Be Safe Around Chemicals

Many workplaces need to use dangerous chemicals, which have the potential to harm your health. Wherever you work, don’t be complacent around hazardous substances.

Chemicals are all around us, but they are not all dangerous. The food we eat, the plants we grow, the air we breathe, and the homes we live in are all made of various chemicals.

Hazardous chemicals are those that can have harmful effects on people. The health effects depend on the type of chemical and the level of exposure, and also how you were exposed to it. Chemicals can be inhaled, splashed onto the skin or eyes, or swallowed, and can cause poisoning; nausea and vomiting; headache; skin rashes; chemical burns; lung, kidney or liver problems; nervous system disorders; and birth defects.

Hazardous chemicals can be in the form of a liquid, powder, solid or gas. Common hazardous chemicals include disinfectants, glues, acids, paints, pesticides, solvents, heavy metals (such as lead), and petroleum products.

Reducing your exposure

  • First, make sure you know what chemicals are hazardous in your workplace. Any product in your workplace that has the potential to cause harm is required by law to have a warning label and Safety Data Sheet provided.
  • Where possible, perform the task without using any hazardous chemicals, or substitute the substance with a less hazardous alternative. You could use a detergent in place of a chlorinated solvent for cleaning, for example.
  • Make sure you wear any personal protection equipment supplied, such as respirators, gloves and goggles.
  • Ensure you attend training in the safe handling of any hazardous chemicals in your workplace.

Exposure to hazardous chemicals

If you suspect you’ve been exposed to a hazardous substance:

  • If it’s an emergency, dial emergency services for an ambulance.
  • Otherwise, see your doctor immediately for treatment, information and referral.
  • Notify your employer.
  • Try not to handle the substance again.

First Aid for Christmas Loneliness

It’s not unusual to feel lonely, and there’s no time like the holiday festive season to highlight these feelings. But if you’re dreading Christmas, there are steps you can take to ease your loneliness.

There have been a number of studies across the world about loneliness. According to many of these studies, in countries and areas like the US, Japan, the EU and Australia, the number of those feeling lonely and isolated ranges from 22 per cent to 54 per cent. And the loss of social connection during this year’s COVID-19 pandemic has been reported as the most common personal stressor in a recent survey. But loneliness doesn’t strike us equally. You’re more likely to feel lonely if you’re in your early 20s, over 65, a single parent, or unemployed.

How lonely you feel may also depend on how you feel your social life should look. “In a lot of younger university age groups, loneliness is very socially constructed, and people feel lonelier on Saturday nights than on other nights of the week,” Elisabeth Shaw, CEO of Relationships Australia NSW, told

Then there’s Christmas. If anything is going to trigger feelings of loneliness, it’s the season that comes with expectations of happy families enjoying gifts and celebrations. Maybe you don’t want to spend time with your family, for a whole range of reasons. Or perhaps your family live far away, you’ve had a recent relationship break-up, lost a loved one, or you’re experiencing a mental illness that makes the holiday season particularly isolating.

If you’re facing Christmas with a sense of loneliness or dread, there are steps you can take to help alleviate those feelings.


Plan ahead

If you’re going to spend Christmas alone, allow plenty of time for the things you enjoy. When you’re taking good care of yourself, you’re more likely to be positive and those feelings of loneliness may have less power to get you down. What makes you feel good? It could be spending time in nature, cooking something special or pampering yourself.

Give back

Volunteering is a great way to support people who are going through a difficult time. It can also be a good thing to do if you don’t want to be on your own. Despite restrictions on gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there may still be opportunities to serve a meal at a community centre, take gifts to a children’s hospital, or attend a religious service.

Get support

If you’re feeling alone or lonely, reach out and talk to someone. This can be as simple as sending a text, a message on social media, inviting someone over for a drink or cuppa, or making a phone call. You can also go online and connect with an online community for support. Depending on where you are, a quick Google search on “support for loneliness” may bring up some more locally relevant results.

Should You Put On A Happy Face?

Sometimes it’s a struggle to keep smiling at work. You may have had a particularly bad morning at home, or dreading a tough meeting ahead. How you deal those feelings at work can make all the difference to how well your day goes.

There’s a kind of unwritten rule that we shouldn’t express anger or frustration once we are at work. Of course, we should treat those around us with respect, but should we be faking optimism and positivity when underneath we’re feeling nothing of the sort?

A team of researchers set out to answer this question by surveying over 2,500 employees from a variety of industries. Their findings, published this year in the Journal of Applied Psychology, focused particularly on interactions with co-workers, and suggested that positivity has some real benefits. But they also showed that some attempts at appearing positive can backfire.


Surface acting versus deep acting

When we are faced with an unpleasant emotion we can choose to react in a number of ways, with two of the most common called ‘surface acting’ and ‘deep acting’.

‘Surface acting is faking what you’re displaying to other people. Inside you may be upset, but on the outside, you’re trying your best to be pleasant or positive,” said lead researcher Allison Gabriel. It’s really a kind of impression management, she explained, such as faking a smile to a co-worker after a bad morning, for instance, even though you’re not feeling particularly positive inside.

If you’re more of a surface actor, it can be emotionally drained to not be authentic, suggests Gabriel. “I think the ‘fake it until you make it’ idea suggests a survival tactic at work,’ she says.

But if faking a smile is bad, and you can’t let your true angst show, what can you do?

The alternative is what’s called ‘deep acting’ which is the process of closing that gap between how you feel and how you behave by altering your emotional state.

“When you’re deep acting, you’re actually trying to align how you feel with how you interact with other people,” explained Gabriel. The study found the benefits of ‘deep acting’ included reduced stress, higher levels of trust and more support from co-workers, and lower levels of fatigue.


How do you become a successful deep actor?

1. The first step is just paying attention.

Be aware when you’re surface acting, take a step back, and try to genuinely feel the positive emotions you want to express with others, advises Gabriel.

2. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

You may think your workmate’s jokes are lame, but appreciate that maybe he’s trying to bring some cheer to a Monday morning.

3. Be genuine. We can all pick up social cues and know when someone isn’t being sincere. If you ask about a workmate’s weekend, for instance, then listen to what they say and don’t tune out their answer.

“Plastering on a smile to simply get out of an interaction is easier in the short run,” says Gabriel, “but in the long term it will undermine efforts to improve your health and the relationships you have at work.”

How To Make New Habits Stick

It’s nearly the end of the year, and given the year we’ve had, many of us may be thinking about new healthy habits that we want to cultivate in 2021.

Maybe 2021 will be the year when you stress less, show more gratitude, save more money, cook healthy foods, exercise daily, or spend more time with friends and family.

While we start off very enthusiastically, it’s easy for new resolutions to fall by the wayside. Positive behaviour change isn’t easy, nor is it quick. British researchers found that it took an average of 66 days for a new task to become automatic.

We tend to blame ourselves and our lack of willpower when a new healthy habit fails to stick. This is an easy mistake to make, says B J Fogg, director of Stanford’s Behaviour Design Lab, in his book Tiny Habits. “When it comes to changing our behaviours, the problem is that motivation and willpower are shape-shifters by nature, which makes them unreliable,” he says.

“For example, your motivation for self-improvement vanishes when you’re tired, and your willpower decreases from morning to evening.”

Instead of relying on willpower and motivation, here are a few tips to help cement any new habit into your daily routine.

1. Don’t be overly ambitious. Prioritise your goals and focus on one behaviour. Willpower is a finite resource and if you spread it too thin you risk not achieving any of your new healthy goals.

2. Tie your new habit to an existing one. For most of us, the morning routine is the strongest in the day and so is a great place to introduce a new habit that you can build on over time. Add a one-minute mediation practice to your morning coffee, for example, or do five squats while you wait for the kettle to boil.

3. Make change small, and doable. Making a large behaviour change needs equally large amounts of motivation that you’re unlikely to sustain, says Fogg. Starting with a tiny habit can make the new habit easier, even when you’re short on willpower. A daily short walk, for example, can be the start of your exercise habit, or putting an apple or small bag of nuts and dried fruit in your bag can be the start of better eating habits. While tiny habits can feel insignificant at first, you can gradually ramp up to bigger challenges and faster progress.

4. Make it easy. Clear the obstacles that stand in the way of your new habit. Wendy Wood, a research psychology professor at the University of South California, calls such obstacles ‘friction’. She describes how to reduce friction when she began to sleep in her running clothes, making it easier to roll out of bed in the morning, and go for a run.

Ways to start out small

Here are some examples of tiny habits from author B J Fogg:

  • After I brush my teeth, I will floss one tooth.
  • After I walk into the kitchen, I will drink a glass of water.
  • After I pour my morning coffee, I will open my journal.
  • After I sit down on the train, I will mediate for three breaths.
  • After I put my head on the pillow, I will think of one good thing from my day.