Category Archives: People

Mister Muscle Drano and household safety

Drano is a Class 8 Corrosive which can produce severe burns to the skin and eyes, may cause corrosion to the respiratory system and may be fatal if swallowed. My target audience is the home maker, who may fail to understand the potential side effects of products due to reduced product labelling.

With the appearance of small beads, Drano Crystals manufactured by SC Johnson pose numerous risks to household users of the product (Johnson, 2011). As a cleaning product Drano is used to dissolve clogs in drains and free up slow running drains. Product labelling and dangerous goods legislation allows maufacturers to sell chemicals in quantities suitable for domestic use with reduced labelling due to small packaging (ACT Government).

The Drano safety data sheet (Johnson, 2011) advises that the product may be fatal if swallowed and inhaling the fumes created when the product is used in its intended way may cause respiratory corrosion. These two messages are left off the smaller consumer labelling. Additionally, the layout of the labelling places the product use description on the opposite side to the safety precautions, meaning the two items may not read at the same time.

Appearing bright and colourful, Drano has the appearance of nerd lollies (Kenny, 2016). The lid of the product is secure when affixed correctly, but care should be taken to ensure the product is kept out of reach of children and with the lid securely fastened to remove the risk of ingestion by a child.

Using the product as per the guidance on the packet causes fumes which may pose a risk to consumers. Precautions should be taken, such as opening windows and ensuring adequate ventilation. The directions state “use cold water”, but not why, the safety directions state “do not use hot water” but not why. SC Johnson have not included inhalation of fumes as a risk on the packaging, where the safety data sheet (Johnson, 2011) states inhalation of fumes may be corrosive to the respiratory system.

Drano is commonly found in households (Statista, 2016), but product labelling does not display all risks to consumers. Care should be taken when using this product and consultation of the material safety data sheet should be advised.

Sean Kenny


Work Health and Safety Regulation,  (2011).

Johnson, S. (2011). Material Safety Data Sheet: Drano Crystals Drano Crystals. 160 Epping Road, Lane Cove NSW 2066.

Kenny, R. (2016, 22 August, 2016). [Breakfast discussion with 7 year old girl].

Statista. (2016). Sales of the leading drain brand cleaners in the US.  Retrieved 22/08/2016, from Statista

Household chemicals and safety

Household chemicals and safety

Canned food products

Target Audience: Communicating awareness to senior management within the food industry the benefits of implementing a HACCP System to monitor and control potential chemical and physical hazards that may arise during the food production process, and therefore impact upon food safety.

HACCP: Are your food safety controls in place?

How do you control potential physical or chemical hazards that may find its way into food ingredients?

During the production of food, ingredients are exposed to various physical and/or chemical hazards. These may be in the form of foreign matter such as metal or plastic fragments, or substances that have been unintentionally added or transferred from other processes. The Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point or ‘HACCP’ is an administrative control that is implemented to control hazards throughout the production process by identifying potential hazards, identifying critical control points (CCP) in the production process that pose the great risk of hazards occurring, and applying the appropriate controls.

An example may be the contamination of food due to cleaning chemicals. This may be due to the presence of chemical residue near food ingredients or products left behind during the cleaning process. In relation to HACCP, the CCP identified may be when equipment cleaning is conducted which then triggers the development of a control to formalise cleaning and monitoring procedures ensuring that any chemicals used are properly inspected and cleaned up. Most commonly, hazards can be controlled through such practices as proper cleaning, hand washing, allergen management and temperature control; however, without a formal system or procedure in place, there is a risk of exposure

Implementing HACCP is a good systematic process in developing risk controls to potential food safety hazards, but not only that, it encourages a ‘food safety culture’ through leadership, encouraging training, raising risk awareness, regular communication with staff, good hygiene practices and appropriate working and operational environments. Researchers have found that employing a food safety culture is a strong determinant of food safety performance.

So… do you have HACCP? What systems do you have to ensure your food is safe?

Tran Nguyen Jessey Dong


Batt, C. A (2016). Chemical and physical hazards in food. Reference Module in Food Science. doi:10.1016/B978-0-08-100596-5.03437-5.

SAI Global Limited. (2016). HACCP Certification. Retrieved from

Nyarugwe, S. P., Linnemann, A., Hofstede, G. J., Fogliano, V., & Luning, P. A. (2016). Determinants for conducting food safety culture research. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 56, 77-87. doi:10.1016/j.tifs.2016.07.015.

Food safety controls and canned food products

Food safety controls and canned food products

Intoxicated Children: The Price for Clean Hands

The target audience for this blog is parents of young children who use had sanitizer to clean their children’s hands and who likely have multiple bottles of hand sanitizer in their baby bags, hand bags, in the car and around the home. The blog is to remind parents of the active ingredient (alcohol) in hand sanitizers and as such, the chemical exposure and risk to children swallowing the contents.

Intoxicated Children: The Price for Clean Hands

Before leaving the house with children, there is always the quick checklist to ensure we have what we need when we’re out and about. Nappies, baby wipes, snacks, drink bottles, toys and don’t forget the hand sanitizer! The wondrous invention that enables us to clean our children’s hands ‘on the go’ and to kill those nasty germs from their explorative little hands.  We apply the sanitizer liberally in their palms and watch as our children slosh it around between their fingers. Clean hands, check! We keep multiple bottles in different locations so we always have sanitizer on hand: in the car, in the baby bag, in the kitchen, in the bathroom. However have we become blasé as to the contents of hand sanitizer and the potential chemical risk to our children?

Hand sanitizers are available in a variety of colourful, sometimes glittery and scented packaging, which can be enticing for young children. However the main active ingredient in a majority of hand sanitizers is alcohol or ethyl alcohol (ethanol). The alcohol is the antimicrobial that kills bacteria (those nasty germs) yet it is the alcohol content that presents a chemical exposure to our children. These enticingly colourful packaged liquids can find their way into our children’s mouths and swallowed. According to the Georgia Poison Centre, USA (2015, para.1), “it is the same alcohol found in beer, wine and other liquors….but at a much higher concentration. The concentration of alcohol in hand sanitizers varies from 45% to 95% with the most commonly used in the range of 60-70%”. A few mouthfuls of hand sanitizer swallowed by a young child can cause alcohol poisoning (Rayar & Ratnapalan, 2013). In 2015 in Melbourne, a three-year old suffered severe alcohol poisoning after consuming up to 55ml of hand sanitizer whilst playing with the bottle with their younger sibling (Medew, 2015).

So parents, let’s keep the multitude of hand sanitizer bottles we have, with the fruity smells and shimmering shine, out of those easy to reach places for our children and perhaps even consider the non-alcohol sanitizers. Remember, a lick of hand sanitizer won’t hurt a child (or anyone else for that matter), but drinking mouthfuls can cause serious intoxication to our most vulnerable little humans.

Jane Mortensen


Georgia Poison Centre (2015). Retrieved from

Medew, J (2015, July 6). Three-year-old suffers alcohol poisoning after drinking hand gel. The Age. Retrieved from

National Capital Poison Center. Poison Control (2012-2016). Hand sanitizer: what’s the real story? Retrieved from

Rayar P, Ratnapalan S. (2013). Pediatric ingestions of house hold products containing ethanol: a review. Clinical Pediatrics. Vol.52(3), pp.203-9.

Intoxicated Children: The Price for Clean Hands

Intoxicated Children: The Price for Clean Hands


Pregnant women and air-fresheners

Air fresheners and pregnant women.

Air fresheners and pregnant women.

Target Audience

Pregnant women, their unborn foetus and babies up to 6 months of age have been identified as vulnerable to adverse health effects as a result of chemical exposure from air fresheners in the home due to the length of time spent in this environment (Farrow, Taylor, Northstone & Golding, 2003). Social media is an appropriate information source, in particular Facebook, with 81% of Mother´s using this platform and 66% seeking parenting information from it (Duggan, Lenhart, Lampe & Ellison, 2015).

Is ¨fresh¨ really best?

Air fresheners come in many forms including scented candles, incense, gels, aerosols and electric diffuses. They do not ¨purify¨ the air and instead emit chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the environment to mask odours. These chemicals can be, but are not limited to benzene, toluene, ethylene, limonene, linalool and xylene (Kim, Hong, Bong & Cho, 2015). These chemicals have their own health risks which can include reproductive complications, delayed growth of the unborn foetus, headache, shortness of breath, kidney and liver damage (Kim, Hong, Bong & Cho, 2015). The VOCs also react with other particles in the air to form secondary pollutants including, formaldehyde, which has detrimental health effects, and other ultra- fine particles (Kim, Hong, Bong & Cho, 2015). These particles can cause breathing problems and cardiovascular disease (Kim, Hong, Bong & Cho, 2015). The use of air fresheners during pregnancy may increase the risk of wheezing and infections in the new born (Casas et al., 2013).

Current labelling legislation in Australia means that as the consumer, you are not informed of all the chemicals released by the air freshener. A study conducted by Steinemann (2015) found that 94% of hazardous VOCs were not disclosed on the products analyzed and are generally labelled as ¨perfumes¨.

Would you expose yourself or your family to hazardous chemicals with known adverse health effects, when researchers are yet to find out if the amount of each chemical being released overtime is safe for human exposure and the full extent of long term health effects remains unclear?

To eliminate the need to use an air freshener conduct an assessment in your home to identify and remove the cause of unpleasant odour. Always ensure good ventilation by opening windows and using exhaust fans. Empty bins regularly and use sun light to air odour causing items. Squeezing a lemon is just as effective at freshening the air, and safe too! (Farrow, Taylor, Northstone & Golding, 2003).


Casas, L., Zock, J.P., Carsin, A.E., Fernandez-Somoano, A., Esplugues, A., Santa-Marina, L., Tardon, A., Ballester, F., Basterrechea, M., Sunyer, J. (2013). The use of household cleaning products during pregnancy and lower respiratory tract infections and wheezing during early life. International Journal of Public Health, 58(5), 757-764. doi: 10.1007/s00038-012-0417-2

Duggan, M., Lenhart, A., Lampe, C., & Ellison, N.B. (2015). Parents and Social media. Retrieved from

Farrow, A., Taylor, H., Northstone., K & Golding, J. (2003). Symptoms of Mothers and Infants Related to Total Volatile Organic Compounds in Household Products.  Archives of Environmental Health: An International Journal, 58(10), 633-641. doi:10.3200/AEOH.58.10.633-641

Kim, S., Hong, S., Bong, C., & Cho, M. (2015). Characterization of air freshener emission: the potential health effects. The Journal of Toxicological Sciences, 40(5), 535-550.

Steinemann, A. (2015). Volatile emissions from common consumer products. Air Quality, Atmosphere and Health, 8, 273-281. doi:10.1007/s11869-015-0327-6.

 Leonie Arnold


Reducing the hazards within our training facilities

The target audience for this discussion blog is the Health and Safety Representatives (HSR’s) of a large organisation that train for emergency situations. The HSRs share a private communication platform known as Yammer. Yammer is the place where they share ideas, articles, blogs on all health and safety related issues. Communication through Yammer is suitable as it is the quickest way to reach out to all regional HSRs in a non formal context. This is a fictional scenario although the issues and references concerning the use of Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) are factual.

I understand everyone’s favourite day of the year is when we do our annual firefighting training, but as the Health and Safety Representatives for our organisation, I would like to enlighten you on some research I have been doing with regards to the fire extinguishers we train with.

One of the firefighting foams we use is called Aqueous Film Forming Foam or better known as AFFF.

It’s been a great experience to be able to use real fighting equipment and foam with our simulation fires, but how much do we know about the ecological and health hazards of AFFF?

This AFFF product has been found to contain non-biodegradable fluorosurfactants that are environmentally persistent (does not break down), therefore if we don’t discharge using the correct controls measures, contamination of soil, local streams and dams may occur.

Evidence of the ecological hazards using AFFF can be read in a recent report by AECOM Co. The report details a large organisation whose repeated usage of AFFF at sites where discharge has been inappropriately contained and disposed of, has lead to the contamination of soil, groundwater, and surface waters. The AECOM report recommends that residents in the ‘Southern Area’ not shower, bathe or fill pools with groundwater or consume milk from dairy cows exposed to surface water or groundwater or eat beef grown within the area. Pretty serious stuff!!

Generally, from what I have observed during training days, procedures are followed and the sewage system or our holding tanks are used without incident, although without soil contamination testing and a review of our hierarchy of controls, how do we know we are implementing the highest standard of care?

My recommendation would be to test our surrounding soil for precautionary measures and substitute the AFFF fire extinguishers with protein foam that is more environmentally friendly.

Your thoughts??

James Zacharioudakis


AECOM Services Pty Ltd (2016) Stage 2B Environmental Investigation Report, Executive Summary: RAAF Base Williamtown NSW, Department of Defence. Retrieved from

Environmental, Heritage and Risk Branch (2003) Environmental issues associated with Defence use of an aqueous film forming foam. Retrieved from

Fire fighting training and chemical hazards.

Fire fighting training and chemical hazards.

Formaldehyde in the workplace

Target Audience

The target audience are Hospital mortuary, Embalmers and Pathology workers who by the nature of their work are often in isolated, insular environments. Communication with others from different clinical areas would be infrequent and formalised . So communication via social media for peers in these areas  is suitable.

Safety Update

Formaldehyde has long been associated with scary movies and body parts in jars.

However who would have though for such a widely used chemical in Australia the major use for Formaldehyde is in labs to fix tissues and organs and in the funeral industry to embalm, disinfect and preserve (Australian Government Department of Health, 2016).

What are the facts about Formaldehyde?

It was discovered as a preservative for body parts and antiseptic as far back as 1893 (Woskie, 1994). Health effects depend on the concentration and the way it is handled. Suggesting embalming would pose more risk as formaldehyde exposures in the embalming process require a long duration and higher concentrations.  On a normal intact body the embalming time is 2 hours (Woskie 1994).

Skin contact cause rashes, splashes can cause eye irritation and corrosion of the cornea, inhalation may cause respiratory irritation and burning and high exposure may cause an irregular heartbeat, severe headache and pulmonary edema.  It can also react strongly with bleach and acids and has known to cause nasal cancers in animals (Australian Government Department of health,2013).

So why do we continue to use it?

It has properties which are not easily replaced by other products and some of the reading suggests workers are not willing to try other products due to Formaldehyde’s effectiveness.

Formaldehyde has been studied by various bodies in Australia and worldwide and some European countries have started to restrict its use (Australian Government Department of Health, 2013).

What can we do to prevent exposure?

  • Develop alternative technology for preservation of the human body
  • Substitute with an alternative chemical or reduce formaldehyde use in embalming
  • Minimize formaldehyde release during embalming by enclosing the process and provide ventilation and masks.
  • Hazard communication via the MSDS’s and good housekeeping to avoid spills


American Federation of state, county and municipal employees. (2016). Workplace Health and Safety Fact Sheet Formaldehyde. Retrieved from

Australian Government Department of health. (2013). Formaldehyde Fact sheet National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme. Retrieved from

Formaldehyde testing lab, EMSL Analytical. INC New Jersey. Retrieved from

Woskie, S. (1994). Formaldehyde Use Reduction in Mortuaries. University of Massachusetts Lowell

Isolated and insular environments

Isolated and insular environments

Amber Atkinson

Communication regarding chemical exposure or risk control via social media

Target Audience:

This blog has been written and targeted for the domestic market. The readers that I believe will be interested in this article would be parents typical family and in particular those with children.

BLOG: Don’t’ be fooled by the clever packaging

Well after some research I am a little worried that I will not get mother of the year award. The first sign of a fly or insect in our home makes me jump into action to defend my home from these small defenseless insects. My weapon of choice is the nice green shiny insect spray which when released over and around the room in abundance protects my family. Well so I thought. Have I been complacent in my thinking that surely if it is sold to me it won’t harm me or my family?

Looking on the surface (no pun intended)

The insect spray that we are currently using is an Aldi product called Atlas flying Insect Spray Fast Knockdown Hypoallergenic Fragrance. On the surface the spray looks harmless. The nice green packaging, using words such as ‘enviroshield’ and ‘natural eucalyptus extracts’ surely means that this product is harmless to the environment or my family. It practically conjures up emotions of protection and I would be remiss if I didn’t use this in our home.

Let’s take a closer look.

Reading this product Safety Data Sheet (SDS), located from the Aldi website I looked more closely and the back of the spray can alerts to the possible dangers present. The warnings on the back of the product, the safety phrases and personal protective equipment recommended in the SDS alerts consumers to the possible health risks when the chemical is inhaled or touched. You just have to have the time and be willing to search a little deeper.

What can I do?

I will be thinking twice when I go to reach for the insect spray and asking ‘is there something else I can do rather than using this spray?’ Always read the back of the product and if possible upload the Safety Data Sheet from the internet to find out a little more.

If you do decide to use this insect spray or similar refer to the following table to help reduce the health risk you and your family are exposed to.

The following tips will you reduce exposure to the harmful chemicals in insect spray:
1.       Treat and use this product with care.

2.       Ensure you are the only person in the room.

3.       Ensure no one enters the room whilst or immediately after you have sprayed.

4.       Turn of all fans or air conditioners.

5.       Do not spray over surfaces that have food or will have food touching it.

6.       Use a face mask, protective glasses and gloves to prevent the user from breathing in or touching poison.

7.       Use a minimal amount


Material Safety Data Sheet Atlas Flying Insect Spray. (2016, July 15). Retrieved from Aldi:

Chemical sprays in the home - social media as a tool to inform

Chemical sprays in the home – social media as a tool to inform

Wendy Demarte

What practices do you use when storing LPG cylinders at home?

Many households in NSW will have at least one cylinder of LPG (propane aka liquefied petroleum gas) in their home somewhere. Is kept for the next family BBQ or a half empty cylinder stored somewhere around the house for other energy needs (such as those outdoor portable gas heaters for those cold winters night)?

So, what practices are you using when storing your full or half empty LPG cylinder? Are they stored in a poorly ventilated area or somewhere close to ignition sources? Perhaps it is stored in the garage next to your biggest ignition source – your car?

According to the Australian Dangerous Goods (ADG) Code, LPG is classified as a Dangerous Good. It is pressurized

LPG cylinder stored next to car in enclosed space.

LPG cylinder stored next to car in enclosed space.

into liquid when stored in the gas cylinder. This chemical is highly flammable and if it goes off, it produces acrid smoke and irritating fumes. Moreover, poor handling and storage systems may cause other health and safety issues such as (ELGAS, 2016):

  • Cold burns to the eyes,
  • Cold burns to the skin, and
  • Difficulty in breathing.

To keep you family safe, there are a number of best practices for storing LPG cylinders including (ELGAS, 2016 & SafeWork Victoria, 2016):

  • Reduce the number of gas cylinders stored in your home,
  • Avoid indoor storage of gas cylinders, whether full or half empty,
  • Gas cylinders should be kept upright at all times in a well-ventilated area,
  • Store gas cylinders away from ignition sources such as open flame, heat, spark etc.
  • Gas cylinders should be stored in locations where they are protected from any physical impact or damage, and
  • Gas cylinders should be stored with their valves closed when not in use.

Next time you take an LPG cylinder home, think about best practices to ensure a safe and healthy environment for you and your family.



  1. (2016). Indoor Storage of LPG Gas Bottles. Retrieved from
  2. (2016). MSDS for Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPGas). Retrieved from
  3. SafeWork Victoria. (2013). Factsheet – More Information About Using Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) Cylinders. Retrieved from


Alice Cheng

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.

Human Factors and Ergonomics Society of Australia

At the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society of Australia (HFESA) conference, which was held in Adelaide in November, Dr Jodi Oakman, Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Ergonomics and Human Factors, at La Trobe University,  took over the role of HFESA Secretary and will hold this position for 2 years, Jenny Long is HFESA president and Rodney Powell is treasurer (see photo). These two years will include the period in which the International Ergonomics Association Conference will be held in Melbourne (see ). The IEA conference will be a great opportunity to see and meet international colleagues in the field of ergonomics. We strongly recommend attending at least some of the conference and of course the social events.