Health & Safety Update July We know how difficult it can be to keep up to date with the latest health and safety revelations from the courtroom. With hundreds of court cases around the country on a monthly basis, charges and outcomes can be difficult to track. Thankfully, we’ve condensed all of the essential health & safety cases from the last month, so you can take a look at them in one place. HSE Farm Inspections in 2019
Farmers are being told they must pay closer attention to how they manage workplace risk or face serious penalties. The HSE have
announced that they plan to carry out unannounced visits to hundreds of farms throughout the UK. The inspections will review Health and Safety standards on farms.
HSE statistics show that in 2017/18 there were 33 deaths in the UK’s agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors:
* 8 deaths were caused by a person being fatally injured by an animal, * 6 deaths were caused by being struck by moving vehicles, * 5 deaths due to being trapped by something collapsing, * 4 deaths due to being struck by an object, * 3 deaths due to falls from height, * 3 deaths due to contact with electricity, * 2 deaths due to slips, trips and falls on the same level, * 1 death due to contact with machinery, * 1 death due to drowning.
The agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors have an injury rate which is 6 times higher than the construction industry. The HSE also estimates that the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors have 13,000 non-fatal injuries each year and 17,000 cases of ill health, especially lung disease and musculoskeletal disorders.
HSE Mild Steel Welding Fume Safety Alert
Following new scientific evidence that all welding fumes including mild steel welding fumes can cause cancer, the HSE have raised control standards for welding fumes which is detailed in their latest
The control requirements are:
Indoor welding tasks require the use engineering controls such as Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV). If LEV is unable to control exposure, then Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) is also required. Outdoor welding requires the use of RPE. Welding fumes increase lung cancer risk
Occupational exposure to welding fumes increases the risk of lung cancer, regardless of the type of steel welded, the welding method (arc versus gas welding) and independent of exposure to asbestos or tobacco smoke. This is the main finding of a meta-analysis of 37 previously published studies. The increased risk persisted regardless of the time period studied, geographic location, study design, occupational setting, assessment method and histological subtype.
Towards a national health and work strategy
The Health and Safety Executives’ new
Health and Work Strategy is based on an up-to-date assessment of workplace health priorities and this evidence search seeks to identify research priorities to support the new strategy. Four exercises were carried out, including two web-based questionnaires of younger workers and occupational health professionals, focus groups and tele-depth interviews with health and safety professionals. The highest rated internal priorities for future research and intervention activities identified were: mesothelioma, lung cancer, COPD, musculoskeletal disorder, hearing loss, stress, asthma and hand-arm vibration. Generic issues identified by the research into priorities included ageing and work, obesity, new technologies and ethnicity and workforce culture and ethnicity. Shift work and heart disease
Ischaemic heart disease (IHD) is the leading cause of death in many parts of the world and this meta-analysis supports previous evidence demonstrating a positive dose-response relationship between shift work duration and IHD risk. For example, the analysis of 21 articles (covering 19,782 IHD cases) shows that each year’s increase in shift work is associated with a 0.9% increase in the risk of IHD.
Night work and miscarriage
This study of 22,744 Danish women provides further evidence that night work during pregnancy may increase the risk of miscarriage, and suggests a threshold level of two night-shifts a week. For example, women who had two or more night shifts had an increased risk of miscarriage after week eight of their pregnancy compared with women not working nights. The cumulative number of night shifts worked between weeks three and 21 of the pregnancy increased the risk in a dose-dependent pattern.
Protecting staff with workplace health surveillance It is essential that employers adopt robust and legally compliant health surveillance programmes to protect their staff. Jenny Mason explains.
Delivering a health surveillance programme to workers exposed to workplace hazards, and to those at risk of developing occupationally induced diseases and conditions, is a fundamental and integral part of any OH service. Employers do not always recognise the legal requirements of their duty of care under s.2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act (1974), namely that employees have the right to believe that attending work will not be harmful to them and that the employer is able to ensure (at a mutually agreed level) that their health is protected while they are at work.
The legislation is clear and directs the employer to its responsibility in making suitable and sufficient risk assessments of any health and safety hazards of which their employees could be exposed to while they are at work (Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999: reg.3).
When the risk assessment identifies that a hazardous substance cannot be eliminated or a hazardous task cannot be performed in an alternative manner that would prevent the risk of injury or an occupationally induced disease or disorder, employees are often protected through the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE), although in the hierarchy of control measures this should be the last resort (Health and Safety Executive guidance, L25).
Regulation 4 of the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations (2002) states that every employer shall ensure that suitable PPE is provided to its employees who may be exposed to a risk to their health or safety while at work, except where such risk has been adequately controlled by other means that are equally or more effective.
The only reliable method for establishing whether or not health is being affected by the hazard is by monitoring and assessing the employees exposed to such hazards through adequate and appropriate health surveillance programmes.
When to start a surveillance programme
Section 6 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999) states that health surveillance should be introduced when a risk assessment has indicated that there is a requirement or that it meets the criteria as listed in the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) approved code of practice associated with the risk.
It goes on to say that health surveillance is important for:
detecting ill-health effects at an early stage, so employers can introduce better controls to prevent them getting worse; providing data to help employers evaluate health risks; enabling employees to raise concerns about how work affects their health; highlighting lapses in workplace control measures, therefore providing invaluable feedback to the risk assessment; and providing an opportunity to reinforce training and education of employees – for example, on the potential effects on their health and the use of protective equipment.
When a risk assessment indicates that employees’ health could be affected following exposure to a workplace hazard, health surveillance programmes are able to detect clinical signs of occupationally induced diseases, allow early diagnosis and prevent further ill-health effects from developing.
It is essential that employers have a robust health surveillance policy, which has been agreed with employees. It should state clearly why the surveillance is required, what action will be considered in the event of the employee being unable to continue working with a specific hazard – for example, redeployment within the company to an alternative area of work – and the consequences of non-compliance with the policy.
When to conduct an assessment
The frequency of health surveillance monitoring is determined by the risk assessment, as this identifies the degree of exposure levels. Health surveillance conducted at the commencement of employment or exposure to the hazard is sensible.
This allows a baseline to be established and identifies any personal contributing factors that could increase an employee’s risk of developing any conditions.
Consideration of lifestyle activities and any pre-existing health conditions should be explored. When the assessment identifies that an employee has an increased risk of the condition developing, the employer should consider increasing the frequency of health assessments.
A standardised method of delivering health surveillance is essential, allows a consistent approach and reduces the risk of subjectivity when interpreting the results. Clinicians delivering this service should have appropriate training and ensure that the methodology used in the assessment process is consistent throughout.
Identified changes in an employee’s health should be investigated further, and when a definitive diagnosis is needed then more specialist advice should be sought.
Testing and reporting
It is often necessary to conduct skin-prick testing for respiratory sensitising agents to identify an allergenic response, or thermal and vibrotactile perception threshold tests to confirm the presence of HAVS – particularly if subsequent legal action is possible (Ormiston, 2013).
Biological monitoring is a method often adopted in measuring the level of exposure an employee may have been subjected to, and should always be analysed by laboratories with recognised quality assurances (Smedley et al, 2013).
Although it can be a useful tool in supporting the health surveillance programmes by demonstrating the effectiveness of the provided protection, it should not be undertaken lightly – it is invasive and consideration should be given to the ethical issues involved (Westerhold et al, 2004).
Whenever possible, it may be sensible to conduct a health surveillance assessment when an employee is leaving the company. This is of particular importance when noise-induced hearing loss monitoring programmes have been implemented.
If an employee has demonstrated that their level of hearing was at a recorded level upon leaving the business, it would be difficult to imply blame later if they were to subsequently develop noise-induced hearing loss.
In practical terms, it is often difficult to ensure that the employee attends such an assessment, so the requirement to do so should be included in the employer’s health surveillance policy. The employee must provide informed consent to attend the assessment and to allow the report to be released to managers.
Reports issued to managers should only include the recommendations that an employee either remains medically able to continue working with the identified exposure(s) or must work with restrictions. Confidential medical information should not be included within the report and, when there is a need to provide managers with more detailed information, it must be with the employee’s full consent.
Information recorded in an employee’s electronic or paper health surveillance records must comply with the Data Protection Act 2005, and nurses must comply with the Nursing and Midwifery Council guidance on record keeping.
In some instances, there is a legal requirement to keep health surveillance records for 40 years from the date of the last entry. Records are retained for this length of time as certain medical conditions can evolve many years after the exposure to the substance. For example, an employee subjected to asbestos exposure may not develop progressive symptoms of the disease until later life, and claims for personal injuries and damages may consequently be instigated many years after the initial exposure.
Our experienced team of specialist consultants come from a variety of backgrounds and are members of professional bodies such as IOSH and IIRSM, giving them both expert knowledge and industry experience. They are available around the clock to provide a security net for your business, ensuring you have all the correct
management systems in place. Think your health and safety needs an update? Speak to one of our consultants today on 08450 50 40 60