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

Coronavirus risk level for different groups, assessing the risk

As we begin our move away from the first stage of the pandemic we begin to face the need for a staged return to work.  Coronavirus risk level for different groupsAs part of this many clients will be facing difficult questions around managing this return whilst keeping their staff safe from harm. As part of this, you will need to be aware of the Coronavirus risk level for different groups.

We have a number of resources which can help many of which are available on the website here and a number of other documents which we have developed exclusively for those clients retaining our services under Safety~net, our competent person scheme. If you’re a member of Safety~net please contact us or your retained consultant for specific additional support.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has recently published some useful data which is available here; https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/datasets/deathsinvolvingcovid19englandandwalesmarch2020

Key factors affecting the Coronavirus risk level for different groups

  • 91% of cases had other health problems;
  • Most common heart disease followed by dementia and then respiratory illness;
  • Average no. of conditions of those killed by the disease is 2.7;
  • A sharp rise in mortality from age 60 upwards;
  • Men approx. twice as likely to die;
  • 86% of death attributed primarily to COVID-19 rather than the other underlying conditions.

Leading causes of death in the UK in March 2020 were as follows; (note: Ischaemic heart disease refers to a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries)

  1. Dementia: 6,401
  2. Ischaemic heart disease: 4,042
  3. Coronavirus: 3,372
  4. Lower respiratory diseases: 2,925
  5. Cerebrovascular diseases: 2,562
  6. Influenza and pneumonia: 2,446
  7. Lung cancer: 2,299
  8. Unspecified: 1,395
  9. Bowel cancer: 1,252
  10. Blood cancer: 1,057

You should review your staff will reference as to whether they or their close family suffer from one of the above diseases.  You should also consider their age as this increases risk and this is magnified in the case of male versus female workers.

Interestingly, you will also note from figure 10 that overall mortality in March 2020 was actually lower than the 5-year average.  Whilst this does not mean that we can reduce the good work we are doing it does show that the controls we have put in place have prevented a much more concerning outcome at present.

If you are a retained client on our competent person service, Safety~net we have a range of other documents available for your use, just call the office or your consultant for more help.  See below for more help and resources.

Toolbox talks

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Please note that the images above and an interesting article are available the following link; What the coronavirus figures REALLY show

We hope that this information helps you.  If you have any questions relating to Coronavirus please contact your retained safety consultant if you are a member of our Safety~net competent person service. We have a number of documents available for retained clients including model risk assessments, flow charts on isolation, administering first aid and home working, toolbox talks for office-based and field-based staff and similar documents which are being developed each day.  We’re still open, our phone lines are live and we’re ready to help when needed.

Posted by Roger Hart

Working during the coronavirus lockdown: social distancing advice from HSE

Working during the coronavirus lockdownThose businesses which do have to remain open have a clear responsibility to their staff who are still working during the coronavirus lockdown.

there are a number of things which you can do to help control the risk including;

  • establishing a rota for use of all communal and welfare areas to enable social distancing of at least 2 metres;
  • asking staff about their personal circumstances, are they or a close family member lving with them at a higher risk?  See our blog post on this for further information;
  • enhancing the cleaning and disinfection processes within the workplace with an emphasis on the communal areas and commonly touched areas and locations (see this blog on cleaning for more information);
  • splitting shifts of workers with a thorough clean between each shift (this can help ensure lower exposure and greater resilience should an infection occur);
  • ensuring that sign-in procedures are controlled for infection risk (perhaps having a single person record time at site negating the need for clock in and out systems or shared pens and paper for signing in and out;
  • asking staff to leave mobile phones in their cars and allowing them to check on them at break times (these phones travel everywhere with us and are often difficult to disinfect.  Textured phone cases are common and provide a multitude of hiding places for the virus.

These are just a few suggestions.  Please see some of our other coronavirus resources below for more information.  If you are a retained client on our competent person service, Safety~net we have a range of other documents available for your use, just call the office or your consultant for more help.  See below for HSE’s update on maintaining social distance and keeping your business working below.

Toolbox talks

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Social distancing, keeping businesses open and in-work activities during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak (HSE)

 

Social distancing

  • In these extraordinary times, HSE is constantly reviewing the fast-moving situation with our partners across government to support the national effort to tackle COVID-19.
  • While social distancing is fundamentally a public health measure introduced to reduce the spread of infection, we recognise the concerns raised on social distancing within the workplace and are in contact with trade unions.
  • Where HSE identifies employers who are not taking action to comply with the relevant PHE guidance to control public health risks, eg employers not taking appropriate action to socially distance or ensure workers in the shielded category can follow the NHS advice to self-isolate for the period specified, we will consider taking a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks. These actions include the provision of specific advice to employers through to issuing enforcement notices to help secure improvements with the PHE guidance.

Essential and non-essential work

  • Keep your business open. With the exception of some non-essential shops and public venues, we are not asking any other businesses to close – indeed it is important for business to carry on.
  • Employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home. Where it is not be possible to work from home you can still travel for work purposes, provided you are not showing coronavirus symptoms and neither you nor any of your household are self-isolating.
  • Employers who have people in their offices or onsite should ensure that employees are able, where possible, to follow Public Health England guidelines on social distancing (including, where possible, maintaining a 2 metre distance from others), and hygiene (washing their hands with soap and water often for at least 20 seconds). Follow government guidance on how to keep your employees safe.

In-work activity

  • All workers are encouraged to keep working and should be working from home if they can.
  • Only travel to work when you absolutely cannot work from home. Protect yourself, your workers and help save lives by staying at home. Follow government guidance on what you need to do.
  • If you are travelling to your workplace you will still need to observe the social distancing guidance whilst you are travelling, as far as is practical. Social distancing means staying 2 metres (6ft) apart from other people.
  • In your workplace, you need to observe, where possible, the social distancing guidance.

We hope that this information helps you.  If you have any questions relating to Coronavirus please contact your retained safety consultant if you are a member of our Safety~net competent person service. We have a number of documents available for retained clients including model risk assessments, flow charts on isolation, administering first aid and home working, toolbox talks for office-based and field-based staff and similar documents which are being developed each day.  We’re still open, our phone lines are live and we’re ready to help when needed.

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Posted by Roger Hart

Coronavirus RIDDOR reporting requirements (COVID-19)

Coronavirus RIDDOR reporting requirementsFor those businesses who still have to operate throughout the shutdown, there is a potential for the change relating to coronavirus RIDDOR reporting requirements to affect you.  In more typical times diseases are only to be reported when a doctor confirms their presence, examples would be vibration white finger or dermatitis.  However, with the NHS under unimaginable strain at present, the changes mean that employers will be expected to report instances coronavirus related diseases where there is reasonable evidence to suspect that the exposure was caused by work.

We are in uncharted water here and the statements are, of course, open to some interpretation.  As always, our advice is to report rather than choose not to as it is a legal requirement.  If you have questions we’re still working and will do our best to assist those on our retained competent person service, Safety~net


Update 01/06/2020; https://www.hse.gov.uk/news/riddor-reporting-further-guidance-coronavirus.htm#disease-diagnosis you should now only report with a confirmed diagnosis from a recognised COVID test centre although some room for judgement is being made.

Diagnosis

A diagnosis normally means a registered medical practitioner’s identification (in writing, where in relation to an employee) of new or worsening symptoms. 

Unlike with usual diagnosis of occupational disease, many cases of COVID-19 are currently being confirmed without a registered medical practitioner’s written diagnosis, for example, on the basis of laboratory test results. HSE has decided to adopt a pragmatic approach in the current highly unusual circumstances and not require those results to be confirmed by a registered medical practitioner before a report is made under RIDDOR. 

Responsible persons should consider any official confirmation of COVID-19 infection such as from a public testing body as being equivalent to a registered medical practitioner’s diagnosis.


Please see the press release from HSE below for further guidance.

RIDDOR reporting of COVID-19

You must only make a report under RIDDOR (The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) when:

  • an unintended incident at work has led to someone’s possible or actual exposure to coronavirus. This must be reported as a dangerous occurrence.
  • a worker has been diagnosed as having COVID 19 and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure at work. This must be reported as a case of disease.
  • a worker dies as a result of occupational exposure to coronavirus.

What to report

Dangerous occurrences

Read about RIDDOR regulation 7, Schedule 2 – Section 10 on legislation.gov.uk 

If something happens at work which results in (or could result in) the release or escape of coronavirus you must report this as a dangerous occurrence. An example of a dangerous occurrence would be a lab worker accidentally smashing a glass vial containing coronavirus, leading to people being exposed.

Cases of disease: exposure to a biological agent

Read about RIDDOR regulation 9 (b) on legislation.gov.uk

If there is reasonable evidence that someone diagnosed with COVID-19 was likely exposed because of their work you must report this as an exposure to a biological agent using the case of disease report. An example of a work-related exposure to coronavirus would be a health care professional who is diagnosed with COVID-19 after treating patients with COVID-19.

Work related fatalities

Read about RIDDOR regulation 6 (2) on legislation.gov.uk

If someone dies as a result of a work related exposure to coronavirus and this is confirmed as the likely cause of death by a registered medical practitioner then you must report this as soon as is practical and within 10 days of the death.

Make a RIDDOR report online

Find out more about what you must report.

Make a report online:

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Posted by Roger Hart

Coronavirus: Should my business still be open?

One of the current questions we are seeing being asked by clients and project contacts is around coronavirus: Should my business still be open?Coronavirus: Should my business still be open

The government guidance here lists what businesses must remain closed and specifies some which can remain open but it is not definitive. This will leave some businesses wondering and relying on some extent to comparisons to those around which also remain open.  It is unlikely that this will give a reliable legal basis on which to continue to trade and we have already seen that some businesses which are similar have very different views on how and if they should continue their operations during the lockdown.

The truth is that most businesses will be judged in hindsight and that liability will arise not just from the perspective of the criminal justice system and police of HSE inspection but also from the civil courts once the lockdown is over.

Those who have continued to work throughout the lockdown may, of course, contract the infection.  The route of exposure will almost always be unclear but the employer will retain the responsibility for the health and safety of their employees whilst at work.  Should the employee contract COVID-19 and then suffer serious complications or pass this to another household member who then becomes seriously or fatally ill it is conceivable that the case may be brought to the civil courts.  As these courts proceed on the balance of probability in considering the claim then the case could find in favour of that employee – something worth considering carefully for all employers.

Please see the joint statement from HSE, CBI and the TUC for further guidance.

Coronavirus: A joint statement between HSE, the TUC and the CBI

This is an extremely worrying time for firms and workers. We know many workers, union reps and employers have questions and concerns about safe working – especially for those continuing to work away from home.

This joint statement between the Health and Safety Executive, the TUC and the CBI is intended to clarify the position. The health and safety of workers remains paramount. Employers are and must continue to provide workers with information about risks to their health and the actions their employers must take.

Social distancing is a key public health measure introduced by Public Health England to reduce the spread of infection. Most employers are going to great lengths to ensure social distancing wherever possible. The HSE, CBI and TUC wish to publicly support these efforts. Firms that can safely stay open and support livelihoods should not be forced to close by misunderstandings about government guidance.

But If it comes to the HSE’s attention that employers are not complying with the relevant Public Health England guidance (including enabling social distancing where it is practical to do so), HSE will consider a range of actions ranging from providing specific advice to employers through to issuing enforcement notices, including prohibition notices.

Where a worker has a genuine concern about health and safety which cannot be resolved through speaking with their employer or trade union, they should contact the relevant enforcement agency – either their local authority or the HSE through https://www.hse.gov.uk/contact/concerns.htm

For firms who are unsure about the guidance, please visit https://www.hse.gov.uk/news/social-distancing-coronavirus.htm

We hope that this information helps you.  If you have any questions relating to Coronavirus please contact your retained safety consultant if you are a member of our Safety~net competent person service. We have a number of documents available for retained clients including model risk assessments, flow charts on isolation, administering first aid and home working, toolbox talks for office-based and field-based staff and similar documents which are being developed each day.  We’re still open, our phone lines are live and we’re ready to help when needed.

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Posted by Roger Hart

Coronavirus: Cleaning your workplace before re-occupations

At some point, we will need to plan for the return to our workplaces and with that, the question arises of Coronavirus and cleaning your workplace before re-occupation.

There’s some good guidance already available from the government here but we thought it would be useful to boil down both that and other guidance we see from experts and so we’ve provided that below.

The planning stage. Coronavirus: Cleaning your workplaceCoronavirus: Cleaning your workplace

Before you begin let’s define some terms;

  • Cleaning is the removal of visible and invisible soiling. Cleaning prepares a surface or item for sanitising or disinfection;
  • Sanitising is the process to lower the level of biological agents on an object to a safe level;
  • Disinfection is a process that eliminates many or all pathogenic microorganisms (with the exception of bacterial spores) on inanimate objects.

The aim of disinfection is to kill and destroy any and all bacteria and viruses, sanitising is gentler and aimed at lowering the level of biological agents on an object to a safe level. However, it is not currently clear what a safe level of sanitising for COVID-19 is. and so disinfection may currently be the better route.  Let’s also remember that the chemicals in use are likely to be harmful so don’t forget to consider the PPE you need to protect yourself from them.

Where to begin

A good place to start is the most commonly used communal items, think door handles, welfare facilities and keypads used for entry and exit and any other specific areas in your business touched regularly by a number of staff.  Please remember that the chemicals used for disinfection will require a ‘dwell time’ which is to say they must remain on the surface for a period of time in order to do their work.  A good example fo this is the suggestion to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds to allow soap to do its work against the virus – use the same process for disinfecting surfaces in the workplace and allow time for the chemical to act on the surface you are cleaning.

A two-stage, three-step process

The advice is to first clean the surface in preparation for disinfection, you then apply the disinfection itself, if you search around you may well find items which are capable of doing both simultaneously – saving you time. These are typically known as a detergent disinfectant.  A dilution which allows 1000 PPM available chlorine is recommended (ref.)

  1. Protect yourself from the chemical and from potential infection risks;
    1. Put these on in a known clean area if you have concerns about the presence of the virus in your workplace.
  2. Allow adequate dwell time for the product you are using – see its instructions;
    1. Spraying chemicals means you might inhale them – use a mask and eye protection.
  3. Use disposable towels which are then bagged and sealed in a second bag before being disposed of.
    1. Store your waste somewhere safe and, non-communal, for 72 hours before disposing of it.

The truth is for most workplaces you are looking at a lot of cleaning and some disinfection.  It should be based on your risk assessment.  If you have a high number of vulnerable people or you have been occupied for a significant period of lockdown through being an essential business (or through contractual wrangles) you ay well need a more thorough clean and disinfection.  If you have been shut for over a week it is unlikely that viruses will remain but do consider those areas that will still have been touched such as exterior door handles.

We hope that this information helps you.  If you have any questions relating to Coronavirus please contact your retained safety consultant if you are a member of our Safety~net competent person service. We have a number of documents available for retained clients including model risk assessments, flow charts on isolation, administering first aid and home working, toolbox talks for office-based and field-based staff and similar documents which are being developed each day.  We’re still open, our phone lines are live and we’re ready to help when needed.

Resources;

Posted by Roger Hart

Coronavirus Risk Assessment

Your coronavirus risk assessment needs to be based on facts and these are often scarce or too confusecorona_death_age_groupd to be useful. To help combat this for our clients we’ve got some resources below which may e of use to you.

Current UK government guidance puts the chance of dying from Coronavirus as between 0.5% and 1%.  This is lower than the 4% global WHO figures and below the 5% figure in the UK as of March 23 – why?  Because we’re only catching a fraction of the infections out there.

A vast majority of cases are likely to go undetected and the testing regime is concentrating on those most in need, generally those in hospitals and those in key worker positions.

To compound this the testing ratio varies widely between countries.  You may see Germany has a much lower death rate which looks impressive.  However, Germany’s testing capacity is way beyond the UK’s at over 20,000 tests per day and they are also testing much more widely.

Factors such as the distribution of age in the population will also have a big effect.

A second factor which must be considered in your coronavirus risk assessment any underlying health problems and the graphic below will be of use here;

corona_death_age_underlying_health

Finally, for those working in safety, we will all be familiar with the triangle below and its use relating to accidents and ill health.  Here’s a version which focuses on COVID-19 courtesy of Imperial College London;

corona_death_pyramid

We hope that this information helps you.  If you have any questions relating to Coronavirus please contact your retained safety consultant if you are a member of our Safety~net competent person service. We have a number of documents available for retained clients including model risk assessments, flow charts on isolation, administering first aid and home working, toolbox talks for office-based and field-based staff and similar documents which are being developed each day.  We’re still open, our phone lines are live and we’re ready to help when needed.

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Posted by Roger Hart

Drivers visiting site and coronavirus

We’re getting reports of visiting drivers being denied access to welfare facilities at sites due to concerns over coronavirus.Coronavirus

Whilst we understand the will to protect your staff as far as possible during the outbreak we have to advise clients and others that you cannot refuse access to welfare.  In fact, preventing access is against the law.

Drivers must have access to welfare facilities in the premises they visit as part of their work. Those who already provide reasonable access to toilets and handwashing facilities should continue to do so.   With the latest advice for hands to be washed regularly, failure to allow access to welfare facilities may increase the risk of the COVID-19 infection spreading.

Read HSE’s guidance here.

If you have any questions relating to Coronavirus and your office please contact your retained safety consultant if you are a member of our Safety~net competent person service. We have a number of documents available for retained clients including model risk assessments, flow charts on isolation and home working, toolbox talks for office-based and field-based staff and similar documents which are being developed each day.

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Posted by Roger Hart

Coronavirus should I self isolate flowchart

Please find below a coronavirus should I self isolate flowchart which you can display within your workplace and also use to plan your actions.  Please note that this is based on best current advice and you should always review the latest government guidance available here; https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response

If you have any questions relating to Coronavirus and your office please contact your retained safety consultant if you are a member of our Safety~net competent person service. We have a number of documents available for retained clients including model risk assessments, flow charts on isolation and home working, toolbox talks for office-based and field-based staff and similar documents which are being developed each day.

self isolate flowchart

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Posted by Roger Hart

Coronavirus risk map

I’m sure a lot of businesses are thinking about their response to Coronavirus. Please find below a coronavirus risk map which might assist in deciding on what precautions would be appropriate in your business.

Please do be aware that this information is general and not specific to any business and is provided on an ‘as is’ basis. Right-click on the image and click ‘view image’ to see it more clearly or download it.

If you have any questions relating to Coronavirus and your office please contact your retained safety consultant if you are a member of our Safety~net competent person service. We have a number of documents available for retained clients including model risk assessments, flow charts on isolation and home working, toolbox talks for office-based and field-based staff and similar documents which are being developed each day. 

If you need a copy urgently please email your consultant directly or contact us quoting your membership number on 01453 800100coronavirus risk map

 

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Posted by Roger Hart

Coronavirus face masks: are they effective?

You only have to travel a short distance to see a number of people wearing a large range of different masks.  We’ve heard they can be a good idea, we even see hospital staff wearing them, but are they effective and should you and your staff be using them?

Coronavirus face masks: are they effective?

Coronavirus face masksTake a look at the image above and you will get a clearer idea of the relative size of the virus.  This is the size contained within a droplet or left on a surface which can then, once we touch our nose, eyes, mouth or face, transfer the virus into our bodies.

Certain types of coronavirus face masks can be effective in preventing us from inhaling particles of this size.  Think for example of respirable crystalline silica particles. These are considered very fine, 100x finer than the sand we might see commonly in use but that one means less than 10 microns (μm).

The particle size we are seeing here is much smaller again but, worn correctly, an FFP2 or FFP3 masks should be effective against it, a surgical type mask less so.  However….

  • How many of the people wearing these masks are wearing them correctly?
  • How many people have been face fitted for these masks?
  • How many have some level of stubble which compromises fit?
  • How many remove their mask and touch their face from time to time?
  • If you want to get really technical then have a look at this report; National Library of Medicine PMID: 16490606

In our experience, although the mask may be well fitted and technically capable of protecting the user other factors compromise its performance.  Think of the mask as another tool to prevent the spread of the virus but consider its use in a broader context – simple measures such as handwashing and good practice through not touching your face may be just as effective and perhaps more effective if you carry them out consistently.

One aspect which you may wish to consider is essential services, for example, a heating engineer attending a care home to complete vital works. In this case, you may wish to consider that wearing a mask will help prevent infection from a reverse viewpoint. A potential alternative are virushield snoods, these may be useable but assess the risk before you specify them.

If you are a Safety~net member we have a range of documents available including model risk assessments, flow charts on isolation and home working, toolbox talks for office-based and field-based staff and similar documents which are being developed each day.

If you have any questions relating to Coronavirus and your office please contact your retained safety consultant if you are a member of our Safety~net competent person service. We have a number of documents available for retained clients including model risk assessments, flow charts on isolation and home working, toolbox talks for office-based and field-based staff and similar documents which are being developed each day.

Resources;

Posted by Roger Hart