When it comes to developing safe workplaces through effective Occupational Hygiene practices it is better to be safe than sorry. Dust, gases, vapours, crystalline silica, airborne contaminants, and a whole range of other workplace exposure risks all pose a threat to the safety of employees who are just trying to go about finishing their workday, and as such, rigorous standards need to be in place to ensure that these environmental risks do not exceed safe levels.
Further, what at one stage may have been deemed to be a ‘safe’ level of exposure may, upon review, be identified as a potential risk, with workplace rules and regulations changing to protect the safety of business’ and their staff. An effective method for ensuring that your business remains on top of its legal and regulatory obligations in keeping its workplace safe from exposure hazards is to conduct regular Occupational Hygiene Audits of the premises, ensuring that exposure levels at your premises do not exceed workplace regulations, and that your staff and operations is upholding the highest safety standards.
Exposing the risks of workplace exposure
In 2019 Safe Work Australia (SWA), the government body dedicated to promoting work health and safety practices, revised the existing Workplace Exposure Standards (WES) regarding respirable crystalline silica exposure, from the time weighted average (TWA) of 0.1 mg/m3 to the much lower 0.05 mg/m3. The reason for this change is due to increased awareness of the dangers of exposure to this hazardous substance, and its potential to cause a number of long-term health problems, including Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), kidney disease, silicosis, and a number of other lung diseases.
Further, SWA has recognised the potential hazard that respirable coal dust poses for workers in relevant sectors, such as the mining industry, and reduced its allowable exposure levels to the TWA of 1.5 mg/m3. Although SWA is giving business’ in different states and territories various deadlines, up until October 2022, to adjust their practices in accordance with these new levels, to best promote the safety of staff, and develop a productive, supportive work environment, it is recommended that companies begin the transition process at their earliest convenience.
These revised Occupational Health and Safety regulations will affect business across different industries in various ways. For example, organisations whose operations work with engineered stone have a responsibility to be on top of their occupational hygiene requirements, and utilise them as a guideline for developing a safe work environment. Under these revised OH&S regulations, companies have a responsibility to develop risk control practices related to exposure, conduct regular audits of their processes to ensure they continue to meet regulations, and ensure that their employees are not exposed to crystalline silica dust or respirable coal dust levels exceeding the updated standards.
It is crucial for business’ working in the mining, construction, and related sectors to have an effective exposure mitigation strategy in place. This is a unified approach to identifying and mitigating potential exposure threats, and then implementing safeguarding measures to ensure they do not reoccur, and that the workplace undergoes periodic checks to ensure it continues to operate with regulatory safe levels.
Occupational Hygiene Audits develop Overall Heightened Awareness
An effective workplace exposure Occupational Hygiene Audit works at mitigating risks and ensuring the safety of employees from the pre- to post-risk stage. This means that it works at identifying potential threats, safeguarding the business from them, implementing protective strategies to stop potential threats in their tracks and thus protect the operations, immediately mitigating the impact of existing threats, and developing checking procedures to ensure that they do not reoccur. This is conducted through a systematic, step-by-step, process, which:
- Identifies and describes exposure threats: Before a business can even work at safeguarding from potential exposure risks, it needs to catalogue the scope of potential threats, describing where they are within the operations, why they pose a threat, and what needs to be done to mitigate the risk level.
- Collects and collates data: To ensure your business is meeting its regulatory requirements, it needs to identify exposure risks from two perspectives; where it is now, and where it needs to get to. This step sees the business’ entire operations being assessed for exposure risks, the threat levels being catalogued, and then an action plan being developed, which works with the business to get it from its existing state to being within safe exposure regulations.
- Mitigates and controls threats: Once the business has thoroughly identified the scope of existing threats, it can then work at mitigating their impact on the organisation, ensuring that safeguarding processes and procedures and put in place to promote a safe, hazard-free work environment.
- Periodically evaluates the operations: Once the business has worked at mitigating the exposure risks and achieving regulatory compliance it needs to develop strategies to ensure it stays that way. This step helps the busines develop strategies for ensuring it continues to meet regulations, and has a clear process in place for what to do in the event of an incident.
By conducting an Occupational Hygiene Audit your business is demonstrating a commitment to staff safety, developing a productive, safe work environment, and upholding its reputation as a socially conscious, reliable organisation to deal with.
To keep your operations, staff, and business reputation safe, your company should contract a qualified occupational hygienist to conduct an Occupational Hygiene audit. Through utilising science and engineering methodologies, they will be able to gauge the extent of staff exposure, and then develop and apply suitable control measure to keep your employees safe while in the workplace. Further, this informative process imparts knowledge of the scope of exposure risks, and helps companies better understand these threats, and thus safely modify their work environment.
If you want to know more about how this process can help your business meet regulatory compliance, develop a safe work culture for everyone, and uphold the reputation of your organisation as a socially responsible company, then please give Anitech’s safety systems consultants a call today on 1300 802 163. All you need to do is tell them about your business, what industry it is in, and the types of environmental risks it may be exposed to, and they will be able to explain the various ways this process could safeguard your business, and how it could be conducted onsite in an easy, stress-free manner. Further, they will be able to address any queries you may have, and explain how the auditing process is conducted in a COVID-Safe, risk-free manner. Isn’t that the level of safety your business wants to achieve?
Please click here to read more about how an occupational hygiene audit is beneficial to your business in a number of ways.