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.


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.


The World Health Organisation marks today, 31st May 2015, as being World No Tobacco Day. What does this mean? The WHO and partners highlight the risks with using tobacco and are an advocate for the awareness of reducing tobacco consumption. This includes putting an end to the illicit trade of tobacco products. It is estimated that one in every ten cigarettes consumed globally is from the illegal tobacco market. The trade of illegal tobacco goods may not honour tobacco control policies, like increased tax and prices and pictorial health warnings. Illicit tobacco products entice young people into tobacco experimentation and it’s use because they are cheaper. Such illicit products also mislead young tobacco users by not displaying health warnings. This bad trade of tobacco products also strengthens corruption.

Tobacco kills nearly 6 million people every year, and 600,000 due to second hand tobacco smoke. There are 4000+ chemicals in tobacco smoke, of which at least 250 are known to be harmful and more than 50 are known to cause cancer. More than 80% of these are preventable deaths. One person dies every six seconds due to tobacco. In some countries, children are employed in harvesting tobacco leaves; this creates nicotine that can be absorbed into their skin and cause sickness.

What is being done

  • Days like today raise awareness of the illegal trade of tobacco around the world. The WHO is committed to fighting the tobacco epidemic and have founded the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which is committed towards controlling tobacco and is a milestone in the promotion of health.
  • Increases taxes and pictorial warnings can persuade smokers to stop or at least protect the health of those around them
  • Banning tobacco advertising and sponsorship

The costs of tobacco to the public and society can be enormous in terms of disease, suffering and stress. Gradually helping phase out its use through awareness and campaigns such as that of the WHO will gradually make for a greener and sustainable future for our generations.


Video – WHO: World No Tobacco Day

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.


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




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.


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.



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’. (

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.





The Plant Protection Products (Sustainable Use) Regulations 2012 came into force on 18 July 2012. These regulations cover obligations to businesses who use and supply pesticides. Part III of the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 (FEPA) also deals with regulating pesticides. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) also gives practical guidance on the storage and transport of pesticides and the obligations on those who store for sale and supply. The use of pesticides are also regulated by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 and the EU Directive 2009/128/EC which establishes a framework for Community action to achieve the sustainable use of pesticides. The Control of Pesticides Regulations (COPR) 1986 is also pertinent.

Pesticides are used to protect plants/crops from pests and diseases. Pesticides include insect killers (insecticides), mould and fungi killers (fungicides), weedkillers (herbicides), slug pellets (molluscicides), plant growth regulators, bird and animal repellents, and rat and mouse killers (rodenticides). Professional farmers who supply food to the country and internationally, breeders of animals and anyone who produces, supplies or uses pesticides, whether for home or commercial use, has an obligation to the environment and the public to be responsible in their use. Everyone who uses pesticides has the responsibility to ensure that they use them correctly and effectively. The products to be used must be authorized for use. The HSE has publishes a database of pesticide products and information on them. This includes changes to the register, products subject to withdrawal, active substances in the product, information on crops, aerial usage and marketing companies for the product. When using pesticides one should always read the label. This will include user restrictions, the crop or situation to be treated, operator protection or training requirements, the maximum application amount and permitted number of treatments, the products’ active ingredients, hazards, the safe disposal of the product and its registration number (Ministerially Approved Pesticide Product, MAPP).

There is also guidance on aerial spraying of pesticides, for example, there is guidance on precautions to be taken to prevent spray drift. When spraying by aircraft, one must provide notification to the public. In all situations it should be considered how the pesticide will affect other people’s health and the environment (as in a COSHH assessment). The COSHH regulations apply to a pesticide product if it is classified as very toxic/corrosive, has a ‘workplace exposure limit’ (WEL) and/or includes a micro-organism dangerous to health. For work with most pesticides one must wear suitable PPE to protect themselves (such as overalls, suitable gloves and boots). For those spraying pesticides they will need to wear respiratory protective equipment so they do not breathe in the fumes.


According to the HSE, it is estimated that about one third of RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) reports in health and social care are incorrectly recorded. Accidents in residential care homes, hospitals, dental practices, health care clinics, in patients own homes and in any care setting should be appropriately recorded and reported according to the RIDDOR regulations. Employers and others are required to report deaths, certain types of injuries, some occupational diseases and dangerous occurrences that ‘arise out of or in connection with work’. When an accident is reported via RIDDOR, this alerts the enforcing authorities to investigate the more serious incidents. Reports enable the HSE or the local authorities to identify where and how health and safety risks arise, reveal trends and help target activities. The report should be done by the ‘responsible person’ who may be the employer, a self-employed person or someone in control of the premises.

Death of any person, whether or not at work, if it was in connection with work, must be reported. However, there are certain instances where a death does not need to be reported. One is where a self-employed person in a premises where they are the owner or occupier. Other incidences include the death of the employee after one year from the date of the accident, if there is a suicide and where a disease is contracted not due to an accident (for example, contracting Legionnaires’ disease due to poor maintenance on a hot water system). However, this latter incident may be investigated and litigation brought forward under the HSW Act. If an employee (or self-employed person) is injured in a health or social care environment and has to take more than three days off work, then their injury needs to be reported. Injuries can be anything in connection with work and can include fractures, burns, any crush injury, reduction in sight etc. Also, if a person is off work for more than seven days the accident must also be reported. Records must be kept.

If an employee (or self-employed person) contracts a disease at work, it is reportable. Examples can include occupational dermatitis, hand-arm vibration syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, a disease attributed to a biological agent, etc. An example could be where a paramedic becomes hepatitis B positive after contamination with blood from an infected patient. A sharps injury must be reported. Sharps that do not cause diseases do not need to be reported (i.e. sharps not containing a blood borne virus). Injuries and ill health not involving people at work need to also be reported. The incident must arise out of or in connection with work being undertaken by others, for example, where a patient is scalded by hot bath water and taken to hospital for treatment. A fall is reportable under RIDDOR when it has arisen out of or in connection with a work activity. This includes where equipment is involved. Dangerous occurrences in health and social care should also be reported.  An example could be the failure of load-bearing parts of lifts and lifting equipment, an electrical short circuit or overload that could or has caused a fire or explosion. Although these may not result in a reportable injury, if they have the potential to cause harm they need to be reported.


The HSWA (Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974) has existed for more than 40 years and is the primary piece of legislation covering occupational health and safety in the UK. It is enforced by the HSE. Basically every employer and self-employed person has a duty of care to ensure that they are not putting people’s lives and the environment at risk. Employees also have a duty to report any risks they foresee or experience to their colleagues or their employers. Even visitors have a duty of care and should speak up if they see anything wrong.

Employers may install their own health and safety systems or may need outside help. Competent persons may be outsourced to help the employer meet the health and safety standards as outlined by the HSWA and other regulations pertinent to the business. The competent person should have the knowledge and experience to fulfil this task. One of the first things a start up business does or an established business has, is the production of a health and safety policy. This policy states who does what, when and how. However, if an employer has fewer than five employees they do not need to write down a health and safety policy, although it is always a good idea to write things down for ease of understanding and direction. Parts of such a policy could include what to do in an emergency, i.e evacuation plans, the periodic testing of equipment if appropriate, and, inductions for staff and contractors. It can be as simple or as elaborate as necessary.

A critical part of working according to the HSWA is the control of risks within the business. A risk assessment must be carried out and it must be investigated what could cause harm, to what extent it could cause harm and who to (including the environment). Once risks are identified they must be controlled by changing work processes, supplying protective equipment or asking the experts what to do. Although risks may not be totally eliminated within the workplace, measures must be taken so that risk is reduced to what is ‘practically possible’. Significant findings should be recorded on the risk register and reviewed as there are changes to the workplace environment.

Sometimes the employees themselves may be more aware of certain risks because of their work within the environment. Employees should always be consulted. They should also be trained in how to mitigate against risks (as it pertains to their job), and information and PPE available to them as required. Contractors and the self-employed must also be included. Vulnerable persons such as the young, migrant workers, expectant women and disabled persons must be helped in whatever way best brings about the best quality of life for them in the work environment. There must be first aid facilities on site, an accident record book (RIDDOR reporting system), health and safety display information (eg posters) clearly visible and employers liability insurance.


Two thirds of all accidents in engineering workshops occur during the movement of people, goods and equipment. Accidents can happen to operators using automatic, manual and CNC machines. CNC stands for computer numerical control. These machines are programmed by computers to control feed rate, speed and coordination etc. These machines are very useful and are mostly used in the manufacturing of plastics and metals. However, they still need human operators interacting with them and so pose a risk to one’s health. Accidents can occur during the loading or unloading of components, the taking measuring, feeding etc. There is more operator interaction with manually operated machines. Machine movements include cutting, shearing and sawing etc. Automatic machines that pose a risk are presses, milling machines, drilling machines, grinding machines and guillotines. Hands and fingers are most frequently injured, however, knocks to the eyes, disentanglements of clothing leading to injuries, lacerations and broken bones can all happen.

To help prevent accidents with manually operated machines, fixed guards should be used to unload and load components to the tool working edge.  For both automatic and CNC machines, all dangerous body movements (not just interaction with tools) should be guarded against with guards in place and PPE in use. To safeguard against noise, noise enclosures or controlling noise at source should be adapted. For some one-off tasks, the machine and guard may have to be adjusted continually and be under close observation. With all risky processes, interlocking should be in place so that the power to dangerous machine parts is removed when interlocking guards are open or the movements are limited to safe increments or speeds. Enclosing guards should be used to contain hazardous emissions such as metalworking fluids, mists and fume vapour. Where there is a change in a machine function from manual to automatic or vice versa, new risks may be introduced; the operator needs to be apt at making sure the new risk control settings are in place during each new operation.

Under the law, the provision and use of work equipment regulations 1998 place duties on employers and the self-employed to ensure proper training for operators, information on the dangers, proper lighting, ventilation and a PPE system is in place. Warning labels, control systems, protection for the operator (i.e guard rails etc.) and the safe automatic shutdown of machines in emergency are all part of these regulations. Regular inspection and the necessary maintenance should be carried out where there is a risk of injury that may occur from the incorrect installation of the equipment and the deterioration of the work equipment over time. Records should be kept of all fittings done, maintenance and inspection dates. All new machinery procured should have the ‘CE’ mark and have conformity with the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations. According to Section 6 of The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, machinery should be constructed so that it is safe and without risks to health and has accompanying instruction information.