The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Health and Safety Excuses

Graham Marshall - Thursday, February 28, 2013

Many businesses and organizations have hit on the ability to nominate "health and safety reasons" as a convenient way of dismissing the legitimate requests from customers or stakeholders .

A typical example of the way that "health and safety reasons" are being used to deny proper service is highlighted below.

In this case, a request was made by a lady visiting a local hair-salon for a glass of water - since the hair styling process had taken a long time.

The salon refused the lady a glass of water and blamed the decision on "health and safety reasons".

But there are no such legal requirements from OHS law to prevent the salon providing the lady with a glass of water.

In reality, the shop owner simply did not want to supply water because of the additional economic expense of doing so.  But rather than appearing to be a money-grubbing cheapskate offering poor service to customers; the owner found it easier to state  "health and safety reasons" for her position.

Safety professionals and concerned members of the public should always challenge false  "health and safety reasons" which are being used to cover-up shoddy service.






HSE Targets Construction Sites in UK Campaign

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Construction sites across the UK are to be targeted by the UK HSE as part of a national initiative aimed at reducing death, injury and ill health.
Builders in the UK can expect to see HSE inspectors on site until 15 March.

They will make unannounced visits to ensure duty holders are managing high-risk activity, such as working at height.
They will also check for general good order, assess welfare facilities and check whether suitable Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), such as head protection, is being used appropriately.
During 2011/12, there were 49 deaths and more than 2,800 major injuries on construction sites in the UK.
The purpose of the initiative is to remind those working in the industry that poor standards are unacceptable and will result in enforcement action.
During inspections, HSE inspectors will consider whether:

1. Jobs that involve working at height have been identified and properly planned to ensure that appropriate precautions are in place;

2. Equipment is correctly installed / assembled, inspected and maintained and used properly;

3. Sites are well organized, to avoid trips and falls;

4. Walkways and stairs are free from obstructions;

5. Work areas are clear of unnecessary materials and waste; and

6. Suitable Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), including head protection, is provided and worn at all times.

Temperature Regulations in the UK

Graham Marshall - Tuesday, February 26, 2013

In the UK, the Workplace Regulations (Health, Safety and Welfare, 1992) outline particular requirements for most aspects of the working environment, including for temperature.

Regulation 7 deals specifically with the temperature in indoor workplaces and states that:

"During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable."

The application Regulation 7, however, depends on the type of workplace, such as a bakery, a cold store, an office, or a warehouse.

The associated Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) goes on to explain:

"The temperature in workrooms should provide reasonable comfort without the need for special clothing. Where such a temperature is impractical because of hot or cold processes, all reasonable steps should be taken to achieve a temperature which is as close as possible to comfortable.

'Workroom' means a room where people normally work for more than short periods.

The temperature in workrooms should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius unless much of the work involves hard physical effort.  Under such circumstances, the temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius.

These temperatures may not, however, ensure reasonable comfort, depending on other factors such as air movement and relative humidity."
If the temperature in a workroom is uncomfortably high because of hot processes, the design of the building, or other environmental factors, then all reasonable steps should be taken to achieve a reasonably comfortable temperature, for example by:

+   Insulating hot plant, process equipment  or pipes;

+   Providing air-cooling plant;

+   Shading windows; 

+   Moving workstations away from places subject to radiant heat; and/or

+   Application of local cooling using air-conditioning.

In extremely hot weather fans and increased ventilation may be used instead of local cooling.

Where, despite the provision of those methods, temperatures are still not reasonable, suitable protective clothing, roster, and rest facilities should be provided.

Typical examples of suitable protective clothing would be ice vests, or air/water fed suits.

The effectiveness of these PPE systems may be limited if used for extended periods of time with inadequate rest breaks.

Where practical there should be systems of work (for example, task rotation) to ensure that the length of time for which individual workers are exposed to uncomfortable temperatures is limited.
HSE previously defined thermal comfort in the workplace, as: 'An acceptable zone of thermal comfort for most people in the UK lies roughly between 13°C (56°F) and 30°C (86°F), with acceptable temperatures for more strenuous work activities concentrated towards the bottom end of the range, and more sedentary activities towards the higher end.'

Anti-fracking Movement Tactics

Graham Marshall - Monday, February 25, 2013

Anti-development eco-mentalist groups in the USA are showing the latest tactic to slow down the development of natural resources for human benefit.  And we're likely to see more of the same moronic action here in Australia.

They're creating  mountains of cardboard boxes of public comments in response to the latest gas-drilling guidelines proposed by New York's environmental agency.

The vast majority of the 204,000 letters that anti-drilling groups submitted to the EPA are the result of social media outreach and meetings at libraries, community centers and churches where organizers would hand out form letters and stamped envelopes.

They use stamped envelopes and sample letters that you just sign and mail to the EPA.

Sensible people with an interest in promoting human welfare through energy- and job-creation should understand and dismiss this pointless tactic as a misrepresentation of actual sentiment and realize it is just another green tactic to stall development by drowning regulators in an ocean of wasted paper.  And government time-wasting over approvals for major projects is bad enough already here in WA.

If nothing else, however, it does demonstrate how the anti-gas drilling movement in New York is able to mobilize people based on fear and scare tactics, and simple down-right lying about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which hasn't even begun in New York state.

DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis said the department has 30 to 40 employees at its offices going through the comments, the majority of which are form letters.

But remember, wile anti-fracking groups produce hundreds of thousands of valueless comments, the gas and oil industry has produced thousands of high-paying jobs.

And we're proud to be part of that!

Deadly Contract - New CSB Video

Graham Marshall - Sunday, February 24, 2013

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has recently released a new safety video entitled “Deadly Contract” which highlights how an explosion and fire that killed five workers during a fireworks disposal operation in Hawaii in 2011 resulted from unsafe disposal practices; insufficient safety requirements for government contractor selection and oversight; and an absence of national guidelines, standards, and regulations for fireworks disposal.

The CSB is also calling for new regulations on the safe disposal of government-confiscated illegally labeled fireworks - a growing problem across the U.S.

The  accident occurred in April 2011, as employees of Donaldson Enterprises, Inc. (DEI) worked in a tunnel-like magazine located in Waipahu, Hawaii.

The storage facility contained government-confiscated illegally labeled fireworks, which the workers had been dismantling under a subcontract to a federal prime contract.

The CSB determined there was an accumulation of a large quantity of explosive components just inside the magazine entrance, creating the essential elements for a mass explosion.

A large explosion and fire fatally injured all five workers inside the magazine.

Another worker, who had been standing outside the magazine entrance door, escaped with injuries.

The CSB investigation found that company personnel had no specific expertise in fireworks disposal, that the company’s procedures were extremely unsafe, and that there are no national standards or accepted good practices for disposing of fireworks.

DEI was awarded the subcontract from a Federal Agency because it was a local company already storing the seized fireworks in the hillside facility, and its proposal was the lowest in cost and considered the most time-efficient.

However, despite DEI’s military ordnance background, the company had no experience with fireworks disposal.

DEI improvised a disposal plan that called for soaking the fireworks in diesel fuel and then burning them at a local shooting range

However, some fireworks were not burning, but exploding.

The company concluded that the diesel was not sufficiently penetrating the aerial shells and thus altered the procedure, disassembling the individual firework tubes and cutting slits in the aerial shells so the diesel could soak into the shells to reduce the explosion hazard during burning.

The process was further altered to speed up destruction of the next batch of confiscated fireworks in early 2011.

Workers were told to separate the black powder from the shells, accumulating them in separate boxes and dramatically increasing the explosion hazard, the CSB found.

The investigation found the company did not adequately analyze the potential hazards created by making these changes to the disposal plan.

Good process safety practice would have called for a thorough hazard analysis as well as a comprehensive review of the potential safety impacts of the proposed change.

Aluminium Phosphide Cannisters on Beach

Graham Marshall - Saturday, February 23, 2013

Authorities in Queensland have warned people not to touch silver-grey metal canisters which have been found washed up on beaches over recent months.

The canisters contain potentially deadly aluminium phosphide.

The first canisters to be found were washed up on a beach in north Queensland in 2012.

Another metal canister has now been found on the Tweed Coast, south of Queensland's Gold Coast.

The Queensland Fire and Rescue Service (QFRS) says the toxic metal canisters may have come from passing ships.

QFRS scientific branch director Michael Logan says the chemical can be deadly to humans.

It makes a phosphene gas, a chemical that interacts with the lungs. It is also very flammable.

It is very toxic and at relatively low concentrations.

Normally, the chemical is used to kill rats.

People are fairly safe if the containers remain sealed.

So if you find a canister on the beach, isolate it and report it but DO NOT pick them up and take them away or open them.

Security Risk Management

Graham Marshall - Friday, February 22, 2013

Businesses involved in the supply chain of hazardous chemicals which could be used by Terrorists are encouraged to consider adopting relevant security risk management controls.

Security risk management should be a normal part of good business practice in such businesses.

It should be part of your business culture and integrated into your business philosophy.

The treatment of security threats will be specific to your business and may include a combination of measures.

As a minimum, you should identify the security gaps and find out where chemicals could be lost or diverted from your business and find their way into the wrong hands.

And remember, all suspicious incidents and security breaches should be investigated and, if necessary, reported to the National Security Hotline on 1800 1234 00.

Examples include:

+   Attempts to purchase chemicals for no clear purpose, with cash, or with identification that appears fraudulent;

+   Doors not secured, holes in fences, signs of illegal entry;

+   Unauthorized entry into restricted areas;

+   Unexplained signs of vehicle activity in restricted or remote access points;

+   Unexplained requests for technical information about a facility;

+   Major unexplained process upsets;

+   Unexplained losses of containment of chemicals;

+   Unexplained losses of chemicals; and

+   Major cyber attack on internal process controls or inventory systems.

National Code of Practice for Chemicals of Security Concern

Graham Marshall - Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Australian state and territory governments are seeking your feedback on the draft National Code of Practice for Chemicals of Security Concern. A copy of the draft code is available here.

The consultation closes on 1 March 2013.

Many chemicals that are in use every day have been used by terrorists to make homemade explosives.

Business and Australian governments need to work together to detect and prevent the use of chemicals for terrorist purposes and ensure a safer Australia.

The Australian and state and territory governments have decided to pursue a voluntary code of practice for businesses that manage, handle or use products containing 11 chemicals that are precursors to homemade explosives.

Your feedback will shape the final version of the code and ensure that it can be easily understood and effectively used by businesses.

Once completed, you can submit your feedback to: Mark Whitechurch, Chemical Security, Attorney-General’s Department, 3-5 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600, Australia.

Two Darwin Businesses in Court over Gas-bottle Explosions

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Darwin company has been charged over the gas bottle explosion that killed Patrick "Paddy" Bird more than a year ago.

Mr Bird, 24, was killed when pressurized flammable gas cylinders left in his enclosed work van exploded outside his Parap home on December 16, 2011.

The ignition spark came from the remote central locking device on his car key as he opened the van door.

As a results, Damday Pty Ltd could now be fined up to $650,000 if the NT Work Health Authority can successfully secure a conviction.

Representatives of Damday appeared in Darwin Magistrates Court on Monday charged with failing to identify risks to health or safety arising from their own conduct.

The charges were laid under the repealed Workplace Health and Safety Act.

Another Darwin company, Arafura Plumbing, has also been charged over a similar incident that occurred in July 2012.

Arafura Plumbing has been charged with reckless conduct that risked death or injury and failing to comply with a prohibition notice.

It could now be fined up to $3 million.

The authority laid the charges under the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act 2011.

In a statement, the authority said it would allege the practice of allowing pressurized flammable gas to be left in enclosed vehicles was considered a "hazard" to the health and safety of workers and members of the public due to the risk of an explosion.

The authority has to prove that Arafura Plumbing engaged in conduct "without reasonable excuse" to secure a conviction.

Both companies will re-appear in court next month.

Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH)

Graham Marshall - Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The UK manufacturers’ organization - EEF - has called on Britain’s manufacturers to get to grips with the requirements of the European Directive on the restriction of hazardous substances - "Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals" - or "REACH" for short.

REACH is the European Community Regulation on chemicals and their safe use.

It entered into force on 1 June 2007 with implementation via staggered deadlines.

But a recent survey shows that awareness of the implications for manufacturers of the REACH regulations, especially amongst smaller companies, remains worryingly low.

REACH is gradually restricting the use of hazardous chemicals, including substances which have been commonly used in manufacturing processes for many years under controlled conditions.

This has major implications for all companies from requirements for worker safety, to controls on how substances are used, through to the need to potentially modify processes and substitute other materials.

There are also major implications for companies in the supply chain who must be in a position to advise their customers if such substances are present in the products they sell.

Where there is a strong enough argument for continued use of a banned substance, companies can apply to the European Commission to continue to use it.

The first such deadline is just a month away.

Furthermore, companies have just six months to make themselves aware of the implications of the next major deadline for registration of chemicals in June 2013.

Failure to comply with the regulations is a criminal offence with the possibility of unlimited fines and, up to two years in prison.

In response, EEF is calling on government to do more to raise awareness of the implications of REACH on businesses.

It is also calling for more user friendly guidance and a clearer understanding of when the Commission is likely to give permission for continued use of banned substances.

For many companies there is the very real risk of lost business if they are unable to advise their suppliers whether their products contain certain materials and, where they are, how their use is being monitored.

Furthermore, if companies don’t plan for substance bans, it could prevent production entirely.

There are currently 21 substances set for bans under the Regulation.

The first suite of bans takes place from February 2015.

Applications to continue to use these substances must be submitted from February or August this year if companies want to avoid business continuity issues.

In December the Commission announced a further suite of substances that will be banned, subject to clearance in the European Parliament.

More bans are expected and there are currently 153 substances on the list.

Any company using any of the substances in quantities greater than 0.1% w/w in the products they sell are required to notify their business customers to ensure its safe handling.

If companies place that substance on the market in quantities greater than a tonne they are also obliged to notify the European Chemicals Agency.

On the 1 June 2013, companies that place substances on the market in quantities between 1,000 and 100 tonnes a year are required to register them.

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