Monthly Archives: September 2015

Flexible working practices – helping to make work good for us


Victoria Weale, a staff member and PhD student in the Centre for Ergonomics, Safety and Health was the recent winner of the Three Minute Thesis competition at the International Ergonomics Association Triennial Congress. Congratulations Victoria!

Victoria says:

“My research looks at work life balance and its effects on the health and wellbeing of workers in residential aged care. Addressing imbalances can create work that is good for us by enhancing workers’ health and wellbeing. This can aid recruitment and retention of people into this essential, growing sector.”

Below is the script from her winning presentation:

Work life balance. If you work, it’s probably on your mind. How much you’re working, and how it’s affecting you and those around you. With changes in technology and the pressure to do more at work, it’s one of the pressing issues of our time.

My research is looking at work life balance and its effects on the health and wellbeing of workers in residential aged care. This is a growing industry sector because as a nation, we’re getting older. We want our loved ones, and ourselves, to be cared for by people who are healthy, and enjoy and are committed to their work. But as the population ages, this sector will need more workers, and how can we encourage people into this physically and emotionally demanding work, and then make them want to stay there?

We know that work can be good or bad for our health, so, we want to strive towards work that enhances workers’ health and wellbeing. This can result in huge positive impacts, not just for the worker, but also for their family and society.

The use of flexible work practices that support employees to achieve a good work life balance is one way to ensure that the work is good work, which can improve people’s health and welling. My research will identify the flexible work practices that are used in residential aged care and examine the relationships between work life balance and outcomes such as health, job satisfaction, and other indicators of wellbeing.

So far I’ve found that whilst there are lots of challenges for staff working in this sector, there are also many positives, such as the fact that many workers have significant control over the number of hours they work, and when they work them. This flexibility is highly valued by staff as it allows them to combine work with their important non-work activities, which for some people, enables them to participate in the workforce.

The next step is to analyse questionnaire data, and I’m expecting to see relationships between work life balance and indicators of health and wellbeing.

The results of my work can be used to inform policy relating to the use of flexible working practices, so that for these essential care workers, the load is lightened and difficult work is made better. By designing work to enhance workers’ health and wellbeing, people will want to come into the sector and stay there. Surely this should be a priority for us all, as it’s these hard working men and women who will to look after us and our loved ones in our last few years of life.

Everything under the kitchen sink


As OHS professionals our number one focus is creating and maintaining a safe working environment for others. A colleague of mine once said “ You must live and breathe safety’ to be successful in this industry”.

Currently on hiatus from the profession, I got to thinking: Do we use learnt principles and practices to protect the ones we love most in our own homes? Chemical storage is a huge issue in the workplace and is highly regulated but at home I’m sure we all just throw it in a cupboard without even thinking.

Take a look under your kitchen sink, how many potential hazards can you identify? My cupboard alone holds 17 different domestic and commercial cleaning chemicals none of which I have ever checked their storage requirements.

To check how non compliant I was, I searched the web for MSDS’s for all of the products I have and was in for a bit of a shock.

Did you know that a particular brand of dishwasher tablets should not be stored with some other brands of dishwasher tablets or bleach products? And Fly spray should not be stored anywhere near any heat or ignition sources? One MSDS stated ‘Do not mix with household chemicals’.

The main issues I discovered was the actual kitchen sink– storage of most chemicals is not recommended in an unventilated cupboard, under a sink (near water) or next to a dishwasher (both a heat and ignition source also).

Did you know Dish Washing liquid should be stored in a cool, dry well ventilated space and Spray N Wipe, bleach and fly spray should not be stored near any ignition source?

The other issue was finding MSDS’s without my usual resources and as a domestic user of these products would seem a near impossible task.

The information found was not consistent and at time difficult to navigate. Storage requirements range from the basic ‘Store in original container’ to a paragraph about different potential storage conditions.

If I was to comply with all of the 17 different storage requirements, I would need to re build.

I opt for the highest level of control– I’m eliminating the risk and hiring a cleaner!


Chemwatch. (2008). Kiwi Marveer Aerosol Furniture Polish.   Retrieved from

Clorox Australia. (2004). Gumption Multi Purpose Cleanser.   Retrieved from Clark – Gumption – msds – Exp Apr 2016.pdf

Colgate-Palmolive. (2014). Material Safety Data Sheet Ajax Professional Mould Remover.   Retrieved from

Colgate-Palmolive. (2012). Material Safety Data Sheet Ajax Spray N Wipe Antibacterial.   Retrieved from

Colgate-Palmolive. (2010). Safety Data Sheet Morning Fresh Washing Up Liquid   Retrieved from Retrieved 23 August 2015

Colgate-Palmolive (2011). Material Safety Data Sheet Palmolive Regular Dishwashing Liquid.   Retrieved from

DuPont. (2013). Material Safety Data Sheet DuPont Heavy Duty Stone & Tile Floor Cleaner   Retrieved from 3eonline Retrieved 23 August 2105, from 3eonline

Milestone Chemicals. (2012). Material Safety Data Sheet Lemon Bleach.   Retrieved from

Pental. (2011). Material Safety Data Sheet White King Power Clean Bathroom Gel.   Retrieved from

Proctor & Gamble. (2014). Safety Data Sheet P & G Professional 2 Fairy Professional Original.   Retrieved from professional 2 fairy professional original-1.pdf

How safe is your bug spray?

How safe is your bug spray?

Insect killer, bug spray, also known as insecticides and pesticides. If household bug spray can kill an insect, what damage is it doing to your pets, your family and you?

Mortein Fast Knockdown Multi Insect Killer and Raid One Shot Flying Insect Killer are commonly used household aerosols that can be bought at your local supermarket. It is important to find out the effects the chemicals may have in your household.

These products are aerosols and can affect you and your family through inhalation and skin absorption. More detail and how to use a product safely is through finding the chemical’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS). This was easily found on the Mortein website however the Raid SDS was only supplied for a similar product. Both of these state not to inhale, and to avoid contact with skin and eyes. It is important the safety directions are followed as over-exposure can lead to coughing, and skin, eye and respiratory tract irritation.

The same approach to protect humans from insect killer applies to your pets as well. However in regards to your fish, these insect killers are toxic to aquatic life therefore cover your fish tanks or reconsider using around them.

To avoid adverse effects, read and follow the labels on the aerosol can. After reviewing both insect killers they detail the relevant information in line with their SDS’s on how to use, precautions, first aid, and storage and disposal. These need to be noted as they give an indication of the harm the chemical can do.

To keep you and your family safe, before buying a new household chemical, have a think if it’s really needed and remember to follow the safety instructions.


Reckitt Bensckiser. (2012). Safety Data Sheet Mortein Fast Knockdown Multi Insect Killer Aerosol. Retrived from

Diversey. (2011). Material Safety Data Sheet Raid Commercial Insecticide Fast Kill Fly and Insect Killer. Retrieved from

Flammable hygiene liquids in hospitals

Most hospitals and medical practices have made the move away from antibacterial hand soaps towards antibacterial alcohol washes such as “Avagard” and 70% alcohol surface sprays which are Class Three Flammable liquids and as such are both a highly flammable liquid and can give off a flammable vapour and although the risks when used individually are low when placed in storage the risks increase. Because of this these medical practices have a duty of care to both staff and patients to identify possible hazards and reduce the risks posed.

One important way to manage and reduce the risks posed with the storage of these flammable liquids is to ensure that there is correct hazard communication present. Hazard communication allows all staff to easily obtain the required information regarding the correct storage, handling and disposal (Safe Work Australia, 2015a, 2015c).

In the case of the ‘Avagard’ and ‘70% alcohol surface spray’ pictured below in Figures One, Two and Three, the manufacturers have implemented simple hazard communication methods on the bottles by ensuring that both written warnings and pictograms are present and clearly visible on each individual item.

These products come in box form which contain several of these products and come with a Safety Data Sheet on each box which outlines the safety precautions required for both usage and storage.

Several important things to know about the storage of these products are:

  • To ensure that your workplace keeps only the lowest practicable quantity of these products;
  • To ensure that storage areas are cool and well ventilated rooms away from direct sunlight and ignition sources;
  • To ensure that correct Safety Data Sheets and Material Safety Data Sheets are visible and up to date;
  • To ensure that pictograms and warnings are present and visible on all bottles when used (Safe Work Australia, 2015b).
Figure one: 70% alcohol surface spray

Figure one: 70% alcohol surface spray

Figure two: 70% Alcohol surface spray

Figure two: 70% Alcohol surface spray

Figure three: Avagard handwash

Figure three: Avagard handwash


Safe Work Australia. (2015a). Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) Retrieved 18/08/2015, from

Safe Work Australia. (2015b). Storage of flammable or combustible substance Retrieved 18/08/2015, from

safe Work Australia. (2015c). Work Health and Safety Regulations: Classification and labelling for workplace hazardous chemicals Retrieved 18/08/2015, from



All workers are expected to read and understand Safety Data Sheets (SDS) before undertaking tasks to handle, store or use chemicals in the workplace. Will reading the SDS prevent chemical exposure and ensure risk controls are effective? Yes is not the answer for reasons too numerous to include here, as chemicals are used in ways that vary based on application, workers assess risk based upon individual understanding and the personal protective equipment (PPE) specified on some SDS could have a conscientious worker wanting to locate the supply of space suits just to operate an aerosol can of fly spray.

Folders with current (<5 years old) SDS and an up to date chemical register are a starting point for preventing chemical exposure and risk control. Use of commercially available electronic chemical management systems with worker usability included as part of the interface will assist with maintaining an accurate chemical register with features that typically include storage compatibility guidance, online video training support and preformatted risk assessment modules that can be customised for individual workplace chemical applications.

Engineering isolation and PPE are common risk controls found in an SDS, with PPE of varying complexity specified for all but the most pH neutral and inert chemicals. The SDS provides a wealth of pertinent and often well organized information to the informed user of the SDS document. Some workers may favour the product and safety information included on the chemical container, to the exclusion of any debate about the likely effectiveness of Global Harmonised System (GHS) pictograms versus established dangerous good class labelling that may not be large enough to be legible, let alone understood. Presentation of summarized SDS information in the area of use at the workplace provides the opportunity to include local procedures for the safe handling, storage and use of chemicals.

Look over the SDS for the chemicals that are used in your workplace and you may eliminate a hazard, substitute the chemical with a less hazardous product option or prevent chemical exposure with the enhanced knowledge of chemical exposure risks.


NOHSC (2004). Approved criteria for classifying hazardous substances (3rd ed.). Canberra, Australia.

Safe Work Australia (2011). Model code of practice – Preparation of safety data sheets for hazardous substances. Canberra, Australia.


Many of us enjoy the pleasures of cooking on a gas barbeque. Some of us even spend significant time with food preparation to achieve that perfect steak or lamb chop. But are we distracted by what’s happening on the barbeque grill plate whilst being completely oblivious to the potential dangers below it? Are we aware of the related risks posed by the interaction with a hazardous chemical substance such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)?

These are just a few questions that need to be considered when using LPG.

This chemical substance is highly flammable, produces acrid smoke and irritating fumes. Direct contact with skin can cause cold burns and serious tissue damage. If vapors are inhaled it may cause nausea, dizziness, headaches, drowsiness and other asphyxiant (respiratory) affects. High levels of exposure can lead to loss of consciousness and nervous system issues.

LPG can form an explosive combination with air or other substances if the LPG cylinder or fittings leak.

It is critical that LPG cylinders and fittings are checked regularly. Damaged, rusty or out-of-date gas cylinders can affect the integrity of the gas supply to your barbeque and may result in serious injury or property damage.

Lui Bonadio_17953160_assignsubmission_file_Barbeque LPG Cylinder

These dangers can be avoided by following a few simple safety checks:

  • Ensure your barbecue and LPG cylinder has an Australian safety certification
  • Only use LPG cylinders in well ventilated areas
  • Check condition of LPG cylinder for damage, leaks or rust
  • Ensure LPG cylinder is in-date and stamped (must be replaced every 10 years)
  • Always have the LPG cylinder in the upright position and appropriately stored in accordance with Australian Standards
  • Ensure fittings such as regulator and hose are properly connected
  • When not in use, turned off gas supply at both the cylinder and barbecue.

These are just a few tips to ensure that the only thing that gets cooked on your next barbeque is your steak and not you!


Parents: Do your hands look like this from washing, cleaning and repeated hand washing after changing nappies?

Finger dermatitis

How many times a day do your hands get wet or come into contact with soaps detergents, cleaning products?

When handwashing with soaps or using cleaning products we are exposed to many types of substances which may lead to localised skin irritation and inflammation, called contact dermatitis.

There are 2 types; irritant contact dermatitis (often cumulative exposure to substances) and allergic contact dermatitis (may be caused by sensitisers/allergens).

It can be acute lasting for days or chronic lasting months and years.

Symptoms include red itchy skin. Sometimes papules and blisters develop and if chronic can lead to painful cracks in the skin.

Have you tried every moisturiser/hand cream on the market? What can you do to help control this dermatitis?

  1. Identify which substance is irritating the skin; the cause is often crucial to helping treat the problem. Some of these substances are acids, solvents, latex, isocyanates, acrylates, epoxy resins and potassium dichromate.
  1. Check the labels and pictograms of the products for warnings like; may cause skin irritation, skin sensitisation or skin corrosion.
  1. Remove the irritating substance and replace with a safer substance.
  1. If this is not possible, reduce exposure and limit the time your hands are wet.
  1. Protect yourself by using gloves. Gloves sometimes contribute to the dermatitis (hands become sweaty) and therefore cotton gloves underneath may be appropriate.
  1. If your hands need to get wet or be in contact with a chemical then barrier creams may be useful to apply before exposure. This makes it easier to remove some of the substances that stick to the skin.
  1. Washing hands in warm soapy and thorough drying of the skin water is recommended.
  1. Moisturising is important; sometimes your doctor may give you topical corticosteroids. If the skin is damaged preventing infection is crucial.
  1. If you are concerned seek medical advice.


Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. (2015). OSH Fact Sheet Dermatitis. Retrieved from

Keegel T., N. R., LaMontagne AD.,(2012). Exposure to wet work in working Australians. Contact Dermatitis, 66(2), 87-94.

Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.). Eczema and Dermatitis. Retrieved from

Safework Australia SA.). Personal Protection-Contact Dermatitis. Retrieved from

United States Department of Labour. (2015). OSHA Hazard Communication Pictogram. Retrieved from

Are you making it easy for your child to be poisoned?

Haz Subs Pic

Across Australia each week, around 40 children are admitted to hospital for poisoning. If you have a young child in your home, are you unknowingly allowing them easy access to poisons in your home? Your cleaners, medicines, disinfectants and sprays etc. can all be harmful in the hands of your little one.

As your child grows, so does their curiosity. This leads to their little hands getting into everything and everywhere. If your child gets their hands on a product they can become sick, in some cases dangerously so. To help prevent your child becoming a statistic, it is important to take a few steps to help make your house safer.

  • Ask yourself, when was the last time you used the product, have you ever used it? If the answer is never or years ago, GET RID OF IT.
  • Next time you go shopping, try to find a less harmful product to do the job you want.
  • Do not put chemicals under the sink! Put them up high (above 1.5m), or if they must go in a low cabinet, lock it using a child safety device.
  • Taking the products outside to the shed can help, but you will need to ensure it is locked.
  • Put your medicines away! Medicines account for 70% of all poisoning cases, including your cold and flu medicines and pain killers. And if it’s out of date, throw it away.

It is important to remember if your child is staying at someone else’s house to ask the adult in charge to move their products to a suitable safe place. If they do not have a child living or staying there regularly, it may not be safe for your child to be there unattended.

If the worst does happen and you need help contact 000 or the Poisons Information Line on 131 126   7 days a week 24/7.

Further reading

Raising Children Network (Australia) Limited. (2006-2015). Preventing Poisoning. Retrieved from

Parents beware! Paediatric poisoning through exposure to laundry detergent capsules (LDCs)

Convenient? Yes! Effortless? Yes!

But these packets of single-use concentrated liquid detergents are finding themselves in the hands of children far too often. Their colourful, squishy candy appearance, with pockets of ‘fruit juice’ in them, is clearly far too enticing for curious kids.

Pick the lollies, pick the LDC capsules

Pick the lollies, pick the LDC capsules

From the 1st January to the 31st of June 2015, the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) recorded 7,184 cases of children 5 years and younger exposed to LDCs. An LDC is the most commonly ingested household product, accounting for 70% of all ingested detergents.

If your child swallows traditional laundry powder, he or she is likely to suffer mild stomach upset. However, if your child ingests a concentrated LDC, symptoms are far worse and include excessive vomiting, coughing, chocking or wheezing; and in some cases, hospitalisation. Records have shown cases where children playing with LDCs have pierced the membrane casing, causing the contents to spray into their eyes, resulting in severe eye irritation. So parents, please remove LDCs from the hands of your children.

How to prevent LDC poisoning:

  • Step 1: If possible, substitute your LDCs with traditional laundry powder.
  • Step 2: If they can’t be substituted, seal the lid and lock your LDCs in a secondary retention. Store them on a secure shelf, out of reach of children.
  • Step 3: Ensure the secure shelf is in a dry, cool and well-ventilated place. This location should be stationary at all times. Storing on a vibrating washing machine is not recommended as the LDCs could dislodge and fall onto the ground (depicted below).
  • Step 4: If possible, educate your children on the dangers of LDCs.

First Aid Measures if your child is exposed to LDCs:

  • IF IN EYES: Rinse cautiously with water for several minutes and if eye irritation persists, seek medical attention.
  • IF SWALLOWED: Immediately drink 1 or 2 glasses of water. If they feel unwell, call a poison centre or medical physician.
  • IF ON SKIN: Rinse with plenty of water and if skin irritation occurs, seek medical attention.



American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC). (2015). Alerts: Laundry detergent packets. Retrieved from

Bonney, A. G., Mazor, S., & Goldman, R. D. (2013). Laundry detergent capsules and pediatric poisoning. Canadian Family Physician, 59(12), 1295–1296.

Donnelly, L. (2014, Nov 10). Parents warned over laundry capsule poisoning risks. The Telegram. Retrieved from

Fraser, L., Wynne, D., Clement W. A., Davidson, M., & Kubba, H. (2012). Liquid detergent capsule ingestion in children: An increasing trend. Arch Dis Child, 97(11), 1007. Retrieved from

Procter & Gamble. (2015). Safety data sheet: Tide pods – original. Retrieved from

The problem with laundry detergent pods. (2015, Jul 16). Consumer Reports Magazine. Retrieved from


Oluyomi Oluranti Omibiyi_17953172_assignsubmission_file_IMG_1981

The use of skin lightening or skin bleaching creams is fuelled by the believe that women with light skin tones have a better life—better grades, better boyfriends, better job opportunities. The general view is that these women are treated better by society in every way. What is not spoken about and publicised is the effect of the cream on the health and skin of the individual.

Skin lightening or bleaching is defined as the practice of using chemical substances in an attempt to lighten skin tone or provide an even skin complexion by lessening or inhibiting the concentration of melanin. Some creams contain hydroquinone and mercury which has been found to have adverse effect on the skin and health of the user. Though the use of both chemicals has been banned in many countries, buying from the internet and some unregulated stores are very common.

The long term effect of hydroquinone and mercury on the skin includes:

  • permanent skin bleaching and  thinning of skin
  • uneven colour loss, leading to a blotchy appearance
  • redness, rashes and scarring
  • Kidney damage
  • Skin cancer

A ban on the use of skin lightening creams by the government will help to eradicate the use of these creams. Secondly, educating and providing information of the effect of these chemicals might help to reduce the use of the creams. Another control could be the compulsory labelling of all products clearly stating the ingredients in it and making the packaging less attractive.

Oluyomi Oluranti Omibiyi_17953172_assignsubmission_file_IMG_1984

For further reading