The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Construction Dust and Health

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Construction dust is a problem if not managed appropriately.

Regularly breathing in construction dust over a long period of time can cause life-changing lung diseases.

Employers in the construction industry need to know what to do to prevent or adequately control construction dust risks.

Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) and workers also need to know about the risk posed by construction dust; and how to protect themselves against the hazard.

To view an information leaflet from the UK HSE on this important topic, just click here.



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.'

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.

JSA Training Program Results

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, February 06, 2013

We've recently completed a JSA training program with 100 workers in an oil field belonging to a new customer.

Our new customer required that we collect feedback from their employees and contractors to allow them to evaluate the success of our JSA training program, prior to a wider roll-out of the program in the field.

Enclosed here is a JSA feedback report which shows how the workers thought about the JSA training program and the comments that they made on their feedback forms.

The name and location of the customer has been removed, but otherwise all results and comments are as they were collected.

We'll let you decide if this group of 100-field workers thought our JSA training program is any good!


Confined Space Entry Standard

Graham Marshall - Thursday, December 27, 2012

The importance of organizations having a good Confined Space Entry Standard for employee use within confined spaces cannot be understated.

Confined spaces are either partially or completely enclosed working environments.

They are only meant for short-term worker occupancy.

And entering confined spaces is always "high-risk" because of many factors like space-design, previous storage history, and atmosphere.

When implementing an appropriate Confined Space Standard of control, the risk to workers who perform in confined spaces and the hazards and dangers they face can be substantially reduced to the ALARP level.

Employers can keep workers safe by reducing accidents and also save money when they present their workers with a planned and safe working environment.

The picture below gives four key characteristics of confined spaces and then goes on to provide clear explanation and illustration for safety.

• Lack of oxygen results in 50% of confined space worker fatalities.

• Four important steps when working in a confined space.

• One quarter of confined spaces have toxic air environments.

• A loss in just 5% oxygen in the air causes impaired judgement as well as problems breathing.

Employers who develop proper Confined Space Entry Standards and provide training and education to workers can reduce fatalities and accidents.

Identifying and controlling the hazards, and understanding what to do in an emergency are critical.

There is no reason why anyone needs to lose their life working in a confined space.


Safely performing hot work

Graham Marshall - Friday, August 10, 2012

Hot work involves any activity that can be a source of ignition when flammable material is present, or which can be a direct fire hazard even if flammable material is not present.

Here are some examples of hot work:

 Welding;

 Soldering;

 Cutting metals;

 Brazing;

 Grinding; and

 Drilling into metal which may cause sparks.

Hot work may even include such activities as taking photographs with a non-intrinsically-safe camera.

Countries such as the USA, Australia, Canada, NZ and the UK have regulations requiring safety permits for hot work.

There are also country-specific industry standards from groups such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the American Welding Society, the American Petroleum Institute (API), and others, which describe safe procedures for hot work.

If hot work requires that you issue hot work permits, you must be properly trained on your plant requirements and procedures before you can issue any hot work permits.

Unfortunately, the majority of incidents associated with hot work occur because the presence of flammable material was not anticipated.

In many cases, flammable vapors flow into the area where the hot-work is being done by a route which had not been anticipated..

Insufficient flammable vapor monitoring of the atmosphere in vessels or other equipment, or in the general work area, is also a frequent contributing cause to hot work incidents.

What you can do:

 Eliminate chemical hazards by draining and cleaning-out tanks, purging residual vapours and establishing an inert atmosphere (e.g., using Nitrogen blanket or filling tanks full with water);

 Isolating areas being subjected to hot-work from other process areas to ensure there is no inward flow, using valves (double block and bleed), caps, blind-flanges or other physical devices;

 Establishing lock-out, tag-out (LOTO) on all isolation points to ensure that isolations cannot be inadvertently breached;

 Understand procedures and permit requirements for safe hot work in your facility;

 Understand the hazards of your process. Know what has to be done to prepare the work area for safe hot work and be sure it is done before you start;

 Anticipate how far sparks or heat can travel or be conducted. Be prepared if work area conditions change;

 Make sure that any activities required during the hot work (for example, monitoring for flammable vapors, maintaining purges) are actually done.

 If you do hot work, make sure you understand everything required for you to do each specific job safely, and follow these safety requirements.

OSHA Permit Controlled Confined Spaces

Graham Marshall - Monday, July 09, 2012

One of our readers from Bakersfield in California recently sent me this link to the OSHA guidance covering permit-required confined space entry in the USA.  It may be useful reading for our American visitors.

Many workplaces contain spaces that are considered to be “confined” because their configurations hinder the activities of employees who must enter into, work in or exit from them.

In many instances, employees who work in confined spaces also face increased risk of exposure to serious physical injury from hazards such as entrapment, engulfment and hazardous atmospheric conditions.

Confinement itself may pose entrapment hazards and work in confined spaces may keep employees closer to hazards such as machinery components than they would be otherwise.

For example, confinement, limited access and restricted airflow can result in hazardous conditions that would not normally arise in an open workplace.

The terms “permit-required confined space” and “permit space” refer to spaces that meet OSHA’s definition of a “confined space” and contain health or safety hazards.

For this reason, OSHA requires workers to have a permit to enter these spaces.  Read the guideline to find out more information on OSHA's requirements for confined space entry in the USA.

Entry into Enclosed Spaces - Scotland Seminar

Graham Marshall - Thursday, July 05, 2012

It is always sad to hear of incidents when someone needlessly dies working within a confined space.

In most cases, the lack of oxygen is often accompanied by lack of training, lack of procedures or a lack of safety-critical equipment.

It is a sad fact that we still have to look into reasons for these omissions in this day and age.

In response, the Nautical Institute (North of Scotland branch) and the UK Mines Rescue (Marine) are showcasing the training procedures required and also the training for personnel who may have to rescue a colleague from an enclosed space.

This worthwhile event is being held at the Aberdeen Beach Ballroom (Aberdeen, Scotland) on 20th September 2012.

Who should attend?

+   Ship Superintendents;

+   Crew Members;

+   Port Managers;

+   Offshore Managers;

+   Safety Managers;

+   Ship Surveyors;

+   HSE Personnel; and

+   Government Inspectors.

For more information, click this link to open the brochure.

JSA for Excavation Work

Graham Marshall - Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Activities involving the digging of trenches or tunnels by hand or using machines pose significant risk. 

The risk management tasks to ensure worker safety include the prevention of collapse of excavation walls and adjacent structures. 

Excavation work should only be undertaken once an appropriate Job Safety Analysis has been undertaken.

In our shop you'll find a JSA that gets workers thinking about the hazards they face when working in excavations and how they can control the risk. 

To find the JSA, simply click here

Court Case Highlights Confined Space Risk

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The risk involved in  confined space entry work has again been highlighted by a court case in Scotland ruling on the unfortunate deaths of two men on a fish farm barge in Argyll.

Maarten Pieter Den Heijer, 30, and 45-year-old Robert MacDonald died on Loch Creran, near Oban, whilst working for Scottish Sea Farms and an engineering company called Logan Inglis.

In the court case held in February 2012, Scottish Sea Farms was fined £333,335 and Logan Inglis was fined £20,000 over the two men's deaths.

The court heard how Scottish Sea Farms worker Campbell Files and engineer Arthur Raikes - employed by Logan Inglis - were fixing a hydraulic crane on the barge when they went below deck to find cabling and pipework.

The oxygen levels below deck were very low and Mr Files passed out while Mr Raikes managed to climb back out.

In an attempt to rescue Mr Files, his Scottish Sea Farms colleagues Mr Den Heijer and Mr MacDonald entered the small chamber below deck but lost consciousness almost immediately.

The three men needed to be rescued by emergency services but only Mr Files recovered.

Following the incident on 11 May 2009, inspectors from the UK HSE discovered Scottish Sea Farms had failed to suitably prepare staff for working in the small, sealed chambers on the Loch Creran barge.

Logan Inglis was also found to have failed in its duties to staff in terms of information provided and training.

Neither company had identified the risk to their respective employees from working in the confined spaces.

Both firms pleaded guilty to breaches of safety rules.

The court heard that both firms had good records on health and safety matters.

Scottish Sea Farms was said to have an annual turnover of almost £94 million. For Logan Inglis the figure was more than £2.7 million.

The appeal judges were told the engineers had been hit by the economic downturn and that if the fine was too heavy it could lead to redundancies.

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