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Occupational Health Month

During May we are focusing on raising awareness of Occupational Health issues.

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Preventing accidents is not the only thing you should consider to keep your employees safe. 
Over 10 million working age people (aged 16 to 64) in Great Britain are currently living with a long-term health condition. Of those in work, around 1.8 million report suffering from a health condition which they believe is caused or made worse by their job. This equates to 5,250 cases of work-related ill health per 100,000 workers. 
Stress, depression or anxiety account for around half of the self-reported cases of work-related ill health, followed by musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Together, these conditions resulted in 23.7 million lost working days in 2022/23. Overall, work-related ill health resulted in 31.5 million lost working days which is almost nine times higher than the number of working days lost due to non-fatal work-related injury during the same period.
HSE estimates the annual cost of new cases of work-related ill health is £13.1 billion. This compares to the £7.7 billion estimated annual cost of workplace injuries. The cost burden of ill health is split between individual workers, employers and the Government. The major costs to employers arise from productivity costs, occupational/statutory sick pay, ‘production disturbance’ costs and insurance premiums.
Take a moment to read the items below and consider how you prevent your staff from the effects of these occupational health factors. If you need help with health monitoring or occupational health support please contact us for advice.
1. Stress & Mental health
2. Hearing loss
3. Hands (Vibration)
4. Manual Handling
5. Respiratory Disease
6. Hands (Dermatitis)

Stress & Mental Health

Worried About Stress in The Workplace?
Stress can show itself in many different ways. What causes work related stress?
Demands – this includes issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment.
Control – how much say the person has in the way they do their work.
Support – this includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues.
Relationships – this includes promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour.
Role – whether people understand their role within the organisation & whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles.
Change – how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation.
Signs of Stress in Individuals
If you are suffering from some of the following symptoms it may indicate you are feeling the effects of stress.
If you find aspects of your work bring on or make these symptoms worse, speak to your line manager, or HR department.
It may be that some action taken at an early stage will ease the stress and reduce or stop the symptoms.
Emotional Symptoms
Negative or depressive feeling, disappointment with yourself, increased emotional reactions - more tearful or sensitive or aggressive, loneliness, withdrawn, loss of motivation commitment and confidence.
Mood swings (not behavioural)
Mental Symptoms
Confusion, indecision, cannot concentrate, poor memory.
Changes from Your Normal Behaviour
Changes in eating habits, increased smoking, drinking or drug taking 'to cope', mood swings affecting your behaviour, changes in sleep patterns, twitchy, nervous behaviour, changes in attendance such as arriving later or taking more time off.
Please note these are indicators of behaviour of those experiencing stress. They may also be indicative of other conditions.
If you are concerned about yourself, please seek advice from your GP.
If you are concerned about a colleague, try to convince them to see their GP.
Signs of Stress in a Group
Disputes and disaffection within the group, increase in staff turnover, increase in complaints and grievances, increased sickness absence, increased reports of stress, difficulty in attracting new staff, poor performance, customer dissatisfaction or complaints.

Hearing Loss

Worried About Hearing Loss?
You are at risk if you can answer 'yes' to any of these questions about the noise where you work:
Is the noise intrusive for most of your working day?
Do you have to raise your voice to have a normal conversation when about 2 meters apart for at least part of the day?
Do you use noisy powered tools or machinery for over half an hour a day?
Do you work in a noisy industry, e.g. construction, demolition or road repair; woodworking; plastics processing; engineering; textile manufacture; general fabrication; forging, pressing or stamping; paper or board making; canning or bottling; foundries?
Are there noises because of impacts (e.g. hammering, pneumatic impact tools etc.), explosive sources such as cartridge-operated tools?
Do you have muffled hearing at the end of the day, even if it is better by the next morning?
These could be symptoms of early signs of hearing loss!
Conversation becomes difficult or impossible?
Your family complains about the television being too loud?
You have trouble using the telephone?
You find it difficult to catch sounds like 't', 'd' and 's', so you confuse similar words?
Permanent tinnitus ringing, whistling, buzzing or humming in the ears?
Generally hearing loss is gradual!
By the time, you notice it, it is probably too late.
We want to prevent hearing loss before it happens.
You can also suffer instant damage from very loud or explosive noises.
If you are experiencing any of the above report it to your manager, it may be necessary to send you for an occupational health examination. 

Hands (Vibration)

Worried About Your Hands (Vibration)?
You are at risk if you regularly use hand-held or hand guided power tools and machines such as:
Sanders, grinders, disc cutters.
Hammer drills.
Chipping hammers.
Nail Guns.
You are also at risk if you hold work pieces, which vibrate while being processed by powered machinery such as pedestal grinders.
There are calculations that give you guidance as to how long you can use a piece of vibrating equipment make sure you ask for them if they have not been given to you, check your risk assessments, read the handbook for the equipment.
The vibration calculation looks like this m/s2.
What are the early signs and symptoms to look out for?
Tingling and numbness in the fingers (which can cause sleep disturbance).
Not being able to feel things with your fingers.
Loss of strength in your hands (you may be less able to pick up or hold heavy objects).
In the cold and wet, the tips of your fingers going white then red and being painful on recovery (vibration white finger).
If you continue to use high-vibration tools these symptoms will probably get worse, for example:
The numbness in your hands could become permanent and you won’t be able to feel things at all.
You will have difficulty picking up small objects such as screws or nails.
The vibration white finger could happen more frequently and affect more of your fingers.

Manual Handling

Worried about Manual Handling?
Manual handling relates to the moving of items either by lifting, lowering, carrying, pushing or pulling.
It is not just a case of 'pulling something' due to the weight of the item, although this can be a cause of injury. Injuries can be caused because of the number of times you have to pick up or carry an item, the distance you are carrying it, the height you are picking it up from or putting it down at (picking it up from the floor, putting it on a shelf above shoulder level) and any twisting, bending stretching or other awkward posture you may get in whilst doing a task.
Manual handling injuries can occur almost anywhere in the workplace and heavy manual labour, awkward postures and previous or existing injury can increase the risk.
The injured person may find that their ability to do their job is affected and there may be an impact on their lifestyle, leisure activities, ability to sleep and future job prospects.
It is essential therefore that employers manage the risks to their employees.
Where manual handling is necessary mitigate the risk by using some equipment - trollies, forklift truck etc.
Where tasks are essential and cannot be done using lifting equipment, conveyors or wheeled trollies/cages, a suitable and sufficient risk assessment should be conducted.

Respiratory Disease

Worried about Respiratory disease?
What you need to do - The law says employers must reduce the exposure of workers to substances that can cause respiratory disease or
breathing difficulty if inhaled.
This can be done by eliminating the hazard where possible or controlling the substance by means other than personal protective equipment (PPE), e.g. by water suppression or extraction of the dust.
As a last resort, PPE may be needed along with clear information, instruction & training for those exposed to the risk.
The most prevalent of these respiratory diseases are:
1. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
2. Occupational asthma
It is vital that you are managing the risk.
What you need to know
Work-related respiratory disease covers a range of illnesses that are caused or made worse by breathing hazardous
substances that damage the lungs.
A number of workplace activities can cause respiratory disease. These include: Welding, grinding, cutting, handling and using chemicals.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
COPD is an obstruction of the airway that is not fully reversible.
The condition is usually progressive and is associated with inflammatory responses of the lungs to hazardous substances.
Causes – the main cause of COPD is cigarette smoking, but exposure to harmful dust, fume and gases at work can contribute to the development of the disease.
Symptoms – include a chronic cough, sputum production, and shortness of breath.
Occupational Asthma
Occupational asthma is an allergic reaction some people experience when they are exposed to substances in the workplace, e.g. fumes.
These substances are called ‘respiratory sensitisers’, or asthmagens.
They can cause a ‘hypersensitive state’ in the airways of those affected.
Not everyone who becomes sensitised goes on to develop asthma, but once the lungs become hypersensitive, further exposure to the substance, even at quite low levels, may trigger an attack.
Work-related asthma can be triggered by exposure to substances in the workplace.
People with asthma are more likely to be sensitive to these respiratory sensitisers.
Silicosis is an irreversible lung disease that can take years to develop.
Causes – fine particles of respirable crystalline silica (RCS) cause damage and inflammation in the lungs. Over time, this leads to the formation of scar tissue (fibrosis), which shows up on chest X-rays.
Symptoms - breathing difficulties and a chronic cough which may not appear before retirement. Silicosis can be extremely disabling and lead to early death.
Construction workers have an increased risk of developing silicosis because of exposure to high levels of silica dust during certain tasks.
If high-speed cutting tools are used on high-silica-content materials without suitable controls, RCS exposures can be very high. Exposures to freshly cut surfaces of RCS occur in many construction tasks such as cutting, blasting, drilling and grinding.
The RCS hazard is present whether the parent material is granite, sandstone, slate, or a manufactured product such as brick or concrete.
You are mostly at risk when:
You are working on an unfamiliar site.
The building you are working on was built before the year 2000.
Asbestos-containing materials were not identified before the job was started.
Asbestos-containing materials were identified but this information was not passed on by the people in charge to the people doing the work.
You don't know how to recognise and work safely with asbestos.
You know how to work safely with Asbestos, but you choose to put yourself at risk by not following proper precautions, perhaps to save time or because no one else is following proper procedures.
Remember, as long as the asbestos is not damaged or located somewhere where it can be easily damaged it won't be a risk to you.
You cannot see or smell asbestos fibres in the air.
The effects of being exposed to asbestos take many years to show up - avoid breathing it in now.
Smoking increases the risk many times.
Asbestos is only a danger when fibres are made airborne and breathed in.
Are you sure that you do not come in to contact with asbestos?
Also check the equipment and method sheets for details on what to use and how, and whether the activity needs
to be notified.
Sprayed ('limpet') asbestos on structural beams and girders.
Lagging on pipework, boilers, calorifiers, heat exchangers etc.
Asbestos insulating board - ceiling tiles, partition walls, service duct covers, fire breaks, heater cupboards, door panels, lift shaft lining, fire surrounds, soffits etc.
Asbestos cement products such as roof and wall cladding, bath panels, boiler and incinerator flues, fire surrounds, gutters, rainwater pipes, water tanks etc.
Other products such as floor tiles, mastics, sealants, rope seals and gaskets (in pipework etc.), millboard, paper products, cloth (fire blankets, etc.) and bituminous products (roofing felt, etc).

Occupational Dermatitis

Understanding Skin Problems Caused by The Workplace and Procedures.
The outermost layer of the skin (the horny cell layer of the epidermis) acts as a barrier to prevent infection and to prevent potential allergens from penetrating the skin.
The skins ph. is slightly acidic which can help to neutralize the degreasing agents that are in soaps, which are alkaline.
Excessive use of soaps and some detergents can destroy the acidity and de-fat the surface skin and therefore the protection it offers.
If the moisture content of the skin is too high (overhydrated skin) or too low (dry skin), the skin’s barrier function may be impaired.
Air-conditioned environments with low humidity will cause the skin to dry out, becoming rough, thickened and flaky.
This eventually leads to cracking of the skin because of loss of elasticity.
Over-hydration of the barrier layer from prolonged contact with water, or from sweating inside gloves also results in dry skin since impaired barrier function allows moisture in the skin to evaporate away.
How Does Occupational Skin Disease Occur?
Occupational skin disease may occur in the following circumstances:
Mechanical injury or chemical injury to the skin damages the skin’s defensive barrier layer, rendering the skinmore susceptible to further mechanical or chemical injury.
Damage to the barrier layer increases the risk of infection, and also increases the risk of developing contactallergy, since potential allergens can gain access to the immune competent cells in the deeper layers of the skin.Some foreign substances gain access to the skin via sweat ducts and/or hair follicles, by-passing the skin barrier.
Irritant Contact Dermatitis
Irritant contact dermatitis is the name given to inflammation of the skin resulting from direct contact with a chemical or physical agent that damages the skin. Examples of irritants include:
A wide range of industrial chemicals used in the workplace, including, degreasers, detergents, oils and lubricants,metal cleaners, paints, liquid fuel, solvents, adhesives, epoxy resins and nickel.
Particulates from sanding, glass fibre
Cold conditions and low humidity causing dry skin and chilblains
Micro trauma (abrasions)
Exposure to ultraviolet radiation (solar UVR and arc welding).
The Features of Irritant Contact Dermatitis are Varied.
1.It may be a single episode that recovers, repeated relapsing episodes, or chronic dermatitis due to repetitive injury.
2.In general, the degree of damage following irritant exposure depends on the potency of the irritant, the durationof application, the frequency of exposure, occlusion, temperature, anatomical site, and individual susceptibility.
3.Where there is repeated exposure, previous damage may render the skin more susceptible to damage from thenext exposure. However, hardening may also occur.
4.Because contact irritant dermatitis is dose dependent, it tends to be restricted to the site of primary contact, whichis usually the hands.
5.A reduction in the cumulative exposure to irritants lessens the risk of dermatitis. Conversely, occlusion of theirritating chemical(s) or particulates by gloves, jewellery (such as wedding rings), or wristwatch can aggravatethe dermatitis.
6.The dermatitis may be dry, flaking, and fissuring; or erythematous, swollen, blistering, weeping, and eroded.
7.Broken skin leads to a risk of skin infection (impetigo), presenting as red, painful, swollen skin with ulceration,oozing or pustules. 
Allergic contact dermatitis
Allergic contact dermatitis is an immunological response (allergy) to a contact allergen, e.g. nickel in tool handles such as spanners and wrenches, or epoxy hardeners found in body fillers and sealants.
Only people who are allergic to a specific agent (the allergen) will show symptoms.
The appearance can be exactly the same as irritant contact dermatitis and often co-exists with irritant contact dermatitis.

Mission Statement

Our mission is: To develop systems, procedures and policies for individuals and businesses allowing health, safety and welfare to become an integral part of running a modern successful business.

To develop an awareness of the relationship between health, safety and welfare that will encourage the inclusion of health, safety and welfare as an intrinsic element of your company's working practice.
Registered Address: 1 Empire Avenue, King's Lynn, Norfolk, PE30 3AU 
Office & Training Centre: Unit 11, Lake Business Centre, Crossbank Road, King’s Lynn, Norfolk PE302HD
Company Number: 7382 398
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