition to construction workers, firefighters, industrial workers, power plant workers, shipyard workers and any other persons exposed to asbestos dust can become affected.

Asbestos found in construction work is usually encountered in the demolition or refurbishments processes. However, even simple jobs such as drilling partitions or removing ceiling tiles can disturb asbestos dust. It is important to be aware that asbestos can be found in composite materials such as concrete products and tiles. Asbestos was used as an additive in these products to provide strength, durability and flame resistance. Therefore, neither the colour nor the fibrous look of a substance is a reliable guide. The only reliable identification of the presence of the asbestos is by microscopic analysis in the laboratory. It is therefore safe to assume that any building built (or refurbished) in Ireland before the year 2000 might contain asbestos. A detailed survey will be required to identify where asbestos is present in your building. An asbestos survey must be carried out by a competent person.

 

The Law

The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Exposure to Asbestos) Regulations, 2006 and 2010 are the key regulations relating to asbestos in the workplace. In simple terms, any work with asbestos insulation (for example, pipe/ thermal insulation), asbestos coatings (for example, ‘limpet’ spray coating) or asbestos insulating board must be carried out by competent specialist asbestos contractors. Any maintenance or repair work with asbestos insulation, spray coatings or asbestos insulating board should be restricted to specialist asbestos contractors. Specialised training is required for workers involved – see Section 9 of the HSA Guidance Document.

All asbestos removal or abatement work must be carried out by competent persons who have sufficient training, experience and knowledge appropriate to the nature of the work to be undertaken. This must include practical training. An asbestos awareness course is not sufficient. The asbestos awareness course is a general asbestos awareness course recommended for anyone in the construction industry for general asbestos awareness.

Section 12 of the HSA Guidance Document provides advice on selection of a specialist asbestos contractor.

 

Online Health and Safety Training

Proactive Health and Safety training is critical to ensure a safe workplace. An effective training program can reduce the number of worker injuries and deaths. It can also reduce instances of property damage, legal liability, illnesses, and missed time from work.

Health and Safety training helps establish a culture in which employees themselves help promote proper safety procedures while on the job. It is important that new employees be properly trained and embrace the importance of workplace safety. The role of training in developing and maintaining effective hazard control activities is a proven and successful method of intervention.

This is why we have established Myelearnsafety school. We pride ourselves in how we guide, support and mentor our students. They receive support throughout their learning experience and into their working lives. Our staff have extensive training experience and also have many years industry experience. We understand the challenges that exist within Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety. Our priority is to ensure that all learners are fully prepared to differentiate themselves in the workplace after completing our Health and Safety courses.

Myelearnsafety offers fully online Health and Safety courses.

To find out more, please check our Courses page.

Alternatively, should you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to let us know via email info@elearn.ie

eLearn asbestos-exposure-at-work

eLearn Online Health and Safety Training

Ergonomics in the Workplace

Ergonomics is the study of working interactions between humans and machines/workstations and the factors that affect those interactions. Stemming from the Greek words ‘ergo’ & ‘nomus’ (workflow) it is in simple terms ‘fitting’ the job to the person as opposed to fitting the person to the job.

 

Origins of the Ergonomics

Ergonomic practitioners draw upon a number of different disciplines. Some of these are ‘biomechanics’ (the study of human movement and the associated laws) and ‘anthropometry’ (the study of human measurements). These disciplines assist ergonomic practitioners in identifying ergonomic risk factors.

 

Importance of Ergonomics in the Workplace

Failure to apply the principles of ergonomics within the workplace i.e., a busy office environment or warehouse can result in chronic or acute musculoskeletal injuries. If left unchecked can result in functional limitations. Employees working in such environments are also susceptible to RSI ‘repetitive strain injuries’ and WRULD ‘work related upper limb disorders’.

When designing workstations ergonomic considerations are of significant importance. An ergonomic risk assessment can help to identify issues with existing workstations. However prior to conducting a risk assessment a task analysis should be conducted. A task analysis is conducted in order to get an appreciation of an employee’s daily routine. A task analysis will highlight current or potential issues for the employee, time spent at the work station, breaks, and shift work. All these should all be taken into consideration. In addition, biomechanics and anthropometrics will also play a part at this point.

 

Ergonomic Tools

Ergonomic practitioners can utilize a number of tools in order to assist them in rating the risks accordingly:

In addition, eLearn  Safety offers a full online VDU/DSE course. This course is fully online and can be taken 24/7. On completion of this VDU training course, participants will be provided with the information necessary to ensure current legislation is complied, risk assessments are carried out and all employees are competent to adjust their work stations to provide a safe place to work in.

Furthermore, a task analysis will help to identify if an employer is compliant with current legislation under the SHWW Act 2005. An office employees’ display screen is in essence a visual display unit. Therefore an employer must adhere to the guidance document within the general application regulations pertaining to VDU’s and display screen equipment.

 

Ergonomics in the Workplace Recommendations

Where office workers should be afforded the option to conduct his/her work both in the seated and standing position, employers must ensure chairs and VDU’s have the ability to be adjusted to suit all employees and consider frequent breaks and job rotation where practicable. Employers should also promote good working practices. For example, encouraging staff to make recommendations based on their working environments. If working in a warehouse or on a manufacturing line, workers should use appropriate equipment. A proper equipment will aid them in their jobs. Some of the examples are foot stools, foot rests, anti-glare eye protection, etc.

Employers should always be cognizant of the fact that ‘one shoe does not fit all’ when it comes to ergonomic assessments. For example a tall employee may feel cramped in a small area whereas a short employee may be uncomfortable if constantly reaching for items or if their feet are not supported when sitting.

Thus, structuring the working environment in order to suit the user is a step away from Taylors’ method of ‘scientific management’. Such a method, regardless of body shape and size or indeed the work being undertaken, was standardized across the board and the worker had to adapt him/herself to the factory conditions or face the prospect of dismissal and future injuries as a result.

 

Ergonomics Assessments

Ergonomic assessments are not difficult to undertake, and when carried out effectively can help to reduce the risk of ergonomic injuries and pain. In turn, this will help to motivate employees, allowing them to be more productive and happier in the working environment. Employers should always be aware of their responsibilities to their employees under the SHAWW Act and take the necessary steps to create risk free working environments where possible. Employees must also be aware of their rights and support any safety initiatives the employer wishes to implement, as the saying goes, ‘the rising tide floats every boat’.

 

Online Health and Safety Training

Proactive Health and Safety training is critical to ensure a safe workplace. An effective training program can reduce the number of worker injuries and deaths. It can also reduce instances of property damage, legal liability, illnesses, and missed time from work.

Health and Safety training helps establish a culture in which employees themselves help promote proper safety procedures while on the job. It is important that new employees be properly trained and embrace the importance of workplace safety. The role of training in developing and maintaining effective hazard control activities is a proven and successful method of intervention.

This is why we have established Myelearsafety school. We pride ourselves in how we guide, support and mentor our students. They receive support throughout their learning experience and into their working lives. Our staff have extensive training experience and also have many years industry experience. We understand the challenges that exist within Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety. Our priority is to ensure that all learners are fully prepared to differentiate themselves in the workplace after completing our Health and Safety courses.

Myelearnsafety offers fully online Health and Safety courses.

To find out more, please check our Courses page.

Alternatively, should you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to let us know via email info@elearn.ie

Working in Confined Spaces

Working in confined spaces is a high risk working environment.

 

What does it mean Working in Confined Space

Any significantly enclosed space where there is a risk of death or serious injury from hazardous substances, lack of oxygen or other dangerous conditions is classed as a confined space. Confined spaces with small openings such as silos, drains, sewers and storage tanks are fairly obvious. Others are not. Ductwork, vats, open-topped chambers may be less obvious.

 

Before Working in Confined Space Commence

Before working in confined space commences, certain steps should be taken. All hazards present must be identified and the risks assessed. This information should then be used to determine what precautions are needed and safety procedures developed (including emergency rescue).

 

Confined Space Entry

If working in confined spaces can be avoided – it should be avoided.

According to the Health and Safety Authority of Ireland and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Confined Spaces) Regulations 2001, Regulation 5 states that:

A person shall not carry out work in Confined Spaces if it is reasonably practicable that it could be avoided.

If the work must be carried out Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment must be carried out prior to the work commencing.

A person shall not enter a confined space unless there is a system of work in place that has been planned, organised, performed and maintained so as to render that work safe and without risk to health.

Anyone entering a confined space must be provided with appropriate information, training and instruction appropriate to the particular characteristics of the proposed work activities.

 

Questions to Ask

Before working in confined space commence, the following should be considered:

If someone is working in a confined space, think about the following:

Always:

Never:

 

Useful Resources

The Health and Safety Authority of Ireland (HSA) has a very useful info page titled Working in Confined Spaces. This page covers some of the most frequently asked questions about working in confined spaces.

In addition, the UK’s Health and Safety Executive info page titled Introduction to working in confined spaces can provide additional very useful information about working in confined spaces.

 

Tragic Example

As The Irish Times reported; on June 10th, 2015 brothers Alan (45) and Stephen Harris (32) were overcome by fumes while working in an underground sewer at Drumnigh Woods, Portmarnock, Co Dublin. They were taken from the sewer and taken to hospital but unfortunately died of hypoxia due to toxic levels of hydrogen sulphide.

The brothers were wearing wader boots and rain jackets and Stephen Harris was wearing a dust mask.

A toxic gas incident that claimed the lives of two brothers almost killed a fireman attempting to rescue them.

How It Could Have Been Avoided

Health and Safety Authority inspector Frank Kerins said the job required specialist equipment in accordance with confined space regulations, including a gas detector and breathing apparatus.

 

Online Health and Safety Training

Proactive Health and Safety training is critical to ensure a safe workplace. An effective training program can reduce the number of worker injuries and deaths. It can also reduce instances of property damage, legal liability, illnesses, and missed time from work.

Health and Safety training helps establish a culture in which employees themselves help promote proper safety procedures while on the job. It is important that new employees be properly trained and embrace the importance of workplace safety. The role of training in developing and maintaining effective hazard control activities is a proven and successful method of intervention.

This is why we have established Myelearsafety school. We pride ourselves in how we guide, support and mentor our students. They receive support throughout their learning experience and into their working lives. Our staff have extensive training experience and also have many years industry experience. We understand the challenges that exist within Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety. Our priority is to ensure that all learners are fully prepared to differentiate themselves in the workplace after completing our Health and Safety courses.

Myelearnsafety offers fully online Health and Safety courses.

To find out more, please check our Courses page.

Alternatively, should you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to let us know via email info@elearn.ie

Dangers of Vibration at Work

Use of plant and equipment that produces vibration is often not considered as a serious risk and dangers of vibration at work are often overlooked.

Vibration is the transmission of force from work processes into the worker. The Health and Safety Authority of Ireland (HSA) defines vibrations as ‘rapid movement to and fro or oscillating movement‘.

 

Examples of Vibration at Work

People in the course of their work life may be exposed to many sources of vibration. Dangers of vibration at work are more often overlooked than not. Some vibration affects the whole body (WBV), e.g. when driving a dumper truck over rough and even ground. Here the vibration, in the form of large shocks or jolts, is transmitted to the whole body via their feet or the seat. This could cause injury to the lower back and spine.

The most common problem is Hand Arm Vibration (HAV). HAV is caused by exposure to vibration, e.g. from using hand power tools. This can be very disabling, causing severe pain in hands and arms and lack of hand movement and feeling in the fingers. It is preventable but permanent once the damage is done.

 

Dangers of Vibration at Work – HAV Symptoms

The most common HAV symptoms to look for are:

 

Dangers of Vibration at Work – HAV Controls

Dangers of vibration at work, i.e. risk from vibrating tools or machines can be minimised by:

Health surveillance is crucial to spot and respond to early signs of damage.

 

Dangers of Vibration at Work – Further Reading

Chapter 2 of Part 5 and Schedule 6 to the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 (S.I. No. 299 of 2007) as amended by the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) (Amended) Regulations 2007 (S.I. No. 732 of 2007) sets down the minimum requirements for the protection of workers from the health risks associated with vibration in the workplace. This is a legislation that looks into dangers of vibration at work.

The Health and Safety Authority of Ireland (HSA) on their webpage Vibration at Work provide relevant to vibration at work information.

 

Online Health and Safety Training

Proactive Health and Safety training is critical to ensure a safe workplace. An effective training program can reduce the number of worker injuries and deaths. It can also reduce instances of property damage, legal liability, illnesses, and missed time from work.

Health and Safety training helps establish a culture in which employees themselves help promote proper safety procedures while on the job. It is important that new employees be properly trained and embrace the importance of workplace safety. The role of training in developing and maintaining effective hazard control activities is a proven and successful method of intervention.

This is why we have established Myelearsafety school. We pride ourselves in how we guide, support and mentor our students. They receive support throughout their learning experience and into their working lives. Our staff have extensive training experience and also have many years industry experience. We understand the challenges that exist within Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety. Our priority is to ensure that all learners are fully prepared to differentiate themselves in the workplace after completing our Health and Safety courses.

Myelearnsafety offers fully online Health and Safety courses.

To find out more, please check our Courses page.

Alternatively, should you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to let us know via email info@elearn.ie