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Fire Safety in Welding

Sparks and drips of hot molten metal can easily start a fire. Many people are injured each year by the incorrect and careless use of oxy/fuel gas equipment. The ‘blowpipe’ (the oxy/fuel gas torch) is a powerful source of ignition. The surrounding work area should be free of any ignitable materials such as wood, fabric, cardboard, rubber and plastics. Sparks and hot splatter can travel long distances and even ignite a fire at a far distance from the welding area or even in another room. Welding in enclosed spaces is particularly dangerous as smoke can build up and overcome people. Acetylene is commonly used for welding work. It is very explosive, even in small amounts and great care should be taken to ensure that the cylinder valve is turned off in transit. Explosions can occur when repairing tanks which contain flammable materials. Burns to the skin can occur through contact with hot metal or flames. During flame cutting, fumes are released which can cause asthma and other occupational diseases if one is not properly protected.

Simple precautions to prevent fire when welding include removing nearby combustible materials. If nearby combustible materials cannot be removed they should be protected with metal sheeting or fire retardant blankets. Openings under doors and windows should be covered so that flame particles cannot travel through them and hit nearby materials. Polystyrene is a flammable material so nearby wall cavities should be checked for this. Work in confined spaces, for example on a ship, may require a person to do a fire watch during the work process and 30mins after work completes. This is to ensure that not sparks have not hit areas that could later start a fire. Sparks should be prevented from landing on the hoses of the gas cylinders and fire extinguishers should be kept nearby.

Gas cylinders should be checked regularly for leaks (a suitable leak detecting spray or solution should be used). Fuel gases can form explosive mixtures with air and oxygen. All cylinders should be turned off when not in use and hoses should not be stored near sharp edges or near heat. Backfires may occur when the flame burns back into the torch and they are an indication of faulty equipment. To prevent flashbacks (flow of oxygen back into the hose) the hose should be purged before lighting the torch. The blowpipe should be fitted with non-return valves. Cylinders can be protected from flashbacks by using flashback arresters.

Toxic fumes can be emitted during the welding process. The worker may need respiratory protective equipment (RPE). If one is working outdoors RPE may not be needed, however, it must be ensured that the wind is not blowing the fumes into the path of the operator or other people. Oxygen should not be introduced around welding work as it can cause materials to be flammable. Oil and grease should be eliminated also, as these products can react explosively with oxygen. Obviously, in these situations, RPE is necessary for the operator. To avoid contact burns, it is preferable to clamp the work piece, rather than hold it by hand when holding the torch in the other hand. Because of the risks associated with this work, many companies operate a written permit system for welding work.

Sources   hse

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Controlling the risk with using Boom type Mobile Elevating Work Platforms

In May this year, the HSE has issued a health and safety alert over the use of boom type mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs). In the current method of operation, the alert advises that the covers on machine controls do not protect workers against entrapment. Entrapment can occur between the machine and nearby obstructions. This alert is directed at MEWP manufacturers, owners, users and operators. Fatal accidents have been reported where the operator has been crushed between the cover on the controls of the machine and an overhead obstruction. Covers/guards are used to cover the controls to reduce inadvertent contact with the controls. It has not been concluded that by not using these shrouds/covers entrapment could have been prevented, however there is a strong case for risk assessing these covers/shrouds when purchasing and using this kind of equipment.

Boom type MEWPs can be vehicle-mounted, self-propelled or trailer-mounted. Accidents have occurred as a result of MEWPs collapsing, overturning, people being thrown from the carrier and the carrier being trapped against fixed structures causing entrapment. One of the first things to consider in controlling the risk is making the site safe. The correct MEWP must be selected for the job, i.e considering the ground conditions, working height, range of movement, anticipated load (people and tools). MEWP’s designed to be used on firm level slabs should not be used elsewhere. MEWP must have regular inspections and checks depending on their usage. Competent personnel need to undertake the maintenance as required. Causes of MEWP’s malfunctioning are equipment failure, ground conditions, trapping against fixed structures and the equipment itself being struck by a vehicle.

Other site traffic should be segregated from the MEWP work area.  Parts of the MEWP cannot protrude into roads or other transport routes. The work area should be checked for potholes, manholes and service ducts as any of these can cause a MEWP to turn over. Any temporary covers should be secured and strong enough to withstand any pressure. There should be supervision so that safe systems of work are being done. Overhead crushing and contact hazards should be checked. It should be checked that weather conditions have not altered ground conditions. Limits should be set for safe speed operation, especially in high winds. Working near steep slopes and edges pose hazards, so if possible, appropriate guards should be in place to contain the MEWP and its operator. At all times the MEWP should be set up to operate in a safe manner.

All MEWP operators must be fully trained and there must be a system in place for recording faults, repairs and maintenance. Use of fall protection should be put in place where required. A fall restraint (this consists of a body harness and a lanyard) will prevent a person falling from the carrier (unless the MEWP overturns).  The lanyard length must be short enough to prevent a person reaching a position where they could fall. However, when working near water a harness should not be used due to the risk of drowning if the MEWP falls into the water. Life jackets should be worn.

There are many pieces of legislation that refer to the use of MEWP’s. These include PUWER 1998, LOLER 1998, the CDM regulations, PPE at work regulations and the Work at Height regulations, among others.

Sources    hse

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Falls from Height

It has recently been reported that a Yorkshire company faces a fine because of a health and safety breach that left an employee with life threatening injuries. The employee fell through a roof that wasn’t stable. According to the HSE statistics reports, in 2013, RIDDOR reported falls from height as having resulted in the most common cause of fatalities. Slips and trips were the most common cause of injuries. Falls usually occur from ladders or through fragile roofs. Sometimes there is not a clear distinction made between slips and trips and falls from height, as many falls are initially due to trips and slips. Slips, trips and falls (STFs) were responsible for more than half of all major injuries and almost a third of seven day injuries. The Work at Height Regulations 2005 applies to all employers and those controlling construction areas where work at height is necessary. The responsibility is to ensure that employees, contractors and the self employed work safely. Employees also have a legal duty to take care of themselves and how others are affected by their actions. All work at height must be properly planned, supervised and carried out by competent and trained personnel. All work at height areas need to be risk assessed, the risks eliminated or controlled, an emergency safety system to be put in place, a good practice work system, good communication and all workers to have PPE and be trained.

A few simple steps can totally eliminate risk or at least bring it down to a safe working level:

  • Can you prevent working at height all together?
    This should be the very first approach. Examples can include using extendable tools from the ground so one does not need to climb up a ladder, for example, some window cleaning equipment have very long extendable cleaning equipment. Another example, is the option of installing cables at ground level rather than at high levels off the ground, if this can be done.
  • Can you prevent a fall from occurring?
    If this is at all possible, this should be done. For example, using an existing safe place of work that can be used to access the new work area, plant or machinery with guard rails around it (e.g mobile elevating work platforms), a guarded mezzanine floor to break any falls. Personal protection equipment could include using a travel restricted system, so that the worker cannot get into a fall position
  • If you cannot prevent a fall from occurring, can you minimize the distance and/or consequences of a fall?
    If the risk of a worker falling remains, practical steps must be taken to minimize this risk or the consequences of it. Examples include using safety nets, soft landing platforms, air bags – all close to and within the path of the work area.
  • Is the work of low risk and short duration?
    Ladders may be the practical option here. If the risk assessment determines that it is ok to use a ladder or stepladder, further precautions must be put in place to ensure that the correct step/ladder for the job is used, that the staff are trained in how to use it safely and all users are fully aware of the risks and know how to control them.
     

 

Informational video on slips, trips and falls from the HSE

Sources    hse    youtube

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Health and Safety at a glance for the Smaller Builder

The main duties for builders under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 is that they communicate and coordinate the work effectively within the project. All the work needs to be planned, monitored and managed to ensure the health and safety for all. Access to the site should be controlled. The builder may have a workforce, which needs to be managed. This includes things like site inductions, site rules, emergency procedures and ensuring all know and are trained in managing the risks.

Health and Safety at a glance for builders includes wearing personal protective equipment such as hard hats, safety shoes and goggles. Correct manual handling is also compulsory when working on any construction project. It is important that hard hats are an integral part of the daily work uniform and are supplied to site visitors. Manual handling should be avoided. Mechanical aids should be used where possible. Where loads are lifted by hand, builders should be trained in how to lift correctly. Loads should be segregated and lightened wherever possible.

Falls are the largest cause of death on a construction site. Builders must take precautions to minimize risk of injury from possible falls. Builders must use equipment, wherever possible, to prevent falls. Collective protection measures should be used such as scaffolds, nets, guard rails, mobile elevating platforms and mast climbing work platforms. Harnesses can also be used to protect individuals. Builders should be trained and instructed so that they understand how to prevent falls. There should be adequate lighting, sensible housekeeping and personal protective provisions.

Moving or overturning vehicles on a building site pose a risk. Diggers, cranes and other vehicles should be controlled so that they only operate in controlled areas. Barriers must be erected to prevent access by pedestrians and visitors to these areas must be constricted. Warning signs must be evident so that on site workers are not hit by moving vehicles. Speed limits should be set for moving vehicles on site. Separate walkways must be provided along vehicles routes. As well as vehicles moving safely, goods must also be moved safely. Risks include cranes overturning, materials falling from hoists and slinging failures. Loads should be correctly transported by lifting equipment. Almost all construction work involves some kind of excavations used in foundations, drains and sewers. Trenchless techniques should be considered where possible. Demolition, dismantling and structural alterations are high risk activities that need careful planning and execution. Workers can easily be hurt by collapsing fragile structures and flying debris. Dust, noise and vibration are also concerns. Parts of the CDM are directly applicable to all demolition and dismantling work. The demolition contractor must ensure and co-ordinate the health and safety during the demolition process.

Occupational health risks must be addressed. Musculoskeletal disorders, vibration syndrome, dermatitis, noise-induced hearing loss and asbestos related diseases are some of the main risks to health in the construction industry. Any hazardous substances must be identified and measures taken, such as PPE to ensure the safety of the workers. Respiratory equipment may be needed and skin should be covered as much as possible. The use of less hazardous materials should be considered wherever possible to maintain good practice.

Sources   hse website

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Construction Moving Forward…

The HSE has very recently put forward a proposal to make changes to the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 (CDM 2007). Responses to the consultation began on 31st March 2014 and will end the 6th June 2014. There are many objectives under the new proposed Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015). The proposed changes will still fully include the EU Directives. It is proposed, subject to Ministerial and Parliamentary examination, that the revised Regulations will come into force in April 2015. To justify the proposed changes the HSE has done much research on the current CDM 2007. The HSE have also taken into account the Governments wider strategy on construction as included in Construction 2025. Construction 2025 is a joint strategy from government and industry for the future of the UK construction industry.

Changes will include improved coordination and efficiency. The regulatory package will be simplified with better worker protection. There will also be improved health and safety standards on small construction sites. There will be a replacement of the CDM-Coordinator role with a new role, that of the ‘Principal Designer’ (PD). The difference in the two roles will be to do with control and influence over the design, and the new appointed PD role will be more beneficial to the project as a whole. There is the view that the current role adds costs with little added value. The regulations will be structured so they are more straight forward, structured and easier to understand. There is the proposal to remove the current CDM ACoP and put in its place a clearer guidance on its interpretation. This is so everybody will understand what needs to be done to comply with the law. One approach will be to make the current CDM less bureaucratic with the aim to achieve improved standards. There will also be a focus on making clients more central to the construction project and encouraging them to take an active role in making sure that their project is managed properly to their requirements and to health and safety law.

The construction industry is one of the most dangerous sectors to work in and so there is the continuous need to improve the health and safety of this environment. From 2007/08 to 2011/12 there has been an average of 53 fatalities to workers from accidents. There has been, over a 3 year average, 31,000 new cases of occupational disease/ill health. Ill health can include musculoskeletal disorders, dermatitis or asbestosis. Occupational asthma is also a risk factor. Manual handling, ie lifting heavy and awkward loads can cause injury to the joints and muscles. Noise can cause hearing loss and vibration can cause e hand-arm vibration syndrome which is damage to the nerves and blood vessels. Exposure to cements and solvents can cause dermatitis. Falls from heights, entrapment or accidents from machinery are other concerns. However, these things are easily preventable if one takes precautions, reads up on the law and uses Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The key requirements on any construction site is to ensure that health and safety risks are assessed and there is responsible planning, organisation, controlling, monitoring and reviewing.

Sources   hse    gov.uk

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Tower Crane Storage

A safety alert has recently been issued by the HSE on the 20th February 2014 regarding tower crane storage. It had been reported that three luffing jib tower cranes have collapsed in high winds. The HSE has made available supplementary guidance as part of the code of practice for the safe use of tower cranes. Luffing tower cranes are cranes that are designed to work near high buildings and in tight spaces. The ‘jib’ is the horizontal arm that extends from the slewing unit, this unit is the engine that sits at the top of the mast and enables the crane to rotate. A luffing crane has a hinged jib (as in photo above). This allows the hook of this crane to move up and down as the jib moves (or luffs). These cranes are advantageous to use in overlapping slewing areas as they don’t require a huge amount of space.

As regards safety in the storage of ‘out of service’ tower cranes, the slew brake must be on and the jib at the correct out of service radius. If the brake is engaged and the jib not at the correct angle, very windy positions could cause the crane to move and swing and so cause damage to nearby structures and/or collapse of the crane. The crane must be stored in such a way that disables it to free slew in high winds.

There are various kinds of cranes including aerial, terrain, truck-mounted, mobile, crawler, floating and luffing cranes, among others. Cranes can cause bodily injuries, fatalities, as well as property damage. So a general safe system of their usage is critical. All tower cranes should be fitted with an automatic safe load indicator. All brakes on the tower crane must be fail-safe and checked periodically as per manufacturer’s instructions. If there is a power loss the brake must be automatically applied for safety. The cabin where the operator sits should be designed to protect them and the lifting machinery should be constructed so it’s easy to use. Means of access to and from the cabin should be easy with guardrails in place. There must be jib stops to prevent the arm of the crane being pulled down over the tower. The installation of the electrical provision for the tower crane should meet the electrically regulations for fixed installations. Tower cranes should have built in devices that prevent damage to the operator(s) and the crane should there be a human error. The condition of the slew drive motors and gearboxes must not have deteriorated so that the crane is prevented from slewing freely. There must be a system in place to warn the operator as to whether the jib is in the correct out of service radius and the slew brake status. The buildings under constructions and other cranes should be checked periodically so that the tower crane is not prevented from free slewing.

The legal responsibilities for the operation of storage cranes include the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

 

Sources   hse   wikipedia    liebherr   labour.gov

 

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The Approved Code of Practice in Construction

The safe operation of construction sites in the UK is governed by the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 (CDM 2007). These regulations place duties on clients, contractors and designers and regulate the project from inception to completion and demolition. The regulations include safe working methods within all areas of construction i.e building, engineering work, demolition, site clearance and preparation. The HSE’s Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) gives practical advice on how to comply with the law. The aim of CDM 2007 is to make sure health and safety is an integral part of the management of the project, to improve the planning of the project, to identify hazards and to cut away unnecessary paperwork. Health and Safety should be part of the design of the project and not an extra requirement. If the rules are followed according to ACoP then there will be full compliance with the law.

As projects vary in all sizes, the health and safety planning should be in proportion to the risks that would be inherent to the project. The aim would be to identify risks and manage them. As health and safety is incorporated into the project from the beginning, this reduces cost and delays further down the line. Adherence to health and safety will result in a project to a high quality. Under these regulations the client must appoint a Principal Contractor and CDM co-ordinator who will then notify the HSE of the project. Although no formal appointment is necessary, there must be the same level of co-operation and co-ordination between all members of the project team as if a Principal Contractor and CDM co-ordinator had been appointed. For non-notifiable and low risk projects, a low key approach is sufficient. Projects where extra planning would be necessary include those which involve heavy or complex lifting operations, explosives, nearby high power lines, a risk of falling into water, radioactive materials being present, deep excavations and unusual working methods. Clients must ensure works are carried out within the project, but are not expected to do them themselves as their knowledge of construction may be insufficient. This is the role of the CDM co-ordinator. Clients must ensure that contractors, designers and other team members are adequately resourced and competent to do the job. The client may rely on the CDM co-ordinator’s advice on how best to carry out their duties.

For modifiable projects, clients must check that welfare facilities have been provided and that a health and safety file has been produced. This file will be a reference and a source of information to be used throughout the project. Much health and safety integral to a project will be as a result of the designers’ plans. Designers of the project can make a significant contribution to the project by helping to identify and eliminate hazards. The principal contractor will be inherently involved to properly plan, manage and coordinate the work to a successful delivery. Other contractors and the self – employed need to work with the principal contractor to ensure the risks are properly controlled. ASoP requires that all individuals are competently trained and competent to carry out the works within the project. The code has a legal status. In a litigation matter, if it is shown that there was compliance with the code then a Court may not find fault.

Sources     wikipedia     hse      aps

 

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Working at Height

Falls from height remains one of the biggest causes of workplace deaths, with 26 per cent of all fatal construction accidents resulting from a fall from height during 2010/11. One of the main regulations that apply to those working at height includes the Work at Height Regulations 2005. These regulations apply to all who work at height where there is a risk that a fall could cause an injury. These regulations place duties on employers, the self-employed and any persons who control the work of others which involves working at height. Those working at height must be trained and supervised by a competent person. Employers/duty-holders must avoid working at height where they can, and, if they cannot avoid working at height, suitable work equipment must be in place to prevent falls. If there is a risk of a fall, measures must also be put in place to minimize the distance of the fall and the consequences of the fall.

Employees and self-employed must report any hazards and use the equipment provided that they have been trained and experienced in how to use. The duty holder’s responsibilities include making sure that all work at height is properly planned and organized. The weather conditions must be taken into account and the place where the work is done must be safe. Those working at height must be properly trained and competent to carry out the tasks. The  equipment must also be regularly inspected. Risks from fragile surfaces and falling objects must be properly controlled.

Safe use of ladders
A third of all falls from height are from ladders or stepladders. It is therefore imperative to use them correctly.

  • They should only be used for “light work”, not lifting of heavy loads up and down a ladder
  • For safety, there must be 3 points of contact (hands and feet) when working on the ladder
  • If a handhold cannot be maintained, a risk assessment will have to justify whether it is safe or not to use the ladder
  • One should have a tool belt and one hand free to grip the ladder when carrying items up and down the ladder
  • Ladders must not be overloaded
  • where step ladders are used, one should stand on them facing the work activity, not sideways
  • Ladders need to be placed on dry, firm level ground. Avoid shiny surfaces
  • They should not be placed near hazards like windows, doors, where pedestrians can walk under them or where there are moving vehicles
  • Ladders should not be used within 6 m horizontally of any overhead power lines

As well as the Work at Height Regulation 2005, other regulations that are applicable to those working at height include the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007,  the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) and the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002.
sources   hse   wahsa   ucatt

 

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Chas (Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme) Registration

Chas (Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme)  is the biggest Health and Safety assessment scheme in the UK, with over 50,000 suppliers and 500+ buyers in its database. Buyers are those private and public sector organizations and companies that put projects out to tender. Membership for buyers depends on them having a supply chain. The suppliers are contractors who tender for these contracts. Suppliers are not just construction companies, but range from health care services to designers. Any organization can be a supplier. Chas is the health and safety pre-qualification scheme for suppliers in the UK. Basically, Chas processes the initial health and safety application process for buyers, saving them time and resources in seeking competent contractors. In 2013, so far, Chas had processed over 11,000 assessment requests from buyers and matched them to over 2,000 suppliers of goods and services. Chas is used by many clients to decide which contractors they want to invite to tender for their work. If a contractor is not Chas compliant or Chas accredited, they may not be invited to tender for contracts.

Many suppliers need to make a Chas application to get on a tender list or they may just want to be compliant or accredited in preparation for future tender opportunities. A Chas compliant supplier meets the threshold standard for health and safety. A Chas accredited supplier goes beyond this, and also, must have been compliant for at least 9 months. Accreditation includes licensed use of the Chas logo on company documentation and reduced insurance premiums. The Chas assessment is carried out as a desktop assessment; there are no audit visits to the organisations place of work. All the supporting documents must be included in the application process. These documents include risk assessments, training programs and certificates, COSHH assessments, fire risk assessments and other relevant supporting documentation. In the registration process, Chas assesses different areas (see grid below) depending on the supplier, but there are some common areas. The prinicple of the Chas scheme is to help any supplier improve their safety management.

chas-grid

Protectus Consulting supports contractors with the Chas registration process. Protectus Consulting has a record of helping may different companies and organisations to become Chas accredited or compliant. Contact one of our trained health and safety consultants here for help.

Sources chas
Image sources chas

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Setting up Good site Welfare for the Construction Worker

At the beginning of September 2013, the HSE announced that it started a month long initiative to crack down on poor health and safety standards on Britain’s sites. It says this has been put forward due to poor standards and will involve carrying out unannounced checks on sites where refurbishment projects or repair works are underway. Even though there has been a reduction in the number of people killed in construction in the past year, construction workers are four times more likely to be killed at work than workers in other industries. The construction industry is one of the largest in the UK, employing about 2 million people and being a potentially hazardous place to work. It is therefore a priority for duty holders involved in construction work to maintain their sites to a standard to include appropriate facilities and welfare for workers.

Before work even begins on a construction site, a good facilities management system should be in place for workers. This basic requirement is sometimes neglected putting the personal health of workers in jeopardy. The facilities at any site include washing facilities, toilets, drinking water, changing rooms and lockers, rest areas, smoking, heating, storing and drying clothing, storing of PPE, lighting, emergency procedures, reporting of accidents procedures, first aid and site rules. This list will be more or less depending on the site size and project duration. The availability of welfare facilities, their location and maintenance should be considered at the planning stages (and demolition) of any construction site.

Critical welfare facilities

  • Washing facilities. These should be provided next to changing areas and toilets. Conveniences should include hot and cold water, sinks large enough to wash face and arms, soaps, disposable towels.
  • Drinking water. Where possible, drinking water should be supplied direct from the mains. If water is stored, it should be changed regularily and marked as drinking water. Unless a drinking fountain is used, cups should be provided.
  • Changing rooms and lockers. Everyday clothing and personal protective equipment should be stored separately to prevent contamination. Men and women should have separate changing areas. There should be provision for allowing wet clothing to dry.
  • Rest facilities. These facilities should be adequate for taking breaks and meal breaks. There should be adequate seating areas and a means of heating water and food. Rest areas should shelter from wind, rain and be heated. Separate facilities can be supplied for smokers and non-smokers or smoking can be prohibited in the rest facilities, with the option for smokers to go outside of the site area. Gas appliances should not be used in site huts and LPG cylinders must be stored in the open air.
  • Toilets. Flushing toilets and running water connected to a local main supply should be provided. If running water is not readily available, chemical toilets or a build in water supply and drainage tanks need to be used. Toilets should be well ventilated and an adequate number supplied.
  • Storing and drying clothing and PPE. There should be provisions for storing clothing and personal valuables not worn on site such as hats, coats, and any personal items. Lockers should be provided. PPE, should as boots, goggles, harnesses etc should be stored in separate areas. A drying area should be provided to dry any wet site clothing.
  • Site access. Workers should be able to freely move about their work areas. Walkways and stairways should be free of tripping hazards, building materials and waste. Emergency escapes should not be obstructed. Storage areas for plant, materials, waste, flammable substances and hazardous substances should be clean, tidy, well lit and ventilated.
  • First Aid. The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 require employers to have first aid facilities on site. The minimum requirement is a first aid box on site to cope with the number of workers. If there are many workers, there should be an appointed person on site in charge of first aid arrangements.
  • Site rules. This may include traffic management systems, PPE, fire prevention, permit to work systems. This would include the reporting of accidents procedures (RIDDOR)

 

Additional welfare facilities to consider

  • Showers. If the project involves hazardous substances or very dirty work, for example, sewer maintenance, dusty demolition activities, then showers should be provided. Specialist facilities are needed for certain activities, such as working with lead or asbestos, these should be kept separate from the main facilities.

 

Sources   hse