, , , , , , , , ,

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.

Sources

www.wikipedia.org/wiki/asbestos

http://www.hse.gov.uk/

Image credit

https://www.morguefile.com/creative/Melodi2

 

, , , , , , ,

Controlling Risk in Construction

Assessing risk, controlling and reviewing it are the main elements to working safely on any construction site.

Assessing the work area involves investigating the hazards, i.e who could be harmed (including the environment), how somebody could be harmed and to what extent harm could occur. Common health hazards can come from working with dust, asbestos, noise, vibrating equipment, cement and lead. The consequences of manual handling, and slip and trip hazards are also risks to one’s health. Occupational diseases include asthma, musculoskeletal disorders, occupational cancer and asbestosis and noise related hearing impairments.

In the assessment of risk on a construction project, the mitigation of risks should be part of the construction plans from the beginning. When doing so, one must consider the aims of the project, the amount of people employed, the length (in terms of weeks and even years) and the size of the project. The hazards and their consequences must all be assessed as part of the whole. The workers must be well trained so that they can work in cooperation with management. Both must comply with the law and the onus is on both to report any threatening issues.

Controlling the risks in construction involves completely eliminating them or diminishing them to an acceptable level that is reasonably practical, and complies with the law. This involves working with the safest equipment available, providing appropriate protective equipment (including respiratory) for workers. Other controls may include allowing limited access to hazardous work areas (where only qualified personnel are allowed), rotating the workers that are doing the hazardous tasks and allowing frequent breaks. Having strong protocol and work processes in place, by which workers must adhere to, will result in a ‘work trail’ whereby the risks to health is diminished. In this case, should an investigation be required later, one would be able to identify the likely cause of the situation that has occurred. A lot of responsibility depends on the training of staff, the hiring of competent workers and the preservation of a communicative and progressive work environment amongst them.

As with any work place, especially construction, the work environment is subject to change. Therefore, the risks need to be reviewed at regular intervals, and, most urgently as new changes occur. Changes can include new staff, the introduction of new equipment, new job roles and new changes to the construction phases of the project. Even a change in the weather can have an effect. Consideration must be given to temporary workers, shift workers, young workers and staff whose first language is not English. Temporary or young workers may not be experienced with procedures and so should be competently trained and supervised. Equipment should be tested for safety features and be well maintained. Maintenance work should be carried out safely. Any incidences of ill health should be investigated and a health surveillance system would be advisable. Formal audits may be useful in tackling ‘gap areas’.

Sources

http://www.hse.gov.uk/

Image Credit

https://www.morguefile.com/creative/Alvimann

 

, , , , ,

Risk

All workplaces need to control the risks to their workers, visitors and the public. If an organisation has 5 or more employees, it must document the risk assessment. If less than 5 employees, a risk assessment still has to be carried out, however it does not have to be recorded. It may be communicated verbally. There are 5 steps to controlling risks in the workplace, (1) Identify the hazards, (2) Decide who might be harmed and how, (3) Evaluate the risks, (4) Record the findings, (5) Review and update the assessment.

  • Identify the hazards

To help identify the hazards, one must walk around the workplace and also ask employees what they consider the hazards are. If equipment is being used, one must check the manufacturers’ sheets so that employees are aware of the hazards. Previous ill health records and near misses should be re-visited so that lessons can be learned. This then can be part of the risk assessment in moving forward. Other non-routine functions such as maintenance and cleaning can also pose their own risks, so these must be part of the risk assessment as well.

  • Decide who might be harmed and how

It is necessary to converse with employees at this stage, as most often they will be able to more easily identify the risks. This is because they are in direct contract with materials and work processes. Some workers may be more at risk due to the circumstances surrounding their employment. These include temporary workers, people with disabilities, persons whose first language is not English, young workers, isolated workers, expectant and new mothers. People who are also not regular visitors to the workplace such as maintenance workers and the public should be part of the risk assessment and control measures in place. These persons, not being part of the regular workforce, may not be aware of the risks/hazards.

  • Evaluate the risks

The risk assessment will include what an employer / the self-employed are reasonably expected to know. The control measures include diminishing the risk with a less risky process. For example, substituting the use of a piece of equipment for a less dangerous piece of equipment to do the same job. Hazards can also be controlled by preventing access to them, i.e. access to certain areas by only trained personnel. Other ways of controlling the hazards include issuing protective equipment to workers, having welfare and fire stations nearby and organising the workplace so that exposure to the hazards are minimised. Involving workers is vital, as they can have quite a lot of information on daily work activities.

  • Record the significant findings

A good way to record the risk assessment is to use a risk assessment template. This is a document with check boxes and areas for recording the risks and what’s to be done to control them. There are also on-line risk assessment tools that people can use.

  • Renew/updating of the assessment

When the nature of the business or work environment changes, for example in construction, these new changes must be reflected in the risk assessment.

Sources

www.hse.gov.uk

Image Credit

http://www.morguefile.com/creative/NataliaRostova

, , , , , , , , ,

Making Good Scaffolding

Good scaffolding design is necessary from the outset. This is to prevent falls, trips, manual handling disorders from occurring, and projectiles from falling and other dangerous situations from occurring. The Work at Height Regulations 2005 require scaffolding to be designed competently so that it is stable and fit for use. The National Access and Scaffolding Confederation has the standards in place for the practice of erecting scaffolding correctly.

Before scaffolding can be erected, one must consider all the functions of it. The will include the site location, the period of time the scaffold will need to be in place, the height and length of the scaffolding, the number of boarded lifts and the maximum working load at any one time. Also, other factors would have to be taken into account, such as the type of access to the scaffold (for example, staircase, ladder), whether there is a requirement for netting and whether a pedestrian walkway is required. The ground conditions and even the weather conditions have to be factored in. There are some scaffolds that require a customised design. These include those involving mobile towers, temporary ramps, access scaffolds with working lifts, marine scaffolds, rubbish chutes and pedestrian foot bridges.

All employees must be trained and understand how to navigate around scaffolding. PPE will need to be worn such as hard hats, gloves (if required), safety shoes, reflective clothing and any other protective equipment. A harness may also be required. Trainee scaffolders should work under a competent supervisor.

Although there are many hazards posed with working with scaffolding, falls from height are one of the greatest hazards. In order to comply with the Work at Height regulations, the employer/self-employed must ensure that the risks are assessed, the risks of working on/near fragile surfaces is managed and that the equipment used is properly inspected and maintained. A visible tag system for use in scaffolding will notify others that the scaffolding has been inspected. There can also be a risk of falling during the erection of the scaffolding; this must be controlled as well. This can be controlled by use of an advanced guard rail system. If this is not used, workers should wear a harness.

Sources

www.hse.gov.uk

Image Credit

http://www.morguefile.com/creative/infinitetrix

, , , , ,

Happy New Year 2016 from Protectus Consulting

A very happy and fruitful new year to all our readers. 2015 has had many changes to health and safety legislation.

Some changes over the past year…

From June 2015, DSEAR (Dangerous Substances and Explosives Atmospheres Regulations 2002) has placed a formal requirement on employers to assess the risks for substances if these are classified as dangerous/explosive. However, this change will most likely have a minimal effect as these changes to DSEAR are already covered under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Other changes have included the Offshore Installations (Offshore Safety Directive)(Safety Case etc.) regulations 2015, that came into force in July 2015. They replace the Offshore Installations (Safety Case) regulations 2005. These new changes apply to oil and gas operations in external waters, i.e. the territorial area adjacent to Great Britain. Their primary aim is to reduce the risks from hazards to the health and safety of the workforce employed in offshore installations.

The Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Regulations 2015 came into force in June 2015. Some changes include substances covered by the regulations being updated, and, there has also been some definitions changed. There have been changes to emergency planning and there is a stronger requirement for public information. Local authorities must now inform people likely to be affected by a major accident.

The Mines Regulations 2015 came into force in April 2015. The main focus here has been on the control of the risks from major hazards in mines. The Principal duty holder is now the mine operator and not the mine manager. All persons working in mines also need to have relevant qualifications.

Other changes over the past year include the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 that came into force in April 2015. It contained various changes to its legislation involving responsibilities.

The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 is now updated with references to legislation and standards have been amended to mirror the changes made by the classification, Labelling and Packaging of Chemicals Regulations 2015.

Sources

www.hse.gov.uk

Image Credit

http://www.morguefile.com/creative/richard_b

 

 

, , , ,

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 are there to protect people against risks to their health from exposure to noise at work and visitors at a work place. A worker or person within a noisy workplace should not be exposed to the lower exposure action values of 80 dB with a peak sound pressure of 135 dB on a daily or weekly basis. If the noise exposure varies considerably from day to day, the employer can assess the noise level as being a weekly average. If an employee is working in an environment whereby the noise level is at or above the lower exposure limit, the employer must carry out a risk assessment. There is also an exposure limit value of 87 dB.

The risk assessment findings should include the level, type and duration of the exposure. It should also be investigated, where possible, if there is an interaction between ototoxic substances and hearing. Also, if there are any effects between hearing and noise vibration. Ototoxic substances are those that are toxic to the ear, i.e the cochlea or auditory nerve, such as a side effect of a drug. Noise can effect the ear in many ways, from reversible and temporary, to irreversible and permanent. It should also be considered if there is the availability of alternative work equipment which would produce less noise. If personal hearing protectors are supplied, it should be considered if these are the best ones and the availability of information for employees. If there have been changes to the work place these all must be reflected in the risk assessment as they occur.

There are many actions following the risk assessment findings. Generally, they are that the risk from the exposure of employees to noise is either eliminated, or, where this is not reasonably practicable, reduced to as low a level as possible for work to be carried out. If there is exposure to the upper limits, the employer must reduce exposure to as low level as possible, by establishing organisational and technical measures to do so. This includes the design and layout of work places, the use of work equipment that emits the least possible noise, limitation of the duration and intensity of noise by moving the workers periodically to less noisy areas, the suitable training of employees and appropriate rest periods. If there is an area at work where an employee is likely to be exposed to the upper noise levels; this area should be designated a Hearing Protection Zone, is a ‘restricted access’ area and no entry without wearing hearing protectors. All employees should wear hearing protectors according to the regulations and engage in a health surveillance as dictated by the risk assessment. Any changes or suspect changes to an employees’ hearing should be documented and action taken immediately to limit or exclude any further exposure to stressful noise levels by this employee. Employees should have information on how to detect and report hearing damage. However, safe working practices should already be in place, in consultation with the regulations, so that there is not the necessity to work backwards and try to repair hearing loss that has already occurred.

Sources

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2005/1643/contents/made

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ototoxicity

, , , , , ,

Safety Footwear at Work

Footwear that is slip resistant and protects the feet from falling objects is a must for working in the construction and any related hazardous environment. In addition, safety footwear must be durable, comfortable, practical and easy to work in.

Slips

Slip resistant footwear should have been tested according to a coefficient of friction (CoF) test and have a marked value as such. The higher the CoF, the less likely one will slip when wearing. Footwear should be labelled with ‘CE’ and comply with the requirements of the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002.

A closely packed thread pattern works best with fluid contaminants and indoor environments. A more open pattern is better outdoors or on solid ground. Sip resistant properties can wear away over time, so, footwear needs to be replaced as this happens. Rigger boots (a looser fit than standard safety footwear) are sometimes worn. Even though these are easier to put on than standard safety boots, (because they are a looser fit), the wearer can more easily sustain a sprained ankle. Lace up boots are not suitable for work with asbestos. For some work, for example when working with cement, wellington boots may provide the best protection.

Toe protection

The bones in the foot are quite delicate, as are the muscles and tendons, so suitable protection is necessary to protect from falling hazards or entrapment. Steel toecaps protect against falling objects and mid toe protection protect against puncture (for example, if one treads on a nail).

Even though footwear may be tested in a laboratory, it isn’t always a substitute for wearing them in real work conditions. One should consider asking a supplier for trial pairs of footwear before they make their final decision to buy. The employer, before buying, could also specify the main surface and contaminants used in the workplace, and so ensure that the most suitable footwear is purchased for the job. Suppliers can offer advice on the best footwear for the job.

In addition to wearing the correct footwear, there are other factors that can cause hazards. If there is too little light people may not see hazards on the stairs or floor. Condensation, collecting frost and rainwater from an outside source may cause a floor to become more slippery. Human factors can also contribute to hazards. There should be protocol in place whereby every spillage is cleaned up as soon as. Unexpected loud noises, rushing around and being distracted can contribute to slips, falls, trips and unexpected falling hazards.

Sources

http://www.hse.gov.uk/

, , , , ,

Transitioning to the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015) came into force on 6 April 2015. This replaced the CDM 2007. For projects that have started before this date, there are transitional arrangements that that would need to be in place in the near future. One such change is where the construction phase of a project has not yet started. If this is the case and there is no CDM coordinator appointed, then the client must appoint a principal designer. However, if the coordinator has already been appointed he/she must be replaced by a principal designer by the 6th of October this year. If it takes a while to replace the CDM coordinator with the principal designer, the CDM coordinator must comply with the duties of Schedule 4 of CDM 2015. These reflect the duties placed on the coordinator under CDM 2007. This should occur until the principal designer is appointed. The principal designer has responsibility for co-coordinating the health and safety during the pre-construction phase/design phase.

Because the principal designer is the “designer” of the project/construction works or is someone who has first-hand knowledge of it, they are the only ones that will really understand the health and safety of the construct itself because they are inherently involved in it. So, therefore they have the best knowledge of leading and influencing the health and safety of the project. In the previous regulations, i.e CDM 2007, the role was often contracted out, which often lead to the individual not being able to influence the design according to health and safety standards. Under the new changes, the principal designer can be an organisation or an individual with sufficient knowledge, experience and ability to carry out the role. This may be combined with other roles such as architect or project leader. Some other changes to CDM 2015 include any project being notified under CDM 2007 is now notified under CDM 2015. The principal contractor appointed under CDM 2007 is now considered the same as under the CDM 2015 regulations.

Complying with CDM 2015 will help ensure that no one is unnecessarily injured in their working environment.  If more than one contract is involved in the project, the client will need to appoint a principal designer and a principal contractor. The principal designer will plan, organise and coordinate the design work. The principal contractor will plan, organise and coordinate the construction work. There are many resources for choosing reputable architects and designers, for example Safety Schemes in Procurement (SSIP) lists businesses that have a good track record in safety. A contractor may be a member of a trade organisation. The main considerations of a project are listed below (as listed by the HSE):

  1. Appoint the right people at the right time
  2. Ensure there are arrangements in place for managing and organising the project
  3. Allow adequate time, otherwise work may be unsafe and of poor quality
  4. Provide information to your designer and contractor
  5. Communicate with your designer and building contractor
  6. Ensure adequate welfare facilities on site
  7. Ensure a construction phase plan is in place
  8. Keep the health and safety file
  9. Protect members of the public, including your employees
  10. Ensure workplaces are designed correctly

 

Sources

http://www.designingbuildings.co.uk/wiki/CDM_2015_principal_designer_duties

http://www.hse.gov.uk/

 

, , , , , , ,

The Construction Worker – Vibration and Hazardous Substances

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 vibration and hazardous substances.

Vibration

Hand held and machinery operated tools used in construction can cause permanent injury to the hands and arms and even the whole body if not used correctly. The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 regulates the use of vibrating tools. Vibration affects the nerves, blood vessels, wrists, joints of the hand and arms. This can lead to Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS). Vibrating machines include sanders, grinders, drills, chainsaws, needle guns and concrete breakers. Working in cold weather can increase the severity of HAVS. How one can be affected includes difficulty with simple things like closing buttons on clothes, typing and holding things. In carrying out a risk assessment on vibrating equipment one should consider who will be using what equipment. Persons at high risk would be those that regularly use hammer action tools for more than an hour a day (or 15 mins for medium risk) or rotary tools for more than 4 hours a day (or 1 hour a day for medium risk). Simple ways of controlling risk include eliminating unnecessary vibrating tasks at the design stage or using an alternative process that does not expose workers to vibration. Jigs and suspension systems can be used to take the weight and vibration of the tools away from the worker. Other control measures are rotating workers and making sure they have minimum exposure to vibrating tools. Gloves and warm clothing will keep the worker comfortable. Doing a health surveillance and observing workers will all help to establish safe working practices.

Hazardous Substances

Construction dust is a big risk to one’s lungs. COSHH imposes regulations on employers to mitigate against the risk of hazardous substances to their workers. Ailments include asthma, lung cancer and silicosis. Cement based products like concrete can cause skin problems. Cement powder is also a respiratory irritant. Control measures include using pre-mixed concrete to avoid air borne dust. Gloves, footwear, waterproof trousers and skin care products should all be provided. Lead can be found in construction environments. Lead can be found in existing paintwork (especially in paint materials before the 1980’s) and on lead roofs. Using respiratory protective equipment, disposable overalls and disposable gloves can all help to control the risks against lead. Solvents and isocyanates used on construction sites can also pose hazards. Solvents include volatile compounds such as paints, thinners and glues. Isocyanates are present in polyurethane paints, coatings, foams, glues and flooring. Solvent risks should be reduced where possible, for example, using water based paint and using respiratory protective equipment when spraying. Also, using products that do not contain isocyanates or at least less volatile forms.

Sources

http://www.hse.gov.uk/

 

, , , , , , ,

Control of major accident hazards (COMAH) and changes for 2015

The main aim of the COMAH regulations is to prevent and control the effects of major accidents involving dangerous substances like liquid petroleum gas, explosives and arsenic pentoxide, etc. A ‘“major accident” means an occurrence (including in particular, a major emission, fire or explosion) resulting from uncontrolled developments in the course of the operation of any establishment and leading to serious danger to human health or the environment, immediate or delayed, inside or outside the establishment, and involving one or more dangerous substances’. (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/).

Basically, all establishment owners must prevent major accidents and limit their effects on the environment. In England and Wales, COMAH is enforced by the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency in Scotland. These enforcing bodies must prohibit the operation of an establishment if there is evidence that measures taken by the establishment are not in the interests of the safety of people and the environment. The main industries that are under these remits are the chemical industry, nuclear sites and others. The process that identifies the way chemicals can cause harm is called classification. This criteria includes physical hazards (eg explosivity), health hazards (eg an irritant to skin) and environmental hazards (eg harm to aquatic life). As well as these hazards, the supplier/operator must also consider how certain it would be that the chemical would have this effect and how serious the effect might be.

It is the general duty on all operators to prevent major accidents and limit their conequences to the public and environment. Prevention should be based on the principle of reducing risk to a level as low as is reasonably practicable for human risks and using the best available technology not entailing excessive cost for environmental risks.

A new set of COMAH regulations will come into force on 1 June 2015. The Competent Authorities (CA) will make guidance available so that safety reports can be updated by organisations when the new regulations come into force. Important changes to be made include the classification of hazardous substances, more detail about site surroundings and how information is made available to the public. Also, the Competent Authorities are planning to provide an IT system to host public information regarding  establishments. Establishments will need to consider that new information will need to be included in major accident prevention policies and off-site emergency plans. Safety reports may need to be updated in line with the forthcoming regulations. A safety report is a document prepared by the site operator and sent to the CA. The safety report demonstrates all the necessary measures that have been taken by the establishment to prevent major accidents, and, should an accident occur, how it will be mitigated so that the public and the environment as least affected.

Sources

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/

http://www.hse.gov.uk/comah/