October 2019 Health & Safety Updates
Our Health & Safety Manager, Wayne Dunning, gives his opinion on this month’s biggest health & safety stories:
No H&S changes with Brexit “Don’t worry. Your duties to protect the health & safety of people affected by your work will not change under Brexit. The HSE have made minor amendments to regulations to remove EU references but legal requirements will remain the same as they are now.” Taxi drivers are exposed to highest levels of diesel fumes
Kings College London researchers have found that taxi drivers experience the highest exposures to black carbon, an indicator of diesel engine fumes. The study, funded by IOSH, revealed that other professional drivers such as couriers, truck drivers, waste removal and emergency service workers are exposed to much less black carbon.
On average, taxi drivers have an exposure level of (6.5μg/m3), whilst emergency service workers had the lowest exposure level of (2.8 μg/m3). It’s hard to assume what accounts for the exposure level differences, however one assumption is that taxis tend to operate in the busiest and most polluted parts of London where ‘street canyons’ restrict the movement of air. “Diesel-powered vehicles that are running, stopped or slow moving produce diesel fume that can be inhaled by the driver, especially if the window is open or the vehicle is in a confined space, such as a tunnel. Over-exposure to these fumes can have health consequences that need to be minimised. “However, it is not just professional, inner city drivers who are exposed to excessive diesel fumes. The same applies to any vehicle operating in a warehouse, for example, a fork lift truck. “One tell-tale sign that your employee’s health is being affected is if there is sooty dust on the dashboard. If this sooty dust is present, then you know for certain there are harmful fumes in the air. Even if this dust isn’t present, we recommend you carry out a risk assessment as well as annual health surveillance to monitor the health of your employees.” UK government announces policy review on alcohol interlocks
With drink driving deaths at their highest in 2017 since 2009, the UK government is looking at the feasibility of adding the use of alcohol interlocks to drink-driver rehabilitation programmes. The policy review will focus on how to ensure that alcohol interlocks are both accessible and reliable. However, according to the Europearn Transport Safety Council (ETSC) there is already a good body of evidence from several countries showing that alcohol interlocks do cut re-offending rates. Additionally, the devices are commonplace in countries such as American and Denmark and require the driver to pass a breath test before they can start the vehicle.
“Alcohol interlocks are a great idea to stop drivers under the influence from operating a vehicle. It would also be a great idea to introduce onto heavy machinery or equipment in a bid to reduce workplace accidents and injury.” Teenage apprentice overcome by fumes in ‘acid room’
An alloy wheel repair company has been fined £32,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1718 after a 16 year old apprentice was overcome by fumes from a substance that contained toxic chemicals, including dichloremethane (DCM).
The apprentice was found unconscious in the ‘acid room’ where he was supposed to be retrieving wheels from a barrel filled with an alloy wheel stripping substance. Although PPE was issued, it was not properly maintained or efficient for the job. Additionally, the company had failed to properly risk assess the chemical stripping process and as a result, hadn’t implemented any control measures or training progammes. “There are many organisations that run the risk of damaging the health of their employees due to not properly conducting risk assessments or providing adequate PPE. “In this case, the apprentice inhaled DCM which can produce narcotic effects and at high concentrations, can also lead to death. Employers need to ensure that risk assessments, control measures and training programmes are in place and adhered to.” Care home fined after resident swallowed chlorine tablets
A care home has been fined £270,000 after it pleaded guilty to breaching s 3(1) and 33 (1)(a) of the Health & Safety at Work Act. A resident, who was suffering with Alzheimer’s, died after eating chlorine tablets that had been used as disinfectant and were left unattended in the care home. The resident sustained burns and blisters to his tongue as well as vomiting violently before he died of complications from aspiration pneumonia a week after the incident.
“Anyone handling potentially harmful substances must be vigilant in ensuring that they are not left unattended in any circumstances, especially when vulnerable persons can gain access to them. Suitable procedures need to be in place and then regularly checked to ensure they are being followed by everyone. Procedures need to include the usage, delivery, storage and disposal of the substances.” Heightened cancer risk from welding fume exposure
New evidence from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which has found the exposure to even mild steel welding fume can cause lung cancer and possible kidney cancer, has prompted the HSE to raise its control standards.
Mild steel welding fume is now classed as a human carcinogen and has prompted the regulator to issue a safety alert STSU1- 2019, which ramps up the HSE’s enforcement expectations. The HSE has informed employers that regardless of duration, it will no longer accept any welding undertaken without suitable exposure control measures in place. “Fumes, vapours, dusts or gasses should not be inhaled under any circumstance. Risk assessments need to be in place and where possible. suitable engineering controls that include the appropriate PPE and training of equipment.”