REACH is a European set of regulations that is concerned with the Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals. Basically the REACH regulations help protect people and the environment from the risks and the hazardous effects of chemicals being produced, distributed and for sale on the market. The manufacturers and the distributers are required to manage the risks of the chemical products they produce. Some substances are not regulated by REACH, these include radioactive materials, human and veterinary medicines, waste, food and substances at customs. These are regulated wholly or in part by a different set of regulations.

It is an obligation under REACH regulation to register with them if an entity is producing and distributing a chemical substance. This also applies to importers. REACH researches the properties and hazardous effects of chemicals. The authorities can decide to restrict or ban the use of products on the market. Each member country of REACH must appoint a competent authority (CA) to manage the enforcement within its country. It must ensure compliance, inspections, monitoring and penalties within its country/region. REACH requires that there is co-operation between member states.

In the UK, it is DEFRA who loads on the policy of REACH. Other REACH co-ordinators in the UK include the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The REACH Enforcement Regulations were established in 2008. These regulations are enforced by the HSE (and HSE Northern Ireland), the Environment Agency, the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and Local Government Associations.

There are penalties for non-compliance with REACH regulations. Businesses that manufacture 1 tonne or more of chemicals per year are required to be registered with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), who manage REACH. ECHA help businesses comply with legislation. It is only the chemicals themselves that need to be registered, not the mixtures. Registration includes providing the technical information on the chemical and its hazards. Registration is based on tonnage and can take place over a number of years, however, the chemicals themselves need to be pre-registered from the beginning.

If a chemical substance is imported from outside the EU, the importer will need to register with the ECHA. Companies outside the EU cannot register chemicals themselves, but they can place an EU based representative to act on their behalf. If a manufacturer has not registered a chemical and a business is importing it, in most cases it will be illegal for the manufacturer and the importer to continue with the supply of that chemical. If certain substances are of very high concern, it may be the case that such substances will eventually be phased out from non-essential uses.


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Towards the end of the 19th century, asbestos had widespread uses. It was used in the making of concrete, pipes, bricks, cement, pipe insulation, ceiling insulation, flooring and roofing. Its fire-retardant properties were used in many materials that required fire resistant coatings.

The inhalation and close proximity of working with asbestos can cause serious health problems. The first death related to asbestos occurred in 1906. Over the centuries, 1000’s of people have died as a result of exposure to asbestos. This life threatening illnesses affected those who worked in asbestos mines, were involved in the spinning of raw asbestos into yarn, worked in textile factories and were involved in building and construction. Over the war years many died as a result of working on asbestos containing materials that were prevalent on ships, for examples in the pipes and ship fittings. Even persons who were not directly working with asbestos were affected. This included those living in the vicinity of an asbestos factory or even those living with family members who worked with asbestos.

The chemical structure of asbestos is that of fibrous crystals that are naked to the human eye. Asbestos can be classified according to its color, i.e. blue, brown, white and green. In 1985, blue and brown asbestos materials were banned in the UK. White asbestos was outlawed in 1999. In 2011, it has been reported that over half of all UK households contain asbestos. This is because these buildings were most likely built before the 1980’s, before asbestos was first outlawed.

If asbestos in homes and industrial premises is not disturbed and it is left well concealed, it should not pose a major problem. However, if it becomes disturbed, for example, in renovation or when knocking an older building down, it may become a health hazard as the asbestos particles could be free in the air. In these cases it should either be managed by wearing PPE/RPE and following safety guidelines. If it is termed a major hazard, it should only be managed and removed by licenced professionals. Construction companies must ensure their workers understand the risks associated with asbestos should they come in contact with it.

Common places where asbestos can be found (in both industrial and residential buildings) include the lagging in pipes, asbestos containing boards in the ceiling, in older fire blankets, sprayed coatings in ceilings/walls, in gutters and in bath and cistern panels. It should be noted that by removing asbestos containing materials, its fire-retardant properties may also be removed. So, substitute fire protection will need to replace these.

Mesothelioma and asbestosis have been observed in persons who are occupationally exposed to asbestos. Asbestosis is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes scarring to the tissue of the lungs. This is caused by the inhalation and settling of the asbestos fibres in the lungs. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs and lower digestive tract. Pleural thickening of the lungs can also occur. This can cause shortness of breath and discomfort in the chest. All cases of asbestos poisoning can be fatal.


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Assessing risk, controlling and reviewing it are the main elements to working safely on any construction site.

Assessing the work area involves investigating the hazards, i.e who could be harmed (including the environment), how somebody could be harmed and to what extent harm could occur. Common health hazards can come from working with dust, asbestos, noise, vibrating equipment, cement and lead. The consequences of manual handling, and slip and trip hazards are also risks to one’s health. Occupational diseases include asthma, musculoskeletal disorders, occupational cancer and asbestosis and noise related hearing impairments.

In the assessment of risk on a construction project, the mitigation of risks should be part of the construction plans from the beginning. When doing so, one must consider the aims of the project, the amount of people employed, the length (in terms of weeks and even years) and the size of the project. The hazards and their consequences must all be assessed as part of the whole. The workers must be well trained so that they can work in cooperation with management. Both must comply with the law and the onus is on both to report any threatening issues.

Controlling the risks in construction involves completely eliminating them or diminishing them to an acceptable level that is reasonably practical, and complies with the law. This involves working with the safest equipment available, providing appropriate protective equipment (including respiratory) for workers. Other controls may include allowing limited access to hazardous work areas (where only qualified personnel are allowed), rotating the workers that are doing the hazardous tasks and allowing frequent breaks. Having strong protocol and work processes in place, by which workers must adhere to, will result in a ‘work trail’ whereby the risks to health is diminished. In this case, should an investigation be required later, one would be able to identify the likely cause of the situation that has occurred. A lot of responsibility depends on the training of staff, the hiring of competent workers and the preservation of a communicative and progressive work environment amongst them.

As with any work place, especially construction, the work environment is subject to change. Therefore, the risks need to be reviewed at regular intervals, and, most urgently as new changes occur. Changes can include new staff, the introduction of new equipment, new job roles and new changes to the construction phases of the project. Even a change in the weather can have an effect. Consideration must be given to temporary workers, shift workers, young workers and staff whose first language is not English. Temporary or young workers may not be experienced with procedures and so should be competently trained and supervised. Equipment should be tested for safety features and be well maintained. Maintenance work should be carried out safely. Any incidences of ill health should be investigated and a health surveillance system would be advisable. Formal audits may be useful in tackling ‘gap areas’.


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

Management of Regulations

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

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

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

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

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

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

All workplaces need to control the risks to their workers, visitors and the public. If an organisation has 5 or more employees, it must document the risk assessment. If less than 5 employees, a risk assessment still has to be carried out, however it does not have to be recorded. It may be communicated verbally. There are 5 steps to controlling risks in the workplace, (1) Identify the hazards, (2) Decide who might be harmed and how, (3) Evaluate the risks, (4) Record the findings, (5) Review and update the assessment.

  • Identify the hazards

To help identify the hazards, one must walk around the workplace and also ask employees what they consider the hazards are. If equipment is being used, one must check the manufacturers’ sheets so that employees are aware of the hazards. Previous ill health records and near misses should be re-visited so that lessons can be learned. This then can be part of the risk assessment in moving forward. Other non-routine functions such as maintenance and cleaning can also pose their own risks, so these must be part of the risk assessment as well.

  • Decide who might be harmed and how

It is necessary to converse with employees at this stage, as most often they will be able to more easily identify the risks. This is because they are in direct contract with materials and work processes. Some workers may be more at risk due to the circumstances surrounding their employment. These include temporary workers, people with disabilities, persons whose first language is not English, young workers, isolated workers, expectant and new mothers. People who are also not regular visitors to the workplace such as maintenance workers and the public should be part of the risk assessment and control measures in place. These persons, not being part of the regular workforce, may not be aware of the risks/hazards.

  • Evaluate the risks

The risk assessment will include what an employer / the self-employed are reasonably expected to know. The control measures include diminishing the risk with a less risky process. For example, substituting the use of a piece of equipment for a less dangerous piece of equipment to do the same job. Hazards can also be controlled by preventing access to them, i.e. access to certain areas by only trained personnel. Other ways of controlling the hazards include issuing protective equipment to workers, having welfare and fire stations nearby and organising the workplace so that exposure to the hazards are minimised. Involving workers is vital, as they can have quite a lot of information on daily work activities.

  • Record the significant findings

A good way to record the risk assessment is to use a risk assessment template. This is a document with check boxes and areas for recording the risks and what’s to be done to control them. There are also on-line risk assessment tools that people can use.

  • Renew/updating of the assessment

When the nature of the business or work environment changes, for example in construction, these new changes must be reflected in the risk assessment.


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

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

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

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

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

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


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Good scaffolding design is necessary from the outset. This is to prevent falls, trips, manual handling disorders from occurring, and projectiles from falling and other dangerous situations from occurring. The Work at Height Regulations 2005 require scaffolding to be designed competently so that it is stable and fit for use. The National Access and Scaffolding Confederation has the standards in place for the practice of erecting scaffolding correctly.

Before scaffolding can be erected, one must consider all the functions of it. The will include the site location, the period of time the scaffold will need to be in place, the height and length of the scaffolding, the number of boarded lifts and the maximum working load at any one time. Also, other factors would have to be taken into account, such as the type of access to the scaffold (for example, staircase, ladder), whether there is a requirement for netting and whether a pedestrian walkway is required. The ground conditions and even the weather conditions have to be factored in. There are some scaffolds that require a customised design. These include those involving mobile towers, temporary ramps, access scaffolds with working lifts, marine scaffolds, rubbish chutes and pedestrian foot bridges.

All employees must be trained and understand how to navigate around scaffolding. PPE will need to be worn such as hard hats, gloves (if required), safety shoes, reflective clothing and any other protective equipment. A harness may also be required. Trainee scaffolders should work under a competent supervisor.

Although there are many hazards posed with working with scaffolding, falls from height are one of the greatest hazards. In order to comply with the Work at Height regulations, the employer/self-employed must ensure that the risks are assessed, the risks of working on/near fragile surfaces is managed and that the equipment used is properly inspected and maintained. A visible tag system for use in scaffolding will notify others that the scaffolding has been inspected. There can also be a risk of falling during the erection of the scaffolding; this must be controlled as well. This can be controlled by use of an advanced guard rail system. If this is not used, workers should wear a harness.


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

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

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

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

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


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A very happy and fruitful new year to all our readers. 2015 has had many changes to health and safety legislation.

Some changes over the past year…

From June 2015, DSEAR (Dangerous Substances and Explosives Atmospheres Regulations 2002) has placed a formal requirement on employers to assess the risks for substances if these are classified as dangerous/explosive. However, this change will most likely have a minimal effect as these changes to DSEAR are already covered under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Other changes have included the Offshore Installations (Offshore Safety Directive)(Safety Case etc.) regulations 2015, that came into force in July 2015. They replace the Offshore Installations (Safety Case) regulations 2005. These new changes apply to oil and gas operations in external waters, i.e. the territorial area adjacent to Great Britain. Their primary aim is to reduce the risks from hazards to the health and safety of the workforce employed in offshore installations.

The Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Regulations 2015 came into force in June 2015. Some changes include substances covered by the regulations being updated, and, there has also been some definitions changed. There have been changes to emergency planning and there is a stronger requirement for public information. Local authorities must now inform people likely to be affected by a major accident.

The Mines Regulations 2015 came into force in April 2015. The main focus here has been on the control of the risks from major hazards in mines. The Principal duty holder is now the mine operator and not the mine manager. All persons working in mines also need to have relevant qualifications.

Other changes over the past year include the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 that came into force in April 2015. It contained various changes to its legislation involving responsibilities.

The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 is now updated with references to legislation and standards have been amended to mirror the changes made by the classification, Labelling and Packaging of Chemicals Regulations 2015.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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