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

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.

Construction Safety Week: How to avoid health effects caused by dust exposure!

Airborne dusts are of particular concern because they are associated with classical
widespread occupational lung diseases such as the pneumoconioses, as well as with
systemic intoxications such as lead poisoning, especially at higher levels of exposure. There
is also increasing interest in other dust-related diseases, such as cancer, asthma, allergic
alveolitis and irritation, as well as a whole range of non-respiratory illnesses, which may occur
at much lower exposure levels.


Whenever people inhale airborne dust at work, they are at risk of an occupational disease.
Overexposure to dusts causes disease, temporary and permanent disabilities and even
deaths. Dusts in the workplace may also contaminate or reduce the quality of products, be
the cause of fire and explosion, and damage the environment.
Examples of hazardous dusts in the workplace include:
-mineral dusts from the extraction and processing of minerals (these often contain
silica, which is particularly dangerous);
-metallic dusts, such as lead and cadmium and their compounds;
-other chemical dusts, such as bulk chemicals and pesticides;
-vegetable dusts, such as wood, flour, cotton and tea, and pollens;
-moulds and spores.

Asbestos is a mineral fibre, which is particularly dangerous, and is found, for example, in
maintenance and demolition of buildings where it had been used as insulation material.
Ayrton Group can provide its clients withprivate asbestos awareness courses, which will
provide attendees with broad understanding of the dangers associated with asbestos and
measures required to protect their safety. See HERE.

Office Ergonomics – how to maximize productivity in the workplace

When work is a pleasure, life is a joy!  When work is a duty, life is slavery.

    Maxim Gorky

 

The truth is, we spend most of our daytime hours at work.  There are simple tweaks and changes that can be made to make life at work more comfortable and keep productivity at it’s peak.  We call this Ergonomics.

Ergonomics in it’s simplest form, is maximizing the usability of any object.  In an office environment, good ergonomics can make a tremendous difference to the quality of your staff’s day, which impacts the quality of their work and happiness.

Poor posture, ill working conditions result in more sick days, poorer productivity, higher chances of injury (In an office, this is usually back or neck pain) which ultimately results in greater expense to the company.

This can all be done by having an Ergonomic Risk Assesment done and making simple tweaks.

Office Ergonomics – How to avoid back pain at work

It is commonly believed that correct posture is the key to avoiding back pain while at work.  Without doubt, good posture affects your overall comfort and health. However, posture change is as important as posture correctness.  Simply getting up periodically through the day and having some movement has a huge impact.

People who sit all day tend to have back problems.  But so do people who stand all day. One possible solution is to have an area with standing tables where staff who spend most of their day sitting can get up and have a ‘standing break’ for short periods of time.

 

How to set up workstations for maximum productivity

The workstation is where staff will spend the bulk of their working day, which makes it a priority when planning for comfort and productivity.

Standard workstations are usually set to approximately 74 cm – this rarely suits everyone.  Desks that are adjustable for height could be a viable solution. If this is not possible, something as simple as height adjustable keypads can make a difference.

In order to effectively design a workplace for maximum output, we need to ask the question, ‘What will each employee be doing at their workstation?’

Employees who spend all of their working hours on a computer will do well with a simple rectangular layout.  If handwriting and computer input is required, they will find their work flow easier with a curved L desk. Avoid 90 degree corners as they tend to create increased demand for reaching.

Will multiple screens be used?  If so, allow enough room for proper setup.

If multiple screens will be used the workplace should allow enough room for proper setup.

What about keyboard trays?

Keyboard trays are unnecessary with adjustable work desks.  If the desk is a standard height, keyboard trays should be wide enough to support both the mouse and keyboard on one level surface.  Reaching to the desktop to operate the mouse is not ergonomic.

Is storage required?  Pedestals or drawers under the work area may restrict leg clearance.  Cupboards positioned over the work area can promote reaching if materials are accessed regularly.

 

It’s all about the chair

If you’re going to spend money on only one thing, it should be the chair.  Office seating is the best place to spend money with the highest return on investment in regards to comfort, spinal health and productivity.  Look for a good quality, fully adjustable ergonomic chair that allows movement and ease of adjustment. Back support is key. The chair should first and foremost provide sufficient lumbar support in an adjustable height and tilt back rest.  Buy the best you can afford.

You’d think buying a chair would be fairly straightforward, but there are several things to consider.  Fabric or mesh? Dynamic or static? Armrests or no armrests? Will more than one person be using the chair?

The right answer varies (except regarding dynamic vs. static… dynamic is always the winner).  In a warm environment fabric chairs are the best way to go. Armrests are ideal IF they adjust and do not restrict proper set up.  They are also perfect for meeting rooms. If more than one person will be using the chair, look for the most adjustment possible to accommodate all sizes of people.

 

What about computer equipment?

Once again, it is important to understand what each individual employee will be doing.  What software will they be using? Do they use touch screen technology? If so, standard setup will encourage awkward postures such as reaching.

Will staff spend hours on the mouse scrolling through documents or typing?  This will help to understand if the number pad on a keyboard is an irritating addition or a necessity.  Keyboards that come with number pads can cause staff to reach for their mouse over the number pad – resulting in awkward static shoulder postures.  If the employee is going to be spending the bulk of their time typing, a keyboard with a natural layout that separates the keys and promotes neutral wrist postures is perfect.

How big a monitor do employees really need?  Bigger is not always better. For multiple users, monitors should be mounted on adjustable arms.  This allows employees to position the height and avoid awkward neck postures.

 

Let there be light!

Lighting is another issue worth consideration.

Envision yourself in a fancy restaurant with dim lighting – how do you typically position yourself when trying to reach the menu?  Head bent forward? Squinting your eyes? This happens in workplaces too. If lighting is poor, workers spend more time with heir neck bent down trying to read documents.  This leads to muscle strain and fatigue.

In contrast, too much light can lead to glare, which causes eye strain, dry eyes and headaches.  Picture yourself on a patio on a sunny day trying to read.

So how can we provide good lighting?

Some guidelines include:

  • Incorporate natural lighting where possible
  • For tasks that require attention to fine detail, provide task lighting
  • Position computer monitors perpendicular to windows to reduce glare
  • Position seating so that windows are neither directly in front of or directly behind the workstation.
  • Adjust the brightness of computer screens to align with the lighting in the room.

Once again, in order to provide the best ergonomic solution, it is important to understand what the employee will be doing and how they will spend their day.  Staff who spend all their time on the computer require much lower light levels than those who will be engaging in meetings, reading and paperwork.

 

Now what?

In this article, we’ve given you a number of tips on how to provide an efficient, comfortable workplace with the goal of maximizing productivity and employee satisfaction (while minimizing sick days and the expense of missed days… which brings it’s own kind of sickness!)

However, the best results are unique to the various work conditions and goals of each company.  For the best results, have an Ergonomic Risk Assessment done. At Ayrton we can work with you to review the current work design and organizational factors in your workplace, identify ay ergonomic equipment requirements and provide on the spot advice and assistance to attain optimum layout of the workstations.  This varies from computer workstations to machine set up on a production floor. There are minimum legislative requirements and we can help assure you’re workplace meets them. Applying ergonomics in the workplace reduces the likelihood of accidents, reduces the potential for injury and ill health such as aches and pains of the wrists, shoulders and back, and improves performance and productivity.  Get in touch today!

 

(021) 421 0331

Info@ayrton.ie

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!

 

12 Safety Tips of Christmas

It’s the most magical time of year!  Children wait with excited anticipation for Santa to visit.  Families get together, sharing laughter, food, and memories that will last a lifetime.

It’s a time to cherish.  When accidents happen around Christmastime, it is even more devastating simply due to the near fairy-tale vibe of this time of year.  Keep your holidays merry and your days bright and safe with these 12 days of Christmas safety tips!

  1. “I’ll be home for Christmas” Prepare your car for the hours of Christmas carols as you drive to Grandmother’s house.  Build an emergency kit and include items such as blankets, jumper cables, road maps, shovel and extra clothing.

  2. Santa’s sleigh and reindeer may be equipped to travel through snowstorms, but for us humans – avoid driving in a storm.  If you must travel in bad weather, let someone know where you are going and when you expect to arrive. “My mother will start to worry… my father will be pacing the floor…So really I’d better scurry… maybe just a half a drink more”

  3. “May your days be merry and bright!”  It’s hard to feel merry while nursing a flu.  If you do get sick,help prevent the flu from spreading.  Stay home, cuddle up with a blanket and Christmas movie, wash your hands with soap and water as often as possible or use an alcohol based hand rub.

  4. Maybe, just maybe, it’s layers – lots and lots of layers – that Santa is sporting.  Leaving room for just one more plate of cookies and milk! When it’s cold outside, layered lightweight clothing will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat.

  5. Stay safe while roasting chestnuts on an open fire.  Stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food.  If you do leave the kitchen, even for a very short period of time, be sure to turn off the stove.

  6. The greatest gift of all is life – make sure to get your first aid and CPR/AED training!

  7. Designate a driver or skip the holiday cheer. Don’t drink and drive – limits have tightened lately, so even one glass is too much!

  8. ‘The weather outside is frightful, but in here it’s so delightful’. Heat your home safely – never leave portable heaters or fireplaces unattended, and be sure to install smoke alarms!

  9. “Baby it’s cold outside’ If there is ice, be sure to salt your front step
    to avoid slipping and falling and hurting yourself!

  10. Cut down on your heating bills without being a Grinch. Get your furnace cleaned and change the filters. Make sure your furniture isn’t blocking the heat vents

  11. “I’ll be home for Christmas…”. Going home for the holidays? Travel safely. Give your full attention to the road — avoid distractions, please don’t text and drive and wait for the Christmas drinks until you actually arrive home.

  12. Resolve to be Ayrton Ready in the New Year. Get ready now for emergencies in the coming year by scheduling your safety training and consultancy today!

Who’s Depending on your Safety? (Downloadable PDF’s)

Who’s Depending on your Safety?

Being safe at work is about so much more than rules and regulations, or even just protecting yourself from injury.  The best part of life are the people closest to us.  Who’s depending on your safety?

We have posted these on social media and have had great interest so created this page where you can download your own PDF to post in your workplace.

The Top Seven Christmas Safety Tips from Safety Experts

There’s nothing like warming frosty hands in front of a roaring fire in the dead of winter. Many treasured Christmas memories are set to the backdrop of lighting candles, hanging up fairy lights, or decorating Christmas trees.

But in this busy time of year, we at Ayrton Group have noticed that safety around fire and electrics is often overlooked in favour of a quick “ah, it’ll be grand” solution. It’s our job to notice these things, afterall!

Since we’re serious about safety, our experts have made a list (and checked it twice!) of seven things you can do at work or home to prevent a fire and make sure your Christmas is merry for all.

1. Hydrate your Christmas tree

Real trees get thirsty even after they’re cut down. Over time they lose their moisture and the needles begin to dry out and turn brown, which makes for fantastic fuel for a fire. In fact, a significant number of fire brigade callouts at this time of year are to attend tree-related fires. Watch just how quickly a dry tree can go up in flames in this video by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Keep your tree green and hydrated by ensuring the bottom inch of the trunk is submerged in water. If you opt for an artificial tree, make sure it’s fire resistant. Use only indoor lights on the tree and turn them off at night.

2. Mind your jumper

Are you wearing your favourite Christmas jumper right now? Chances are that it and those warm, fuzzy socks you love are made with a synthetic material, which can be highly flammable. Check the clothing tag and mind any dangling material when lighting candles, cooking over the hob, or warming your stockinged feet by the fire’s edge.

3. Use battery candles

Nothing makes a room warmer than the glow of a candle. But just like Christmas trees, unattended candle blazes are a big part of what keeps the fire brigade busy at this time of year. With so many realistic battery powered options on the market, consider replacing the wax candles in your windows or on your tables with battery alternatives.

If you must use real ones, never put lit candles on a Christmas tree and don’t leave them unattended– blow them out when you leave the room. Place them away from flammable materials (eg wrapping paper, plastics, hairspray, oils), out of reach of little one’s hands, and avoid places where they can be easily knocked into.

4. Ditch the old lights

If you’ve lost count of how many Christmases you’ve had that strand of lights, consider replacing them. Choosing LED bulbs over incandescent ones not only saves you money but can reduce the fire risk as they don’t get as hot. Always look for the CE safety mark to ensure the wiring has undergone rigorous safety checks.

Proper storage and handling can elongate the life of a strand, but be sure to check for broken coating or exposed wiring. Never switch out a burnt out bulb while the strand is plugged in. Only use indoor lights indoors and outdoor lights outdoors; indoor lights are not as resistant to moisture and therefore more prone to shorting out, while outdoor lights produce too much heat for indoor use.

Electrical outlets with too my appliances plugged in

5. Don’t overload the plugs

One more thing plugged in won’t hurt, right? It’s so tempting, especially when short on sockets and time. Yet even a small surge can cause havoc on already overloaded outlets.

6. Test the smoke alarms and other equipment

Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms (if you have a fuel burning stove) should be tested twice a year, especially when the kitchen and cooking appliances will be in such high demand. Keep extra batteries on hand for new toys so you’re not tempted to remove them from the alarms. Store a fire extinguisher and fire blanket in or near the kitchen and know how to use them.

7. Review your fire safety training

You’ve taken all the precautions but still accidents happen! Acting quickly will minimise damage and save lives. Prepare in advance by reviewing with others what to do in case of a fire, especially if people are unfamiliar with the building.

If you need to become certified in fire safety or first aid for the workplace, take one of our training courses. New courses begin weekly.

Bonus tips: never pour water on an oil or electrical fire; instead use the extinguisher or sand. Cut off the oxygen supply with a fire blanket or a lid (if cooking). If clothing alights, smother with a fire blanket or stop, drop and roll.

We wish you a safe and Merry Christmas from all of us at Ayrton Group.

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/

Asbestos: why we still need to talk about it

 

The Greeks and Romans used to weave its fibres into clothing. The Vatican preserved their writings on paper made of it. The brake pads in your dad’s car were manufactured from it.

 

Used in a variety of applications throughout history, asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that’s infamous for its association with serious and fatal illnesses including pneumoconiosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

 

The earliest documentation about the harmful effects of asbestos can be traced back to Greek authors. In the late 1970s, the global demand for asbestos began to slow as more countries began to take notice of the link between asbestos workers and a high disease rate.

 

However, it’s been more than 20 years since asbestos was banned in Ireland and across Europe, so why do we still need to talk about it?

 

It still affects people.

 

In Ireland, a record number of asbestos-related fatalities are expected this year and in the near future.

 

“Asbestos is particularly dangerous because related illnesses can take 15-50 years to manifest,” said Chris Ferris, health and safety consultant of Ayrton Group. “Before the ban, it was so widely used that anyone born before 1985 most likely has been exposed at some point in their lives.” 

 

Ferris, who conducts hundreds of asbestos surveys and trainings every year,  points to a lack of training and public knowledge about the menace it continues to pose.  These long-held assumptions and myths about asbestos continue the cycle of lax procedures and dangerous practices. 

Asbestos Site Survey
Asbestos Site Survey

Myth #1: The danger of exposure is gone

 

Too many contractors and property owners believe the myth that because asbestos has been banned, it’s no longer a threat. 

 

“The biggest problem facing us is the lingering Asbestos-containing Materials (ACMs) that were used prominently in government buildings, council houses, schools, and hospitals,” said Ferris.

 

Any building renovated during the 1980s and 1990s, or any roof built before 1995 using concrete roof tiles are likely to consist of ACMs. Ferris also estimates over 60% of both public and residential buildings constructed before the 2000s would likely contain asbestos.

 

As these older buildings get demolished or renovated, if not managed properly, they can expose unknowing workers, their families, and the immediate community to asbestos particles. 

 

Ferris explained, “Asbestos has been mined for millennia for its heat resistant properties. It was an effective and cheap option for use in partitions, roofing materials, cement, tiles, tile adhesive, and pipes.

 

“Asbestos, if allowed to remain encapsulated and undisturbed, isn’t dangerous. However, as the buildings start to age, the pipes, roofs, tiles become fragile and more likely to break and risk disturbing it.”

 

For example, the asbestos gauze used around the gunmetal piping for insulation in old buildings will eventually dry out due to years of heat passing through. If the pipe breaks or the gauze cracks, fibres can be released into the air as microscopic particles, smaller than dust. These fibres settle on every surface, easily stirred up and breathed in. If wettened, they can’t disperse as easily but once the moisture dries, then the fibres are prone to be airborne again.

 

The improper removal or disposal of asbestos heightens the risk of exposure and requires certified personnel to see its safely dealt with.

 

Myth #2:  If you can’t see it, then you don’t have it

 

Another prevalent myth is the idea that if you can’t see asbestos, then you must not have it. Unfortunately, many ACMs are not easily identifiable because the asbestos was used in another substance like adhesive, cement, plastic, or encapsulated in resin. 

 

For example, the popular blue, red, green resin-based floor tiles contained asbestos. More importantly, so does the adhesive used to bind them. The danger emerges during renovations when the floor is broken to remove the tiles, which releases the microscopic fibres into the air. 

 

A growing problem is the lack of workers who know how to recognize ACMs as they get mistaken from their non-asbestos counterparts. More training is needed for the younger workforce to help them identify potentially hazardous ACMs onsite.

 

Some common places to find asbestos in older buildings include:

  • Slate tiles from the 1980 and 1990s- asbestos was used to fireproof, soundproof, and reinforce the slates
  • Old black toilet seats
  • Heat insulation black pad on the underside of old stainless steel sinks
  • Insulation found around heaters and pipes
  • Any renovation work in the 1960s and 1970s
  • Fuse boards, asbestos insulation boards, partitions, ceiling tiles…and many more.

 

Myth #3: All buildings will have an asbestos report

 

The HSA guidelines issued in 2006 state that every house built before the year 2000 should have a survey taken but is often neglected. 

 

When purchasing a building or house, asbestos will appear on the report only if a survey had been carried out. If there is no mention within the report, the best way to know if a building has asbestos is to have a survey conducted by an accredited company like Ayrton Group. 

 

If building works are being carried out, often building contractors will incorporate the survey into the cost. Otherwise, they can be held liable if their workers are exposed to asbestos.

 

Myth #4: It’s too expensive to deal with

 

Ferris would argue that it’s too expensive NOT to deal with it. Neglected or mishandled asbestos can cost a company thousands of euro and affects human lives.

 

“There is no statute of limitations in the eyes of the law related to asbestos, so companies can still be held liable for exposure decades ago,” explained Ferris. “This is because symptoms of asbestos-related illnesses take so long to manifest.”

 

Businesses are responsible for the health and safety of their employees. Failure to follow the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work regulations related to asbestos can leave businesses vulnerable to future litigation. Property owners and building contractors who haven’t done their due diligence to properly survey and remove any ACMs could be held accountable under the Air Pollution Act, Water Pollution Act, or several other regulations informed by the HSA.

 

A recent example follows the Dublin court case of a building contractor from McAleer & Rushe UK Ltd. He pled guilty on behalf of the company to allegations of failing to carry out an asbestos risk assessment on a Dublin city building and exposing employees to asbestos.

A sign fastened to a gate outside a derelict building warning of the presence of asbestos.

How to get rid of asbestos

 

Instruct an accredited company like Ayrton Group to provide Asbestos Consultancy and Training. They will efficiently manage the complete lifecycle of an asbestos project from the identification of risk to remediation and air monitoring.

 

If your company needs additional training for managers to onsite workers, Ayrton Group can provide private asbestos awareness courses, which give attendees a broad understanding of the dangers associated with asbestos and measures required to protect their safety.

 

The awareness training will be useful for property owners, building contractors, and anyone else who has responsibility for health and safety in the workplace. This training is especially helpful for those most at risk from inadvertent exposure such as maintenance personnel, electricians, plumbers, fitters, painters and decorators, demolition and construction workers, roofers, telecommunications engineers, fire and burglar alarm installers, computer installers and building surveyors.

 

At Ayrton Group we have a wide range of expertise in the area of Asbestos Consultancy and Training including risk assessment, surveys, sample testing, removal project management, air monitoring, and awareness training. 

 

If you require our expertise for your facility or project, get in touch on (01) 8385595 or (021) 4210331.