Risk Analysis Part 3: OH&S – what is that all about?


Occupational Health and Safety Risk Analysis.

“Why PPE is important” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So what is OH&S?

Once again, here is a link from one of my favorite sites:

Occupational safety and health (OSH) is a cross-disciplinary area concerned with protecting the safety, health and welfare of people engaged in work or employment. The goals of occupational safety and health programs include to foster a safe and healthy work environment. OSH may also protect co-workers, family members, employers, customers, and many others who might be affected by the workplace environment.  ~ Wiki

It seems like a bit of a mouthful, but think of Homer J.  Simpson, fixing his roof, with Bart lending him a hand (well maybe not really..) He’s just sitting on the roof, hammer in hand trying to drive a nail through the roof tiles, but hits his finger instead (later on in the movie he even falls off the roof taking the tiles with him that he had actually nailed to himself).  Its hilarious yes, but there is also another, more serious angle you can take with this.

Yes, I can hear you all saying that, if he had hired a professional, all that wouldn’t have happened, right? (Unfortunately, this is Homer we’re talking about). OK, I’m not trying to rule him out as the worst example of how to do things, I’m just trying to show that he’s actually a pretty good example of why occupational health and safety is so important in the things we do at work, daily.

OH&S is a system that has been devised not only to look for and avoid problems that might arise at work, but also a way to promote a healthier approach to doing your job, and making sure that you make it home to your family every night. Sounds harsh, I know, but when you take away OH&S and the Risk Analysis that goes with it,  things would be very interesting in sectors like mining, construction etc.  In mines, people work under extremely dangerous conditions, either at great heights, or below the ground. Those alone are dangerous enough to cause fatalities at the worst, and severe debilitating injuries at least, and that’s not even covering machinery, power lines, poisonous gasses, the possibility of  an inrush of either water or gas, explosives, the list is long and scary.  Occupational Health and Safety methods have evolved over the years, and better ways of keeping employees safe are being developed still. Taking us far beyond sitting on our roofs with a hammer in our hands, with no PPE, safety lines holding us to the roof, or a hard hat to make sure we don’t hurt our heads on the way down. In mines especially, OH&S has been incorporated into mine inductions, and every person entering the mine, from employees, to temporary contractors go through these inductions. Learning what PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is necessary to use in the areas they are going to be working in as well as what they need to be wearing on the premises itself.

The most common hazards in mines are:

1. Machinery.

It’s a machine, seriously, you don’t really think they are built to last forever, do you?  Well, people try, but they don’t always bargain on the fact that the people that work with these machines are going to be experts, and this can cause a lot of damage on the machine itself, and not to mention the problem’s you’d get with an inexperienced person in control of the vehicle. It would be Like putting Homer in the driving seat of a combine harvester (ouch.). The most important thing to remember, when you have machinery on your premises, is not only maintenance, but to make sure that the employees you allow to use the machine, are expert, have been trained, not only in the use of the machine, but have the ability to see a potential hazard, before it happens and they have to be able to take the appropriate precautions to make sure that potential hazard doesn’t become reality.

2. Working at heights.

No, I’m not saying you need a trapeze artist, but once again, you need to make sure that your employees are well trained and follow the safety procedures set for them. Making sure that their scaffolding is safe, that they have the right PPE, and also that the equipment is in perfect working order. The last thing you need is a crack in your hard hat.

3. Confined Spaces.

This is where mine employees work underground in tunnels, and can also mean any space a person needs to work in where they cannot really move around, or has awkward entrance and exit points etc. Areas like these are actually not meant to be worked in for long stretches at a time, especially if the ventilation in the space is limited or ineffective.  Here, not only do you need to make sure your employees are competent to work in this environment, but also that they can easily spot potential hazards, figure out if they would be able to work while there’s a chance of something happening to them, and if not, to follow the proper procedures in place to have the hazard taken care of.

4. Noise

Ever tried having a conversation next to someone operating a vacuum cleaner? Can you imagine working in that environment for long periods of time without any protection for your ears? Its a pretty big problem in the US where 22 million odd workers are exposed to high levels of noise at work.

5. Spontaneous Combustion

Good ol’ spon com. This is a sneaky hazard to be honest. All it takes is one ignition source in a room filled with gas/explosives, and BOOM! Fatal Hazard. Fire and spon com have been linked together as well, when fires are out of control (even bush fires) and end up near stockpiles (like Coal) or areas where either gas or explosives are stored. Here OH&S would be a huge factor, simply because of the repercussions of not having controls in place to see these potential hazards before they happen. Making sure that any and all employees are appropriately skilled for the tasks they need to do, making sure they all know how to spot hazards before they happen and report them, as well as making sure that any bush fires are taken care of, or minimized.

Seeing as I am yet again, heading towards a novel and not a blog post, it seems that there will be another part to my risk analysis piece. But hopefully it helps to explain why its so important, what steps you need to have in place, and how to control what happens around you at work, to help you stay safe and minimize any danger you might be able to find yourself in. But, I think I’ll leave Homer out of the next one.

As always, wishing you P2B

Dreamrage.

(PS Homer Simpson is still the coolest, and no harm was meant, using him as an example.)

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