Dealing with sleep aponea
Sleep aponea is a condition which can lead to health and safety risks at work if it is not recognised or diagnosed. Sufferers may experience health problems such as high blood pressure, stroke, ischemic heart disease (lack of blood flow and oxygen to the heart muscle), irregular heart rhythms and mood disorders. They are also at increased risk of a fatigue-related motor vehicle crash or other accident. Those with moderate or severe Obstructive Sleep Aponea (OSA) are seven times more likely to have traffic collisions or work-related accidents because of daytime sleepiness.
A useful briefing from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety explains that OSA is a breathing-related sleep disorder that causes brief interruptions of breathing during sleep. Soft tissue in the back of the throat briefly collapses, closing off the airway. This blockage may be caused by relaxed throat muscles, a narrow airway, a large tongue or extra fatty tissue in the throat. These pauses in breathing can last from ten to 30 seconds and occur up to 400 times per night. With each pause in breathing, the brain automatically prompts the sleeper to resume breathing.
Aponea can be treated by the use of dental appliances or continuous positive airways pressure (CPAP) therapy. This therapy is where the patient wears a mask with tubing connected to the CPAP unit, which works by gently blowing room air through the airway at a pressure high enough to keep the throat open and prevent snoring and disrupted breathing (apnoea). Corrective surgery may be an option if neither dental appliances nor CPAP prove effective.
The Health and Safety Report Volume 6, Issue 9 - September 2008 can be downloaded from www.ccohs.ca/newsletters/hsreport/issues/2008/09/ezine.html
Report questions Stress Management Standards Effectiveness
The latest Psychosocial Working Conditions (PWC) in Britain report* from the HSE suggests that the predicted change in working conditions following the roll-out of the HSE’s Stress Management Standards has yet to materialise. The number of workers reporting that their job is highly stressful is no longer decreasing as it had in previous surveys. The HSE is due to launch a new version of its Stress Management Standards Analysis tool on 5 November 2008. The new version includes the option to benchmark against either data drawn from organisations in both the private and public sector, or the current data drawn from the PWC survey 2004.
*: Available from www.hse.gov.uk/statistics
Separate research from Canadian scientific research organisation IRSST offers some advice on stress intervention implementation:
- administrative data on absenteeism is very useful as it sheds light on decisions taken at the start of or during implementation measures;
- management commitment must be high throughout the project;
- including the prevention of occupational stress in the workplace in an organisational strategic plan requires the management to be accountable to staff and the board;
- top management commitment to the plan is more credible if a specific budget is allocated to the task;
- line and middle managers must be supported in the task as they are often regarded by employees as being the source of problems;
- employee participation should start early and be maintained throughout the process;
- the project manager is key and should have leadership qualities, be highly efficient, have project management skills and make use of strategies to handle resistance of employees and managers.
Report R-577 ‘Strategic approach to preventing occupational stress’ can be obtained from www.irsst.qc.ca/files/documents/PubIRSST/R-577.pdf
Guidelines on whistleblowing
Guidelines on whistleblowing are available from the International Chamber of Commerce. They include:
- enterprises are encouraged to provide a whistleblowing system that is commensurate with their size and resources;
- whistleblowing systems should aim to ensure that the company considers any legitimate concern, whether raised by an employee, agent, supplier or customer, in full confidence and that the same category of person deals with all reports of potential legal wrongdoing, at the earliest possible opportunity;
- senior officers of the company should be in charge of the management and administration of the whistleblowing procedures or a designated independent firm;
- all whistleblowers’ reports should be diligently acknowledged, recorded and screened and a whistleblower whose report is not considered bona fide should be advised as soon as possible and that report should be disregarded;
- all reports should be investigated in the strictest of confidence, and the whistleblower should be informed of the outcome of the investigation;
- the person who is the subject of the investigation should also be informed as soon as possible, in order to allow that person to make suitable objections;
- all employees should be able to report serious occurrences without fear of retaliation, discrimination or disciplinary action and the whistleblower’s employment, remuneration and career opportunities should be protected by the company for a reasonable period of time;
- companies should ensure that the confidentiality of the information revealed through whistleblowing and the identity of the whistleblower is kept confidential for as long as possible, subject to legal requirements.
More detail on the ICC can be found at: www.littler.com/PressPublications/Lists/Insights/DispInsights.aspx?id=138#page=1
Manslaughter and road accident investigations
Employers have been warned that they can expect an immediate and in-depth investigation by the police following a road death when the employee is at work. A Kent Police forensic investigator told the Fleet News Hit for Six conference that road death investigations will be treated by police as if they are murders, before they look at less serious offences. The more likely charge will be one of corporate manslaughter. However, to date no company has been charged or prosecuted with the new offence which came into force in April 2008.
Bonus scheme brought on HAVS
A council worker has won compensation of £262,000 after developing hand arm vibration syndrome and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome as a result of using vibrating tools such as breaker packs, whacker plates and saws. Adrian Bideau had to stop working for the council as a result at the age of 25. Thompsons Solicitors, which took the case, said that the council had encouraged its workers to work long and excessive hours on the tools as there was a bonus scheme in operation. The scheme has since been scrapped.
Workplace violence guidance
Many aspects of the problem of violence at work can be alleviated by having the proper safety plans and security procedures in place, says a new report on workplace violence produced by the International Facility Management Association (IFMA).
Although ‘Violence in the Workplace: The Role of the Facility Manager’ is from the USA, it includes an international perspective and covers policies and procedures that are largely universal. The guidance examines the scope of the problem, describes the legal framework and offers guidance on planning, response and recovery. The report can be downloaded free from www.ifmafoundation.org/programs/pubs.cfm