COVID 19 / CORONAVIRUS
Well, here we are with the distinct feeling of déjà vu; after almost 10 months, Britain is back in total lockdown – with the exception of a few essential industries such as construction and manufacturing. The difference this time around, though, is that those of us who are still able to work should already have very robust Covid controls in place and we should, therefore, all be very confident that our workplaces are safe.
However, it is extremely important to remember that:
General guidance and instruction about lockdown can be found on the Government’s websites:
Wenlock Health & Safety Ltd (WHS) is doing its level best to carry out its training programme where and how at all possible. We are very much hoping to get back to relative normality by March but, in the meantime, we do ask you to bear with us should there be any unavoidable disruption to your plans; you will appreciate that the situation is totally out of our hands. We will, of course keep you fully notified of further developments.
Unavoidable changes to our programme are detailed below and will also be personally communicated, both directly and through joining instructions, ahead of planned courses. It is vital that these are understood and relevant information clearly passed to candidates.
Because of the unavoidable close contact necessary to undertake any first aid course, our open courses have had to be cancelled till March; WHS will contact those affected and the situation will be closely monitored. As we have yet to hear of any provision for extending expiry dates, managers are advised to review levels of cover to ensure adequate first aid cover in all workplaces.
If you require a First Aid course, it’s been confirmed by the awarding body that we can run these now, however we’d like to limit any mixing of companies to reduce risk where we can, so can only be undertaken for one company until March.
We can run the 1-day (6 hours) Emergency First-Aid at Work courses from March, dates are listed below; very strict Covid-specific controls will apply and no lunch can be offered until further notice. Demand is expected to be high, so book places as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.
Cost: £85 + VAT per person
As usual, please contact Vicki at Wenlock Health & Safety Ltd (WHS) on 01952 885885 or firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com to book places
IOSH Managing Safely
This course is scheduled to take place at the WHS offices if possible; the situation will obviously be closely monitored. Again, please note that lunch cannot be offered until further notice.
Duration: 3 days (Monday to Wednesday)
Cost: £395 + VAT per person
FACE FIT TESTING
As it can be unavoidable and obviously essential for safe working on site, face-fit testing is still being undertaken at the WHS offices under very strict controls. However, it would obviously be preferrable to postpone face-fit testing where this is at all possible (i.e. where the health of workers is not compromised) until we are no longer under lockdown.
WHS PARKING ARRANGEMENTS
Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust have significantly changed parking payment arrangements at our offices and this will affect all WHS visitors – whether visiting for training, meetings, or any other reason. WHS has negotiated FREE parking for all our visitors, but this is totally reliant on the following criteria:
Joining instructions will give details but those making ad hoc visits to WHS offices for whatever reason should take note the above or you will be charged by Ironbridge Gorge Museum (and there’s nothing we can do about it, sorry!).
SAFETY AWARDS 2020
With all the doom and gloom about right now, it gives us great pleasure to focus again on the Wenlock Health & Safety Awards 2020. Our two very worthy winners received their certificates at the end of 2020 and we are delighted, once again, to draw attention to their achievements:
Commitment to Site Safety:
Mark Bennett of Morris Property Ltd
Mark, shown here with his award, is a Site Manager for Shrewsbury-based Morris Property Ltd.
Mark was awarded the certificate because he has always demonstrated an exemplary attitude towards health & safety on his sites, and a proactive management approach.
An excellent example to set for the Morris Property team.
Commitment to Health & Safety Training:
Richard Sherratt Builders Ltd
Based in Shrewsbury; this commercial and domestic building company was given the award on the strength of its exemplary attitude towards training the entire workforce in various health & safety areas, including through the trials of the last year.
Richard is shown here with the award; keep up the excellent work Richard!
Through the current Covid crisis, the HSE has continued to update its guidance to focus specifically on how best to control commonplace issues in relation to risks posed by the pandemic. A selection of recent HSE bulletins follows; a vest array of further information is available and continually updated on the HSE website:
VENTILATION & AIR-CONDITIONING
The law requires all employers to ensure an adequate supply of fresh air in the workplace – and this is even more important during the current pandemic. The HSE’s guidance on ventilation and air conditioning has been updated to reflect the importance during Covid: https://bit.ly/2MTetA2
The guidance includes:
LOCAL EXHAUST VENTILATION (LEV)
Another issue that is increasingly important because of the pandemic is adequate LEV. The law requires all employers where dusts, fumes or vapours are produced within enclosed or poorly ventilated areas to:
Over and above the HSE’s general guidance available on: https://www.hse.gov.uk/lev/ the HSE has issued specific guidance to ensure that LEV test and inspections remain a high priority and are carried out during the pandemic: https://bit.ly/2XtkC7Q
REDUCING THE NEED FOR RPE
The use of RPE, which has become so essential during the pandemic, has also produced major problems with interrupted supplies of reputably sourced masks and accessories of the types required by law that we are all used to having readily to hand, e.g. for protection against silica dusts, etc.
The HSE has therefore produced new guidance outlining alternative ways of working when using power tools (such as drills, cut-off saws, breakers and angle grinders) through this pandemic which could either reduce or actually remove the need to use RPE: https://bit.ly/39nVh4S . Sound advice for the future too!
AVOIDING MUSCULOSKELETAL DISORDERS
Musculoskeletal disorders remain the single-most harm issue in UK industry (and no doubt worldwide too) despite decades of focus and improvements – and it is still the most common cause of injury, permanent harm and early retirement in the construction industry.
The HSE website holds a multitude of guidance about
musculoskeletal and upper limb disorders, e.g:
However, even this issue can also relate to Covid (e.g. the comfort of those spending long hours working in uncontrolled conditions at home), so the HSE has updated the information accordingly:
AND A REMINDER – THE HSE CONTINUES WITH SPOT CHECKS
As the Covid restrictions bite ever deeper, the need for strict controls for those businesses that must remain open and working are even more important than ever. Consequently, the HSE (and local authorities) are carrying out even more regular spot checks on shops, offices, workshops and other premises – and they continue to fine or close those businesses who have not established appropriate controls or cannot justify remaining open.
To help, yet more in-depth HSE guidance is available (e.g. https://bit.ly/35yizEe ) which includes:
Covid has been with us for so long now, there is no excuse whatsoever for not controlling your workplace adequately – and also seeking to continually improve those controls where possible.
DRIVING FOR WORK
Notwithstanding the current need to work from home where at all possible, the HSE is in the process of updating its joint (with the DfT) guidance, INDG382: Driving at Work, to help duty holders manage work-related road risk.
Since the original guidance was released in 2014, there have been significant developments in technological and driving practices so the HSE is now asking for feedback across all industries, including construction, to gauge the relevance and accuracy of the current guidance. Please spare a few minutes to take the survey via this link: short survey
SAFETY FOR YOUNG PERSONS
You should all know that the law makes special provision for the safety of ‘young persons’ (under 18-year olds) – if not, why not, where have you been??!! The emphasis on young persons was realised decades ago because of their inexperience, incomplete bodily development, lack of maturity, and a tendency to think they are immortal! Special controls to prevent undue risk to this sector of the workforce include a cap on working hours and limitations on the type of tasks that can be allocated.
However, the ‘inexperience’ can also apply to older workers who have only recently entered the construction industry and therefore lack training and the level of hands-on experience necessary to identify and control the risks presented to them on site. The main category we refer to here are apprentices – who are increasingly commonplace throughout the industry and are not always covered by the Young Persons Regs.
WHS training covers the subject of the special provisions necessary for both under-18s and older but inexperienced employees, including apprentices. Disturbingly, WHS has witnessed several situations recently where those appropriate provisions have not been made and the worker has then been subject to undue risk. To illustrate the point, we draw attention to a recent prosecution relating to the endangering of an apprentice:
M&J Engineers of Hitchin was fined a total of over £285,000 after an apprentice fell from the roof of a site cabin, causing back and leg injuries. He had climbed onto the roof to attach lifting chains to a power float and, when the crane boom swung, he jumped to avoid injury. He was very lucky not to have been killed.
The huge fine was levelled against M&J because, not only was the crane driver not properly trained, but also (as was specifically highlighted during the trial) the inexperienced apprentice had not been adequately ‘managed’. i.e. nobody was supervising and instructing him.
It is prudent to reiterate one of the particular issues often discussed during WHS training – the link between ability and confidence during the stages of a worker’s development, something that can be true of many of us!
Employers too can easily share the over-confidence in those early stages, failing to grasp that competence relates to experience, continual improvement and trustworthiness, not simply instruction and training. Hence, the law requires that both young persons and inexperienced employees are properly supervised and monitored until such time as the employee can truly be called competent for the task/s.
If you have any queries or would like to give your young or inexperienced workers targeted training, please do contact WHS on the usual number: 01952-885885.
HAND-ARM VIBRATION SYNDROME
As we have mentioned so many times before, another reminder that combatting Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) must remain high on the health & safety agenda for ANY business where power tools are used. Using the data provided (by law) by the equipment manufacturer, a specific vibration risk assessment must (by law) be carried out that accurately reflects the working day for each operator. We at WHS always recommend carrying out an assessment before purchasing new equipment so that safer items can be purchased and risks reduced from the outset – it’s a bit late once you’re stuck with a high-vibration item!!
The seriousness of the issue is illustrated by yet another high-profile prosecution:
Liverpool housing association, Onward Homes Ltd, was fined a total of over £85,000 after four grounds maintenance employees developed disabling HAVS from regularly using vibrating power tools over several years. The fact that several employees all developed the disease demonstrates the Company’s total disregard for their health. The Company had failed to not provide information and training on the safe use of the tools used, nor had they carried out any (legally required) health surveillance – with life-changing consequences for the workers and their families.
But it shouldn’t be the threat of prosecution that spurs employers into action; as highlighted here, employees who contract HAVS are debilitated for life – that’s the reason for action!!
How many of those reading this article can honestly say they have properly risk assessed their power tools in relation to vibration levels and how they are actually used in the workplace?
And, on a similar note, we emphasise yet again the necessity of risk assessing every aspect of every task to ensure that (a) controls are established to eliminate or reduce risks without the need for PPE (which, by law if you remember, must be seen as a last resort only) and (b) if PPE has to be used, the correct type is provided without introducing additional risks to the wearer.
The following recent prosecution amply illustrates the points:
LS Starrett Company Ltd, a precision tool manufacturer, was fined £100,000 after an employee lost a finger when operating a radial arm drilling machine.
No risk assessment had been carried and employees were not appropriately trained. Consequently, no guard was in place and the operator was not told to remove his gloves when using the drill; the gloves became entangled in the drill and a finger was so severely lacerated that it had to be amputated.
ALL tasks must (by law) be fully assessed, appropriate controls established and workers properly trained and instructed – and that includes instruction into the safe use of any necessary PPE.
Whilst focusing on health & safety, especially during the current pandemic, it is all too easy to forget that environmental care is also absolutely essential in law – and that includes mandatory wildlife surveys ahead of all types of work on existing properties, greenfield and brownfield sites. Ignore the legal requirement to your peril:
The largest ever fine of £600,000 for this offence was levied against house builder, Bellway Homes, plus £30,000 in court costs and a compulsory £20,000 donation to the Bat Conservation Trust. Bellway had demolished a building during the 2018 breeding season where pipistrelle bats (the little creature on the right) had previously been recorded and, in doing so, destroyed the breeding site.
This type of crime is treated so seriously that it was the Metropolitan Police who investigated and prosecuted this case – it should serve as a warning to all developers, contractors and businesses that wildlife protection is vital and required by law from the outset as part of the planning process.
A look at the HSE prosecution statistics (across all industries) for November 2020 alone rams home the point that, despite the emphasis on Covid, the HSE is still just as active in enforcement and prosecution:
• 20 prosecutions, including 2 fatalities
• Results included fines included several at or of almost £300,000 and 3 suspended sentences
• Total fines £1,636,109 plus costs
The current requirements to SAVE LIVES and PROTECT THE NHS apply just as much to all other risk factors as it does to Covid!!
Work at height
The contract involved the replacement of 70 skylights; DRS had quoted £7865 + VAT to do the work, a vastly under-costed price because Devlin had not included for any form of fall protection. How could Devlin not see that the saving of £Xs could never justify risking both a man’s life and a prosecution?
And a warning here also for clients commissioning work from any external contractors – in law, you could also be held culpable. Is the quoted price vastly below others? Is it too good to be true? It probably is.
Being February, the roof had been slippery with ice and, not only was there no edge or fall protection installed, nobody had thought to assess weather conditions or instruct workers not to access slippery surfaces.
Plant & vehicles
Any pressure jetting is very high risk and requires very detailed risk assessment for each new task, a high degree of controls to prevent unintended ejection, and full training and instruction. None of this had been established in this case, with the result that a man lost his life; the seriousness is reflected in the fine.
The HSE did not specify in its press release which level of survey had been carried out but the case demonstrates just how vital it is that any business carrying out any works on any existing property commissions the appropriate survey. If you’re in doubt or need further advice, please do contact WHS immediately
WHS is working for you; help us to help you.
Our aim is to keep people safe and to keep your company working.
To contact WHS, ring: 01952-885885
Get in touch today to discuss
your Health & Safety needs.