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Each year Influenza causes in excess of 300,000 doctor visits, 18,000 hospitalisations and 3,000 deaths in older Australians. Seasonal influenza causes around 1.5 million lost work days and accounts for 10-12% of all sickness absences from work.
Studies show that a workplace influenza vaccination program delivers substantial health and economic benefits for employees and employers. It is also a very effective way to show positive interest in the welfare of your people and your community.
And this year, the forthcoming flu season has come into sharp focus earlier than normal with a surge in the number of summer flu cases prompting doctors to urge all South Australians to get vaccinated.
In the first 2 weeks of January 2013, nearly 100 cases of flu were reported in SA, far in excess of the 14 cases to the same time last year and even more than the 88 cases that were diagnosed in the whole of 2006.
These figures are on the back of similarly high numbers in November and December last year.
SA Health Chief Public Health Officer Dr Steve Christley said the number of cases reported this summer was unusually high.
"We have seen more flu over summer than we usually do," he said. "I haven't seen this pattern in our statistics certainly for a number of years."
Experts are urging all South Australians, particularly the elderly and ill, to have a flu jab when the updated vaccine for 2013 becomes available in mid-March, to prevent a bumper winter season similar to the current US situation.
Outbreaks have been reported in 47 US states, including New York, where 19,000 cases have been registered since October.
Dr Christley said the SA cases were unlikely to be linked with those in the US because most cases here involved a different strain.
"While they are seeing some influenza B in the (United) States, the predominant strain and the one people are talking about is the H3N2 strain," Dr Christley said.
"It's quite theoretically possible what is happening in the States now is similar to what we saw last winter."
The H3N2 strain in SA peaked in mid-July last year. "In SA, influenza As - which include H3N2 - were definitely in the majority until we got to the latter part of the year when the H3N2 tended to fade away and be replaced by a usual level of activity of influenza B," Dr Christley said.
The 2013 vaccine will cover three strains experts consider most likely to cause risk to Australians - H3N2, influenza B strain and H1N1.
"We can't say whether we will have an early flu season, normal season or how severe it will be but we do know the vaccine is a pretty good match for what we are seeing in the US," he said.
CHG has delivered workplace flu vaccinations for more 10 years, vaccinating around 10,000 people each year. Delivered at your workplace by experienced Registered Nurses, CHG has an affordable and flexible program offering times and dates convenient to your business.
Contact CHG on (08) 8354 9800 and ask to find out more about the 2013 Flu Vaccination Program.
The revised National Standard for Health Assessment of Rail Safety Workers will come into effect on 20 January 2013. As experienced providers of specialised occupational medical assessments, CHG medical practitioners are awaiting the commencement of the revised standards and will work closely with employers in adopting the changes.
Announced by the National Transport Commission (NTC) in October 2012, the updated rail safety worker medical standards have been reviewed and updated to ensure they reflect current medical best practice and the practical needs of rail operators and rail safety workers.
Under national law, rail transport operators must have a health and fitness program that complies with the National Standard for Health Assessment of Rail Safety Workers.
Announcing the intention to bring in the revised standards, former NTC Chief Executive Nick Dimopoulos said “The new standards focus on how symptoms impact on a person’s ability to work safely rather than just a diagnosis of their condition. This will allow for a more relevant and informed assessment of a worker’s ability to do their job safely.”
The NTC conducted the review in consultation with medical and other health professionals, consumer health organisations, governments, rail operators, unions and peak industry bodies. As recognised experts in their field, CHG Medical Practitioners were involved in this consultation and development process.
The Standard provides practical guidance for rail transport operators to meet their obligations under law, as well as medical criteria used by Authorised Health Professionals who are appointed by operators to perform health assessments.
CHG has extensive experience in partnering with employers within the transport and rail sector. Currently, 11 CHG medical practitioners are certified to provide medical support and clearance in accordance with the National Standards for Health Assessment of Rail Safety Workers.
To understand more about the revised national standards for rail safety workers and how this may impact the management of your workforce, contact CHG on (08) 8354 9800.
With summer really starting to hit in an extreme way, it is a good time to refresh your understanding of some recommended actions to help us beat the heat.
Heat stress can arise when an individual’s cooling system does not work sufficiently. Over-working in the heat, attending crowded events and over-exercising without sufficient hydration and rest are major risk factors for heat stress with the increase in temperature.
People who are overweight, unfit, abuse alcohol or that suffer from heart disease are at greater risk of suffering from heat stress. If not acted upon, heat stress can turn to heat exhaustion or heat stroke in the most extreme cases, which can be potentially life threatening. The most obvious preventative action to heat stress is to drink lots of water. Dehydration of as little as 2% loss of body weight results in impaired physiological responses and performance, so it is essential to keep hydrated.
Ideas to Help Avoid Heat Stress
Aim for 8 or more glasses of water a day
Take regular breaks from strenuous activity, seek a cooler environment and relax
Exercise early in the morning, or late at night to avoid the heat and still stay active
Spend as much time as possible in the shade
Dampen a towel to place around neck and over your head, also dampen protective clothing.
SLIP on protective clothing, SLOP on 30+ sunscreen, SLAP on a hat, SEEK shade, SLIDE on sunglasses.
Go for a swim after work.
Increase fitness and reduce weight during the winter months to be better prepared for next summer
By delivering on-site health and wellbeing seminars, CHG can work with employers to ensure that the risks of heat stress are understood and managed. Contact the CHG Health Promotion Team on (08) 8354 9800 to find out more.
From 1 January 2013, South Australia's work health and safety legislation - which includes the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA) and the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 (SA), supported by Codes of Practice - will align with New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory and the Commonwealth.
With South Australia on board, Australia is a step closer to nationally harmonised workplace safety laws providing workers across Australia the same standard of health and safety protection regardless of where they work, or the work they do.
The key principles of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA) are consistent with long established and familiar occupational health and safety standards. From 1 January 2013 the Act:
establishes health and safety duties, including the primary duty to protect any person from exposure to hazards and risks that arise from work
provides for worker representation, consultation and participation including through Health and Safety Representatives and Health and Safety Committees
enables compliance and enforcement through SafeWork SA, the regulator, and
provides for the creation of regulations and Codes of Practice.
The Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 (SA) identify the control measures that must be applied to specific work activities and hazards, for example machine guarding and noise exposure.
The Codes of Practice provide practical information, or guidance, on how to meet the requirements of the regulations. The Codes are not mandatory but provide information to help workplaces achieve safe systems of work.
Further information about the changes, transition arrangements and what this means for employers can be found at www.safework.sa.gov.au
Asbestos Awareness Week, from 26 to 30 November 2012, reminds us of the danger asbestos can pose and provides an opportunity to remember the families affected by asbestos-related diseases.
Coordinated by SafeWorkSA, Asbestos Awareness Week will feature a range of events, activities and information sharing aimed at focusing attention on this issue which continues to affect workers, home renovators and their families. The week concludes on Friday 30 November with Asbestos Victims Memorial Day.
Asbestos, the name given to a group of fibrous minerals that occur naturally, was commonly used in a wide variety of industrial, manufacturing, building and construction applications in Australia from the 1940s to the mid-1990s. They were widely used because of their unique chemical and physical properties.
Despite Australia stopping the production of asbestos containing products in 1987 and then banning their use and importation in December 2003, these products still exist in and around workplaces and homes built before the mid 1990s.
It is now well known that exposure to asbestos fibres can cause health problems: pleural plaques and thickening, asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Information on Asbestos Awareness Week, and general information about the handling of asbestos is available from www.safework.sa.gov.au
If you believe that your workplace and your staff could be at risk of asbestos exposure, CHG Occupational Physicians can provide expert advice in regard to monitoring and management practices. CHG medical practitioners can undertake an Asbestos Medical examination to detect any signs of asbestos exposure in individuals. Asbestos medicals can be undertaken at the Mile End, Gillman and Elizabeth Vale Clinics.