Risks of Organic Solvents

WorkSafe NZ has put out a Safety Alert highlighting the serious health and safety risks of using organic solvents in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation and lack of personal protective equipment.

Organic solvents (eg toluene, thinners and MEK) are used to dissolve or disperse other substances.

Organic solvents are used in many construction and manufacturing workplaces. You can find solvents in a wide range of products including: adhesives, degreasing agents, fillers, cleaning products, lacquers, metal cleaners, ink, paint, resins, rust removers, surface preparation products, dry-cleaning products, fuels.

Organic solvents can be found in:

– adhesives (cyclohexane, acetone, toluene)
– paints and lacquers (toluene, xylene, methyl ethyl ketone)
– degreasers (trichloroethylene, perchloroethylene)
– printing (turpentine, white spirits, xylene).

They can enter the body, mainly through inhalation of vapour and through direct skin contact, and into the bloodstream where they can cause adverse health effects.

Short term effects can include headaches, nausea, eyes, nose, throat and skin irritation, disorientation, feeling drunk/high, drowsiness

Long term effects can include mood changes, memory problems, concentration difficulties, tiredness, weakness.

Organic solvents readily evaporate in the air at normal temperatures. Therefore, high levels of solvent vapours can build up quickly in enclosed spaces with inadequate ventilation and when room temperatures rise (eg small rooms or a shed on a hot day). If solvents are also absorbed through the skin as well as inhaled, the total exposure may be much higher.

WorkSafe has guidance on protecting workers from the harmful effects of organic solvents — the Quick Guide is available for download here. To read the full Safety Alert over on WorkSafe website

May 17 – Pink Shirt Day

This coming Friday (May 17) is Pink Shirt Day.

Pink Shirt Day is led by the Mental Health Foundation and is about working together to stop bullying. It is about celebrating diversity and promoting positive social relationships. 

Everybody should feel safe, valued and respected no matter their age, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability or culture.

Make sure your workplace gets involved on Friday. TriEx and Gallagher Bassett will be dressing in pink and are celebrating with a shared lunch this Friday. The Pink Shirt Day website has resources, and content you can use at your workplace — just visit their website here

Kōrero Mai, Kōrero Atu, Mauri Tū, Mauri Ora – Speak Up, Stand Together, Stop Bullying!

May Newsletter

Our May Newsletter came out yesterday. May is a month full of important health awareness dates in New Zealand and globally so we have plenty of info relating to what is going on. We have articles focused on lung health, with information on Silica Dust, the risks of Organic Solvents and Respirator Fit Testing for your employees.

Is your workplace getting behind Pink Shirt Day this Friday, May 17? We will be throwing on our pink shirts and will be holding shared lunches in our Auckland and Christchurch offices.

Read all the articles in the May newsletter here.

Silica Dust

What is Silica & Silica Dust?

Silica is everywhere. It’s part of bricks, concrete and mortar. It’s in tiles and the slates on our roofs. It’s found naturally in stone and rocks. Even some fillers and plastic composite products use silica. Left alone, silica is safe. But if you work on materials that are made up of silica, you’ll be releasing dangerous silica dust. Activities such as concrete drilling, cutting, grinding, fettling, mixing, handling, dry shoveling and tunneling can all result in exposure.

The industries with the highest risk of exposure include construction, quarrying, mining, concrete manufacturing, brick & tile manufacturing, foundries, abrasive blasting, roading and monumental masonry work.

Silica dust is the very fine dust that’s created when you cut, drill, grind, chip or sand materials and products like stone, bricks, concrete, tiles or mortar.

Why is Silica Dust Dangerous?

Silica dust can be harmful if you breathe it in. Silica dust particles are much smaller than normal dust (sometimes invisible to the naked eye) – and they can get deep into your lungs and stay there, permanently damaging the lung tissue and eventually leading to serious lung diseases in some people. Silica dust can cause silicosis, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and kidney disease.

Eliminate the Exposure

Consider changing the product or process, for example use alternative products (eg metallic shot, slag products or grit for abrasive blasting, instead of sand).

Getting materials cut to size off-site in a facility where dust exposure can be controlled more easily.

Minimise the Exposure

Read more →

Asthma Awareness Day

Tuesday May 7 is World Asthma Day. World Asthma Day is held annually on the first Tuesday in May and is designed to improve asthma awareness and care globally.

Asthma is a chronic condition of the bronchioles — the small airways inside the lungs. The airways in a person with asthma are oversensitive and are easily irritated. The irritation causes the inside of the airway to become red and inflamed and the muscles surrounding the airway walls tighten. These two processes narrow the airway passages, making breathing very difficult at times.

New Zealand has one of the world’s highest asthma rates with asthma and respiratory diseases being two of the leading causes of sickness and death in New Zealand. 1 in 6 New Zealanders have a respiratory disease and it is the 3rd most common cause of death.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a term for the diseases emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic asthma. COPD is the fourth top cause of death with 15% of New Zealanders aged over 45 having COPD. Most cases of COPD are linked to smoking, however this can also be caused from breathing in chemical fumes, dust and toxic substances while carrying out work.

The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ has lots of great resources for asthma patients and carers on their website here.

World Day for Safety & Health At Work

Sunday April 28 is World Day for Safety and Health at Work which is an initiative of the International Labour Organisations (ILO). It was established to encourage remembrance and reflection on those who have lost their lives or been injured at work.

New Zealand sees 600-900 work-related deaths per year from health exposures, and in 2018 42 people died from work-related incidents.

The President of the New Zealand Institute of Safety Management (NZISM) Greg Dearsly has said that this day is another opportunity to put the spotlight on the true extent of work related health and safety incidents in New Zealand.

“Our current statistics do not represent the total problem,” he says. “While all countries report in the same way we should be looking at the wider problem and tackle three areas: workplace safety to protect workers from accidents, workplace health to address long term risks and issues and work related driver safety. Accidents at work grab headlines and sadly our statistics are still high compared to other OECD countries, so we need to continue our strong efforts to reduce them.”

He has also said that we need to put more attention on work health issues. If driving is part of any worker’s role, it should the responsibility of the employer to help them be a safer driver.

As the International Labour Organization (ILO) marks its 100th anniversary, the World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2019 takes stock of the past hundred years’ efforts to improve occupational safety and health and looks at how changes in the world of work will affect occupational safety and health in the future. View their video below.

It’s Okay Not To Be Okay

But what’s not okay is to not to talk to someone. The events in Christchurch last month have affected people in many different ways. “New Zealanders can choose to re inflate their “protective bubbles” as soon as possible after the Christchurch shootings or keep them deflated and “see the world as it really is” — disaster mental health expert Dr Sarb Johal. 

“It will take courage to choose to live in deflated bubbles for longer. But by doing so, Kiwis may be better able to rebuild trust and reshape society.” You can read Dr Sarb Johals full blog post here

After the recent events in Christchurch our teams have been supported by onsite EAP professionals, and employees took this opportunity to talk to someone about how they were feeling. If your business has this available we urge you to promote it within your workplace. 

Our mental health awareness training (Psychological First Aid) has been designed to support the breaking down of the stigmas around mental health, to increase our knowledge and understanding of mental health as a spectrum and to be more accepting and tolerant towards those who might be faced with concerns around their own mental health.

It is developed to also to enable the impact of stress on an individual, the importance of resilience and the impact that has in the workplace. In order for us to break down the stigma around mental health the model has to facilitate sensitivity, openness and honesty in talking and sharing. 

To learn more about our psychological first aid you can contact our team on 0800 487 439 or email enquiries@triex.co.nz

April, May & June Training Calendar

Our latest Training Calendar is out now for April, May & June.

We still have a few spots left on our $99 First Aid special which are running over the next two weeks. The first dates for our Electrical Workers CPR & First Aid are also coming up during May and June.

The 4 day British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) IP402 – Surveying and Sampling Strategies for Asbestos in Buildings course is coming up on Tuesday May 7 to Friday May 10.

Download your copy of the calendar here.

Oral Drug Testing Standard

New Zealand has recently had an oral fluid (saliva) drug testing standard released, AS/NZS 4760:2019. This outlines the procedures for specimen collection and the detection and quantification of drugs in oral fluid.

At present NZQA are developing unit standards for this and laboratories will be getting themselves set up and accredited. The drug testing device manufacturers will develop saliva testing devices that meet the cut-off levels below, and certified to the standard. 

The cut-off levels for oral drug screening are:

  • Amphetamines: 50 ng/mL
  • Cannabinoids: 15 ng/mL
  • Cocaine: 50 ng/mL
  • Opiates: 50 ng/mL
  • Oxycodone: 40ng/mL

Oxycodone has been added and benzodiazepines have been removed, when compared to the urine testing standard. The oral fluid standard measures are in nanograms per millilitre (ng/mL), where the urine standard tests are in milligrams per litre (μg/L). This means the cut-off levels between urine and oral fluid are not directly comparable.

We look forward to training our nurses and offering this testing to the new standards when certified courses and products become available. 

Our current urine drug testing is conducted to AS/NZ 4308:2008 by nurses holding NZQA Unit Standards 25458 and 25511. The instant drug screen kit tests for Cannabis, Opiates, Benzodiazepine, Cocaine, Amphetamines and Methamphetamines. An instant Synthetic Cannabinoids test is also available.

For information about our workplace drug testing you can read more here or contact our team on 0800 487 439 or email enquiries@triex.co.nz

March Newsletter

Our March newsletter is out today. It has been a challenging and emotional month here in Christchurch and indeed all across Aotearoa.

For workplaces one way we can look after our people is by protecting their health. At this time of the year this often means guarding them from contracting the Flu. Our Flu Vaccination programme began on March 18 in Christchurch and the rest of the country will be vaccinating from Monday.

In this update we have all the information you need to book your workplace flu vaccinations including a link to our online booking request form. We also look at the mental health of our employees ensuring that it is a top priority at this time and we have included information on the 1737 support service.

In addition the new oral fluid drug testing standard was released this month and we have information on this as well as information on our relaunched Electrical Workers first aid course. 

Take care over the coming weeks — ensuring we are all kind, understanding and tolerant. Read the newsletter here.