The mother of four, now suffers from allergic dermatitis (and probably will for the rest of her life) as a result of her working as a process worker for a Perth company which required her to electroplate metals with chemicals.
When she stopped working a year ago — and when the company agreed to pay her workers’ compensation– skin had been peeling off her eye lids, cheeks, stomach, and anywhere else you could imagine.
She was forced to use a steroid cream every day to attempt to avoid flare-ups of the rashes that often last for months.
Dyson said she was exposed to a range of chemicals including tantalum chloride, pentanol, ruthenium chloride, hexachloroiridate solution and, to a lesser extent, epoxy, nickel and cobalt. Now, even water can result in a horrible rash.
Dyson alleges that her employer failed to provide her with the proper protective clothing and only gave her yellow dishwashing gloves.
“It wasn’t until I saw a specialist and showed him what gloves we were using that he found out we should’ve been using rubberised gloves that don’t seep,” she said.
She resented that she had to investigate the safety of the chemicals she was working with, instead of the onus being on her employer.
Slater and Gordon workers’ compensation lawyer Joel Schneider warned many workers were still being exposed to hazardous chemicals.
Mr Schneider said people worried about their exposure to chemicals should contact WorkSafe.
More info on Personal Protective Equipment or PPE
According to a recent report released by Safe Work Australia, occupational skin diseases are the second most occurring work-related disease that general practitioners regularly treat. The report released indicated that the cost to businesses throughout Australia is about $33 million annually.
Considering this significant cost to the public, it is important to be aware of how one can minimise the risks of suffering from a work related skin-disease. Workers who suffer the greatest risks are those who are frequently exposed to harmful chemicals or wet work in their daily professions.
Some Main Causes:
- bases and alkalis
- rubber accelerators; and
- potassium dichromate in leather and cement.
Safe Work Australia Chair Mr Tom Phillips AM stated that of the workers who report exposure to chemicals, less than two-thirds said they had received chemical safety or Personal Protective Equipment training.
These numbers indicate that occupational health and safety training needs to implemented in every workplace in Australia regardless of how big or small and include how to properly handle chemicals and hazardous substances.
This is a clear message that work health and safety training needs to be integrated in every workplace in Australia no matter how big or small and include how to properly handle chemicals and hazardous substances,” he said. Quality training then, is of significant importance.
The use of PPE here is self-explanatory, and includes:
- safety glasses and goggles
- shop coats and overalls
- boots; and
- hearing protection systems.
An often overlooked method of reducing risks is to practice good personal hygiene. While it would seem that personal hygiene is the responsibility of the individual worker, it is up to the employer to ensure that PPE is properly maintained and employees have access to the proper facilities and cleansing agents.
When coming into contact with hazardous contaminants, the most important initial treatment should be immediately washing the contaminated part of the body, so these products are a valuable addition to industrial environments where dangerous chemicals are used.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) must be maintained, repaired or replaced so that it continues to be effective and safe. Each worker must be trained in ensuring the equipment is:
- clean and hygienic, and
- in good working order.
What are the problems with using personal protective equipment?
Where PPE is required and used at work one must remember:
- wearing PPE may adversely affect the performance of tasks being undertaken — either by restricting vision or mobility
- While PPE may be uncomfortable to wear and some workers may not be able to wear it (such as those with allergies to latex and thus cannot wear rubber gloves)
- constant supervision is required to ensure the PPE is being used the proper manner
What is the worker’s duty in relation to personal protective equipment?
A worker who is provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) is trusted to:
- use or wear the PPE in accordance with any information, training or reasonable instruction provided by the person conducting business, so far as they are reasonably able
- not misuse or damage the PPE on purpose
- advise the person in charge of any damage, defect or need to clean or decontaminate any of the PPE they are aware of, and
- consult with their manager if the PPE is not an adequate size or quality.
If a worker refuses to wear or use the PPE, the employer can take action against the worker. When a worker who does not wear or use PPE, or intentionally misuses or destroys it, that worker may face prosecution.
Personal Protective equipment can include a variety of clothing and equipment that employees, students and various professionals must wear in order to protect themselves from workplace safety hazards.
What Does The PPE Act Say?
Firstly, an employer should ensure that the worker is not exposed to any hazards in the workplace, however when that is unavoidable, the employer must ensure that workers are provided the proper safety equipment that would protect them against any potential hazards that exist.
The Codes of Practice: First Aid Facilities and Services, Workplace Amenities and Facilities, Personal Protective Clothing and Equipment 2002, all provide varies measures and suggestions in the selection and utilization of PPE. The acts also list the various PPE requirements for a multitude of workplace safety hazards. In addition to these acts, The Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 provides further assistance in understanding PPE measures.
Often times employees may complain due to the general discomfort and hassle associated with PPE. Furthermore, there are sometimes issues with PPE that is in poor condition or may seem inappropriate. However, the employee must be informed of the necessity of the equipment and any problems regarding inappropriate equipment must be dealt with in order to ensure safety for all.
Examples of PPE
PPE can be used for protection in a variety of situations:
- Respiratory protection- air cannisters/masks
- Eye protection – eg Safety goggles, visors
- Hearing Protection– Ear Plugs and other hearing apparatus
- Hand Protection– eg Safety gloves
- Foot protection – eg Steal toe boots, gripped shoes
- Head Protection– eg helmets, construction hats
- Protection from falls – eg safety harnesses
- Skin Protection– eg caps, sunscreen, long sleeved clothes
Responsibilities and PPE
Employers must maintain:
- The required PPE are monitored and inspected by a competent individual in order to determine if other, more efficient methods of ensuring safety can be implemented
- Professional guidance is requested in order to determine the most suitable types of PPE for what ever types of tasks are being conducted.
- PPE Training is provided to all so that they can ensure that the proper PPE is used and maintained.
- A constant supervisor to ensure that PPE is worn whenever required.
While PPE is ultimately not the most efficient way of avoiding injury, it is the last bastion of protection when all other safety measures are overcome.
Sorel Singh was without his usual PPE Safety equipment (protective clothing) on the evening in August 2010 when he was summoned back to Bajada Poultry’s chicken processing plant. Singh is a contractor and was ordered to spray down a machine referred to as a “chain line”. This machine can dispatch birds at a rate of 183 per minute, or 10,000 an hour.
On this night while the machine was in operation, Singh’s jacket got caught and he was dragged quickly in to the processing machine and died.
Following the incident, the machine was down for only a few hours. A worker claims that WorkSafe told Bajada to change its practices and commenced an investigation. WorkSafe Victoria has yet to reveal if Bajada was going to prosecuted over Singh’s death.
On February 2nd 2012, a worker at the same factor was admitted at the hospital after he sustained serious burns. The worker was standing on a three metre ladder while attempting to unblock a tallow pipe. The worker fell and triggered a safety valve that shot hot fat all over his face and neck.
The machine was back in action within hours, by 6am, a worker said. WorkSafe told Baiada to change its practices and began an investigation which, it told Weekend Business, had just been completed. WorkSafe Victoria, however, would not reveal if it planned to prosecute Baiada over Singh’s death.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has expressed deep concerns over the concentration of power in the hands of Bajada and other major poultry processing plants.
As a result of shoddy personal protective equipment (PPE), inadequate safety precautions and bad weather, a Queensland floods hero has died. Peter Fenton was a 67 year old tugboat engineer when he was killed by a fallen crate that was being loaded onto a barge.
Fenton, with the help of a colleague, was instrumental in steering away a 200m section of river walkway during the floods in January.An investigation into his death revealed that a hook connected to the crate had a defective spring which stopped it locking into place and allowed the crate to fall on top of him.
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland’s Kym Tollenaere claims that she discovered the defective spring after the crew told her that heavy wind had caused the fallen crate.However, it was discovered through cross-examination that the health and safety officer did not discover the fault until atleast 7 hours after the death.Mr Fenton was not wearing proper protective equipment at the time.
Ship Master Umesh Madhukar Dalvi claimed that the task was a common job and there was no written safety procedure for it. According to Dalvi, there was however, a written safety procedure to unload a crate, so the crew “reversed” the method to load the crate.Dalvi stated that procedure was usually to shut down the site and warn people that crates were being transferred.He expressed his shock that something of this nature could occur on a usually routine, common job.
The investigation will look into; how efficiently the crate was rigged to the crane, the process used to lower crates, the level of adequately trained staff and the access to protective equipment.
Fenton had previously received a medal for his brave actions during the floods.