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.

 

Sources    parliament.uk

Hse.gov.uk

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.

 

Sources

http://www.hse.gov.uk/agriculture/poultry/guide.htm

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.

radon image

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.

 

Sources

http://www.ukradon.org/information

http://www.theradonshop.com/what-is-radon

http://www.hse.gov.uk/radiation/ionising/radon.htm

 

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.

 

Sources   hse.gov.uk

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.

 

Sources     gov.uk     echa.europa.eu   hazwasteonline.com    hse.gov.uk

Protecting the Head

Head protection is necessary from many kinds of hazards. This includes flying or falling objects, where there is a risk of bumping into things, chemical drips, hair getting entangled in machinery etc.

Where hard hats are used they should be in good condition, otherwise they will not provide good protection. They should comfortably fit the person wearing them and they shouldn’t restrict the wearer wearing ear protectors if they require. They must be obtained from a reputable supplier. Other forms of head protection could include hairnets (but hardhats are required on construction sites).

Protecting the Eyes

Hazards to the eyes can include that from dust, projectiles, chemical or metal splashes and that from radiation. The wearing of goggles would be required here. Other forms of eye protection include face shields and visors. The correct type of eye protection must be sought, for example, in very dusty places, face visors may not totally protect the eyes from dust but may provide adequate protection from welding sparks. Each need would need to be assessed individually.

Protecting the Ears

The hazard here is noise. Even short high level sounds can be harm full to the ears. Options here include earplugs, earmuffs and canal caps.

Protecting the Hands

Hazards to the hands include cuts and punctures, electric shock, chemical burns, vibration, biological agents and temperature extremes etc. One should wear gloves, especially those with a cuff. Where necessary, gauntlets should be worn which cover the cuffs and even the whole arm. However, the tasks must be risk-assessed, for example, gloves can get caught when operating bench drills and operating machinery. Remember one’s hands are one’s wage-earners!

Protecting the Feet

Hazards here include wet and cold conditions, slipping, cuts and punctures, heavy loads, vehicles, chemical splashes etc. Protective toecaps and penetration-resistant safety shoes should be used. Footwear can have different types of soles, for example, oil or chemical resistant soles.

Protecting the Lungs

Sometimes on construction sites, it may be necessary to wear respiratory protective equipment (RPE), for example, in confined spaces and oxygen deficient spaces. If there are hazards to the lungs due to oxygen-deficient atmospheres, very dusty atmospheres, gases and vapours present, RPE may be required. Respirators can be simple fitting face pieces or power-assisted respirators. If necessary, respirators which give an independent supply of breathable air via a fresh air hose can be used. However, RPE are usually a last resort, as they can be cumbersome to use and it must be assessed whether they could pose more of a risk to the job than is already there.

Protecting the whole body

Hazards here could include chemical splashes, excessive exposure to heat, impact or penetration, entanglement of own clothing etc. Sometimes on construction sites, boiler suits and chemical suits are used. Materials could include high visibility, flame retardant, anti-static and those which are chemically impermeable.

Employers have a duty under the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002 and the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (as amended) to ensure that their employees are not harmed in the course of their work. There are also other specialist regulations when working with  asbestos, lead, radiation, and noise. Basically, the regulations require that the PPE is properly assessed before use so that it’s fit for purpose. Also, that it’s maintained and stored properly. Employees should also be properly trained in its use.

 

Sources    hse.gov.uk

Not washing one’s hands is the easiest way to spread germs and disease.  We carry millions of germs on our hands, most are harmless, but some can cause disease. Diseases that one may spread if not washing their hands could include Salmonella, Norovirus and Adenovirus. When one uses the toilet, changes a diaper, handles animals or handles raw meats (that may have traces of animal faeces on them), they are exposing themselves and others if they don’t wash (scrub in some instances) their hands thoroughly. If the hands are not washed thoroughly, germs can spread within the person themselves (for example, if they touch their eyes, mouth etc), and from object to object to others or directly to others, for example, when shaking hands. Germs from unwashed hands can get into food and drink which are then consumed by people. Washing hands whenever there is a risk of infection spread will help stop gastrointestinal, respiratory, skin and eye conditions.

When should one wash their hands?

  • When they are visibly soiled
  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • After using the lavatory
  • Before and after caring for a sick person
  • After touching an animal or animal waste products
  • After sneezing, coughing
  • After smoking
  • After shaking another person’s hand (if you can wash or at least sanitize with hand cleanser)
  • After emptying the garbage
  • Before and after attending to an injury or wound
  • It is vital that all children are made aware of washing their hands and are taught to do so

How to wash one’s hands properly

  • Wet hands with warm water
  • Wash well with liquid soap for 15 – 20 seconds
  • Don’t forget the thumbs, wrists, fingertips and an ingrained areas
  • Don’t forget to use a mild scrubbing brush for under the finger nails
  • If no soap is available a hand sanitizer can be used, however soap and water is the best way
  • Always dry with a very clean (single use towel) or disposable towel
  • Remove any rings as you wash hands as they can contain germs
  • At home each member should have their own hand towel, which should be washed very frequently
  • Use towel to turn off tap

Diseases one can catch when not washing ones hands or not washing them properly

  • Shigellosis – a bacterial infection that causes diarrhea and fever. This is caused by injesting food contaminated by infected people who have not adequately washed their hands after using the bathroom
  • Giardiasis – a parasitic illness of the intestine. It is spread from hand-to-faecal contact or untreated water sources.
  • Hepatitis A – a highly contagious liver infection. Easily spread when someone contaminated with the virus does not use proper hand washing techniques after using the bathroom.
  • Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease – caused by a virus. It spreads by ingesting food or drink contaminated with faecal content.
  • The common cold – easily caught!
  • Other illnesses – it is not possible to make an exhaustive list of what one can definitely catch, there are a lot of things one can catch simply by not washing one’s hands

 

Sources   cdc.gov     better health.vic    live strong.com

General Food Law

The Food Standards Act 1999 establishes the Food Standards Agency (FSA) as the governing body with certain powers and functions in relation to food safety and standards. The Act gives the Agency the functions necessary to act in the consumer’s interest at any stage in the production of food and the supply chain. It also provides the Agency with powers to maintain a scheme for testing of food borne diseases. The Food Safety Act 1990 (as amended) provides a framework for food regulations in the UK. The General Food Regulations 2004 amends the Food Safety Act 1990 to bring it in line with European Law under (EC) 178/2002.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA)

The main aim of the FSA is to protect the public from any risks which may occur from the consumption, production and/or supply of food. The FSA continually aims to make regulations easier to understand which helps all to comply. The Red Tape Challenge was introduced in 2011, which helps reduce the regulatory burden on businesses whilst still complying with the law. Once a year the FSA makes known a list of all the new regulations pertaining to the food industry. This includes European measures being introduced.

European Legislation

Regulation (EC) 178/2002 sets out the general guidelines for food safety within the EU. The provisions under this law extends to imports, exports, traceability, recalls and notifications.

Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998

Workers who are aware of wrong doing within the food business can disclose that wrong doing. As long as they raise their concern in accordance with the Act’s provisions, they are entitled to a level of protection. A qualifying disclosure would include information on criminal acts, breaches of legal obligations and miscarriages of justice. The Freedom of Information Act may also be relevant here.

Food Information Regulation

This varies geographically within the UK, for example, in England food labelling is led by the FSA but in Wales, the Welsh government is also involved as well as the FSA. Some changes ahead include nutrition labelling becoming mandatory in 2016 and as of December 2014, food establishments must declare any of 14 identified allergenic ingredients which are used in non-prepacked or loose foods that are for sale.

Codex Alimentarius

Codex is a collection of internationally recognized standards regarding food, food production and food safety. As of 2012, there were the 186 member countries. The standards are voluntary and adherence by member countries is not compulsory.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

The HSE is a non-departmental public body which was established under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The HSE acts on behalf of the Safety Commission in implementing Commission policies. The HSE enforces Health and Safety Law throughout the UK and offshore businesses (within UK shoreline territory). The HSE and the FSA work together to keep each other informed regarding food matters. Each acts as an advisory consultant to the other. They work together to ensure co-ordination of enforcement demands.

 

Sources   food.gov.uk    wikipedia    hse.gov.uk

 

All workers on construction sites are required to wear hard hats. Other work sites where hard hats are mandatory include manufacturing, welding and the oil and gas industries. This is necessary to comply with the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 1992. The hard hats must be maintained and not be damaged (the shell or suspension must be capable of protecting the worker’s head). Hard hats should be purchased from a reputable known supplier; there are fake hard hats on the market. The hard hat must fit the person properly. To be safe, the hard hat must be worn as snugly as possible. Site rules should make it mandatory for workers and site visitors to wear hard hats. One should not wait until they are on site to wear a hard hat; they should be worn before site entry. Many accidents can occur within the first few seconds of site entry. Self -employed contractors should wear their own hard hats. If one is required to wear hearing protectors, the hard hat should not get in the way and be able to be correctly worn as well.

Unexpected injuries to the head and body can occur because of objects falling or being thrown from a height, protruding unprotected end of a scaffold poles, material falling off a load being lifted by a crane, projections not being covered or capped and insufficient headroom on a scaffold. These are just a few examples of how a head injury can occur, anything could happen on a building/construction site!

The hazards are many in this type of work environment. Workers can trip or slip because the access to or from the work place or the workplace itself is not safe. Trips are the most common cause of injuries on construction sites. Unsafe platforms or the absence of guard rails can pose a risk to workers. There is a risk of workers being knocked down by reversing and moving vehicles. Materials may roll off or be kicked off platforms. There is a risk of structures or a building collapsing on a building site because of weak supports. Structures can also unexpectedly collapse during demolition. Scaffolding may collapse because they have been overloaded or because ties have been removed too quickly. Wearing a hard hat in these situations may prevent or lessen injury. Hard hats may also protect from electric shock or burn hazards.

The result of not wearing a hard hat can be tragic. The suddenness of a head injury causes the brain to knock against the skull and possibly cause blood vessels to break.Head injuries can include concussions, paralysis and memory loss. Speech, sight and the other senses may also be affected. Paralysis may result in the worker being wheel chair bound.

 

Sources    hse.gov.uk     ohsonline.com

Whilst the previous blog examined risk assessment, this post will now consider how these risks should be controlled paying particular attention to vulnerable workers. When controlling risk it should be considered whether it is possible to eliminate the risk altogether or if not, to control the risk so that the chances of it occurring are reduced and in accordance with what is ‘practically possible’.  Are the controls rigidly being applied and monitored? As an employer, your workers need to have the right information, instruction and training. They need the right information so they are aware of the hazards they face in their work role. They need to understand the measures in place to control the risks and the emergency procedures. Some workers will require extra control measures in place.

Agency and contract workers are entitled to the same health and safety protection as ordinary employees. The providers of temporary workers and the employers that employ them need to co-operate  and communicate clearly with each side and come to an agreement on how the health and safety of agency workers is managed. Under the guidance of the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003 each side must exchange information that they both need to ensure the safety of the workers. Temporary workers, before they start work, should be covered by risk assessments and be assured that measures have been taken to protect them.

All employers have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments when employing persons who are disabled. A health and safety risk assessment should be carried out to decide what adjustments may be required. These can include changing the way things are done, making changes to overcome physical barriers and providing extra equipment.

Employers who employ home workers need to carry out a risk assessment on the work activities of their employees. The employer is only responsible for the equipment supplied to the employee. Most work at home would be low risk office type work. However, if there are more risky activities such as the use of adhesives or soldering, for example, then the necessary PPE should be supplied and maintained. Lone workers should also have their environments risk assessed. Risks posed to these workers can include manual handling, medical suitability of the worker and violence. A transient worker is someone who works away from their normal base of work. They can be in the office sometimes but generally have no fixed work base. Risk assessments need to be done on the type of work they are doing, ie whether working alone, working at night, the provision of PPE if required etc. Young and new works and those whose first language is not English need that extra bit of support. Young workers may lack experience, lack maturity and be unaware of the risks. Students and trainees on work experience are covered under health and safety law as if they were employees.

Extra risks posed to expectant or new mothers include risks from lifting or carrying loads. Other risks can occur when standing or sitting for long periods, exposure to infectious diseases/toxic chemicals and working long hours. Working conditions must have ample rest rooms and be in close proximity. Post-natal depression and mental and physical fatigue can occur and these work stresses must be considered for. Regulations to protect new and expectant workers are given under the Pregnant Workers Directive 92/85/EEC.

Health and safety regulations to protect the health and safety of all workers include the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Equality Act 2010.

Sources    hse.gov.uk