sábado, 1 de junio de 2013

Health and Safety at the work place

Versión en español

The health prevention at the work place has been treated widely on the legislative level. Another matter is to actually know, if the existing laws are being obeyed and if the prevention systems are being implemented correctly. However, for this purpose the inspectors, the judges and the professional ethics of the responsibles in the administration of the organizations already exist. Occupational prevention is divided in two specialities: health care and Industrial Hygiene which treat “health” from two different angles. The first one is centred in the individual person and the second one in the work place.
It has been some time now that I am interested in the transport sector and its evolution with respect to prevention, mobility, road safety and civil defence and I have to admit that it is a very interesting and complex world, which has advanced noticeably in the last years, especially since our incorporation in the European Union and the application of its directives in our labour legislation. For example, the directive 98/391/CEE established the framework directives for the improvement and health of the employees and the most important consequence of which was the creation of the law for the prevention of risks in the workplace in 1995 and a whole bunch of further laws that promote the safety and health of the workforce. Recently we have had two Royal decrees: RD. 902/2007 which establishes the framework directives for workers that carry out mobile activities of transport by road and the general regulation for drivers RD. 808/2009; apart from the fundamental norms for the transport of dangerous goods by road, which establish important safety criteria: TPC 74/1992 (national regulation concerning the carriage of dangerous goods by road) and the ADR (European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road). But I will not continue in this line as we might fall asleep with such a lot of legislation. 
Major risk factors in the goods transport by road
Let us observe some characteristics of the goods transport by road, as for example, the predominance of male professionals that exists in this sector (about 80 %) and the existence of some outstanding psychological, organizational, safety and ergonomic risk factors, which are being described in the following table:

Risk factors

-Age (increased health problems)
-Risk perception (changes with age)
-Sleep apnoea
-Routines that reduce attention and increase confidence
-Physical violence (hassles, theft…)
-Dangerous behaviours while driving (alcohol, drugs, medications)
-Increased mental strain according to the street type, the time of day, the locality and the type of goods carried.

-Strict working hours (fixed hour of delivery)
-Shifts (with the inconveniencies of night driving)
-Excessive working hours
-Non-observance of the periods for breaks
-low quality labour contracts and labour instability
-Disorganized working hours
-Insufficient communication about the loading and unloading processes and about the characteristics of the goods transported

Safety and accident prevention in the working place
-traffic accidents (tilting, collision, immobilization)
-Transport of dangerous substances (category 1 to 9)
-Vibrations (affect the whole body)
-Manipulation of the tachometer (dangerous and illegal)
-Noise (in not noise protected driver’s cabs)
-Extreme temperature changes and humidity
-Inhalation of dangerous substances (CO, SO2, CO2, NOx, PAH- Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons)
-Incorrect signalization of an accident or incident on the road and exposition to a collision
-Incorrect technical maintenance of the vehicle
-Changes of the meteorological conditions “in itinere” (commute)

-Exhausting or aching postures during a prolonged period of time (mostly problems in the lumbar and cervical zones)
-Repeating postures while driving
-Inadequate entry of the workers to the driver’s cab, which can cause occupational accidents
-Higher physical strain for the driver due to the technical characteristics of the equipment (e. g. servo direction)
-Incorrect postures during the loading / unloading process.

An interesting date to be added is the following: Since June 2012, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified the diesel particles, which produce organic compounds or aromatic hidrocarbons, as a cancer producing agent for human beings in the Group 1, which means that another important risk factor has to be added for all the persons that work near diesel carburant.
 The most common health problems for lorry drivers are normally the lumbagos because of the postures the working place requires, the excess of body weight due to bad eating habits and the difficulty to exercise regularly, the cardiovascular and respiratory dysfunctions, and labour stress (distress).
 Some questions to analyse the administration of traffic accident prevention in the company
  • Does an emergency plan exist within the framework of the self-protection plan of the company? (RD 393/2007 y RD 1468/2008) 
  • Are simulations being carried out to validate the emergency plan?  
  • Does an actuation protocol exist in case of an occupational traffic accident?
  • Are the occupational traffic accidents “in itinere” (commute) and “in labore” (work) contemplated within the risk evaluation of the prevention plan?  
  • How is the follow-up of the traffic accidents including the incidents -white accidents- contemplated within the system of the administration of prevention?  
  • In which way does the company conduct the medical examinations of those employees who as their normal activity are driving motorized vehicles; as it is essential to know the health status of those employees due to the consequences which their professional activity might have on co-workers or third persons? 
  • Does the company have a training and information programme for its drivers? (safe driving, ecological driving, healthy habits…) 
  • Does the company have a mobility plan?
  • Do you know if the standards of the ISO norm - ISO 39001:2012 - are applied?

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