OHS Quest Two: A day in the life of.....?
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Managing shift work & fatigue

Managing shift work & fatigue | OHS Quest Two:  A day in the life of.....? | Scoop.it
Shift work and extended working hours can both impact on fatigue. Long hours and shift work patterns that disrupt the body's circadian rhythms often result in workers becoming fatigued.
Ebony Egyed's insight:

It can not be avoided that fire fighters are required to work shift work, it's what they signed up for.  Aside from that, emergencies happen when they happen, and unfortunately we can't turn them off so we can snuggle up after 9.00 pm to watch a movie.


What can be avoided however, is the effects that sleep deprivation, interrupted sleep, fatigue and all things nasty that come with working shift work, have on us and our body clocks.  Adrian, despite working at a rural fire station mentioned that interrupted sleep is way worse than no sleep at all.  Being woken suddenly and being expected to perform quickly, efficiently and with the urge to pee is quite a challenge.


Workplace Health and Safety Queensland have copious amounts of information available, such as this document 'Managing Fatigue' available for all industries.  They also supply industry specific information.


The general consensus for managing fatigue, which should be adopted by Adrian an his fellow Firies includes:


Diet - maintain a healthy diet and try to eat three meals a day, even if it means eating breakfast at 3am.  Avoid caffeine and limit alcohol content (on your days off that is).


Sleep - try and sleep prior to your shift commencing and initiate a routine so your body knows what's next (warm shower or cup of tea).  Purchase and install heavy curtains to black out the room.  Hang a sign up 'visitors go away'.


Social life - avoid social activity before a shift is to commence.  Rest and recover during days off where possible.


A huge part of managing fatigue is recognising it.  Adrian and all emergency service personnel must first recognise if they are not coping, and should be encouraged to take necessary action if required.  Professional help is available if insomnia continues.  Fatigue alone is a hazard - the rescuer may require rescuing.




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FireCare: Brilliance.

Ebony Egyed's insight:

Sadly, it's not just physical stress that Adrian and other fire fighters have to deal with in their line of work.  Quite often, and in Adrian's case, it's the emotional stress that weighs you down.


Adrian quite openly chatted to me about some of the jobs he has been to that have 'stuck with him'.  9/10 of these didn't stick because they were rip roaring structure fires, or eerie rescues down the side of a cliff face - they were about devastation, loss, trauma and emotion.


Adrian says you're not human if seeing a little boy lose his parents in a car accident doesn't affect you.  Or you're made of steel if seeing a family sift through the burnt out rumble of their family home doesn't penetrate you somewhat.


FireCare is a well utilised QFES staff counselling and support program designed specially for QFES staff and their families.  The program covers all staff (permanent, casual or volunteer) as well as spouses and the children of fire fighters.  


FireCare has a goal:  to promote staff well-being by assisting staff and their families to deal with both work related and personal problems.  The QFES understands that with fire fighting comes emotional upsets, interpersonal conflicts and organisational pressures in their lives.  They provide a service to their staff, as they realise that when stress occurs, both family and work life is affected.


FireCare has a range of services including counselling and support surrounding:


Grief and loss


Coping with stress



Shift work

Drug and alcohol abuse

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder


Adrian is not afraid to say he has utilised the services of FireCare on a number of occasions and is better for it.  His only wish is that more fire fighters would take advantage of the service and realise that 'manning up' is no longer the cool thing to do.

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Medical-Guidelines for Australian Firefighters

Ebony Egyed's insight:

When Adrian first recruited as a Fire Fighter, the induction process introduced him to the health hazards and risks he may be faced with throughout his career.  If that in itself wasn't enough to send him running, he then had to endure a grueling medical assessment, fitness assessment and psychological assessment.  


The Australasian Fire Authorities Council developed and implemented Medical Guidelines for all Firefighters in Australia.  This document, initially designed for Medical Practitioners carrying out these specific medical assessments, now blankets all fire personnel.


The document was developed with the primary focus being injury and illness prevention for firefighters.  The guidelines assist both firefighters and their employers, to ensure that firefighters and associated emergency emergency personnel CAN, AND CONTINUE TO  meet the essential tasks of their work without significantly increasing the risk of illness or injury.


Adrian must maintain a high level of fitness, both physically and mentally, and the document outlines benchmarks set by the QFES in regards to what is deemed 'fit enough' for a firefighter.  If the employee does not meet the benchmarks, the document covers the steps required in reaching these goals. 


Each topic is specifically designed for common injuries and illness that occur in this industry as a result of the risks associated. Some include:


Vision & eye disorders

Cardiac conditions

Vascular conditions

Neurological conditions

Blood and infections disease

Lung and respiratory conditions

Musculoskeletal conditions

Drugs, alcohol and prescribed medications




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.... a Dentist!

.... a Dentist! | OHS Quest Two:  A day in the life of.....? | Scoop.it

Meet Stacey, a Mum of three and a full time dental practitioner who is employed by the Queensland Government and works from the dental vans you see parked at schools and community organisations.  Stacey is wonderful with children, especially the little ones, and here she is pictured with my son Taj at his first dentist visit at the age of 5.


Dentistry, from and Occupational Health and Safety perspective, makes you think of hazards related to blood, getting bitten and airborne diseases however after looking into it further, dentists deal with a vast array of work place health and safety issues, those of which are detailed below.

Ebony Egyed's insight:

Dentistry is considered by practitioners and most of the public as being extremely hazardous. The hazards include the following:


*Infectious hazards:  Needles and other sharp objects, spatter, and aerosols can transmit viral infections such as life-threatening infections such as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome and hepatitis B. Bacterial infections also play an important role.


*Psychological hazards:  Stress is the leading psychological condition that occurs in the dental profession.  Practicing dentist report that working in the industry is more stressful that it may appear.


*Allergic reactions: Gloves containing latex are the main causes of the allergic skin irritation, but dental materials, detergents, lubricating oils, solvents, and X-ray processing chemicals could lead to an allergic skin reaction.


*Physical hazards: These include musculoskeletal complications which have direct relation to dentistry procedure, like postural situations that may increase the risk of twisting and contorting the body, varicose, etc.   Dentists are positioned whereby objects/fluids may be flown into their eyes therefore PPE is worn at all times in a bid to avoid these hazards.  Also, continual noise of equipment in confined spaces (dentist offices) has led to partial ‘industrial deafness’.


*Mercury health hazard: It has been proved that high mercury vapor high dose exposure can lead to biological and neurological insults.  Precautions by way of suctioning, good ventilation, water irrigation and proper disposal of mercury items are in place in all dentistry facilities.


*Radiation: Taking X-ray machines in the dental office means dentists can suffer from ionizing radiation.


*Anaesthetic gases in the dental office: Using nitrous oxide gas regularly over an extended period of time may contain hazard. 

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.... a Helicopter Pilot!

.... a Helicopter Pilot! | OHS Quest Two:  A day in the life of.....? | Scoop.it

Meet Newman, my dear friend and helicopter pilot from New Zealand. Newman is the tallest man I know therefore he is known to his nearest and dearest as ‘Big Bird’. Big Bird is 31 years old and has been flying helicopters since he graduated high school, starting as an agricultural pilot mustering livestock in NZ, and then here in Australia. His passion and experience has seen him crop dusting local fruit farms, mustering tuna of the coast of China and assisting with search and rescues for a variety of Government Departments all over the world. Big Bird currently lives and works in Port Macquarie where he is contracted by a number of mining companies/oil rigs.

Ebony Egyed's insight:

When I asked Big Bird what the biggest hazard or risk was, with regards to his career, he said “having a rig big enough for me to get in, I’m no good with confined space”. Right, who’d of thought! Other, more serious hazards and risks are listed below and despite the seriousness of the list, I have been rest assured that the aviation industry is safe!

*Engine failure/equipment malfunction
*Altitude (low Vs high – affects operation of the rig)
*Rotor strikes (with buildings/trees, etc)
*Tail rotor effectiveness or failure
*Fuel exhaustion - a common but avoidable hazard in the aviation industry responsible for too many fatalities
*Landing and take offs – risks in themselves (air-port and off air-port landings)
*Dynamic rollover
*Environment terrain (cliff face/ocean/land)
*Power lines (one of the most common hazards pilots face) *Weather conditions (upon take off and sudden changes, downdraft, strong winds)
*Confidence with equipment (different rigs, different operation, overconfidence and cockiness)
*Experience (abilities and reactions in emergency situations – comes down to flight hours/experience)
*Airport congestion (airport control – handing power over to communications centre)
*Fatigue (maintaining healthy lifestyle is imperative/unable to ‘knock off’ if tired mid-flight)
*Mid-air collisions/foreign objects (relying on communications centre and equipment)

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PTSD: Report reveals personal toll on firefighters

PTSD:  Report reveals personal toll on firefighters | OHS Quest Two:  A day in the life of.....? | Scoop.it
A hidden toll of psychological trauma among Victorian firefighters may be leading to suicide, alcohol abuse and depression. A report by the University of Newcastle's Centre of Full Employment and Equity also reveals firefighters' biggest stress is their role as a first responder to medical emergencies and that some believe they are not getting adequate support.
Ebony Egyed's insight:

Alarmingly, this article discusses research into just how many practicing fire fighters are suffering with post traumatic stress disorder.


The report discusses why PTSD develops.  It may result from one job, or a develop as a result of attending countless traumas over the years. 


Sadly, the report also mentions that PTSD is not taken seriously and that people, even in this day and age, are of the opinion that suffers should 'just get over it', and 'harden up'.  This is not the case.


Adrian and all emergency services personnel need to realise that this disorder is real and can last a life time.  Fire fighters need to debrief more, let it out and utilise the services available if they feel the need.  The effects of PTSD not only impact on the individual, but all those around them.  

Employers such as QFES are continually developing and implementing strategies to assist employees however cannot force an employee to utilise them.  How a person copes with an incident is a personal thing, and coping strategies cannot be taught.  Personal and public awareness is vital when tackling PTSD and nobody should feel intimidated by putting their hand up to ask for help, especially not fire fighters.



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Fire: It's getting hot in here!

Ebony Egyed's insight:

I remember watching the news coverage after the tragic Black Saturday Melbourne bush fires in 2009.  The image of the firefighter squatting next to a partially burnt koala, providing sips of water to it directly from his water bottle remains with me.  I remember sighing at the thought, not only for the poor koala, but also for the firefighter.  He looked exhausted, sad, overwhelmed and like he was literally melting.  It made me wonder, who is caring for the carers?


With fire, comes heat.  Add to that the 20+ kilograms of personal protective equipment, the weight of the fire fighting equipment itself, direct sunlight, strenuous activity and the effects of adrenaline and anxiety.  Disastrous with regards to heat stroke.


Agencies such as the QFES and CFA develop strategies such as 'Measuring Heat Stress' in an attempt to mitigate and reduce the number of incidents around heat stress in this environment. Management is the key in protecting firefighters and a large portion of their professional training is based on this topic.  


Specifically designed PPE, flash hoods and safety equipment are continually researched, upgraded and utilised within the service.  It is instilled in fire fighters like Adrian, that recognising the signs of heat stress is paramount and prevention is better than cure.


This document focuses on the indications, preventative measures, statistics and future goals of heat stress incidents within the Emergency Services, and is part of the ongoing training fire fighters undertake.

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.... Santa!

.... Santa! | OHS Quest Two:  A day in the life of.....? | Scoop.it

Meet Des, one of the funniest, family orientated men you’ll ever meet.  Des runs (and when I say runs, I mean volunteers his time),  whereby Day Care Centres, Hospital, parents, community organisations, sporting clubs, aged care facilities, schools and business call upon him to visit and share the love.  Des has been known to play the role of Santa, the Easter bunny, various sporting mascots, super heroes, Peppa Pig, clowns and even the tooth fairy. 


You can stop laughing now!  The work place health and safety issues Des faces are real (unlike his characters) and may in fact surprise you, as they did me when I sat down for a coffee with Mr. Incredible (literally).

Ebony Egyed's insight:

Where will I be working today? – Des finds himself in a different environmental setting at each appearance and with that, comes an ever changing list of risks and hazards, depending on the location.


When working in a hospital, he is subject to viruses, patient confidentiality regulations, risks associated with medical equipment, members of the public, slippery surfaces, confined spaces and mental health patients, to name a few. 


When attending a back yard BBQ for Miss 5’s birthday, Des find himself suited up on a hot day and needs to manage heat stress.  The 25 kids surrounding him pose their own risks:  hygiene, public safety, noise pollution (J), microbiology hazards (snot) and contamination (squashed fairy bread).


When arriving at schools in a helicopter dressed as Santa, Des is required to follow safety requirements as directed by the helicopter pilot and ground crew.  He must not only consider his own safety with regards to the helicopter rotors and landing zone, but assist in managing the children who are keen to run to Santa for a cuddle before the blades have stopped spinning.


At aged care facilities Des is required to alter his performance to accommodate the frail audience he’s performing for.  He cannot dance the same way (with the residents) in case of causing injury to those with osteoporosis and he must be wary of their walkers and wheelchairs (trip/toe hazards).


At sporting facilities where he is playing mascot for the night, weather conditions must be considered.  Slippery surfaces such as those on wet football field or a highly polished basketball court increases the chance of slips, falls and breakages.  Fatigue is a huge risk at such events (Des admits to not being the fittest dressed crocodile at the football) and at times finds himself exhausted after running the sidelines, cheering on the winning team.

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.... a Firefighter!

.... a Firefighter! | OHS Quest Two:  A day in the life of.....? | Scoop.it

Meet Adrian, one of the local full time Firefighters working for the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES), formerly Queensland Fire and Rescue.  Adrian has been working in the full- time capacity for seven years however started as an Auxiliary (on-call) Firefighter many moons ago, here in Innisfail.  Firefighters are at the front line of emergency incidents and often find themselves in extremely dangerous environments.    

Ebony Egyed's insight:

Hazards and risks experienced by firefighters can be categorised as physical (unsafe conditions, thermal stress and ergonomic stress), chemical and psychological.  The level of exposure to hazards depends on the nature of the cases and the fire fighters involvement on such a case:  What is burning?  What chemicals are involved? The structure the fire is on?  Road traffic accident?  Swift water rescue?  Fire extinguishing or clean up after an incident?


Hazards and risks associated with being a firefighter are endless so the most common are listed below.  Thanks to expertise training, appropriate equipment and a team orientated ‘watch your partner’ approach, the QFES are continually researching and revaluating operational performance, in a bid to minimise workplace injury and illness associated with this extreme career.


*Building collapse (structure fires, environmental disasters, etc)

*Flashovers (sudden ignition of flame in confined space)

*Trauma/mechanical injury (lifting, use of heavy equipment)

*Heat stress (hot air, radiant heat, contact with hot surfaces, steam, physical exertion, dehydration)

*Local injuries and burns

*Cardiovascular collapse

*Smoke inhalation (smoke toxicity, hypoxia due to oxygen depletion

*Toxic substances (inhaled, chemicals/HAZCHEM, gases, carbon monoxide)

*Stress (rescue, dangerous environments, personal security)

*Depression and anxiety (stressful crises, PTSD)

*Job security

*Fatigue (strenuous activity, shift work, night work in addition to full time employment)

*Pressure (personally and from the public to perform well)

*Environmental (water rescues, confined space, public rescues, road traffic crashes)

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.... a Builder!

.... a Builder! | OHS Quest Two:  A day in the life of.....? | Scoop.it

Meet Artie, one of our local builders who can stand proud and say he made a difference in the rebuilding of Innisfail post Cyclones Larry and Yasi that devastated our town.  Artie completed a building apprenticeship straight out of high school and has now gone out on his own as a contractor for Garage World, erecting sheds in the local area.  Artie gets through the long days by maintaining a high level of personal fitness and well-being.


Artie mentions that being a builder is so much more than just fixing and building things, his line of work finds him working on projects regarding earthworks, landscaping, civil engineering, construction, destruction and dis-assembly, planning and architecture,  all while meeting the legislative and Work Place Health and Safety requirements of the construction industry.   

Ebony Egyed's insight:

The Building and Construction Industry Work Place Health and Safety Guide, put out by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, is often referred to by builders as the ‘orange book’ or more commonly ‘The Bible’.  The Bible is the Workplace Health and Safety Regulation of 2008 and clearly states the way workplace health and safety risks from certain hazards must be managed.  The regulation covers:


*Principal contractor construction safety plans

*Work method statements for high-risk construction activities, demolition work and asbestos removal

*General and site-specific induction

*Housekeeping practices

*Safety of plant provided for common use

*Excavations (including trenches)

*Working at heights (including work on roofs, from ladders and trestle ladder platforms, and work to erect or dismantle scaffolding)

*Protecting the public and workers from falling objects



Common hazards and risks Artie manages on a daily basis include but are not limited to:


*Heat stress – hard physical labour for prolonged periods of time often on open slabs or rooftops, in trenches and confined spaces which increases temperature and decreases ventilation

*Physical – musculoskeletal injuries from such labour, repetitive strain injuries, cuts, abrasions and fatigue

*Environmental – weather (rain Vs heat) impacts on working conditions.  Rain for example makes working at heights extremely unsafe and increases the chances of slips/falls

*Falling objects – working below fellow contractors puts employees at risk of falling objects (tools, building materials, building collapse, etc).

*Industrial noise – constant vibration and noise from power tools being used and by those in use by others on a construction site has been known to lead to industrial deafness and hearing loss.

*Working at heights – scaffold erecting and dismantling is reportedly one of the largest hazards in the construction industry.  Constructing such barricades is a heavy task causing musculoskeletal injuries and working from such platforms increases risk of falls/slips.  If not erected properly, barricades can collapse resulting in entrapment or death.

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