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Risk Assessment – Genetically Modified Organisms

The Genetically Modified Organisms (Contained Use) (GMOs) 2014 contains practical guidance, advice on risk assessments, classification and accident reporting for duty holders to comply with the law. These regulations specifically involve working with GMOs in contained facilities.“Contained Use” means where humans and the environment are protected as much as possible; barriers can be physical, chemical or biological. The regulations include interactions with the closely related Control of Substances Hazardous to Health 2002 (COSHH).

Genetic modification involves the mutation, insertion, or deletion of genes. Inserted genes usually come from a different species which have the desired entity, for example, inserting a plant with the gene of another to offer it protection from pests, i.e herbicide resistant plants, known as Genetically Modified Crops. Gene(s) are moved from one organism to another (the latter becomes “transgenic”) in a laboratory or other establishment. GMOs are used in medical research, production of drugs, experimental medicine (e.g. gene therapy), and agriculture.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Genetic Modification (Contained Use) (SACGM(CU)) is an advisory committee which provides scientific advice to authorities on the contained use of GMOs, particularly in respect of hazard identification and risk assessment. The first point in the risk assessment is to consider the hazardous properties of the microorganism. There is an approved list of biological agents available from HSE. Consideration must also be given to how the micro-organism is being modified, for example, enhancement of function, and, and as a result the impact on its hazardous properties, i.e will it now become more hazardous or stay the same. Consideration should also be given to the work processes and where the work will be undertaken. The risks must be adequately controlled by containment and control measures. These risks are classed one to four, i.e CL1 – 4, with a containment necessary to control the risk which could be Level 1 – 4. See table 1. The GMO guidelines contain detailed information on how this table works (Schedule 8 of the regulations). The risk assessment should be proportionate to the work being done. For example, routine work involving cloning of mammalian genes will use a series of well-defined processes. Whereas, work on a pathogenic virus will require a different approach.

When the risk assessment has been carried out, it needs to be reviewed and reconsidered in terms of levels and classification of works. The recorded risk assessment should be considered a ‘living’ document and be kept relevant and up to date with regard to any changes in the work environment. If a new establishment is planned to be used for contained use, a notification must be submitted to the authority. One should refer to schedule 5 for more information on this. The authority must be notified of any significant changes to the risks associated with the contained use. In all aspects involving micro-organisms, it is the duty of the employer and employees to minimise risks to humankind and the environment.

containment

 

Sources
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_organism
http://www.bt.ucsd.edu/gmo.html
http://www.hse.gov.uk/

Images
Table 1 http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/priced/l29.pdf

 

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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

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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/

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General Health and Safety in Care Service Provider Establishments

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) regulates the health and safety in all workplaces in the UK, this includes all health and social care settings. There are other regulators in the UK who work in conjunction with the HSE, these include the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the General Medical Council (GMC) and the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC). All accidents and incidents are reportable according to the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR).

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) monitors, inspects and regulates hospitals, clinics, care homes, GP’s, dentists, home and community services and mental health services. Once a provider of care has passed the audits/inspections, they can display their CQC rating in a place where it is visible (also, on their website, if they have one). They must provide their latest CQC service report to the public. Care/medical providers that provide the 14 ‘regulated services’ (as regulated by the CQC) must register with the Care Quality Commission.

There are fundamental standards set by the CQC, by which the quality of care must never fall. These include person-centered care, whereby, the person must have care tailored to meet their specific needs. Also, each person under care must be treated as equals, with dignity, be given privacy and the support so they can remain as independent as they can in their community. The service user must not be at risk in their environment. All staff must be qualified and competent to care for the individual. The premises and equipment must be maintained properly. The individual must be able to give feedback on their treatment, if they wish to do so.

Care givers/providers must ensure certain safety steps are taken to ensure the safety for all. The HSE regulates fire risk, and general fire precautions are enforced by the individual Fire and Rescue Services. Other risks include the incidence of Legionnaire’s disease. This bacteria can grow in hot and cold water systems. The risk of this contamination must be eliminated. The principles of LOLER (Lifting Operations Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998) and PUWER (Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998) must all be understood and administered by both staff and care service providers.

There are many areas of risk that needs to be adequately controlled in home and social care settings. First aid equipment and first aiders must be provided for in care settings. The provision of bed rails are not mandatory in all circumstances; their need must be assessed through a risk assessment. Window restrictors are required whereby people who are vulnerable are not at risk from falling.

In general, both care service providers and their staff have a duty under the Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure a safe and comfortable home and workplace for all.

Sources

www.cqc.org.uk

www.hse.gov.uk

Image Credit

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

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Fire Risk Assessment in Residential Care Homes

There have been many instances of fires or fire related accidents in residential care homes. It is imperative to carry out a clear, concise and manageable risk assessment that is regularly reviewed and updated as required. The HSE have produced a step by step fire risk assessment process for residential care homes. These fundamentals can be applied to any residential or working establishment. The main steps of the risk assessment include identifying the fire hazards and identifying the people at risk. Following on from this, it includes evaluating, reducing and removing the risks so far as is practically possible. Also, how people in the care home will be protected. There is then a section on recording, planning, informing, training and reviewing.

  1. Identify the Hazards in the Care Home

In order for a fire to start it needs a source of ignition. This is a source of heat which can include smoking materials and naked flames.Other sources include electrical circuits, cooking equipment, faulty equipment, lighting equipment, hot surfaces, malicious damage and equipment owned or used by residents. All sources of ignition need to be identified. The next thing that needs to be identified are sources of fuel. This includes anything that will burn well including laundry, wood, flammable products, plastics, rubber, waste products, hardboard and chipboard. Nearly everything could be included as a source of fuel. Sources of oxygen include the natural airflow, mechanical air conditioning systems, some chemicals (oxidising materials) and oxygen supplies in cylinders.

  1. Identify the people at risk in the Care Home

Those people that are at risk from fire need to be identified. They include the service users and the working staff. It should also be considered who else may be at risk, for example, visitors, contractors etc. Staff who work in isolated areas, for example contractors overseeing maintenance works should be taken into account. Other people at risk include children and visitors who are elderly with limited abilities. As regards the service users, their conditions must be accurately taken into account, for example, those impaired due to medication, those who will need their mobility equipment and level of sensory and cognitive awareness.

  1. Evaluate, remove and reduce and protect those at risk

The risk of a fire starting should be evaluated. This will include whether accidental, by omission or deliberate. An example of ‘by omission’ could be where electrical equipment is not properly maintained. The premises should also be examined for accidents ‘waiting to happen’. Fire can spread by convection, conduction and radiation. Convection is the movement of fire through air, whilst conduction is the movement of fire through materials. The sources of ignition, fuel and oxygen should be reduced to what is practical or completely removed if possible. Fire protection measures should be put in place such as  warning systems. Escape routes should not be blocked and staff should be fully trained in emergency procedures.

  1. Record, plan, inform, instruct and train

The care home providers should be able to satisfy the enforcing authority. Keeping records, having a detailed risk assessment plan, controlling those risks and training staff will result in the adequate control of the risks in case of fire.

  1. Review

One should review the risk assessment periodically or as appropriate. If there are new changes introduced into the care home, these factors should now be part of the risk assessment.

Sources

https://www.gov.uk/

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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/

 

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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/

 

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Protecting the Environment against Hazardous Substances

Climate change, air and water pollution are all the underlying concern of our ever evolving planet. There are regulations and laws about controlling the contamination or our air, water supply, soil, conservation and wildlife.

In the UK, the Environmental Agency’s (EA) remit covers the whole of England, the rivers and 2 million hectares of coastal waters. It has a sharing arrangement with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). The purpose of EA is to protect, enhance and take the best care of the environment as a whole. Its vision is one of a “rich, healthy and diverse environment.” The EA and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) work together under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010. This includes the sharing of information on activities that relate to the environment and promoting better public awareness. The EA has responsibility for issuing permits for certain industrial, farming, waste management, water activities, radioactive substances and mining waste activities. The HSE works together with the EA in the regulation of oil and gas establishments. Under the Nuclear Installations Act, the HSE regulates duty holders of nuclear establishments. The EA also works with the HSE in this area.

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA) is the authority for waste management and control of emissions into the environment. Part I of this Act deals with emissions into the environment. Part II sets out the regulation of the acceptable disposal of controlled waste on land. There are other parts of the EPA that deal with other aspects of the environment, from statutory nuisances to litter. Other environmental regulations include the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Climate Change Act 2008, Environment Act 1995 and the Badgers Act 1991.

One set of regulations that keep industries aware of their responsibilities to people and the environment include the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999 (COMAH). Although principally concerned with regulating the storing and handling of large amounts of hazardous industrial chemicals, these regulations help keep the public and the environment safe by modulating the handling of these hazardous chemicals. The aim of the regulations is to prevent the effects on people and the environment of major accidents involving dangerous substances. However, new COMAH Regulations will come into force in Great Britain on 1 June 2015. The main regulations will remain the same but there will be some changes, particularly on how dangerous substances are classified and how information is made available to the public. New or changed duties to COMAH will include a change in definitions, there are also transition arrangements for safety reports and changes in emergency planning. There are also other changes expected in COMAH 2015.

Sources

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_environmental_law

http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/l111.htm

http://www.hse.gov.uk/aboutus/howwework/framework/aa/hse-ea-nov12.pdf

 

 

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The Nursing Home – Elderly Persons and Falls

Falls and fall related injuries to the Elderly are a serious problem and every effort should be made to prevent this from happening, including the layout of the person’s immediate vicinity, the mobility aids used, the care home/place of care, the community they live in and the relations with their Carers/Healthcare professionals. People over 65 years of age have the highest risk of falling. Over a quarter of falls result in hip fractures and the cost of this to the health sector is about £2billion. A risk assessment (with multiple components) that aims to identify a person’s risk factors for falling should be carried out. Persons younger than 65 years may also need this assessment carried out. There may be a risk of falling due to cogitative impairment, health problems, medication, postural instability, visual impairment, syncope syndrome (passing out due to lack of blood flow to the brain) or simply wearing the wrong footwear.

Together with the risk assessment, there are health and safety measures that can be made in the layout of the care home and in the caring for the service user. The interior and exterior structure of the nursing home can be set up so that, although falls might happen naturally, there are not hazards around that can cause them. For example, one should not leave items on the stairs as they could be a trip hazard. Stairs should be fully maintained, ie any worn or damaged carpet should be removed or repaired. In the design of the care facility, one should avoid repetitive carpet patterns as it may produce a false perception for those with poor eyesight. Stairs and hallways should be well lit. Banisters should be sturdy with easy grip handrails. Older persons should be instructed and supported in the correct use of mobility equipment, e.g walking aids, mobile shower seats etc. Shoes and footwear should fit well to help with balance and stability. There should be grab rails at various points in the care home and places to sit down in the bathroom if needed. Spills on the floor should immediately be moped up.

Other hazards include fire related accidents. This is related to poor sense of smell, reduced tolerance of smoke and poor mobility.  Sources can include cookers, candles, coal fires, heaters and electric blankets. Electric blankets should be checked regularly. Smoke alarms should be fitted and one should not leave clothes drying over heaters. Carbon monoxide detectors should be fitted.When using showers care should be taken so that the care user doesn’t burn themselves. Kettles should only be used if one is capable to do so; the care service provider should ensure there is not a scalding risk and check all hot water appliances and any temperature dependent liquid.

 

Sources

https://www.nice.org.uk/

http://www.rospa.com/

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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/