, , , , , ,

Work at Height

10 million workers are estimated to be carrying out jobs involved in working at height every year in the UK. Falls are the biggest causes of death and injury. However, if one uses their safety harness and work at height gear properly (see video below!) all should be ok.

There are some very simple approaches to considering whether to work at height in the first place. If it is “reasonably practicable” not to work at height, then one shouldn’t. It work at height is necessary, one should minimise the distance of a possible fall.

The law (Work at Height Regulations 2005) says that ladders can be used for work at height, if a higher level of fall protection is not justified because of the low risk and short duration of use. The ladder must be secured on level and stable ground. If one is required to stay on a leaning ladder for 30 minutes or more, then alternative work at height equipment should be used. There are a few myths surrounding the use of ladders…ladders are not banned from building sites if it’s sensible to use them…one does not have to be qualified to use a ladder, just competent…and walking up and down of stairs in one’s course of work is not working at height…

Fall arrest equipment and safety harnesses can be used on a work site to prevent falls. For example, a lanyard connected to an anchorage point restricting the distance a worker can go, hence preventing him/her from reaching the edge. A lanyard may have a shock absorber attached to it. The best anchorage point for a harness is above head level. If a worker does fall while having a safety harness, he/she must be rescued within an average of 18 minutes or they may suffer health effects due to suspension trauma.

When erecting a scaffolding system, falls can be prevented by erecting an advance guard rail system. This is where temporary guard rail units are locked in place from below. They are in place before the operator accesses the platform to fit the permanent guard rails. If this cannot be done, workers can wear a safety harness to arrest any falls during its construction. If using a scaffold tower, it should have safety features such as an exit and entry door. Guardrails must be fitted with an inbuilt access ladder or staircase. Scaffold towers must be built by a competent person and inspected regularly.

Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWPs), if used, should have guard rails for arresting falls. A harness could also be used by the worker to further protect them. MEWP’s should not be used in extreme weather conditions as they can become unstable. They shouldn’t be operated near overhead cables or power lines.

So, if one is an employer, controls work at height or works for themselves, then they have responsibilities under UK law. All work at height must be properly planned, supervised and carried out by competent people. All the appropriate equipment must be used and maintained, the work area risk assessed and hazards mitigated against.





, , , , , , ,

5 Star Certification Success

Success for TEAMFORCE Labour

Railway Industry Supplier Qualification Scheme (RISQS)

Following preparation with our team and an audit by Achilles in June this year, we are pleased to announce that TEAMFORCE Labour (www.teamforcelabour.co.uk) has had its certification against the Railway Industry Supplier Qualification Scheme (RISQS) renewed for another 12 months.

TEAMFORCE supplies and recruits labour and specialists in the following industries, civil, construction and railways. This accreditation enables them to continue to provide  its customers with talented and dedicated people. The TEAMFORCE strong ethos and investment into Health & Safety, advanced systems and processes will ensure that personnel carry out their work safely and effectively.

The audit was particularly successful and resulted in Team Force being awarded a 5 star rating from Achilles, the highest available.

The 5 star rating is designated when the highest standards have been consistently maintained over 2 consecutive years.

Gerry McCarthy (Managing Director) stated, “The five-star rating means that TEAMFORCE Labour continues to be formally recognised as a capable provider of services to the Rail industry. We achieved the highest rating by successfully proving we have robust processes, procedures and documentation in place. This achievement is as a result of the continuous team work in the company.  Achieving this 5-star rating increases our visibility to Network Rail, LUL/Transport for London, passenger, light rail and freight train operators, rolling stock organisations, main infrastructure contractors and other rail products and services providers in the management of supply chain risk”.

What is RISQS?

RISQS, formerly known as Achilles Link-up, has been developed to provide a service for the qualification of suppliers for all products and services that are procured by the industry. RISQS supports Network Rail, LUL/Transport for London, passenger, light rail and freight train operators, rolling stock organisations, main infrastructure contractors and other rail products and services providers in the management of supply chain risk.

For more information about RISQS please contact our team to discuss.

, , , , , ,

Respiratory priority areas – workplace awareness

Occupational respiratory disease is a big issue. Every year there are approximately 12 000 deaths due to occupational respiratory diseases. There are many trades and industries where by workers may be putting their lives and health at risk. If not taking precautions and ignoring the fumes within the air around them, workers may be prone to long term illnesses. Although a respiratory disease may arise in any industry, the main sectors include agricultural workers, construction workers, welders, bakery workers and vehicle paint sprayers.

Whilst some illnesses may be clearly linked to work, others may have a ‘latency’ period, some up to 30 years, which can make the link between work and the development of the disease difficult to establish. Respiratory diseases include asthma, COPD (Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and silicosis.

Workers in agriculture can be exposed to high levels of dust and micro-organisms. Grain workers include those who harvest, dry, store and transport grain. Those who look after livestock, are involved in vegetable cultivation and straw bailing are susceptible to contracting respiratory disorders. Bakery workers who work with high levels of flour dust and enzyme improvers are also susceptible.

For quarry and stone workers, the main risks here is exposure to dust and crystalline silica. Key activities of where exposures occur include stone masonry, demolition and stone floor laying. There is much awareness from professional organisations and suppliers about the risks of silica. Interventions have included leaflets outlining the dangers of working with dust, and, there have been events for employers to raise awareness. There is also a foundry worker initiative. Welding can give off airborne gases and very fine particles. If inhaled, can lead to a number of respiratory diseases. If there is mining of high silica stone, working in sand pits and blasting, there can also be health risks. Vehicle paint sprayers may contract occupational paint asthma from isocyanate paints.

Respiratory Protective Equipment

Other reasonable controls must be put in place before resorting to respiratory protective equipment (RPE). RPE should be used for short term and infrequent use only. It must be worn correctly and maintained. If, according to a risk assessment and adhering to the law, RPE must be used, then it must be suitable for the intended use, be right for the wearer, task and environment, and be properly integrated into the normal workplace environment. RPE must be manufactured according to the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002. It must have a CE mark on it; this will indicate that it has met the minimum legal requirements for its design. In addition to the COSHH Regulations 2002, RPE may be needed to comply with other legislation. This may include the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002, Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999, Confined Spaces Regulations 1997 and the basic requirement of Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, to which it is always necessary to maintain a safe working environment for employees.

Source  http://www.hse.gov.uk/

, , , , , ,

The Construction Worker – Manual Handling and Noise

The biggest health risks for the construction engineer can result from manual handling, vibration, biological hazards, dust/fumes, being injured/loss of life due to machinery and noise pollution. This article addresses manual handling and noise.

Manual Handling

Even though manual handling is a part of the construction environment, there is no reason for one to injure oneself. All it takes is a little bit of planning and time to set things up properly so that the workers are not at risk. Handling things incorrectly can lead to musculoskeletal disorders. These disorders are mostly non-fatal, however, they cause much discomfort with many days being taken off work. There is no ‘safe’ weight limit for any one person; it is advised to seek guidance for weight lifting procedures from the Manual Handling Operations Regulations (MHOR) as outlined by the HSE. The employer should not leave it up to the employee to decide whether they should lift the weight. There are duties on the employer under the Manual Handling Operations Regulations to ensure that there are controls in place to minimize the risk to workers. Trolleys, cranes, lifting trucks, leverage devices, pulleys and other aids are all available to be used on the work site so that manual handling is not necessary. Manual handling does not only apply to lifting and lowering but also to pushing and pulling. The workers must be trained in how to lift stuff correctly using these manual aids. If suitable and light loads are ok to be lifted manually, the workers must know how to lift correctly by bending the knees and beginning in the squatting position etc.


How does ones assess if there is a high noise level? If one has to raise their voice to have a normal conversation when standing about 2 metres apart, for at least part of the day, then noise levels on the site may be at a level which could damage health. Noise can result in many distressing conditions such as tinnitus, difficulty having a conversation or using the phone and general hearing loss. If it is not possible to remove the construction worker from the noisy area or provide them with quieter equipment, then hearing protection and hearing protection zones may be appropriate. However, hearing protection should not be the solution for extended use and over long periods of time. Construction workers should be frequently rotated to other less noisy areas and the work alternated between workers. Workers should be trained in how and when to use the hearing protectors and the aim should be at least below 85 dB of noise at the ear. On a noisy construction site or oneone where it may become a risk to health, a noise risk assessment should be carried out. This may include measuring the noise exposure over the day and observing the working patterns.



, , , , , , , ,

Asbestos: How to approach working with it

Working with and managing asbestos containing materials is classified as being either non-licenced work, notifiable non-licenced work or licenced work. To determine whether the work is licensable or non-licensable, a risk assessment needs to be carried out by professionals. The risk assessment should include the details of the type and quantity of the asbestos, the expected level of exposure, how exposure will be reduced (for example, using PPE/RPE, controlled wetting, ventilation), decontamination procedures, how the waste will be managed and emergency procedures.

Licenced higher risk asbestos work includes that where the asbestos is not sporadic and is of low density, i.e it is difficult to control the spread of it while working with it. Higher risk also includes work where the risk assessment cannot clearly demonstrate that the control limit will not exceed 0.1 asbestos fibres per centimetre of air. Licenced work can include, for example, work with asbestos insulation and where the risk assessment demonstrates that the work is not of short duration.

Notifiable non-licenced work (NNLW) is work where the employer / controller must report the work to the relevant authority, must ensure medical examinations are carried out and maintain registers of work. The more friable the material being worked on, the more of a hazard it will be. Most work that involves friable materials will be NNLW and the least friable work will be non-reportable. Friable means where the asbestos is likely to be a powder or expose itself to the air. Examples of notifiable non-licensed work includes that where asbestos insulating boards are removed, work involving asbestos insulation and removal of asbestos cement products. This kind of work can also include the removal of decorative coatings using steaming or gelling methods.

The third type of asbestos removal or working on it, is that which is non-licenced. If the risk assessment dictates that this can be carried out, this work can include cleaning up small quantities of fine debris and short duration work. This work can also include drilling of textured decorative coatings for insulation of fixtures and the maintenance of asbestos products. It can also include maintenance work, example, painting an asbestos board that is in good condition.

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 outlines how the carefully work with asbestos. These regulation procedures are too exhaustive to mention here but they cover everything from preparing the area worked on to waste disposal. Employers and those in control of managing asbestos have a duty to comply with these regulations. Asbestos awareness training would be mandatory for employees if they are working on a building in such a way that there is a risk of asbestos becoming exposed. Emergency and medical procedures should be in place in case a hazard becomes reality.



Image credit


, , , , ,

Environmental Laws

The Environment Agency (EA) was created in 1995. It is sponsored by the UK’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The EA and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) work together to protect the environment, employees and the general public. The EA is one of the regulators under the Environmental Permitting Regulations. The EA has control over issuing permits for waste management, water activities, farming and radioactive substances.

The Environment Agency (EA) is the principal flood risk management operating authority. It uses its resources to reduce the likelihood of flooding. The EA has an important role in conservation and the ecology along the rivers and wetlands. It controls the release of pollutants into the air from industry. The EA works with local authorities, such as the Highways agency, to implement the UK’s air quality strategy as mandated in the Environment Act 1995.

Asbestos regulation, waste management, infectious clinical wastes and harmful chemicals also fall under its regulation. Water quality and water resources are also part of its remit. The EA has the duty to improve and maintain the quality of water in rivers, lakes, and the sea along the shoreline. It also maintains the habitats of the fisheries in the UK.

Together with the Control of Major Accident Hazard Regulations 2015 (COMAH) and the HSE, the EA works in protecting the environment against dangerous substances. Other agencies working together include the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, Natural Resources Wales and the Office for Nuclear Regulation. COMAH seeks to protect people and the environment from the risk of major accidents occurring. It ensures that those responsible for creating the risks meet their responsibilities and that emergency arrangements are in place. Dangerous substances can include liquid petroleum gas, explosives and arsenic.

Another of the many environmental laws in the UK includes the Environmental Protection Act 1990. This has responsibility for waste management and control of emissions into the air. Part I of the Act deals with controlling emissions into the environment. Part II regulates and licences the disposal of controlled waste on land. This includes industrial and household waste. Other parts of the Act include the regulation of litter waste, statutory nuisances, risk assessment for genetically modified organisms and nature conservation of the countryside.

There are many European Union Environmental Directives whereby the member countries work together to help maintain the environment. Some of the European directives that the Environment Agency has responsibility for regulating (in the UK) include the Groundwater Directives, Birds Directive, Asbestos Directive and Habitats Directives. There are many others. The EA advises the Government directly on issues regarding the environment.





Image Credit


, , , , , ,

Pallet Safety

PUWER (Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998) covers the safety of work equipment involving pallets and the use of them. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 is also applicable. These regulations cover the hazards and risks of using pallets in the work place. Pallets consist of a flat platform that are used with forklift trucks or other transportation means. They are used to transport goods between distances and to stack at height.

Incorrect use of pallets and falling pallets can cause many accidents in warehouses and storage facilities. Different pallets need to be used for different loads. For example, pallets used for carrying boxes of pens will be different from pallets needed for carrying heavy electrical equipment. Considerations should be given to the pallet load, i.e will it be liquid, solid or powder. Considerations should be given to the type of restraints used, pallet stacking, the pallet climate (i.e. in a cold warehouse or a hot house) and what the pallet is made out of. Pallets can be moved in different ways, i.e by forklift, cranes, automated equipment and bar slings – these all need to be risk assessed. Pallets need to be properly maintained. Re-usable pallets should be marked as such. Pallets should not be dragged along the ground as this can result in fraying and fatigue cracks. When goods are unloaded from one level to another, and there is a risk of injury, so forklift operators should be protected.

Pallets can be made out of different materials, i.e. wood, plastic, pressed wood, corrugated cardboard, and metal. Wooden pallets should be fastened at each end with two or more nails. The wood should not be rotting or fraying apart. Plastic pallets can be susceptible to brittle fracture in cold environments. They should be checked so that they are not distorted by heat or cold temperatures or chemical environments. Pressed wood and corrugated cardboard pallets should not have signs of water retention or flaking. Metal pallets should not be corroded or damaged in any way.

Pallets handled by a crane should only be fitted by a suitable attachment. Forklift operators should ensure that the forks are spaced so that maximum support is given to the pallet.  Both pedestrians and moving vehicles (i.e forklifts) in a warehouse need to be able to move freely. Warehouses should be designed to reduce the risks from reversing vehicles and driveways should be clear. General health and safety should be clearly communicated for all in these kinds of work environments.

Forklifts out of control!!!





, , , , ,

Eye and Face Safety

The Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002 and the Personal Protective Equipment at Work regulations 1992 contain the guidelines for protecting the body, including the face and eyes. Hazards to the eyes and face include chemical/metal splashes, dust, projectiles, gas/vapour, radiation, temperature extremes, hair tangled in machinery and the risk of the head being knocked. The protection with safety goggles, face screens, safety helmets and hairnets are vital. Neck protection should also be considered, for example, using scarves when welding. Full face respirators may be required when one is working in gaseous/asbestos and fine dust particle environments.

In welding and flame cutting, operators must use specific eye protection that conform to the relevant standards. Protection includes filters (auto-darkening and fixed) as well as impact resistance protectors. Spot welding is the more controllable task and therefore only a safeguard against splatter is required. Safeguards should also protect against UV light. Eyes should be covered at all stages of the work. Goggles should be worn when dusting down chipping.

The protective equipment used for face protection in welding and other hazardous work should have European and British Standards makings. This is denoted by a series of numbers/lettering. A guard used in welding, for example, will contain letters that denote its mechanical strength, and, whether, for example, it is resistant to hot solids or molten splashes. If a darkened face shield is required, then the shield will have markings for this. There can be other properties of face and eye protectors, for example, mechanical strength, resistance to abrasion, mechanical and electrical properties. For fire-fighters and emergency services, faceguards that are resistant to extremes of temperature are specifically relevant. There are also eye protectors for colder extremes, for example, snowmobile drivers. The eye/face protection must have the right combination of protective qualities for the situation in which it is being used, for example, special protectors for dust, splashes and temperatures. Protectors must fit the user correctly.

Regular monitoring and having replacement parts at the ready, if required, should be part of the management and caring for all PPE. A qualified person should check everything is working OK and report any signs of wear, broken parts and ill-fitting PPE. Operators need to be well trained and report any PPE issues that may occur. If in doubt what PPE to select, the supplier/manufacturer will be able to advise what to use for the specific task. Also, a health and safety professional will be able to direct what to use to comply with the law.



Image Credit




, , , , ,

Safety in Surface Engineering

Surface engineering involves altering the properties of solid surfaces to enhance their preservation and/or design. This includes plating technologies. Examples include preventing corrosion, making items more aesthetic to the eye, making surfaces non-stick and lubricity enhancement. These technologies are used in the automotive, electronic, biomedical, steel, power and road surfacing environments. Most types of materials, i.e. metals, ceramics, polymers etc. can be coated onto similar or dissimilar materials to preserve them. Otherwise, environmental erosion will cause wear, fatigue and corrosion.

There are many technologies and nano technologies used in surface engineering that are hazardous to health. These include chromium and nickel plating technologies. Nickel and chromium acid mist can be detrimental to health. These mists can be breathable when dispersed into the air. These substances can cause lung cancer, occupational asthma, occupational dermatitis and burns. These chemicals are classified by REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) as being of very high concern and they require authorisation under these regulations. COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) requires one to substitute these more dangerous chemicals with less hazardous alternatives. If this is not possible, it is necessary to control the risks. Local exhaust ventilation and ways of reducing mist levels, for example, the use of chroffles can help control these chemical mists. ‘Chroffles’ look like ping pong balls that form a floating layer on the surface of the electrolyte. Chromic mist is corrosive to equipment so this should be monitored regularly.

Depending on the risk assessment, operators may also be required to wear the appropriate PPE/RPE. Gloves which resist the permeation of chromium/nickel should be used. Floors, walls and other surfaces should be cleaned regularly to prevent contamination. Eye protection and full face visors are necessary where there is a risk of splashing. Coveralls, impervious aprons and regular hand washing is vital. A health surveillance can be in operation in these environments. Emergency showers and emergency eye wash stations are required to be in the immediate vicinity of these work areas.

All should be trained in the risks, understand the correct maintenance of control measures, undergo work practices that prevent/reduce exposure and be aware of emergency procedures.





Image Credit


, , , , , , , , ,

Asbestos: Prevalence and Effect on Health

Towards the end of the 19th century, asbestos had widespread uses. It was used in the making of concrete, pipes, bricks, cement, pipe insulation, ceiling insulation, flooring and roofing. Its fire-retardant properties were used in many materials that required fire resistant coatings.

The inhalation and close proximity of working with asbestos can cause serious health problems. The first death related to asbestos occurred in 1906. Over the centuries, 1000’s of people have died as a result of exposure to asbestos. This life threatening illnesses affected those who worked in asbestos mines, were involved in the spinning of raw asbestos into yarn, worked in textile factories and were involved in building and construction. Over the war years many died as a result of working on asbestos containing materials that were prevalent on ships, for examples in the pipes and ship fittings. Even persons who were not directly working with asbestos were affected. This included those living in the vicinity of an asbestos factory or even those living with family members who worked with asbestos.

The chemical structure of asbestos is that of fibrous crystals that are naked to the human eye. Asbestos can be classified according to its color, i.e. blue, brown, white and green. In 1985, blue and brown asbestos materials were banned in the UK. White asbestos was outlawed in 1999. In 2011, it has been reported that over half of all UK households contain asbestos. This is because these buildings were most likely built before the 1980’s, before asbestos was first outlawed.

If asbestos in homes and industrial premises is not disturbed and it is left well concealed, it should not pose a major problem. However, if it becomes disturbed, for example, in renovation or when knocking an older building down, it may become a health hazard as the asbestos particles could be free in the air. In these cases it should either be managed by wearing PPE/RPE and following safety guidelines. If it is termed a major hazard, it should only be managed and removed by licenced professionals. Construction companies must ensure their workers understand the risks associated with asbestos should they come in contact with it.

Common places where asbestos can be found (in both industrial and residential buildings) include the lagging in pipes, asbestos containing boards in the ceiling, in older fire blankets, sprayed coatings in ceilings/walls, in gutters and in bath and cistern panels. It should be noted that by removing asbestos containing materials, its fire-retardant properties may also be removed. So, substitute fire protection will need to replace these.

Mesothelioma and asbestosis have been observed in persons who are occupationally exposed to asbestos. Asbestosis is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes scarring to the tissue of the lungs. This is caused by the inhalation and settling of the asbestos fibres in the lungs. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs and lower digestive tract. Pleural thickening of the lungs can also occur. This can cause shortness of breath and discomfort in the chest. All cases of asbestos poisoning can be fatal.




Image credit