Dealing with sickness in the workplace – Guest article by ClockworkHR

Let’s face it – no one is immune to every bug and virus known to man.  It is inevitable that at some point members of staff will need to stay off work due to sickness or ill health.
The majority of times a couple of days rest and recuperation is all that is needed. Your valued staff member is soon back with you, bright eyed and bushy tailed.
However, what do you do if a member of staff is continually taking time off or perhaps has been off ill for a prolonged period?

What does the law say?

In the UK if an employee is off work due to illness for more than 7 days, they must obtain a “fit note” (also known as a “sick note”) from a GP or a hospital doctor.
The 7 days includes non-working days such as weekends and bank holidays.
The employee should provide the fit note to their employer in order to receive the appropriate sick pay.
The fit note could say “not fit for work” or “may be fit for work” with suggestions of adjustments. The latter puts the responsibility onto the employer to offer adjustments or changes that would make it easier for the employee to return to work. However, these are not compulsory.
Long term sick – this term applies to an employee who is off work for more than 4 consecutive weeks.

How should you approach the matter?

Approaching any employee about their sickness absence should be done with sensitivity.  Especially if the reason for their absence is because of a mental health issue.
Being pushy or unsympathetic can often make them feel worse, which in turn could lead to more time off. Try to find ways to help them feel reassured about coming back to work.  Perhaps by offering reduced hours or amended duties.
At the same time if you suspect an employee’s reasons for absence are not genuine or feel that an excessive amount of time off is being taken it is advisable to keep accurate absence records and monitor an employee’s sick leave. An employer may invoke the disciplinary or capability procedure to deal with the sickness absence.  They will need to obtain medical information along the way.

What can be done to help the employee?

Where an employee has been off long term, keep in touch with them. Have regular chats and discuss ways they could be accommodated.
Consider a phased return to work or, if reasonable, offer flexible or part time working.
If an employee is classed as disabled, the employer is legally obliged to make reasonable, necessary adjustments to enable the employee to return to work.

Can you dismiss an employee?

An employer can choose to dismiss an employee for long term ill health and/or excessive absence.
However, caution should be taken, advice should be obtained and other options explored before taking this step. An employee may decide to take their case to an employment tribunal if they think they’ve been unfairly dismissed or discriminated against.

If you need help with your HR get in touch with ClockworkHR

Sarah Seastron
01756 790124
info@clockworkhr.co.uk
http://www.clockworkhr.co.uk/

Warehouse Health and Safety

There are many causes of warehouse accidents. The following will give you some idea of the areas to consider.

Vehicles

They are many kinds of vehicles operating in warehouses, such as pallet and forklift trucks.  All drivers should be trained in vehicle use, also warehouse safety procedures should be in place and followed. Where possible, pedestrians and vehicles should be segregated.   All vehicles should be serviced regularly.

Floors

Slips and trips cause many accidents. Floors should be kept dry and clear of obstacles like boxes and trailing wires. All spills should be cleaned up immediately and signage put in place until the floor is dry.  Consider using anti-slip flooring and make sure that all areas are well lit.

Equipment and Signage

Use warning signs where necessary, especially around dangerous machinery or toxic substances. Workers should be supplied with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) where hazards cannot be fully removed.

Training

Workers should be trained in the use of equipment and manual handling.  All workers should be made aware of the safety procedures in place in the warehouse, which should also be covered in the induction procedures when new workers start.  Everyone should also be aware of all procedures in place in the event of a fire.

Handling Stock

All workers should be trained in manual handling and where possible loads should be moved by mechanical means. Consideration should be made to where products are stored e.g. heavy loads should be on the bottom of racks. Badly stored products end up falling and injuring people.

Racking

Racks should be competently fitted and fixed to prevent them from collapsing.  Protection should also be put in place where possible to prevent damage from moving vehicles. Racks should never be climbed on.

 

If you need help in your warehouse, please get in touch or have a look at our support packages.

3D Printing

3D printing – Managing the Risks

Evidence is now emerging about the health and safety risks associated with 3D printing.  There are various 3D printing technologies, we are just looking at Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) here. FFF printing is a process of laying down melted plastic filament in a series of layers. The adjacent layers cool and bond together before the next layer is deposited.

Why you should take notice of this advice?

Although this technology is relatively new published studies suggest that filament combustion products may present a risk to health when inhaled. Individuals most at risk include those predisposed to developing asthma and those with pre-existing asthma and breathing difficulties. Also the risk of inhalation of particulate and chemical fumes will be increased if you are spending long periods near the printer during its operation. Higher printer nozzle temperatures produce more emissions. Brief exposure to these fumes may trigger symptoms for some individuals. Individuals who spend long periods using 3D printers may have longer term health risks.

What does the Law require?

The law requires you to control, so far as is reasonably practicable, risks within your business that can affect workers or visitors to your premises. Employers are required to ensure that exposure is prevented, or  controlled, under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations.  A COSHH risk assessment will highlight the risks and control measures needed.

Where should 3D printers be located?

You will need to control your employees’ exposure to the combustion products.  You can start this by considering where the printer will be located.  The printer needs space for working around it; above all the room needs to be well ventilated. It should also have local exhaust ventilation (LEV) fitted as an exposure control cabinet.   A fan and filters need to be fitted to remove small particles and organic emissions from the melting of the filaments.

Should a desktop printer be enclosed?

Desktop 3D printers should have an exposure control cabinet already fitted.  This will reduce emissions and prevent injuries from moving and hot parts. (Exposure control cabinets can also help to maintain the temperature environment of the printing space and improve the quality and success of printing.) Some desktop 3D printers are of an open frame design. Exposure control cabinets should be placed over open frame printers if other LEV systems are not available .

Choosing Suitable Filaments

There are many different types of filament material.  You need to know what the filament is made from, so you should only use products that come with a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).  This will list the constituents of the filaments and the products produced when the filament is used in the printer. Furthermore the MSDS is essential for doing your COSHH assessment. When possible use PLA to reduce the risk from fumes and particulate emissions. Reduce the printer nozzle temperature to the lower melt range specified by the filament supplier. Avoid using more hazardous filaments such as ABS. All types of enclosed printers, or exposure control cabinets, will take time to clear emissions once the printing has finished.  The enclosure should not be opened after printing until an appropriate clearance time has been allowed.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Only competent individuals should maintain 3D printers. Some printers have no user serviceable parts.

Exposure to contaminants on the printer surfaces can occur, as well as from chemical products used to clean printers. Chemicals or materials used for cleaning may interact with other materials increasing the risk of chemical emissions. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for suitable cleaning processes and chemicals.

Moving and heated parts can be easily damaged, so filaments should only be replaced by a competent individual.

Also, guards and enclosures must be replaced when cleaning and maintenance work is completed.

Finally, the filters should be checked and changed regularly where an exposure control cabinet is used, as this qualifies as an LEV system.

Further information

The HSE website contains further information on COSHH –

https://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/ and https://www.hse.gov.uk/toolbox/harmful/coshh.htm

If you need help with COSHH or any other Health & Safety issues, get in touch and we can discuss the options for you, or have a look at our support packages here.

What is carbon monoxide?

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, poisonous gas produced by incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels. This includes gas, oil, wood and coal. Carbon-based fuels are safe to use.  It is only when the fuel does not burn properly that excess CO is produced, which is poisonous.  Blood is prevented from supplying oxygen to cells, tissues, and organs when CO enters the body.

First of all, CO cannot be sensed using human senses of smell, taste, sight or touch. It can kill in between one and three minutes with less than 2% of CO in the air . As a result seven people die every year from CO poisoning, according to the HSE.  These are caused by gas appliances and flues that haven’t been properly installed and maintained or that are not properly ventilated.   Even when levels are not high enough to kill, if they have been breathed in over a long period of time there can be serious harm to health. In extreme cases paralysis and brain damage can be caused as a result of prolonged exposure to CO at low levels.

What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

Initially the early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can be confused with food poisoning, viral infections, flu or simple tiredness. The symptoms to look out for are:

  • headaches or dizziness
  • breathlessness
  • nausea
  • loss of consciousness
  • tiredness
  • pains in the chest or stomach
  • erratic behaviour
  • visual problems
How to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Make sure all appliances are properly installed by competent people according to the manufacturer’s instructions. By law only Registered Gas Engineers (RGEs) can work on a gas appliance. The Gas Safe Register (GSR) is licensed by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).
  • Above all appliances must be maintained regularly by a competent person.
  • Ensure adequate ventilation so that there is enough oxygen at the flame to produce CO2 not CO.
  • Make sure chimneys and flues are swept and checked by a sweep belonging to a recognised trade association. Appliances that don’t have flues can be extremely dangerous.
  • Use a CO alarm/detector to EN50291, make sure that you buy one from a reputable supplier.

Landlords are legally required to obtain a gas safety check and certificate but sadly there is no mandatory requirement to test the gas appliances for CO. However, most gas engineers do test using a flue gas analyser and we suggest tenants and landlords ask for this and the measurement found, ideally in writing.

Sadly, installers of appliance burning other fuels such as gas, oil and wood are not required to be registered by law. Data shows so far that the risks of CO are higher with regard to the other fuels.

More information can be found here.

Welding Fumes – Guest article by Craig Batty of Workplace Exposure

Change in Enforcement Expectations for Welding Fumes

In February this year, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) announced a significant “change in enforcement expectations” regarding welding fumes.

It comes as a result of new scientific evidence which shows that exposure to all welding fumes can cause lung cancer.

The latest change in regulation means that all industries must adequately control exposure to welding fumes.  No matter the duration or location of the work.

What are the Latest Scientific Findings?

Findings from the International Agency for Research on Cancer have shown that exposure to mild steel welding fumes can cause lung cancer, and possibly kidney cancer. The findings have led to the reclassification of mild steel welding fumes as a human carcinogen.

What does this Mean for the Welding Industry?

Most significantly the findings have led to the conclusion that there is no safe level of exposure to any form of welding fumes. This means that general ventilation alone will no longer be considered to be an adequate control measure.  The only exception will be if undertaking sporadic or occasional low-intensity TIG or resistance spot welding. A combination of good general ventilation and suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE) is permissible if undertaking other types of welding sporadically or occasional where LEV is not practicable.

Instead, suitable engineering controls such as Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) machinery, will need to be in place for regular high-intensity indoor welding activities. Such control measures will have the additional benefit of controlling human exposure to manganese. Manganese is present in mild steel welding fumes.  Inhaling these fumes can lead to long term neurological damage, with symptoms comparable to those of Parkinson’s Disease.

However, it is essential to ensure your chosen control method adequately reduces human exposure to fumes.

The new guidelines state, that if LEV fails to control exposure sufficiently, it needs to be supplemented by respiratory protective equipment (RPE).  This should be worn at all times when welding is being carried out – both in and outdoors.

All welders need to be fully trained with the correct usage of these control methods, before carrying out any welding work.

What do Employers Need to Do?

  • Ensure adequate control methods (e.g. LEV) are in situ to control exposure to welding fumes. LEV testing can help to determine whether or not your control methods are working correctly, and if they are indeed fit for their intended purpose.
  • Ensure all welding activities, regardless of duration or location, have suitable control methods in place. This includes outdoor work.
  • Should other methods fail to adequately control exposure to welding fumes, suitable RPE must be provided, along with full training.
  • Check that all controls are working correctly, being correctly used and are being suitably maintained. Employers also need to ensure that the controls are examined and tested when necessary.
  • Ensure all RPE being used is subject to an RPE programme. An RPE programme shows that you – as an employer – are able to correctly use RPE and train others on how to do so.

This news from HSE comes a week after world cancer day, and the new measures are being welcomed by healthcare professionals and industry experts.

HSE COSHH Essentials leaflet WL3 Welding Fume Control has been updated and provides information on suitable LEV system and when it should be used.

Whilst the findings are alarming, the good news is that action can quickly be taken to ensure your business offers a safe and healthy working environment for its employees.

At Workplace Exposure, we can work with you to ensure your business is in line with the latest regulatory changes. We are able to provide you with access to the relevant information and services to ensure your workplace is fully compliant at all times.

Our approach

To get in touch with Workplace Exposure, either give us a call on 0800 689 4386, or fill in our enquiry form to discuss your monitoring or consultancy requirements.

We’ll then provide you with a no obligation proposal, we can often give an initial idea of fees whilst we discuss your needs.

Once you’ve accepted our proposal we can then schedule the work.

Following our site visit we’ll provide you with a comprehensive report giving you advice, recommendations and control measures where appropriate.

Implement the outcomes for compliance and a happier healthier workplace.

Work Related Stress

Work Related Stress

Work related stress is how you feel when you have demands at work that exceed how much you feel you can cope with. Over 11 million working days are lost each year because of work related stress, and stress can contribute to conditions such as anxiety or depression. Read more

Display Screen Equipment (DSE)

Display Screen Equipment

Prolonged working with computers can be associated with neck, shoulder, back or arm pain, as well as with fatigue and eyestrain.

Research has found that a high proportion of DSE workers report aches, pains or eye discomfort. These aches and pains are sometimes called Upper Limb Disorders (ULDs). These can include a range of medical conditions such as RSI (Repetitive Strain Injuries).  In addition nine in ten British businesses are failing to meet their legal responsibilities to protect their workforce’s sight, according to a new study commissioned by the charity Eye Health UK and Vision Express Opticians. Read more

Asbestos Regulations

Guest article by Gary McKendrick of Omega Asbestos Consulting

Over in the world of asbestos: So this month, on the 21st November, sees Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations celebrate its 17th birthday of existence.

Good old Regulation 4, The Duty to Manage Asbestos in Non-domestic premises.

It was laid out in the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations (CAWR) 2002 on 21st November 2002.  It was given an 18 month lead-in period, so coming into force on 21st May 2004.

So 15.5 years ago it became law for all non-domestic premises, built before the year 2000, to have an assessment for the presence of asbestos and to have an Asbestos Management Plan, including a register of Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs).

Yet how many still don’t?

There are an estimated 2 million homes and 500,000 commercial premises in the UK which still contain asbestos materials.  And there’s a very high percentage of them still not compliant; to the extent that many commercial clients still have taken zero action.

And when it comes to private domestics, though Regulation 4 may not formally apply, there is still a duty for tradesmen to assess all risks to themselves and others; this includes the risk of asbestos.

So here lies an information and awareness issue. And how will the common DIY enthusiast fare?

The cost of some awareness training and then annual refresher training is not a huge annual investment; less than £50 a year even, in fact I’ve seen some on-line training advertised for as little as £14. It might not be the best but I’d say something is definitely better than nothing.

Other common issues are:
  • Surveys done many years ago and never looked at since; meaning
  • Remedial recommendations (to make something safe) have been ignored
  • No condition checks (i.e. Re-inspection Surveys) have been done
  • Wrongly thinking a survey alone makes you fully compliant

Rather than seeing asbestos as being an overhead, a cost, annoying, frustrating, unnecessary, snake oil, or whatever excuse you’re hiding behind –

Why not see the benefits of being fully compliant, which means:
  • You and your people are protected
  • You are ensuring a safe working environment
  • Your reputation is protected (the one you’ve spent years building)
  • You are avoiding any investigations and prosecution
  • Legacy issues of potential future claims from exposure incidents are avoided
  • And finally, you rest easy at night knowing you’re doing it right and you have credible, trusted expert support from pleasant people (you use Omega of course!)
If you can’t answer these simple questions with a confident Yes, then you need help.

Do you know enough?,

are you doing enough? and,

are you fully compliant?

Any ‘No’s’ mean you’re a higher risk of exposure incidents which clearly goes against the intended outcome of complying with the law which is, of course, prevent exposure and reduce/prevent deaths. Sadly there are still 5500 people in the UK who die every YEAR from asbestos disease.

At Omega, we offer a FREE and simple Asbestos MOT to help guide you to full compliance.

A good expert on your side always keeps you right.

Gary McKendrick, Omega Asbestos

https://www.omega-asbestos.co.uk/

Fire Emergency Plans & Procedures

By Chris McGrath

Health and Safety Law require workplaces to plan for emergencies.

Workplaces should carry out risk assessments that should identify foreseeable emergency events, the main risk as regards emergency situations is that of fire, but some workplaces may identify spills, gas leaks as foreseeable events.

Workplaces will then need to develop appropriate procedures for serious and imminent danger including danger areas.

People are more likely to respond reliably if they:

  • are well trained and competent
  • take part in regular and realistic practice, like a practice drill
  • have clearly agreed, recorded and rehearsed plans, actions and responsibilities

Planning for an emergency helps you to:

  • Minimise the time taken for the emergency services to reach you
  • Minimise the risk to people if there is an emergency
  • Include environmental and other emergencies in your plan.

Points to include in emergency procedures:

  • Consider what might happen and how the alarm will be raised. Don’t forget night and shift working, weekends and times when the premises are closed, eg holidays
  • Plan what to do, including how to call the emergency services.
  • Decide where to go to reach a place of safety or to get rescue equipment.
  • Are there enough emergency exits for everyone to escape quickly, keep emergency doors and escape routes unobstructed and clearly marked
  • Nominate competent people to take control
  • You must train everyone in emergency procedures
  • Don’t forget people with disabilities, physical or mental impairments they may need assistance to respond to an emergency
  • Where you share your workplace with another employer you should consider whether your emergency plans and procedures should be co-ordinated.

Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE)

Many workers wear respirators or breathing apparatus (RPE) to protect their health in the workplace. There are a few different types of RPE and it should all be adequate and suitable. Adequate means it should be right for the hazard and it should reduce exposure to the level required to protect the wearer’s health. Suitable means it is right for the wearer, task and environment, such that the wearer can work freely and without additional risks due to the RPE.

As RPE is a form of PPE, therefore the employer must supply RPE to whoever needs it in his workforce.

Work activities may result in harmful substances contaminating the air in the form of dust, mist, gas or fume. For example:

  • Cutting a material such as stone, concrete or wood
  • Using a liquid containing volatile solvents
  • Handling a dusty powder

Workers may also need to work in areas where oxygen levels are low, for example: confined spaces, such as a chamber or tank. RPE is designed to protect the wearer from these hazards.

What is RPE?

There are 2 main types of RPE, these are respirators and breathing apparatus. Respirators are filtering devices, they use filters to remove contaminants from the air being breathed in. They can be either non-powered, relying on the wearer’s breathing to draw air through the filter or they can be powered, using a motor to pass air through the filter. Breathing apparatus needs a supply of breathing-quality air from an independent source e.g. air cylinder or an air compressor.

There are 2 main styles that the RPE comes in, tight-fitting facepieces (masks) and loose-fitting facepieces. Tight-fitting facepieces rely on having a good seal with the wearers face. A face fit test should be carried out to ensure the RPE can protect the wearer. Loose-fitting facepieces rely on enough clean air being provided to the wearer to prevent contaminant leaking in (only available as powered respirators or BA). Examples are hoods, helmets, visors, blouses and suits.

Selecting the correct RPE

Remember RPE should be the last resort. You can do a number of other things before RPE for controlling measures.

When you think you could be: Breathing in contaminated air despite other controls in place (extraction systems) or when there is short-term or infrequent exposure and using other controls is impractical you will need to choose some form of RPE to protect you.

To choose the correct RPE that will protect the wearer you will need a basic understanding of the hazardous substance and how much is in the air, the form of the substance (e.g. gas, particle, vapour), the type of work being carried out and any specific wearer requirements such as other PPE or a need for spectacles. If you are ever struggling to choose the right RPE for the task you’re doing, a quick visit to the HSE website would be a great help.

Once you have selected the correct type of RPE, you will need to make sure that it is being used correctly across your workforce. To ensure it is used correctly, you must make sure:

  • The RPE fits and is suitable for the task and wearer
  • You should also conduct a fit test for each wearer for each type of tight-fitting RPE they use
  • The RPE should work with any other PPE the user wears
  • The wearers should be trained in how to use and they should be supervised
  • Each device should be maintained as per the manufacturers’ instructions
  • All RPE should be stored properly

 

Face Fit Testing

If you are using RPE with tight-fitting facepieces you should make sure each wearer has a fit test. You can use the fit test as a training opportunity, as it allows you to highlight to the wearer the consequences of poor fit and improper use on the effectiveness of the RPE device. It is also good practice to have a system to ensure repeat fit testing is carried out on a regular basis. This is especially important when RPE is used frequently as a primary means of exposure control, e.g. annual testing for workers involved in licensed asbestos removal. If there are any changes to a person’s face through, for example, weight loss/gain, scars etc, a repeat fit test will be necessary.

RPE fit testing should be conducted by a competent person – you should take steps to ensure that person who carries out the fit test is appropriately trained, qualified and experienced, and is provided with appropriate information to undertake each particular task.