Passing by construction sites across the city of Kuala Lumpur is a daily occurrence. While we often see workers with their hard hats on, and hanging off great heights, does it ever cross your mind if they are using the right protective gear?

When wearing the hard hats,  for example, some workers do not have the chinstrap in place; which is strapped under the chin, where it should be. It may seem like a small detail, but the chinstrap is as important as wearing the hard hat as it is meant to keep it in place, and thus provide the maximum protection. Not securing the hard hat correctly can naturally lead to accidents and injuries.

The number of reported industrial accidents has increased by 3.05% since 2015. That number may seem little, but according to Social Security Organisation’s (Socso) annual report, the number of reported accidents had increased from 1,046 cases in 2015 to 34,258 cases in 2016.

In conjunction with World Day for Safety and Health at Work today (April 28), and to boost awareness around worker safety, here’s a list of useful tips for workers everywhere compiled by 3M Malaysia:

Safety harnesses that have experienced a fall must be replaced immediately and cannot be reused

Once a worker has experienced a fall, the safety harness is considered damaged as the energy absorbent has been used and the harness stitches might have loosened. When this happens, the safety harness must be replaced immediately as it would have already served its purpose.

Also be sure to ensure correct safety harness size. It’s important to choose the right fit – if it is too small or too big, the impact or the force of the fall will not be evenly distributed, resulting in injuries. The right fit would be to feel that the harness is snug around your body.

Worker safety

The minimum height required to wear a safety harness starts from 2m

This may come as a surprise, but if you are working any higher than two-stories, you would need a safety harness for personal protection.

Select your respirators based on the hazards you’re exposed to

A respirator is a form of respiratory protection which helps to reduce inhalation of small particulates such as airborne biological particles, dust and fumes. Long term exposure to these hazards can lead to occupational lung diseases.

There are different types of respirators based on the hazards a worker is exposed to. For example, those involved in tasks such as sawing, hacking floors, and preparing powdery chemicals will require a N95 filter respirator which filters out 95% of dust particles. Similarly, it can also be used by the general public in cases when there is an outbreak such as H1N1 or haze. In fact, motorcyclists can wear this too to restrict inhaling dust from the roads.

Don’t assume that sawing wood for your DIY project is harmless, as exposure to wood dust has been associated with health issues due to the natural chemicals in the wood, or substances in the wood such as bacteria, mould, or fungi.

A reusable respirator which comes with cartridges is needed if exposed to other hazards such as chemical fumes or vapour from paint. It is important to note that the respirators would need to be replaced once the wearer experiences resistance in breathing or the respirator is soiled.

worker safety

Protecting your hearing is just as important

Hearing protection such as earplugs and ear muffs should be used when the noise level is at 85db, as per Factory and Machinery Act, FMA Noise Regulation (1989). For example, one can experience this level of noise from using a chainsaw, walking nearby a construction site, attending concerts and even at a shopping complex on a busy day.

It may seem mundane but the impact of not using proper hearing protection may cause noise induced hearing loss, tinnitus and so on.

Always check the Personal Protection Equipment expiry date

Different PPE products have specific shelf and service life. For example, service life for respirators are subject to time of exposure, concentration of hazard, toxicity, and breathing rate. Depending on the manufacturer, the shelf life for some products such as respirator cartridges and hard hats are five years from the manufacturing date.

Meanwhile, the shelf life for hearing protective devices (earplugs and ear muffs) can range in between 3 to 5 years, subject to different design material. Both employers and workers should always refer to the packaging of the PPE for the relevant shelf life to ensure quality of the equipment and worker safety.

It is important for employers to place strong emphasis on worker safety to protect their employees. This can be done through training, educating their employees, as well as ensuring that adequate PPE are used so that everyone can go back to their loved ones each day.

Stay safe folks!