Class 3 Flammable Liquids? Dangerous Goods? Enhancing the health and wellbeing of our workers? Yes, you heard us correctly. This blog is part 3 in our blog series on applying the principles of good work design to flammable liquids usage, handling and storage practices. Good work design is more than creating a written procedure for your chemical decanting station — it’s about implementing strategies that could actually improve the overall health and wellbeing of your workers.
“Principle 2 — Good work design enhances health and wellbeing” Safe Work Australia.
Good work design — Principle 2
Principle 2 of good work design is about creating work that not only protects human life, but even improves the health and quality of life for your workers. This principle draws our attention to three important facts:
- A healthy workplace is not just the absence of hazards, injuries, or disease. It’s a workplace that focuses on a complete state of physical, mental and social wellbeing for everyone.
- Strategic work design can improve a worker’s physical and mental health.
- People engaged in meaningful work - ie, high level of training, interaction and participation — lead more productive lives.
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” World Health Organisation.
Improving physical health
Even if your workplace carries large quantities of Dangerous Goods like flammable liquids, there are plenty of strategies you can put in place that can improve the physical health of your workers. In this section we’ll concentrate on two key areas: musculoskeletal health, and fatigue — but there are many more you could address.
1. Musculoskeletal health
Musculoskeletal conditions affect a person’s muscles, bones and connective tissues — common work-related conditions include carpel tunnel syndrome, arthritis and back pain. All these disorders can develop as workers repeatedly lift fuel drums, decant chemicals from large containers, or transfer packaged chemicals around the warehouse.
At the same time supervisors, production managers and work crew leaders often have loads of paperwork to process — they can find themselves sitting for long periods of time. Prolonged periods of sitting will slowly deteriorate muscle tone as well as place workers at a higher risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Preventing musculoskeletal conditions and manual handling injuries
Manual handling injuries involving flammable liquids can also lead to chemical spills, fires, explosions and unsafe exposure to fumes. We recommend:
- Using trolleys or drum dolly’s when transferring chemicals around the job site.
- Using forklifts and other lifting aids.
- Having drums racks and cradles at decanting stations to prevent back injuries (as well as spillage).
- Positioning flammable liquids stores and cabinets where workers can easily load and clear without strain.
Proactive work design
One of the best ways to improve musculoskeletal health is through physical activity and exercise. Educate your workers about the adverse health effects of sitting and other sedentary behaviour. You can also:
- Encourage standing breaks rather than the traditional ‘sit-down’ to lunch or smoko.
- Implement sit-stand workstations for workers or supervisors that have a range of administrative tasks.
- Design work rosters and assign daily tasks that keep workers more physically active — or at least leaving their desks every 30 minutes.
2. Sleeping and fatigue
Workers who use or handle Class 3 Flammable Liquids need to be well rested and mentally alert — tired workers can drop chemical containers or forget a critical sequence in the lab. At the same time long-term sleep deprivation from irregular shift-work can lead to cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
Proactive work design
Taking a proactive approach to ensure your workers have enough sleep can increase productivity, reduce workplace incidents and improve the health of your workers. Proven strategies include:
- Implementing rosters that give workers enough recovery time between shifts.
- Incorporating nap breaks into shifts.
- Discouraging workers from making long commutes before and after their shifts.
- Customising rosters to support individual health factors and lifestyle.
REMEMBER: Workers who are consistently exposed to chemical fumes also need sufficient rest to give their bodies enough time to fully metabolise.
Mental health and wellbeing
Good work design can support and improve the mental health and wellbeing of your workers. Workers with robust mental faculties make better decisions, are more likely to engage in safe work practices. The following strategies will also help you fulfil your obligations under the WHS Regulations:
- Involving workers in decision making that affects their work or production area.
- Regularly consulting with workers about individual job tasks, operating procedures, safety equipment and chemical handling practices.
- Having workers play a key role when carrying out chemical risk assessments and safety inspections.
- Empowering workers with an outstanding knowledge of the chemicals they use. This includes reading Safety Data Sheets (SDSs), recognising chemical hazards, dealing with chemical spills.
- Adopt a zero tolerance for bullying, discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
Applying good work design principles to your Class 3 Flammable Liquids also includes using a risk management methodology to identify and assess the severity of chemical hazards. This risk assessment will help you determine the most effective equipment, procedures and chemical storage apparatus. Why not download our free eBook Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors for more information about why safety cabinets for flammable liquids are a critical part of good work design.