Occupational Health and Occupational Hygiene – What’s the difference?

Many workplaces monitor the health of their employees by completing a variety of health tests, including lung function and hearing. Others monitor the environment of their workplace, including the atmosphere and noise levels. They all should be doing both. Here’s why.

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Control airborne particulates in your workplace

Every year, an estimated 600-900 people die in New Zealand from work-related health issues and a further 5,000-6,000 are hospitalised with cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other chronic illnesses from workplace exposure to airborne contaminants.

Dust and other airborne particulates are a difficult hazard to manage, as the particles that cause the most damage are very difficult to detect visually. Normally the only time you’ll see them is during the late afternoon as the sun shines through a crack or window and creates a haze or shaft of light. WorkSafe NZ have launched the Clean Air programme, which is their first targeted intervention on work-related health. To reduce the risk of exposure to airborne contaminants, businesses can do the following.

Eliminate Airborne Contaminants from the workplace

PCBUs must eliminate the risk if it’s reasonably practicable. For example, isocyanate paints can be eliminated from the workplace by replacing them with water-based paints.

Minimise risks

If elimination isn’t reasonably practicable, minimise worker exposure to these products. Examples for silica dust are to fit extraction systems or use water suppression systems.

Issue Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE)

If a risk to health still remains, supply RPE to workers. Make sure they know why they need to wear it, how to use it and that it fits properly.

RPE should not be the sole method of reducing risk. It must be used alongside other minimisation controls.

Fit test RPE

Fit testing is very important. RPE works if it forms a seal around the wearer’s nose and mouth. Fit testing is conducted by trained specialists. Your safety gear supplier can help you locate one.

Monitor workers’ exposure to airborne contaminants

Monitor workers’ exposure to airborne contaminants to check the levels of dust, vapour or fumes being created. Always consider if those levels can be further reduced. Exposure monitoring can help you find out if workers are being exposed to a hazard at harmful levels or detect whether the controls you have in place for that hazard are adequate.

Monitor workers’ lung health annually. This also helps you know whether the controls are working, and may detect early symptoms of work-related ill-health.

Provide workers with information and training

Make sure workers know about the health risks and controls for airborne contaminants. ‘Toolbox talks’ can be useful here.

Make sure workers understand the risks, what they need to do to protect themselves, and why it’s important to take part in exposure and health monitoring.

To learn how our qualified Occupational Hygiene Team can help you reduce the risk of respiratory ill-health in your workplace, call us on 0800 487 439 or email enquiries@triex.co.nz 

Monitoring Noise Exposure

Are you monitoring the noise exposures in you workplace?

WorkSafe NZ is actively encouraging employers to undertake workplace monitoring to assess the environment that their employees are working in. Such assessments may include noise, dust, chemical exposure, lighting levels or exposure to moulds and fungi.

If you have already taken steps to monitor the hearing of your employees by carrying out annual hearing tests, that is great news – however this is only part of the process.

Noise exposure monitoring is required under the Health and Safety at Work Act, General Risk and Workplace Management (GRWM) regulations. It is a requirement that a workplace noise assessment or survey is completed every 5 years or if any new equipment has been installed or if any equipment has been withdrawn from use.

Constant exposure to noise from tools and machinery can put your workers at risk of permanent hearing damage. Loud machinery and work tools can cause harm to your workers’ hearing. As well as impact noises such as those from sudden loud noises, heavy loads being dropped, or heavy hammering.

If you find you have to raise your voice to have a normal conversation when standing around a metre apart, for at least part of the day, then noise levels on the site could be damaging hearing. If at the end of the day you notice that your hearing is muffled or your ears are ringing then noise levels could also be too high.

The best way to prevent hearing loss is to reduce your and your employees exposure to excessive noise. This can be done by quietening the source of the noise, stopping noise from reaching people, reducing the time people are exposed (i.e. eliminate, substitute or isolate) and by wearing the correct type of personal hearing protection.

The noise monitoring required under the GRWM regulations must be carried out by or under the supervision of a competent person who has sufficient knowledge, skills and experience in the appropriate techniques and procedures including the interpretation of the results. The TriEx Occupational Hygiene team can assist you with all of this.

Our Occupational Hygienists are well experienced and are trained in conducting, interpreting and providing recommendations following workplace noise assessments.

Workplace noise assessments include the identification of noise sources, the assessment of employee noise exposures, advice on administrative and PPE controls and recommendations for engineering and longer term controls. Advice is also provided as to what level of hearing protection is required and the type of hearing protection device best suits the working environment.

To ensure your hearing and the hearing of your employees is not being effected by a noise created in the work environment contact the TriEx Occupational Hygiene team on 0800 487 439 or email occhygiene@triex.co.nz today to discuss how we can help.

Winter Lighting

We have just had the shortest day of the year! While that is a sign that we are slowly on our way to warmer weather, it also means that due to the tilt of the earth, the sun is closer to the horizon.

The result of this is more glare and light intrusion into work spaces, which can cause discomfort, inaccuracy and loss of productivity. Adjusting the amount of intruding light and glare in your workplace can have a significant impact on your workers wellbeing and safety – especially in hazardous work environments.

Like temperature and humidity, everyone has a wide range of comfort levels, so everyone’s lighting needs will be different. When offices feature open plan work areas it is often more about reaching a short term compromise rather than redesigning the building.

Our occupational hygienists are able to provide you with an assessment of the lighting (luminance) in your workplace and provide practical options to help you manage your lighting needs.

To learn more about our Occupational Hygiene services email the Occupational Hygiene team, or phone 0800 487 439

Asbestos Survey and Management presentation with WorkSafe

Last week, WorkSafe NZ hosted an Asbestos trade breakfast at the Rydges Hotel in Christchurch. Our Asbestos Technical Manager, Craig Newsome spoke about the recent changes to Asbestos legislation and the employers duty to identify asbestos in buildings.

Legislation changes have changed the way we manage Asbestos. In the video of the presentation below, Craig talks about what Asbestos in buildings looks like and how to identify it. He also talks about what an Asbestos Refurbishment and Demolition survey looks like, and the effect it’ll have on your building.

Most importantly, Craig explains how it’s imperative that you undertake an Asbestos Survey before performing any work on your building.  Not only can it save you thousands of dollars, but it also reduces the risk of exposure to asbestos.