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

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.



Climate change, air and water pollution are all the underlying concern of our ever evolving planet. There are regulations and laws about controlling the contamination or our air, water supply, soil, conservation and wildlife.

In the UK, the Environmental Agency’s (EA) remit covers the whole of England, the rivers and 2 million hectares of coastal waters. It has a sharing arrangement with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). The purpose of EA is to protect, enhance and take the best care of the environment as a whole. Its vision is one of a “rich, healthy and diverse environment.” The EA and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) work together under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010. This includes the sharing of information on activities that relate to the environment and promoting better public awareness. The EA has responsibility for issuing permits for certain industrial, farming, waste management, water activities, radioactive substances and mining waste activities. The HSE works together with the EA in the regulation of oil and gas establishments. Under the Nuclear Installations Act, the HSE regulates duty holders of nuclear establishments. The EA also works with the HSE in this area.

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA) is the authority for waste management and control of emissions into the environment. Part I of this Act deals with emissions into the environment. Part II sets out the regulation of the acceptable disposal of controlled waste on land. There are other parts of the EPA that deal with other aspects of the environment, from statutory nuisances to litter. Other environmental regulations include the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Climate Change Act 2008, Environment Act 1995 and the Badgers Act 1991.

One set of regulations that keep industries aware of their responsibilities to people and the environment include the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999 (COMAH). Although principally concerned with regulating the storing and handling of large amounts of hazardous industrial chemicals, these regulations help keep the public and the environment safe by modulating the handling of these hazardous chemicals. The aim of the regulations is to prevent the effects on people and the environment of major accidents involving dangerous substances. However, new COMAH Regulations will come into force in Great Britain on 1 June 2015. The main regulations will remain the same but there will be some changes, particularly on how dangerous substances are classified and how information is made available to the public. New or changed duties to COMAH will include a change in definitions, there are also transition arrangements for safety reports and changes in emergency planning. There are also other changes expected in COMAH 2015.




Falls and fall related injuries to the Elderly are a serious problem and every effort should be made to prevent this from happening, including the layout of the person’s immediate vicinity, the mobility aids used, the care home/place of care, the community they live in and the relations with their Carers/Healthcare professionals. People over 65 years of age have the highest risk of falling. Over a quarter of falls result in hip fractures and the cost of this to the health sector is about £2billion. A risk assessment (with multiple components) that aims to identify a person’s risk factors for falling should be carried out. Persons younger than 65 years may also need this assessment carried out. There may be a risk of falling due to cogitative impairment, health problems, medication, postural instability, visual impairment, syncope syndrome (passing out due to lack of blood flow to the brain) or simply wearing the wrong footwear.

Together with the risk assessment, there are health and safety measures that can be made in the layout of the care home and in the caring for the service user. The interior and exterior structure of the nursing home can be set up so that, although falls might happen naturally, there are not hazards around that can cause them. For example, one should not leave items on the stairs as they could be a trip hazard. Stairs should be fully maintained, ie any worn or damaged carpet should be removed or repaired. In the design of the care facility, one should avoid repetitive carpet patterns as it may produce a false perception for those with poor eyesight. Stairs and hallways should be well lit. Banisters should be sturdy with easy grip handrails. Older persons should be instructed and supported in the correct use of mobility equipment, e.g walking aids, mobile shower seats etc. Shoes and footwear should fit well to help with balance and stability. There should be grab rails at various points in the care home and places to sit down in the bathroom if needed. Spills on the floor should immediately be moped up.

Other hazards include fire related accidents. This is related to poor sense of smell, reduced tolerance of smoke and poor mobility.  Sources can include cookers, candles, coal fires, heaters and electric blankets. Electric blankets should be checked regularly. Smoke alarms should be fitted and one should not leave clothes drying over heaters. Carbon monoxide detectors should be fitted.When using showers care should be taken so that the care user doesn’t burn themselves. Kettles should only be used if one is capable to do so; the care service provider should ensure there is not a scalding risk and check all hot water appliances and any temperature dependent liquid.



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.





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.


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.


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.


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.



The HSE has developed Draft Guidance on the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. The final versions of both the draft Regulations and guidance will be available on 6 April 2015.

The Regulations will come into force on 6 April 2015. There will be a transition period of 6 months from 6th April to 6th October 2015.


The key changes likely are:

  • Clients will need to appoint a Principal Designer and Principal Contractor
  • There will no longer be an official role of CDM coordinator
  • The domestic client is no longer exempt under the CDM regulations and has duties
  • Designers and principal designers must have suitable skills, knowledge and experience.
  • Client’s duty to provide pre-construction information