Z is for Zoonoses

What is a zoonosis?  It’s a disease that can be transferred from an animal (or bird) to a human.  Think of ‘Mad Cow Disease’ (BST) and Bird Flu – both zoonoses.

Catteries, kennels, equestrian centres, zoos and farms are all places where care needs to be taken.  People who look after any animals need to know the health history of the animals they are caring for to ensure that they are not likely to be at risk.

If you don’t have animals of any kind in your workplace then you may not need to worry, but some of these strains of disease transmute and become able to pass from human to human.  If an epidemic breaks out then services that affect your business can be affected.

The frightening statistic is that, in a study of 1415 pathogens (viruses, bacteria or other disease causing agents) known to affect humans, 61% were zoonotic.  Zoonoses constitute biohazards – and where there is a danger of disease the biohazard signs should be displayed.

You never know when you – or your family – may be at risk.  A petting farm for children in Surrey was closed down because of zoonoses being present.  How many of us would not think twice about taking our children, or young relations, to play with the cuddly animals on a farm?

Does this mean that you avoid all animals at all costs?  No, but it does means that personal hygiene is essential.  If you’re around animals you don’t know, don’t eat or smoke after touching them as there is the potential to transfer bacteria and viruses from the animal to your mouth. The best advice to follow is what your mother told you to do – WASH YOUR HANDS!  If more people bothered to do this regularly, far fewer diseases would survive.

Young people don’t understand risk!

Risk management is based on following a formula – inform; instruct; train; supervise.  When you have children you use this all the time when they’re young.  As they get older and able to understand the implication of their actions supervision gets less and they are expected to take more responsibility.

However, the move from the supervised school environment to the workplace is a much bigger leap than most youngsters are prepared for.  It’s no wonder that young people entering the workplace are twice as likely to have an accident than their adult counterparts.

Schools may provide information on health and safety, but rarely provide proper education in risk management, so young people arrive in their first place of work ill-equipped to make good quality decisions about the risks all around them.

As many young people’s first job is manual they’re in an even higher risk situation, this is particularly true in the construction industry where youngsters are very likely to have accidents.  In the year 2007-8 there were 2600 workplace accidents involving 16-24 year old men and 1033 involving young women in the same age group.  23 of those were fatalities.

The employers of young people suffering this kind of accident have been held to account in court and have been jailed where a young person has lost their life.  Like the 15 year old in Essex who was left alone to hold up a wall.  It fell on him and both the builder and the contractor were jailed for 3 and 1 years respectively.

There are other issues around young people in the workplace – because they don’t want to be seen as ‘complaining’ or are afraid of rocking the boat and losing a job that is hard to come by, they don’t report accidents.  In some cases, they don’t understand the importance of reporting incidents in relation to improving working conditions, equipment and practices.

Improving the situation

The transition between school and workplace could be handled better by both school and employer; too many assumptions are made about the competence of young people in unfamiliar situations.

  • Schools could prepare better with simulations or games* that help young people understand risk better.
  • Employers can follow the IITS formula more conscientiously:
    • Information – providing not only information about the risks, but also giving them a wider understanding of the reason why reporting accidents is important.
    • Instruction – even though young people’s brains are like sponges, most can only handle 5 dos and 5 don’ts at time.  Instructions need to be simple and pertinent to exactly what they’re doing.
    • Training – both school training in risk and employer training should line up – but currently don’t come close.  Most schools don’t have a sufficiently in-depth understanding of the working environment outside the school and many employers assume that general health and safety is enough.
    • Supervision – when young people arrive in the workplace they need close supervision until they demonstrate competence.  With a young person ‘out of sight, out of mind’ is a recipe for disaster.

Young people bring lots of advantages to the workplace – but they need to be managed carefully to avoid them joining the accident statistics.

*Game simulations for a variety of purposes relating to risk, health and safety are available from Risk and Safety Plus.  Please contact us at info@riskandsafetyplus.com for more information.

Saving a life v. sticking to the rules

Last month a woman died after being trapped and suffering injuries at the bottom of a disused mine shaft in Strathclyde.  Despite fire and rescue teams being in attendance, the decision was made not to rescue her because of the health and safety policies being followed to the letter.

The inquiry identified a lack of proper risk assessment and inadequate training and planning, not to mention a frightening lack of knowledge of rescue resources available.

The issue of regulations and health and safety legislation saying ‘don’t take these risks’ and the so-called ‘rescue’ services being hobbled from doing what they’re paid for, is always going to cause debate.  There have been a number of cases where rescue personnel have been prosecuted for going outside the regulations – however, equally there have been cases brought against personnel where a lack of action has resulted in a fatality.

Of course, if, whilst rescuing someone, a fire fighter loses their life or the person being rescued suffers long term injuries, there will be an inquiry about what should and shouldn’t have happened.  However, the lack of skills and knowledge cannot be ignored.  Why is it that firefighters in Strathclyde have not been trained in line and rope rescue?  This used to be a part of the recruit course and regularly practised on fire stations.

This situation demonstrates a severe lack of care and professionalism on the part of the officers who made the decisions.  Isn’t it time that all emergency services officers took responsibility for their decisions and did the job they’re paid to do?

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Tips and information that will help you to create a practical and pragmatic approach to risk and safety.  Or call us for more information on 0845 430 9461.

XRay ‘vision’

If your industry requires the use of industrial radiography or encompasses a unit where staff are involved in conducting XRays for medical purposes, it’s important to protect the people who are involved or may be working in the adjacent areas.

Knowing the key things you need to be aware of will ensure that your staff are kept safe and also other people who may be working nearby.

The legislation relating to XRays is regulation 5(2) of the Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999 – and HSE must be notified and the use of equipment to produce XRays be authorised before use.

Good practice requires you to:

  • Keep exposure to any people involved or working nearby as low as is practicable.
  • Provide safety features – e.g. shielding for operators, locking devices that prevent people accidentally entering areas where XRays are in progress, cut-off systems that prevent radiation taking place if doors, hatches or other access are not secured.
  • Install warning notices where personnel may be working nearby or passing through an area where XRays are taking place.
  • Monitor radiation levels
  • Secure equipment outside normal working hours
  • Provide warning devices to signal radiation is about to take place and also during radiation.
  • Maintain and test equipment regularly.

Whilst one or two XRays in a hospital or clinic won’t do any damage, exposure to frequent radiation or industrial level XRays can cause long term health issues.  It’s a wise employer who covers all the possibilities and ensures that your staff stay healthy and industrial injury claims are something you don’t have to deal with!

Vicious vibration

Whilst vibration can be beneficial and is often used during relaxing massage sessions – constant vibration can do considerable damage,   Most injuries that result from vibration occur over a period of time so what starts as minor discomfort turns into a long term chronic injury.

If you (or people who work for you) handle equipment that vibrates over long periods of time can result in disorder and damage to blood vessels, nerves and joints.  This can arise from using hand held power tools, but can also be the result of driving vehicles over rough ground for long periods of time and other activities that jolt or shake the human frame.  This kind of vibration can cause tissue injuries and can even dislodge internal organs.

The problem is that once damage occurs the effects are usually long term and cannot be cured, although the symptoms may be alleviated to some extent.  This means that employers need to be vigilant about the effects of vibration.

The legislation relating to this is the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 and employers should assess the risks and take steps to reduce or eliminate risks from hand-arm vibration.  When usage is occasional it’s unlikely to be a problem; it’s when daily use of vibrating equipment is involved that the situation needs to be assessed and addressed.

Ideally, control measures should be in place and information, training and health monitoring should be available to employees.

  • Health symptoms that flag up potential hazards include:
  • Tingling and numbness
  • Pain in the hands, arms, back or joints
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Painful finger blanching in cold or damp conditions
  • Reduction of the ability to do fine work or everyday tasks – like fastening buttons or working with precision.
  • Weakening of the grip.

If hand-guided or hand-held power tools or machines are used daily or the environment generates vibration (foundries, heavy steel fabrication, construction) it’s essential to carry out careful checks on employees’ health.

If members of your staff fall victim to vibration-related health problems you’ll lose a trained operative and they’ll lose their livelihood.  It’s much better to be ahead of the game and ensure your staff and your business are protected from these injuries.

Sign up to our FREE data service in the box on the right and get free reports, tips and information that will help you to create a practical and pragmatic approach to risk and safety. Or call us for more information on 0845 430 9461.

U is for UV rays

If you’re wondering how UV could possibly affect your workplace – UV scanners are used to check out currency for fakes and to check for faults in metals used in construction.

Anyone who works outside may be affected by UV rays from the sun on those bright days. It’s often the bright, but not actually sunny, days that are most likely to cause problems as people can burn even if not in direct sunlight. Reflected rays are just as harmful and a light haze won’t stop the UV rays damaging exposed skin.

It’s important that outside workers are educated about the potential damage – not least skin cancer in the long term. Proper protection should be provided as with any other job where harmful agents are present – sunscreen, hats, good sunglasses, proper clothing, etc.

However, from the point of view of caring for your staff, it’s often their off duty activities where they are more likely to come into contact with UV rays. Think of how many times you hear members of staff planning to visit a ‘tan-stand’ to put a bit of colour on their skin prior to a beach holiday.
No, we’re not recommending you install a lunch-break tanning facility, but educating your staff could ensure you don’t lose working time when people don’t know the dangers of UV radiation.

Without the right knowledge and protection using UV rays can result in:#

  • Burns
  • Skin dryness and itching
  • Eye irritation or damage (this is particularly important where UV lamps are concerned, the right eye protection is essential)
  • Skin cancer
  • Premature ageing of the skin

Operators of all UV equipment – whether in a tanning parlour or in the workplace must follow the regulations to safeguard both staff and clients. They must also carry out risk assessments, ensure the correct replacement tubes are fitted, that staff are properly trained and aware of the risks and that customers are fully informed and protected as far as is practicable.

Whether your staff are working out in the sunshine or inside with UV equipment don’t forget to ensure they are properly educated and protected.

Training for a safe workplace

Many people think that, in order to train people, they must attend a formal training session in a classroom environment, however, that isn’t really true.  People learn by many different methods from reading a poster to learning by doing.

  • People learn from reading posters, signs and written procedures.
  • They can learn by working with an experienced colleague who will ‘show them the ropes’.  This used to be known as ‘sitting by Nellie’.
  • In today’s technological age some things can be learned by using a computer as a learning aid.
  • Formal courses to acquire qualifications also contribute to competence.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASWA) requires the employer to provide instruction, information and training.  In many places the Act also refers to a ‘Competent Person’.

Competence depends not only on the capability of an individual, but on the appropriateness of that capability to the particular task in hand. A simple mnemonic to apply to competency is KEPT

  • Knowledge
  • Experience
  • Personal attributes
  • Training and qualifications

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, reg.13(2) (MHSWR) states that adequate health and safety training must be provided whenever it is most likely to be needed.  This includes:

  • On first starting with the organisation (Induction)
  • On the change of function / new responsibilities within the organisation
  • On the introduction of new work equipment / a change of the current work equipment / new technology into the work of the staff
  • On the introduction of new systems of work or processes or a significant change those already in existence

The regulations also state that the training is repeated periodically – although no time scale is suggested – this indicates that it’s important to refresh skills and knowledge at regular intervals.  This will depend on the risk levels relating to the activities – the higher the risk, the more frequently training will be needed.

Not only should training take place, but records of training – the programme, the attendees, the date and what was covered – must be kept for at least three years.

Common sense dictates that a training plan for all staff relating to their roles, skills, safety, responsibilities and changing legislation should be put in place and regularly updated.

Chris Hilder

Signs & signals to keep people safe

Travelling to and from work you see many signs and signals to warn and inform drivers, but when you arrive in the workplace are you as familiar with the signs around the building and what they mean?

There are four main categories:

General danger
Mandatoryrequirements
Prohibition
Information (& direction)

General danger

General danger  Yellow triangle with black edge.
General danger Yellow triangle with black edge.

The legislation relating to all health and safety signs and signals is The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996. They cover a variety of ways of communicating health and safety information including:

  • The use of illuminated signs
  • Hand signals and audible signals (e.g. alarms)
  • Spoken communication
  • Marking pipework containing dangerous substances.

Signs must be provided where there is a risk that has not been avoided or controlled in any other way, such as engineering controls and safe systems of work. Signs aren’t required where they would not reduce the risk or where the risk is not significant. Road traffic signs are needed where traffic requires regulating for safety. The employer has a duty to maintain the signs and to ensure that all employees understand the sign and what they must do to comply with it.

Mandatory
Mandatory requirements Circular with a blue background and explanatory icon covering at least 50% of area.
Hand signals

When machinery is in use the noise levels can make talking, or even shouting, an unreliable method of communication, so there are hand signals that should be used for handling and directing vehicles. These are included in the Regulations.

Alarms

Fire alarms need to comply with the BS5839-01:2002 (recently updated) code of practice for system design, installation, commissioning and maintenance.

Prohibition The key elements are a circular shape with a red surround and a diagonal red bar. The black icon indicates what is prohibited.
Prohibition The key elements are a circular shape with a red surround and a diagonal red bar. The black icon indicates what is prohibited.

Information (and direction)
Information (and direction)  These must be green and white and must include a pictogram and arrow as a minimum.
Information (and direction) These must be green and white and must include a pictogram and arrow as a minimum.
Hazardous and dangerous substances

Any pipework containing dangerous substances must be marked at sampling and discharge points.

Any container of a hazardous or dangerous substance must be appropriately marked and there are a range of square signs with a black icon on an orange background that specify the contents of such containers.

If your workplace has risks that people need to be aware of or there is a need to communicate information it’s important that the appropriate signs are in place. Even more important is that everyone understands signs and signals that may be used.

Hazardous and dangerous substances

The first Safety Games!

We’re asked to do some unusual things from time to time and this article that was published in Safety Management (published with permission) demonstrates one of our unique consultancy projects.

Superyacht manufacturer holds shipshape Safety Olympics

On a sunny day in August, Pendennis Worldclass Superyachts one of Cornwall’s largest employers and a member of the British Safety Council, held a day of interactive safety games followed by the British Safety Council’s level 1 examination. Based in Falmouth Docks, Pendennis is one of the world’s leading builders of superyachts and provider of refit facilities.  The company employs around 350 staff who work in a variety of environments.  Those working on the yachts face a number of hazards, ranging from dangerous chemicals to working at height and manual handling. The 200 staff that took part in the day were divided into teams of five and send around a circuit, participating in games and activities to teach them about key health and safety issues that they face, but in a fun and engaging way. Each workstation was supervised by a manager and covered one of the main syllabus points of the level 1 course.  Against a backdrop of sailing vessels on the calm harbour water, staff tested the accuracy of their aim with fire extinguishers; others played snakes and ladders to highlight the legal aspect of health and safety, whilst some play darts to learn about the dangers of hazardous chemicals. After a busy morning the workers – who ranged from apprentice joiners to admin staff – sat their level 1 exam. The consultancy Risk and Safety Plus helped produce the original games plan and timetabling.  This was then taken by the supervisors who developed the content of the games.  “The expected outcome here was a culture change,” says Malcolm Tullett, director of Risk and Safety Plus.  “Pendennis Worldclass Superyachts has taken on board the fact that all its staff need to be involved.  We talked to all of the managers, nearly 60 of them, and they were the ones who put this together today.  They’ve done a really good job.”

Nigel Strawbridge, health and safety adviser at Pendennis says “Our people make Pendennis what it is – an award winning superyacht company.  Our commitment to their safety in the workplace is paramount to ensuring their wellbeing as well as a happy and well-trained organisation.  Health and safety is vital to this and working with organisations like the British Safety Council and Risk and Safety Plus on innovative projects like this demonstrates our consistent approach.”

If you’d like to know more about this kind of event please contact us on 0845 430 9461 for more information.

No win, lots of fees!

The compensation culture is about to be shot down.  Deregulation of marketing for the legal profession has resulted in shark-infested waters with everyone out to make as much money as possible from compensation claims, but things are about to change.

The Lord Young review started the ball rolling with the law changing so that the current feeding frenzy when someone cuts a finger in the workplace will no longer be the first option.

Currently the ‘no win, no fee’ offer offers injured people a means of getting compensation for theor injuries, but ‘no fee’ is not strictly accurate.  There are fees (even lawyers have to eat), but they are piled onto the ‘costs’ in court.  If your lawyer wins, the other side pay all the costs.  When you enter into one of these agreements, you’ll be asked to buy (yes, there are fees, just not for the case itself) an insurance policy to cover the costs should your lawyer lose the case.

The thin end of the wedge where the law will change affects road traffic accidents, but the same principle will apply to workplace accidents and personal injury claims.

Solicitors won’t be able to offer legal aid for their clients as the legal aid budgets are being cut too.  This means that whilst the number of claims will go down, legal fees overall are likely to rise – putting the option to make a claim beyond many people.

Our legal associates at Warner Goodman commented: “The government stopped legal aid and allowed No Win No Fee instead, but then the insurers were hit with success fees from the legal profession (given the risks we take) and the insurers passed on the costs to the punters.  Meanwhile the claimant’s insurers wanted a slice of the action so required referral fees, (then so do garages and dodgy geezers in shades!)  So the Government will now stop referral fees which lawyers never wanted in the first place!”

Fortunately, Risk and Safety Plus and Warner Goodman have put together a peace of mind package.  This takes care of the costs if your company is the subject of a prosecution – providing, of course, you’ve followed our advice!