Health & Safety Workplace Safety

PPE comments from the readership

Never in the history of this magazine has there been such an overwhelming response to a story. The moment ‘A long hot summer made worse by PPE’, based on comments from David Price the director of D&K Price, making a stand against full cover personal protective equipment (PPE) was published on our website, the comments poured in.

On one day, our Facebook page was hit with over 10,000 visitors keen to read this article and leave comments, all in support of David’s cause.

On top of this, once the print magazine hit your desks and smoko rooms, the editor received dozens of emails also in support of David.

We have printed a few of them here, anonymously. Many of them said go ahead and publish our names and companies as we are proud to stand up to the blanket full-cover policies. We admire their courage. However, although these policies are not regulations enforced by WorkSafe or the NZTA, they have become mandatory among a number of large civil contracting companies that required it from their staff and from subcontractors.

Online comments on the PPE article published in the February 2018 Contractor magazine can also be found on our Facebook.

We also approached WorkSafe for a comment and this is its response: Please attribute the following to Alan Cooper, Chief Advisor Better Regulation at WorkSafe: “WorkSafe does not prescribe what PPE is appropriate for every work situation.

“It is for the PCBU to understand the risk of exposure, that includes weather, task, task duration and  location.  This should also take into account things like shade or period of exposure.

“The PCBU decides how they are going to manage the risk, which includes consideration of hat, sunblock and appropriate clothing, rest breaks and hydration that is appropriate for the task.  In some cases, the most appropriate PPE would be top to toe, but that is a decision of the business, not WorkSafe.”

Click here to read ‘A long hot summer made worse by PPE‘.

From Contractor readers

Thank God I am not the only one who thinks the PPE regulations are stupid. I also own and operate a construction company and some sites are full PPE long sleeves and pants and with the heat I find myself getting way overheated trying to do my job with unnecessary clothing.

It’s just a big ‘arse cover’. They don’t care about the guys on the ground doing the work – only what it looks like on paper. If companies put as much money into proper training and hiring competent people, there would be no need for rules that ‘blanket cover’ job sites.

Full cover PPE should not be a must. We are all responsible for our own risk of UV. I am a subcontractor and I work with all companies, big and small, and I know hardworking Kiwis around the country don’t want full cover PPE as it is not necessary. We can all put on sun block and we all know how to keep cool and work safe. However, there’s no way we can protect ourselves from the effects of overheating wearing full PPE cover. 

I did have a WorkSafe quarry inspector visit our operation and when I mentioned the long/long requirements and the effect on our health their reply was: “They do it in Australia”.

Problem is Australia has many other back ups to the heat, a place where staff can go to rehydrate, cool down then return to station. Roading workers are told to drink plenty – where do they go to relieve the vast amounts of water consumed?

I suggested to our H&S manager we needed electrolytes in our drinks and the company should provide them. The reply was ‘electrolytes don’t work’.

Good luck with the battle against the removal of common sense, I myself have left the industry after 45 years still with all fingers and toes intact.

Today I worked in 28 degrees heat. Stressed due to the reason I couldn’t cool down. The sweat was running off me. Just before Xmas it was 30 degrees heat. I was soaked while sitting in my truck. Due to the heat and long hours I fell asleep in the truck twice while on the same site. I woke up stressed, and fell out of the cab trying to get out (no injury thankfully). I had been working long hours. I kept myself hydrated as much as I could, but women’s toilets are not always on site. I was also under the pump due to the work load.

Full-on PPE is a major hazard when it comes to the heat wave we are currently experiencing now and well before Xmas. They may say Australia has been using long sleeves for years, but it’s a totally different heat to New Zealand and less humidity. Please link me to your social media list so I can read with much interest. 

What a fantastic and enlightening article that I read in the Contractor mag about full cover PPE (FCPPE). Finally, someone is standing up to the ‘system’ and changing things for the better of their employees. I congratulate them no end.

I have been working in our industry for 20 years now, and I started as a labourer with FH on a road construction crew. From there I moved up the ranks quickly, and I now run my own business called Civiltrain, which is in its 12th year of trading. My job sees me training and engaging with people at every single level in our game. This gives me a very fortunate overview of what is happening at a range of levels in our wonderful industry.

FCPPE is killing our workforce slowly. There, I have said it. We have such a strong focus on H&S, but for some reason we seem to have forgotten about the first word, ‘Health’. The employer must looks after both health and safety. And for the most part they do their absolute best. But what I have seen happen, especially since Pike River, is an over cautious approach to hazards that are not necessarily there. This is why I applaud Dave Price for having the proverbial to articulate so very, very well, the actually ‘health’ detriments of FCPPE. It is a double-edged sword.

 The core focus of my job is to train/teach people how to build and maintain roads, earthworks, and anything civil really. The ‘health’ stories I hear would make your eyes water, and because I am passionate about civil, I have been doing my own research into the matter for quite a few years. I was actually going to write an article for you guys about this, but being a small company I knew I had to tread carefully as my reputation is important. However I think I am past that point now, hence the email to you.

I can outline medical conditions ranging from heat exhaustion right through to Type 2 diabetes, skin conditions, mental health issues and personal issues (ie, at home) if you like. But I shouldn’t have too.

As the voice for our industry I think it’s important for you to encourage companies to seek sound medical advice that is tailored to the individual – and by this I do not mean these blanket policies for certain workers. I mean to the actual individual person based on their body and health condition. Most of them are not athletes, however they are often treated like they are. The main purpose behind FCPPE was to reduce melanoma, when in fact, it actually increases your chances of this type of cancer.

Someone will die or be hurt very badly before the industry knee-jerks. This is simply not good enough, and things need to change. Maybe Contrafed could lead the way here?

My partner is a top nurse and I have spoken with many A&E staff including doctors etc. This is a conversation that I have all the time with people. I do fear that employers simply do not know the medical implications (let alone performance) of blanket policies around FCPPE.

What is really freaking me out right now is when I talk to field staff there seems to be a common denominator. And that is, ‘I am getting these headaches either during the day from about 10am, or at the end of the day’. That sentence alone is one of many, but the medical side of this is downright scary. To the point where some staff, especially TC staff, are dicing with severe organ damage and body stresses on a daily basis. If we accumulate this over a week, a month, a year etc, then we are literally killing them slowly.

I applaud you for keeping this subject alive. Please make it a focus, and please seek PROPER medical advice (not first aiders) and publish the info you find. A&E staff would be a good start as would renal staff. If I had time I would be outlining what my own personal research has found.

I will leave you with this. I often work overseas, and a while back I was working in American Samoa for MacDow. The H&S officer told me I had to wear FCPPE. It was nudging 35 degrees with 90 percent or more humidity. I refused to wear the PPE, and the officer (who had worked in our industry for many years) apologised to me and stated that he hated making his staff do this – but it was his job. In the end we agreed that I would wear some disposable overalls which were very thin, and we got on with the work. After work we caught up and had a chat. He told me that he had also done some research with medical staff, and found, wait for it, six pages of medical conditions that could directly be attributed to FCPPE … six pages!!! Only one of those conditions was melanoma. Which is odd because that is what FCPPE is supposed to minimise. Turns out that when the skin softens your chances of getting melanoma increase dramatically because of the simple fact that people do not wear FCPPE while at home. So, what happens in their spare time? They get fried. Vitamin D deficiency is another one worth talking about, as is the impact of sugary electrolyte drinks on the renal system (if done properly these electrolytes work well, they can save lives. However, I am yet to meet a H&S officer who has the first clue about the ‘science’ of hydration).

I am blonde and fair skinned. I burn very easily. When I started 20 years ago I only got burnt once, and that was on day one. After that my foreman was like a military marshall. We had to sun block three times a day (first thing, morning smoko and at lunch, which back then was at 2pm). I never ever got burnt again. Oddly enough, sunblock technology is still with us, and is even better than it was 20 years ago. This is not rocket science.

Just wanted to say your recent article on full body cover was great. Goodmans fully support the common-sense approach taken by D&K Price and do this ourselves where we can. Thanks for putting this point of view across. We look forward to reading more on this stance.

I did read on Facebook an article on the wearing of PPE in the heat of summer and the effect on the health and safety of staff. It is time someone took a stand on the fact that larger companies have lost the ability to think in a logical fashion with regard to the health and safety of their employees.

One rule does not cover all and does not protect all. The goals set by companies are never going to be achieved. Each work station should be addressed on its own and appropriate PPE issued for that task. In my own case I was in a 6-figure position which I walked from as it was causing harm and the company ignored all incident reports and medical reports from the company doctors on the wearing of inappropriate PPE for the task.

As a quarry manager operating a machine, ROPS and FOPS cab in temperatures recorded above 40 degrees in cab. Management ignored incident reports and medical reports.

The H&S manager was advised NOT to visit the quarry as there was a potential for the issue to be taken to a higher level which was contrary to the express wishes of the company CEO.

At a full staff meeting in Christchurch in September 2016 the CEO stood in front of the meeting and clearly stated that the wearing of Long / Long clothing was demanded by management no exceptions and if the staff didn’t like the rules they could F__K OFF. Bullying in the workplace – another strike against the company management.

Wearing full PPE in adverse conditions with no respite from natural conditions will cause harm to staff. 

This article is brilliant and well written. It mirrors my thoughts exactly. At Road Metals, we do not ask our employees to cover their arms and legs as I also believe that this causes immense stress in the hot weather we have been experiencing. Our company does supply sunscreen and sunhats and does warn of the dangers of the sun, but as adults they are all capable of taking responsibility for themselves. I think it is unfair for people working in air-conditioned offices to make this rule for others who are working outside. I say that next time we are advertising for operators, we should state, “Come and work for Road Metals where you can roll up your sleeves and get on with the job”.

Although, I do state to future employees, that although we don’t insist on full cover up within our quarries and on our sites, we are in many cases a subcontractor to companies that do insist on this requirement and therefore will require it. We have no choice if we want to be the subcontractor for them.

I have argued for years that we as contractors should not have allowed this to happen. I strongly agree that we need to protect our employees from any harm, but believe that by making them cover up from head to toe, causes them stress from being uncomfortable and too bloody hot and that’s when accidents can happen. How can we attract newcomers to our industry when we tell them they can’t wear shorts or short-sleeved shirts?

Anyway, thanks David for this article.  I find it intriguing that the introduction of this policy was not made in conjunction with consultation with all employees, and subcontractors, and as such, is a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

On the WorkSafe front, this is not a requirement from them, as I have asked the question before and they don’t have any issues with our staff wearing shorts and short-sleeved shirts.


This article was first published in Contractor March 2018.

 

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