Business risk management: health & safety

From manufacturing and engineering firms to independent contractors every business needs to be aware of Health & Safety, protect your workers and your projects with these simple H&S improvements.


Policy statement

If you have five or more employees then you must ensure that you have prepared a suitable and sufficient Health & Safety Policy Statement and provided a copy to all of your employees. You are required to do this under Section 2 (3) of the Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974. Even if you have less than this number then it is still a good idea so that you can prove due diligence. Advice on how to prepare the statement can be found in the HSE publication INDG259 (rev1)“An introduction to health and safety” which can be downloaded from their internet web site www.hse.gov.uk. You will also find a blank template in the “Step-by-step” section of the Allianz Risk Director website www.riskdirector.co.uk


Risk Assessments

If you are an employer you have various obligations under current health & safety legislation. One of these is the need to have completed, by a competent person, health and safety risk assessments, inform affected employees of the significant findings from these, as well as the general need to eliminate, reduce and control health and safety risks. Don’t forget to assess the risk to nonemployees, as well employees, including contractors, visitors and members of the public if they could be hurt by your activities. If you have five or more employees then you must record these risk assessments. Even if you have less than this number then it is still a good idea so that you prove due diligence.

The HSE Free leaflet “Five Steps to Risk Assessment”INDG163 (rev2) provides guidance on this subject. The HSE have also published on their website www.hse.gov.uk a large number or example risk assessments, however they do come with a warning from the HSE that “they are not generic risk assessments that you can just put your company name on and adopt wholesale without any thought. Doing that would not satisfy the law – and would not protect people effectively. Even where the hazards are the same, the control measures you adopt may have to be different from those in the examples to meet the particular conditions in your workplace”.

The HSE publish a number of general as well as regulation and hazard specific “Approved Codes of Practice” and guidance material. You should obtain copies of the relevant ones and consider the guidance in them before undertaking the risk assessments and deciding upon control measures. Details of HSE publications(including free leaflets) can be found on the HSE Books website www.hsebooks.com


Keeping records

In order to be able to demonstrate compliance with obligations under current health & safety legislation it is important to keep adequate records. One of the allegations frequently made in both civil and criminal cases is that employers have failed to provide adequate ‘information, instruction, and training’. Such allegations are difficult to defend. You need to ensure that you have provided sufficient training so that your employees can do their job safely. It is important to put in place a system requiring all employees to acknowledge receipt of all health and safety information, instruction, and training.

This acknowledgement system can be extended to include the issue and availability of personal protective equipment (PPE).

You should keep the acknowledgement receipt and provide a copy to the employee. The HSE publish on their internet web site www.hse.gov.uk advice leaflets for a number of different sectors of industry as well more detailed guidance and Approved Codes of Practice. These often include guidance on training for operators of the more hazardous machines and equipment. You should check to see if there is an HSE publication appropriate to your business and obtain a copy.


Asbestos

If you maintain, repair, or control a non domestic premises, or a residential building which has common areas, including halls, foyers, stairwells, lifts and lift shafts, roof spaces, gardens, yards and outbuildings, make sure you have fulfilled your various obligations under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.

These include the completion of a recorded risk assessment to establish the extent of any asbestos containing materials(ACMs), or presumed ACMs, their type, condition, and the risks they present to employees and non employees alike, and the preparation of a plan which sets out, in detail, how the risks from these materials will be managed i.e. by deciding upon control measures needed to eliminate them or reduce and control the risk from them to the lowest practical level, informing and training employees, notification to enforcing authorities etc.

Keep up-to-date record of all ACMS or presumed ACMs, inspections, actions taken, and training/information provided. For information on asbestos surveys and who can undertaken them, visit the HSE website www.hse.gov.uk .


First aid

An employer has a duty to provide adequate equipment and facilities to enable first aid to be rendered to his/her employees, if they are injured or become ill at work. You need to assess what level of equipment and facilities (including the number of persons trained as first aiders or appointed persons) are needed for the risks involved to your employees and any visitors. In making this assessment due regard should taken of the information contained in the HSE free publications “First aid at work”(INDG214),“Basic advice on first aid at work”(INDG347rev1) together with the HSE priced publication L74 “First aid at work, The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations, 1981 Approved Code of Practice and guidance”.


Posters

Employers have a legal duty to display the Health & Safety Law poster in each workplace or provide each worker with a copy of the equivalent leaflet. In 2009 new versions of the poster and leaflet were published. Employers have until 5th April 2014 to replace any copies of the old version of the poster and leaflet with the new ones. On old style posters, make sure that you have completed the blank spaces. Further information can be found on the HSE website.


Consulting employees

For a business to operate an effective health and safety regime there needs to be an adequate and regular two way dialogue between management and employees. Employees need to be made aware of all health & safety information relevant to them including your health and safety policy statement (required where there are 5 or more employees),safe system of work documents, and the significant findings established by the necessary risk assessments. In businesses with a large number of employees consideration should be given to the formation of a health and safety committee or similar forum. The HSE free publication “Consulting employees on health and safety: A guide to the law”(INDG232rev1) provides guidance and further advice on this subject.


Accident book

Ensure that you have provided, in each premises, a suitable accident book. The book needs to be in a form which will satisfy regulators such as The Information Commissioner (for the purposes of Data Protection Act). Suitable books can be obtained from HSE Books at www.hsebooks.com or TSO (The Stationery Office) at www.tsoshop.co.uk

You also need to be aware of the requirements of the “Reporting of Injuries, Diseases, and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR). The RIDDOR section of the HSE website www.hse.gov.uk provides details of the various ways in which a report can be made. A free leaflet MISC769 “Incident at Work?” can also be downloaded from the same website.


Health surveillance

If you are an employer then, by means of health and safety risk assessments, you need to establish whether you have any employees who, due to the hazards (e.g. chemicals, dusts, vibration etc) to which they are exposed in their course of their employment, there is a need to provide an appropriate health surveillance programme for. The HSE free leaflet (INDG304) “Understanding health surveillance at work – an introduction for employers” gives general advice. For H.A.V.S. there is a free HSE leaflet “Health surveillance for Hand-arm vibration syndrome “.


Hygiene and food handling

If your business involves the handling or preparation of food then you must ensure that you are aware of, and comply with all of the applicable acts and regulations. You will find that you have a number of obligations under them. Typically they cover matters such as use of a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) based approach to hygiene and food safety, how food is stored, handled, hygiene and cleanliness matters generally, employee training etc. You will also need to keep detailed records of such matters in order to be able to prove due diligence. A wide range of advice can be found on the Food Standards Agency internet web site www.food.gov.uk and their publications, where relevant, should be obtained and taken into account.


Slips and trips

One of the commonest forms of accidents is the slip or trip. Broken paving slabs, potholes in poorly lit car parking areas, uneven, slippery or wet workshop floors, and other similar hazards can all lead to an accident. Ensure that your health and safety risk assessments consider the potential for slips and trips.

Don’t forget that the risk can change with the weather and seasons. Wet leaves and ice or snow can make moving around your site much more hazardous, if you don’t have plans to reduce the risk. Have a spillage procedure in place. Make sure that your planned maintenance programme includes periodic checks for defects which may present trip hazards, or otherwise increase the risk. Have defects dealt with promptly and ensure that your premises are kept clean and tidy at all times.

Lighting provided both inside and outside the buildings needs to be adequate to ensure that employees, customers and visitors can move around safely during periods of darkness. The Health and Safety Executive free publication “Preventing slips, trips and falls at work”(INDG225rev1) provides guidance and advice on this subject.


Manual handling

As with many other hazards the one of manual handling should be one that you have covered in your risk assessments. Many business operators believe, wrongly, that all they have to do is to give their employees a little training on how to lift something safely, and that is sufficient. Unfortunately this is incorrect. An employer’s duties under the “Manual Handling Operations Regulations” are much wider. In broad terms the regulations follow the usual hierarchy of eliminating or avoiding the hazard where possible, and where this is not reasonably practicable taking measures to reduce and control the risk; supported of course by training. So although training is important there are other steps which need to be taken first.

Your risk assessment should first have looked at what steps could be taken to eliminate manual handling tasks, then, where not avoidable, what measures such as lifting and handling aids might be used to reduce the injury risk to the employee.

The Health & Safety Executive have various leaflets and publications on this subject, some of which can be downloaded free from their website www.hse.gov.uk


Noise

Employees exposed to excessive or prolonged levels of noise can suffer hearing damage and other adverse effects on their health. The aim of the “Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005”isto ensure that the hearing of employees(as well as the self employed) is protected from noise of such levels or duration as might be injurious.

The regulations include several different noise levels and exposures (“action values”) which you need to be aware of, because of what they require an employer to do, if they are reached or exceeded.

The measurement of noise levels, assessment of the risk, and the identification of risk control measures (for other than straightforward risks) is a complex matter which often requires a specialist holding an appropriate qualification. For this reason published guidance often expresses noise levels in rudimentary ways, intended to give an employer some idea of whether they may have a significant hazard which needs eliminating or reducing, however this is not a substitute for a proper noise risk assessment by a competent person.

If the noise level, to which any of your employees are exposed is intrusive (but a normal conversation is possible e.g. comparable to the noise level of a busy street, or a crowded restaurant) but this arises for many hours of their working day, OR if the noise (even for a very short period) is loud enough that they have to shout to have a conversation with someone, then you need to ensure that you have had a “suitable and sufficient” risk assessment completed by a competent person.

The regulations also state that “If the risk assessment indicates that there is a risk to the health of his employees who are, or are liable to be, exposed to noise, the employer shall ensure that such employees are placed under suitable health surveillance, which shall include testing of their hearing”.

So make sure that you have properly assessed the noise risk, and where necessary made arrangements for suitable noise reduction/noise control measures and health surveillance. The HSE website www.hse.gov.uk includes much useful Information on this subject.


Hazardous substances

If you allow substances, which may be hazardous to health, to be used, handled, or stored, because their use cannot reasonably be avoided e.g. by the substitution of a safer one, then you should already have completed a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and ensured that the exposure of persons to those is either prevented or where this is not reasonably practicable, adequately controlled.

You need to ensure that you are aware of, and complied with, the requirements of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) (as amended). It is important to understand what COSHH requires, and in what order. It is not sufficient to merely obtain the manufacturers materials safety data sheet for a product and just “file it away”, nor just provide an employee with some form of personal protective equipment (PPE). In the order required by COSHH, the various risk elimination procedures and risk reduction measures, that it sets out, need to be followed.

Where these measures are not sufficient to prevent an exposure then suitable carefully selected PPE must be provided as well (and not instead of them).

Don’t forget that there are separate PPE regulations covering a wide range of important aspects, including selection, use, training, storage, maintenance etc – it is not just a question of issue and forget!

Note: For carcinogenic and some other similarly very hazardous substances COSHH requires additional measures to be undertaken – see HSE guidance on this subject.

Note: For certain specified processes, such as blasting or cleaning of metals, the inspection frequency period required is a lot less. For LEV you should keep a copy of the original design performance figures for the system, provided by the supplier. Records of system examinations must be kept for at least five years.

Where hazardous substances are to be used on your site, by a contractor or self employed person ensure that they also have completed suitable and sufficient risk assessments, and have adequate measures arranged to control the risks – don’t assume that they have done this. Hazardous substances should only be handled by properly trained competent persons. For further information and guidance visit the HSE website www.hse.gov.uk


Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome

If the human body is exposed to regular or lengthy periods of vibration, of more than a certain intensity, then serious and permanent injuries can result. In some occupations the health of employees can be put at risk e.g. due to the type of vehicle they drive, the type of equipment they operate, or the tools that they use.

The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 impose a duty on employers to eliminate, at source, risks to the health of employees from exposure to vibration or, where this is not reasonably practicable, to reduce the risk to a slow a level as is reasonably practicable.

Although some jobs can expose workers to “whole body vibration”, perhaps a more common problem is Hand-Arm vibration Syndrome (HAVS) which covers a range of medical conditions including Vibration White Finger and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. It is important for both employer and employees to be able to recognise the early signs and symptoms of HAVS, as continued exposure usually means that the effects(on the person’s health) will get worse.

For employers who have workers who may be exposed to the vibration hazards, an assessment of the risk must be carried out. The regulations stipulate the various factors that this has to take into account.

Employers are required to take specific action when the daily vibration exposure reaches a certain level (action value).

To reduce the exposure, the “general principles of prevention” set out in the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations have to be followed, as well as certain Improvements set out by the regulations. For further information and guidance visit the HSE website.


Pollution

If your business produces waste materials then you need to ensure that you have identified any which, due to their nature or hazard, are controlled by statute or regulations.

As part of your risk assessment you need to identify the risks which would be involved in the event of a leak or spillage of hazardous materials and pollutants, whether this is from process equipment, fuel oils, goods in storage or waste materials awaiting disposal; and then how you intend to safely dispose of waste materials and limit the spread of any leak, particularly from entering drains, water courses etc.

Don’t forget that leaks or spills can be caused deliberately, particularly by children or vandals. The aftermath will still be your problem. A wide range of practical advice and guidance can be found on the UK environmental regulators NetRegs web site www.netregs.gov.uk This includes information on the new Control of Pollution (Oil Storage)(England) Regulations and oil storage tanks. Guidance on “The Water Environment (Oil Storage)(Scotland) Regulations 2006” can be found on the Scottish Environment Protection Agency web site www.sepa.org.uk


Control of contractors

Even if you operate a safe business, you may be at increased risk during periods when you have outside contractors working at your premises. You should ensure that you have in place suitable and sufficient safety rules to cover such periods, which the contractor has to acknowledge for you by signed receipt. Formal health & safety risk assessments and supporting method statements should be requested from contractors for any significant contracts and/or contracts involving significant hazards.

For work involving any application of heat or sparks the company should implement a written “hot work” permit to work system which clearly sets down a strict procedure to be followed together with the necessary safety precautions to be taken.

If you would like a copy of the Fire Protection Association/RISC Authority recommendation leaflet which covers hot work permit systems or a pad of Allianz hot work permit forms then please let us know.

The Health and Safety Executive free publication “Use of contractors: a joint responsibility” (INDG368) also provides guidance and further advice on this subject.


Workplace transport

Vehicles moving onto, out of, or around a premises can be a hazard both for your employees and customers/visitors. Serious injuries caused by moving vehicles are all too common in the workplace. Reversing vehicles can be particularly dangerous.

Accordingly, where this hazard exists, it needs to be included in your risk assessments, so that suitable control measures can be introduced to reduce the risk to as low as is reasonably practicable. To this end, make sure that you have planned (and marked)safe traffic routes, limited vehicle speeds on site, where possible separated, and protected vehicle and pedestrian routes, provided safe parking areas and ensured adequate illumination.

Where possible, avoid the need for vehicles to reverse. Where this cannot be avoided have a suitable “safe system of work”(SSOW) based on HSE advice, supported by suitable training and include relevant matters such as when a “banksman” is needed, signals and communication etc. Where you have areas such as loading docks, make sure that persons in that area cannot be crushed by a reversing vehicle e.g. by providing a refuge.


Skin diseases

Some substances, or work practices, can damage the skin, while others can readily penetrate it and become absorbed into the body and cause harm; for example frequent contact with water (typically for more than two hours a day), mechanical abrasion, exposure to chemical agents e.g. solvents, acids or alkalis, biological agents e.g. plants, bacteria or fungi or physical agents e.g. vibration; ionising radiation e.g. X-rays; or non-ionising radiation e.g. ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.

At work, this exposure of the skin to harmful conditions or harmful substances, can arise in many different ways e.g. by immersion, handling, contact with contaminated surfaces or airborne agents, splashes, unprotected exposure to radiation including working in the open without adequate sun protection etc. In terms of work-related skin problems, some occupations are more “high risk” than others e.g. construction, printing, motor trade, metal machining, catering, health services and hairdressing.

Under “Hazardous Substances”, we have already mentioned how employers need to understand and comply with the COSHH Regulations. You should already, have taken such substances and COSHH into account when completing your health and safety risk assessments.

Make sure, in your risk assessments, that you have not only taken the exposure to hazardous substances into account but also any other work practices which could harm the skin or which might lead to skin diseases e.g. frequent or prolonged immersion in or washing with water, mechanical abrasion, working in the open without adequate sun protection etc.

There are a number of quite common skin diseases, or skin problems, which can arise as a consequence of unsafe working practices e.g. dermatitis, urticaria, allergic reactions(in rare cases sometimes quite violent and even life threatening) and even skin cancer. Even something as simple as what workwear or personal protective equipment is provided to an employee, can lead to problems e.g. an employee who is allergic to latex but is issued with rubber gloves (when a safer type of glove could have been chosen).

The “Skin at Work” section of the HSE website includes a warning that “Not all harmful substances come in labelled containers. Substances can be generated during work activities (eg wood dust from sanding, solder fumes). Remember that handling some ‘natural’ substances like foods and flowers can cause skin problems too”. It goes on to give examples of skin irritants and sensitisers, causes of contact urticaria and skin cancer as well as the occupations where they occur. For more information, and numerous useful publications, visit the HSE website www.hse.gov.uk


Work related violence

If you are an employer, you should already have had health and safety risk assessments completed, and put appropriate control measures put into place. These assessments(and control measures) should have included the risk of violence to your employees. Employees in some occupations will be at greater risk of violence than others e.g. retail, licensed trade, healthcare, cash and valuables handling, security etc.

There are various advice leaflets available on the HSE website www.hse.gov.uk, however for licensed and retail premises there is also an online “toolkit” available to help employers reduce the risk of work-related violence.


Vulnerable employees

Employers have a special duty of care in respect of vulnerable employees such as young persons, persons with disabilities, those whose first language is not English, new and expectant mothers etc. It is important that all of your health and safety risk assessments (including your fire safety risk assessment) fully consider the particular needs of any vulnerable employees that you may have. Emergency procedures need to fully reflect their presence. Don’t forget to also assess any work activities which may be undertaken occasionally or irregularly.

Remember that although young employees are often keen, their lack of maturity and experience, as well as unfamiliarity with machinery, hazardous materials etc are additional risk factors.

Instruction provided may not always be understood first time, so supervision is important. In addition they may be tempted to take short cuts or copy the unsafe practices of others, and be reluctant to ask questions when unsure.


This article originally appeared on Allianz.