♦♦♦    SAFETY MATTERS    ♦♦♦
Aug 2009
     

Mother’s Rules

     

The term health, safety and environment (HS&E) is used widely. We appoint HS&E, SHE, or H&S Representatives, but the quality of the ‘H’ component of our management systems is often very low.

At some of the companies that I have visited, heath and hygiene does not really feature in the agenda or the actions of management, representatives or workers, except in the HS&E policy pasted on the walls.

Would you like to be operated on in a hospital where the ‘H’ does not feature? I often see personal protective equipment (PPE) that could not protect the wearer and has even become a health risk in itself!

This self-imposed risk is especially true for the way that some workers treat their disposable PPE, like disposable ear plugs, disposable dust masks and gloves. Imagine your surgeon using soiled rubber gloves and contaminated face masks. Or imagine re-using condoms. No surgeon and no informed worker would do such things, yet some workers used soiled respirators and breathe contaminated air into their lungs!

disposable dust mask being reused

Workers should take good care of all their PPE. Disposable PPE should not be stored once it becomes dirty. Workers, supervisors, managers and HS&E specialists should discuss the long-term health risks of exposure to hazards like dust, bright light, low light, noise and hazardous chemicals. Where they do not have enough reliable information, they should call on specialists to provide information. Suppliers, hygienists and occupational health staff would be glad to assist.

Where workers, supervisors, managers and specialists find that they do not all agree on the nature or level of the risk, or on the best course for preventing loss, they should likewise call on specialists and investigate the occupational health issues until they reach agreement at all levels of the organisation.

Ten House Rules

To help raise awareness about health and hygiene, ‘H’, I use a cake of soap with Mother’s Rules printed on the wrapping:

Mother's Rules

These are basic ‘house rules’ about health that everyone should have learnt at home. Everyone, except mothers, tends to forget the rules from time to time. Perhaps mothers like repeating these rules because only fools would argue with them! Workers are legally obliged to follow health and hygiene rules.

Employers, like mothers, have many obligations too. Employers have to assess health risks and supply the soap and other appropriate cleaning material. They have to ensure a work environment free from health risks.

Health and hygiene management may be a matter of minor or mildly serious infections at home, but at work it could be a matter of serious infection, fatal exposure, or long-term exposure resulting in chronic disease.

Mothers use common sense to train young people how to avoid hazards at home. At work, the hazards are larger, more complex and there are more of them. Workers should not make the mistake of believing that common sense alone will save them from harm.

Employers have to make a special and continuous effort to find hazards, assess the risk to workers and visitors, make workers aware of the pathways of exposure, teach them how to avoid harm and provide the right PPE at the places and times where some exposure cannot be avoided.

Workers have the legal obligation to learn and follow these occupational health procedures. Where workers ‘forget’ or ignore the ‘house rules’, employers are dutybound to use discipline – in the spirit of love – just like mothers do!

Full PPE (1)Full PPE (2)

Operators wearing full PPE

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