Health and Safety for the Self Employed

Health and Safety for the Self Employed

Health and Safety for the Self Employed

Health and Safety for the Self Employed

During the last year significant changes have been made to health and safety legislation. Most of the recommendations of the Lofsted review have been implemented or are on track. The main idea behind most of the changes was to get rid of issues such as over compliance, too many unnecessary regulations, and too much paperwork but mostly to reduce the “where there’s blame there’s a claim” suing culture revolving around health and safety.

There is however still a significant amount of work to be done and the most difficult thing to change is people’s minds and ideas about health and safety culture. The government, regulators and institutions have always used there own risk and evidence based health and safety systems and are now going to get more involved with European regulations as well. This will obviously make our working lives safer.

There are many situations we encounter as safety advisors, when the only one to blame when an accident had happened is the big bad bear or employer. Authorities and employees in most cases are tending to blame management and bosses and ultimately those are the ones paying all the costs.

Under health and safety legislations, an employer is reasonably responsible for the health, safety and welfare of the employees. The duties under safety law of the employer includes the responsibility to make the work premises safe, raise awareness and clearly inform the workers of their exact obligations, provide the necessary safety training, give enough opportunities for the workforce to communicate their safety concerns.

The employee’s responsibilities include the obligation to be able to take care of themselves and other people affected by their work activity, co-operate at all times and comply with managements requirements on health and safety and not to interfere with any materials or recommendations provided to maintain their health, safety and welfare. If an employee feels exposed to safety risks or considers that the employer is not complying with its legal duties a legal complain should be made to the relevant authority.

Currently the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 places general duties on everyone who is “at work” and this includes the self-employed. When assessing the duties and responsibilities of a self-employed person is not always straightforward. Depending on the industry the health and safety for the self-employed are working in, he or she could act in different occasions as an employer or as an employee and sometimes regulations apply for both at the same time.

Health and Safety for the Self Employed

The consultation conducted by the HSE between August and October last year has been based on the recommendations of the Lofsted review to relax regulations and duties for those self-employed whose work activities don’t pose a potential risk of harm to others, those not working in high-risk industries like office-related activities. The aim is to avoid the existing confusion in the law and clarify the obligations in the different business activities of self-employed. Any resulting changes should take effect along 2013.

Having a high standard of safety culture among management, workforce and the self-employed is not always an easy task. Developing and promoting such a standard saves lives and money. Hopefully the process of eliminating the extensive safety red tape will continue to save lives while in the meantime will ease the lives of business.

Health and Safety for the Self Employed was written by out health and safety consultants Lincoln

Alcohol at work

Alcohol at work

alcohol at work

Alcohol at work

Let’s face the truth- occasional drinking is part of our culture. We all know how to enjoy few pints at the pub with friends responsibly and yet the bombardment of information about the risks that alcohol involves is continuous. And let’s not talk about continual alcohol price increases.

When the risks of drinking too much alcohol are mentioned many people may picture an alcoholic not able to walk, screaming and behaving inappropriately. The biggest problems of drinking however are well hidden and despite the mini “prohibition” regime we live in, when stressed most people are more likely to turn to alcohol rather than their GP, friends or family.

Recent research by the Mental Health Foundation revealed that half of participating adults feel stressed every day, with a quarter saying every few days. Over 59% of people confirmed that their lives are more stressed now than five years ago with money (26%) and work problems (28%) being in between the top causes of stress and anxiety. This is understandable bearing in mind the hard economic times we all have to deal with.

The consequences of turning alcohol into a kind of therapy against stress and hard times are well known. Social costs, increased crime, civil disorder, ill health (this last one involving strong NHS spending costs for treating alcohol related diseases) and costs for employers are rising too as it increases sickness absences, inability to work (unemployment and early retirement), premature deaths and so-on.

Society needs to tackle this problem seriously with families and employers being among the first that should intervene instead of waiting for people’s distress to become a disease leaving the health services to deal with what may be too late.

The average SME’s managers very rarely have to deal with an alcoholic, but with an employee showing incapacity to organize themselves correctly; poor time keeping and low production rates all of a sudden should be an early indicator that something is a miss and could be to do with the affects of alcohol at work.

Try and investigate what may be causing this out of the ordinary behavior before making a decision that it is alcohol at work and if so what action to take for tackling the problem.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 the employer is reasonably responsible for the health, safety and welfare of the employees. An employer could be prosecuted if he or she allows an employee under the influence of alcohol at work or other substances to perform a job. The law presumes that this would be a significant risk for everybody involved in the work in progress and an employer could be liable if an accident happens. Virtually any job could be a risk, when it comes to alcohol at work but special care should be taken in activities such as operating heavy machinery, driving, working at heights or working with chemicals.

What can we do about alcohol at work?

Screening employees for alcohol is a sensitive issue. Many companies especially from high risk industries are introducing such screenings on a random or regular basis

To be 100% sure nobody turns up to work with elevated or dangerous levels of alcohol in their bloodstream, an employer should test regularly. However be careful with such screenings because they could undermine the spirit, respect and trust with your employees.

In any case written consent and/ or change of the terms and conditions of the employee’ contract should be in place before any tests are conducted. If an employer tries to force a screening the employee has the right to resign and claim “constructive dismissal” as well as other legal implications.

An honest talk with the employee should be the first step regarding alcohol at work and could be the solution; it also gives you the right idea of how serious any potential problems are.

Be mindful that an employee with a drinking problem has the same right to confidentiality and support as somebody with medical or psychological condition.

In any case dismissal and disciplinary actions should be the last resort, especially because a court might find the dismissal unfair if the employer is not able to demonstrate that enough good-will action has been taken to resolve the problem.

Also the cost of recruiting and training new employees could be higher than keeping an existing one rather than giving a helping friendly hand.

I hope this has given some insight into one of the unspoken problems of alcohol at work that many businesses and individuals face on a daily basis.

For more information on this or any health and safety related issue please do not hesitate to get in touch with our health and safety consultants

alcohol at work


Hazards in the workplace

Hazards in the workplace

Hazards in the workplace

Hazards in the workplace

It is a well known fact that construction, manufacturing and agriculture are among the group of high risk industries. May-be not as much as the offshore, nuclear or the military but the first three give employment to a bigger percentage of the working population.


The most common hazards in the workplace are those provoked by falling from heights, Hand- Arm Vibration related, diseases and slips and trips. However, it is hard to believe that there is still very little attention given to cancer related occupational diseases.


A recent study “The burden of occupational cancer in Great Britain” (2012, conducted by Dr Lesley Rushton) has concluded that every year around 5% of all cancer deaths and 13,600 new cancer cases are caused by work related risks. Unbelievably, the plague of the last centuries is still underestimated at the workplace…

Hazards in the workplace

Research has identified that the construction industry is one of the industries where the exposure to cancer hazards is the biggest. This is mainly due to the fact that 7% of the country’s working force is employed in construction businesses. Half of the work- related cancer deaths are among male workers who are highly likely to be exposed to asbestos or other carcinogens such as silica and diesel engine fumes.


According to the study, after asbestos, the most cancer- hazardous activities are: the service industry where working night-shifts is common, especially linked to female breast cancer; mineral oils in the metal and printing industries, representing high percentages of bladder, lung and non-melanoma skin cancers; agriculture and construction where the sun exposure of workers is considerable and provoking skin cancers.


The tendency is that those numbers and cases are going to rise as they have been doing since 2004 when the gathering of data about the issue started. What the study is trying to and clearly does, is to demonstrate that there certainly is a direct logical connection between our jobs and the risk of developing cancer at some point in our lives.


Also at present the best cure that we have against cancer is its prevention. So while new recommendations and measures are still to be developed and introduced, the best employers and employees can do is to comply with the existing ones.


This is very important particularly for small businesses and self-employed workers. Rising awareness among them to conduct regular risk assessments of potentially dangerous activities and taking simple measures such as water suppression of dust, improved ventilation, regular maintenance of machinery, use of appropriate PPE (Personnel Protective Equipment), reduction of night- shifts where possible, regular use of high factor sunscreen protection etc., could be beneficial for everybody. (I know that this last one would be quiet difficult to comply with, especially among construction workers. The popular “macho-man” attitude in this case should be changed.)


Once again, with risk to repeat ourselves - health and safety regulations do save lives.

And not to forget that here we are talking about simple measures which can help to prevent the big C… May be its worth re-thinking our attitude. Change almost always starts from the inside.

Hazards in the workplace

Remember that you do not necessarily have to be working in a nuclear power station to develop serious health disease due to work hazards. This is an on- going battle against a powerful plague which is predicted to rise “in 2027 50 out of every 100 men are likely to be diagnosed with cancer and 44 out of every 100 women. Or one in every two people”…(Cancer Research UK statistics)

Hazards in the workplace was written by one of our top health and safety consultant Derby



Tiredness at work

Tiredness at work

tiredness at work

tiredness at work

Fatigue, tiredness and related hazards normally arise from excessive working hours or poorly managed work shifts. This hazard (which is seldom considered) has become more of an issue in recent years as many businesses are forced to reduce staff and overload existing employees with extra shifts due to hard economic times.

Overloading staff with work and long hours could lead to serious consequences including reduced productivity, general unhappiness, inducing and/or worsening of pre-existing health conditions and of course accidents.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations1999 along with the relevant Amendments between 2001 and 2009 and to a certain extend the European Directive of Working Time Regulations 1998 should be complied with when managing the risks of fatigue it the workplace.

Tiredness at work

Duty holders should be aware of relevant legislation including, maximum working hours, night work, rest breaks, young workers and holidays etc when preparing shifts and conducting risk assessments.


1. Weekly working limit for adult workers.

Essentially under health and safety law workers don’t have to work over 48 hours per week including overtime hours. But if desired there is a possibility to work up to 78 hours per week (The law recommends 90 hours of rest per week). In certain cases an opt-outs is necessary that is an additional written agreement between the employee and the company to be signed in which the employee would express her/his acceptance of such an arrangement. There are certain professions where exclusions apply such as young doctors, overseas and offshore staff. The opt-out can be for a limited period or could apply indefinitely. The employer has to keep a record of every employee who has signed an opt-out, but there is no need to record the exact hours.


2. Weekly working limit for young workers.

There are 8 hours per day or a maximum of 40 hours per week. There is no possibility for a young worker to sign an opt-out (However certain exclusions are contemplated by the regulations, if that happens an absolute maximum of 48  hours per week applies). A young worker is defined as a worker who is between 15 and 18 years old.


3. Night-time working.

A night-time worker is somebody who works at least three hours during night time for the majority of days of work. A maximum of 8 hours of work in 24 hours period apply for adult workers. This is an absolute limit, especially when significant hazards such as physical or mental strain are presented.

Young workers should not be working during the restricted period of 10pm- 6am, although some exclusion apply if all three of these conditions are in place:

- Their employer requires them for the successful continuation of the job, production design or in order to respond to high demand

- No adult worker is available

- Performing the job would not affect the young worker’s education or training

Such exclusions usually occur to young workers employed in hospitals, venues dedicated to cultural, artistic, sporting or advertising activities. In those cases the maximum of 8 hours for each 24 hours applies as with adult employees. In very few cases youngsters who are employed in agriculture, retail, postal or newspaper deliveries, catering, hotels pubs, bakeries, etc. could perform a night shift between midnight and 4 am.

What a company would have to do to comply with the legislation is a personal business. How management will address desires for more overtime working hours of employees is also difficult to predict. There are going to be, of course opposite situations when directors and managers would try an incentive to motivate people to work overtime if there is a big demand of products and services…

General tiredness and fatigue are not between the top risks which a safety inspector would look specifically for on a site visit. Traditionally it is a poorly- addressed hazard, or not often considered as a hazard by everybody.

The truth is that in the long term it could undermine any business. It usually leads to long sick absences, unhappy workforce, jobs half- done and even according to some recent studies stress and depression. Successful companies usually admit that their biggest asset is their people and they need to be properly looked after.

A good tool to determine if over-time or the introduction of new shifts is the best solution for higher demand is regular risk assessments. Sometimes the correct solution could be simply hiring more staff for the busiest periods instead of overloading the existing workforce.

It is practical that employees working long hours should have long break periods after. Keeping rotation and shifts predictable, flexible and in accordance with public transport and commuting is essential.

Good organization saves time. And…what is time in the business world?

Well,….you know the rest…

Keep save.

Tiredness at work was wriiten by one of out top health and safety consultants Leicester

FFI First Fees for Intervention advice

FFI First Fees for Intervention advice

In October the introduction of the first Fees for Intervention (FFI) invoices are going to be issued shortly for companies which have been found to be in material breach with health and safety legislation.

FFI First Fees for Intervention advice

FFI First Fees for Intervention advice

The cost- recovery scheme is planned to charge £124 per hour for the HSE inspectors’ visits. Invoices would be charged every two months (January, March, May, July, September and November) as safety inspections could last for months or even years. They should contain detailed information about the time spent by the inspectors on site and what exactly they have been doing. VAT is not payable on FFI.

When FFI are charged, the inspector has to issue a written notice (a contravention, an improvement or prohibition) to the duty holder explaining the exact breach with the law, which law has been breached and why the inspection has concluded so.

The way inspectors reach their decisions remains unchanged, as they will continue to be based upon the Enforcement Management Model and Enforcement Policy Statement. There are no new tests or new ways of inspection contemplated to be introduced.

Simple compliance with health and safety rules should be enough to keep you away from a big fine and a Fee for Intervention charge. Although it is not always that simple and knowing what the law expects you to do is essential.

Whenever a duty holder or manager is unsure of the correct procedures that are expected from them it is important to ask for advice. Complying with safety procedures appears to be considerably cheaper than paying fees and fines.

FFI First Fees for Intervention advice

Issues like training, appointed responsible safety person, the correct way to put safety signs around the office or site and general tidiness are basic and really important if you are lucky enough to be paid a visit. Apart from those there are some others inspectors’ favorite “hot” issues they are most likely to look for.

- Poorly maintained or misused ladders. Almost a fifth of all falls from height at the workplace are falls from ladders and some of them unfortunately fatal. Employers and managers have the responsibility to raise awareness, train and as in many safety situations even prevent human nature and carefulness. You should remember that a ladder is not always the right tool to do a job and if it is it has to be maintained in the best possible condition. Regular internal reviews of the equipment could save you some money.

- Dangerous work at height. . Still to date one in every twelve workplace injuries is involving falls from height, so businesses are expected to comply with the legislation when working at height. Just paying attention to something like a missing handrail on a section of a scaffold tower would save you from a fine. Protection equipment such as safety nets, edge protection, harnesses etc. is what inspections would be happy to find.

- Badly- organized workplace transport. When transporting, loading and heavy machinery operating in general is inspected the attitude of inspectors will be focusing on previous incidents and training. Many incidents involving operating heavy machinery in factories, warehouses and depots result in serious injuries or dead (1500 major injuries and 50 deaths were reported last year). Improper, lack of training, bad organization of loading areas and general untidiness being among the most common reasons for accidents.

- Asbestos. Inspections will focus on correct and on- time reporting of asbestos exposure. Also correct timekeeping and procedures to remove existing asbestos fibres from buildings will be a way to avoid FFI. Appropriate training has to be taken before working with asbestos and/ or subcontracting specially licensed companies in specific cases when hazards are too high.

- Toxic paint vapours. The exposure to toxic fumes such as isocyanates is found mainly in motor-vehicle repair shops and garages and is contained in certain vehicles paint. When used incorrectly produces asthma and aggravates existing conditions. Pretty easy solution for such a hazard is a good ventilation system and suitable PPE.

- Vibrating power tools. A strict compliance with the law would be expected and looked for in such inspections. Too severe are the conditions which could be a direct consequence of operating vibrating power tools and hand fed and guided machinery. Correct training and compliance with the permitted hours of exposure and use of such tools would be essential to avoid problems.(Control of Vibration at Work Regulations  2005)

FFI First Fees for Intervention advice

This article was compiled by one of our top health and safety consultants in Birmingham


Risk Assessment PAT (Portable Appliance Testing)

Risk Assessment PAT

The main aim of the recent Lofsted review for Health and Safety Legislation was to reduce costs for businesses.

Risk Assessment PAT

Risk Assessment PAT

Try our free risk assessment tools here

Making safety procedures cheaper is certainly a great way to acquire more funds for areas like innovation, training, human potential and business expansion, which are all good for the economy in general.

A firm emphasis on a risk assessment approach could be found through out the recommendations by professor Lofsted. The recent changes in health and safety legislation are promoting a risk based attitude to most safety issues, reducing the “red tape” and the practice of over-compliance with the law.

One of the latest changes that have been produced and were certainly needed is regarding electrical appliances and Risk Assessment PAT testing.

Based on the fact that now most service sector businesses (such as offices, shops, care homes, hotels etc) are considered to be low- risk environments, there is still need of regular risk-based check-ups for electrical equipment.

This necessity of careful testing is backed up by these statistics:

Try our free risk assessment tools here

Every year over 1000 workplace accidents and 30 fatalities are reported to the HSE along with the fire UK statistics which clearly show that faulty electrical appliances and leads are the single most common case of fires in non- residential buildings.

The recent updated Code of Practice for In- Service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment provides us with the latest guidance for complying with the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989.

The changes explain misunderstandings such as the frequency of PAT tests (Portable Appliances Testing) ,which appliances is necessary to check-up regularly, the responsibilities of duty- holders and what to do if using external contractors.

A risk assessment based attitude towards electrical safety and PAT testing is the key as this is not an exact science issue.

Sometimes more often testing is required, or maybe only infrequent inspections would be necessary.

You may need to test some appliances and not others. When deciding how to proceed consider issues such as:

1. The frequency of testing would depend on a change of circumstances. For example: the photocopying machine being moved nearer plants watered on a daily basis, or a computer situated very near a source of heat.


2. Who is using it and how often. Think about the level of knowledge and training of the employee to use the appliance and make sure they would inform of any failures or damages. The employee using the particular electrical item should be made responsible and aware to report when the item is not working properly in order to avoid unnecessary hazards. Portable, movable, handheld and frequently used electrical appliances are to be checked more often, as they represent higher risk for the user.


3. Class II or double- insulated equipment may not need to be tested, only inspected. Class I are all earthed items which depend on the fixed electrical installation, such as cables and extension leads, main cables and battery-charging items does need regular testing.


4. Installation methods should be taken into account, when assessing fixed equipment you should consider the position and the material of the isolator.


5. Previous records could be helpful when deciding how often to test or only to inspect the electrical equipment.


6. Labeling and record keeping. When regular testing is required, this would need to be performed by a competent person and an appropriate bar code label has to be used.

The new Code of Practice recommends that the next Risk Assessment PAT test date is not printed on the label, this way people are not content that it is just ok because its in date and a risk assessment should be done.

If the risk assessment based approach to PAT is adopted a direct result would be enhanced records and documentation keeping.

We hope these few little steps would help you save a bit of time and money.

Risk Assessment PAT Try our free risk assessment tools here

This was written by top health and safety constants Peterborough

Health and Safety Forum

We are pleased to announce that we have added a shiny new health and safety forum to the site

health and safety forum

We would love you to join the community and contribute as you see fit.

All you have to do is register here and then you can ask questions, help others, mingle and generally chat with others about anything you like.

The forum is totally free and we will be here to help.

Access the health and safety forum here

Safe working temperature

Safe working temperature

safe working temperature

safe working temperature

There is a yellow alert all around the UK in the last few days. Most of us couldn’t enjoy a “White Christmas”, but finally the snow is here. Businesses and the public are advised to drive only if extremely necessary, some airports are canceling flights or closing and lots of schools are also announcing temporary closures due to the bad weather.


It’s always better to be safe than sorry. However, using a little bit of common sense and complying with the safety regulations should be enough regarding safe working temperature. Here are some basic and simple safety recommendations which employers and employees should bear in mind.


One of the basic requirements for a person to do a job safely is “thermal comfort”. The term is used to describe the state of mind that a person is in while completing a task. The temperature in the workplace (either in or outdoors) has to be right so employees and public feel comfortable and without a risk for their health.


If the working environment is uncomfortable people tend to act unsafely in order to avoid feeling cold (or too hot) for example: taking inappropriate shortcuts to get in and out (think about possible trips and slips hazards), the general concentration on the task would be highly reduced, rushing to finish a job could result in falls from heights, electrocution etc.

safe working temperature

Almost certainly during severe weather conditions if working outdoors the management needs to re-evaluate the risks of the performed activity. Re-writing and re-thinking your risk assessments, even those of the usual and day-by-day tasks would be important and if the risks are not tolerable should cease work completely until weather changes or until appropriate safety measures are taken.

One of our health and safety consultants in derby advises the following

Think about:

- additional PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) considering not only the temperature of the air, but also the velocity and level of humidity

- outdoor heaters, partial coverings and hording.

- sand and salt treatment of the site in order to prevent falling and slips

- provide mobile facilities for worming up, encourage the drinking of hot and worm drinks

- reduction of working hours - this way avoiding working very early in the dark winter mornings and late nights when temperatures are extreme

-  introduce additional controls and supervision in order to detect possible symptoms of cold stress in workers

- if working indoors, avoid overheating the environment which can reduce the quality and humidity of the air leading to fatigue and headaches

- try to avoid where possible the continuous movement of people in and out of the building


And if you are lucky enough to have an unexpected holiday due to the weather conditions and you are able to get into a ski-resort enjoy as much as you can safely. Snuggle in front of the fire at night and sip on glass of something warm.

Enjoy the snow and stay safe.

safe working temperature.

Gas health and safety

Gas health and health and safety

gas health and safety
gas health and safety

A recent episode of the popular and well-loved Coronation Street soap, related a stereotypical gas health and safety accident story. It hardly inspired any Christmas cheer, even if you were watching with few drinks, but unfortunately told an all too familiar story about one of the most common reasons for gas accidents.

Gas health and safety

Producers and writers had been working hand in hand with the professionals of the Gas Safety Register (GSR) to ensure the script was as realistic as possible and to raise awareness about the hazards anybody could encounter when using gas-powered equipment.

The official gas regulator organization for UK, Guernsey and Isle of Man is the Gas Safety Register.

We recommend before any work commences you check up on their on-line register and make sure the technician coming to install, check up or repair your gas appliances is registered with and approved by them.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced, when a gas installation is not fitted properly or is poorly maintained. It causes unconsciousness and kills without any warning, with symptoms like nausea, headaches, dizziness, breathlessness and so on this can be especially dangerous to detect if the victim is asleep.

The “silent killer” is estimated to have affected around 4000 people and produced 50 fatal accidents in the UK last year. The storyline featured in the episode of Coronation Street, is a very good reminder of the fact that if an accident like that happens, you might not be able to fight it on your own or lucky enough for somebody to find and rescue you in time.

Despite the well-known dangers that CO can cause, the statistics are getting even more worrying when stated that 43% of gas appliances are not checked regularly, as required with an alarming 10% which have never been checked.

The legislation on which gas health and safety is based is the Approved Code of Practice and Guidance (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998, detailing installation, maintenance and use of gas appliances for private and commercial areas.

Special attention to gas appliances has generally been adopted by landlords, letting agents and employers due to the pressure from insurance companies forcing them to comply with legislation probably from findings of a risk assessment. Unfortunately gas this is one of the hazards, anybody could encounter either at work, home or just as being a visitor in any commercial area.

Below we present you with a list for the main responsibilities of a landlord, homeowner and/ or employer contemplated in the Regulations. The aim is to make every possible action to ensure safety of the gas installation.

- Installation, check-up and reparation jobs have to be done by a registered and approved by the (GSR) engineer. Don’t just assume that your appliances are in great condition. Get them checked up by a professional.

- Keeping up the records of all visits and reparation (if any) jobs performed by the qualified engineer, for a period of 2 years.

- Any gas appliance provided by the landlord or letting agent is direct responsibility of them. When the tenant brings its own appliance, the landlord is not responsible for it, but is still liable for the pipe work which connects it to the gas supply.

- If installing a gas alarm in the property, ensuring that is complying with British Standard EN50291 and/ or carries a British or European approval mark, such as Kitemark.

- Rooms containing certain type of gas appliances cannot be converted to bedrooms, unless an atmosphere sensing device is installed.

- All Gas Registered Engineers carry an ID card, which details exactly on what type of appliances the carrier is qualified to work on.

- If you start recognizing the symptoms of CO poisoning, try to get fresh air as quick as possible and try to find help.

Until next time

Stay safe, stay well


Gas health and safety


Manual handling health and safety

Manual handling health and safety

manual handling health and safety

manual handling health and safety

Most of us see manual handling health and safety has a small list of simple common sense rules, which if followed and performed correctly should mean no accidents will happen.

In essence, that should be the case but it still accounts for a third of all reported work injuries in the UK. That in monetary terms translates to over £100 million a year for the British economy, which is just the cost for companies once the accident had happened, for hiring replacement staff, lost productivity, and compensation payouts etc., not taking into account the strain that such accidents put on the NHS.

The specific industries where manual handling health and safety injuries are most common are manufacturing and warehousing. The very essence of those activities is quite dangerous and safety measures are contemplated in order to avoid accidents.

Most low risk businesses as well as construction and agriculture also involve certain risks related to improper manual handling.

Manual handling health and safety is regulated by the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, as amended in 2002.

Training courses are an essential safety tool and not to mention employers obligation, designed to prevent the hazards of bad habits with specific guidance for each industry.

The general opinion of most employees attending such training is, that they are not very serious, they are just a set of common sense well known rules that would make the employee loose time at work. Employees should be made aware that such courses are necessary to protect the employer and employees.

It should be noted that the safety trainer should engage people and raise their awareness of the long term impact that bad habits could have on their health. But as we know this is not always the case…

Manual handling health and safety solutions?

High quality and innovative mechanized technology could reduce the risks of serious accidents and long term musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

Many warehousing companies are investing heavily in such machinery, designed with safety in mind. There is a 66% higher risk of injury if using manual pallet truck instead of a powered one. While the powered machinery is more expensive it represents value for money for the company and improves workers safety, when considering the costs of personal injury claims.

How is possible to prove that a MSD has been a result of a work accident?

Some companies in order to keep costs low and avoid NHS’ waiting times pay for the employee to have a MRI scan, which is a possibility to determine the cause of any back problems, i.e. if it is due to a work accident or is age- related wear and tear and so on. Also private physiotherapy sessions for the injured employee has proven to be cheaper for businesses, again due to NHS’ prolonged waiting times and time is money…

As always when trying to keep people safe and healthy, a good company’ safety culture is essential. Good communication between managers and employees and creating high level of involvement of the workforce in health and safety matters is really important to save money and lives.

Risk assessments should be performed and continued to reduce hazards throughout and will make everybody lives easier and safer.

Preventing bad manual handling is probably one of the most difficult tasks in occupational safety. Something so natural which anybody would do without thinking, like lifting, lowering, pushing or carrying is very hard to change and re-educate people have a habit of moving in a particular way, no matter how wrong it is.