HSE Construction Site Inspections to focus on Moving & Handling

Construction sites across Great Britain are being targeted as part of a health inspection initiative supported by the ‘Work Right Construction: Your health. Your future’ campaign by the Regulator . Site inspections focusing on moving and handling construction materials will begin on 3 October 2022.  

They will be checking employers and workers: know the risks plan their work are using sensible control measures to protect workers from musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) An estimated 40,000 construction workers experienced work-related MSDs last year.  

Employers have a legal responsibility to protect their workers from ill health and should involve them in managing the risks to their health, just as they would with safety.  

To help you prepare for the inspections contact OHteam@hawkeshealth.com or Phone us 0800 193 622

Plymouth Magistrates recently fined Stagecoach Devon Limited £380,000 with £18,000 in costs after it pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. The prosecution came about because of an incident on 3 October 2019 when one of Stagecoach’s drivers, David Heathfield, suffered life-changing injuries after being crushed between a reversing bus and a stationary vehicle.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector James Collins explained what happened. 

‘This incident took place during the morning runout. With bus depots, the busiest times are always the mornings – usually around 5am or 6am – when the drivers arrive and take their buses out to start their routes. There is a lot of vehicle movement and a lot of pedestrian footfalls with drivers coming and finding their vehicles,’ James Collins said

‘As this was in October, it was also dark at that time of the morning. The company had a parking plan that showed how the buses had to be set up the night before to make sure that they could all leave in good time the next day, but the parking layout at the depot was such that some buses had to be manoeuvred and reversed to get them out. It’s a relatively small depot for the number of vehicles they have, so there are a lot of vehicles that must fit into a small space. 

‘At the time, Stagecoach Devon had one banksman to assist with reversing. That banksman was typically engaged in the upper part of the depot where most of the vehicles were. In the lower part of the depot, where the accident happened, it was custom and practice for the drivers to assist each other with the reversing manoeuvres – they acted as banksmen for each other, although they hadn’t been trained as banksmen. 

‘The injured party in this incident, David Heathfield, wasn’t in his bus but was assisting one of his colleagues to try and manoeuvre their bus out of the depot. The driver had moved forward and had hit one of the posts – one of the little metal barriers that are part of the depot – and he was having obvious trouble getting out from in between two buses. Mr Heathfield stepped in to assist him reversing but the driver reversed into Mr Heathfield and crushed his arm against one of the other buses.’

Mr Heathfield’s injuries were significant: he suffered compound multiple fractures of his arm requiring six titanium plates and 65 metal staples between his wrist and elbow.

TRAINING AND PROCEDURES

Once the HSE was notified of the incident, James began investigating what had happened.

‘It was quite a detailed investigation. We had some CCTV footage, which is always a great help, but because it was a busy time of day, there were also a lot of witnesses, so a lot of statements had to be taken,’ he said.

‘There were quite a few lines of enquiry that had to be followed. Some witnesses suggested there might have been issues with the brakes on the bus, which could have contributed to the incident, so we followed up that line of enquiry with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) about brake calibration and so on. That wasn’t part of the issue in the end but because it was a line of enquiry, it had to be followed up as much as possible.

‘The drivers’ union – the RMT – was also heavily involved. Transport workers still have a strong union presence, and the union did its own investigation, cooperating with HSE. That was extremely helpful. We obviously appreciate that health and safety is only a small part of what unions do, but it was still very helpful to have union contact and to get a ground-floor perspective of a site, what the situation in the depot is like, and how the employer communicated with its employees. 

‘Stagecoach is a large national company, so they had a lot of procedures in place and the staff had a lot of training. But we always look at underlying causes as well as immediate causes and this is one of those situations where the underlying cause falls back to not having a proper site-specific risk assessment. 

‘A proper site-specific risk assessment would have picked up that there were inherent risks from the way that the buses were parked. Reversing wasn’t minimised there, and because reversing wasn’t minimised and they only had one banksman for a very busy period, it was foreseeable that you’d need more banksmen support. People were stepping up to help out and, while staff were trained generally, they weren’t trained to be banksmen. So they shouldn’t have been put in a position where they felt they had to act in that way.’

PROSECUTION AND LEARNINGS

James said the decision to prosecute was quite straightforward.

‘It was a single charge of breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act, and within that charge was several items. One of the key ones was the company hadn’t eliminated or reduced so far as is reasonably practicable the need to reverse buses at the depot. Then, where reversing had to be done, the company hadn’t ensured it was done competently and safely for several reasons, including not enough trained banksmen, inadequate lighting and not enough space for reversing to take place safely. Those were a few issues that were caught up underneath that one charge,’ James said.

From the incident, there are clear lessons that IOSH members can take.

‘Any company that has regular vehicular movement knows that they are dealing with risks of very serious injuries and fatalities, so the risks need to be properly controlled. There are a lot of things that you need to bear in mind with vehicle movement: eliminating or reducing reversing manoeuvres or – if you can’t do that – making sure they are done safely using banksmen; reversing cameras might be appropriate; visibility issues need to be addressed; and pedestrian vehicle segregation is extremely important,’ he said.

‘It’s important to look at the hierarchy of control: things like PPE are right at the bottom of the hierarchy because they are entirely dependent on personal behaviour, but if you can physically segregate vehicles from pedestrians, that’s right at the top of the hierarchy because you are physically preventing them from coming into contact with each other. Obviously, that’s not appropriate in all circumstances, but it is appropriate in a lot of circumstances and, ultimately, it all comes down to risk assessment. 

‘Make sure you have site-specific risk assessment if you have a vehicle or logistics depot. If you’re a big or national company, it’s not good enough to have a generic risk assessment; it needs to be site specific because every location is going to have its own peculiarities, its own layout, and its own infrastructure, which all mean that the risk assessment has to be specific to that site. That is key. When you come to a management level undertaking, it is all about making sure you are picking up the major risks and mitigating them properly.’

TWO PARTNERS in a construction firm have been fined for failing to adequately control the risk to its employees from exposure to vibration when using vibrating tools.

Employees of Roywood Contractors worked at various construction sites using vibrating tools without adequate control. As a result, an employee who had been working at the company for 12 years suffered significant ill-health from hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS).

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that on or before the 15 January 2020 the company failed to adequately assess the risk to employees from exposure to vibration.

They did not have appropriate measures to control exposure or place employees under suitable health surveillance to monitor their condition.

Andrew Hatto and Paul Kiff, trading as Roywood Contractors, of Tilford Road, Tilford, Farnham, Surrey pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 6 (1) and 7 (1) of the Control of Vibration Regulations 2005. They were each fined £1,150 and ordered to pay costs of £3,500 each at Basingstoke Magistrates’ Court on September 20.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Leah Sullivan said, “This was a case of the company completely failing to grasp the importance of hand-arm vibration syndrome health surveillance.

“If they had understood why health surveillance was necessary, it would have ensured that it had the right systems in place to monitor worker’s health and the employee’s condition would not have been allowed to develop to a severe and life altering stage.”

New legislation to allow a wider range of healthcare professionals to certify fit notes has been introduced by the UK government.

From 1 July 2022, nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists, and physiotherapists are all able to legally certify fit notes in addition to doctors.

This makes it easier to get advice certified by the most relevant healthcare professional.

The new legislation does not otherwise alter the purpose and function of the fit note, which will continue to support and empower better conversations about work and health between employers and workers. 

These professionals should be working within general practice or delivering NHS services as access to the new version of the fit note is limited to these settings.

Visit GOV.UK for the latest guidance on fit notes for employers and line managers.

HSE has further advice and guidance on managing sick leave and return to work. 

Bricklayers can be frequently exposed to high levels of dusts through many regular tasks. Mixing cement and mortar; emptying or disposing of cement bags; cutting, sawing, and drilling through bricks; and sweeping/cleaning floors and block-work can all generate airborne dust which is easily inhaled.

Close-up work, such as brick marking and carving, can also mean the worker is breathing very near to a dust source.

Find out more about the hazards surrounding different construction workers and how best to control by contacting us ohteam@hawkeshealth.com  or Telephone 0800 193 6222.

an employer, is required by law to protect employees, and others, from harm.

To meet this requirement, employers will need to complete a risk assessment to assess the risks posed by your work practices and implement identified control measures.

Where the risk assessment identified the need for tight-fitting RPE  to protect against the inhalation of hazardous substances in workplace air, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the RPE will protect the wearer.

The Approved Code of Practice for the Control of substances hazardous to health regulations 2002 requires that tight fitting RPE should be face fit tested by a competent individual as part of the selection process and to ensure there is an adequate seal between the selected RPE and the wearer’s face.  

Face fit testing is important because if the RPE doesn’t fit correctly, the protection provided to the wearer will be greatly reduced and may lead to ill health or even put the RPE wearer’s life in danger.

When conducting a face fit test, and where tight-fighting RPE is used, to achieve a good seal between the tight-fitting respirator and the wearer’s face, the wearer will need to be clean shaven Face fit tests should not be conducted if there is any hair growth between the wearers skin and face-piece sealing surface, this includes, stubble beard growth, beard, moustache, sideburns, or a low hairline. If the respirator has an exhalation valve, hair within the sealed mask area should not impinge upon or contact the valve.

Being clean-shaven when wearing tight-fitting RPE prevents inward leakage of contaminated air from around the edges of the face seal being breathed into the lungs. It is also very important that the RPE is put on correctly and checked for a good fit every time it is put on.

All employers should note that under health and safety law, employers cannot require workers to be clean shaven; this is because alternative RPE to tight fitting respirators are available and can be used instead.

If you, as an employer, require further help or advice and/or face testing to be undertaken contact us: Email ohteam@hawkeshealth.com OR phone us 0800 193 6222

It is essential all foreseeable workplace health risks posed throughout the life cycle of your  job activities are identified and adequately controlled.

Having suitable and sufficient risk assessment is an important part of protecting the health of the workforce and will aid compliance with relevant legislation such as the Health and Safety at Work etc., Act 1974.

Health Risk assessment is defined as “the identification of health hazards in the workplace and the subsequent assessment of risk to health.” The assessment takes account of existing and proposed control measures. Additional controls and specific health surveillance requirements will also be identified and implemented as necessary.

Before you can demonstrate that health hazards are adequately controlled, you first need to identify them and then assess the risk associated with each. 

The Health Risk Assessment process involves inspecting your workplace and observing all work activities carried out within it. Workers are generally grouped by job descriptions to establish similar health exposure profiles and interviews are carried out to gain a full understanding of the potential health hazards.

An assessment is then made of the hazards based on the information gathered to ascertain the level of risk from each and if existing controls provide adequate protection. Practical recommendations are made to address any shortfalls in current controls.

A more in-depth health risk assessment can also be undertaken where recognized analytical measurement techniques are employed to gather accurate exposure data on the different hazards in the workplace.

All Reports are followed up with in-depth feedback and discussion and a prioritised action plan.  

For further information email ohteam@hawkeshealth.com or tele[phone 0800 193 6222.

The Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training programme was first developed to train the public in providing help to adults with mental ill-health problems. Recently there has been an increase in undertaking MHFA training in workplace settings.

As the regulator for workplace health and safety, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) wishes to understand the strength of the available evidence on the effectiveness of MHFA in the workplace. A rapid scoping evidence review was undertaken that considered three research questions on the impact, influence and application of MHFA training in workplaces.

A number of knowledge gaps have been identified in this evidence review that mean it is not possible to state whether MHFA training is effective in a workplace setting. There is a lack of published occupationally-based studies, with limited evidence that the content of MHFA training has been considered for workplace settings. There is consistent evidence that MHFA training raises employees’ awareness of mental ill health conditions. There is no evidence that the introduction of MHFA training in workplaces has resulted in sustained actions in those trained, or that it has improved the wider management of mental ill-health.

HSE report concerning this can read by the following this URL link:

https://www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrpdf/rr1135.pdf

The fibre mats contained within catalytic converters (and diesel particulate filters) can contain hazardous fibres. Refractory Ceramic Fibres (RCF) are classified as a Category 1B carcinogen and end of life catalytic converters should therefore be treated as hazardous waste. 

This means that suppliers and users must be aware that products contain RCF when selling on or sending for recycling (extraction of precious metals). Without testing, large numbers of converters containing RCF could be sent for recycling or sold on to third parties without the appropriate precautions being taken.

For more information contact our occupational hygiene team ohteam@hawkeshealth.com OR Telephone 0800 193 6222 Menu Option 3

Further general information can also be found at :

https://www.hsl.gov.uk/online-ordering/analytical-services-and-assays/fibres/catalytic-converters?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_name=&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term=

What is the best way to introduce a workplace drugs and alcohol testing policy?

Drugs and alcohol misuse in the workplace may seem a sensitive subject, but with more than a quarter of employers disciplining a member of their workforce for drug and alcohol related abuse in the past two years, it is something more employers should be thinking about.

Before implementing any drug and alcohol testing processes, employers need to ask: “What is the policy of tests trying to achieve?” If drug or alcohol use is going to cause a risk to the health and safety of any employees or others, then it would be worth considering.

Can employers test whomever they want, when they want?

Simply put, no. Employers must ensure that the staff being tested have given their consent. Consent may be given if the requirement for drugs tests is incorporated into the contract of employment and/or the employee handbook that contains a contractual right to test.

Tests must be carried out completely randomly. If certain groups or individuals are approached for testing more often than others, this may leave the company at risk of discrimination claims. The only way this may be permitted is if this would be justified by the nature of the individual or group roles.

Employers should also limit the number of employees that need to be tested.

What should employers be cautious of?

Employers need to be aware that all tests should be carried out strictly in accordance with the instructions accompanying the test kits. Although this may sound like an obvious point, some tests are designed to be simple enough to be carried out by anyone, whereas others require certain training. If an individual carries out the test where they have not been trained, this leaves employers open to criticism.

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