February 19, 2018

Did you know that 62% of Workers are Exposed to Multiple Occupational Hygiene Hazards?

Risky exposures
Australian workers are regularly exposed to occupational hygiene hazards. Long-term exposure can create serious diseases such as black lung disease for coal miners,  permanent damage to hearing, spinal and back pain as a result of the impact of vibration by working on machines and using larger hand operated tools and poisoning through handling chemicals.
Any one of these on their own can cause a serious reduction to health and long-term disability as workers age, but the Safe Work Australia findings from the National Hazard Exposure Worker Surveillance (NHEWS) survey show that it is not uncommon for workers to receive multiple co-exposures.
Did you know these hazard statistics?
The report examined exposure to noise, vibration, biological materials, biomechanical demands, wet work, skin contact with chemicals, airborne hazards and sun exposure. The results showed that:
  • 62% of workers reported exposure to multiple types of occupational hygiene hazards
  • 20% reported exposure to at least five hazards
  • 25–34 years old had the highest odds of exposure to most multiple exposures
  • 25% reported that they had incomplete or no access to control measures for the multiple hazards that they reported being exposed to
High job demands (stress),  exposure to airborne hazards and chemicals were the most reported hazards
Almost a third of male workers reported co-exposure to noise and vibration compared to 5% of female workers. A third of young workers (15-24 years) reported exposure compared to 13% for workers over 55 years.
Those working longer hours were more likely to report exposure to both noise and vibration. Almost 25% reported co-exposure to chemical and airborne hazards.
Who’s most at risk?
Young labourers, technicians and trades workers were most at risk of multiple exposures to occupational hygiene hazards. Young workers are particularly vulnerable because of their inexperience and lack of knowledge about hazards at work.
An Australian study of apprentices showed that young workers often had high job rotations that exposed them to hazards with often insufficient knowledge of the hazards associated with each workplace. Young workers are also more likely to be employed in smaller businesses where health and safety knowledge and risk management is generally lower.
Dr. Susanne Bahn, Director and CEO, Tap into Safety
With over 11 years’ consultancy and 9 years’ research including more than 50 published journal articles, Sue knows her way around safety in hazardous workplaces. Her specific expertise focuses on induction deafness, risk blindness and risk management. A passionate individual, Sue is on a mission to lift the safety standard across Australia and internationally. Her qualifications include a PhD (Business – Health and Safety Management), a Masters in Human Resource Management, a Bachelor of Education and a Graduate Certificate in Higher Education. In July 2017 Sue was appointed as a panel member of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s Small Business Finance Advisory Panel. This appointment is an exciting opportunity to provide the Bank with valuable information on the financial and economic conditions faced by small businesses throughout Australia.

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