Health and Safety Training to Reduce Workplace Injuries

Think of Health and Safety in a workplace situation and one’s thoughts would most typically focus upon a building site, or some other situation in which danger is commonplace in some respects obvious.

Some jobs are simply risky by nature and yet need still to be performed. Police, fire and ambulance crews take a substantial risk each time they speed through the traffic towards the scene of an incident. Firemen enter burning buildings to save lives, sometimes risking their own. Lifeboat crews venture out in often treacherous waters to rescue people who may have become stranded at sea. In these situations an element of danger comes as part and parcel of the job.

And yet nobody should ever be exposed to more risk than is absolutely necessary.

What are probably less evident are the potential dangers that are present in almost any area of working life. Search the Internet and there are stories aplenty about people in what are ostensibly the most harmless and sedentary jobs sustaining the most unlikely injuries. Waiting staff scolding themselves whilst carrying cups of hot tea, gardeners losing concentration chopping off their toes with the lawnmower, business people walking headlong into sparkling glass doors or windows whilst pursuing a “deal” on their mobiles.

There will always be freak accidents of this kind in any walk of life, but it is a good idea nevertheless to take sensible precautions to minimise the chances of them occurring.

Health and Safety of course is about more than simply preventing accidents. In many jobs workers have suffered long-term illness or injury as a result of unsatisfactory working conditions and lack of basic protection. Asbestosis is a particularly awful example, whilst on a less deadly but still very serious level employees using computers and keyboards over prolonged periods have suffered eye damage, repeated headaches and loss of motion in the hands.

Anyone running a business that employs people will want to reduce the risk of injury to one’s employees as much as is at all possible, both from a basic sense of responsibility and, of course, to minimise lost work time as well as the threat of legal action and compensation claims.

To this end most major companies employ dedicated Health and Safety officers, whose job is solely to ensure that the requirements of Health and Safety legislation and indeed general good practice are strictly adhered to. For small to medium sized businesses on the other hand it frequently makes good sense to outsource the work of Health and Safety training to an independent, external provider.

Buying in the services of expert safety consultants to make sure legislation is understood and adhered to both makes good economic sense and provides one’s workforce with the security of knowing that everything possible is being done to ensure their safety in the workplace.

DSE Training – Health and Safety When Using a Computer

To the untrained eye the phrase ‘Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Training’ sounds like it could be something to do with learning about fixing computers. But don’t be fooled by the words! DSE training is for anyone who regularly uses a computer.

In January 1993 The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 came into effect. These ‘new’ display screen regulations became necessary because of the rise in use of display screen equipment, to protect the health of everyone “who habitually uses display screen equipment as a significant part of his normal work”. The computer health and safety display screen regulations even apply to employees who work from home if they sit at a screen for a good part of their work.

Of course, using a screen should not be considered as really dangerous. In fact there has been a great deal of ICT health and safety studies carried out, for example into how a computer may affect eyesight, and the results show there’s no evidence that it causes disease or permanent damage to eyes. The majority of safety concerns related to using a computer are related to poor posture. A relatively high number of DSE workers, particularly those who haven’t carried out DSE training, complain about aches and pains, eyestrain and headaches.

Aches and pains can be in the fingers, hands, wrists, arms, shoulders and backs – these are musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) but are often referred to as repetitive strain injuries (RSI). If nothing is done to help, and staff aren’t given DSE training, these aches and pains may well become serious. A poor typing position and not taking regular breaks are common causes of RSI injuries.

Headaches and eyestrain may be exacerbated by screen glare from a poorly positioned computer screen, incorrect contrast on the screen, screen characters which are too small or not in sharp focus or spending too long looking at the screen without a break. Stress from workload and badly designed software can also be a big factor in causing tension headaches.

Statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that although work-related MSDs are on the decrease, they still make up an alarming proportion of the work-related illnesses each year. In 2010/2011 nearly 1.2 million working people were suffering from a work-related illness and of these nearly half (508,000) were musculoskeletal disorders. MSDs are not only the result of computer use of course, other factors such as poor manual handling technique also plays a part.

It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to avoid computer health and safety problems. Just a few simple adjustments may be all that’s needed to eliminate health concerns and meet display screen regulations. With good posture, a well laid-out and well-positioned workstation, regular breaks and, if possible, the ability to change or alternate tasks during the course of the day many of the problems will be alleviated.

For example, a few adjustments to seating and posture may stop that gradual build-up of pain across the shoulders, or in the small of the back. The chair should be adjustable to allow it to be the correct height for the desk, and legs should be able to move comfortably. The chair back should also tilt and adjust up and down to a position to support the small of the back securely. It’s a bit like getting into the driver’s seat of a car which has been driven by someone else – it needs to be adjusted for each driver before they start driving the car.

We tend to take for granted how we sit, but poor posture can have a huge effect on health and safety. It’s important to keep the curves in the back in alignment – that means no slumping, stretching or twisting – and this could mean rearranging the things on the desk and in the immediate vicinity to a more logical position (the things used most should be the easiest to get at). Again, comparing to the layout of a car – the positioning of everything around the driver has had a lot of thought put into it – everything is in easy reach – partially to avoid the driver looking away from the road but also to avoid awkward stretching – even the controls for the sound system are often duplicated on the steering wheel.

Perhaps, similar to a motorway ‘take a break’ should flash up at intervals on the computer screen of regular users!

A simple adjustment to the workday or workstation can greatly reduce the gradual build up of pain and tension. DSE training discusses these adjustments in further detail, and helps employers meet display screen equipment regulations. Choosing DSE training which ends with a DSE assessment will give employers proof of what their staff have learnt.

Health and Safety Training Courses – What Do They Teach?

Most governments make it mandatory for businesses, and organizations to conduct health and safety training for their employees. Undergoing the training makes it possible for employers, authorities, and their staff to implement safe practices in workplace and respond immediately and effectively if an accident or health hazard occurs. The training not only helps when occupational hazards or problems such as fire or earthquake hits but also assists in maintaining practices which would ensure safety in the work place or anywhere else.

The lessons taught in the health and safety training varies from course to course. The basic courses give training on basic safety and healthy practices and how to follow them. Other courses provide guidance on areas such as health and safety legislation, fire, first aid, food safety, manual handling etc which would range over all sectors of work. The fire training usually involves responding to fire alarms, using fire extinguishers and other means of extinguishing fire, training classes for fire marshals and fire wardens and information on the methods which would help prevent fire.

First aid courses in health and safety training include recognizing and providing primary care for sudden illness and injuries so as to maintain the person stable till medical personnel arrives on the scene. It would also include performing CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) on adults. Other courses include emergency evacuation, hazard communication, management of hazardous waste, laboratory safety, electrical safety, tool safety, bio safety etc. Depending up on your occupation and needs you can apply for the courses, though basic health and safety training (which provides guidance on healthy practices, practicing safety etc) would be mandatory for all employees.

You could find many health and safety training courses online. The applicability of these courses would depend on your own requirement as well as what you already know. For example many centers offer courses such as alarm response, bio safety, office orientation, electrical safety, earthquake safety emergency procedures, refresher courses etc online. These may include learning materials which do not require practical training (unlike classes such as first aid, fire warden, and material handling). Some of these courses may require prior training. The requirements vary from course to course.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) is a United States federal law which oversees health and safety in both the public and private workplace sectors. Signed into law by President Nixon in 1970, the goal of the law is to ensure the workplace safety of employees, by requiring employers to remove potential hazards such as unsanitary conditions, toxic chemicals, mechanical dangers, and excessive noise.

The legal forerunners of OSHA were introduced with the passing of the Safety Appliance Act in 1893. This was the first federal law to require workplace safety equipment, although it only applied to railroad workers. Later, in 1910, after a series of deadly mine explosions, Congress created the Bureau of the Mines to research improvements in mine safety. With the increased industrial production following World War II, accidents in the workplace soared to an all time high. In the two years preceding the introduction of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, about 14,000 employees died each year from accidents and another 2 million were injured on the job. Additionally, the increase in the use of manufacturing chemicals exposed workers to greater amounts of hazards.

Heightened awareness in the mid 1960’s about the environmental impact of chemical usage increased the public’s interest in protecting worker safety, as exposure to toxins was greater for employees than the environment into which the chemicals were dumped. After President Johnson tried to introduce a comprehensive worker protection bill that later failed, President Nixon proposed OSHA. This compromise bill was less demanding on the employers, although it did utilize the Department of Labor’s ability to enforce employer violations. OSHA officially went into effect on April 28, 1971, which is now celebrated as Worker’s Memorial Day by many American Labor Unions.

OSHA also created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an agency within the Department of Labor. This Administration has the jurisdiction to create and enforce workplace standards. The Act also formed the independent Occupational Health and Safety Review Commission to review enforcement actions. Finally, OSHA also established the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), another autonomous research organization that forms a part of the Center for Disease Control. By creating independent investigative agencies, OSHA effectively created a systems of bureaucratic checks and balances for the best of worker protection laws and to provide a fair and methodological enforcement of such rules.

The Basics of Occupational Health and Safety

Occupational health is described as the discipline that aims to promote the health and safety of workers in their respective workplaces. It intends to create a safe and healthy work environment for the worker. According to the International Labor Organization and the World Health Organization, occupational health aims in promoting and maintaining the well-being of workers in all occupations; preventing diseases, accidents, and death during work or employment; and protecting the workers from causes of such diseases and accidents. Occupational health also ensures that the worker is able to adapt well to his or her occupational environment, thus, enabling that worker to do his or her work well.

With these in mind, an occupational health professional is responsible to ensure the health and safety of the workers. One of his or her functions is to identify the hazards and risks in the workplace that may make a worker sick or may cause injury to that person. This is usually done through a risk assessment in the area. The occupational health professional can also give advice on how to minimize these hazards to prevent injury and illness.

Before discussing interventions usually done in occupational health and safety, the words “hazard” and “risk” have to be distinguished from one another. A hazard refers to anything that may cause harm to a worker. Now, if there is a likelihood that a certain hazard will occur, that would mean that there is a risk for a certain illness or injury to take place. For example, if a factory worker is exposed to too much noise generated from different equipment and machines in that factory for a long time, he or she might have the risk of suffering from hearing loss. The hazard being described here is exposure to too much noise, while the risk is acquiring hearing loss.

How are these hazards being controlled? Controlling the hazards and avoiding the risks are usually done through changes in equipment used and setting like substitution of hazardous equipment, automation of some machines, and setting up facilities that help in controlling hazards. Changes in administrative or workplace policies and use of personal protective equipment can also be performed to protect the worker from injury or illness.

It is very important for employers to take note of the health and well-being of the workers. In the long run, not only the workers and employers would benefit from having good occupational health and safety practices, but also the family members of each worker, neighbors living near the workplace, and eventually, the whole community would gain positive effects, particularly lesser health-related costs.

  • Tag cloud

    No tags.