Category Archives: Uncategorized

Buying a diesel fueled car

Target audience: This blog post is aimed at the general buying public who might be considering a change to a diesel powered car. It would be suitable for a general consumer information site or for a more specialised automotive site where a person looking for information on diesel engine cars might find it.

Diesel Deceit – modern diesel engines have been promoted as having outstanding fuel economy combined with low emissions. The advent of turbocharging and modern electronic engine management systems has allowed these engines to be become more user friendly – but should you believe the hype?

One reason diesel engines have been touted as having low emissions is because of the decision for European (EU) countries to tax petrol engines more heavily in a bid to reduce carbon dioxide levels (probably the best known “Greenhouse” gas). Whilst diesels may produce lower levels of carbon dioxide they tend to produce much higher levels of nitrogen oxides. Nitrogen oxides can cause or exacerbate a number of health conditions, such as inflammation of the lungs, asthma and bronchitis; increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and lower birth weight and smaller head circumference in babies. Tests conducted by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) show that modern diesel cars emit on average seven times the EU limit for nitrogen oxides. Why? Because the limits are determined by tests done under laboratories conditions and do not reflect real world driving. And that’s without “cheating” software in the case of Volkswagen. But it gets worse.

In June 2012 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) updated the diesel engine exhaust classification from probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A) to carcinogenic to humans (Group 1). This is mostly due to particulates that are emitted in diesel exhaust and whilst most modern diesels have effective particulate filters, maintaining them can be difficult and\or expensive depending on the type of driving you do. Many owners have been known to remove them as a cost saving measure.

Finally, if that doesn’t put you off there is the handling of the fuel itself – it’s sticky and greasy, the smell won’t even wash off readily and it gets on your shoes. It really is on the nasty side!


Alexander Finlay

Buying a diesel fueled car.

Buying a diesel fueled car.

Buying a diesel fueled car.

Buying a diesel fueled car.

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.

If it’s Certified Organic then it is safe isn’t it?


Making the shift to organic gardening practices means healthier food coming from the vegie patch but also keeping the gardeners safe and healthy right?

The picture shows an organic weed-killing product in my back shed. Looking at the label, or what you can see of it, there doesn’t seem to be any reason for concern, but as the label is faded, falling off and unreadable, I thought perhaps I should investigate further before making a final decision.

The instruction manual was easy to find on the internet, detailed and easy to understand but the safety instructions of wearing protective spray gear including goggles and respiratory mask started to raise safety questions (Certified Organics Ltd, 2012a).

I then looked for the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) to try and find out why the protective gear was needed. The MSDS was also easily found on the company website and stated the product was a severe irritant to the eyes, moderate irritant to the skin and possible irritant to the respiratory system (Certified Organics Ltd, 2012b), explaining the need for wearing safety gear. On the comforting side, there were no listed effects for the product as a sensitiser or carcinogen and no reproductive or teratogenicity effects (Certified Organics Ltd, 2012b).

The safety precautions required are similar to those listed as required on the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for glycophospate based week killers (Scotts, 2012). Therefore, while I’m happy with our decision to control weeds organically, we won’t be getting rid of the safety gear anytime soon and perhaps I’ll provide feedback on the label durability. If you are considering making this shift, remember that even though it is organic, safety precautions are still required to keep everyone safe.


Certified Organics Ltd. (2012a). BioWeed (TM) Control Application Instructions. Commercial Application Manual. Retrieved August 13, 2015, from Certified Organics:

Certified Organics Ltd. (2012b). Material Safety Data Sheet. BioWeed (TM) Control. Retrieved August 13, 2015, from Certified Organics:

Scotts. (2012). Safety Data Sheet. Defender Glycophosphate 360 Weed Control. Retrieved August 13, 2015, from Scotts Australia:

Hidden chemicals our children are ingesting

food for kids

We are all interested in our family’s health, and often our children’s health instinctively above our own. We strive to provide balanced nutrition in the ways we know best and with the best of intentions. A balanced diet includes foods from many sources that include plant sources such as grains, legumes, fruit, vegetables and animal sources such as fish, beef, dairy products. Are we compromising our children’s potential for health when the 3 vege’s on their plate have been grown in chemically treated soils and sprayed with numerous chemicals to ward off many different kinds of bugs. Our children grow and develop fast and in the same way as adults their bodies are engaging in continual maintenance and repair functions. A lot is going on and all of it requires nutrients to sustain.

The better quality and purest form of these nutrients is required for the best outcomes of all metabolisms in the body. Pesticides in our foods can reduce important enzyme activity, cause allergies (e.g. Echsma), insensitivities (eg. Gluten intolerance), immobilise the effectiveness of nutrients within the food, disrupt microbial balance in the gut and worse have neurotoxic and carcinogenic properties. At a cellular level, providing the right ingredients is essential.

What can we do about it?

Eating organic and Biodynamic produce/ products is the only real way to avoid chemicals added to our foods. Food additives, e.g. MSG, sulfate are also very restricted ( cannot exceed 5% final mass) in these foods, and are only allowed if they ensure safety of the food. These foods cannot be irradiated or genetically modified. In today’s environment of polluted seas, soils, water and air, organic and biodynamic foods are an important protective buffer in our children’s health.


Organic Industry Standards and Certification Committee (OISCC). (2015). National Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce. Retrieved from, pp.7 and 73

Organic Industry Standards and Certification Council. (2010). About Us. Retrieved from

Dr. Mercola. (2015). USDA Claims Pesticide Residues in Food Is Safe—Here’s Why They’re Wrong. Retrieved from

John Jeavons. (2015) Food is power. Are you in control of yours? Retrieved from

Hand sanitizers: handy or hazardous?

Hand Sanitizers

We all know the importance of good hand hygiene; when practiced regularly, “particularly before and after certain activities, this is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs/infections to others” (CDC, 2015). Hand hygiene awareness has lead to a broad range of hand sanitizing products being sold for everyday use. Marketed as a quick, portable, convenient and a no-water-necessary alternative to hand washing, these products boast ‘anti-bacterial’ properties which, lets face it are great when you’re stuck in a sticky situation with no soap and water. However, added ingredients in these products could be doing more harm then good.

Triclosan is a chemical added to some hand sanitizing products and whilst deemed effective in hospital settings to prevent hospital-acquired infections, there is no recent data that suggests extra health benefits from having these sanitizing products in the common household. In fact, regular use of products containing the chemical additive have been reported to cause contact dermatitis, skin and eye irritation and there are concerns that everyday use could cause unanticipated hormonal effects (FDA, 2015) “including interfering with the bodies thyroid hormone metabolism”. Another potential problem associated with everyday use of sanitizing products containing Triclosan is the correlation between overuse and increased allergies and asthma (Aviva Glaser, 2004).

Checking the ingredients list on the back of your hand sanitizing products could save you and your family from exposure to this chemical nasty. Whilst hand hygiene remains the single most important method to stop the spread of germs you don’t need to resort to a harmful chemical, washing with soap and water is as effective if done correctly. Information on correct hand washing procedures and when to wash can be found online, websites include:



  1. Centres for disease control and prevention, (2015). Handwashing. Received from:
  2. Glaser, A. (2004). The Ubiquitous Triclosan: A common antibacterial agent exposed. Beyond Pesticides/National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides, 24, No. 3. Retrieved from:
  3. S Food and Drug administration, (2015). FDA Taking Closer Look at ‘Antibacterial’ Soap. Received from:

‘Visual’ activity in the Blind Brain: Neural underpinnings of Echolocation in the Blind

Professor Mel Goodale PhD, FRSC, FRS
Canadian Professor of Neuroscience, Director The Brain and Mind Institute, The University of Western Ontario, Canada

General seminar -4 pm Thursday Feb 12, 2015
Venue: Room 217 George Singer Building

“I can hear a building over there”

Everybody has heard about echolocation in bats and dolphins. These creatures emit bursts of sounds and listen to the echoes that bounce back to detect objects in their environment. What is less well known is that people can echolocate, too. In fact, there are blind people who have learned to make clicks with their mouth and tongue – and to use the returning echoes from those clicks to sense their surroundings. Some of these people are so adept at echolocation that they can use this skill to go mountain biking, play basketball, or navigate through unfamiliar buildings. In this talk, we will learn about several of these echolocators – some of whom train other blind people to use this amazing skill.

Using neuroimaging (functional magnetic resonance imaging or fMRI), we have also shown that the echoes activate brain regions in the blind echolocators that would normally support vision in the sighted brain. In contrast, the brain areas that process auditory information are not particularly interested in these faint echoes. This work is shedding new light on just how plastic the human brain really is.

For more information about echolocation, see:

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

The killer in your lounge room

Brothers Chase and Tyler Robinson from Mooroopna died as a result of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from an unserviced gas heater.  This is not an isolated incident. According to Energy Safe Victoria, nine people lost their lives in Victoria as a result of CO poisoning since 2000.

CO is an odourless, colourless, tasteless and non-irritating gas produced from incomplete combustion of carbonaceous fossil fuel. This means that we can’t see or smell it, making us unaware of exposure to it.

Amongst other causes, improperly maintained heating systems can lead to excessive emissions of CO. When inhaled, CO is easily absorbed into the bloodstream, where it combines with haemoglobin reducing oxygen carrying capacity to the vital organs.

The poisoning severity depends on CO concentration, the length of exposure and the general health of the exposed person. Most vulnerable are the elderly, infants, and those suffering from cardiovascular or lung disease, anaemia, increased metabolic rate and pregnant women for whom exposure can lead to fetal developmental disorders and fetal death.

CO exposure symptoms may resemble the flu or food poisoning, making identification of the real cause difficult.  Early symptoms include headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. These symptoms should not be ignored, particularly if they consistently occur in the same environment. Repeated exposure further affects the brain and heart function and can be fatal.

To reduce the risk, household gas heaters should be inspected and serviced regularly. Energy Safe Victoria recommends biennial maintenance servicing.  Another method of protection is the installation of an electronic carbon monoxide alarm, similar to a residential smoke detector.

Beware of the killer in your lounge room.



Energy Safe Victoria (2011). Landlords, agents and tenants, Your responsibilities. Victoria: Energy Safe Victoria. Retrieved from

 Kao, L. W. & Nanagas, K. A. (2004). Carbon monoxide poisoning. Emergency Medicine Clinics of North America, 22, 985-1018. doi: 10.1016/j.emc.2004.05.003

 Meredith, T. & Vale, A. (1988). Carbon monoxide poisoning. British Medical Journal, 296, 77-79. Retrieved from

Raub, J. A., Mathieu-Nolf, M., Hampson, N. B. & Thom, S. R. (2000). Carbon monoxide poisoning – a public health perspective. Toxicology, 145, 1-14. Retrieved from

The Australian. (2013). Victoria landlord cleared over deaths of Chase and Tyler Robinson. Retrieved from

This post was written by Gosia for the subject Screening and Monitoring in Occupational, Health and Safety 2014