FAQs related to Occupational Health and Safety Authority. (OHSA).
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PROTECTION OF WORKERS FROM RISKS ARISING FROM EXPOSURE VIBRATION REGULATIONS 2005
WHAT IS THE SCOPE OF THESE REGULATIONS?
Following the adoption of general legislation to improve the safety and health of workers at work, it was considered essential to draw up more specific legislation pertaining to the exposure to mechanical vibration, which can lead to musculoskeletal, neurological and vascular disorders. To this end, the scope of these regulations is to protect workers from the risks arising from the exposure to mechanical vibration.
WHAT ABOUT THE AIM OF THE REGULATIONS?
These regulations are intended to ensure the health and safety of each worker on an individual basis by encouraging improvements in the working environment and conditions without imposing heavy administrative, financial and legal constraints.
Who is covered by the regulations?
These minimum requirements apply to all activities where workers are exposed to the risks of mechanical vibrations during their work.
Which type of vibration do they refer to?
These regulations set out the exposure limit values and action limit values for hand-arm and whole-body vibration.
WHAT IS HAND-ARM VIBRATION?
Hand-arm vibration is that vibration that, when transmitted to the human hand-arm system poses a risk to the health and safety of the workers, in particular vascular, bone or joint, neurological or muscular disorders. This may come from the use of hand held power tools.
WHAT IS WHOLE-BODY VIBRATION?
Whole-body vibration is that vibration that, when transmitted to the whole body poses a risk to the health and safety of the workers, in particular lower back morbidity and trauma of the spine. This may come from riding in heavy vehicles/machinery, particularly over rough ground.
WHAT ARE THE EXPOSURE LIMIT VALUES AND LIMIT ACTION VALUES?
For hand-arm vibration, the daily exposure limit value standardised to an eight-hour reference period shall be 5 m/s² and the daily exposure action value standardised to an eight-hour reference period shall be 2.5 m/s². For whole-body vibration, the daily exposure limit value standardised to an eight-hour reference period shall be 1.15 m/s² and the daily exposure action value standardised to an eight-hour reference period shall be 0.5 m/s².
The regulations also specify the technical specifications on the basis of which exposure to vibration is assessed and measured.
HOW WILL THESE REGULATIONS EFFECT EMPLOYERS?
These regulations require the employer to take certain measures where there is likely to be a risk from exposure to vibration. The employer is required to:
- carry out a risk assessment and if necessary measure the levels of mechanical vibrations to which workers are exposed;
- take all measures to eliminate or reduce exposure to a minimum;
- provide information and training for the workers;
- consult with the workers and, or their representatives on matters covered by these regulations;
- provide appropriate health surveillance by a doctor or competent person, for workers where the risk assessment reveals a risk to their health.
WHAT SHOULD THE EMPLOYER LOOK AT WHEN CARRYING OUT RISK ASSESSMENT?
When carrying out the risk assessment, the employer should give particular attention to:
- The level, type and duration of exposure, including any exposure to intermittent vibration or repeated shocks;
- The exposure limit values and the exposure action values stipulated in the regulations;
- Any effects concerning the health and safety of workers at particularly sensitive risk;
- Any indirect effects on worker health and safety resulting from interactions between mechanical vibration and the workplace or other work equipment;
- Information provided by the manufacturers of work equipment in accordance with the relevant Community Directives;
- The existence of replacement equipment designed to reduce the levels of exposure to mechanical vibration;
- The extension of exposure to whole-body vibration beyond normal working hours under the employer's responsibility;
- Specific working conditions such as low or high temperatures; and
- Appropriate information obtained from health surveillance, including published information, as far as possible.
The risk assessment should be carried out by competent persons. It should be recorded on a suitable medium and kept up-to-date on a regular basis.
HOW WILL THE EMPLOYER DECIDE WHAT ACTIONS TO TAKE?
From the outcome of the risk assessment the employer shall take all the necessary measures to reduce to a minimum the exposure to mechanical vibrations, taking into account, in particular, other working methods, ergonomic design of equipment, provision of auxiliary equipment, maintenance programmes, design and layout of work places, adequate information to workers, limitation of duration and intensity of exposure, work schedules and provision of appropriate clothing.
WHAT IF THE EXPOSURE LINIT VALUE IS STILL EXCEEDED AFTER ACTION IS TAKEN?
Workers should never be exposed above the exposure limit value. If, in spite of the measures taken by the employer, the exposure limit value is still exceeded, the employer has to take immediate action to rectify this. S/he should identify the reasons why the exposure limit value has been exceeded, and amend the protection and prevention measures accordingly to prevent it happening again.
WHAT ABOUT INFORMATION AND TRAINING OF WORKERS?
In accordance with other occupational health and safety legislation, the employer is legally bound to ensure that workers who are exposed to the risks from mechanical vibration at work and/or their representatives receive information and training relating to risks from mechanical vibration, concerning in particular the measures taken to eliminate or reduce to a minimum the risks from mechanical vibration. They should also be informed and trained about the results of the risk assessment and potential injury arising from work equipment, exposure limit and action values, measures taken, why and how to detect and report signs of injury, safe working practices and the circumstances in which the workers are entitled to health surveillance.
SHOULD THE WORKERS BE CONSULTED AS WELL?
Yes. Consultation and participation of workers and/or their representative on the issues found in these regulations should be carried out in the same manner as outlined in other occupational health and safety legislation, particularly the General Provisions for Health and Safety at Work Places Regulations of 2003.
WHAT ABOUT HEALTH SURVEILLANCE?
Health surveillance is intended to prevent and diagnose rapidly any disorder linked with exposure to mechanical vibration. This is deemed appropriate where:
- The exposure of workers to vibration is such that a link can be established between that exposure and an identifiable illness or harmful effects on health;
- It is probable that the illness or the effects occur in a worker's particular working conditions; and
- A medical examination exists to detect the illness or the harmful effects on health. Moreover, those workers who are exposed to mechanical vibration in excess of the exposure values are always entitled to appropriate health surveillance. The employer should ensure that individual and updated records are kept for each worker who undergoes health surveillance.
WHAT HAPPENS IF A WORKER SUFFERS FROM ILL-HEALTH OR A DESEASE DUE TO THE EXPOSURE TO VIBRATION?
Where, as a result of health surveillance a worker is found to be suffering from an identifiable disease or adverse health effect as a result of exposure to mechanical vibration at work, the worker shall be informed about the result which relates to him personally and should also receive information and advice accordingly. The employer should also be informed of any significant findings resulting from the health surveillance,taking into account any medical confidentiality.
WHAT ARE THE DUTIES OF THE EMPLOYER IN SUCH CASES?
In such cases, the employer should review the risk assessment and the measures to eliminate or reduce the risks, take into account the advice of the competent person or the Occupational Health and Safety Authority and arrange for continued health surveillance of other similarly exposed workers.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS FROM ASBESTOS?
The main risk from asbestos exposure is inhalation of asbestos particles such as fibers and dusts, which may give rise to a number of serious health conditions. These include:
- Asbestosis - a lung disease,
- Fibrosis or scarring of the lungs,
- Various forms of lung cancer,
- Mesothelioma - a disorder of the linings of the lungs.
As a result of these health effects, breathing is often negatively affected. There is no cure for asbestos related diseases. It is possible that repeated low-level exposures may lead to asbestos-related diseases, although high exposure for long periods is linked more clearly to these diseases.
OUR PLACE OF WORK HAS A NUMBER OF ASBESTOS CEMENT ROOF PANELLINGS, WHICH APPEAR TO BE IN A RATHER GOOD STATE OF REPAIR. ARE THE WORKERS BEING EXPOSED TO HEALTH HAZARDS DUE TO THESE PANELS AND WHAT CAN THE COMPANY DO TO MANAGE THIS ISSUE?
It is important to understand that the main health hazards of asbestos are due to inhalation of very small asbestos particles such as fibres and dusts. If these panels are in a good state of repair and the risk of dust generation or liberation is small, then there should not be a particular risk under normal circumstances. Provided the asbestos material is intact and in a condition that it cannot liberate asbestos dust, it will not pose a particular risk to health. If these panels are in a good state, their removal may result in a greater risks to health and safety than if they were left in place.In such cases, no action other than the application of a suitable coating such as an oil-based or polyurethane paint may be necessary. This is required to prevent any dust from being liberated into the work environment. However it must be stressed that the application of paint or other coating over the asbestos material must be preceded by adequate vacuum cleaning of the surface to be coated. Both vacuuming and painting are only to be carried out be adequately protected persons, effectively supervised by a competent person.
ASBESTOS MATERIAL HAS BEEN DETECTED IN OUR PLACE OF WORK AND OWING TO ITS POOR STATE, THE MANAGEMENT HAS DECIDED THAT IT IS BEST REMOVED. HOW ARE WE TO PROCEED?
Prior to commencing the actual removal, the local Malta Planning and Environment Authority (MEPA) is to be approached regarding how and where the removed asbestos material can be stored or disposed of.The Occupational Health and Safety Authority must also be informed prior to the commencement of any such works, and its authorization commencement of any such works must be obtained. In granting such authorization, the OHS Authority has to be satisfied that the company that is carrying out the dismantling works is in possession of the MEPA authorization mentioned above, as well as in a position to comply with the various requirements listed in the "Minimum Health and Safety Requirements for the Handling of Asbestos-Containing Material", issued by the Occupational Health and Safety Authority.
RADIATION PROTECTION - OHSA
WHAT IS RADIATION
Radiation is energy given off by atoms in the form of particles or electromagnetic rays. There are actually many different types of electromagnetic radiation that have a range of energy levels. They form the electromagnetic spectrum and include radio and micro waves, heat, light, and x-rays. However, when you see the word 'radiation' in these questions, we refer to 'ionizing radiation,' (radiation that has enough energy to break chemical bonds).
WHERE DOES IONISING RADIATION COME FROM?
Materials that are radioactive contain unbalanced energies in the nucleus (centre) of their atoms. In their attempt to become stable these materials emit on or other form of radiation.
WHAT IS RADIOACTIVITY?
The radioactivity of a material is the property of emitting radiation.
IS ALL IONIZING RADIATION THE SAME?
No. Ionizing radiation can be in the form of particles or rays, and each form behaves differently. The kind of radiation given off by a nucleus depends on the nature of the imbalance in the nuclear forces.
WHAT IS RADIATION USED FOR?
Mainly for medical investigation or treatment, in non-destuctive testing, or a great range of industrial processes and research applications.
WHERE AM I LIKELY TO ENCOUNTER RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS?
We encounter radiation from numerous sources: the atmosphere, soil and water, food, and even our own bodies. Many of the sources we encounter are shielded to prevent exposure. For example, a small amount of radioactive material is used in ionizing technology smoke detectors. It is sealed in a chamber and surrounded by a housing to prevent contact. However, we may encounter other sources, such as naturally occurring radon that is not shielded.
HOW CAN PEOPLE BE EXPOSED TO RADIATION?
Each of the different routes, or pathways, by which people can be exposed to radiation result in exposure to different parts of the body. When calculating exposures or estimating the effects of exposures, health physicists analyze the three exposure pathways: inhalation, ingestion and direct (external) exposure.
WHAT IS THE MOST COMMON NATURALLY OCURING RADIATION IN THE HUMAN BODY?
Potassium-40 is the most common. It is found in potassium-rich foods such as bananas (the most common source.)
ABOUT THE HEALTH EFFECTS OF RADIATION
HOW DOES RADIATION CAUSE HEALTH EFFECTS?
Living tissue in the human body can be damaged by ionizing radiation. The body attempts to repair the damage, but sometimes the damage is too severe or widespread, or mistakes are made in the natural repair process.
HOW DO WE KNOW RADIATION CAUSES CANCER?
At first it was learned through observation. As early as 1910-1912, radiation was known to cause skin cancer. As the uses of radiation became more widespread, and their apparent effects better documented, scientists conducted careful studies of people exposed to radiation. Among the best known long-term studies are those of Japanese atomic bomb blast survivors, other populations exposed to nuclear testing fallout (for example, natives of the Marshall Islands), and uranium miners.
IS ANY AMOUNT OF RADIATION SAFE?
The effects of very low levels of ionizing radiation are very difficult to study. They are well below the levels of normal background radiation that people receive from natural sources. In fact, the conclusions about the effects of low levels of radiation come from what we learned about the effects of higher levels of radiation exposure. As a result, there is no firm basis for setting a "safe" level of exposure above background.
Most regulatory and advisory bodies around the world (including the RPB) assume that any exposure carries some risk and that the risk increases as the exposure increases.
CAN WE PREVENT EXPOSURE TO RADIATION?
We cannot prevent our exposure to background radiation. Therefore, there is little we can do to minimise our exposure which will have any significant effect on our long term health. The human body is very good at repairing radiation damage or destroying cancerous cells and, therefore, the best protection is to live healthily to encourage a robust immune system
ABOUT THE RADIATION PROTECTION BOARD
HOW DOES THE RPB PROTECT PEOPLE FROM RADIATION?
The RPB carries out its radiation protection responsibilities with several key, complementary activities:
- Setting protective limits on radioactive emissions and associated risks to public health and the environment
- Assessing radiation risk
- Aiding in the response to emergencies involving radioactive materials
- Communicating – providing information and inviting participation in radiation exposure protection programs
- Working cooperatively with industry, other agencies, and national and international organizations that have radiation protection responsibilities.
WHAT IS THE RADIATION PROTECTION BOARD?
Legal Notice 44 of 2003, gives the RPB the responsibility and authority to develop regulations and guidance to protect people and the environment from harmful exposure to radiation. The RPB is the primary Maltese agency charged with protecting people and the environment from harmful and avoidable exposure to radiation.
WHAT IS OiRA (ONLINE INTERACTIVE RISK ASSESSMENT?)
OiRA stands for Online Interactive Risk Assessment. It is a web-based tool that allows you to perform a health and safety risk assessment of your workplace.
One can access this tool from here
WORKPLACE VISITS – OHSA
WHY ARE WORKPLACE VISITS CONDUCTED?
Workplace visits are normally conducted for the following three reasons:
- To investigate complaints on alleged poor health and safety practices;
- To investigate workplace injuries, ill health, near misses, fatalities;
- To ascertain adherence with occupational health and safety legislation.
CAN A PERSON MAKING A REQUEST FOR A WORKPLACE VISIT REMAIN ANONYMOUS?
Yes the OHSA accepts anonymous requests for inspections and/or complaints and guarantees confidentiality. However, whenever insufficient or inappropriate information is provided, the OHSA may find it difficult to follow up such request.
TRAINING – OHSA
OUR COMPANY IS IN THE PROCESS OF ORGANISING A SERIES OF LECTURES ON OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY MATTERS, AIMED AT RAISING AWARENESS ON THE THEME AMONG OUR WORKFORCE. HOW CAN THE OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY AUTHORITY ASSIST IN THIS MATTER?
The functions of the Occupational Health and Safety Authority include the promotion of dissemination of information regarding occupational health and safety, and the methods required to prevent occupational injury, ill health or death as well as the promotion of education and training on occupational health and safety matters (Act 27 of 2000 9 (2), (f), (g)). In this regard, this Authority assists promotion or awareness building initiatives by offering technical trainers conversant in various aspects of occupational health and safety matters. This Authority will also assist companies in drawing up a programme of lectures as well as conducting the actual lecturing. A number of available videos may also be used during these sessions. However it is strongly recommended that companies contact the Senior Manager (HR & Adm.) so that a specific plan is formulated according to needs of the company and of the target audience.