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Your questions answered - June 23

15 May 2023

British Safety Council uses this page to answer YOUR questions. Please send any problems, issues or general enquiries about health, safety and wellbeing to policy@britsafe.org and their experts will respond in future editions of HSM.

Q: There’s a lot of talk about AI and the need to regulate. What in your view are the health and safety implications of artificial intelligence?

With new and rapidly emerging tools, such as Chat GPT, artificial intelligence (AI) clearly has many potential benefits for society, including our health and safety. However, there are also many potential risks. 

As more devices and systems become connected to the internet and rely on AI algorithms, there is an increased risk of cybersecurity threats such as hacking and data breaches. These can have serious implications for both personal and public health and safety.

AI algorithms are only as unbiased as the data they are trained on, and there is a risk of perpetuating biases and discrimination in the algorithms themselves. This can have serious ramifications, particularly in healthcare where biases can lead to unequal treatment and outcomes for different groups.

There needs to be greater transparency and accountability for decisions made by AI algorithms, and there are ethical and privacy implications to consider. For example, our personal health data could be used to train AI algorithms, in ways which violate patient privacy.

Q: I work in a factory checking and packing items on an assembly line. How can I avoid musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) like back pain, which several of my colleagues suffer from?

You’re right to be concerned about the risk your work poses in terms of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). These are injuries or disorders which affect our muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and bones. 

While it’s not possible to give specific advice without conducting a full risk assessment in your workplace, here are some general tips to help prevent MSDs.

Above all, make sure you maintain good posture. Slouching or slumping can put stress on your muscles and joints. Make sure you sit and stand up straight, with your shoulders relaxed and your feet flat on the floor.

Ask your employer about using job rotation as a preventative measure to prevent physical fatigue and injury. Also make sure you take regular breaks, in which you stretch and move around. This is especially key if your job that requires sitting or repetitive motion, and it helps improve circulation. 

You should be using ergonomic equipment like chairs, desks, and keyboards that are designed to be adjusted to your body size and posture. Also do use proper lifting techniques to avoid straining your back or other muscles. And exercise regularly, as it can help strengthen your muscles and improve flexibility.

Importantly, if you experience pain, numbness, or tingling in your muscles or joints, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Early treatment can help prevent MSDs from getting worse.

Q: I constantly worry about my staff and customers tripping or falling over. How can I reduce the risk of this happening in my workplace?

Slips, trips, and falls are some of the most common workplace accidents and can cause serious injuries. Here are some tips to help reduce the risk of slips, trips, and falls in the workplace:

  1. Keep floors clean and dry. Spills should be cleaned up immediately to prevent slips. Use warning signs or barriers to alert others to the presence of wet or slippery floors.

  2. Adequate lighting is important in preventing slips, trips, and falls. Make sure all areas of the workplace are well-lit, especially stairways and other areas with uneven surfaces.

  3. Shoes with non-slip soles and good support can help prevent slips, trips, and falls. Avoid wearing shoes with high heels or open toes in areas where there is a risk of slipping.

  4. Keep work areas clean and clutter-free. Avoid leaving objects on the floor that could cause someone to trip.

  5. Place warning signs in areas where there is a risk of slipping, tripping, or falling, such as near wet floors or uneven surfaces.

  6. Handrails should be provided on stairways and ramps to help prevent falls.

  7. Train employees on safe practices for preventing slips, trips, and falls. Make sure they know how to report hazards and know the proper procedures for cleaning up spills and other hazards.

 Submit YOUR questions to policy@britsafe.org