Mental health focus: Top ten tips for stress busting

By Lauren Applebey

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www.Ayrton.ie/course/stress-management/

If you’re stressed at work or in your personal life, the first step to feeling better is to identify the cause. Here NHS Choices gives its top ten tips for beating stress.

The most unhelpful thing you can do is turn to something unhealthy to help you cope, such as smoking or drinking.

“In life, there’s always a solution to a problem,” says Professor Cary Cooper, an occupational health expert at the University of Lancaster. “Not taking control of the situation and doing nothing will only make your problems worse.”

He says the keys to good stress management are building emotional strength, being in control of your situation, having a good social network and adopting a positive outlook.

What you can do to address stress – Professor Cooper’s top ten stress-busting suggestions:

Be active

Exercise won’t make your stress disappear, but it will reduce some of the emotional intensity that you’re feeling, clearing your thoughts and letting you to deal with your problems more calmly.

For more advice, read how being active helps mental wellbeing.

Take control

There’s a solution to any problem. “If you remain passive, thinking, ‘I can’t do anything about my problem’, your stress will get worse,” says Professor Cooper. “That feeling of loss of control is one of the main causes of stress and lack of wellbeing.”

The act of taking control is in itself empowering, and it’s a crucial part of finding a solution that satisfies you and not someone else.

Read tips on how to manage your time.

Connect with people

A good support network of colleagues, friends and family can ease your work troubles and help you see things in a different way.

“If you don’t connect with people, you won’t have support to turn to when you need help,” says Professor Cooper.

The activities we do with friends help us relax. We often have a good laugh with them, which is an excellent stress reliever.

“Talking things through with a friend will also help you find solutions to your problems,” says Professor Cooper.

Have some ‘me time’

In the UK, they work the longest hours in Europe, meaning we often don’t spend enough time doing things we really enjoy.

“We all need to take some time for socialising, relaxation or exercise,” says Professor Cooper.

He recommends setting aside a couple of nights a week for some quality “me time” away from work. “By earmarking those two days, it means you won’t be tempted to work overtime,” he says.

Challenge yourself

Setting yourself goals and challenges, whether at work or outside, such as learning a new language or a new sport, helps to build confidence. This will help you deal with stress.

“By continuing to learn, you become more emotionally resilient as a person,” says Professor Cooper. “It arms you with knowledge and makes you want to do things rather than be passive, such as watching TV all the time.”

Avoid unhealthy habits

Don’t rely on alcohol, smoking and caffeine as your ways of coping. “Men more than women are likely to do this. We call this avoidance behaviour,” says Professor Cooper. “Women are better at seeking support from their social circle.”

Over the long term, these crutches won’t solve your problems. They’ll just create new ones. “It’s like putting your head in the sand,” says Professor Cooper. “It might provide temporary relief, but it won’t make the problems disappear. You need to tackle the cause of your stress.”

Help other people

Professor Cooper says evidence shows that people who help others, through activities such as volunteering or community work, become more resilient.

“Helping people who are often in situations worse than yours will help you put your problems into perspective,” says Professor Cooper. “The more you give, the more resilient and happy you feel.”

If you don’t have time to volunteer, try to do someone a favour every day. It can be something as small as helping someone to cross the road or going on a coffee run for colleagues.

Work smarter, not harder

Working smarter means prioritising your work, concentrating on the tasks that will make a real difference. “Leave the least important tasks to last,” says Cooper. “Accept that your in-tray will always be full. Don’t expect it to be empty at the end of the day.”

Try to be positive

Look for the positives in life, and things for which you’re grateful.

“People don’t always appreciate what they have,” says Professor Cooper. “Try to be glass half full instead of glass half empty,” he says.

Try writing down three things that went well, or for which you’re grateful, at the end of every day.

Accept the things you can’t change

Changing a difficult situation isn’t always possible. Try to concentrate on the things you do have control over.

“If your company is going under and is making redundancies, for example, there’s nothing you can do about it,” says Professor Cooper.

“In a situation like that, you need to focus on the things that you can control, such as looking for a new job.”

Lower cost and improve productivity at work with Ergonomics…

What is Ergonomics? It is the science of designing a workplace with the capabilities and limitations of your employees at the forefront. Poor worksite design leads to fatigued, frustrated employees which can consequently leads to poor performance, productivity and potentially injury. Ergonomics is concerned with the relationship between people, the tasks they undertake, the equipment they use and the environments in which they work. It aims to put people first, taking account of their capabilities and limitations. Applying ergonomics in the workplace reduces the likelihood of accidents, the potential for injury and ill health such as aches and pains of the wrists, shoulders and back.

Therefore, a systematic workplace ergonomics improvement process removes risk factors that lead to injuries and allows for improved human performance and productivity and therefore lowers cost.

In a nutshell, a proactive approach to Ergonomics is a strategic continuous improvement process that makes a positive impact on the entire business.

Here are some of the positive benefits;

 

  1. Ergonomics reduces costs.

By reducing ergonomic risk factors, you can ensure you prevent costs associated with any employee injuries which can be prohibitive.

 

  1. Ergonomics improves productivity.

By designing a workplace to allow for good posture, less exertion, fewer motions and better heights and reaches, the workstation becomes more efficient and therefore employee productivity.

 

  1. Ergonomics improves quality.

Poor ergonomics leads to frustrated and fatigued workers that don’t do their best work. In particular, when a job task is too physically taxing on an employee, they may not perform their job like they were trained too.

 

  1. Ergonomics improves employee engagement.

When companies put forward their best efforts to ensure health and safety, employees notice. If an employee does not experience fatigue and discomfort during their workday, it can reduce turnover, decrease absenteeism, improve morale and increase employee involvement.

 

  1. Ergonomics creates a better safety culture.

Ergonomics promotes a stronger safety culture in your organsations and shows your commitment to safety and health as a core value. Healthy employees are your most valuable asset; creating and fostering the safety & health culture at your company will lead to better human performance and lower costs for your organisation.

 

Ayrton Group can carry out an effective Ergonomics Risk Assessment for your organisation and employees, please contact us for more information.

 

Pressure Doesn’t Have to Turn into Stress

by Nicholas Petrie

When I was in my late twenties, I was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Doctors operated and told me to hope for the best. I returned to Japan, where I was working, and tried to forget about it. The tumors returned a year later, this time in my liver. After a long search, the surgeons found a new procedure to remove them, but I knew this was, again, perhaps only a temporary fix. I was a mess for the next six months. The hardest part of my illness was my constant anxiety about it coming back.

Then I met a man who changed my outlook. Dr. Derek Roger had spent 30 years researching why some people in difficult situations become overwhelmed, while others persevere. He taught me everything he’d learned, and as I started applying it, my anxiety subsided, even though my situation didn’t change. In fact, the cancer came back about five years ago and remains relatively stable in my liver. But I no longer worry about it. Derek became my mentor, and over the past 10 years we have trained thousands of leaders to overcome their stress.

The process starts with understanding that stress is caused not by other people or external events, but by your reactions to them. In the workplace, many people blame their high anxiety levels on a boss, job, deadlines, or competing commitments for their time. But peers who face the same challenges do so without stress. Derek and I often meet executives who have high levels of pressure but low levels of stress, and vice versa.

Pressure is not stress. But the former is converted to the latter when you add one ingredient: rumination, the tendency to keep rethinking past or future events, while attaching negative emotion to those thoughts. Of course, leaders must practice reflection — planning for the future or reviewing past lessons — but this is an analytical, short-term process, with positive fallout. Rumination is ongoing and destructive, diminishing your health, productivity, and well-being. Chronic worriers show increased incidence of coronary problems and suppressed immune functioning. Dwelling on the past or the future also takes us away from the present, rendering us unable to complete the work currently on our plates. If you ask ruminators how they are feeling, none will say “happy.” Most feel miserable.

To break this stress-inducing habit, Derek and I recommend four steps:

Wake up. People spend most of their day in a state called “waking sleep.” This is when you pull into the office parking lot but can’t remember the drive there, or when someone in a meeting asks for your opinion but you’ve missed the last few minutes of conversation. Since all rumination happens during this state, the first step is to break out of it. You can do this physically: Stand or sit up, clap your hands, and move your body. Or you can do it mentally: Connect with your senses by noticing what you can hear, see, smell, taste, and feel. The idea is to reconnect with the world.

Control your attention. When you ruminate, your attention gets caught in an unproductive loop, like a hamster on a wheel. You need to redirect yourself to areas in which you can take useful action. Here’s one exercise we encourage executives to use: Draw a circle on a page, and write down all of the things you can control or influence inside it and all of things you cannot outside if it. Remind yourself that you can care about externalities — your work, your team, your family — without worrying about them.

Put things in perspective. Ruminators tend to catastrophize, but resilient leaders keep things in perspective for themselves and their teams. We tell people to try three techniques: contrasting (comparing a past stress to the current one, i.e., a major illness versus a missed sale), questioning (asking yourself “How much will this matter in three years’ time?” and “What’s the worst that could happen?” and “How would I survive it?”) and reframing (looking at your challenge from a new angle: “What’s an opportunity in this situation I haven’t yet seen?” or even “What’s funny about this situation?”)

Let go. The final step is often the hardest. If it was easy to let it go, we would have done it already. We find that three techniques help. The first is acceptance: Acknowledge that whether you like the situation or not, it is the way it is. The second is learning the lesson. Your brain will review events until it feels you’ve gained something from them, so ask yourself, “What have I learned from this experience?” The third is action. Sometimes the real solution is not to relax, but to do something about your situation. Ask yourself, “What action is required here?

While struggling with cancer, it took me a couple of years to train myself to follow these steps. But ultimately it worked. My stress levels went down, my health improved, and my career took off. More heartening, I discovered that everything Derek had taught me could be taught to others, with similar results.

Immediate stress busters for those difficult days!

April brings us Stress Awareness Month,  which aims to increase our awareness about stress; highlighting the causes, the negative effects on the mind and body, and how to relieve stress.

Everyone’s job is stressful in its own way, whether you are office or site based, but what makes the difference is the way you respond to these situations. Also more physically demanding jobs like working in construction can more often than not be associated with more physical affects on our health and the affects on our mental wellbeing gets forgotten.

It’s normal to get stressed or down over work issues, we’ve all been there. But we sometimes need to take a step back and look at how we respond to stressful situations, to avoid it affecting our mental wellbeing and day to day life.

Here are 5 stress busters to help you get through the day happily and stress-free!

1. Label your feelings. Sometimes, just admitting your feelings can calm you down. Try to figure out what that negative emotion is and just boil it down to two words. Thinking to yourself “I’m overwhelmed” or “I’m frazzled” can surprisingly go a long way into calming yourself down. Also focus on the positive aspects of your day, even if they’re only small, to lift your mood and help you focus on other problems.

2. Take a breath. Yes this might seem like an obvious one, but it’s important to breathe slowly & deeply. Before reacting to the next stressful occurrence, take three deep breaths and release them slowly. If you have a few minutes, try out a relaxation technique such as meditation.

3. Grub. Food glorious food! Now we don’t mean go out and buy a box of donuts (although that’s definitley an option!) but sometimes, stress can be seriously intensified by certain mundane things—like taking care of your physical needs. If your
blood sugar level is low, eating can help turn your bad mood around after just a few bites. Fatty acids and spicy foods might even help a little extra. Go out and buy your favourite lunch, it will help big time!

4. Laugh out loud! We all know laughing can put us in a better mood, but it’s a better stress cure than you may realize. Studies show that people who laugh the “most heartily,” show bigger drops in stress levels. Laughter really is the best medicine, and while it isn’t always possible to plop down on the couch and watch your favorite comedy, you can surround your self with upbeat, positive and comedic people when feeling the crunch of stress.

5. Run and Exercise. Yep, would be everyone’s first choice. Going hell for leather on a treadmill isn’t everyones cup of tea, or doing that gym class your mates keep going on about isn’t for you. BUT exercising is good for the body AND mind. Exercise prepares your body for stress, because your body thinks you’re in a stressful situation. So, your brain releases chemicals to help fight that stress, which is why you feel that endorphin high after you’re finished. Even if it’s short, get a little exercise in and you’ll feel much better.

Ayrton Group provide a Stress Management course which is designed to help you identify symptoms of stress and locate the source of stress. This course can show you how to be more aware of yourself and your surroundings and how to take an active role in caring for yourself and others in your workplace that may be affected by stress. See more here: https://bit.ly/2q3jOWr

Hidden dangers: is seeing believing when it comes to office health and safety?

Key to the successful delivery of any health and safety programme is the willingness of staff to take the initiative when identifying workplace hazards. However, while inappropriately placed boxes and exposed wiring present obvious safety risks, there are also many invisible dangers that staff may not be aware of but can prove equally harmful. In order to safeguard the workforce, it is essential that health and safety representatives do not let hidden hazards slip from their mind and ensure that workers are aware of and know how to mitigate these risks as part of a comprehensive workplace safety programme.

Carbon monoxide

With the potential to cause long-term health problems such as brain damage and paralysis, carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning presents one of the most serious threats to employee safety. Often referred to as the ‘silent killer’, the colourless and odourless nature of CO means that the presence of this gas often does not become evident until staff start to display symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The fact that symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to those of someone with a hangover or the flu means that it can be easy to mistake a potentially life-threatening gas leak for something less serious. As well as ensuring that employees are able to recognise the warning signs in colleagues at an early stage, businesses can significantly reduce the chance of staff being exposed to carbon monoxide by engaging a Gas Safe Registered engineer for the correct installation and maintenance of gas appliances. Carbon Monoxide monitors should be placed around the premises as a course of habit.

Bacteria

Recent analysis from Vitality estimates that workplace sickness costs the UK economy £73bn per year, so it is essential that employees are encouraged to recognise the important role they play in reducing the spread of bacteria. One way companies can achieve this is by implementing a strict policy stipulating that workers stay at home when ill. However, in order to prevent outbreaks of sickness occurring in the first place, a thorough approach to hygiene and sanitation should be adopted. The average person carries from two to ten million bacteria between their fingertip and elbow, which if left without treatment can quickly cause common illnesses such as colds, flu and stomach complaints.

Appropriate office signage can play a key role in the prevention of illness, reminding staff to wash their hands in critical areas such as bathrooms and food preparation points. With many busy employees often tempted to perform a ‘splash and dash’ when visiting the bathroom, businesses should also consider educating staff about correct hand-washing techniques in order to reduce breakouts of illness and boost employee attendance levels.

Manual handling

There are two main types of hazard posed by the office environment; mobile and static risks. While static risks, such as incorrectly placed items, are often a first focus point for those implementing health and safety plans, mobile risks such as incorrect carrying, lifting and handling can be more difficult to monitor. Ensuring that employees are aware of correct manual handling techniques is essential to avoid potential skeletal and muscular damage. As well as making sure that a full training session in this area forms part of every worker’s company induction programme, health and safety representatives should invest time in refreshing employees’ knowledge at regular intervals to minimise the likelihood of an incident occurring.

In order to minimise workplace accidents, businesses should aim to make hidden health and safety risks an engaging and relevant topic. As well as regularly emphasising the implications of not following correct procedures, updating the entire workforce on developments in policy is important for creating a culture of shared responsibility. However, while effective, company-wide communication is a powerful tool in the battle against invisible workplace hazards, businesses should ultimately aim to eliminate health and safety hazards altogether. By ensuring that out of sight is not out of mind when it comes to the office’s hidden dangers, companies can meet their responsibility for employee wellbeing whilst reducing any costly disruption to operations.

Office Depot Nigel Crunden

Nigel Crunden is a business specialist at business solutions provider Office Depot.

The silent killer: 5 facts about asbestos

The mere mention of asbestos is enough to send a shiver of concern through most people – and rightly so. Asbestos is still a cause of many work-related deaths and remains a source of misery and ill-health all over the world over. Deaths from asbestosis are exceptionally rare in Ireland but cases of pleural mesothelioma, a cancer of the lung linings caused by inhaling tiny amounts of asbestos fibres, often decades earlier, are on the rise.

However In Ireland, Asbestos-related deaths are expected to hit a record high in the next few years as the legacy of decades of ignorance about the cancer- causing building material hits home.

 

Here’s 5 facts you need to know about Asbestos

Asbestos has some remarkable properties

Asbestos is the common name for six different naturally occurring silicate minerals. They comprise of long, thin fibrous crystals, and many can be mined and manufactured into an astounding array of construction materials and commercial products.

It can also be added to cement, plastics and other substances and can be extremely resistant to heat, flame, and electrical and chemical damage. It can absorb sound. It also has a high tensile strength and is very flexible and lightweight.

Asbestos is a natural product – and still mined today

Unlike many toxic substances found in the workplace and which are manmade, asbestos is a naturally occurring material. A silicate mineral with long, thin fibrous crystals, asbestos is mined from the earth – a practice which is still carried out in Russia, China, Brazil, Kazakhstan and, up until 2011, in Canada. In 2009, two million tonnes of asbestos were mined worldwide.

The body isn’t equipped to flush out Asbestos

Unlike many toxins, which the human body can cleanse out, asbestos fibers remain in the system once they are inhaled or ingested. Since they are microscopic, the fibers can slip through the lungs’ natural filtration system. Typically, after being inhaled, they then penetrate outwardly through the membrane which covers the lungs and lines the chest cavity, called the mesothelium. The fibers can also be swallowed, in which case they may end up in the peritoneal (stomach) cavity.

Asbestos can cause several different diseases

Asbestos is a carcinogen, and may lead to one or more diseases in those who have inhaled it. The most common asbestos-related condition is pleural plaques, which are small areas of fibrous collagen tissue that usually occur on the parietal pleura. They are not pre-cancerous, but they do indicate asbestos exposure. Prolonged inhalation of Asbestos fibres can cause various serious and fatal illnesses including pneumoconiosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Asbestos is a key concern in residential properties

While new construction regulations require homeowners to appoint a project supervisor for health and safety when carrying out works, which would include checking for asbestos. The residential sector is very hard to monitor and awareness among homeowners needs to be increased.

 

Ayrton combine specialist qualifications with over 25 years experience having undertaken surveys on projects of all sizes in the asbestos field. The company are members of “Asbestos in Materials Scheme” (AIMS) for the analysis of materials for asbestos fibres and the “Regular Interlaboratory Counting Exchange” (RICE) for airborne fibre counting and analysis. These schemes are required by the HSA “Practical Guidelines on ACM Management and Abatement” for Asbestos Consultancy companies as proof of competency.

For more information on Asbestos related courses here

Safety Fines vs. the Cost of Compliance

Takeaway: A recent study shows that the cost of a health and safety fine in the UK far outweighs the expense of ensuring compliance.

All businesses are required to invest in health and safety systems and planning to some degree—but do you know the difference between your average spending on compliance and how much you could potentially be fined for negligence? New research from the health and safety consultants at Arinite provides an answer. Their study revealed that, in 2016, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that invested in health and safety avoided a fine that would have potentially cost them £75k more than the cost of ensuring compliance.

According to the latest prosecution data from the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE), businesses paid an average of £115,440 in fines when found guilty of a health and safety breach in 2016. In contrast, the cost of health and safety compliance for SMEs in 2016 ranged between £5k and £40k.

The manufacturing and construction industries typically get the largest volume of fines simply due to the nature of the work, which involves working from height, working with gas, and other dangerous activities. But the average fine in utilities and extractive industries was far higher than all other industries. As the graph below shows, while there were only 18 incidents in utility industries, the average fine was £409,729—well below the industry-wide average of £115,440.

Health and Safety Fines vs. the Cost of Compliance

A total of £32,438,677 worth of fines were issued in 2016 across the UK. Half of those were issued in the manufacturing industry (£16,816,673), followed by extractive and utility supply companies (£7,375,120), and then construction (£4,824,983).

This data, moreover, only shows the prosecution costs. Bear in mind that health and safety failures never only result in a fine. A major accident will also incur the total cost of injuries and ill health sustained to workers, as well as the PR costs when these offenses make national headlines (learn How to Look After You Business’ Safety Reputation). The HSE estimate that the total cost of injuries and ill health from working conditions in 2014/15 was £14.1 billion, £2.8 billion of which were covered by the employer.

Why Invest in Health and Safety Compliance?

There are many reasons a business should invest in health and safety, above and beyond the cost of a breach fine. Moral duty and concern for staff, for example, are themselves strong reasons for investing in compliance (for a related discussion, see The Moral Safety Compass). Company policy and simple common sense also play a part, particularly in industries where health and safety planning is an everyday fact (as is the case in manufacturing and construction, for example).

Negative health and safety publicity is also something all companies strongly want to avoid. There have been high-profile cases in the past year in which a breach may have damaged a company’s reputation beyond repair. The Smiler roller coaster horror crash at Alton Towers theme park was the country’s biggest health and safety incident of the year, costing two teenagers their legs and leaving the company with a £5 million fine.

With all these reasons in favor of health and safety compliance, why do many companies still fail to comply? Almost all major organizations are likely to have a written health and safety policy, an accident reporting system, and a designated health and safety role or person (see How Many Safety Pros Do You Need to Hire? to find out whether you are adequately staffed). Most accidents are entirely avoidable, and while investment is a factor in preventing them, simple communication between employees and fostering a culture of safety are the most effective ways to save lives in the workplace.

Tips for Avoiding a Heavy Health and Safety Fine

It can be tough to judge exactly how compliant one is as a company. Helpfully, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has provided specific advice on how businesses can prevent and reduce the cost of a fine.

They note that the main factors increasing the seriousness of an offense include:

  • Cost-cutting at the expense of safety
  • Deliberate concealment of illegal activity
  • Breaching a court order
  • Obstruction of justice
  • A poor health and safety record

They also outline a series of factors that could help reduce the seriousness of the offense and, as a result, reduce the heft of the fine:

  • Effective health and safety procedures in place
  • Evidence of steps taken voluntarily to remedy a problem
  • A high level of cooperation with the investigation
  • A good health and safety record, without previous convictions

In 2017, it might be worth reviewing your organization’s safety practices and ensuring compliance above and beyond the standard set in previous years. While health and safety breach fines continue to dog a number of companies, the cost of compliance has remained relatively low, making it the obvious choice.

 

 

5 Tips for Sun Safety

The sun is shining across our beautiful country and long may it last! 

We should make the most of it as it doesn’t happen very often but it’s still important to know there is a dark side to sunshine – or that there is a risk of getting skin cancer from the sun in Ireland, but there is!  Workers in the construction, outdoor and farming industries need to take special care as The Irish Cancer Society reports that one in four skin cancer deaths are in these sectors.

Research conducted in the UK emerged showing that working in the sun could lead to one death and five melanoma cases each week!  Construction workers diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer had the highest number of deaths (4 in 10), followed by agriculture workers (2 in 10).

In a country like Ireland where sunshine is measured in hours, rather than days, it’s hard to believe that in 2014, for example, we had around one death every week related to sun exposure at work.  Every year in Ireland, over 10,000 people are diagnosed with skin cancer.

Here are 5 actionable tips to stay safe when working in the sun:

Something’s Shady

Where possible, stay in the shade to limit your direct exposure to UV rays from the sun.

 

Cover up!

Wear a hat with a brim that gives shade to the face, neck, head and ears.  Cover up as much exposed skin as possible.

 

Sunglasses

Longterm exposure to UV exposure can lead to cataracts and cancer so wear sunglasses on sunny days to protect your eyes.

 

Sunscreen

Wear sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher from May to September.  Don’t forget that sunscreen has an expiration date, so make sure yours is still good.

 

Know your local UV index

If your local UV index is 3 or higher, then you have to be extra careful in the sun and be sure to stay sun safe!

 

Display Screen Equipment – (DSE/VDU) – Frequently Asked Questions

What legislation covers Display Screen Equipment ?

The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work, (General Application) Regulations 2007, Chapter 5 of Part 2 outline the requirements that must be adhered to in relation to Display Screen Equipment.

Note: Display Screen Equipment is referred to as VDU in this Frequently Asked Questions document.

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Is there an appropriate guidance document to refer to for advice and direction on the Display Screen Equipment Regulation?

The Guide to the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 Chapter 5 pf Part 2: Display Screen Equipment gives appropriate guidance.

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Who is covered by the Display Screen Equipment Regulation 2007?

These regulations are applicable:

  • If the employee has no choice but to use the VDU to carry out her/his work
  • If the employee normally uses the VDU for continuous periods of more than one hour
  • If the VDU is generally used by the employee on a daily basis

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What is not covered by the Display Screen Equipment Regulation 2007?

The Regulations provide for the exclusion of:

  • drivers’ cabs or control cabs for vehicles or machinery
  • computer systems on board a means of transport
  • computer systems mainly intended for public use
  • portable display screen equipment not in prolonged use at a workstation
  • calculators, cash registers and any equipment having a small data or measurement display required for direct use of the equipment
  • typewriters of traditional design, of the type known as “typewriter with window”

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What constitutes a workstation under the Display Screen Equipment Regulation 2007?

“workstation” means an assembly comprising display screen equipment, which may be provided with a keyboard or input device or software, or a combination of the foregoing, determining the operator and machine interface, and includes—

(a)  a work chair and work desk or work surface,

(b)  any optional accessories and peripherals, and

(c) the immediate work environment of the display screen equipment.

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What do I need to do to comply with the Display Screen Equipment Regulation 2007?

As an employer there are a number of duties set down it this regulation, the key requirements are to:

  • Carry out an analysis or risk assessment of employee workstations
  • Provide information to employees in relation to measures which have been implemented
  • Provide training to employees in the use of workstations before commencing work with display screen equipment and whenever the organisation of the workstation is modified
  • Perform a further analysis or risk assessment where an employee transfers to a new workstation or significant new work equipment, change of equipment or new technology is introduced an an individuals workstation
  • Ensure that the provision of an appropriate eye and eyesight test is made available to every employee

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How should a workstation analysis or risk assessment be carried out?

There are four stages in the risk assessment process:

Stage 1: Initial consultation with the employee

As a first step you (or the person who is conducting the risk assessment) should consult with the employee at the workstation in order to collect information on the main tasks completed at the workstation. It is important to provide the employee with an opportunity to comment during the course of the assessment.

Stage 2: Observation of the employee working at the computer workstation

You should observe the employee working at the workstation and should record whether the workstation meets the minimum requirements detailed in Schedule 4 of the Display Screen Equipment Regulation. These requirements can be incorporated into the risk assessment form as a checklist and you can indicate compliance or non-compliance as appropriate. The picture below shows an example of a poor workstation set up:

BadStation

Stage 3: Identify the issues that need to be addressed

You should detail the issues to be addressed on the risk assessment form. The picture below provides examples of issues that might need to be addressed.

Checklistdse

An action plan should be prepared stipulating how the issues will be addressed, who will take the necessary action and when the actions will be completed. A copy of the completed risk assessment should be given to the employee for his or her records and for further follow-up where required. It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that the actions are completed.

Stage 4: Review the implementation of the action plan

You will need to revisit the workstation if there were issues to be addressed. You should consult with the employee and observe whether the issues highlighted in the risk assessment have been addressed. When everything is satisfactory, you and the employee should sign off on the risk assessment document.

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What does a suitable workstation look like?

The picture below shows a computer workstation that has been assessed and has had improvements put in place, including adjustment of monitor to the correct height, improved lighting, provision of a document holder, footrest and an adjustable seat.

Goodworkstation

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Who should carry out an analysis or risk assessment of an employees workstation?

A competent person must carry out the risk assessment of an employees workstation. A person is deemed to be competent if he or she possesses sufficient training, experience and knowledge appropriate to conducting a risk assessment of a workstation. Depending on the situation, this may be an internal person or it may be external expertise. You need to be satisfied that the person conducting the risk assessment is capable of doing so properly and effectively.

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Is it acceptable to allow employees assess their own workstations?

It is not sufficient to allow employees to use a software package or other means to assess their own workstations, it is a duty of the employer to carry out an analysis or risk assessment of an employees workstation.

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Should the analysis or risk assessment of a workstation be documented?

Yes.  A documented analysis or risk assessment of a work station should include the following:

  • Brief overview of the tasks completed at the workstation
  • Evidence that all aspects detailed in Schedule 4 were taken into account as part of the analysis or risk assessment
  • Details of issues that need to be followed up
  • Details of an action plan to address outstanding issues which stipulates who is responsible, what actions will be taken and when they will be completed.
  • A copy of the completed analysis should be given to the employee for their records and for further follow up where required, to ensure all outstanding actions are addressed.

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If I move from one workstation to another am I entitled to a new workstation assessment?

Yes.  There will be situations where employees will move to a new workstation due to changing work commitments.  The employer needs to carry out a new workstation assessment at the employees new workstation.  A system should exist that when changes such as this take place a formal request is submitted to have a new workstation assessment carried out.  The analysis should take account of any changes in equipment or technology.

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Do the Display Screen Equipment requirements of Chapter 5 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 apply to laptops?

Regulation 71 (d) states that “this Chapter does not apply to… portable display screen equipment not in prolonged use at a workstation

Guide to the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 Chapter 5 of Part 2: Display Screen Equipment says

A laptop is not covered by these Regulations due to the fact that under these Regulations the keyboard shall be tiltable and separate from the screen so as to allow the user to find a comfortable working position which avoids fatigue in the arms or hands.

A laptop does not have a separate keyboard and a user should not work of the laptop directly for long periods of time.

It is recommended that a laptop should be connected to a separate monitor and keyboard, The workstation can then be assessed to record whether the workstation meets the requirements detailed in the Display Screen Equipment Regulation.

Other temporary laptop workstation set ups should be assessed to determine the usage of the laptop and to identify potential risks, however the user should not work of the laptop directly for long periods of time.

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What is Schedule 4?

Schedule 4 details the minimum requirements for all Display Screen Equipment that should be in place for Display Screen Equipment workstations.  In conducting a workstation assessment the employer must take account of the minimum requirements specified in Schedule 4. This Schedule covers a range of elements which include the following

  • Display Screen Equipment
  • Keyboard
  • Work desk or work surface
  • Work chair
  • Environment (space requirements, lighting, radiation, noise, heat and humidity)
  • Employee computer interface (software should be suitable for the task and easy to use

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Am I entitled to an eye and eyesight test?

The employer must inform employees that they are entitled to be provided with an appropriate eye and eyesight test, which would be carried out by a competent person. The employer may do this in a number of ways including the following –

  • Consultation with the safety representative(s) and formulate a memo to be placed on a notice board,
  • Inform the Human Resource manager/specialist and request that they inform all relevant employees of the availability of such tests,
  • Inform the employee while carrying out the analysis of the workstation,
  • Other appropriate means of effective communication.

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Who is entitled to eye and eyesight tests?

Every employee who habitually uses a VDU as a significant part of normal work has a right to opt for an appropriate eye test and an eyesight test which must be made available and paid for by the employer.

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Who can carry out an eyesight test?

A doctor or optometrist can carry this out. It may also be carried out by a person (including a nurse) trained to use a vision-screening machine. The person operating the machine must know when to refer employees who do not pass the eyesight tests at the screening level to a doctor or optometrist.

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How frequently should eyesight tests be carried out?

Employees have the right to an eye and eyesight test before taking up work if it is habitual work with a VDU as well as at regular intervals thereafter. In determining the intervals, factors such as the ages of the employees and the intensity of VDU work should be taken into account in deciding the frequency of repeat tests. Additionally, an appropriate eye and eyesight test must be made available to an employee who experiences visual difficulties which may be due to display screen work.

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When is an employer liable for the costs of providing glasses?

Where eye tests carried out by the doctor or optometrist reveal that particular lenses are required for VDU work, the costs of minimum requirement frames and lenses must be borne by the employer. Where an employee already wears glasses to correct a visual defect (normal corrective appliances), and routine change of lenses arises, if these glasses are adequate also for VDU work, the employer is not liable as regards meeting the cost. The cost of dealing with more general eye problems which are revealed as a result of the tests and which are not directly related to working with a VDU is a matter for the employee as part of his or her general health care, taking account of health care entitlements.

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Am I entitled to any form of training if I work with Display Screen Equipment Workstation?

Employers should provide training in the use of the workstation before an employee commences work on a VDU and, again, should the organisation of the workstation be altered. Training should include –

  • A general appreciation of the computer system to which the VDU may be linked,
  • Appropriate induction training. Employees should understand how the work is organised so as to comply with Chapter 5 of Part 2 of the General Application Regulations. This could include a written record of the changes made to the workstation and information on rest and posture breaks. The employees should be informed why the changes were made and the benefits of such changes.
  • Instruction on the general principles of ergonomics, the proper adjustment of furniture, screens, keyboard, lighting etc. so as to suit individual employee’s height, reach etc. This should include a general understanding of the use of different adjustments on the work chair and correct positioning of such accessories as the mouse, document holder and telephone. If an employee spends a lot of time on the phone during the workday consideration should be given to the provision of telephone headsets.

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What level of lighting should be used when working with Display Screen Equipment?

Correct lighting arrangements are essential if eye fatigue is to be avoided. Suitable back ground lighting is required for VDU work to provide an appropriate contrast between the screen and the background environment and to avoid problems of reflection and glare. As a general rule, a level of lighting of 300 – 500 lux should be appropriate. If more light is required for reading documents, local lighting should be used. However the light from a table lamp etc. must not shine on the VDU or the immediate surrounding area.

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How often should I take a break from working with Display Screen Equipment?

Employers must plan work so that daily work at VDU’s is interrupted periodically by breaks or changes in activity which reduce the work at the screen. Although the Regulations set no frequency for breaks, no single continuous period of work at a screen should, in general, exceed one hour.

The regulation does not specify the frequency and duration of work breaks when working with VDU’s, nor is there any generally accepted standard. In some countries, including Ireland, there are employer trade union agreements on work breaks at company level.

The flow of work to a VDU user should be designed to allow natural breaks to occur. Alternatively, a change in the pattern of work by combining VDU and non-VDU work could be introduced. However, rest breaks are essential where continuous VDU work, requiring sustained attention is likely to result in fatigue. Ideally, the length of the rest should reflect the intensity of the individual job. However, there are four important points –

  • Rest breaks or changes in the pattern of work, where they are necessary, should be taken before fatigue sets in. Some employees suffer symptoms from the effort used to keep up performance while fatigued.
  • The employee should not sit in the same position for long periods and make sure to change posture as often as practicable.
  • Short frequent rest breaks are more satisfactory than longer breaks taken occasionally.
  • Rest breaks should be taken away from the VDU. Other duties may be assigned during this period, provided they are not too intensive

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When typing should the user rest their wrists on the desk?

The user should avoid contact stress with hard surfaces while typing, the use of a wrist rest in front of the keyboard is okay and the user may position the keyboard at the edge of the desk.

 

Ergonomic Risk Assessment- https://www.ayrton.ie/safety-consultancy/general/ergonomic-risk-assessment/

Tips To Improve Food Safety in Your Business

Tips To Improve Food Safety in Your Business

A big problem for managers and food business owners is keeping their employees motivated about food safety. Hospitality workers have long grumbled over the seemingly excessive rules and regulations when dealing with food prep and service. They feel like recording everything to within an inch of its life, ticking off endless checklists, responding to the same questions again and again, knowing instinctively that the answer will be near identical, is a waste of time. And this is the attitude that can get businesses in trouble.

ayrton, food safety

The Food Safety Authority are there to act as a body to which all food businesses are answerable and their tight grip over food prep and service, should not be underestimated considering that every month the HSE food safety authority take action on noncomplying food businesses around the country.

A strict and well documented food safety strategy is a must. At the end of the day, the steps taken are there to protect both the business and the consumer from harm and it is with this in mind that managers and employees should approach this responsibility. Acceptance is the only path forward, so you might as well start today (especially if you consider that a closure order is tantamount to a death sentence for a food business)

If you have been lagging behind on your food safety management within your food business, the first step you can take is to establish a HACCP system within all food prep and handling areas. And you can do that today.

Have a sconce at the FSAI website here https://www.fsai.ie/food_businesses/haccp/principles_of_haccp.html to begin this process and reaffirm your commitment and obligation as a food service provider to maintain the highest standards possible when cooking and preparing food.

The next logical step is to ensure that all your staff are trained up, signed off and diligently working to maintain these standards that you as a business owner, have spent money and time investing in. If you are looking into making this step, you can check out our courses here https://www.ayrton.ie/course-category/food-safety/

The number one cause of food poisoning is poor personal hygiene. So, if you’re looking to hammer home the idea of food safety with your employees here are some simple tips to get you started:

  1. Make sure all facilities have adequate soap, running water and hand dryers/disposable paper towels. If you give people an excuse not to do something, they will more than likely take it. Put the upkeep of the staff toilet and changing areas on your list of priorities and check that everything is in order, every day.
  2. Put some antibacterial gel by all sinks and food disposal areas. This is a simple trick that will allow your employees to keep their hands clean without even thinking about it.
  3. ASK. Nothing scares the bejaysus out of people more than being asked if they did something, even if they have done it. Make it a habit to ask your employees if they’ve washed their hands after taking a break for example. You’ll soon find that they’ll do it without thinking.
  4. Make it fun. Be creative with your signage and use some humour! Nothing sticks better in our minds that a silly joke or pun.

Let us know what you’re biggest challenge is in your food business or any tips you might have for keeping food safety at the fore of your business.