WorkSafe health and safety assessment inspectors see a lot of health issues when they’re in workplaces, particularly around noise, silica and asbestos*.
Noise was the most common health issue discussed with businesses, with inspectors doing 1,032 assessments. 48.9% of agricultural and fishery workers, 71.6% of trades workers and 67.6% of plant and machine operators report they experienced loud noise when they worked.
Of the total number of noise assessments, 12% received an enforcement notice – mostly improvement notices.
Silica assessments were the next highest health issue for inspectors. The construction industry had the most work-related exposure to silica - it is still an issue in the Canterbury Rebuild zone.
Asbestos is still a focus in the Canterbury rebuild, but asbestos activity is also high in Auckland and wherever older buildings are demolished or refurbished. 10% of the 449 assessments resulted in an enforcement notice. 60% of the enforcements were prohibition notices. Working with asbestos needs to be done properly as fibres can travel widely and impact anyone who may be in the area.
Figure 1: Total assessments with work-related health focus (July - December 2015).
Tips for managing health risks
1. Measure noise levels
Find out if you have a noise problem. It’s important to know what the noise levels are, where the noise comes from, and how long the workers are exposed to it. This information will help you work out the necessary risk controls
2. Eliminate or minimise noise levels
There are ways to eliminate noise from the workplace, such as replacing old noisy machinery with newer, quieter machinery.
If it’s not reasonably practicable to eliminate noise, there are ways to minimise the hazard. Examples are:
• Relocating noisy machinery to less populated parts of the site
• Enclosing noisy components, reducing vibration noises by lining components with rubber
• Running noisy machinery during times when there are fewer workers around
• Specialists can provide advice to suit your circumstances
3. Hearing protection and health monitoring
If a risk to health remains, supply hearing protection to workers and make sure they know why and how to use it. Accompany this with annual hearing tests.
1. Eliminate silica
If it’s reasonably practicable to do so, use alternative products. In abrasive blasting, for example, substitutes such a granite, metallic shot or slag products are available.
2. Minimisation methods
Keep dust levels down by using water or use dust extraction methods to redirect and collect dust from the work area. Don’t use brooms or compressed air to sweep dust or blow it away – this stirs up more dust.
For those working with silica outside an enclosed environment, it is important that their PPE prevents silica dust entering their breathing zone. Read our fact sheet on silica dust in the workplace to find out more information.
1. Have the right licence for the job
Friable asbestos removal can only be conducted by PCBUs with a Class A asbestos removal licence. A Class B asbestos removal licence is required if over 10m2 of non-friable asbestos needs removing, although this can also be done by a PCBU with a Class A licence.
A licence is not required for removing up to 10m2 non-friable asbestos, but regardless of how much asbestos needs removing, PCBUs must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that airborne asbestos exposure is eliminated or minimised. Visit our website to find out more about the new asbestos requirements. [LINK]
Businesses must make sure that all workers doing work involving asbestos have received the appropriate training and instruction to do the job safely, and not put themselves or anyone else at risk. Workers conducting licensed asbestos removal must have attended a relevant course by 4 April 2018.
They must provide the supervision necessary to protect their workers from risks to their health and safety and, for workers conducting licensed asbestos removal, ensure the work is supervised by someone who has the particular qualifications and experience needed to do so. Find out more about the new asbestos training requirements.
3. PPE and monitoring
In an asbestos environment, is it essential that the workers’ PPE minimises asbestos fibres entering their breathing zone. Read our fact sheet on what PPE to use with asbestos to find out more.