Tag Archives: occupational hygiene

Could Health and Safety Fines rise even higher? Probably….

HSEWe have seen fines for health and safety offences increases by 10-15 x their former levels since the Sentencing Guidelines were introduced in 2016 (see our earlier article for more information).

A recent article by Dr Simon Joyston-Bechal of Turnstone Law discusses sentences applying to individuals who have put cost cutting before safety being increased to 8 or more years in prison.  More worryingly, where the two aspects for consideration under the existing sentencing guidelines are triggered you could also be moved into the very high category with a starting point of 12 years in jail (and a range of 10-18 years).

These are in consultation at present on the Sentencing Councils website and it seems from the examples used that the Council would wish to see higher fines introduced in the case of health and safety offences.  They are not law yet but it does look increasingly likely that these revisions will make it through to becoming law.

You can read the article in more detail on the SHP website here; Gross negligence manslaughter: ‘Sit up & take note’ as jail terms increase

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Health and Safety Vs the Hipsters – are beards to be outlawed on site?

We’ve been carrying out face fit tests and advising our clients on the selection and use of RPE (face masks and similar) for many years now.

Our position as occupational hygiene specialists means that we have been more exposed to this issue more than many of our peers and it has always been a difficult one to address.

The issue surrounding beards lies in both their current popularity and their incompatibility with good practice when it comes to protecting workers from dusts.  A simple mantra we keep returning to in our toolbox talks and support work for clients across the UK is that you won’t see a fire fighter with a beard.

We’ve been reading about the case of  Mears and the response from Unite (the Union) recently and whilst we do have sympathy with each party, overall we have to side with Mears rather than Unite.  The simple truth is that beards and RPE don’t mix well, and whilst you can use air fed helmets they’re not always the right choice.

See below for comments from both Mears and from Unite.  If you have your own questions please contact us to discuss what you can do.

Unite National Health and Safety Adviser Susan Murray said:

“An employer should first assess the risks presented by exposure to hazardous substances, then identify the steps needed to adequately control the risks; put them into operation and ensure they remain effective.

The use of Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) may be one of the control measures, but the wearing of face masks should be a last resort and priority should always be given to eliminating the risk.

Before any policy is introduced there should be full and proper consultation. It is crucial that the policy recognises the diversity of the workforce and the principle that workers should be consulted and given a choice of several correctly specified types of RPE so they can choose the one they like.”

Seal not possible with beard or heavy stubble

Mark Elkington, Group Health and Safety Director of Mears Group responded as follow:

“We are pretty surprised that Unite, who claim to have the safety of workers at heart have taken this disappointing stance.

Every employer in the UK has a legal responsibility to ensure that employees working in dusty or otherwise potentially hazardous environments are properly protected and in recent years employers have been prosecuted for failing to fulfil this duty.

The simple fact is that no dust mask can work effectively unless it forms a seal against the skin. That is not possible with a beard or even heavy stubble. If the Health and Safety Executive did a spot site visit and found workers wearing dust masks that were not sealed against the face then we would be liable to prosecution.

The alternative to a dust mask is a full hood over the head, which brings its own risks. For example many of our operatives do not like wearing a full hood and it can affect hearing and line of sight. It can also be uncomfortable to wear and can raise concerns with our clients who do not like to see workers in such hoods because of how it looks to customers.

It is vital to note, however, that if a risk assessment shows that the hood is a better option for a job or a worker insisted on having one, then we will supply that hood so Unite’s reference to cost saving is absolute nonsense.

If one of our workers suffers respiratory illness as a result of a poor fitting mask then that is our responsibility and we place the safety of our workers at the top of the priority list. Finally it is worthy of note that this affects a very small percentage of our workers who would be in that environment.”

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Use of Plant on Construction Sites – New HSE guidance on Overturning

There have been more instances of tele-handlers and dumpers overturning on construction sites with often tragic consequences. These days we have trained operators and good site traffic management on most sites we see but in spite of this we are still seeing too many overturns.

This gave use cause to think and discuss this in the office and we have the following thoughts for you to consider which will be helpful when seeking to manage these risks;

  1. Are roll bars always in the upright position – staff sometimes do not put them into place following delivery;
  2. Seat belts are still not being worn and warning systems are being defeated as operators are still under the impression that they could somehow ‘jump free’ of the vehicle if it should overturn  this just isn’t the case;
  3. Training often does not teach good practice for using this machinery (in particular dumpers) on slopes, this is essential and should make up a toolbox talk and really should be part of any operators training – check your training satisfies this area;
  4. Some zones may not be suitable for dumpers and telehandlers – mark exclusions zones for soft ground and steeper slopes;
  5. Tyre pressures are crucial – make sure staff check pressures daily as a small change in pressure (as little as 5 psi) can have an enormous effect on load capacity.  Tyres must be check when cold at the start of each day.

Find out more about the safety of telehandlers here by reading the latest research report from HSE.  General information about plant safety can be found on the HSE website here.

Contact us on 01453 800100 if you need expert help with health and safety for a fixed cost or use contact us above or the form below to request a proposal;

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Clients receives huge fine after self employed contractor falls from MEWP

falls from heightYou are most probably aware of the duties you have as a client to select contractors which are competent and adequately resourced for safety.  Sometimes you will also need to convince others within your supply chain or business of the need to complete a thorough assessment and the case below may offer assistance.

In this case a major company had employed a self employed contractor to carry out work installing updated fire detection equipment at its Yate factory site. Due to a failure to plan and supervise the work correctly an overhead conveyor was started which ultimately led to a fall of over 5 metres for from the Mobile Elevating Work Platform (MEWP) which the contractor was using.

Maintenance workers employed by Whirlpool UK Appliances Ltd were unaware that starting the conveyor system would results in this tragedy as they had not been told that this work was taking place.  An HSE investigation found that there were no effective controls or supervision in place to prevent these conflicting work tasks from being undertaken at the same time.

The company pleaded guilty at Bristol Crown Court to breaching section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £700,000 and ordered to pay costs of £11,466.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Matt Tyler said:

“This is a tragic case where the incident could have been prevented if the company had planned and controlled the work properly.”

Contact us on 01453 800100 if you need expert help with health and safety for a fixed cost or use contact us above or the form below to request a proposal;

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Occupational Health: Alveolitis in Metal Working

Health is becoming the central thrust of any HSE visit and with good reason, health causes a huge impact on individuals and a massive strain on our NHS. However, not all safety professionals are aware of these risks well enough to control them and that’s where expert, external, independent advice can be invaluable.

Alveolitis is a condition of the lung caused by the inhalation of the mist created by metal working fluid when machining – particularly at higher speeds.

The Hazards of Metal Working Fluids (MWF)

Exposure to MWF can be hazardous in several ways but dermatitis from skin contact and lung problems from inhalation are the two major issues.  Biocides are often introduced into MWF’s to stop bacterial growth and this gives the clue about what can happen to the lungs when a fine mist is inhaled by workers.

Over a period of time workers may develop a number of ill health conditions including;

  • bronchitis;
  • irritation of the upper respiratory tract;
  • occupational asthma;
  • or, most seriously, extrinsic allergic alveolitis (EEA).

If you use MWF then seek to control exposure by minimising the volume and rate of delivery at the cutting point or seek to capture mist or enclose it within CNC machines.  If you use a small bright torch with a focusing beam you may be able to seek where and how mist is rising from the process – we issue these torches for free to our clients so if you need one please ask – we’ve helped many businesses with this simple tool.

Consider also your current health surveillance provision – if you need any help and support we can provide skilled practitioners to help you put a robust health surveillance plan in place – just call us on 01453 800100 for more detail and read here for a case study involving a major aerospace company which was recently fined £800,000

Contact us on 01453 800100 if you need expert help with health and safety for a fixed cost or use contact us above or the form below to request a proposal;

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Major aerospace company receives £800,000 fine for occupational ill health

Martin Baker Aircraft Company has been fined £800,000 after three of its workers developed Extrinsic Allergic Alveolitis (EEA).

EEA is often caused when workers inhale contaminated metal working fluids as a mist when high speed machining is taking place, these fluids can provide a home for bacteria and other organisms to breed and lead to serious and ongoing illness.

Extrinsic Allergic Alveolitis

EEA is a condition which causes the small air scacs within the lungs (alveoli) to become inflamed in an allergic reaction. Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath and joint pain.

The three workers suffering from the condition had been exposed to MWF mist for three years and were among a group of 60 staff which the HSE found to have been put at risk. One of the workers was said to have become virtually paralysed by the illness and the two others have become restricted in the types of work they can undertake in future as they must now avoid contact with the substance.

HSE investigation leads to massive fine

The HSE investigated and found that Martin Baker Aircraft Company (MBAC) had not done enough to reduce the risk with no system of cleaning away the excess fluid and a lack of extraction to prevent the build-up of MWF mist. In addition, they found that there was also a lack of health surveillance (required under Regulation 11 of COSHH.

In court MBAC pleaded guilty to breaching s.2 (1)Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and Reg 6(1) Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 . It was fined £800,000 with £36,912 in costs – one of the highest ever penalties for occupational health offences.

Contact us on 01453 800100 if you need expert help with health and safety for a fixed cost or use contact us above or the form below to request a proposal;

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HSE to Issue Construction Sector Plan for 2017 – 2022: emphasis on CDM 2015 compliance

HSEThe Board of HSE met in December to discuss draft sectors plans for construction for the coming 3-5 year period, the summary of the points for consideration are listed below with the emphasis being placed on Health, Smaller Business and CDM 2015;

HSE Priorities

  1. Health Hazards – reducing incidents of ill-health, with a particular focus on occupational lung disease and musculoskeletal disorders;
  2. Small Businesses – supporting small businesses to achieve improved risk management and control; and
  3. CDM Regulations 2015 – embedding the principles of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM).

HSE will secure effective management and control of risk by:

  • Project Regulation – directing inspection and enforcement at those failing to manage and control risks, focusing on health risks refurbishment, and licenced asbestos removal;
  • Central interventions – visiting dutyholders to review their health risk management arrangements using leading indicators in the Construction Health Risks Toolkit; and
  • CDM 2015 Pre-Construction Phase – intervening with construction clients, principal designers and designers to ensure proportionate CDM understanding and compliance, working with or through other health and safety regulators (eg ONR) where necessary.

HSE will lead and engage with others to improve workplace health and safety by:

  • Health Ownership – working with the Health in Construction Leadership Group in promoting the ownership by industry of good health risk management, and the development of case studies and health-specific leading indicators;
  • Awareness Research – funding communication insight research enabling improved risk awareness, management and mitigation in small and micro businesses;
  • CDM 2015  for SMEs – helping small businesses to comply proportionately with CDM, eg case studies on social media;
  • Designer Risk Mitigation – working with professional bodies to enhance the competence of designers through the effective teaching of design risk mitigation across built environment higher education courses;
  • BIM Promotion – demonstrating the effective use of building information modelling (BIM) to improve risk information sharing, coordination and collaboration throughout the construction process; and
  • Manual Handling – working with supply chains to reduce risks from manual handling.

HSE will reduce the likelihood of low-frequency, high-impact catastrophic incidents by:

  • Major Projects – early and strategic interventions with major projects, including Crossrail, HS2, Thames Tideway, power generation decommissioning and new build; and
  • Risk Leadership – working with industry to develop clear standards of construction risk leadership and leading performance.

Contact us on 01453 800100 if you need expert help with health and safety for a fixed cost or use contact us above or the form below to request a proposal;

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HSE consults on enforcing safety for all businesses (with FFI)

HSEIn July HSE ran a consultation on health and safety enforcement allocation with a view to how it shares its enforcement role with local authorities EHO’s (environmental health officers).

A number of options were on the table ranging from completely absorbing the LAs’ regulatory powers for health and safety to allocating them greater duties. It should be remembered that HSE no longer has the resources to directly support the LA’s and that a strange situation has occurred for some clients where one site could be under LA enforcement which has no FFI and another very similar site comes under HSE and is liable to its FFI costs of £124 per hour – hardly fair and equitable!

HSE will always have its place in setting policies and drafting legislation but LA’s play a major part in health and safety enforcement for smaller businesses, from hairdressers all the way up to large vehicle maintenance depots with a diverse range of risk. Their role of the LA’s (EHO), as defined in the Health and Safety (Enforcing Authority) Regulations 1998 , is to regulate the retail, leisure and service-based sectors with HSE covering pretty much everything else.

However, the government has slashed LA budgets and one of the departments that took the biggest hit was health and safety enforcement leading to a significant reduction in the number of safety inspections conducted.  In addition, staff training  and the support on offer from HSE to inspectors is not what it once was and money continues to be tight and budgets squeezed.  This has led to further and harsher enforcement by HSE under its fee-for-intervention scheme which allows it to charge for its inspectors’ time and is currently worth several million pounds in income each year (see our post on how prosecutions have trebled here).

The likely outcome?  We think HSE will start to take over more and more of the current enforcement territory of the EHO’s leading to many more businesses who are currently out of scope as far as FFI is concerned coming into contact with HSE and its systems of fee’s and fines.

The full findings of the review will be handed to the HSE board in 2017and, once plans are agreed, legislation will have to be amended.

Contact us on 01453 800100 if you need expert help with health and safety for a fixed cost or use contact us above or the form below to request a proposal;

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Dusts in construction, their risks and how to manage them

dust RCS crystalline silicaHealth in construction is a big issue and HSE are pushing hard to get the message out to clients of all sizes that health in construction is a very high risk.  The latest figures show that as many as 100 staff per week die from ill health causes through their job – and that’s just the construction sector!

With this in mind we are working with our clients to address these risks, educate their staff through training courses and toolbox talks and also running free sessions on the risks associated with construction dusts and how to manage them – the next of which is running in November 2016 at our offices in Stroud.  Check out this link for the talk which we gave to WWT (an HSE and Construction industry partnership organisation)

These talks won’t just give you an understanding of the risk present, they’ll give you clear and workable advice on how to manage them through changes in working practices and tool selection, we’ll also have expert advice from Dust Control UK on what equipment you can use to clean up dusts without exposing your staff and your clients to cancer causing Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS).

We’ll update you on the free course and also put a booking link here as soon as its live on our Eventbrite page, in the meantime feel free to look at these Workers Stories from HSE to give you some useful resources to raise the issue of construction dusts with your staff and click here to see HSE’s latest Health in Construction – The Facts poster HSE;

 

Free Event on Working at Height, Barnstaple 20 Oct. 2016 WWT and HSE

Don’t miss this opportunity to hear from experts on exactly how to HSEkeep you staff safe when working at height. To secure a place(s) please complete the registration page at: Book your free place now!

The construction industry has taken huge strides forward in tackling risk and reducing injury rateOS Logo Emails over recent years but still has a significant opportunity to make our high-hazard industry safer still and to drive down the alarming rates of accident and ill health linked to construction work in particular to refurbishment projects.

Event Programme
08:30 – 09:00 REGISTRATION TEA/COFFEE
09:00 – 09:15 Welcome and introduction
09:15 – 12:30 The programme will consist of talks and demonstrations on:

  1. Asbestos Awareness
  2. Working at Height
  3. Scaffolding
  4. Dust and Face Fit Testing
  5. Manual Handing

Mid-morning Break will include Tea/Coffee with Breakfast Roll. You will be asked to complete a feedback form in return for an  attendance certificate.

The event will consist of talks and demonstrations with the opportunity to ask questions from those within the industry as well as an HSE inspector.

Whether you are a self-employed jobbing builder or run a small building company this free event is a must. Places at this event are limited and it is likely to be highly popular – BOOK NOW!

Petroc College of Further Education,
Old Sticklepath Hill,
Barnstaple,
EX31 2BQ

Parking facilities are available on site. The college currently  operate a pay and display system on the premises at a cost of £1.00 per day, per vehicle.

Contact us on 01453 800100 if you need expert help with health and safety for a fixed cost or use contact us above of the form below to request a proposal;

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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.