Content that will appear in the News Letter

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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

 

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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

 

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Risk Assessment and Managment

Risk Management is assessing the risks and controlling them on a daily basis. Risk assessment is a systematic approach to hazard identification and control. It is a process that helps identify what elements of an activity can cause injury to people. It introduces control measures that will reduce the risk of injury to an acceptable level. Risk assessment is not a process that eliminates all hazards in the workplace. What risk assessment as a process does is ensure that we do all we can to reduce the risk of injury to as low a level as is reasonably practicable. It is a legal requirement and may prevent a death or major injury/incident.

Management of Regulations

There is a duty on every employer to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of their employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work. Also, the risks to the health and safety of persons not in their employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by them. Where the employer employs five or more employees, the significant findings of the assessment should be recorded.  Any group of employees identified by them as being especially at risk e.g pregnant women, young persons, contractors, agency workers and vulnerable persons should be protected. Employers must complete risk assessments on pregnant and nursing mums. One must consider the environment of expectant mums, for example, is there a risk, by reason of her condition, to the health and safety to her or the foetus, from any processes or working conditions, or physical, biological or chemical agents. As regards young persons, an employer must not employ a young person unless the employer, has, in relation to risks to young persons, made or reviewed an assessment.

The employer has a duty to ensure that any person appointed by them who is not in their employment is informed of the factors known by them to affect health and safety. Every employer should provide his employees with comprehensible and relevant information on the risks to their health and safety identified by the assessment. Preventative and protective measures must be taken.

Employees also have responsibilities. Every employee must use any machinery, equipment, dangerous substances, and transport equipment, means of production or safety devices provided to them in accordance with their training. Every employee should inform their employer and their colleagues of any work situation which a person would reasonably consider represented a serious and immediate danger to health and safety.

It is imperative that every employer appoint one or more competent persons to assist them in undertaking the measures needed to comply with the requirements. A person would be regarded as competent where they have sufficient training and experience.

With regard to capabilities and training, every employer must ensure that his employees are provided with adequate health and safety training on their being recruited. This should also be the case on their being exposed to new or increased risks because of their being transferred or given a change of responsibilities. Every employer must ensure that his employees are provided with a health surveillance as is appropriate. This could include, for example, a health questionnaire, blood tests when working with lead etc.

A review of the risk assessment should be carried out periodically. Any assessment should be reviewed if there is reason to suspect that it is no longer valid and /or there has been a significant change in the matters to which it relates. As a result of any such review, changes to an assessment that are required, should be undertaken by the employer or self-employed person concerned shall make them.

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Fire

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 covers general fire safety in England and Wales. In Scotland, requirements are covered in the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006. The local authorities are also responsible for enforcing fire legislation. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has responsibility for enforcing regulations on construction sites, nuclear premises and on ships under repair. General fire precautions ensure the safety of employees and members of the public.

The employer/person responsible must make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which relevant persons are exposed. The fire risk assessment must be up to date. Sources of ignition and flammable substances should be kept apart. Smoke alarms, fire alarms and firefighting equipment should be easily assessable. Escape routes should not be blocked.

The risks of fire must be controlled in work which involves the storage, use or creation of chemicals, vapours and dusts etc. The Dangerous Substances and Explosives Regulations 2002 (DSEAR) require employers to assess the risk of fires and explosions from the work with dangerous substances. Even if a work area is not regulated under DSEAR, many substances found in the workplace can cause fires or explosions. These include flammable chemicals, petrol, grease, packing materials and dusts generated from wood and floor processes. Even un-emptied bins can be a fire risk as they may be a source of fuel should they ignite.

For a larger premises, the organisation must arrange the necessary contacts with the external emergency services, have first aiders on site and emergency medical care facilities. Competent persons must be available to manage a fire place emergency and first aiders should be close at hand. Emergency routes and exits must be indicated by signs.

Process fire precautions are enforced by HSE. These are special fire precautions that help to prevent or reduce the likelihood of a fire breaking out, and if so, to reduce its spread and intensity. This includes ventilations systems to remove/dilute flammable gas/vapour and extractions systems. These precautions also provide information on selecting equipment that will not be a source of ignition and information on the storage of flammable liquids in workrooms and laboratories. These precautions are enforced under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and DSEAR.

The Fire Protection Association (FPA) is the UK’s national fire safety organisation. It identifies and draws attention to fire dangers by providing information and advice through leaflets.

Sources

www.hse.gov.uk

Image Credit

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

 

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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

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Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996

Employers/employees/the self-employed and all those in charge of a premises have a duty under the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 to comply with them in keeping their work area safe. If a risk assessment shows that an area of work is a risk or hazard, the employer must put up the appropriate safety or warning signs. It is necessary to carry out a risk assessment for all workplaces in order to comply with the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Also, fire safety authorities require that fire safety and exit signs be placed at appropriate locations. There are duties on employers under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 20015 to put up fire signs showing escape routes, providing information on firefighting equipment, for example, fire extinguishers.

If an employee’s first language is not English, the meaning of the sign should be communicated to them in their native language so that they understand it. If inexperienced workers do not understand what a sign means, it should be verbally explained to them. If an employee is hearing or sight impaired, for example when wearing PPE, the signs must be signalled by a flashing light or be audible. Other warning signs in the workplace may be acoustic, for example fire alarms. Verbal signs may also be more practical, for example, directing forklift traffic in the work area. However, these must be clear and precise with the operator not in danger themselves.

Some signs have a universal significance, for example, red means danger or stay away and yellow amber means be cautious. Blue means one needs to exhibit specific behaviour, for example, wear protective equipment. Green means no danger and is the code color for first aid, exits and return to normal. Some signs are portable, for example, a slippery floor sign used by cleaners.

Prohibitory signs are those with a round red shape and a diagonal line through them, prohibiting an action, for example, no smoking. Warning signs, for example, those used to warn against a harmful substance have a yellow triangle. Mandatory signs, for example, ‘eye protection required’ are white on a blue background. Emergency escape signs are green and firefighting signs are red. Most signs, are accompanied by text explaining what the signs means.

Containers and vessels containing dangerous substances used in the workplace may come under the regulations of Dangerous Substances (Notification and Marking of Sites) regulations 1990 (NAMOS) as well as the signs regulations. All safety signs should not be a substitute for controlling the risks to employees.

Sources

www.hse.gov.uk

Image Credit

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

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Safety over the Holiday Season

With fireworks reigning in the New Year 2016 in just over one month’s time, firecracker safety is paramount so that everyone enters the next year safely. Before that, Christmas is on its way, the time when lights, trees, candles and other emblems of display define this festive time.

According to the Fire Statistics Great Britain office, in 2011/12, candles sparked around 1000 UK house fires which caused casualties. Fairy lights and Christmas trees are also a risk over this time. However, with careful planning, accidents can be avoided.

One should never leave burning candles unattended and candles should never be put on Christmas trees as they could ignite. They should always be placed on a heat resistant surface and in a proper holder so that they won’t fall over. Fairy lights should comply with safety standards. Trailing cables and wires in the house should be kept securely away, as they may pose a trip hazard. Decorations and cards should be kept away from fireplaces and sources of heat. Christmas tree lights should be switched off when going to bed or not in the house.

Careful selection should be made of the Christmas tree itself. The needles on a fresh tree should be green and hard to pull back from the branches. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. If the needles easily fall off, the tree may have dried out and will be a fire hazard. If ignited, a fresh tree can burn quite profusely (as the video below shows). The stand should be well watered and the tree kept away from heat sources.

Sparklers and fireworks should be used with caution over the New Year. Fireworks should be kept in a closed box, only used one at a time and kept away from heat sources. They should be lit at arm’s length with a taper. The person using the fireworks should distance themselves and others well away from them. Rocket fireworks should be directed away from spectators. If a bonfire is part of the festivities, petrol/paraffin should not be thrown into it.

With the extra potential hazards over the holiday season, it is pertinent that smoke alarms are working. The kitchen is also a potential hazard area; care should be taken when basting turkeys with hot oil. Of one wishes to light up the house from the outside, a residual current device on outdoor electrical equipment should be used. Children should always be protected by buying gifts for the correct age groups. Baubles and bulbs can pose a choking hazard for young children; these should be kept high on the tree out of reach.

Adults need to be responsible for themselves as well. Although one should never drink and drive at any time of the year, the holiday season may pose extra incidences of when alcohol is consumed. Extra vigilance should be kept and travelling by taxi/public transport should be part of the plan.

Sources

http://www.rospa.com/

http://www.fireservice.co.uk/

http://www.twfire.gov.uk/

Video source
YouTube

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Safeguarding against Papermaking Machinery

The Paper and Board Industry Advisory Committee (PABIAC) was formed in 1979. Its function is committed to helping industries experience a safer paper industry environment which includes a health and safety charter. In conjunction with the HSE, the objectives contained within the PABIAC’s strategy focus on occupational health management, slips and trips prevention and machinery safety. The papermaking and paper recycling industries have traditionally suffered from high accident rates due to occupational health (for example, dust generated in the workplace), trips and slips, work at height, noise, manual handling, falls from heights and work involving machinery. Paper mills and the machinery they use are covered by the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA) and Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER).

All papermaking machinery should comply with the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008 and the relevant British standards. Machinery should be safe guarded according to PUWER regulations. A risk assessment should be done when applying safe guarding measures for paper working machines. However, the safety measures should not be difficult to use or slow down production, beyond what is reasonably practical. Guards prevent people from accessing danger zones of machinery. They should be high enough so people cannot climb over them and be close to the ground so they cannot be crawled under. Guards can be fixed or movable. Guards have limited access but can have openings for paper feeding, cleaning and operating switches on machinery. An ‘interlocking guard’ is one which prevents the hazardous machine starting up if the guard is not in place. Guard locking ensures that the guard cannot be opened until the machine have finished operating; this prevents any residual motion causing a hazard.

There are some jobs such as removing broke, felt straightening and other maintenance work that can only be done when the machine is operating at crawl speed. These tasks must be combined with a safe system of work. ‘Broke’ is waste paper that is gathered up and recycled back into the process. Some machines have two switches which requires both to be pressed in order for the machine to operate. This is a safety measure. Rotating shafts and transmission machinery pose entanglement, crushing, shearing and impact hazards. The right type of equipment should be selected for the task. If the equipment is modified in any way, for example, adapted to perform new tasks, the risk assessment should be re-done.

However, the use of guards and control measures are only as effective as the training given to the operators. In these work situations there must be heavy protocol processes in place by which employees must strictly adhere to, so that the guards are most efficiently used and provide maximum protection.

Sources

http://www.paper.org.uk/

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

 

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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