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.


By nature, we all live to the tune of our internal clock or ‘circadian rhythm’. This pattern of living is imprinted in the brain and governs our waking and sleeping biological activities. Our heart rate, body temperature and blood rate is increased during the day, whereas at night these biological activities slow down. Shift work schedules require abrupt changes to this pattern. Our internal clock can change gradually but does take some time. Some individuals adapt easier than others. Where one doesn’t get enough sleep at the proper times (i.e. during the night) ,performance and errors are more likely. Although, it’s rarely possible to fully adjust to working at night or outside normal working hours, shift work can be managed to lessen to risk to the body and the work environment.

Short term effects of shift work include gastrointestinal problems, insomnia, a general feeling of unwell and increased risks of injuries. Long term effects can include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, cancer and problems with fertility and pregnancy. Some of the serious risks can develop over decades and some over a shorter period of time. However, if you work in nursing, are a doctor, firefighter, or work in the police force or emergency services, or basically have to work at night, what can you do?

All employers, under the Health and Safety Act have a duty to ensure that they have minimised the risks to a level that is reasonably practical. Risk assessments should be carried out to ascertain the risks that workers may be exposed to. The risk assessment should take full account of the hazards associated with fatigue. It should also be established who might be harmed by shift work. Even though all workers are at risk from shift work, some might be more vulnerable than others. More vulnerable persons may include older workers, younger workers, expectant mothers, workers with pre-existing health conditions, temporary workers and sub-contractors who may find it difficult to adhere to current shift work patterns. Members of the public may also be at risk if they are in the environment where shift work takes place. Data should be collected about the shift work arrangements and used to identify areas where improvements can be made, if necessary. Past accident record books should be consulted. Shift workers should have safety representatives to speak on their behalf.

If practical, demanding work periods should be scheduled when workers are more alert, for example, at the beginning of a shift. Those who work on a more permanent night shift basis should have information regarding the risks. At shift handover, there should be brief communication liaison meeting so that the next set of shift workers are aware of the current situation. There should be adequate rest time between shifts. If practical, shifts should be rotated every 2 to 3 days as the internal body clock doesn’t adapt this quickly and sleep loss can be recovered. Permanent night time work and shifts of more than 8 hours should be avoided. Rest facilities and breaks should be part of the shift pattern. The work place temperature should be adjustable as the body cools down at night. Healthy living strategies should be promoted at work such as eating well, exercising and regular check-ups with the doctor.


Your lungs are so important. What goes into them and comes out of them determines how you live. Striving for quality of life is inherent in us all. Lung disease is not. We must endeavour to give our lungs the best shot at life, free from carcinogens, irritants, chemicals and fumes.

Rubber manufacturing usually consists of the processes of raw materials handling, milling, extruding, component assembling and building, curing, inspecting, finishing and storage and dispatch. Hazardous substances can include fumes and fine dusts. COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulation 2002) requires employers to assess the risk to health caused by dusts and fumes. Exposure must be prevented or adequately controlled by doing a risk assessment. For controlling dust fumes, employers can use dust suppressed materials, for example, pellets and oil coated powders. Enclosed and automated bag and powder handling is also a safe way of handling dusts. Workers should refrain from handling powders directly; automated system machinery should be in use. An effective local exhaust system should be used and maintained regularly during the work processes.

PPE should be worn, for example, gloves, aprons and safety glasses. Adequate personal washing facilities should be available and separate from the eating and rest areas. Good housekeeping should be the norm and industrial vacuum cleaners used. Respirators would not be needed if adequate fume and chemical controls are in place. However, they may be needed for short term exposures, for example, when filter bag changing or general maintenance. Training of workers in the use of respirators is essential. Because the rubber industry is ever changing, new processes may introduce new risks. Hopefully, they can be learned from without dire consequences happening to highlight the risk. Whilst COSHH doesn’t set out specific requirements for the rubber industry, it does set out the basic system of managing risk to health.


Simple steps to making a COSHH assessment in any industry

  • Simply walking around the work place can highlight obvious and taken for granted risks. Some substances will have workplace exposure limits (WELs); the limits need to be maintained.
  • The employer should have safety data sheets on information about their workplace. Workers can be exposed to dust, fume, vapour and dermal contact with liquids and dusts. Some dusts are very fine and might not be immediately apparent.
  • The hazards should be identified, mitigated against and a control system set up to be in place.
  • It should be ascertained who is likely to be harmed, how and when, and, the health severity to the worker.
  • The accident book may be a good reference when redesigning processes to make them safer and when considering a new factory floor layout. There can be lessons learned.



If all goes well, new mining regulations will come into effect in April of 2015. These will update the current Mines Regulations 2014. Changes include the current Approved Codes of Practice being replaced by new guidance and a modern set of regulations in place to focus on the control of risks. Other changes include the mine operator being the duty holder (not the mine manager), and, coal mines will no longer be required to participate in a rescue scheme. However, rescue provisions must be in place. The new regulations will remove unnecessary burdens on businesses by providing a sound legislative framework.  As well as the Mines Regulations 2014, there are currently many acts and regulations that govern working in mines, from the Escape and Rescue From Mines Regulations 1995 to the Mines and Quarries Act 1954.

In the 1800’s, the shocking truth of working conditions in mines, and especially that involving children, led to The Mines and Collieries Bill being passed by parliament in 1842. This prohibited all underground work for women and girls and for boys under 10 years of age. However, young boys and men were still at risk, in terms of health and fatalities. In 1872, the Coal Mines Regulation Act required pit managers to have certification of their training. Things were still bad over the decades and up until the early 1900’s health and safety law was not a frugal part of the mining environment.

Mines have many hazards and risks associated with them, including that associated with fires, inrushes of gas/materials, dust, floods and explosions. Accidental fires or explosions can be devastating in terms of loss of life, damage to property and business continuity. Risk assessments are crucial when mining, and, include identifying the hazards and the sources of fuel. Sources of fuel include firedamp (a naturally occurring mixture of hydrocarbon gases), coal dust, wood, diesel and some explosives. Sources of ignition include electrical sparking, hot surfaces, and compression of air. The risk of a fire or explosion must be evaluated, it must be ascertained who might be harmed, these findings recorded and an emergency plan in place. An inrush of water or material can occur at mines. An ‘inrush’ is the sudden arrival of a material or gas. To prevent an inrush, the plans of the underground workings must be accurate and up to date. It must be confirmed whether workings are being carried out in a hazardous area, i.e whether material is likely to flow from nearby areas if it got wet. It is imperative that medical aid facilities and emergency evacuation procedures are in place in mines. The first aid at mines section of the Mines Regulations 2014 will not change in the New Year.



Poultry dust is a mixture of birdfeed, straw, bird droppings, feathers, mites, bacteria and fungi. Poultry dust can be created by doing a variety of tasks such as laying down bedding, routine crop maintenance, catching poultry and manure removal. For those working in agriculture, respiratory disease is a major cause for concern. If untreated, occupational respiratory disease can lead to permanent breathing problems and being unable to work. Symptoms of respiratory disease includes coughing, bringing up phlegm, wheezing, watering eyes and sneezing. An asthma attack occurs when the airways of the lungs becomes obstructed. A person’s response to dust depends on the nature of the dust, the duration and the airborne particle size. Poultry dust particles, in the range of 5-7 microns, can penetrate into the gas exchange region of the lungs.

According to the law, workers that are exposed to poultry dust, work under the regulations according to COSHH, (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002). This sets out the legal requirements to protect workers against health risks arising from hazardous substances used at work. Different PPE may need to be used, including respiratory protective equipment. Different protection may be needed for the different activities. Risk assessments and regular heath surveillances should be carried out for workers. The health of the workers should always be considered when building poultry houses, purchasing vehicles and introducing systems for routine and periodic tasks.

To protect oneself, the first point of call is the lungs. One should wear Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE), for example dust masks, visors and air fed hoods. The respirator must fit one’s face properly. Facial hair affects the performance of close-fitting respirators so the face should be clean shaven. RPE should not be removed during activities, for example, it should not be removed to talk. This equipment should be used according to the manufacturer’s instruction and staff properly trained in its use.

Straw should be clean, dry and mould free. Application by hand should be minimised and mechanical spreading considered. Shed ventilation should be used with maximum effect. Dust extracted wood shavings should be used if laying down these. Flock management includes a range of tasks such as weighing, beak trimming, inspection and collection of stray eggs. The health risks must be assessed for the individual tasks. There should be shed ventilation and workers should wear RPE. The birds and their litter should be disturbed as little as possible. When cleaning out the bird hatches and areas, as little dust should be raised as possible. One could use mopping and vacuuming, rather than using a broom. The workers’ activities/stations should be rotated to reduce the individual worker’s exposure. If using a pressurised water system to remove manure, waterproof suits, wellington boots and safety goggle should be used. RPE should also be used at all times. Many egg production farms have conveyor systems that capture and remove manure to another part of the plant for disposal.



Radon is a colourless, odourless, radioactive gas. It is a by-product of the decay of uranium that is naturally present in rocks and soils. Radon, being radioactive, has the potential to be harmful to living tissues. Even though it is found everywhere, in most places it is present in negligible amounts and so not harmful to health. In the air, radon decapitates harmlessly but in some buildings it can accumulate at dangerously high levels. The degree to which the building suffers from radon problems depends on the type of soil underneath the floor, the structural quality of the building and local weather conditions. Small cracks and gaps in the building’s construction can cause radon to seep into the building. Because it is odourless and colourless it is easy to ignore. We are all exposed from radon from natural and man-made sources.

Radon is the second largest cause of lung cancer after smoking. Most people who get lung cancer are smokers or ex-smokers. The combination of nicotine and high radon exposure is a lethal mix that can seriously increase the risk of lung cancer. The average amount of radon in UK homes is 20 Bq m-3. For levels below 100 Bq m-3, there is a negligible risk and no need for concern. Inside the lungs, radon can continue to emit alpha particles which are absorbed by the tissues and can cause localised cell damage. Employers, under the Radiological Protection Act 1991 and the Safety Health and Welfare Act 1989, are required to test the work place radon level and take remedial action where necessary. The Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999 are relevant where the radon is present above 400 Bq/m3. Employers are required to take action; this is enforced by local authorities.

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Sources of Radon in the UK

The ground is the main source of radon. There are measures that can be taken to decrease its prevalence. If a building has a solid floor, the inclusion of a radon sump with a fan under the floor may help. For suspended floors, natural ventilation under the floor or mechanical under floor ventilation my help. The costs depend on the complexity of the building. To test for radon levels in the home, there are home test kits available to buy online. If the test comes back with a negligible result there is no cause for concern.

The UK has been extensively surveyed by the Health Protection Agency which has produced resultant maps of the approximate locations of radon throughout the UK. This indicative atlas, which although doesn’t show exact radon levels, is an approximation which should be consulted by employers and those in the building trade. Together with consulting this map, workplaces above ground should include radon measurements. For below ground workplaces, such as mines, caves and utility services, there may be extra levels of radon present, in comparison to the overground areas of the same areas.




Clinical trials to ensure a safe vaccine are either in the pipeline, have already begun or are planned for the future in various geographical locations around the world. First identified in 1976, the Ebola virus is one of the four ebolaviruses which cause disease in humans. Because of its high mortality rate the Ebola virus is classed as a WHO Risk Group 4 Pathogen (requiring Biosafety).

Some of the countries where clinical trials have begun include Canada, the US, the UK and Mali. Even though the risk of catching Ebola within these regions is practically nil, there is no shortage of volunteers. In the current trials, it is being studied how the recipients react to the vaccine, including monitoring if antibody levels rise over time. However, the volunteers won’t be exposed to the pathogen because of how dangerous it is. One cannot get Ebola from this vaccine but it triggers an immune response to the disease. Clinical trials on animals have been successful so far. Other current possible cures, although not proven, include blood transfusions from surviving patients, antiviral drugs, and man-made antibiotics.

There are many challenges, for example, how much is a safe dose, as this is the first time this kind of trial is being done on humans. The aim here is to get some information on the safety of the vaccine within a clinical trial process.

When the vaccine is determined as safe, it has to be proven whether it works

The real world testing in West Africa will only go ahead if a vaccine is proven safe and can trigger the immune system in producing antibodies against the virus. Since Ebola emerged 10 months ago it has killed thousands (including Aid workers) in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. There has been random cases reported – including the US and one in Spain.

As of late, it has been reported that in some early studies, the Ebola vaccine is safe and could be used in West Africa within a few months, according to a WHO spokesperson. It has been reported that there could be many challenges ahead with administering the vaccine in the Ebola stricken areas where there is already poor health care systems. Challenges include transportation and storage of the vaccine (which has to be kept at a low temperature), who to administer it to and how it’s monitored. There has been debate about conducting a randomised clinical trial, where some will get the advantage of having the vaccine and others will not, which, could be seen as unethical.

Some of the world’s biggest drug companies are working on trying to produce, which will hopefully be the beginning of the end to the world’s ongoing tragedy, the vaccine that will fight the Ebola virus.


Sources   ctv news    washington post   baltimore   cbc   wikipedia

Occupations that involve working closely with humans, animals and biological waste pose risks to the worker’s health. Most of those reported are diarrheal diseases, but needle stick injuries can occur where viruses are transmitted. The control of exposure within the workplace is governed by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH). Additional advisory information is available from the Department of Health and the Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens (ACDP). Specific advice is available on specific blood borne diseases such as Hepatitis, HIV, TB and vCJD etc. There is also advice available on laboratory settings, clinical waste, post-mortems and funeral undertaking. The HSE do not generally deal with clinical matters as they are dealt with elsewhere.

Micro-organisms are found almost everywhere and most are harmless. Some of them do very important jobs such as their use in the making of medicine, cleaning up oil spills. Half of the oxygen we breathe is attributable to micro-organisms. However, some micro-organisms can cause disease when employees are exposed to them at work. These include bacteria, viruses, fungi and internal parasites. Most of the time one picks up an infection, but they can also cause allergies and be toxic. There are different hazards associated with the different occupations. Some of these are listed below.

Occupations where there is direct physical contact with humans

This includes nurses, care workers, undertakers. Here, workers may provide assistance with feeding, washing, dressing. Sources of infection include direct skin contact, body fluids, human waste. In occupations where there is unpredictable behaviour like spitting, scratching etc., there are risks of infection. An example here would be custodial workers.

Activities where there is contact with human waste

This includes nurses, ancillary health care workers such as porters, cleaners, sewerage workers, drain cleaners, refuse collectors, crime scene investigators, doctors, laundry workers and emergency service workers. Human waste may be on spoiled laundry, clothes etc.

Activities that involve the cutting/piercing of human skin

This includes post mortem technicians, tattooists, acupuncturists, dentists, nurses, doctors, undertakers. Sources of infection could come from blood. Even hairdressers and beauticians may also be at risk, because there is direct skin contact.

Activities where there is direct physical contact with animals

Occupations include farmers, veterinary workers, kennel/cattery workers and animal rescue workers. Sources of infection can come from direct skin contact, infectious aerosols and body fluids. Animals can be unpredictable and may bite or scratch.

Activities where there is direct physical contact with animal waste

This includes occupations where there is direct physical contact with animals and includes poultry processors, slurry spreaders, abattoir workers, park cleaners and grooms.

Activities where there is cutting of animal skin

This includes butchers, abattoir workers, veterinary workers and poultry processors.

When working with humans, animals and biological waste, there are many hazards that pose a risk to the worker. The approach would be to assess the risks and have control measures in place to protect against them. When assessing the risk involved with people and animals, one must consider both the living and the dead. Once a risk assessment within the work area has been carried out, there are duties under COSHH to stop workers being exposed to sources of infection.



Chemicals are used in many different sectors, for example, in factories, farms, offices and the home. Businesses that transport, store and dispose of hazardous waste have duties under the Hazardous Waste Regulations 2005 (HWR). There may also be responsibilities under REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals). The Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) (WFD) specifies what waste is and how it should be managed. In the UK, hazardous waste assessment is implemented by the Chemical (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations 5 (CHIP).

Chemical waste, like any hazardous waste, needs to be disposed of or recycled correctly. The HWR sets out the rules for assessing if a waste is hazardous or not. As part of the assessment of waste, the HWR refers to the “List of Wastes” given in the LoWR. This list is also known as the European Waste Catalogue (EWC).

It should also be determined whether the waste is hazardous, the process which produced the waste, its ingredients and the type of establishment that produced it. Waste can be classified as absolute hazardous waste, non-absolute hazardous waste and waste that is “mirror hazardous” and “mirror non-hazardous entries”. Hazardous waste includes asbestos, chemicals (e.g brake fluid), batteries, solvents, pesticides, fridges and hazardous waste containers. A hazardous waste consignment note would need to be included for hazardous waste. Non-hazardous waste can include, for example, edible oil. For non-hazardous waste, the business must have waste transfer notes to ensure it is being disposed of properly. The last type would be waste that may or may not be hazardous, for example, ink and paint. The term “mirror” waste means waste that could be hazardous or not, depending on what substances it contains. If it contains a hazardous ingredient it is then classified as hazardous.

Businesses and those involved in being responsible for chemical waste have a duty of care from the moment the waste is produced to the time it is given to a licenced waste business to deal with. As well as the aforementioned regulations regarding the classification of chemical waste, employers have a duty under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) to not allow their employees to be harmed at work due to work with hazardous substances. The Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999 (COMAH) as amended aims to prevent major accidents involving dangerous substances. These regulations place duties on operators that hold or work with dangerous substances in their premises.