Updates on new and changing regulations plus best practice in health, safety, quality and environment

Children and Construction Site Dangers: Stay Safe, Stay Away – Free Video

With the Summer holidays looming and many constructions sites situated near to where children play and have access to, extra care needs to be adhered to, to ensure all safety measures are in place. Children are often attracted to the noise, trucks and materials on a building site but are unaware of the dangers that await them. Correct signage and following the relevant health & safety procedures are prevalent and would prevent unfortunate incidents involving children occurring.

Our work supporting the Working Well Together Campaign is something we’re very committed to.  Our MD serves as Treasurer for the Southwest Region and attends meetings with HSE representatives and key members of the Health and Safety Executive and we help drive the safety message out to many small builders who would otherwise miss key safety messages like those around RCS and dust control.  Check out their new safety video aimed at primary aged school children here and feel free to distribute and use it as much as you can.

Take for example the case of Westdale Services Ltd; the failure to provide an adequate ladder guard, resulted in a young boy gaining access and climbing to the top platform of the scaffold, then climbing to the uppermost ladder to a height of approximately 10 metres. Regrettably, the boy fell causing life-changing injuries; he now has no bowel or bladder control and is unable to walk any distance.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the security arrangements for preventing access to the scaffolding, especially by children from a nearby school, were inadequate.

Westdale Services Limited of Doncaster Road, Askern, Doncaster pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and has been fined £160,000 and ordered to pay £22,310 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Michael Batt commented: “The death or injury of a child is particularly tragic and a lot of thought must go into securing construction sites. Children do not perceive danger as adults do. The potential for unauthorized access to construction sites must be carefully risk assessed and effective controls put in place.

“This incident could have been prevented by removal of the ladder completely or installing an appropriately sized ladder guard to cover the full width of the rungs.”

At Outsource Safety we work with construction and industry across the UK. We provide outsourced and interim support for every sector with our experienced professionals always on hand for expert advice.  If you’d like to support Working Well Together or would like to know about future events please contact us or email directly: wwtswg@gmail.com

Posted by Roger Hart

HSE increase FFI hourly rate by 20%!

HSEIt may be time to review your health & safety policies and set in place the correct measures following the announcement that the HSE are increasing their FFI hourly rate from £129 to £154 with effect from the 6th April 2019. This has been the second increase since the scheme was introduced in 2012, starting off at an hourly rate of £124 and increasing in 2016 to £129 per hour. In a statement, the HSE stated that this can be attributed in part to the fact that the scheme has been operating at a loss.

A representative from the HSE commented:

“HSE’s cost recovery rate for FFI (Fee for Intervention) will increase to £154 per hour with effect from 6 April 2019. This means that businesses that are found to be in material breach of health and safety law will be charged at this new rate. As now, those businesses that meet their legal requirements will not pay anything for HSE’s regulatory activity. HSE must set the FFI rate with the aim of recovering its full cost and in recent years it has operated at a deficit (i.e. cost more than recovered in income). A combination of this and cumulative inflationary pressures support the increased hourly rate.”.

Charlotte O’Kane, associate at law firm Pinsent Mason, speaking to IOSH magazine advised…

“It serves to emphasize the fact that organisations should be ensuring that they are complying with the law and operating safely in order to avoid these FFI invoices being served in the first place. It’s getting more expensive to be investigated by the HSE and if they find a material breach, that is now going to be significantly more expensive.”

Under the scheme, the HSE only recovers costs of its regulatory work from non-compliant duty holders found to be in material breach of safety and health law, covering an inspectors time spent identifying and resolving the issue, as well as any investigation or enforcement action up to the point where HSE’s intervention has been concluded or a prosecution is started, or a report submitted to the Procurator Fiscal in Scotland. It is calculated by multiplying the time spent on FFI activity by the hourly rate.

Should you need assisting addressing any health & safety issues our friendly staff at Outsource safety are on hand to offer solutions to your problems. We have qualified experienced Safety Consultants with in excess of 20 years on hand knowledge and can walk you through your SSIP applications. In addition, we can offer Safety~net competent person support to assist with Risk and COSHH assessments.

Posted by Roger Hart

Overhead Power Strike Death – Do you communicate your Risk Assessments to the workforce or are they just a paper exercise?

From the provision of health and safety policies, risk assessments/method statements and toolbox talks to the delivery of Safety~net contracts, Outsource Safety can hold your hand through the mine field of health & safety requirements and procedures, ensuring you are covered for most eventualities.

Communication of risk to the workforce in the form of training is a key focus of the majority of our Safety~net contracts. We believe that paperwork exercises are a waste of time and money unless they are supported by implementation and communication.

The need to understand how to conduct a dynamic risk assessment when out on site is key. Failure to do so can result in a tragic outcome as occurred in the following case.

The failure to communicate safety precautions to the driver of a grab lorry resulted in the unfortunate death of an Options Energy Resource employee. The case held at Luton Crown Court heard how a driver of a grab lorry was unloading material at a farm location in Hertfordshire, when the grab arm came into contact with an 11kv overhead power line. It became apparent during the hearing that safety documentation had not been communicated and followed. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the defendant identified the risk but had failed to implement the precautions adequately, plan construction work and train the employees. The company in question pleaded guilty to breaching section 3 of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and were fined £400,000.00 and ordered to pay costs of £17,242.33.

Following the hearing, HSE inspector Samantha Wells commented: “This was a tragic and wholly avoidable incident, caused by the failure of Options Energy Resource LLP to implement safe systems of work and to ensure that health and safety documentation was communicated and followed.

Every year in the UK, two people are killed and many more injured when machinery comes into contact with, or close proximity to, overhead power lines”.

Posted by Roger Hart

Hot Cutting Work & Potential Explosion Risks – how aware are you?

Scarily many lives have been lost over the years by incorrect use of hot works application. The need to understand how to conduct a dynamic risk assessment when dealing with potentially flammable goods is crucial. Failure to do so can result in a tragic outcome, as occurred in the following case.

Recently a commercial vehicle dealer with 11 branches in the South West, Rygor Commercials, was fined after a workman lost his leg from the knee down following the cutting up of an oil drum which exploded. Magistrates were told how the employee was injured after he used oxy-acetylene gas cutting equipment to cut up empty oil drums. The flame from the equipment ignited following contact with the vapours from the oil drum causing an explosion, resulting in the drum lid hitting the employees lower right leg, causing him to ultimately lose the lower part of his right leg.

Following an HSE investigation it was found that the company failed to provide a safe system of work to dispose of the stockpile of empty oil drums. It was also found to be negligent in providing adequate training in the risks associated with the use of oxy-acetylene gas equipment. As a result, the company were ordered to pay £9671.55 costs and were fined £400,000 for breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and Regulation 5 of the Dangerous Substances and Explosives Atmospheres Regulations 2002.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Nancy Harman said:

“Those in control of work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workers.

If a suitable safe system of work had been in place prior to the incident, the life changing injuries sustained by the employee could have been prevented.”

Here at Outsource Safety we are able to provide Toolbox talks to cover off appropriate methods of approach to issues such as safe disposal of oil drums and flammable materials in addition to the available support from the HSE guidance notes. We can tailor a policy to cover off your health & safety requirements in the form of a Safety~Net Contract. Communication of risk to the workforce in the form of training is a key focus of the work carried out at Outsource Safety and can avoid and prevent life changing injuries such as the case highlighted above.

Posted by Roger Hart

Two employees injured after oxygen cylinder ‘fired’ into workshop

At Outsource we specialise in making sense of safety, allowing our clients to receive sensible and proportional advice on how to make their business activity as safe as possible.

The critical process of implementing a risk assessment and safe system of work was clearly disregarded when two employees suffered serious injuries after an oxygen cylinder fired into a workshop.

Two employees of an engineering company were seriously injured during disposal of old gas cylinders at the company site in Hull in January 2017.

It was heard by Beverley Magistrates how the defendant company were enlisted to decommission approximately eight or nine gas cylinders, believed to contain oxygen. The cylinders had been laid outside in the company’s premises. All pressure release valves were open to empty any remaining gas in the cylinders.

Following this process an employee began to remove the pressure release valves from each of the cylinders. When he attempted to remove the valve on the last cylinder it became clear that it was stuck and could not be removed. An additional employee assisted the other worker in trying to dislodge the valve using a hammer. During this time the cylinder and valve separated violently as the gas which remained in the cylinder was abruptly released.

The cylinder proceeded to fire into the workshop, striking two employees stood inside. The employees suffered serious injuries to their lower limbs. Both employees needed multiple surgeries to reverse the damage and spent several weeks in hospital. One of the employees struck by the cylinder has been unable to return to work.

HSE investigators found that there was no safe system of work in place for the decommissioning and disposal of the old gas cylinders. Furthermore the company failed to carry out a suitable risk assessment to identify the associated risks.

Redhall Engineering Services Ltd of Winestead Lane, Hull, pleaded guilty to breaching section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and were find £14,000 and ordered to pay costs totalling £2,687.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector James Harvey said:

“This case highlights the serious risks posed by gas cylinders and how the correct disposal as well as cylinder handling and storage is fundamental to ensuring safety.”

Posted by Roger Hart

Respirable crystalline silica health surveillance – are you compliant?

There’s a huge amount being written about respirable crystalline silica of late.  We’ve been speaking about this for the past 22 years and have completed many monitoring and sampling programs for respirable crystalline silica (RCS) since our consultancy first started back in the early 90’s and we think you need to know more about what’s expected of your respirable crystalline silica health surveillance programme.

In the past 22 years we like to think we’ve played a part in raising awareness amongst a lot of different people through construction and related trades through free talks at Working Well Together events through to stopping people I’ve walked past or even had in as trades at home and speaking to them about the real risks and the misconceptions on the dangers of RCS exposure.

Respirable crystalline silica health surveillance

For most contractors, the message is getting to them and we now see more people wearing the right equipment more of the time.  Yes, we still have a long way to go but things are improving.  But what about those businesses that have raised awareness in their workforces and supply chains.  The slightly bigger companies which have really started to address risks from RCS, and also construction dust in general, at their sites – are they now compliant?  Are they managing risks to the correct standards?

We think that the answer to that question is No.

HSE document G404: COSHH Essentials. Health surveillance for those exposed to respirable crystalline silica gives good advice on what you are expected to do to monitor the health of your workforce and we’d suggest that you review it.  Particularly because Regulation 11 of COSHH (Health Surveillance) is a key area of fines under HSE’s Fee For Intervention scheme, as we stated in our White Paper on Fee For Intervention.

If you’d like to delve a little deeper and make sure your occupational health provider is as competent as your Occupational Hygienist (that’s us) then also review the supplementary document here which provide questionnaires and more specific advice on what to include in this health surveillance programme and who the competent person should be for carrying out each stage of the health surveillance programme.

Summary of health surveillance for RCS exposed employees

Check the below and see if your current arrangements are compliant (extracted form the HSE supplemetatry guidance document available here

Baseline assessment for new entrants, before or shortly after first exposure to RCS, would include:
  • respiratory questionnaire (Example 1);
  • lung function testing (spirometry) to measure forced expiratory volume (FEV1) and forced vital capacity (FVC). FEV 1 is measured to within current American Thoracic Society (ATS)/European Respiratory Society (ERS) stipulated accuracy of 150 mls (or 100 mls if below 1 litre). The results should be recorded to monitor how values change with time (see Example 1B); and
  • consideration of a baseline chest X-ray for comparison with future chest X-rays.
After that, for both new-entrant and pre-existing employees, annual health surveillance would include:
  • respiratory questionnaire; and
  • lung function testing.
After 15 years of exposure to RCS
For employees who have had 15 years of exposure to RCS while working for one
or more employer(s), the health surveillance for that year would include:
  • respiratory questionnaire;
  • lung function testing; and
  • PA (posterior to anterior) chest X-ray.
(This includes pre-existing employees with previous RCS exposure of 15 or more years at the time of introducing the health surveillance programme.)

Subsequent health surveillance (as detailed in Example 2) would be repeated annually (or earlier if indicated by the results of health surveillance or if a worker complained of symptoms in the intervening period). The employer may appoint a responsible person (supported by an appropriate health professional) so that workers can report symptoms.

Annual health surveillance would include:
  • respiratory questionnaire;
  • lung function testing; and
  • every 3 years, a PA chest X-ray.
In summary
To summarise the above health surveillance programme:
  • questionnaires and lung function tests at baseline and annually thereafter; and
  • PA chest X-rays at baseline, after 15 years, and every 3 years after that, unless advised otherwise by a health professional.
Posted by Roger Hart

Is your mask protecting you? Selecting and using dust masks

HSE have updated their guidance on selecting and using dust masks and can provide a helpful card which can then assist your staff in ensuring they get a good fit and the protection they need against dust. Many of us use dust masks everyday and its worth a recap on what you should expect of your RPE, how to make the best use of it and where you make mistakes which result in unnecessary exposures to the substance you’re hoping to protect yourself from.

Selecting and using dust masks

I’m glad to say that things have changed for the better over the past 10 or so years. I visit a lot of businesses when carrying out air monitoring or just through routine support visits under our Safety~net scheme and most clients are getting it right.  I think this is down to better education, a higher level of interest and the face fit requirements penetrating ever further through our industry and construction clients. Selecting and using dust masks often isn’t the problem.

However, there is one glaring error which I often see… not keeping the mask in a clean bag or container when it’s not in use.  It’s surprisingly common to work throughout your morning wearing a dust mask only to leave it on a bench or somewhere similar whilst you take a short break.  You then return, put it on and get a whole days worth of exposure in one breath because you didn’t put it back in a bag.

Take the example of RCS (respirable crystalline silica), the image below shows how much the limit is as an amount we can all visualise.  You don’t need a lot of dust in your mask to reach that limit and put your life at risk over the long term, there are thousands of deaths every year despite all of our best efforts and this is likely a significant contributory factor.

We’d also suggest a quick and simple test each time you put the mask on by breathing out a feeling for any signs of leakage around the nose or chin, if you have safety glasses on you also might get steaming of the lenses – this is a sign your fit could be better and needs to be adjusted.

Types of protection and their suitability

Finally here’s a recap on what type of dust mask you should be wearing. Some manufacturers such as Alpha Solway are even colour coding their masks to enable you to quickly tell if all your staff are wearing the correct rating – a great idea in our opinion. Each mask will be CE marked and will show its compliance to EN 149:2001,m if it doesn’t it’s not worth wearing so please check that first. Some suppliers will sell ‘nuisance dust masks’ which don’t these requirements, they’re not what you need and so don’t buy them.

There are three levels of FFP (Filtering Face Piece) masks, 1, 2 and 3;

  • FFP1 dust masks protect against low-level contaminants, 4x and are suitable for applications like hand sanding, drilling, and cutting.
  • FFP2 Dust Masks protect against moderate levels of dust, as well as solid and liquid aerosols. FFP2 Dust Masks have a higher level of protection than FFP1 – FFP2 masks protect against materials and would be suitable for tasks such as plastering and powered sanding.
  • FFP3 Dust Masks protect against higher levels of dust. They also protect against solid and liquid aerosols. FFP3 masks are suitable for protecting against hazardous dust such as RCS (respirable crystalline silica).
  • But: have you thought about reducing the level of dust generated?  Moving the work offsite where extraction can be used? Changing materials or design to reduce risks through less cutting?  Changing dimensions of the build to eliminate the need for cutting blocks, bricks or paving?

Finally, if its a disposable mask you should dispose of it.  Don’t take the chance of keeping on using the same mask for days and weeks when its might have become saturated with dust.  It’s just not worth it particularly when dealing with a higher level hazard like RCS.

Statistics on workplace ill health

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE):

  • There are currently approximately 12,000 deaths each year in the UK due to occupational respiratory diseases, over 70% of which are due to asbestos-related diseases or COPD;
  • These are long latency diseases (they take a long time to develop following exposure to the agent that caused them) therefore current deaths reflect the impact of past working conditions;
  • About 41,000 people who worked in the last year, and 147,000 who had ever worked currently have breathing or lung problems they thought were caused or made worse by work;
  • Each year there are currently an estimated 18,000 new cases of breathing or lung problems caused or made worse by work.
Posted by Roger Hart

Lyme disease and ticks – video; how ticks dig in

We’ve been talking about ticks and the risks of Lyme disease for years through this blog and on the talks which we provide for our Safety~net clients across the UK.

At the weekend we came across the video below which might be useful for toolbox talks to remind your staff who could be exposed to these risks.  Also take a look at our previous blog on risks from ticks here.

As a reminder here’s a list of some of the people which might be particularly at risk from ticks and Lyme disease;

  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 and ticks – video; how ticks dig in

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 chances 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) can help protect your staff from harm.

Posted by Roger Hart

Fit testing for hearing protection

Join me on one of our visits to industrial and construction sites around the country and you’ll see people wearing in-ear hearing protection badly.  Some might as well not be wearing it at all.  We’ll walk past even when we’re completing noise monitoring for a client and look across to see a friendly face smiling but with ear plugs hanging half out of the ears and being pretty much useless. So, has the time for fit testing for hearing protection finally arrived?

Fit testing for hearing protection: the current situation

We’ve got used to the requirement for testing face masks (fit testing of RPE) over the past few years – if you need this completing we can provide this as part of our support to you on our next visit to your site or offices – let us know on 01453 800100 if you require this.  But, we haven’t yet got used to the idea that hearing protection which is badly worn (ear plugs we’re looking at you here) really isn’t an effective control.

We know that some workers will still suffer hearing damage in spite of the controls we put in place.  Have a look at our blog on ototoxic substances (those which can lead to hearing damage, particularly when combined with higher noise exposures).  We also know that some workers will suffer hearing loss even though we think we’ve done our job well and provided good protection.  Could this be the result of poor practices, like removing hearing protection to hear a conversation?  Could it be because of their own particular physiology?  Could it be ototoxic substances?  Or, could it be that hearing protection was badly worn resulting in protection levels far below those which we would expect.  See also our blog on audiometry and let us know if you need support.

Fit testing for hearing protection: what are your options

The first option is the simplest and that is recognising the risk and following that up with education.  Get someone competent to sit with your staff (us for example) to explain about noise, protection and how to properly fit in ear protection.  If you want a quick way to do this also have a look at some online videos from the manufacturers – we’ve included one for you below from 3M.  If you feel you need to take things a step further then please get in touch and we can discuss your options.


Posted by Roger Hart

Hearing loss and ototoxic substances, chemicals damage hearing

I have to say this is an area which I can’t help but find fascinating: hearing loss and ototoxic substances.  Ototoxic substances are those which can lead to hearing loss even without noise exposure, combine them with the noise exposure which we see in industry and construction and you have a combination which might explain why some people experience hearing loss even at levels which we would otherwise assume to be safe.

Being safety consultants which can monitor noise, assess hearing loss and carry out air monitoring for any of the substances detailed below means we’re here and ready to assist you on this risk, if you need help please do get in touch or request us to call you back

Research: Hearing loss and ototoxic substances

Amazingly this isn’t even something new, research on this goes as far back as the 1970’s (Makishima et al., 1977) and the first ototoxic substance was actually discovered in 1944 when treating people for TB.  The next question you have is what kind of substances should you be concerned about?  Have a look below for some examples and also some jobs which may well put workers at a higher risk of hearing loss but please bear in mind that there are estimated to be more than 750 separate groups of ototoxic substances and most MSDS (COSHH) sheet won’t tell you if a substance falls into these groups as only a few of these groups have been studied in depth.

Ototoxic substances;

  • toluene
  • styrene
  • xylene
  • ethanol
  • ethyl benzene
  • arsenic
  • manganese
  • lead
  • trichloroethylene
  • mercury
  • carbon monoxide
  • carbon disulphide
  • hydrogen cyanide
  • tin
  • organophosphates
  • paraquat
  • germanium
  • cyanides

Plus some medicines have been defined as ototoxic including some anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-thrombotic, anti-malarial and anti rheumatic drugs, loop diuretics and antibiotics.

Occupations and job types which may carry a higher risk

  • aircraft maintenance
  • printing
  • painting
  • dry cleaning
  • boat building
  • construction work
  • metal manufacture
  • leather manufacture
  • petroleum products manufacture
  • defence work (weapons firing)
  • furniture making
  • vehicle refuelling
  • firefighting
  • agriculture

So, what do you need to do next?  Well, you won’t find too much information on the MSDS sheets you have as very few manufacturers references substances which are ototoxic.  But if you do have concerns reference the chemicals above and feel free to call and ask for advice if you’re a client on a support contract.  If you’re not on a support contract call us anyway and we’ll be happy to talk about how we support similar businesses 01453 800100

Posted by Roger Hart
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