Controlling dusts in construction

Controlling construction dusts has really hit the headlines as a requirements in recent years – and with good reason.  Deaths related to dust inhalation through COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and the effects of exposure to RCS (respirable crystalline silica) are estimated to be in the thousands each year.  HSE estimates that over 100 people are estimated to die every week compared to 1 person or less per week from physical risks on construction sites (falling from height and similar).

Controlling dusts is often through simple measures such as water suppression and wearing appropriate masks which have been face fit tested but there are times when you can’t use wet cutting methods – in these circumstances you’ll need to capture the dust at source.  The next question is what do you use?  The answer is certainly not a Henry vacuum ( as much as we like them and yes, we do have one in the office!).

Effective capture of construction dust needs something intended and designed for that purpose and capable of withstanding rough usage.  Using a poorly specified extractor will simply makes things worse – much worse – by capturing the dust only to blow large amounts of the fine dust into the atmosphere for you and all around you to breathe in, not what you want to achieve and something guaranteed to get you some attention from HSE and their Fee for Intervention scheme…

Controlling exposure to construction dusts

Firstly, there is some really good information available from the HSE, primarily in the form of the CIS Sheets; Controlling construction dust with on-tool extraction CIS69 – HSE being your first port of call in this case.  This gives a reasonably in-depth summary of what you need to review and consider but for the purpose of this blog we’re going to make things as simple as possible and also aim them at what we think our clients would most like to know.

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.  Check out this link for the talk which we gave to WWT (the HSE and Construction industry partnership organisation).

Key steps to controlling construction dust

  1. Capture at source: this means having a hood on the machine connected to your extraction unit which is as close as possible to the cutting /abrading point.  It should cover as much of the tool as it can reasonably cover without causing an obstruction as that will make it more effective;
  2. Use the right extraction equipment: this means an industrial vacuum designed for the purpose, there are 3 choices (HML) High, Medium of Low and the choice you make depends on the dust created from high for work which produces hazardous dusts like respirable crystalline silica to low on dusts which are less inherently harmful with plaster and gypsum being good examples;
  3. Remember extraction can’t capture every bit of dust: very fine dust will always find a way to escape and respirable crystalline silica dust is again a good example, it’s so fine even wet cutting won’t reduce it to a safe level and so make sure that you and those trades around you are wearing good quality, face fitted RPE to FFP3 standard.  If you need face fit tests then please call us on 01453 800100 and we can arrange this through one of our Fit2Fit Face Fit testers;
  4. Consider neighbouring trades: consider those around you and also those who might have to clean up.  Don’t control all of your dust exposure at the time of cutting only to expose everyone when the area is cleaned – use wet capture or clean dust using the same class of vacuum and using the same protective equipment you used for cutting;
  5. Make sure it’s used consistently: even short term exposure is hazardous and build up over time, a bit like noise exposure does.  Small repeated exposures without adequate protection build up over a working life to serious health problems and can lead to terrible debilitating diseases like COPD and cancers, so use good practices each and every time, even for short duration work;
  6. Make sure it’s maintained correctly before each use by:
    1. checking it is in good working order (not damaged) before work starts;
    2. following the method of work described in your RAMS (risk assessments / method statements);
    3. using the equipment in the right way. Follow manufacturer’s instructions;
    4. ensuring the captor hood is as close as possible to the work surface;
    5. ensuring the tubing has a good connection to both the captor hood and extraction unit. Use an adaptor if needed, not tape;
    6. emptying the extraction unit regularly. Use the correct disposable waste bags. Seal and place in the right waste container. Do not empty these bags to recycle them;
    7. cleaning the equipment regularly (eg wipe down daily). Do not let dust build up on working parts such as internal motors and associated vents;
  7. Once a week do a more formal look over to check the following;
    1. damage to parts of the system such as the hood or ducting. Repair or replace straight away;
    2. maintaining the extraction unit’s flow of air. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Check that the airflow indicator and any built-in cleaning mechanism work properly. Replace filters when needed;
    3. replacing worn cutting discs.
  8. Once every 14 months have the equipment thoroughly inspected by a competent person, this is known as a Thorough Examination and Test (TExT).

Watch our video to find out more;

Posted by Roger Hart

£100k fine for health surveillance failings leading to HAVS

Hand Arm Vibration (HAVS) is something which we have covered many times before but an area in which many still have a way to go.  The following prosecution illustrates just how many are still getting it wrong and the suffering which is resulting from this.

If you’re a safety advisor or manager within an organisation who feels they should be doing more, the case below should help you justify to your board the actions which you need to take to protect them, your staff and the business.  If you need advice or support on HAVS then please do get in touch – it’s just one of the things we do to help and support our clients under Safety~net.

South Wales based Charter Housing Association fined £100k for health surveillance failings which led to HAVS

Cwmbran Magistrates’ Court heard how Charter Housing Association Ltd. reported six cases of HAVS following a health surveillance programme launched in June 2015. The affected employees were all part of the maintenance team.  Subsequently, the HSE’s investigation found that the health of six of these staff were likely to have been caused or worsened by the use of vibratory power tools while in Charter Housing’s employment.  It was further found that maintenance and refurbishment staff had also experienced significant exposure to hand arm vibration in their daily work which put them at risk of developing or exacerbating existing HAVS.

The investigation also revealed that the company:

  1. neither adequately planned its working methods nor trained or informed employees on the risks to their health
  2. did not limit the duration and magnitude of exposure to vibration
  3. failed to put in place suitable health surveillance to identify problems at an early stage.

Charter Housing Association Ltd (now part of Pobl Group Ltd) of High Street, Newport pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 5, 6, 7 and 8 of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005. The company was fined £100,000 and was ordered to pay costs of £9,896.88.

HSE Comment

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Joanne Carter said:

“An individuals health should not be made worse by the work they do. If Charter Housing had correctly implemented its health surveillance earlier, it would have ensured the right systems were in place to monitor workers’ health. The six affected employees’ conditions may have been prevented from developing to a more severe stage.”

“How people work today can affect their health and wellbeing tomorrow. This case serves as an important reminder of the necessity of task based risk assessments to establish the level of exposure, control measures to reduce that exposure to as low as is reasonably practicable and effective health surveillance systems. In the case of Charter Housing this realisation came too late.”

“All employers need to do the right thing to protect workers’ health.”

Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) is a serious and permanent condition caused by regular and frequent exposure to hand-arm vibration. HAVS results in tingling, numbness, pain and loss of strength in the hands which may affect the ability to do work safely and cause pain, distress and sleep disturbance.

Posted by Roger Hart

Changes to ISO Management Systems standards

I am sure that most of our clients are already familiar with the long established ISO.9001 as the Quality part of the ISO Management Systems standard, which has evolved to its latest version in 2015.  To many, these changes to the standard were quite dramatic and now require far more Top Management Commitment and evidence of Continuous Improvement.

Previous versions written around the need for a set of predetermined procedures were often very prescriptive and did not necessarily require the focus of Top Management in the business.  Processes now need to be established, but not necessarily driven by a procedure, unless value can be gained by their use.

Changes in 2015: ISO Management Systems standards

The new standard ISO.9001:2015, supported by a guidance document Annex SL, requires real input of your Top Management to study its own context, why it exists, who are its interested parties and what are their needs.  This then needs to be incorporated into the Business Plan before you deploy a Quality Management System that meets those needs.  In addition, Continuous Improvement now needs to be evidenced by Ongoing Objectives that are clearly defined, resourced and monitored.

Top Management should now start to feel more excited about how the new standard can support the Business Plan needs and drive Continuous Improvement within their business to everyone’s advantage – but they need to be committed and have a structured approach with regular reviews.

The Environmental Management System standard was also revised as ISO.14001:2015 and this follows the same structure with similar needs.  OHSAS18001 Safety Management System standard is being replaced in March 2018 by ISO.45001:2017, again with a similar structure referring to Annex SL.

This has enabled businesses that wish to implement one, two or all three of these standards to follow the same approach to each of them.  The key element being Top Management can now identify what it considers important and relevant in developing a management system that can truly deliver for its business and drive Continuous Improvement.

Outsource Safety can provide Management Systems support from occasional internal audits, support during the transition to the revised standards through to full implementation projects for QMS, EMS, SMS and even fully Integrated Management Systems.  If we can help and provide more information on any aspect of the above please let us know.  We support a wide number of businesses doing just that.

Posted by Roger Hart

CDM Principal Designer avoid HSE enforcement under CDM 2015

You might well find the following report of interest if you’re in construction, particularly if you’re CDM Principal Designer.  For those of you living in the South-west you might be interested to know that Bristol came second in the list for most enforcement notices issued under CDM 2015 (just behind Hammersmith in London)!

We’ve just had a full year of CDM 2015 and the conversations regarding client and designers and their specific role in the new regulations are ongoing.  Coupled to this HSE now have a specialist team visiting designers (architects and similar) to ensure that the message of CDM 2015 and its specific requirements related to the assessment of risk at the design stage are fully implemented by the CDM Principal Designer.

CDM Principal Designer: Take a look at the report below

MPW R&R Ltd CDM Principal Designer avoid enforcement

If you’d like a quick summary please read on below;

  • total number of enforcement notices issued to the construction sector related to CDM 2015: 3155
  • of this number the total of prohibition notices issue: 1793
  • of this number the total of improvement notices issued: 1362
  • number of regulatory breaches these notices listed: 7993
  • Most breached regulation: HASWA: 3391
  • Second most breached regulation: Work at Height: 1790
  • Third most breached regulation: CDM 2015: 1669

Interestingly, there were 99 potential breaches of Client duties under CDM but only 5 potential breaches of duty by Principal Designers and just 2 potential breaches by Designers.

An accurate depiction of the real state of the CDM 2015 Regulations?  We’ll leave you to decide…

Posted by Roger Hart

HSE publishes their sector plans for 2018

The Health and Safety Executive has published its sector plans for the next 3-5 years following the draft it issued in March 2017.

This earlier document saw HSE split the areas under its remit into 19 different sections rather than the, until now, traditional two sectors  Interestingly, manufacturing has been given a ‘must try harder’ rating after it was found that around 3% of workers are injured annually, somewhat higher than the all-industry rate.  You can find more information on the HSE Sector Plans page here; http://www.hse.gov.uk/aboutus/strategiesandplans/sector-plans/index.htm

The key approach which HSE intends to adopt is;

  • working with others, using our expertise for the wider good of workers, businesses (especially SMEs) and government;
  • championing the need for prevention;
  • focusing our inspection and enforcement activity where it can have the most effect.

How HSE intends to integrate this with the current FFI policy remains to be seen but if you can engage with HSE on initiatives we’d encourage you to do so wherever possible.

Occupational health will continue to play a key role in risk management and is very likely to be a key area of concern for any visit to site, in particular consider within your business the following three areas which have been marked for further assessment when conducting visits;

  • Occupational lung disease (exposure to dusts / RCS, COPD, work related asthma);
  • Musculoskeletal disorders (think manual handling but also consider general ergonomics);
  • Work related stress and mental health issues (use the HSE stress tool and see their website for more guidance).

One further area which was highlighted during the consultation process has been the large increase in volunteer activities and how the scope of this work has widened with many volunteers now carrying out tasks which are far more exposed to risk than has been the case.

The six key sectors which HSE intends to target are;

  1. agriculture;
  2. construction;
  3. transport and logistics;
  4. manufacturing;
  5. waste and recycling;
  6. public services.
Posted by Roger Hart

Utter failure to manage safety results in tragic death

Almost all the people we know and work with struggle with knowing the right mix of safety aspects and operational aspects when planning work.  We do have to get the job done, but let’s do it safely is a common phrase through industry and construction.  However, every now and then we come across a case where safety hasn’t been given any thought.  When the risks are so severe and obvious the facts make for uncomfortable reading and, in this case, the utter failure to manage safety has resulted in an entirely preventable death of a young father of one.

Utter failure to manage safety: Golf company director jailed following lake death

Gareth Pugh was collecting golf balls from a lake at Peterstone Gold Course near Newport on behalf of Dale Pike, director of Boss Golf Balls.  The works were to retrieve golf balls from a lake at the course, some thing which is typically conducted by qualified divers.

During the course of the work Mr Pugh, weighed down by the 341 golf balls (16kg) he had so far collected and the weighted belt which he wore, lost his breathing equipment and drowned.

Mr Pike was alerted by the constant stream of bubbles emerging from the water and altered the emergency services with Mr Pughs body being recovered from the water some 70 minutes later.

The court heard Pike, who ran Boss Golf Balls which sells balls retrieved from lakes, should have hired trained divers to carry out the work, at a cost of about £1,000 a day. But instead he employed Mr Pugh, who had ADHD and learning difficulties, and paid him £20-40 a day.

David Elias QC, defending, said Pike “naively and foolishly believed that all would be well with the use of that equipment in that lake”.

Sentencing Pike, Judge Keith Thomas said: “Mr Pugh was an unsuitable contender for the diving work you employed him to undertake, but you allowed him to take those risks to make a quick buck.

The risk of death or serious injury was obvious to you, but your cavalier attitude towards safety was the cause of Mr Pugh’s death.

Iwan Jenkins, from the CPS, said: “Dale Pike stood by and watched as Gareth entered the water knowing that safety regulations were being breached and which resulted in Gareth losing his life.

“There was clear evidence Pike had made enquiries with legitimate dive operators to cost this activity but he chose not to use them, instead falsely claiming to the golf club that he was a qualified commercial diver with his own equipment.

Posted by Roger Hart

Time, not material goods, ‘raises happiness’

Bear with us for a moment or two… this is relevant to a blog on health and safety but it might take a couple of paragraphs to demonstrate how.

Time, not material goods, ‘raises happiness’

I read this whilst I was recently on holiday and so had some free time in which to think a little on the content.  Its an interesting article in its own right but it also has a wider message for us all in the way in which we approach our work and home lives.

Its hard to get away from the material side of wanting things, televisions, conservatories and new kitchens, new cars or from a work perspective, more turnover, more profit, higher wages and perhaps a big pension.

One thing which you might not at first consider is the innate value of time – your time.  Perhaps you’re a manager who would benefit from losing time to safety tasks in order to concentrate on what you’re best at.  Perhaps you’re a business owner who could find more enthusiasm for their company if you could be savedfrom dealing with all that red tape….

Whatever your personal circumstances, at work and at home think about time.  We all have a finite amount of it and making your life as happy an experience as possible will make you a better boss, wife, husband, employee, person.

Take the time to find make more time for the things you love to do and get another person to carry out those tasks which you don’t like… perhaps starting with health and safety.

Time, not material goods ‘raises happiness’
http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-4070351

Posted by Roger Hart

France launches ‘tick alert app’ in frantic bid to map Lyme disease explosion as blight ‘moves North’

Lyme disease and the danger from tick bites is something which we’ve been communicating for almost 10 years now.

Each month we come across another news story which reminds us that the message still needs a lot more promotion.  This month alone we’ve seen two important stories.

If you’re a fan of rugby you might well have seen the first one in which former England Captain Matt Dawson tells his story of what he though was simply a bite from a flea turning into a major health issue and ending in heart surgery, read more here

A second story relates to the launch in France of a ‘tick alert app’ in an attempt to map Lyme disease as it moves North through Europe
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/07/17/france-launches-tick-alert-app-frantic-bid-map-lyme-disease/

What we can say is make sure that you, your friends and all of your staff are aware of the risk, you can find more information on our earlier blog entry; http://www.outsource-safety.co.uk/safety-news/lyme-disease-and-the-risk-to-landscapers-and-construction-workers/

Background information on Lyme disease

Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, is an infectious disease caused by bacteria of the Borrelia type which is spread by ticks. The most common sign of infection is an expanding area of redness on the skin, known as erythema migrans, that begins at the site of a tick bite about a week after it has occurred.

Posted by Roger Hart

Welding of drums or other vessels – the potential for explosion

Lots of businesses which we visit have an oil drum or two lying around the workplace.  It may seems like a good idea to make use of one of these unwanted items and we’ve seen them made into bins and even barbecues through some simple welding.

However, depending on what used to be inside them cutting them open or welding something onto them can result in a powerful explosion.  If you want some more information of what we mean by this take a look at the video from WorkSafeBC; Drum Explodes During Welding, Killing Worker

The problem in this instance was that the original substance, acetone, a solvent used in the manufacture of fiberglass items and many other productions, remained in the vessel. Even a trace amount after the drum was washed through could still be present in sufficient quantity to create an explosive atmosphere. in the case of the video above this was less than a tea spoonful of the original acetone.

Looking at the safety aspects here you can see how likely it is that vapours will remain, even after washing out a drum.  Add into that the heat generated by cutting, grinding or welding the drum allowing the remaining substance to ‘gas off’ and you have a potential bomb on your hands.

The best route to reducing risk is to avoid this situation altogether but sometimes people do need to work in situations where welding will need to take place.  If you can’t avoid it then make yourself familiar with the best practices to reduce risk.

For more information please have a read through the free HSE guidance on the subject here;  Hot work on small tanks and drums INDG314(rev1)

Most importantly, consider if you really need to do this.  Replacing rather than repairing may be your better option.  If you do need to make repairs don’t forget that cold cutting or cold repair techniques may also be an option and will avoid the key risk of hot works and potential explosions.

As always, if you need advice then please call us quoting your Safety~net membership number or company name and we’ll be pleased to offer some more specific advice.

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Posted by Roger Hart

Failings in formwork safety leads to further injuries and fines

Formwork safety continues to be an area in which many sites could improve.  There are a range of courses out there which give useful qualification and skills in the management of formwork and falsework risk.  A good example of this would be the Temporary Works Supervisor Training Course (TWSTC) available from CITB.  For more information on this course see this link; TWSTC

Erector fell 3m after access scaffold board failed under load (formwork safety)

Sager Construction Limited (SCL) and Shaun Dixon Services Ltd (SDSL) have been fined when an employee fell more than 3m when a scaffold board he was standing on failed.

Southwark Crown Court heard SCL had been appointed Principal Contractor under the CDM 2007 Regulations for the construction of a shopping centre and residential units.

On the 19 February 2015 the 64-year old employee of formwork contractor SDSL was installing a primary beam in the basement when he fell from the top of the work platform.  He  suffered fractures to both of his feet and deep cuts to his head and arms as a result.

Dangerous boards and poor working practices

On investigation the Health and Safety Executive found that operatives worked from boards which were in a poor condition. It was also revealed that particularly poor practices took place in relation to work at height

Sager Construction Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 22 of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, and was fined £34,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,577.

Shaun Dixon Services Ltd was also found guilty of breaching Regulation 13 of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 at an earlier date.

The company has since entered liquidation but was fined £160,000 and ordered to pay costs of £15,119.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Gabriella Dimitrov said:

“The worker is lucky to have not sustained more serious injuries as a result of this fall from height.

It is entirely foreseeable that accidents will occur where work at height is being carried out without suitable work platforms and other measures to prevent workers from falling.

HSE will take action to ensure that duty holders are held to account for any failings.”

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Posted by Roger Hart