13 Feb 2008

Health and Safety.

How important to you is your health and safety?

A strange question you might think. You will probably answer "Very!" as would I, but recently I have realised that I'm not taking my health and safety a seriously as maybe I should.

I work from home, making hula hoops and pirate pixie hats, bags, blankets etc. Most of my day is spent sitting down either making things or typing on the computer promoting the things I make. Now that's not very good for my health at all. The risks of getting varicose veins, stiff necks, and numbness in the legs not to mention RSI, deep vein thrombosis, hemroids, decreased heart and lung function... the list goes on.... is increased greatly for those of us that have very sedentary life styles/jobs.

The rest of my time is spent lifting piles of hula hoops, pipe and boxes of tape about. Now, do I always bend from the knees to lift...no, not always. Sometimes the boxes are in an awkward place so I just lean over and lift, so I'm putting my back at risk of injury.

Many of you out there work with dangerous chemicals. All you soap makers, Jewellery crafters, metal workers, etc.... Do you read and keep all the MSDS sheets for the chemicals you use? Are they kept in an obvious place so that if you have an accident someone coming along and finding you will be able to see the best course of action to take not to make things worse for you? Do you always wear safety gear to protect yourself from those chemicals, or have you become a bit lax? Has familiarity bred a bit of contempt? Have you ever left any of these chemicals in unmarked containers?

How about your eyes... Do you wear safety goggles when doing tasks that could result in a foreign body ending up in your eye? Something simple like drilling or using a dremel could end with shards of your work going in your eye. We all do it without thinking until an accident happens, but then it's too late.

How about your lungs? Do you work with powders or do something that involves making dust? Do you always use your dust mask?

All you people that use soldering irons, hot glue guns, irons... do you have a burns kit at your place of work? Do you know the different ways you should treat different kinds of burns?

Let’s all try and take a bit more care of ourselves. Do a risk assessment on the place you work, be it your home or a studio and figure out what you can do to minimise the risks. Also make up a plan of action to follow if things do go wrong. Just because we work for ourselves, doesn't mean we don't have to do the kinds of things big business do. They do risk assessments and put in place health and safety rule, because they are frightened of being sued for not taking care of their workers. We should do it just because we DO care about our workers... ourselves and our families.

Remember to take regular breaks from your work. If you sit most of the time take 5 minutes out of every hour to get up, walk about, skip, and turn on loud music and dance. Doing anything that gets your blood moving and your heart pumping is good. If your work involves a lot of standing up remember that standing in one position isn't good either and you need to move about too. You too could strut your funky stuff for 5 minutes in each hour.

Drink lots of water. It's very easy to get engrossed in what you are doing and forget to keep your fluid intake up. Dehydration has a very negative effect on your health.

Always wear all the safety gear recommended to be used with any of the substances you use. It's the one time you don't that the accident may happen. Is it worth the risk?

Taking care of business also means taking care of yourself, because as an independent worker/trader, you ARE the business!

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