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.'

Preventing Sharps Injuries in the Healthcare Sector

Graham Marshall - Saturday, February 16, 2013

The UK Health and Safety Executive (UK HSE) has published a consultation document on proposed regulations to implement Council Directive 2010/32/EU on preventing sharps injuries in the hospital and healthcare sector.

The consultation document establishes the UK HSE’s proposals for new regulations that are titled "The Health and Safety (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations" (2013).

The new regulations are required under European Union legislation.

The new regulations will require employers in the healthcare sector to introduce arrangements for the safe use and disposal of medical sharps, to provide information and training to employees, and to record, investigate and take action following a sharps injury.

The regulations will also introduce a duty on healthcare workers to promptly report any sharps injury to their employer.

The consultation seeks views on:

1. Whether the proposed regulations enable healthcare businesses and workers to identify what they need to do?

2. The initial assessment of the costs and benefits of the proposed changes; and

3. How the regulations should be supported by guidance and who is best placed to provide that guidance?

 A consultation questionnaire is available from Martin Dilworth at the UK Health and Safety Executive:

5S2 Redgrave Court
Merton Road
Bootle
Liverpool
L20 7HS
Tel No: 0151 951 4335      
Fax: 0151 951 4575

Erecting Scaffolds in Public Places

Graham Marshall - Thursday, February 14, 2013

Scaffolding will frequently be erected in public places; for example alongside buildings on busy public high streets.

In such circumstances; where members of the public will be walking, driving or working in close proximity to erected scaffolds, it is vital that professional and safe standards are applied.

The need for such standards was highlighted recently when a self-employed scaffolder was fined after a member of the public suffered head injuries after walking into an unguarded scaffolding pole on a busy public pavement.

Rothesay Sheriff Court heard that Thomas Hannen was contracted by Argyll and Bute Council in January 2011 to erect scaffolding around the disused Royal Hotel on Rothesay seafront, on the Isle of Bute.

Members of the public were not excluded, or in any way actively discouraged, from using the pavement beneath the work area.

Furthermore, no padding or warning tape was wrapped around teh scaffolding to soften any inadvertent contact, make it easily visible or to alert members of the public to its presence.

As a result, a 61-year-old local woman walking underneath the scaffolding, hit her head on the horizontal pole and fractured her left ankle when she fell to the ground.

An investigation  by the UK HSE found that Thomas Hannen failed to:

Have the footpath where he was working temporarily closed;

Failed to complete a risk assessment and did not guard against risk to pedestrians;

Erect a scaffold on a pavement without any diversion in place to exclude members of the public from the work area;

Failed to display any warning signs alerting the public that it was dangerous to be in the work area;

Failed to attach padding or tape around the scaffolding under erection.

These are all serious breaches of Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 which states:

"It shall be the duty of every self-employed person to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that he and other persons (not being his employees) who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety".

Duty of Care for Self-employed

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, February 13, 2013

In the UK, Section 3 (2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states that:

"... it shall be the duty of every self-employed person to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that he and other persons (not being his employees) who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health and safety".

So fulfilling your duty of care if you're self-employed in the UK is vitally important. 

That fact has been highlighted in the UK courts recently; when a self-employed chimney sweep was found guilty of causing a death after failure to remove a bird's nest blocking a chimney flue led to the death of a pensioner in his home.

Phillip Jones was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £2,500 in costs at Cardiff Crown Court following the prosecution.

The court was told that 73-year-old retired miner Derwyn Rees of  Maesteg had experienced problems keeping his coal fire alight.

Mr Jones, was engaged to sweep the chimney.

But the next day, Mr Rees was  found dead in his bed.  A police-led investigation revealed he died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The investigation revealed an extensive bird's nest inside the chimney.

Although Mr Jones had encountered a blockage of the chimney while sweeping, he did not check to see if his brush cleared the chimney pot which would indicate the blockage had been cleared.

 In addition, he failed to carry out a proper smoke test after completing the job,

Dangerous Use of Scaffolding

Graham Marshall - Monday, February 11, 2013

Regulation 6(3) of the UK Work at Height Regulations (2005) states: "Where work is carried out at height, every employer shall take suitable and sufficient measures to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, any person falling a distance liable to cause personal injury".

So why on earth did Stretford Scaffolding Ltd allow its workers onto an unsafe scaffold outside this row of terraced shops in Oldham (UK)?

 

As you can see, neither of the two men on the scaffold are wearing harnesses, despite working up to six metres above the ground.

There are also no guard rails on parts of the scaffold to prevent the workers falling.

Thankfully, this shoddy situation was spotted by a passing inspector from the UK HSE who issued an immediate Prohibition Notice and got the workers out of the danger zone.

Stretford Scaffolding Ltd, was then prosecuted and received a 12-month conditional discharge and was ordered to pay costs of £1,849 after admitting a breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Information on safe use of Oxygen

Graham Marshall - Sunday, February 10, 2013

The air we breathe contains about 21 per cent oxygen.

But even a very small increase in the oxygen level in the air -  to just 24 per cent - can create a dangerous situation.

At 24 per cent concentration of oxygen in air, it becomes easier to start a fire, which will then burn hotter and more fiercely than in normal air.

Under such circumstance, it may be almost impossible to put the fire out.

Oxygen is also a hazard because it is very reactive.

Pure oxygen, at high pressure - such as from a cylinder - can react violently with common materials, such as oil and grease. Other materials may catch fire spontaneously.

Nearly all materials, including textiles, rubber and even metals, will burn vigorously in oxygen.

A leaking valve or hose in a poorly ventilated room or confined space can quickly increase the oxygen concentration to a dangerous level.

In response to the hazard posed by excess levels of oxygen, the UK Health and Safety Executive (UK HSE) have developed a new guidance leaflet for use by anyone who uses oxygen gas in cylinders, in the workplace.

For a copy of the new leaflet, simply click here.

The leaflet describes the hazards from using oxygen and the precautions needed when using oxygen equipment.

If you are an employer, it provides information which will assist you in your risk assessment.

And remember, all employers are legally required to assess the risks in the workplace, and take all reasonably practicable precautions to ensure the safety of workers and members of the public.

This may include a careful examination of the risks from using oxygen in your risk assessment.

Danger with demolition work

Graham Marshall - Saturday, February 02, 2013

A company trading as Total Demolition UK Ltd, has been fined £5,000 with £2,968 costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

As shown in the image below, the lives of workers were put at risk as they demolished an old office block in Liverpool.

The workers can be seen clambering over rubble on the partially demolished building with no safety measures in place to stop them falling if they tripped and lost their balance.

After receiving a complaint about the work being carried out by the firm, an inspector from the UK Health and Safety Executive (UK HSE) issued an immediate Prohibition Notice ordering Total Demolition UK Ltd to stop work at the site.

Speaking after the court case in Liverpool, HSE Inspector Jacqueline Western said: "When I arrived at the site, it was immediately obvious that workers were in danger of being seriously injured if they fell from the building.
Two of the employees were throwing waste materials from the edge of the second floor so could easily have fallen if they had tripped over the rubble".

 

Safety Shocker of the Week

Graham Marshall - Friday, February 01, 2013

For employers in the UK, Regulation 4 (1) of the Work at Height Regulations (2005) states that every employer shall ensure that work at height is properly planned, appropriately supervised and carried out in a manner which is reasonably and practicably safe.

So it is not really surprising that Fastrac Profiles Limited, of Neptune Industrial Estate, Willenhall, near Wolverhampton, was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £3,761 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1) of the Work of Height Regulations for allowing work to continue in the manner shown below.

 

The shop fitting company was fined for the safety failings after instructing two employees to work at height without any protective measures or relevant roofwork training.

The men, who do not wish to be named, were spotted and photographed by a member of the public.

And a complaint was made to the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

HSE then visited the site and found the workers were not trained for the roof repairs they were undertaking.

Stafford Magistrates' Court heard that they had been instructed to weld steel to uprights at the apex of a roof.

The work was poorly planned and no risk assessment had been carried out. HSE inspectors also found that no fall-prevention measures, such as scaffolding, had been put in place.

Although the failings did not result in a fall or injury, the two employees, plus others working below them, were placed in unnecessary danger.

We all know that falls cause a large number of of fatalities. And the risk involved with work at height is entirely foreseeable.

It is, therefore, essential that proper planning, risk assessment and training is undertaken to reduce these risks.


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