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August 2, 2016

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United worker responsibility: Critical now for future of health and safety

By Jim Struthers, Casella sales manager


“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibres connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibres, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.” ― Herman Melville


As Melville said in the 19th Century, we are all intrinsically connected. Now, in the 21st Century, this is more felt then ever.  It is estimated that there are currently 2 billion smartphone users in the market.[1] The world is a globally connected arena, constantly in operation, with no signs of slowing down. How do we utilise the technology boom into our own industry and ensure it benefits worker health?

The protection of workers and the reduction of their exposure to risk is currently still monitored  with technology developed decades ago and is the responsibility of occupational hygienists, a health and safety manager or someone with the ability to use the equipment. They take measurements, garner an understanding of the workers day-to-day procedures and ultimately, look to reduce the physical (noise) and chemical (dusts, vapours, solvents) workplace exposure.  If they need to monitor every individual within the workplace, this could take huge amounts of time. But, if we now live in an age where we can track our steps, sleep patterns, and heart rates, could we not do this differently?

As IBM stated in ‘Tapping into the Information Seeker’ back in 2011:

“To date, health device makers have primarily targeted consumers who are either fitness focused or chronically ill. But between these two extremes sits a large, fragmented and often overlooked population who seek better information to effectively manage their health. Recent advances in technology are enabling smarter, connected personal healthcare ‘systems’ that can supply crucial information to significantly improve diagnosis, treatment and condition management. These developments now make it feasible to deliver health device solutions that meet the needs of these ‘Information Seekers’ and help reduce long-term healthcare costs”.

By moving the ‘information Seeker’ into the workplace, we can begin to look at the long term effects of exposure to chemical and physical agents. There is a real opportunity to have every individual in the industry act as a real-time smart sensor, , capturing quantitative data and taking ownerships as acting occupational hygienists would. This would make a huge difference on mapping out entire areas of concerns and mitigate potential risks to health.

The ‘Treat Health like Safety’ mantra is becoming widely used within our industry, and for good reason. It is something we should all be committed too.

Casella has started on the path of remote monitoring of the worker with Bluetooth enabled devices for noise and dust. This makes data more readily available, real-time decisions can be made and workers are not disrupted allowing productivity to be maintained.

Those fibres that Melville spoke of that connect us may also be the ones that are harming us. Treating health like safety and monitoring everyone, all of the time by utilising the leaps in technology will allow us to understand quickly what needs to change to reduce that exposure. Let us take action and in 30 years time see the effects of a healthier workforce.






Jim Struthers is sales manager at Casella.

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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