Common health and safety questions

We have been asked some common health and safety questions over and over again so we have decided to help out here with some questions and answers.

Common health and safety questions

Common health and safety questions

Q) How many employees does a company need to have before a written health and safety policy is required?
A) Five

Q) Do self employed people have duties specifically outlined in the (HASAWA) Health and Safety at Work Act?
A) Yes

Q) What general duties are places on an employee of a company?
A) To take reasonable care with regard to health & safety of themselves and any other people who may be affected by their acts/omissions while at work.
To co-operate with employer’s so as to comply with their legal duties.
Not to interfere or misuse anything provided for health & safety purposes.

Q) Do the Health and Safety Executive have sole responsibility for enforcing the (HASAWA) Health and Safety at Work Act?
A) No

Q) What features must a company health and safety policy statement have?
A) A policy statement should demonstrate a clear commitment to health and safety, have details of the organisation and arrangements for implementing the policy, have details of how the employees will be consulted and the policy must be revised as often as appropriate.

Q) What are ACoPs and what are they for?
A) Approved Codes of Practice (ACoPs) are not legally binding but may form part of the evidence in any health and safety prosecution.

Q) When may an Improvement notice be issued?
A) This can be issued if any systems of work or any equipment are not up to legal standards and need attention. This will outline what needs to be done to

comply with the law in a fixed time period.
Q) When may a Prohibition notice be issued?
This may be issued if an inspector decides that an activity gives serious risk of personal injury. Work will be stopped.

Q) What are some general duties of the employer as far as reasonably practicable in part 1 of the HASAWA?
A) To provide and maintain safe plant and systems of work that do not cause risk to health, Safe handling, transport and storage of dangerous articles and substances, to provide continued information, instruction and training, safe access and egress and provide a safe environment and adequate welfare facilities are to name a few.

Common health and safety questions

Q) What is the maximum fine a Magistrate’s Court could issue an employee for contravening section 7 or section 8 of the HASAWA?
A) Section 7 = £5000 Section 8 = £20000

Q) To comply with the HASAWA companies have to clarify certain roles and responsibilities. What are some good examples?
A) Managers and/or Directors would notify the HSE, where necessary types of accident have occurred, provide health and safety induction for visitors and review the company’s health and safety policy. Directors, Managers and Site Supervisors should Utilise disciplinary procedures if safety is not adhered to, warn new employees of known hazards and implement day to day health and safety procedures. Everyone from directors to operatives should set a good personal example by wearing appropriate PPE, ensure only properly inspected and maintained plant and equipment is used on site, not misuse anything provided for health safety and welfare and of course anyone who discovers defects in tools or equipment should report it to the Managers/Directors.

Q) What are some of the powers that HSE inspectors have?
A) They have the power to enter premises at a reasonable time, they may take evidence, samples, photos and interview witnesses are to name a few.

Q) Is consultation with employees limited to those who are in recognised trade unions?
A) No

Q) If two trade union appointed safety representatives request a safety committee must an employer comply and if so in what time frame?
A) Yes the employer must comply within three months

Q) What are some main points that should be covered with regard to consultation with employees?
A) The safety representative should examine causes of accidents. The appointed safety representative should be the appropriate person to receive information for the employees. Under the consultation with employee’s regulations the employer must consult with employees on health and safety matters in good time. Employees cannot be dismissed for bringing attention to health and safety concerns.

Q) Regarding (RIDDOR) Reporting of Injuries Disease and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations what are some important factors?
A) Death or major injury must be reported to the appropriate authority by the quickest possible means. Dangerous occurrences as stated in RIDDOR need to be reported on the appropriate for within 15 days. If an employee dies within 12 months of the completed RIDDOR the authorities have to be notified. You must complete an entry into the accident book even if RIDDOR has been completed.

Q) What type of diseases can be caused by common types of work?
Mesothelioma can be caused by working with asbestos. Dermatitis can be caused by working with Cement. Hepatitis can be caused if exposed to blood or human waste and Carpel tunnel syndrome can be caused by vibration.

No part of this site is a legal representation of current rules or legislation. Please check governmental legislation sites for up to date information or feel free to contact a team member regarding Common health and safety questions

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Update of the Asbestos Regulations April 2012

Asbestos is an extremely dangerous substance, widely used in the sixties and seventies decades in the construction industry as a fire protection material in buildings.. It can cause cancer, if disturbed or damaged it releases fibres which people can easily breathe, it needs to be destructed by an authorized professional and trained team, using the recommended PPE and machinery. This dangerous material could be found in any building throughout the UK built before year 2000 and needs to be disposed off accordingly. Every year around 4000 people die because of breathing an asbestos fibres, thus being the biggest cause of work- related deaths in UK.

asbestos control

asbestos control

The HSE’s guide of Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 contains information about the legal procedures which anybody responsible for undertaking maintenance, repairs or any other kind of construction work in a suspected building is obliged to comply with. Recently, a building company from Dorset responsible for the demolishing of a building was fined for not conducting a specific asbestos survey before starting the demolishing works.

Last month was issued an addition to the existing regulations concerning all offshore installations build before 1999. There is a possibility of asbestos -containing materials (ACM’s), the older the building, the bigger is the risk of containing the cancerous materials. The new changes in the Regulations from 6th of April 2012 also take into account the European Normative on the issue which until this moment hasn’t been applied into the UK’s law framework. The changes are concerning mainly some types of non-licensed work with asbestos, which from now on is going to be more controlled and higher precautions required (i.e. medical surveillance, notification of the works, record keeping of all works conducted, risk assessments, method statements, etc.)

So from now on, some non-licensed work needs to be notified to the relevant enforcing authority. The notification and the records that you have to keep for the enforcing authority may require at some point, needs to include a list of the workers who have taken part on the job as well as the level of exposure to the ACM’s. This level doesn’t has to be air measured or monitored, but would be determent by a published guide based on experienced similar jobs. By April 2015 all workers undertaking non-licensed notifiable jobs with asbestos need to be monitored by a Doctor. The medical monitoring is not acceptable to be the same for those conducting licensed jobs, and workers who are already under surveillance for licensed works don’t need to be seen again by a Doctor for the non- licensed one.

As always remind you that training is essential when treating asbestos and really important for the health and safety of your workforce. This is one of the biggest construction safety issues now days and the authorities are taking care of the problem slowly but steadily. Special attention is given lately to the asbestos in school buildings and special scheme is in place for their removal.

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health and safety fines

New Intervention Costs Recovery Scheme

The HSE is introducing a new Fee for Intervention (FFI), which basically is an additional penalty added to the original fine for not complying with the law. The idea behind this extra charge is that businesses (those who are fined) have to contribute to the cost of the investigation run by the Health and Safety Executive and to the process of putting things right.

Health and Safety fines

Health and Safety fines

All actions taken by the investigators, since the moment of the discovery of the problem will be charged for. The whole process of investigation- on and off-site visits, letters, telephone calls, evidence collection, reports writing , any specialists support if required etc are proposed to be charged at the rate of 133 pounds per hour. According to that sum, a full regular investigation where no specialist’s external help is needed would cost a minimum of 750 pounds, a routine inspection resulting in just a warning letter from the HSE would be around 750 as well, but if an enforcement notice is the result of the inspection the amount of the FFI will ascend to 1500 pounds.

So is that wise and are these penalties not going to be an impossible burden in the tough economic times we live? Well, the HSE already has a cost- recovery procedure for certain industries like nuclear energy plants, offshore oil and gas production and some chemical on shore manufacturers and storage industries. Now the scheme is planned to be introduced for everybody, the main reason being that is not fare for the rest of tax contributors to cover the investigation costs for all those who are not complying with the legislation. At the same time is expected that this extra charge will make businesses more responsible and careful with the health and safety issues and will deter many from breaching the law.

The scheme was due to start in April 2012 for the time being is put on hold and expected to begin in October this year. So it is important to use the next few months to put things in place, rearrange some training for your staff, get professional advice for some difficult issues etc.

From now on Prevention, Training and Good health and safety habits are going to be the cheapest solutions for your business’s health and safety problems.

Fukushima Daiichi one year after the disaster

Nuclear power plants are providing about 6% of the world’s energy and approximately 15% of the world’s electricity, with USA, Japan and France generating about 50% of the nuclear electricity. Currently there are 439 nuclear power stations operating worldwide. The debate about how safe is the use of nuclear fission for peaceful purposes is an ongoing discussion involving different organizations and countries. The supporters believe in the future promotion and extended use of nuclear power as part of world’s transition to sustainable energies and reduction of fossil energy dependency and carbon emissions. The opponent’s main reasons against are the high risks for the environment and people in case of accidents.

Nuclear power safety

Nuclear power safety

Realistically the track record of the usage of nuclear power for energy is pretty clean, with only three big accidents- The Tree Mile Island (1979), Chernobyl (1986) and recently the Fukushima Daiichi in 2011. This last incident reopened the debate on the issue and it is provoking scientists, governmental institutions and health and safety professionals to rethink and raise the safety standards for the whole industry.

Among the countries of the European Union there doesn’t exist a uniform policy on nuclear generated electricity, some countries like France are at the vanguard in the industry with currently 16 multi- unit stations, while Austria, Italy, Estonia and Ireland have no active nuclear power stations. In the UK there are 10 nuclear plants operating, which generate one sixth part of the electricity, some of those will close by 2016, creating a serious” energy gap” . The organization in charge to promote the safety and security of the sector in the UK is the ONR- Office for Nuclear Regulation, an HSE agency.

So, what changed in the power nuclear industry after Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami? After the Fukushima disaster, everybody in the industry had to stop, observe the mistakes and learn from them. The positive outcome was the reopening of the communication channels and the restart of intense collaborations between countries, governments, scientists and safety experts. At the end of the day a safe, cheap and clean nuclear energy would be beneficial for all of us and for the environment.

In January Japan requested an IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) safety review of the Fukushima plant, in which some experts from ONR also participated. The Agency’s Japan initiative was extended to all its members conducting safety tests and risks assessments all around their power plants.

Since the accident only three power nuclear plants in Japan are still functioning, while the other 51 remain closed, until the government decides to reopen them when new safety regulations are in place.

During the closure many employers were encouraging employees to wear wormer clothes indoors and choose lighter ones in summer. This is only one of the few changes in the lifestyle which affected Japanese people after the disaster.

So far, after the safety assessments Japan has decided to make some physical modifications to their power plants. They are also going to start intensifying stress tests, something that EU members are conducting more frequently after last March’s accident.

The safety reviews of existing regulations which took place in UK, have demonstrated that there are no fundamental weaknesses in our nuclear power stations. But of course there is always the aim of improving people’s lives and security.

And so the dilemma continues….

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Green jobs and health and safety

The annual World Day for Health and Safety at Work is a UN conference which takes place annually around the 28th of April and is celebrated to help the countries all around the world to improve their safety standards and its main aim is the prevention of incidents and accidents at work and the reduction of the risk factors at the work place, according to the international labour standards.

Green Jobs Health and Safety

Green jobs are the future but what about health and safety

This year’s World Day for Health and Safety at Work is going to focus on the environmentally friendly industries and the dangers involved in their development. This year’s campaign is trying to raise awareness on the fact that not always the so called green jobs, necessarily mean safe jobs. The organizers of the event from the International Labour Organizations (ILO), has planned many different initiatives for the 28th of April in Geneva.

The main points that are going to be discussed will focus on the Occupational Risks involved in the Sustainable Energy Industry- solar, wind, hydropower, bioenergy, and in the OSH (Occupational Safety and Health) risks in the “greening” traditional sectors like mining and extractive technologies, agriculture, forestry work, construction and nuclear energy. It seems to be widely accepted the belief, that necessarily a green industries, involve less risks than the traditional ones.

Any human economic activity involves risks for the workforce, whatever its “colour” is. A proper risk and hazard assessments are necessary without making a difference in order to ensure healthy and safe working environment. The transition to a greener economy worldwide is an event in human history like nothing else until the present moment. It is crucial for the survival of humanity, for our future and quality of life. Our society is technologically and scientifically advanced enough and can not permit the loss of lives and work related injuries during this process.

In many cases sustainable economy means sustainable jobs as well. The so called “green” jobs are meant to help improve the environment, revitalize the economy and create new employment opportunities. Still our society needs to avoid at any cost the rush and doing this transition and creating these new jobs for people too quick and without taking care of the risks which the process involves. As it was discussed before in our blog, some of the risks and hazards of the new “green” activities, could be easily avoided by improving the performance of the new tools and machinery used by the workers during their design and manufacturing. There are some specific hazards for each one of the new industries, some of them really dangerous and not known until recent improvement of the particular technological process, which needs to be thought trough and regulated by the health and safety professionals. For example, the solar energy workers could be exposed to a very dangerous carcinogen material (cadmium telluride) if adequate controls are not implemented.

The renewable energy sector is the fastest growing and the biggest job generator worldwide, as well as being the economic activity which gets the most investment and public support globally. That is why the process of fast growing new industries which in the mean time are employment creators and are helping to reduce the impact of the recent world economic crisis, needs to be regulated and all the possible risks assessed and workers taken care of. So watch this space to see what the future brings as our team of health and safety consultants will be posting updates for you on a regular basis.

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Health and Safety in the Middle East

In recent years the construction industry has experienced fundamental changes.
While it is in crisis in countries like Spain, Portugal or even in the UK where the construction activity is quite reduced, in the Middle East, China or South America is flourishing and growing. As a consequence of the liberalization of the markets and the globalization many of the big and well established European construction companies are finding their way to survive by building out of Europe, especially in the fast developing countries of the Middle East, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia.

Health and Safety in the Middle East

For example in Dubai the construction sector is consideredto be the key industry, the biggest source of economic growth and income for the country.
This big increase in construction and property sector has made the principality an attractive point for many international construction companies.

Since last year Dubai is also celebrating the International Health and Safety Day, and every year are taking place major improvements and regulations of the health and safety issues. Special advancement were achieved with the implementation of the Construction Safety Regulations and Standards, with which the EHS (Environment, Health and Safety, isthe regulator's bodyfor all H and S and Fire Protection issues, organization which also provides training) have ensured the existence of a legal frame work for construction activities to be carried out to a recognized international standards.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia represents 38% of the construction investments in the region. The biggest project being for $95 billion, and is expectedto house 60.000 residents.

Abu Dhabi is the largest of the emirates in the UAE, covering most of its territory. It is estimatedthat the construction projects would ascendto $200 billion in the next few years. So there is a global business for the construction industry, but as always, no international health and safety standards. Every country has its own peculiarities and requirements, which makes it difficult for contractors to ensure they create safety work environments fortheir workers without a uniform legal framework.

The region as a whole is projected to deliver by 2015 construction projects worth around $500 billion. This is a big business for these countries, so with the race of construction activities is raising every day more and more the concern about health and safety. More investment is expected in EHS products and services throughout Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Abu Dhabi.

The increased construction activity had led to a boom in the work- related injuries. The statistics are showingthatone of the main reasons of work accidents is due to a total lack of PPE (Personnel Protective Equipment) orthe use of an inappropriate PPE. The other major concern for health and safety professionals in the region is the climate. In fact, the climate represents the main reason for companies and workers to use and to have access to a specific PPE, sometimes especially designed forthe hot andtough climate in the area. Recently, due to the high temperature levels the UAE government had raised the ban on midday site works for an additional 1 to 3 hours during the hottest summer months.

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The big PAT testing confusion

Portable Appliance Testing (commonly known as PAT) is a safety procedure, which prevents the failure of electrical appliances at the workplace by its regular examination.

PAT Testing

PAT Testing

according to the existing HSE legislation, which regulates and applies to this issues- The Electricity at work Regulations 1989, the PAT testing must depend on the particular risks which the business activity involves.

For example a diamond disk cutter machine may need a frequent visual inspections as well as testing because it is clear that it represents more potential risks than say a copy machine in a benign office environment.

Actually the law recommends a risk- based approach towards the PAT question (there are some activities where more attention is required, for example hire tool businesses need to examine and check their electrical equipment more often than others.), and does not specify who or how often it needs to be done.

What it does oblige any business activity is to maintain in safe condition all of the electrical equipment which potentially can cause injury at the workplace.

Neither is a legal requirement the labeling and the keeping of the track record of the potential PAT testing, but if you do label and do keep records in place, these would demonstrate that your business has a safety maintenance scheme in place and could bring you some extra points during a possible HSE inspection.

The person in charge of the examination and testing work needs to be competent, a member of staff might be able to undertake some visual inspections in a low risk environments. But whenever proper testing is necessary the person will need to be qualified, able to use the testing equipment and correctly understand the results.

All in all the question of PAT testing which was recently raised by the Lofsted report is still a big confusion for businesses. In fact, is one of the issues recommended for a revision in the report, A new PAT guidance with clearer specifications should be available in the next few months, according to HSE representatives.

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The changing wind of health & safety

The wind off shore electricity industry is for the moment the most reliable renewable energy and the
fastest growing manufacturing activity in the UK. It is expected that by 2020 one third of the UK's
energy will be wind sourced.
In the last years a number of deaths and accidents have occurred all around Europe and UK, Demand for the attention of the health and safety professionals has been a major issue.

Turbine Safety

Turbine Safety

A uniformed and improved set of health and safety regulations specifically made for the wind offshore industry is required.
Working at height, heavy lifting, falling objects and maritime operations are some of the most dangerous risks to be considered. Without a doubt the biggest safety issue faced by the industry is the offshore situation of most of the windmills-the weather conditions and the impossibility for a quick response in an emergency situation are the biggest problems.
Everybody involved in this fast growing industry from the turbine manufacturers, developers, operators etc. are starting to collaborate to be able to meet these big safety challenges.
The unified approach consist mainly in sharing accident data, working on a common standard for safety training and communicating with different government proposals for improvements in the legislation.

At the present time the most important and basic peace of legislation witch regulates the industry in
the UK is the latest version of EN 50308, REV.1- wind turbines, safety requirements for design,
operation and maintenance.
The main idea the document is based on, is the belief that better designs of the wind turbines, would reduce the safety risks, by employing remote diagnostics to reduce service and maintenance of the wind mills. The best example for such a turbine is the one witch gear box is sealed for life and also copes with a better corrosion protection.
Maintenance can not be avoided completely, but the correct turbine design should make it efficient, fast and safe.
This new standard of legislation is still in preparation and it covers everything from turbine
erection, access high sizes, and machinery guards to emergency escapes and lighting. The professional organization involved in the creation of the new safety rules is Renewable UK.

This is one of the fastest growing industries, so therefore continually demands staff, witch training is essential.
There is an urgent need of unification of the safety standards, because the present situation is
confusing and difficult for anybody involved in this business. For example, the technicians are
required a different safety course for each type of turbine from every different manufacturer. Many of them are actually attending safety courses initially designed for the gas and oil industry including First Aid.
Common and specific standards in the industry as a whole would increase the productivity
improve the quality of the always growing workforce and will reduce training course dramatically.
In 2009 the Global Wind Organization (GWO) was formed who are dedicated to make possible the
common standards for safety training across Europe. These are going to be released shortly and
would cover basics such as marine safety, survival, fire fighting, manual handling, etc.

Unfortunately as in many other health and safety issues, we are far away from a unique and
common European H and S law. The good news is that there are contacts and discussions between
GWO and Renewable UK over future possible unification of the standards.

One of the most urgent safety challenges for the offshore wind industry is the design of specific
training courses and certification for far offshore works- such as turbine transfer methods, PST
(Personal Survive Training), BOSIET(Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training).
The last two courses have been developed for the gas and oil industry, but not specifically tailored for the wind sector.

In conclusion the way forward is to learn from mistakes, share accident information and solutions
and develop a common training programme.
Now taking the best base from gas and oil already established and proven training system is a good start. Wind is a young industry and offshore is possibly its biggest challenge. Establishing a constructive dialogue between the concerned would be the way forward to keep its workforce safe.

A big welcome to the fit note by businesses and managers

Absence from work as we all know is a huge problem and costs billions throughout the UK.

As a manager or business owner in the event of an absent employee you will be under extreme pressure to keep up production and customer service.
One option is to hire temporary replacement staff or get existing staff to work harder or longer hours to cover for the absentee, but this as we know is easier said than done.

Fit Note

Fit Note

The sick note has been common practice now for years and been adopted by the whole country as a standard agreement on all sides. But where does it end? There is still an amount of uncertainty on behalf of the employee and the employer when the sick note expires.
Is the employee now fit for work?

Well now the fit note has been adopted by a select number of companies giving all involved a clear indication that the absentee is fit and ready to work.
This has enabled managers to engage in discussions with employees about returning to work and generally what special circumstances must be adopted to make the return run as smoothly as possible.

A survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) revealed that just under one third of organisations involved reported that the fit note helped managers deal with absenteeism within their organisation.

Keep a look out for the fit note as it will be interesting to see if it develops into a recognisable tool that could help managers and deal with absenteeism and enable better communication with employees as when they will be fit and ready to return to work.