Monday, 31 December 2018

Health & Safety Management: Why we bother!

When someone uses the phrase “management system” it conjures up an image of an office full of clerks, busy filling in endless reams of paper, without anyone actually knowing what the end result is. This does not need to be the way, especially when it comes to health and safety, the object of the exercise is to have a system that works for your needs, one that not only gives you results but also achieves its objectives of keeping you and everyone else safe.

A health and safety management system can be as simple as a one page set of tick boxes, to make sure you haven’t forgotten something important, right up to an ISO 45001 system which not only controls everything you do with health and safety, but can be audited to an international standard as well as demonstrating that you are working to best practice. The important thing is that the system should do what you want or need it to do, it should not create procedures for the sake of it and should be clear in its results and observations.

Given that a health and safety management system can be simple, certainly shouldn’t be excessive and will produce clear results, what will we gain from having one and how much is it going to cost? There are some very simple answers to these questions:

What will we gain?

A safer working environment
Less absenteeism
Increased production                                    
Happier workforce
Customer recognition                                     
Peer recognition
Mitigation against legal costs                          
Defense against legislation breeches
Lower insurance costs                                    
Access to additional work opportunities         
How much will it cost?

Debit:    Producing the system                                     
             Necessary capital expenditure (guarding etc)
             Training costs of personnel                             
             Monitoring & auditing

Credit:   Less absenteeism                                          
             Increased production
             Lower legal costs                                            
             Lower insurance costs
             Mitigation against fines and claims                  
             Maintenance of company reputation
             Increased tendering opportunity

Taking all of the above, together with many more benefits, it can be seen that the reasons we bother are simple, a well produced health and safety management system will help you keep all around you safe thus avoiding absenteeism, lost production and legal claims against you, it will help you comply with current legislation avoiding legal costs, it will demonstrate to customers and your peers, that you are a company they would like to do business with, it can help keep your insurance costs down, maybe even reducing them and it could provide the conditions that will allow you to access many other tendering opportunities.

So, why bother?                        Increased profitability
                                                Increased reputation and profile
                                                Happier, more productive workforce
                                                Increased work opportunities
                                                Legal compliance
                                                Because it’s the right thing to do!

If you would like to know more about how effective a health and safety management system can be or to discuss any other matters relating to health and safety, then please contact us at

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Control Of Substances Hazardous to Health COSHH – Why?

If you run a small business or are self-employed, you need this information to make sure you are protecting your employees. If you run a medium-sized or large business, where decisions about controlling hazardous substances are more complex, you may also need professional advice..

Every year, thousands of workers are made ill by hazardous substances, contracting lung disease such as asthma, cancer and skin disease such as dermatitis. These diseases cost many millions of pounds each year to industry, to

§  replace the trained worker;

§  society, in disability allowances and medicines; and

§  individuals, who may lose their jobs.
You, as the employer, are responsible for taking effective measures to control exposure and protect health. These measures can also improve production or cut waste.

Your aim in running your business is to make a profit. You know what you do, and how you are doing it. You know what ‘processes’ and ‘tasks’ are involved. You know the short cuts. Ensuring your workers remain healthy may also lead to healthy profits.

Which substances are harmful?

§  Dusty or fume-laden air can cause lung diseases, e.g. in welders, quarry workers or woodworkers.

§  Metalworking fluids can grow bacteria and fungi which cause dermatitis and asthma.

§  Flowers, bulbs, fruit and vegetables can cause dermatitis.

§  Wet working, e.g. catering and cleaning, can cause dermatitis.

§  Benzene in crude oil can cause leukemia.

Many other products or substances used at work can be harmful, such as paint, ink, glue, lubricant, detergent and beauty products. Ill health caused by these substances used at work is preventable. Many substances can harm health but, used properly, they almost never do.

Find out the dangers in your business – ask your supplier, your trade association.

Substances can also have dangerous properties. They may be flammable, for example solvent-based products may give off flammable vapour. Clouds of dust from everyday materials, such as wood dust or flour, can explode if ignited.

Look at each substance

Which substances are involved? In what way are they harmful? You can find out by:

§  checking information that came with the product, e.g. a safety data sheet;

§  asking the supplier, sales representative and your trade association;

§  looking in the trade press for health and safety information;

 Think about the task

If the substance is harmful, how might workers be exposed?

§  Breathing in gases, fumes, mist or dust?

§  Contact with the skin?

§  Swallowing?

§  Contact with the eyes?

§  Skin puncture?
Bear these in mind when you look at the tasks.

Exposure by breathing in
Once breathed in, some substances can attack the nose, throat or lungs while others get into the body through the lungs and harm other parts of the body, e.g. the liver.

Exposure by skin contact
Some substances damage skin, while others pass through it and damage other parts of the body. Skin gets contaminated:

·         by direct contact with the substance, e.g. if you touch it or dip your hands in it;

·         by splashing;

·         by substances landing on the skin, e.g. airborne dust;

·         by contact with contaminated surfaces – this includes contact with contamination inside protective gloves.
Exposure by swallowing
People transfer chemicals from their hands to their mouths by eating, smoking etc. without washing first.

Exposure to the eyes
Some vapours, gases and dusts are irritating to eyes. Caustic fluid splashes can damage eyesight permanently.

Exposure by skin puncture
Risks from skin puncture such as butchery or needlestick injuries are rare, but can involve infections or very harmful substances, e.g. drugs.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

CO The Silent Killer

At 20:29 on 08 Dec 2017 both fire engines from Newton Abbot were mobilised to a Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarm sounding.
The occupier had correctly exited the house and was waiting outside. Two crew members dressed in BA investigated with a gas detector. They found there was a small reading on the gas detector. We checked all around the log burner and did have constant readings.

CO is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas produced by the incomplete burning of carbon based fuels. We decided to extinguish the log burner before re checking. During this we noticed a metal bucket on the hearth and needed to use it. It was full of ash, so we took it outside to empty it. Whilst doing this we noticed it was warm. We held the gas detector over the ash and it immediately went into full alarm mode.

We disturbed the crust on the ash and the embers below were hot and orange. The reading on our monitor increased from 129 PPM to 378 PPM (parts per million). Headache and nausea after 1-2 hours of exposure. Life threatening in 3 hours. Symptoms can be found on one of the pictures.
The occupier empties the old ash from the log burner into the bucket regularly but does not take it outside until its full.

The embers were producing CO into the lounge which caused the CO alarm to sound. Luckily for this person they had an alarm!

Please do not leave ash/embers inside your property, remove it to a safe place in the open air immediately after cleaning. In the pictures you can see the Watch Manager holding the gas detector just above the ash, with the lights flashing and the reading of 378 PPM. We checked the log burner inside before leaving which had a reading of zero, confirming the bucket of ash as the source.


Friday, 18 May 2018

Noise at work: A brief guide to controlling the risks

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 (Noise Regulations 2005) require employers to prevent or reduce risks to health and safety from exposure to noise at work. The Regulations require you as an employer to:

Assess the risks to your employees from noise at work; 
Act to reduce the noise exposure that produces those risks;
Provide your employees with hearing protection if you cannot reduce the noise exposure enough by using other methods;
Make sure the legal limits on noise exposure are not exceeded;
Provide your employees with information, instruction and training. Carry out health surveillance where there is a risk to health 

The aim of the risk assessment is to help you decide what you need to do to ensure the health and safety of your employees who are exposed to noise. Your risk assessment should:

Identify where there may be a risk from noise and who is likely to be affected;
Contain a reliable estimate of your employees' exposures, and compare the exposure with the exposure action values and limit values;
Identify what you need to do to comply with the law, e.g. whether noise-control measures or hearing protection are needed, and, if so, where and what type; and
Identify any employees who need to be provided with health surveillance and whether any are at risk

Wherever there is noise at work you should be looking for alternative processes, equipment and/or working methods which would make the work quieter or mean people are exposed for shorter times. You should also be keeping up with what is good practice or the standard for noise control within your industry.

Where there are reasonably practicable things you can do to reduce risks from noise, that are reasonably practicable, they should be done. However, where noise exposures are below the lower exposure action values, risks are low and so you would only be expected to take actions that are relatively inexpensive and simple to carry out.

Where your assessment shows that your employees are likely to be exposed at or above the upper exposure action values, you must put in place a planned programme of noise control

You are required to issue hearing protection to employees:

Where extra protection is needed above what has been achieved using noise control;
As a short-term measure while other methods of controlling noise are being developed.
Provide your employees with hearing protectors if they ask for it and their noise exposure is between the lower and upper exposure action values;
Provide your employees with hearing protectors and make sure they use them properly when their noise exposure exceeds the upper exposure action values;
Identify hearing protection zones, i.e. areas where the use of hearing protection is compulsory, and mark them with signs if possible;
Provide your employees with training and information on how to use and care for the hearing protectors;
ensure that the hearing protectors are properly used and maintained.

  The Noise Regulations require you to take specific action at certain action values. The values are: 

lower exposure action values:
  • daily or weekly exposure of 80 dB;
  • peak sound pressure of 135 dB;
upper exposure action values:
  • daily or weekly exposure of 85 dB;
  • peak sound pressure of 137 dB 

There are also levels of noise exposure which must not be exceeded. These are called exposure limit values: 
  •  daily or weekly exposure of 87 dB;
  •  peak sound pressure of 140 dB.
It is important that employees understand the risks they may be exposed to. Where they are exposed above the lower exposure action values you should at least tell them:

The likely noise exposure and the risk to hearing this noise creates;
What you are doing to control risks and exposures;
Where and how people can obtain hearing protection;
How to report defects in hearing protection and noise-control equipment
What their duties are under the Noise Regulations 2005;
What they should do to minimise the risk, such as the proper way to use hearing protection, how to look after it, store it and where to use it;
Your health surveillance systems.

Health surveillance for hearing damage usually means:

Regular hearing checks in controlled conditions;
Telling employees about the results of their hearing checks;
Keeping health records;
Ensuring employees are examined by a doctor where hearing damage is identified.