It has recently been reported by the HSE that two landlord companies have been fined for gas safety breaches in the North London area. Even though, no tenants were injured, leaks were found in the gas system within residential properties. Landlords have a duty under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 to ensure safe gas fittings to prevent risk of injury to tenants. It also states that gas inspections should be done every year to ensure the gas system is safe and any maintenance needed should be carried out. These regulations apply to residential properties for private use. The landlord is responsible for the maintenance and repair of gas pipe work, flues and appliances. Records of the safety checks are required. Every year, about 14 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning and other gas related injuries that could be prevented.

Basically, the main duties of the landlord are to ensure that the gas fittings and flues are maintained in a safe condition. These include appliances not installed in tenants’ accommodation but where they service them, for example, the central heating system of the whole building. All gas appliances should be checked annually by a Gas Safe registered engineer. A record should be made of each safety check for at least two years. A copy of the latest check should be given to tenants or in some cases displayed. Appliances owned by the tenant are not covered under these safety checks; however, the onus is on the tenant to ensure they do their own gas checks. If a management agent is used by the landlord, the landlord must ensure that they complete the gas checks as required. Overall, it is the responsibility of the landlord to ensure that this is done. If appliances fail a safety check, remedial action must be taken immediately. It is an offence to use, or allow the use of, an unsafe appliance.

We easily take for granted cookers and fires to keep us warm with hot cooked meals. However, having commonsense in looking after these appliances can divert a disaster or injury. Gas cookers, gas fires, including boilers need to be checked annually. One should recognize the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. These include headaches, breathlessness, and nausea and in severe cases loss of consciousness. One should check the flame on appliances, it should be crisp and blue and not a yellow slow flame. There should be no dark stains on or around the appliances. These appearances can indicate the presence of a carbon monoxide leakage, however, it is possible for there to be a gas leak and no signs at all. There should always be enough ventilation for gas appliances to burn effectively. Air vents should not be blocked that provide an air supply to the gas appliance. Gas Engineers should be checked that they are part of the Gas Safe Register and should show an up to date ID card. By law, all Gas engineers should be part of the Gas Safe Register. Before 2009, this register was known as CORGI.

If you smell gas…

  • Open all doors and windows
  • Shut off the gas supply at the meter control valve (it you know where it is)
  • Call 0800 111 999, the Gas Emergency Services

Sources    hse    gas safe register

In October this year, the National Food and Drink Manufacturing Health and Safety Conference will take place. This annual event is aimed at health and safety practitioners, enforcing authorities, machinery & equipment designers, manufacturers and anybody involved in the food and drink manufacturing sector. Run by IOSH in partnership with the Food and Drink Manufacture Health and Safety Forum and HSE it is the foremost health and safety conference regarding food and drink.

Since 1990, the number of accidents in the food and drink industry has dropped by over a third; due to awareness of occupational health issues in the food sector. However, fatalities and injuries still cause much suffering and distress, so it pays to manage health and safety. Lost profit, legal penalties, loss of plant and loss of insurance costs are the consequences of a badly managed health and safety system.

The food and drink manufacturing industry is so diverse and wide that it’s impossible to provide general safety guidelines for the manufacture of all products. The manufacture of each product will have its own health and safety system and regulations to adhere to. Although food and drink is naturally processed under strict controls, it does not follow that these are low risk occupations. Safety hazards include falls from height, occupational dermatitis, falling into silos, occupational asthma, noise induced hearing loss, musculoskeletal injuries, work-related stress and accidents with machinery.

To manage the safety hazards within a food and drink processing plant, the risks which are significant must be identified and the causative factors set out so they can be controlled. Nearly half of all fatalities in the food and drink industries are as a result of transport related accidents. There should be safe guard systems for reversing and the segregation of pedestrians from vehicles where possible. Lift truck drivers should be trained and that they work on safe platforms. There should be systems in place to prevent tipping lorries and trucks from overturning. All jobs that need access to height should be identified and effective safeguards provided. There should be maintenance of stairways and ladders and any loose roof sheeting fixed. When working at a height, the operators’ hands must be free to work and aids should be in place where the worker can rest tools. If a temporary access to a height is required, workers must be trained on the safe way to do this.

Where it is unavoidable to enter silos and confined spaces, there must be a safe system of work for entry and rescue. If the atmosphere in a silo is hazardous, suitable respiratory protective equipment must be worn. Entry to silos which pose an engulfment risk should be forbidden. In all types of machinery used on the factory floor, for example that used in packing, there must be safe guards. The operator must be free to move so they can assist product flow and clear blockages. Slips and falls are another hazard in any work. There should be set up an effective cleaning regime, where there is adequate marking, lighting and if necessary, safety shoes should be worn. Manual handling risks should be tackled, for example using lighter containers and mechanical handling aids etc. Consideration must also be given to staking, handling and movement of goods to prevent them from falling.

Sources   hse

Ergonomics is concerned with ‘fitting’ the right equipment with the worker. This puts the person first, taking into account their capabilities and limitations. A range of factors have to be considered, one is the job being done. This includes the workload of the worker, the activities, shift work patterns, fatigue and the equipment used. The environment must be taken into account, for example, the noise levels, humidity and temperature. There is also the individual’s physical and psychological characters, like body size, mental ability, training and experience. The social environment is also an important factor and includes teamwork, supervision and resources. Ergonomics is a very broad subject and will have differing applications within different industries, however the office environment is a common work layout that most of us will have experience of. Making the office ergonomically friendly will reduce the potential for accidents and improve performance and productivity.

If not working comfortably, office workers can suffer a number of ailments. These can include upper limb disorders (ULDs), eyestrain, fatigue and stress. Employers have an obligation to check that the office work stations are suitably set up and that relevant training is given to the workers. Employers have legal duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992.

Sitting at a properly set up work station will ensure that neutral body posture is attained and that joints are naturally aligned. Whilst office work hazards’ are low risk they can result in ill health for the worker. These include bad postural problems. This can result from prolonged static postures and working in awkward situations due to bad workstation set up. Upper limb disorders may occur when one is constantly working for long hours on the keyboard and using non-keyboard devices where there is repetitive hand / wrist movements. ULDs refer to the region extending from the fingers to the shoulders and into the neck. It includes the muscles and soft tissues of these areas.            Symptoms can include pain, tingling, numbness, back and neck pain. There can occur visual fatigue to the eyes due to glare, flickering screens, poor lightening or poor positioning of the PC.

Being ergonomically friendly in the work place:

  • Computer screen. The top of the screen should be at the workers eye level. It should be at arms’ length and aligned with the trunk of the body
  • Keyboard. It should be positioned at elbow level
  • Chair. Should allow smooth movement and be adjustable
  • Work space. There must be adequate leg clearance and the surface must be non-reflective
  • Telephone. If frequently used, a  hands free headset should be used
  • Lighting. Adequate lighting should be provided to prevent eyestrain and glare
  • Temperature. Should be between 19 – 23ºC
  • Noise. Should be kept low to prevent hearing loss and stress
  • Humidity. Humidity and airflow should be kept at comfortable levels
  • Laptops. A computer monitor pedestal may be used. The screen should be seen without bending the neck
  • Get up. Don’t sit for too long periods, walk around the work place
  • Do something different. Perform different tasks like filling
  • Working posture. One should periodically change their working posture by making small changes to the headrest
  • Move. One should stretch their fingers and blink their eyes and concentrate on looking at objects away from the screen for short period of time, for example, looking out the window or talking to an office colleague

 

Sources   osha   hse

As of 26th February 2014, the HSE has issued a safety notice regarding the contamination of metallurgies by the presence of mercury. Mercury spills, its presence in crude oil and other related environments can cause Liquid Metal Embrittlement (LME). This is where susceptible metals become brittle and crack when they come in contact with mercury. If not controlled, this can be a major hazard in a processing plant. By weakening other metals within a processing plant, the environment may become contaminated and put the plant at risk. In 2004 a natural gas processing plant in South Australia suffered a major fire because of LME. Aluminum and copper are particularly susceptible to LME from mercury. Mercury is liquid at temperatures above 38 degrees Celsius and can contaminate crude oil to varying degrees. Because of this threat from mercury, operators of plants where it is suspected must operate COMAH (Control of Major Accident Hazards) with full vigilance. In these environments, risk assessments should be carried out to control the threat of LME. COMAH processing plants must meet their responsibilities to control major accidents to people and the environment. COMAH regulations are enforced by the COMAH Competent Authority. The Competent Authority focuses on safety management within processes in controlling major hazards in the UK.

As well as being a hazard within processing plants, mercury poses health risks (from water soluble forms of mercury) and from inhalation of its vapor. Health risks include damage to the nervous system and kidneys. Steps can be taken to mitigate against mercury exposure. Vessels and pipe work where mercury may be present should be fitted with mercury flushing taps and meters which monitor the mercury level. Filters and drain popes should be checked for signs of mercury. Any spillage of mercury droplets should be collected with a vacuum which has a mercury vapour filter. Plant and machinery should be clearly labeled. As mercury can easily collect on surfaces it needs to be removed by adding sulphur or a commercial mercury cleansing kit. For workers in these kinds of environments, Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) is necessary. For confined space work a breathing apparatus would be necessary. Disposable overalls and gloves should be used. Footwear includes rubber boots for ease of cleaning. The air flow of air-fed RPE should be checked before use. Biological monitoring should be carried out for workers who work in exposed mercury environments. The occupational exposure limit value for mercury is 0.02 mg/m3 (an 8 hour time weighted average). All personnel should be well trained in these working environments and waste should be disposed of appropriately.

On the legal side there are responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999.

 

Sources   hse    wikipedia

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

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

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

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

 

Sources   hse   wikipedia    liebherr   labour.gov

 

There are many chemicals and chemical preparations used in the workplace that have the potential to cause harm to one’s health. If any of these hazardous substances are inhaled into the lungs, absorbed through the skin or ingested in some other format they may cause illness. Employers have a duty under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) to regulate and manage the use of hazardous materials. These materials can be present in many formats, such as dust particles, micro-organisms, fumes, gases, liquids and emissions from waste materials. Employees, contractors and visitors on site must be protected under COSHH. Occasional workers and visiting contractors to a site must be informed about the hazards, have detailed information about the work and be part of the risk control process.

If a new operation, a new production process or job role is introduced; a COSHH risk assessment must be carried out. This will make aware the risk to employee’s health. The risks must be controlled and mitigated against under the regulations. The assessment should consider risk from all angles, i.e as a result of processing, maintenance, by products, waste products or the activities of other employees. Personal protective equipment (PPE) may need to be part of the work environment.

There are workplace exposure limits (WEL) that provide guidance on how to help protect the health of workers. This is a concentration of a substance within the air that is averaged over a period of time. Long term exposure limits are for 8 hours and short term limits are for 15 minutes. An example of short term limits is that which is set to prevent eye irritation from a hazardous substance. However, the effects of exposure to substances depends on the nature of the substance and the pattern of exposure. Biological monitoring is useful where there is likely to be skin absorption or lung inhalation. Some WEL’s may be mixed compounds, such as rubber fume. Mixed substances require careful risk assessments, ie they may have the potential to cause harm to different body parts. Further control may be required to mitigate against these substances, as opposed to dealing with these substances individually. The risk control measures must consider how one is working with the material, for example, there may be small exposure within the production line but potential for large inhalation of this same substance when disposing of it.

Other legislation pertaining to the use of controlled substances at work include the Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations 2007, the Health and Safety (Enforcing Authority for Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems) Regulations 2006, the Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations 2009, Registration and the Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of CHemicals (REACH) Enforcement Regulations 2008. There are many other regulations (as listed at the Health and Safety Executive) that also apply to the use and transport of chemicals within the workplace in the UK.

Sources   hse

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

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

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

Sources     wikipedia     hse      aps

 

Working in a quarry is one of the most dangerous industries to work in. It has a higher fatality and incident rate than the construction and manufacturing industries. Accidents and fatalities in quarries are due to maintenance work, the use of vehicles, fixed machinery and falls from height. Many incidents occur during the cleaning and adjustment of machinery while it is running or during an unexpected start up of equipment while it is being worked on. Occupational diseases and accidents can occur as a result of large moving vehicles, dusty atmospheres and the use of explosives. Noise and vibrations and hazardous materials may pose many hazards for workers on site. There is also the social drawback; many workers may have to do shift work and work under time pressures which may escalate the risk of hazards.

Legislations which apply to working in quarries include The Quarries Regulations 1999. This is to protect the health and safety of workers at a quarry and includes the self employed and passers-by or those living near a quarry that may be susceptible to hazards. There are many other regulations that apply to quarry work; these include The Work at Height Regulations 2005, Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005, Confined Spaces Regulations 1997 and Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, among others.

One of the main risks when working in a quarry involve the faces. A ‘quarry face’ is a slope in the quarry where the mineral is being excavated or it may be still un-extracted. Risks may come from falling lose rocks, materials and vehicles driving over the edges of the faces. Risks involving vehicles may be the result of driver misjudgment and faulty machines and may result in crashing into other vehicles and incorrect reversing. Much machinery related accidents in quarries can occur as a result of workers being trapped or entangled in machinery. Falling objects such as rocks is another common form of injury in quarries. Pollution nose, which may include that coming from stone crushers, explosions and heavy vehicles, is another common occupational hazard experienced at quarries. Workers may also experience distress from hand held vibrating machines and whole body vibrations from some fixed plant machinery. Dust will be present at all times because of the milling, cutting and crushing of stones.

Quarries need to be regularly inspected. An inspection may be visual or may involve testing or dismantling. The extent of the inspection scheme depends on the work activities, the nature of the materials, weather conditions, tips and quarry faces. Faces should be inspected so that they do not have lose rock or ground that may pose a risk to workers. They may have to be inspected at the beginning of every shift. The inspection scheme should include safety devices such as reversing aids, electrical equipment, pedestrian routes, evacuations and tips, pressure systems and any barriers around the quarry. Defects should be noted. Records should be kept on all inspections and the work that was done to mitigate against and control the risks.

Sources   osha   hse

The Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) provides practical advice on how to comply with the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR). These regulations are used to reduce risk or eliminate risk of fire and explosion in businesses that manufacture, store, process or use dangerous substances. There have been some recent changes to the ACOP to make things simpler and restructured to help the reader. The regulations themselves have been unchanged; however, it’s been reproduced to provide more practical up to date guidance.

DSEAR places responsibilities on employers to protect their employees from fire and explosions in the workplace. Risks can come from dangerous substances used in the workplace and/or explosive atmospheres. As well as assessing the risks under DSEAR, assessment would include the regulations under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Assessing the risks include identifying possible sources of ignition. This will be where dangerous substances are used or where a dangerous substance or potentially explosive atmosphere may be formed during  work processes. For each dangerous substance, the manufacturer’s guidance should include safe methods for its storage, use and handling. The workers at risk from explosive hazards should be identified. This includes members of the public that may be put at risk due to the work being carried out. Precautions should be taken against the risks posed. This may include substituting a non-threatening substance for the dangerous one and/or changing the work processes. This is called ‘Substitution’ in the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations. An example here could be replacing a low flash point liquid with one of a higher flash point. Where substitution processes are not practical, tight control measures should be in place. There would need to be control and mitigating measures in place to prevent a fire or explosion. One should keep a record of the risk assessment and this information should be used when training and  information is given to employees. However, if changes are implemented in the workplace and ways of working changed, the risk assessment would need to be updated to accommodate this. Non routine maintenance and update work should also be part of the risk assessment control measures as these may pose a hazard.

Control measures should include non necessary use of dangerous substances, avoidance of ignition sources, safe storage of any released dangerous substances, the prevention of the formation of an explosive atmosphere and the non-mixing of incompatible substances. Only equipment that meets the requirements of the Equipment and Protective Systems Intended for Use in Potentially Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 1996 should be used. People who check and verify the equipment should be competent to do so. Warning signs should be placed in hazardous areas and staff should use appropriate personal protective equipment. In case of an incident there should be safety drills, emergency evacuation plans and first aid equipment at hand. The emergency services should be notified of this in case they need to change their plans in the event of an incident.

Sources   hse

With the December chill in the air, many of us are taking to our beds for a few sick days. For many this is flu season and the more vulnerable among us will have to take time off work. In the chemists this time of year there is every kind of nose spray and cough mixture to be had. Apart from flu which should be easy enough to overcome with a weeks bed rest, what are your rights when it comes to returning to work after a more serious ailment like a permanent injury or disability?

There are legal requirements that employers should adhere to when their employees return to work after a sickness absence or employees who have a sickness related disability. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, if an employee returns to work and has become more vulnerable to injury, illness or disability, then the employer must make a reasonable effort to protect the employee. There are duties on the employee to make every possible effort to manage their return to work. It is advised that the employee keeps in regular contact with their employer/trade union representative so they are kept in the loop and can give updates on the progress of their health to their employer. It is not in the best interest of the organization for sick people to come back to work if they are not fully recovered. This may pose health and safety risks to themselves and others working around them. If there is an occupational health nurse or doctor on site the employee should contact them. It is advisable for employers to monitor sickness absences and to investigate if this is connected with work. Modified work adjustments may need to be made. The employee should discuss with their doctor any work adjustments needed when they return to work or any effects of medication. These should be relayed to the employer who should do their best to made adjustments. Work adjustments may include starting the employee on shorter hours then increasing slowly, changing or adapting the work equipment and reducing the initial workload. The employee should clearly understand how such work adjustments will affect their pay.

The employer needs to consider whether existing health and safety control measures will still protect the employee after they return to work and if changes need to be made. If an employee has become disabled due to a sickness then specialist advice may be needed to advise the employer about the employee’s present condition and what to do. The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) requires the employer to make reasonable adjustments to ensure employees who are disabled can carry out their job in a comfortable and non-threatening way. If an employee has a disability it doesn’t mean that they pose an additional risk to health and safety. Employees have also got rights under Employment Law. The Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2002 puts responsibilities on employers to ensure that stairs, passageways, doors, lavatories and work stations are suitably arranged to take account of disabled workers’ needs.

Being at work is necessary for good health, self-esteem, social connections and quality of life. Managing sick absences and subsequent returns helps keep this life balance in order.

Sources   hse