November Newsletter

Summer, the festive season and the New Year break are right around the corner! With many organisations tackling the end of year rush, we’ve included our top tips for Christmas stress busting below, and have one final Psychological First Aid course scheduled for 2019.

Helping Kiwi businesses take care of the health and wellbeing of their teams is what we do best, and TriEx’s focus on mental health and emotional wellbeing is an important part of our offering. Check out our November newsletter online for more info.

Case Study: Supporting the Emotional Wellbeing of SkyCity Staff

SkyCity’s Health and Safety team performed exceptionally while safeguarding the physical and emotional wellbeing of its staff during the events of last month’s fire. TriEx was proud to support them through the first response phase, with two of our Christchurch-based team members going above and beyond to provide additional support and expertise.

SkyCity contacted our team the day the fire began with a request for us to send support. As luck would have it, Donevon Viljoen was already in Auckland with plans to teach a first aid course that day. Fellow First Aid InstructorRick Eisenhart joined him shortly after, boarding a plane from Christchurch within hours to land in Auckland that evening.

Donevon and Rick’s vast experience in first aid and psychological first aid training proved invaluable during this time – as did their backgrounds; with Donevon having worked as a Paramedic in South Africa, and Rick having 35+ years’ of fire fighting experience both in New Zealand and abroad. The pair worked tirelessly over five busy days (and nights!), with a key focus on providing emotional support and techniques to relieve anxiety and stress to the hundreds of SkyCity staff onsite.

“The key thing for us was to touch base with the staff and talk to them about how they were doing,” said Rick, who described SkyCity’s response in dealing with the incident as “absolutely fabulous”.

Donevon agreed that the efficient management of the response efforts – and SkyCity’s transparency and willingness to provide TriEx with all-areas access – ensured the best possible outcomes for staff onsite.

“As soon as we arrived onsite, we met with Peter Hayes (Group GM Health and Safety SkyCity) who was running the health and safety response for the precinct. 

“We were briefed about what SkyCity’s response was and what was expected of us, and then Rick and I began the task of briefing staff returning to the precinct about the measures being taken to ensure their safety and wellbeing. A significant part of this was talking them through the kinds of emotional responses they could expect re-entering an evacuated area.”

Kitted out in hi-vis gear, which is ordinarily not allowed on casino premises, Rick and Donevon made themselves visible and available to all SkyCity staff across all different shift patterns, including security, dealers, cleaning staff, kitchen staff and reception.

“After walking through the entire facility and being briefed by one of New Zealand’s leading Occupational Hygienists, Derek Miller, we were able to reassure staff that no particulates had been found in any of the tests conducted, and that the site was safe,” said Rick.

“It was really important to acknowledge that it was completely normal for them not to be feeling right, and encourage them to talk about their thoughts and concerns, and really listen to them. Sometimes we’d break the ice with a funny handshake, and that injection of humour was just what some of the staff needed to feel a bit more relaxed.

“We started with a briefing on how they would feel being back onsite, and then we’d continue to touch base with staff throughout the casino each day. We spent entire days walking around the site and just talking with people, and walking them through different techniques to relieve stress and anxiety. We’d circle back past employees later in the day and see them practicing the techniques we’d shown them, so it was really cool to see them putting that into action.”

Rick and Donevon understood the importance of looking after their own wellbeing throughout the course of the 120-hour fortnight – making it a priority to walk around outside and catch up for a debrief at the end of each day.

“It was a real team effort,” said Rick. “Anatoly, who is also a First Aid Instructor at TriEx, was supposed to be on leave. He changed his schedule to fill the gaps our absence at training courses left, which we really appreciated.

“TriEx management blocked out a day for us after our return to Christchurch, so the entire team was really supportive.”

All of us at TriEx would like to extend a huge THANK YOU to Rick and Donevon for their incredible effort in support of SkyCity’s health and safety team and SkyCity staff. Your care, compassion and wisdom is an amazing resource for our clients!

Seasonal Stress Busting Tips

Christmas is widely regarded as the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be a time when stress levels soar. There’s often personal pressure to create the picture-perfect holiday, added financial strain and even increased family conflict – not to mention more stress at work thanks to holiday-shortened deadlines, anxious clients and customers, and frenzied end-of-year workloads.

Feeling overwhelmed by an increased To Do list, disappointed by unrealistic expectations and worried about money are some of the chief symptoms of the holiday blues – and with some retailers promoting the season as early as October, fatigue can begin to set in even earlier.

Most of us are aware of the adverse effects that stress can have on our emotional and physical wellbeing. In fact, studies have shown a correlation in the increased occurrence of heart attacks during the festive season, which may be due to increased stress, combined with heavy alcohol consumption and a fattier-than-usual diet.

Whether you’re looking for ideas to reduce your own holiday stress levels, or to help get your workers through the added pressure of the festive season, we’ve put together some top tips to help stop silly season stress in its tracks.

At Home: Be Mindful of Finances 

Financial strain is one of the leading causes of stress during the holiday season – but an increasing number of families are bucking this trend by focusing on spending less, and putting their focus on time together over gifts, extravagant decorations, and belly-boggling feasts. Something everyone can do to limit financial stress is set a budget, and making an effort to manage impulse spending. 

At Work: Go for a Walk

Getting away from your desk and going to a brisk walk is a good idea year round – but it’s especially important in the lead-up to Christmas, when stress-levels and workplace pressures are higher. Get away from your desk and take a walk around the block on your break. Exercise of any kind produces endorphins, and even a short stroll has been shown to reboot the brain in such a way that it reduces its response to stress.

At Home and At Work: Avoid Overindulging

‘Tis the season to eat, drink and be merry, and we can feel surrounded by extravagant foods and drinks at this time of year! Workmates bring Christmas cookies in to share and family members drop in for pre-Christmas drinks… and while all that merrymaking can seem like a nice treat in the short-term, those added glasses of wine and sugary treats can actually work against you by increasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Don’t avoid a indulging altogether – just be treat-wise and stay mindful of portion sizes.

At Home: Kids’ Expectations

Managing the expectations of children at this time of year is never easy – particularly when it seems they’re surrounded by festive hype. Remind children that Christmas is about being together, and that they won’t receive everything on their wishlist to Santa. 

At Work: Prioritise Your To Do List

Christmas is the biggest holiday of the year in New Zealand – and it comes at rather an inconvenient time, being so close to end of year deadlines! Many workers spend December in a frenzy, attempting to complete reports and projects that have been left on the back burner… all the while aware that not everything is going to be marked as complete.

This year, prioritise your workload – deciding which tasks absolutely MUST be done before Santa’s sleigh bells ring, and which less urgent jobs can be dealt with in January, if need be. Talk through your workload, timelines and suggested priorities with your boss or manager so ensure you’re both on the same page, and to give them a chance to re-delegate as needed.

At Home and At Work: Delegate!

Workload and stress are clearly linked, and regular day-to-day demands (cooking, paid work, school runs) don’t stop just because Christmas is fast approaching. If anything – because workplaces and schools shut down over the break– those demands can actually increase, with seasonal tasks such as gift buying and decorating heaped on top.

Trying to achieve everything alone during the holidays can take its toll on your mind and body, so be sure to delegate at home and at work. Share out silly season tasks such as grocery shopping with other family members, or make decorating the tree a fun, shared event rather than a chore. At work, ask for help when you need it! Colleagues and co-workers with lighter workloads will be more than happy to pitch in and lend a hand.

At Home: Sleep

Research shows few adults get the recommended 8-hours of sleep each night, but being well-rested is particularly important during times of increased stress! If there’s just one thing you take away from these tips on managing stress, let this one be it. A lack of sleep affects your mood, diet and quality of work, so don’t stay up all night finishing last-minute reports at home, or wrapping presents. 

At Work: Ditch Secret Santa

Secret Santa is great in theory… but in reality, many workers feel they simply don’t have the time or resources to complete all their usual holiday-related tasks – let alone throw gift purchasing for someone they may not know all that well into the mix! Surveys have shown that Secret Santa shopping can add to feelings of anxiety among employees, because it’s just one more personal task to do, and it can be hard finding a ‘thoughtful’ and clever gift within a $5, $10 or $20 budget. If Secret Santa is a tradition in your workplace, consider gifting staff an hour off during the workweek to shop. 

At Home and At Work: Have Fun!

They say laughter is the best medicine, and for good reason. Laughter lightens your mood, stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles, boosts circulation, releases endorphins, and – here’s the kicker – lessens the physical symptoms associated with stress. That all means savouring positive experiences, and giving yourself permission to have a little fun at home and at work, will help you get through those more stressful situations this festive season. 

Have 5-minutes before your next meeting starts? Find a Christmas meme and email it to your team. Take a couple of hours this weekend to sit down with your loved ones– or during some much-needed YOU time – and watch a Christmas movie. Pop a Christmas playlist on at work, or bake some festive cookies at home. The point is to decompress and get your to-do list off your mind for 5-minutes.

SkyCity Fire Highlights Importance of Managing Exposure to Airborne Contaminants

Following last month’s SkyCity fire, air quality experts have estimated the event caused a spike in particulate levels in Queen St air to more than five times national air quality standards. Smoke from the fire carried a combination of particles, burnt bitumen, wood smoke, and smoke from other building materials – resulting in tiny toxic particles potentially being drawn into the lungs and blood vessels of Aucklanders exposed. 

The event and subsequent air quality research serves as a timely reminder of the hazards of particulate spikes, which, at that level, could increase the risk of stroke, lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. It also highlights the importance of Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) for New Zealand workers who may be exposed to harmful substances, such as isocyanates, dusts and asbestos.

TriEx offers a variety of air quality and related health services, including lung function testing and Respirator Fit Testing and education.

Spirometry

Spirometry is an office test measuring lung function by testing the amount of air you inhale, how much air you exhale and how fast you exhale. It’s useful in diagnosing breathing conditions by measuring the speed your lungs can be filled and emptied of air – giving an indication of how well your lungs are performing.

TriEx offers lung function tests – including spirometry – for employees who are exposed to contaminants in the air that could affect lung function.

What does Lung Function Testing Include?

  • Assessment of the employee’s past and present air contaminant history (includes recreational)

Full diagnostic Spirometry

Explanation of the results to the employee

Education on responsibility to protect

Assessment of their respiratory protection to comply with your annual audit of PPE

Lung Function Testing Helps You:

  • Identify employees at risk from hazardous air contaminants in the workplace
  • Comply with the ‘Approved Code of Practice for the Safe Use of Isocyanates’ and ‘Workplace Exposure Standards’
  • Take necessary action with regard to respiratory protection

What can Employees Expect During Their Test?

Spirometry tests are straightforward and will usually only take around 15 minutes. The test involves taking a full breath in and blowing out with your best effort into a tube attached to the spirometer machine.

To ensure accuracy, the test will be performed three times, and employees will be asked to:

  • Breathe in as deeply as they can
  • Seal their lips around the mouthpiece
  • Blow out as hard and fast as they can, and keep going as long as possible.

Spirometry tests may cause employees to feel a bit puffed, but usually it is not uncomfortable.  

If your workers are likely to be exposed to airborne contaminants, you will need to undertake air monitoring for chemical and dust exposure.

Respirator Fit Testing

Respiratory protective equipment (RPE) is a type of personal protective equipment (PPE) that guards workers from breathing in substances hazardous to health. 

Airborne substances harmful to health can be in found dust, mist, vapour or gas form, and employees may or may not be able to see these in the air. Common health effects from breathing hazardous substances may include headaches, forgetfulness, drowsiness, feeling dizzy and sick, mood changes, and eye and skin irritation. Effects can be short and long-term, with long-term effects including sleep disorders, memory loss, cancer, organ damage, fertility problems and death. 

If anyone in your team wears Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) then as the PCBU you must provide information, training or instruction on how to correctly use, wear, store and maintain the RPE.

RPE Fit Testing Requirements

Fit testing is required by AS/NZS 1715 before a respirator is worn in the workplace to ensure workers are wearing properly fitting RPE, with an effective seal to the face. 

A fit test should be conducted:

  • Upon the issue of RPE, 
  • Whenever a different size, style, model or make of respirator is used
  • When any facial changes occur that could affect fit, such as significant weight changes or significant dental work

RPE fit tests should also be conducted at least annually to ensure fit remains correct. TriEx recommends fit testing alongside annual health monitoring, where our Occupational Health Nurses discuss respiratory history and exposure history an perform lung function testing.

What is Involved in RPE Fit Testing?

TriEx carries out Qualitative Fit Testing for half face respirators used in environments where the hazard is less than 10 times the workplace exposure standard.

A sensitivity test is completed without RPE under a hood. The RPE is then worn and either a bitter or sweet solution is introduced whilst the worker carries out a variety of activities for one minute each including:

  • Normal breathing
  • Deep breathing
  • Moving head side to side
  • Moving head up and down
  • Bending over (or jogging in place)
  • Talking
  • Normal breathing again

RPE Education

Education is given as part of TriEx’s RPE Fit Testing service. This education includes care and maintenance of respiratory equipment and how to fit check RPE.

Contact TriEx today to learn more about lung function testing and RPE fit testing and education. Our experts can advise you on the most appropriate services to meet your business needs.