Health surveillance is part of COSHH – you did realise that didn’t you?

lungsAs an occupational hygienist I did realise that, as a business person with a lot of hats to wear it’s entirely feasible that you didn’t.

If I was a new HSE Inspector tasked with fining people for material breaches of health and safety regulation then Regulation 11 of COSHH is exactly where I would start and I would hit my target for the two month cycle in less than two weeks!

My point is this, health surveillance is something which many people, even safety professionals, can find somewhat confusing resulting in it being put on the shelf to sort out at a future date.  This is why HSE is pushing it as something which needs attention and also why Fee For Intervention is targeting it.

Our advice is not to delay and to get some simple measures in place, for example; staff exposed to solvents on a daily basis should have some checks to make sure their health is being protected.  To begin with why not make use of the simple forms which we can provide to carry out dermatitis and respiratory health questionnaires.

When your staff have completed the forms review the and if they have concerns sit down and talk them through (bearing in mind that health problems can be caused just as easily by what they do outside of work, away from your protective equipment and controls, as they can by what they use within your business).

If you raise some issues you can follow up on this with a simple desktop review or ask one of our occupational hygienists or workplace health consultants to do this for you.  We’ll run through all aspects of the problem and help you determine what might have caused the problem, if it is related to their job and how you can go about controlling the risk and improving their health.

For many businesses simple questionnaires are all that’s needed but when you have higher risk substances and repeated exposures costs need not be high.  Even biological monitoring for the isocyanates used in 2 pack paints and adhesives can be easily completed using urine test kits at a cost of around £50-60 per person.

the bottom line is that you do need to do health surveillance, its written into the COSHH Regulations and has been for years.  Remember, this doesn’t have to be complicated, if you’re already a member of our Safety~net support service just call us and we’ll advise you without charge.  If you’re not yet a member just click here to find out how little it costs to join, click the link and you’ll be under our wing and talking to an expert safety consultant or occupational hygienist in minutes, use the contact links above to reach us or call us on 01453 800100

Reference to the COSHH Regulations:

Regulation 11(9) details the duties on the employer once an employee is found to have an identifiable disease or adverse health effect.  The employer should ensure that:

  • the employee is notified and advised about further health surveillance;
  • the risk assessment is reviewed;
  • the measures taken under Regulation 7 are reviewed;
  • consideration is given to assigning the employee other work; and
  • the health of any other employees who may have been similarly exposed should  be reviewed e.g. another medical examination is required.

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Please complete the form below and we promise to respond within 24 hrs. If you need more urgent help just call 01453 800109 and ask for Andrea.

Lyme disease and the risk to landscapers and construction workers

In May 2013 a petition was handed to the Department of Health demanding better diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease.  You may be aware of its existence but many are not but it can present an occupational risk which affects a range of professions and trades with up to 3,000 new cases being reported each year in the UK.  Lyme disease has no vaccination and can be very damaging if left untreated severe fatigue, heart problems, nerve damage and headaches.

  1. Architects
  2. Landscapers
  3. Landscape architects
  4. Environmental professionals
  5. Highways specialists
  6. Structural engineers
  7. Ground workers
  8. Arboriculture workers
  9. Forestry workers
  10. Farm workers
  11. plus foragers, hikers, mountain bikers and so on

Lyme disease is spread to humans via ticks with heathland, rough grassland and woodland being the primary sources but you can still catch ticks whilst being in a garden – I removed one from my 4 year old boy just last week!

As we said, a vaccine doesn’t exist but you can reduce your chances of being bitten;

  1. wear long sleeved trousers and shirts – even in warm weather;
  2. If clothes are light in colour ticks can be more easily spotted and removed before they bite;
  3. Give workers information so they can identify ticks, before they’ve fed they can be no bigger than poppy seeds, they don’t fly but they do crawl quickly after jumping onto you from a nearby branch or plant;
  4. Get workers to check themselves after working in known tick zones (even in the harder to reach areas!);
  5. If you are working in a known tick zone then clothes can be treated with permethrin based repellents which can kill ticks on contact.  But, check first with staff and give them a choice allowing them to refer to their GP or pharmacist if required.

Tick removal

To minimize tick exposure, wear rubber boots and tuck pant legs into the boots so ticks have a hard time grabbing on, advise Mississippi State University experts. (Photo courtesy of Jerome Goddard. Used with permission.)

Perhaps the most important element of protecting your self is removing a tick correctly, we’ve summarised this below but you can also see this link for more information and to purchase a specialist tool if your staff are working in high risk areas; http://www.bada-uk.org/defence/removal/indextickremoval.php

  1. Grasp the tick as close to the  skin as possible and pull upwards with steady, even pressure. Do not twist or jerk the tick as this may leave the mouth parts embedded or cause the tick to regurgitate infective fluids.
  2. Remove any embedded mouth parts with tweezers or a sterilised needle.
  3. Do not squeeze or crush the body of the tick, because its fluids (saliva and gut contents) may contain infective organisms.
  4. Do not handle the tick with bare hands, because infective agents may enter through breaks in the skin, or through mucous membranes (if you touch eyes, nostrils or mouth).
  5. After removing the tick, disinfect the bite site and wash hands with soap and water.
  6. Save the tick for identification in case you become ill within several weeks. Write the date of the bite in pencil on a piece of paper and put it with the tick in a sealed plastic bag and store it in a freezer.
    1. DO NOT use petroleum jelly, any liquid solutions, or freeze / burn the tick, as this will stimulate it to regurgitate its stomach contents, increasing the chance of infection.tick-bite-lyme-disease-risk-assessment

Ensure that your staff are aware of the potential risk and know what to do.  Not all ticks will carry the disease but these simple precautions (and a pair of special tweezers) will protect your staff from harm.

Risk assessments: Say what you do, do what you say

We often hear from clients that they would like to simply to protected from prosecution and civil claims.  On the face of it, this sounds relatively simple and achievable but reality then bites and we have to explain why no one can guarantee this – not even us!

However, a client can often be their own worst enemy on this front and here’s why;

  1. a client will ask us to produce risk assessments and method statements, this we do but we ask that the client reviews these documents with their staff to ensure they are appropriate and proportional;
  2. a client will like the paperwork which we produce, and so will their clients, but they won’t always work to this paperwork we supply;
  3. we will include space in our RAMS for simple checks and measures to ensure that what is written takes place but a client often won’t carry out these checks;
  4. we will ask that the client reviews everything within the safety policy to ensure that it reflects what they do, it stands as a commitment on how they will control risk in their business but a client won’t always do this;
  5. It might also be worth writing down what you choose not to do as well as what you did as this can make the difference should an accident need to be defended.

We know that you’re busy but they old adage rings true;

“you don’t get what you want, you get what you really want!”

In other words, you have to really want to control risk and protect your business in order to achieve that goal.  That means time, effort and resources.  If you’re not happy with the documents produced tell your consultant.  If they need to be changed 20 times to get them right we’re always happy to do that – if you don’t believe that then put us to the test.

We believe that businesses can get to a place where they are protected from prosecution, Fee For Intervention and No Win No Fee actions. The question is how much you want it…

Waste industry pushes safety blueprint for all waste and recycling businesses

Representatives of the waste and recycling sector have agreed a five-point plan for reducing the number of people killed and seriously injured in the industry.

The Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) Forum – which includes representatives from the HSE, trade and professional associations, unions, recycling organisations and government bodies – has been working on its blueprint for better risk management since a landmark summit in February.

The final plan, published last week, focuses attention on those areas where industry leaders believe action should be prioritised.

Between 2004/5 and 2011/12, 97 workers and 19 members of the public were fatally injured in waste and recycling activities, making it one of Britain’s deadliest industries.

WISH’s plan to reduce the industry’s death toll covers 24 immediate action points, under five strategic themes: strong leadership; worker involvement; competence; creating healthier and safer workplaces; and providing support for small and medium-sized employers.

Key initiatives include the industry developing its own leadership standards, publishing new training materials on successful worker involvement, and working with customers to use their leverage to promote improved competence.

Chris Jones, WISH chair and director of risk management and compliance at Cory Environmental, said: “There’s no shortage of desire in the industry to improve our record – this was clear from the summit in February and the amount of energy and commitment that has been shown in getting us to this point in publishing the blueprint.

“If the industry combines its efforts, contributes and supports the work needed, then everything is achievable, and without unreasonable cost, or burden. The more that take part in, and contribute to, the working groups that are being set up, the greater will be the knowledge base, the wider the experience, and the lesser will be the burden upon everybody.

“We wanted this to be a sort of roadmap to healthier and safer industry – something that lets anyone in waste and recycling join us on a journey. There’s a long road ahead but we’re off in the right direction.”

To reduce unnecessary duplication and maximise impact, the blueprint commits each working group to act as a knowledge hub, making the necessary links to, and coordinate, existing initiatives and working groups already established from across industry to deliver actions.

Commenting on the plans, HSE waste and recycling lead Graeme Walker said: “This is a really important development in the drive for improved health and safety in the waste and recycling sector – it shows the industry’s unequivocal commitment to reducing the number of people killed, injured, or made unwell.

“We know from our experience in other sectors, such as construction, that long-term sustainable improvements rely on strong industry leadership and that is what we are seeing here.”

Key figures from across the industry are being recruited to chair sub-groups to help implement the plan, which will be updated regularly. WISH will continue to oversee the implementation and its members will act as advocates in each of the sub-groups.

The WISH blueprint is available at www.hse.gov.uk/waste/wish-blueprint.pdf

Company and supplier prosecuted for poor machinery guarding after worker has finger ripped off

Both the operating business and the machinery installer have admitted safety failings after a worker had his finger ripped off by an unguarded machine at a factory in Wales.

Brian Allen, 53, was working at Ardagh Metal Packaging (UK) Ltd’s factory in Dragon Parc, Merthyr Tydfil, when the incident took place on 25 January 2011.

He was feeding sheets into the conveyor of a coating machine when his wedding ring got caught and his finger was severed. He still suffers continual pain and is unable to grip properly with his injured hand.

The HSE investigated the incident and found Crabtree of Gateshead Ltd had installed the machine without guards around the moving parts. Ardagh Metal Packaging had also failed to identify the risks posed by the missing guards.

On 4 March 2011, the HSE issued two Improvement Notices, which required Ardagh Metal Packaging to carry out a sufficient risk assessment and install guards on the machine.

HSE inspector Paul Cartwright said: “Risk assessments by Crabtree identified that the conveyor could cause injury and a warning was included in the operating manual, but they nonetheless supplied the machine without adequate guarding.

“Ardagh, meanwhile, failed to identify the risk, despite the practice of hand-feeding sheets into the conveyor being well known to operators.

“This case demonstrates the need for employers to carry out their own assessment of the risks posed by machinery, based on the circumstances in which the equipment will be used. It is not sufficient to assume that [a machine] is safe as soon as it is purchased.”

Ardagh Metal Packaging (UK) Ltd appeared at Merthyr Tydfil Magistrates’ Court yesterday (6 June) and pleaded guilty to breaching reg.11(1) of PUWER 1998. It was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £11,754 in costs.

Crabtree of Gateshead Ltd appeared at the same hearing and pleaded guilty to the same charge. It was fined £3000 and ordered to pay £14,570 towards costs.

After the hearing, inspector Paul Cartwright added: “Involving workers in the risk-assessment process is crucial. Had the employees been consulted by either company it would have been apparent that hand-feeding of sheets on to the conveyor took place. This would have alerted Ardagh and Crabtree to the need for adequate guarding, which has now been installed.”