Monthly Archives: September 2014

Presentations from researchers from The Netherlands- Roos Schelvis

Roos Schelvis (Health Psychologist)

Bottom-up innovation in vocational education: design and process lessons

The aim of the Bottom-up Innovation project is to increase vitality and decrease need for recovery in teachers of two Dutch vocational schools, by implementing a participatory, primary preventive and organizational level occupational health intervention. The design of the project as well as some results of the implementation process will be discussed.

“Stress is nothing more than a socially acceptable form of mental illness” stated American psychotherapist Richard Carlson. Set aside the bluntness of the statement I found some truth in it. In my work as a research scientist at the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research TNO, I aim to make work-related stress more ‘unacceptable’ for employers, employees, social partners and policy makers. My projectwork ranges from developing a definition for ‘work stress’ with social partners, to designing an agression prevention tool that makes the primary organizational process safer, till evaluating an intervention on happy and healthy working for employees in vocational education. For the last named project I’m affiliated to VU University Medical Centre Amsterdam and Twente University as a PhD candidate.


Presentations from researchers from The Netherlands- Fenna Leijten

School seminar series Wednesday 24th of September 1.00-2.00 Room HS1/115

Two researchers from The Netherlands will present at the next School Seminar.

Fenna Leijten

The Study on Employment, Ability and Motivation, STREAM

In this longitudinal cohort study (2010-2014), working, self-employed, and non-employed persons aged 45-64 years in the Netherlands filled out an annual questionnaire. The goal of this study is to gain insight into how older workers can remain employed, healthy, and productively for longer. The design and possibilities of this study will be described, as well as some results.

Fenna has a background in Social Psychological and in Public Health. She is doing a PhD at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, on the influence of health problems on work ability and productivity in older employees, and the role that work and personal factors play in this relation. In her research she conducts both quantitative studies using large national datasets and qualitative studies. Furthermore, she is a research scientist at the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research TNO, where she works on diverse projects focusing on integrated and innovative health care.

Is your cleaner your child’s killer?

Lurking beneath your kitchen sink is something sinister; the products we welcome into our homes may be silently waiting to kill. Children are attracted to the pleasant smells emitted by the products and find easy access to chemicals due to storage in accessible locations and containers that are easily opened. In NSW every year there are nearly 500 hundred children admitted to hospital due to consuming chemicals found in the home. These include corrosive substances and flammable liquids, both of which may result in disastrous consequences if consumed.

Take a look under your sink and consider whether you really do need all those chemicals. Do you? Read the labels – this might sound obvious, but there is so much information on a label to assist you. Labels must clearly state the product name and some basic but valuable data such as precautions for handling, storage and first aid measures. Looking for the distinctive coloured diamond, which will generally be red or white, carefully group each of your chemicals by the relevant type. If there’s no diamond, you’re not out of danger yet. Look for any other warnings, such as ‘POISON’. These should guide your decision as to whether to keep them, dispose of them or find a better storage solution.

Check which ones you want to keep or throw out. For the ones you are going to keep, make sure the label is clear, the packaging is in good condition and that the container can be sealed; tightly and securely. Ensuring the storage location is secure and appropriate is important too and should be decided upon by reading the label for guidance and considering who needs to access them. For information regarding the safe use, storage and disposal, contact the manufacturer or the Poisons information hotline on 13 11 26 (Australia wide – never closes). Now, are you ready to dispense justice in the kitchen?


Children’s Hospital Westmead. (2014). Poison safety. Retrieved from 19/08/2014.
Franklin, P. (2008) Household chemicals: good housekeeping or occupational hazard? European Respiratory Journal (pp. 489-491), Volume 31. doi: 10.1183/09031936.00170207
Bunge, Merri. (1985) Chemical Hazards in the Household: What Every Community Health Nurse Should Know. Journal of Community Nursing (pp.31-40), Volume 2.

This post was contributed by Mark for the subject Screening and Monitoring in Occupational Health and Safety 

Organic Natural Skin Care Products- The Right Choice For You And Your Family

Skin care products sourced from supermarkets, pharmacies and beauty therapists may look harmless, but are they? You may believe that these products are completely safe. However, these products may pose a risk to you and your family’s health. The Australian Government’s Department of Health—through the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS)—regulates the use of ingredients in cosmetics. NICAS evaluates chemical ingredients in cosmetics and below is information from NICAS* in relation to the effects of chemicals used in some cosmetic products:


  • Ammonium lauryl sulfate: can cause skin and eye irritation, and skin sensitisation.
  • Mineral oil/waxes: white mineral oil is obtained from petroleum. Some petroleum oil derivatives may cause cancer.
  • Phthalates: these are a group of chemicals that are used in both industrial and consumer products. Certain phthalate chemicals are known to affect the reproductive organs in high doses. NICNAS is currently conducting further public health risk assessments for the use of phthalates in cosmetics and other products.
  • Glycolic acid: a product containing 10% or more glycolic acid is classified as a hazardous substance. Substances containing high concentrations of glycolic acid are corrosive. Glycolic acid irritates the skin and eyes and may increase sensitivity to sunburn in some people. Cosmetics with glycolic acid available to the public do not always meet labelling requirements.

These are just a few examples of the health risks of chemicals in cosmetics that are promoted to be safe in small quantities. But are they really safe in any quantity? What will the long-term effects be for you and your family? Our natural skin and beauty products are made from 100% natural organic ingredients. Using our products will eliminate the worry of using products with chemicals that have potential long-term health effects.


This post was prepared by Isabella for the subject Screening and Monitoring in Occupational Health and Safety

Protecting your children from ‘cupboard monsters’

The hazardous chemicals in your family home

In Victoria, at least six children a day receive medical attention after swallowing poisons (1). If you were to take a look under your kitchen or laundry sink, what would you expect to see? For most of us we would find a cupboard filled with cleaning products, dishwashing tablets, oven cleaners, detergents, bleaches and even insect repellant. Young children are accidentally poisoned in the home at an alarming rate. Yet the majority of parents do not think it will happen to their children in their home (2). Have you taken steps to protect your children from the monsters in your cupboard? Children, especially toddlers, get into anything and everything and if they can find it, you can bet your bottom dollar that they will give it a good old slobbery taste test. As a parent you would know that this taste testing curiosity comes naturally for your children and doesn’t stem from watching too much Master Chef.

How to protect your little monsters from the “monsters in your cupboard”.
You can start by targeting the chemical hotspots in your home and applying these three simple steps. Generally speaking, under the kitchen and laundry sink you will find cleaning and dishwashing products. Your bathroom and bedroom cupboards can often contains pills, vitamins or medications. In dads “man cave” you will find petrol, oils, spray cans, week killer, paints, glue or rat sack. Many, if not all of these chemicals can have serious health affects if our children are exposed to them.

Step 1. Eliminate what you do not need and throw out any old or unused chemicals.
Step 2. Reduce the number of chemicals you store at home by using multi purpose or 3 in 1 cleaners.
Step 3. Isolate whatever chemicals you have left by locking them up, either by locking the cupboard doors or by purchasing a small lockable toolbox (also handy for carrying products around the home).

Hint: try not to buy a toolbox better than dad’s, as he might become envious.



  1., (2010). Victorian Poisons Information Centre Annual Report 2010. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Aug. 2014].
  2. Education.vic.gove, (2011). Is your home poison proof. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Aug. 2014].

This post was prepared by Tony for the subject Screening and Monitoring in Occupational Health and Safety 2014

Puff of powder

Stating that a substance is non-hazardous can be misleading implying to a reader that the risk to health is low. Deeper investigation can reveal information which suggests otherwise.

The aluminium extrusion industry uses a coating powder to ensure the pressing ram separates instantly and cleanly from the hot aluminium billet without pulling the extruded section from the die. A good example is a release agent known as Klüberpress E 2-802 where the Safety Data Sheet (Klüber Lubrication Australia Pty Ltd, 2012) states it is non-hazardous but lists exposure limits and a historically controversial ingredient, talc.

Talc is a hydrous silicate mineral composed of varying mineral components and has been associated with quartz and asbestos (Price, Industrial-grade talc exposure and the risk of mesothelioma, 2010). Early studies suggested that exposure to high levels of talc could lead to lung disease (Pickrell, et al., 1989). In contrast, recent studies found that “inhaled talc that does not contain asbestos or asbestiform fibres is not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity” (Baan, et al., 2006) and “scientific evidence is insufficient to infer a causal relationship between … talc and mesothelioma” (Price, 2010). Regardless, a person may have difficulty clearing inhaled particles from their lungs where they are exposed long term with enough quantity which may accumulate and become an encumbrance leading to inflammation, “cell injury, cell proliferation, fibrosis, induction of mutations and, ultimately, cancer” (Baan R. A., 2008)).

Individuals differ in how they metabolise substances and resulting toxic effects so it is necessary to reduce exposure to as low as reasonably practicable and monitor exposure and health ((Safe Work Australia, 2012) and (Safe Work Australia, 2013)). Air monitoring is used to measure and assess exposure to airborne contaminants. Organisations can then use the information to identify the necessary controls to reduce the risk to health such as eliminating the substance, engineering controls to reduce exposure or isolate the substance, substituting the substance for a less hazardous alternative and define the necessary personal protective equipment.


Baan, R. A. (2008). Carcinogenic Hazards from Inhaled Carbon Black, Titanium Dioxide and Talc not containing Asbestos or Asbestiform Fibers: Recent Evaluations by an IARC Monographs Working Group. Inhalation Toxicology, 19(Supplement 1), 213-228. doi:10.1080/08958370701497903

Baan, R., Straif, K., Grosse, Y., Secretan, B., Ghissassi, F. E., & Cogliono, V. (2006, April). Carcinogencity of carbon black, titanium dioxide and talc. The Lancet, 7, 295-296.

Klüber Lubrication Australia Pty Ltd. (2012). Klüberpress E 2-802. Material Safety Data Sheet. Retrieved 2014, from

Pickrell, J. A., Snipes, M. B., Benson, J. M., Hanson, R. L., Jones, R. K., Carpenter, R. L., . . . Brown, S. C. (1989). Talc Deposition and Effects after 20 Days of Repeated Inhalation Exposure of Rats and Mice to Talc. Environmental Research, 49, 233-245.

Price, B. (2010, July). Industrial-grade talc exposure and the risk of mesothelioma. Informa Healthcare, 40(6), 513-530. doi:10.3109/10408441003646781

Safe Work Australia. (2012, April). Guidance on the Interpretation of Workplace Exposure Standards for Airborne Contaminants. Retrieved from Safe Work Australia:

Safe Work Australia. (2013, April 18). Workplace Exposure Standards for Airborne Contaminants. Retrieved from Safe Work Australia:

This post was prepared by Peta for the subject Screening and Monitoring in Occupational Health and Safety 2014

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders in prosthetics and orthotics

Sarah Anderson, who is a PhD student at the Centre for Ergonomics and Human Factors, recently competed in the Faculty finals for the 3 minute thesis competition. In this competition students are asked to present one slide and speak about their PhD research all in the space of only three minutes.

This is the text from Sarah’s 3MT presentation:

When people ask about what the research for my PhD entails I’m drawn into an enthusiastic rendition of my subject area P&Os and WMSDs which doesn’t mean that I am spending my PhD cruising the pacific or working with weapons of mass destruction rather Prosthetists and Orthotists so people who make artificial legs, arms splints and braces and work related musculoskeletal injuries sprain, strains and breaks in an area of the body. So basically what I am researching is how, people who make artificial arms, legs and splints and braces get injured at work, how often this happens and what the effect of this is.

We know that people who working the medical fields whether its nurses, physios, or OT’s get injured at work. In fact, statistically they get injured at about twice the rate of most other professions. We also know that these injuries often cause people to change their job or leave the profession they were working in. There has been a significant amount of money spent attempting to remedy this statistic the implementation of compulsory manual handling training in workplaces but these injuries are still occurring at a similar rate.. It has been suggested that this is due to the fact that all these programs focus on the physical nature of these injuries and ignores the psychosocial factors that are clearly linked to work place injuries.

So we know lots of things about work injuries in health care. We know that there are policies in place that statistical data has been gathered and funding has been linked to prevention programs. We however, we don’t know much about P&O. We don’t know if P&Os get injured at lower higher or the same rates as other health professionals and if they do get injured how that impacts upon them in their lives and workplaces. Anecdotally it appears that P&Os get injured but there is not data to support this.

We know that P&O is a weird job it’s a technical clinical mix that doesn’t fit well into the health care system P&Os can spend the day moving between surgical theatre, hospital wards, in the community and working on a ban saw and grinder in the workshop. Secondly, We also know that there are not enough P&Os in Australia to fulfil the requirements of the health system and this is going to get worse with the aging population and increase in chronic diseases like diabetes and finally, we know that recruitment of P&Os in is difficult due to low numbers of P&Os in Australia.

So the aim of my research is determine if P&Os are getting injured at the same rates as other health professionals at work if they are what sort of injuries are occurring and what the effects of these injuries are. Once we understand this it will be develop preventative programs that will work towards reducing these injuries, keeping P&Os in the workplace, servicing the health needs of Australians

New research published in ‘Applied Ergonomics’

Jodi and colleagues have recently published an article in Applied Ergonomics on their work on prevention of musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) in the health care sector. The article examines predictors of WMSDs in health care sector employees and found that both psychosocial and physical hazards were related to increased WMSD risk. On the basis of this they propose that risk management strategies need to take into account all hazards to be maximally effective. The article can be found in Applied Ergonomics, see details below. 

Developing a comprehensive approach to risk management of musculoskeletal disorders in non-nursing health care sector employee

Applied ErgonomicsVolume 45, Issue 6November 2014Pages 1634-1640

Jodi Oakman, Wendy Macdonald, Yvonne Wells


This study of selected jobs in the health care sector explored a range of physical and psychosocial factors to identify those that most strongly predicted work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD) risk. A self-report survey was used to collect data on physical and psychosocial risk factors from employees in three health care organisations in Victoria, Australia. Multivariate analyses demonstrated the importance of both psychosocial and physical hazards in predicting WMSD risk and provides evidence for risk management of WMSDs to incorporate a more comprehensive and integrated approach. Use of a risk management toolkit is recommended to address WMSD risk in the workplace.

A reminder that alumni of La Trobe University are able to access the library once they have joined the alumni program. See the link here for a range of benefits:



Jodi Oakman

Jodi Oakman is a senior lecturer at the Centre for Ergonomics and Human Factors, La Trobe University and the postgraduate coordinator for the Ergonomics, Safety and Health program. Jodi has worked extensively in industry as a consultant Ergonomist to a wide range of organisations. Jodi is a qualified physiotherapist and has a PhD in the area of the ageing workforce and the impact of organisations on their employees’ retirement intentions. Her research focus is currently examining the impact of the psychosocial work environment on musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). She has 2 higher degree students researching in this area.

Are moth balls harming me or my family?

We are all familiar with the overpowering smell of moth balls, but are they harmful to our health?

Using mothballs to protect our precious garments from clothes moths has been common practice for many years, but how much do we know about the chemicals that are used to defend our clothing and their potential impact on our health.

Mothballs are generally made up of two chemicals, either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene. Both these chemicals are solids which release a gas that is toxic to moths. To be effective they need to be placed with clothing in a sealed container so the fumes build up. Most of the exposure to these chemicals comes from breathing it into the lungs when the containers are opened or wearing clothes immediately after opening. Some chemicals may enter the body through ingestion if accidently swallowed, especially by young children.

Mothballs are believed to cause serious harm if chewed or eaten, causing a breakdown in red blood cells. In June this year, the New Zealand Ministry of Health banned the use of mothballs stating the “chemicals pose a significant health risk to the public if eaten or ingested.”(The Dominion Post, 2014). In 2011 there was a national call in Australia from medical professionals to ban the use of naphthalene in mothballs due to the risk of potential brain damage in babies (Tarnow-Mordi et al, 2011). However, mothballs are still available for purchase in Australia, but in a form that is designed to prevent them from being eaten.

If you have concerns about exposure to mothballs, you can minimise the risk to your health by:

  • Never sprinkling the contents of moth balls in closets, attics or storage areas
  • Opening containers outside and washing the clothes, letting them air before wearing
  • Using a less-toxic, safer alternative, for example cedar oil, chips or shavings


Mothballs banned from sale. (04/06/2014). The Dominion Post. Retrieved from:

New South Wales Government Health. Naphthalene in Moth Balls and Toilet Deodorant Cakes. January 2011. Retrieved from:

Tarnow-Mordi W.,Evans N., Lui K., and Darlow B. (2011). ‘Risk of brain damage in babies from naphthalene in mothballs: Call to consider a national ban.‘ Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 194, no. 3, pp. 150 – 150.

This post was prepared by Jen for the subject Screening and Monitoring in Occupational Health and Safety 2014