Workplace monitoring: Who, what, when, why, how?
By Jim Struthers, Casella sales manager
In my previous articles in this series for SHP readers (United worker responsibility: Critical now for future of health and safety and Accentuating the differences between health and safety), I have focussed on the need for current attitudes to general health and safety processes to change and emphasised the importance of regular monitoring. The best way to combat those ‘hidden killers’ and protect our workforces is to increase awareness of the benefits of regular monitoring and detection. Employees then need to take ownership of the monitoring solutions given to them and utilise them, taking their own wellbeing, as well as that of their colleagues, seriously and not seeing it as a hindrance to everyday procedures.
Taking on a new health and safety responsibility can often feel daunting but the benefits are certainly worth it. Here, in the third and final part of this series, I will take you through a profile of monitoring to show exactly who it affects, what it involves, when it can be used, why it is so important and how you can start monitoring.
Appropriately trained health and safety professionals and occupational hygienists able to advise on actions that need to be taken to impact worker health should be responsible for managing an effective monitoring programme.
Workplace monitoring solutions for dust monitoring include personal sampling pumps to monitor employees’ personal exposure to dust and real time dust monitors to assess the occupational risks completed by a walk through survey and checking existing controls. For wider area and site monitoring, systems range from tools used by site operators and mangers to check the area or a web based product placed on site where data can be captured remotely to ensure compliance with regulatory limits.
Noise monitoring also has a range of solutions depending on the risk and requirements. Noise dosimeters are ideal for personal exposure monitoring whilst sound level meters can be used via walk through surveys or area monitoring to check workface regulations. Environmental noise measurements can be taken over short, medium or long periods of time with hand held, semi permanent or permanent systems depending on the application.
The first action needed is a proper risk assessment which will answer some key questions:
- Who is exposed and to what?
- How long are they exposed for?
- How much are they exposed to?
The new ISO45001, the second draft of which should be finalised and agreed in October 2016, will bring a uniform standard to health and safety processes by encouraging businesses to develop the essential policy, objectives and processes. Within this the hazards and risks within any individual workplace need to be identified and more importantly, plans must be put in place to eliminate them or reduce them to an appropriate level. This will see the current emphasis placed on monitoring increase.
More than 11 million people in the UK suffer from some form of hearing loss with that figure expected to rise to 15.6 million in 2035. Since the introduction of the Control of Noise at Work Regulations in Great Britain in April 2006 employers have a responsibility to protect the hearing of their workers.
Workers are exposed to hazardous substances by breathing fume, dust gas or mist, by skin contact, by injection into the skin or swallowing.  Thousands of substances may be used at work but only 500 of them have Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs) listed in regulations. Monitoring is the only way to check if dust exposures are below the WELs. In my last article I citied the 3,500 occupational cancer deaths that occur just in the construction industry as the result of exposure to hazardous substances including woodwork dust and stainless welding. Often the diseases that are developed are only diagnosed years after the initial exposure, and closer monitoring at the time of exposure could have prevented the situation.
Monitoring must be done in a way that it does not impact the comfort or productivity of a worker. When out on site visits I often get told “We would like to be able to monitor the device remotely without the need to interfere or disturb the worker.”
With the progress in data capture and reporting technology, there are solutions available that enable full remote monitoring. In fact Casella has incorporated the latest remotely accessible monitoring technology in its products to improve productivity levels, as the individual conducting the monitoring does not need to physically follow the workers throughout the day and the data is downloaded and analysed elsewhere. Irrespective of whether it is monitoring in a confined space, an abnormal working environment or required over a long period of time or distance, the worker does not need to be disturbed.
Occupational hygienists and health and safety professionals now have the technology to remotely start, pause or stop a measurement run, monitor battery life and memory capacity, check measurement progress and alarms direct from a mobile device. Real-time status updates are provided and data can be emailed alongside photos and notes, adding context to the data and further simplifying the reporting process.
Monitoring has now transformed into a procedure that instantly yields results. Data with results that could impact worker health must be converted into an action that leads to positive outcomes.
Start monitoring now!
Jim Struthers is sales manager at Casella.
Read more articles in this series from Casella:
Sleep and Fatigue: Director’s Briefing
Fatigue is common amongst the population, but particularly among those working abnormal hours, and can arise from excessive working time or poorly designed shift patterns. It is also related to workload, in that workers are more easily fatigued if their work is machine-paced, complex or monotonous.
This free director’s briefing contains:
- Key points;
- Recommendations for employers;
- Case law;
- Legal duties.