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HSE Mythbusting

It's been 12 months since the HSE launched their mythbusting campaign and from recent reports in the press of triangular flapjacks being banned in schools as they are dangerous, it seems that the campaign is still needed.

From their analysis of the first 100 cases the underlying issue appears to be poor customer service or an excuse to cover an unpopular decision rather than deal with the consequences.

As a Health & Safety practitioner you have a responsibility to ensure that the individuals in your organisation have safe working conditions. However, you also have a responsibility to clearly communicate the reasons behind why you are enforcing policies and processes. If you cannot justify the reason to yourself it is time to think again about the way you are implementing the policy.

Adopting a risk based approach to situations will certainly help but the role of the health & safety professional should also be to provide a sense of reason, proportion and balance that underpins the need to protect people from serious threats within the workplace.

For a reminder on the basics have a look at the FPA Fundamentals of Health and Safety DVD or download on fire-stream along with the accompanying training information pack which provides all the basics you need to conduct training across a wide variety of topics.  Subscribe to the video via fire-stream and access the TIP PowerPoint presentation and quizzes for free.

12th April 2013

Draft guidance issues on proposed first aid changes

New draft guidance has been published by the HSE on the proposed changes to the provision of first aid in the workplace. Following recommendations by Professor Löfstedt, a consultation held at the end of last year has resulted in two pieces of guidance from the HSE. The changes which are expected to take effect from 1 October 2013, subject to final approval by the HSE board and ministers.

 The changes focus on:

  1. Helping business to make an assessment of the first aid requirements within their specific workplace and to put in place the necessary provision and competent personnel
  2. The removal of the HSE approval process for training providers which will allow businesses a greater flexibility when choosing a suitable provider and training that is right for their workplace. Providers will still need to meet standards set by the HSE.

The legal requirement for ensuring an adequate number of competent people in line with their first aid needs assessment are in place will not change.

Until the new guidance is in force, the current legal requirements remain in place. For further information on the proposed changes go to the HSE website at

27th February 2013

PAT changes

The IET has recently published the 4th edition of the Code of Practice for In-Service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment.  This code has some important changes for the PAT regime, they include.

-        Frequency of testing

  • Annual testing has never been a requirement. The new Code of Practice expands on this and places more emphasis on a thorough risk assessment to inform the type and frequency of testing required.

-        Labelling

  • Current pass labels require the date of next inspection to be listed. New guidance states the date of inspection should be listed NOT the next due date.

-        New and Second hand equipment

  • A new chapter is included on new and second hand equipment and hired equipment

-        Microwaves

  • The microwave leakage test has been removed from the standard PAT requirement but is still valid and should be conducted following a separate risk assessment

-        Other changes include rented accommodation, trip times for RCD devices   and criteria for testing and isolating fixed equipment.

Further information on the changes can be found at

27th February 2013

Remember, remember the 5th of November

Are you in the midst of any bonfire and firework display preparations? There have been a number of high profile tragedies relating to public displays over recent years and the HSE, amongst other bodies, have produced a number of guidelines to help with anyone selling, storing or organising a fireworks display.

Links to these sites are:

For general advice about smaller/home events

For general advice

For specific advice on public displays

Important facts you may not know!

Fireworks for private use, and from a registered seller, can only be sold:

  • between 15 October and 10 November - around Bonfire Night
  • between 26 December and 31 December - for New Year's Eve
  • three days before Diwali and Chinese New Year

For the rest of the year, you will only be able to buy fireworks from shops that are licensed to supply them.

 You can let off fireworks :

  • until midnight on Bonfire Night
  • until 1.00 am on New Year's Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year

 Rospa Firework Top Ten Safety Code for Adults

  1. Plan your firework display to make it safe and enjoyable.
  2. Keep fireworks in a closed box and use them one at a time.
  3. Read and follow the instructions on each firework using a torch if necessary.
  4. Light the firework at arm's length with a taper and stand well back.
  5. Keep naked flames, including cigarettes, away from fireworks.
  6. Never return to a firework once it has been lit.
  7. Don't put fireworks in pockets and never throw them.
  8. Direct any rocket fireworks well away from spectators.
  9. Never use paraffin or petrol on a bonfire.
  10. Make sure that the fire is out and surroundings are made safe before leaving.

Have a safe and enjoyable bonfire night.

24 October 2012

Action in the Event of Fire New Edition

Thinking back to last month's entry when we discussed the fundamentals of a good induction programme, what could be more apt than this month's blog starting with a shameless plug for the FPA's latest edition of the 'Action in the Event of Fire' online video and DVD.

All too often we overwhelm people with information about what should and should not be done when events occur. The video explains the proper sequence of actions to take should a fire break out in the workplace. Fortunately for most of us we hope never to have to use the sound, practical advice presented in this revised edition. However, being aware of what is required and what you can safely do is extremely important and as an employer you have a duty to ensure that all your staff are clear on what they should do if they encounter such a situation.

What better way of providing this information than in an 11 minute production which highlights the key points and actions on discovering a fire.

See the preview on firestream: /our-videos/new-edition-action-in-the-event-of-fire.aspx

or on out FPA YouTube channel:

For further information contact

24 October 2012

Health & Safety - an occupational health perspective 

In our June entry we looked at the occupational health perspective in health & safety and the links that could be established with HR in dealing with stress. It seems we were ahead of the game!

Researchers from University College London have published their analysis of 13 existing European studies covering nearly 200,000 people. They found that 'job strain' was linked to a 23% increased risk of heart attacks and deaths from coronary heart disease.

Individuals were followed over a seven year period and asked whether they had excessive workloads or insufficient time to do their job as well as questions around how much freedom they had to make decisions.

According to the report in The Lancet, work stress could occur in any occupation but was more common among lower skilled workers. Those who have highly demanding jobs but little control over decision making could raise their risk of heart attack by a quarter.

"Though stresses at work may be unavoidable, how you deal with these pressures is important and lighting up a cigarette is bad news for your heart," advised Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation.

"Eating a balanced diet, taking regular exercise and quitting smoking will more than offset any risk associated with your job."

With stress now the most common cause for absence maybe now is the time to look at a more inclusive policy which will help create a culture of Health & Safety within your organisation.

19 September 2012

Induction - the basics 

When a new person starts in your organisation it is all too easy to throw everything at them in the first week and expect them to remember it for the remainder of their time with you.  Yet induction provides an ideal opportunity to start embedding the culture of your organisation and to make clear what is expected in terms of performance and behaviour of that individual. It is also the ideal opportunity to start to instil your health & safety culture, to lay the foundations of how health & safety is viewed and the responsibilities of everyone in the organisation.

There will be many other elements that form part of a comprehensive induction programme and it is important to ensure that health & safety is not seen as a bolt on or something that has to be done and this is the only opportunity to do it. By developing a structured induction programme you can begin to introduce topics and ensure that health & safety becomes part of the everyday work of all individuals.

When planning the induction remember the basics:

  • Identify the key information that needs to be delivered in the first day/week of being on site; what is absolutely essential to know - e.g. fire alarms, evacuation points and first aid facilities
  • The induction should include a longer term plan for the job specific/equipment specific training that will be required to carry out their job role e.g. fork lift training, decontamination procedures, distribution of PPE, Display Screen Equipment assessment
  • Consider if there is an opportunity to provide some refresher training at the same time for the rest of your workforce e.g. manual handling training

 Key areas you should be covering during the process:

-        Health & Safety Policy of the organisation - this could be part of your company handbook
-        Health & Safety contacts for the organisation
-        Employees responsibilities for H&S, including management/supervisory
-        The accident reporting procedure
-        The fire and emergency procedures
-        Hazards specific to the workplace
-        Risk assessments and specific risk assessments required
-        Location of welfare facilities, canteen and rest rooms
-        Procedures for reporting defects or hazards
-        Disciplinary measures for non compliance with requirements

Why not take a look at the materials that FPA publish to assist with the induction process?

14 September 2012

A gold standard in health and safety 

As the nation is gripped by Olympic fever and TeamGB work their way up the medal table, let's consider those who enabled this to happen. The building of the Olympic Park has been heralded a success on many levels in terms of legacy sustainability, methods of construction and amongst others, health and safety.

Various case studies and reports have been published by the Olympic Delivery Authority and the HSE, amongst others, which demonstrate the best practice that has been achieved throughout the construction phase, and these provide some valuable insights for businesses in other sectors. The HSE report entitled Safety Culture on the Olympic Park in particular makes for interesting reading.

The key factors identified as contributing to the success of the project demonstrate the fundamental principles of a successful health and safety management system which all businesses are required to adopt.

In summary, they include:

  • Setting safety as a priority and integrating this from the outset through clear standards and requirements
  • Setting a consistent commitment through the supply chain to the same Health Safety and Environment standard
  • Engaging with contractors and allowing them to develop their own good practices and processes
  • A recognition of the prestige of working on the Olympic Park and striving for excellence in all activities, including health and safety
  • The scale and length of the project allowing time for initiatives to become embedded and tailored as necessary to ensure success
  • A belief by workers in the genuine commitment to health and safety within organisations, due to a consistent message reiterated across the Olympic Park over time.

Examples of good practice were distilled into case studies providing evidence that through engagement, worker involvement and organisational commitment it is possible to develop a strong safety culture.

Our March firefly blog entry highlighted the steps needed to create a change in behaviour to a health and safety culture and judging by the success of the Olympic Park project, albeit on a larger scale, if you ensure that these fundamental practices are in place, it is possible to achieve a positive safety culture on any scale.

Further reports can be found at:

Apply best practice steps to your organisation, no matter how large or small a company you are, by taking a look at the Fundamentals of Health and Safety video here on fire-stream.

07 August 2012

Are you ensuring your employees work safely?

According to a recent TUC survey, one in five workers whose job requires safety equipment say their employers are making them pay for it themselves and therefore breaking the law.

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations follow sound principles for the effective and economical use of personal protective equipment (PPE), which all employers should follow. PPE is defined as all equipment (including clothing affording protection against the weather) which is intended to be worn or held by a person at work and which protects them against one or more risks to their health and safety. Waterproof, weatherproof or insulated clothing is only covered if its use is necessary to protect against adverse climatic conditions.

By law, employers must provide staff with PPE such as protective clothing, gloves, helmets and boots free of charge. However, in the survey 11.6% said their employers were failing to do so, while another 8.9% said they were charged if the equipment was damaged and needed replacing. Two thirds (60%) said they had to clean their equipment themselves or pay for it to be cleaned, despite the law stating that the employer should take responsibility for ensuring equipment is cleaned and maintained.

In addition, as an employer, you need to provide appropriate accommodation to store the PPE when not in use and this should be separate from normal outer clothing storage arrangements.

Finally it is not enough to simply provide the PPE; as an employer you need to ensure your employees have adequate and appropriate information, instruction and training.

For more information on how to ensure you are staying within the law and ensuring that your employees work in a safe environment, have a look at the Get Your Kit On! and the Fundamentals of Health and Safety videos here on fire-stream. We offer a free 7-day trial of any single video on fire-stream to all new customers - why not take us up on this offer and try either of these videos?

03 August 2012

Fee for Intervention (FFI) 

The HSE have now confirmed they intend to introduce a fee for intervention scheme, subject to final parliamentary approval, which will come into effect from 1 October 2012. The proposed Regulations will mean HSE have a duty to recover its costs for carrying out its regulatory functions from those in material breach of health and safety law.

A material breach occurs when you break the law and the HSE inspector judges this is serious enough to notify you in writing either by a notification of contravention, an improvement or prohibition notice, or a prosecution. Examples of material breaches include not providing guards or safety devices to machinery, or materials containing asbestos in damaged condition.

FFI will only apply to those who break the law so to ensure that you are covering your requirements why not re-acquaint yourself with our blog entry from 16 January 2012, take a look at our Fundamentals of Health and Safety video or read FPA publications Fire Risk Management in the Workplace and Essentials of Fire Safety Management. The proposed Fee for Intervention hourly rate for 2012/13 is £124, so the investment in learning what you need to know is definitely worth making.

17 July 2012

Extinguishing fires at work 

Portable fire extinguishers are a vital part of an organisation's fire protection but it is important to remember that the main role of fire extinguishers is to extinguish or contain a fire until evacuation has been achieved and the fire and rescue services are able to intervene. It is not the sole solution, although first-aid fire fighting with an appropriate portable extinguisher can effectively stop a small fire from growing into a large fire, significantly reducing fire losses.

Your fire risk assessment will identify when fire fighting equipment is necessary to safeguard people, and it is the role of the responsible person to ensure that the premises are appropriately equipped. The responsible person must also nominate a sufficient number of people to use it, and ensure that they receive adequate training.

Employees with no training should not be expected to attempt to use a fire extinguisher and it should be explained to staff during training sessions that they should only attempt to tackle a fire if they are confident to do so without risk to themselves or to anybody else. Remember, you should always raise the alarm before attempting to tackle a fire.

Those using an extinguisher should not:

• attempt to fight a fire on their own;
• let the fire come between them and their means of escape;
• continue to fight the fire if it continues to grow or if it threatens to spread;
• continue to fight the fire if their initial attempts have not been successful.

Fire safety instruction should begin on an employee's first day as part of induction training with follow-up training sessions on the instruction on the appliances available and practical guidance on their use.

Which extinguisher should you use?

Extinguishers are colour coded, to help users select each appropriately:

Water: colour code red
Suitable for fires of solids, wood, paper, cloth.

Foam: colour code cream
Suitable for fires of liquids, fats, paints and oil.

Powder (multi-purpose): colour code blue
Suitable for fires of solids, wood, paper, cloth, liquids, fats, paint, oil and electrical equipment.

Carbon dioxide: colour code black
Suitable for fires of liquids, fats, paint, oil and electrical equipment.

Wet chemical: colour code yellow
Suitable for cooking oil fires. Also suitable for combustible solid fires.

For comprehensive advice on choosing and using fire extinguishers, and action in the event of fire, see the Extinguishing Fires at Work video here on fire-stream. Every subscriber to this video also receives a free download of the FPA's Fire Extinguisher Handbook.

17 July 2012

Health and safety - an occupational health perspective

Very often health and safety brings to mind risks relating to chemicals, machinery or situations far removed from the individual wellbeing element. However, as part of your duty of care, the welfare and wellbeing of the individual should remain central, whether this is a physical or mental risk.

The recent Safety and Health Expo, held at the NEC in May, provided an opportunity to focus on this aspect with seminars running in the Occupational Health Theatre. The link between HR and occupational health bridges the gap with health and safety and reminds all professionals about the continuing need to focus on the wellbeing of the staff. With stress now listed as the number one cause of absence - overtaking more traditional health and safety issues such as back pain - there has never been a greater need to look at a more inclusive policy which will help create a culture of health and safety within your organisation.

As an HR professional you are looking to manage the absence levels within your organisation; as a health and safety professional you are looking to ensure that individuals work safely so they can go home safely every day. By working together in this area, there is much to be gained from harnessing the expertise and communication power to promote a culture of wellbeing and awareness. No one wants staff to be absent due to any illness or injury, and by being more aware of the issues affecting your staff you can start to provide some training and awareness in order to address these before they become a real issue.

So, ideas you could use include: develop a clear policy on stress management, work with HR and Training to ensure your managers have training in how to identify and support individuals, raise awareness of mental health issues and ensure that mechanisms are in place to help people access the support they require. This may seem less relevant than regulatory training but consider this: those who are suffering the effects of stress or ill health are likely to be less productive and prone to making more errors which could lead to more serious and potentially life changing accidents especially if they are using equipment or driving. Now this really does have an effect on the health and safety professional.

19 June 2012

Lone working

Lone working applies to many industries and sectors, and must be addressed as part of employee welfare by law. Indeed, lone workers should not be at more risk than any other employees. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines lone workers as 'those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision.'

Examples of lone working could be people working in shop premises, home workers, people working outside of normal working hours eg cleaners and security staff, farmers and forestry workers, service workers eg district nurses and estate agents, or trades people such as decorators, plumbers and electricians.

Lone working can be associated with a number of hazards, and common ones are violence, abuse, accidents in remote areas where help or rescue may not be immediate, and accidents that result from lone working, eg lifting an item which should be lifted by two people.

Employees should carry out a risk assessment for lone working practices. Lone working risk assessments should cover:

  • Whether there is safe access and egress
  • If necessary machinery or equipment can be handled alone
  • If any hazardous substances used could pose a health or safety risk
  • If the work involves lifting heavy loads that require more than one person
  • If there is a risk of violence
  • Whether young, pregnant or disabled workers particularly are at risk if they work alone
  • If the lone worker's first language is not English whether suitable arrangements are in place to communicate clearly, in particular what to do in the event of an emergency
  • What would happen if the lone worker became ill, had an accident or there was an emergency
  • If the type of work should not be undertaken alone, eg confined space entry

 Advice for employees

  • When carrying out risk assessments always involve workers or their representatives
  • Put relevant control measures in place
  • Review risk assessments annually or whenever there are changes in working practice
  • If lone work can't be conducted safely then assistance should be put in place

Simple advice and procedures for your lone workers to follow could be:

  • Prepare a daily work plan so you and others know where you'll be and when - and stick to it
  • Have a contact at head office or some sort of base who you can check in with at designated times
  • Develop procedures to be followed if you do not check in as planned
  • Be called/contacted periodically by your contact

The FPA's Fundamentals of Health and Safety DVD has a section on lone working. It's available to buy at the FPA Shop or as a video download here on fire-stream

19 June 2012

Exploding the PAT myth in low-risk environments

Dealing with electricity in the workplace sends shivers down the spine and it is not surprising that there is a lack of understanding around the requirements of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989.

It's important to ensure that the equipment your staff are using has been checked and maintained and the risk of potential injury minimised. However, there is a myth within these regulations that in order to do so, a regular portable appliance testing (PAT) regime is required.

The HSE has recently updated the guidance relating to portable appliance testing in low-risk environments. What is clear is that not everything electrical needs to have a formal PAT every year. The law requires that you must maintain electrical equipment if it can cause danger, but the law does not say how you must do this or how often.

By adopting a blanket PAT regime you will cover a number of eventualities. However, by adopting a risk based approach you can implement a more practical and efficient system of testing. Determining the level of maintenance needed should be based on the risk of an item becoming faulty as well as the construction of the equipment. Not every item needs a yearly PAT inspection; a visual check by every user in some cases may be enough.

The HSE INDG236 guidelines are now available and include equipment in hotels etc, previously covered in HSE leaflet INDG237 which has been withdrawn. It contains an invaluable checklist with suggested interval times for checking equipment as well as practical advice on how to conduct visual checks.

09 May 2012

Keeping the jubilee a celebration

In the midst of jubilee celebrations, don't forget to take care when using ladders or working at height for any task - including hanging bunting! Follow some simple steps to make sure you stay safe and enjoy the celebrations:

  1. Carry out a risk assessment before undertaking any work at height, and make sure all such tasks are planned and carried out by someone competent.
  2. Take steps to avoid, prevent or reduce risks.
  3. Choose the right equipment and select collective measures to prevent falls (such as rails and platforms) before other measures which may only mitigate the distance and consequences of a fall.

Set-up for ladders

  • Check equipment before use to make sure it's not damaged or broken
  • Secure it using any locking devices
  • Ground should be firm and level and not slippery
  • Have a strong upper resting point (not plastic guttering)
  • Ensure there is space to fully open if it's a stepladder

Ladders in-use

  • Use ladders for short periods of time (maximum 30 minutes)
  • Use ladders for light work (up to 10 kg)
  • Leaning ladder angle 75° - 1 in 4 rule (1 rung length out for every 4 rungs up)
  • Always grip the ladder when climbing
  • Do not overreach - as a guide, make sure your belt buckle (navel) stays within the stiles and keep both feet on the same rung or step throughout the task
  • On leaning ladders, don't work off the top three rungs as these provide a handhold
  • On step ladders, don't work off the top two steps (top three steps for swing-back/double-sided stepladders) unless you have a safe handhold on the steps
  • Avoid side-on working

Stay Alive from 9 to 5 and Fundamentals of Health and Safety videos on fire-stream both contain information on working at height.

09 May 2012

Latest quarterly fatal injury statistics published

The HSE recently published the latest quarterly fatal injury statistics for the period up to 31 December 2011. This means there are statistics available for the first nine months of 2011/12. 203 fatalities occurred during the nine months reported on.

The statistics cover deaths to employees and members of the public in the workplace as reported under the provision of RIDDOR, and for the vast majority of such reportable accidents the Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974 is the main legislation applicable. To view the statistics go to:

Avoiding accidents and injury at work and becoming one of these statistics is of paramount importance. For more information on basic health and safety training, including accident reporting, take a look at Fundamentals of Health and Safety on fire-stream. We're currently offering a free, 7-day trial of any single video to new customers - why not view at this video and try out fire-stream for free?

09 May 2012

Workplace temperature... too hot or too cold - what's legal?

We all thought Spring had sprung early with the mercury soaring over the last week across the UK, so the sudden change to ice and snow this week was a shock to the system. As an employer, it is difficult to manage the changing conditions within the workplace, so here is a reminder of the legalities surrounding temperature control in the workplace.

Temperatures in the workplace are covered by the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, which place a legal obligation on employers to provide a "reasonable" temperature in the workplace. Interestingly, the law does not state a minimum temperature, but the approved code of practice suggests that the temperature in workrooms should normally be at least:

16ºc or
13ºc if the work is mostly of a physical nature.

However, additional considerations need to be made depending on the nature of the workplace where workrooms could be uncomfortably high, for example in a bakery, or in colder conditions such as food storage and packing environments.

As an employer you need to make allowances for the changing conditions and be prepared for all eventualities. Unusual patterns of weather are not excuses for failing to ensure your employees have a comfortable environment in which to work. Remember that ultimately their safety and wellbeing remains your responsibility.

05 April 2012

Spring cleaning

Now spring is officially here consider taking some time to spring clean the area you work in, whether that be your desk, office or workspace; tidying up and cleaning comes with health benefits at work too.

  1. Declutter your work space or desk. Remove, recycle or file away anything you don't really use. Try not to use your desk as a storage space; free up space and give yourself room to work.
  2. Consider the position of your monitor, keyboard, phone and filing trays on your desk. Is your monitor positioned at the correct height and distance from you? Are your phone and filing trays positioned within easy reach without the need to stretch or strain?
  3. Think about under your desk and the floor around you too. Have you plenty of leg room to position yourself comfortably at your desk. Is your chair at the right height and position in relation to your desk and monitor, so your posture is correctly supported?
  4. Think about excess paper, boxes and other potential combustibles. Is your bin overflowing? Consider potential fire hazards and remove or reduce any risks you can see.
  5. Give your office some fresh air. Perhaps you have a ventilator system or sit near a window. You don't need a window open constantly, just enough to offer a change of air every so often and to regulate the humidity. Plants are also good for maintaining good air quality; consider having one or two on or near your desk.
  6. The sunnier, lighter days that come with spring help with natural lighting in a work space. But don't let glare or reflections affect you. Reposition your screen (and desk if need be) so that you're not facing a window, but instead be at 90 degrees to the light. If facing a window is unavoidable make sure there are blinds that you can control when the spring days get really bright.

The FPA's Fundamentals of Health and Safety DVD has a section on display screen equipment (DSE) and ergonomics to help you make the most of your workspace in a way that is best for you. It's available to buy at the FPA Shop or as a video download here on fire-stream.

05 April 2012

Health and safety: changing perceptions - a health and safety manager's perspective

With the continuing debate around health and safety, it was interesting to listen to IOSH President Subash Ludhra in his opening speech at the 2012 IOSH conference highlighting the need "to get conference visitors, the media, politicians and the public to think long and hard about their perceptions of safety and health.

"To those who think we have created too many laws relating to health and safety in the UK - let's remind them that the number of regulations has actually halved since the Health and Safety at Work Act in 1974 and recent reviews have confirmed that our regulations are by and large fit for purpose.

"And to those who tell us 'We can't afford health and safety', as safety and health practitioners, we must make it clear that they simply can't afford to be without it."

As a health and safety practitioner, it is sometimes easy to forget that at the most fundamental level health and safety is purely about working safely so you can go home safely every day. It's not meant to be about bureaucracy and paperwork and officious individuals policing your every move.

To create a culture of health and safety requires a change in behaviour, and the first step is to help people understand the reasons policies are in place. And most importantly for you as the health and safety professional is to help educate rather than merely enforce; you are in a position to help change people's perceptions of the industry and those working within it.

In his closing speech, Subash challenged all health and safety practitioners to "be prepared to be different and make change happen." So if you are responsible for delivering the health and safety message in your organisation, stop for a moment and think about the message you are delivering. Behind all the gory stories, videos and anecdotes, the underlying message should simply be: work safely so you and your colleagues can go home safely every day.

14 March 2012

All in the name of health and safety

The FPA recently attended the IOSH 2012 conference and exhibition in Manchester where the theme of the event was 'changing perceptions'. Delegates were challenged to alter the perception and reputation of health and safety in the minds of the media and of the public.

We hear the media reports of 'health and safety gone mad' with anecdotes of health and safety regulations being used to the extreme apparently replacing common sense. So how do we strike the right balance?

Speaking at the IOSH conference, Professor Neil Budworth, Corporate Health and Safety Manager, E.ON UK, admitted "We need to be strategic partners and work with businesses to deliver benefits. We've become process and policy-obsessed."

Health and safety requirements exist to saves lives, and protect business continuity and reputation. They're there for a good reason. But health and safety shouldn't be presented as an excuse or a barrier to something without balanced reasoning. Sensible risk management - not over compliance that is beyond common sense - should strike the right chord.

FPA Publications launched the new Fundamentals of Health and Safety Training Information Pack at IOSH 2012 too. It's a complete training solution in one easy package to offer basic health and safety induction training across a wide variety of topics. Comprising:

  • Fundamentals of Health and Safety DVD,
  • a ready-made PowerPoint presentation for the trainer (with an accompanying booklet of notes and background on the slides),
  • delegate handouts,
  • quizzes and
  • delegate certificates,

it offers a balanced and engaging introduction to health and safety for staff across a broad range of industries and environments. An e-version of the TIP is also available on fire-stream, accompanying the Fundamentals of Health and Safety video download. Subscribe to the video via fire-stream and access the TIP PowerPoint presentation and quizzes for free.

The FPA ran a prize draw at IOSH 2102 for one lucky visitor to our exhibition stand to win a free copy of this new TIP... and the winner is... Paul Diss-Evans, Health and Safety Advisor at Scottish and Souther Energy. Congratulations Paul!

14 March 2012

What is RIDDOR and what is changing in April 2012?

RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations) is simply the law that requires employers and other people in control of work premises to report and keep records of:

  • Work-related deaths
  • Serious injuries
  • Cases of diagnosed industrial disease and
  • Certain dangerous occurrences (or near miss accidents)

There are no exemptions from the requirements of RIDDOR so all organisations, large and small must comply. You must keep records and produce these RIDDOR reports when asked by the HSE, local authority or other inspectors.

What must be reported?

Deaths if:

  • they result from a work accident
  • A worker sustains an occupational injury
  • they result from a suicide on a relevant transport system
  • they result from an act of physical violence to a worker

Major injuries including:

  • A fracture, amputation or dislocation of the shoulder, knee, hip or spine
  • Loss of sight (temporary or permanent)
  • Chemical or hot burn to the eye or any penetrating injury to the eye
  • Injury resulting from electric shock or electrical burn leading to unconsciousness, resuscitation or admittance to hospital for more than 24 hours
  • Any other injury leading to hypothermia, heat induced illness, unconsciousness, resuscitation or admittance to hospital for more than 24 hours
  • Unconsciousness caused by asphyxia or exposure to a harmful substance or biological agent
  • An acute illness requiring medical treatment

Over seven day injuries

Currently, and until 6 April 2012, any injury sustained that requires an employee or self employed person to be away from work or unable to perform their normal work duties for more than three consecutive days (not counting the day of the accident) has to be reported. From 6th April 2012 the law will introduce the over seven day injury category. This will change the requirement from over three days to over seven days. Any injury necessitating fewer than seven days away from work must still be recorded but does not need to be reported. If you are an employer who has an accident book, the record you make in this will suffice.

Injuries to people not at work

Any injuries to members of the public or people who are not at work if they are injured following an accident that arises out of, or in connection with, work and are taken from the scene of an accident to hospital for treatment.

Occupational diseases

Occupational diseases must all be reported following written diagnosis from a doctor stating they are suffering the one of these conditions and the sufferer has been doing work activities listed for that illness.

Dangerous occurrences

A dangerous occurrence is a certain, listed near miss event. Not every near miss requires reporting. There are 21 categories of dangerous occurrences that are relevant to workplaces. The full list can be found in A guide to the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995.

How do you report a RIDDOR?

All incidents can be reported online at A telephone service remains for reporting fatal and major injuries only; call the Incident Contact Centre on 0845 300 99223.

Further health and safety resources

The FPA's new DVD outlining the basics of health and safety practice in the workplace, Fundamentals of Health and Safety,is available to buy from the FPA shop or available as a video to stream or download here on fire-stream.

The DVD is also part of a forthcoming Training Information Pack, available early March in the shop, or as a free download to accompany the video on fire-stream. Don't forget, free 7-day trials are available for fire-stream - just get in touch if you would like to try fire-stream for yourself.

06 February 2012

How many fire wardens should my company have?

This is a question we often hear. The answer depends on the outcomes of your fire risk assessment and the size of your premises, which means the answer will vary from one organisation to another.

Fire risk assessments are required by law for virtually every workplace and must be recorded in situations where five or more staff are employed. A fire risk assessment will help to identify hazards that can be removed or reduced and to then decide the nature and extent of the fire precautions required to protect people against the fire hazards that remain. In addition to those findings, the measures that are or will be implemented to reduce the risk of fire must be included, as well as details of any people identified as being particularly at risk.

It's the duty of the person responsible for your organisation's premises to ensure the fire risk assessment is carried out. In brief, the person responsible for the premises must:

  1. ensure that the premises are equipped with appropriate firefighting equipment and take measures for firefighting on the premises; and
  2. establish appropriate procedures, including safety and fire evacuation drills, to be followed in the event of fire.

It is important that a sufficient number of competent persons are nominated to implement the evacuation procedures and whatever steps are required for the effective use of fire fighting equipment on the premises. Many organisations fulfil this requirement by the appointment and training of fire wardens (sometimes called fire marshals) to assist during an evacuation of the premises, and in the use of the fire extinguishers provided.

The number of fire wardens an organisation appoints will depend primarily on the size of the premises and the level of risk. The size of the premises is an important consideration as one of the principal roles of a fire warden in the event of fire would be to conduct a sweep of a part of the premises (maybe a floor or part of a floor for example - i.e. dependent upon size) safely and without putting themselves at risk. In general there should be not less than one fire warden appointed per floor and arrangements should also be made for their absence (sick or on holiday etc) by appointing and training a deputy for each.

Fire wardens can act as the eyes and ears of the person appointed to manage fire safety by constantly being alert to the hazards and associated risks of fire in their workplace and reporting any problems before they are allowed to develop.

To learn more about the role of the fire warden, read the FPA's new publication Fire Warden Handbook. The book is available to buy from the FPA shop, or available as a free download when you subscribe to Role of the Fire Warden video here on fire-stream.

06 February 2012

How can I, as an employer, benefit from observing H&S regulations and nurturing a H&S culture in-house?

It's not just about complying with red tape. Besides preventing injury, accidents and consequent loss of productivity, following health and safety guidelines means you can avoid high levels of staff absence, liability problems and reputational damage - not to mention potential fines, prosecutions, and increased insurance premiums.

Creating a working environment in which a culture of respect for health and safety regulation is widespread can save your company its money, time and reputation.

Statistics from the HSE for 2010/11 revealed:

  • 1.2 millionworking people were suffering from a work-related illness;
  • 171 workers were killed at work;
  • 115 000 injuries were reported under RIDDOR;
  • 200 000 reportable injuries (over 3 day absence) occurred (LFS);
  • 26.4 million working days were lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury;
  • Workplace injuries and ill health (excluding cancer) cost society an estimated £14 billion (in 2009/10);
  • The most frequent causes of injury in the workplace were manual handling, slips and trips, and falls from height.

16 January 2012

 What are my legal obligations as an employer?

The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 is the foundation of British health and safety law. It details the general duties employers have towards their employees and to members of the public as well as the duties employees have to themselves and each other.

The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 gives employers specific requirements to manage health and safety under the HASAW Act. It is these regulations that require every employer to carry out risk assessments.

Generally, employers have duties under the HASAW Act relating to:

  • The health, safety and welfare at work of employees and others whether part time, casual, temporary or homeworkers, on work experience, government training schemes or on site as contractors - basically anyone working under their control or direction.
  • The health and safety of anyone who visits or uses the workplace and anyone who is allowed to use the organisation's equipment.
  • The health and safety of those affected by the work activity, for example, neighbours and the general public.

The employer's responsibilities are more easily clarified in this 10 point list showing some of the key actions required by law that apply to nearly every organisation.

  1. Obtain employer's Liability Compulsory Insurance and display the certificate.
  2. Ensure that the organisation has competent health and safety advice available. This does not have to be an external consultant.
  3. Develop a health and safety policy that outlines the health and safety management system.
  4. Undertake risk assessments on the business activities that include details of the required control measures.
  5. Ensure that relevant actions are taken following the risk assessment to prevent accidents and ill health.
  6. Provide basic welfare facilities, such as toilets, washing facilities and drinking water.
  7. Provide free health and safety training for workers.
  8. Consult workers on health and safety.
  9. Display the health and safety law poster or give workers a leaflet with the information.
  10. Report certain work related accidents, diseases and dangerous occurrences. 

Fire Safety

Across the UK there are three separate legislative regimes which govern fire safety:

  • England and Wales
    • Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
  • Scotland
    • The Fire (Scotland) Act 2004 and the
    • Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006
  • Northern Ireland
    • The Fire and Rescue Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 and
    • The Fire Safety Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010

All require a similar approach to fire safety based on risk assessment and a management commitment to ensure suitable fire safety standards in premises and to maintain a staff culture of fire safety.  Broadly, the requirements are as follows: 

  • There should be aclearly defined fire safety policy in place to ensure the protection of all those in or on the premises - such as staff, residents, guests and visitors - which must include arrangements for planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of fire safety measures. This responsibility sits squarely with those responsible for the workplace they have control over.
  • It's not just a management responsibility to ensure the safety of occupants - everyone has their part to play in ensuring that the premises remain safe, the risk of fire is minimised and that in the event of a fire everyone can evacuate safely.
  • An emergency evacuation plan must be developed and implemented in line with the findings of the fire safety risk assessment(s). It should include procedures for all those occupying the premises, including disabled people.

Further information on your obligations as an employer can be found in a range of publications available from the FPA (Fire Risk Management in the Workplace and Essentials of Fire Safety Management are examples).

16 January 2012