This month we have a guest article by Chris McGrath providing an overview of the Draft Building Safety Bill that will aim to improve building and fire safety, so that people will be, and will feel, safer in their homes.
Why this Bill?
On 14th June 2017 a fire broke out at the Grenfell Tower, a 24 storey residential tower. Failures in the building’s design and maintenance caused the fire to spread at high speed. As a result there were 72 fatalities and 151 homes were lost. A major reform was needed.
The Scope of the Bill
It will cover all higher risk buildings. This will include all multi-occupied residential buildings, (new or existing) of 18 metres or more in height, or more than six storeys (whichever is reached first).
Expectations to improve safety and performance
The expectation is to reduce the risk of fires spreading across multiple dwellings. Also to reduce the risk of major fires. However, the proposals are not expected to have a material impact on the number of fires.
The Bill includes key new roles, functions and responsibilities
The Building Safety Regulator
- The Building Safety Regulator will introduce a better safety system. In addition they will be able to impose sanctions and regulations to ensure this happens.
- They will provide a more stringent regulatory framework to implement a stronger focus around building safety for developers and landlords.
- They will also instruct an industry-led competence committee, publish non-statutory advice and guidance for various sectors.
- The Regulator will also take enforcement action. They will be able to impose sanctions on the corporate bodies or building control companies that do not meet regulatory standards.
- Duty holders will implement a system in every building to ensure that the person, or entity, that creates a building safety risk is responsible for managing that risk.
- The building cycle will be split into gateways – phases of the building’s life – with different duty holders for different gateways. For example, the duty holder for the design phase of the build will be the principle designer. For the construction phase, it will be the principal contractor.
- The regulator will assess the gateway at each handover. A ‘golden thread of information’ will connect these different phases. This will include details about the original design and construction, as well as details on the changes and upgrades to the building during its life cycle.
- Once the building is occupied, the duty holder will become the accountable person. The accountable person is usually the building owner.
Accountable Person’s Responsibilities
- The Accountable Person will submit a Residents Engagement Strategy (which will include a complaints procedure) to the Building Safety Regulator. They will also listen and respond to concerns and ensure residents are heard.
- Their responsibilities will also include developing a Safety Case Report. This will be submitted to the Building Safety Regulator as part of application for a Building Assurance Certificate.
- In addition they will conduct and maintain a Safety Case Risk Assessment (on new and existing buildings). They will also appoint a Building Safety Manager to oversee it day to day.
This is a full building description that explains how the fire and structural risks in a building are being managed by the Building Safety Manager. It will include –
- An explanation and justification of the approach being taken to manage risks.
- A hazard and risk assessment.
- A summary of mitigation measures.
- The approach to risk management.
Building Safety Manager
- The Building Safety Manager will support the accountable person in the day-to-day management of the building. Above all they will ensure that safety standards are adhered to.
- They will also communicate the work that has taken place on the building to stakeholders. This will ensure that the building is meeting the regulator’s requirements. Also that it is on top of any advice or non-statutory guidance put in place by the regulator.
Cost to Leaseholder
Under the new plan, a new “building safety charge” will be set up for leaseholders. Fire Safety works are currently paid for through the service charge. This new charge will be separate to the service charge. The money will need to be held by the Freeholders in a separate account (held by a financial institution). This money will only be available for Fire Safety works.
If the freeholder has not provided a clear breakdown of costs, leaseholders will also be allowed to refuse payment if the charge is deemed “unreasonable”. However, under the new rules, leaseholders will be required to pay the fire safety charge within 28 days of when the bill was issued. They will be required to cover some of the new measures brought in under the bill. This will include items such as paying for a Building Safety Manager and the day-to-day management of the building.
- A Building Regulations Advisory Committee, to provide evidence-based guidance on new issues that emerge in the built environment sector.
- Also a new committee for industry competence. This will overcome the fragmented and inconsistent competence of workers and managers that currently exists in the building safety sector.
- In addition, a new residents panel will be put in place to ensure residents have a voice in the changes being made to building safety guidance. This will include residents of high-rise blocks and representative tenants groups.
New Homes Ombudsman
A New Homes Ombudsman will allow a better mechanism for new home owners to make complaints against developers about the quality of the construction. (There is currently no mechanism for new home owners to make these complaints.) The Ombudsman will work with developers to come up with a code of practice that could be used in relation to sales, marketing and standard and quality of workmanship.
The full details of the Bill can be found on the Government website.
If you wear a mask at work that relies on making a seal with your face then you need a face fit test.
Who should be tested?
All wearers of tight fitting face pieces e.g. respirators or compressed air breathing apparatus require a fit test.
Why wear high performance respiratory protective equipment, then compromise the protection given if the mask does not fit the wearer correctly?
Why do we need it?
To ensure that the protective mask you wear is suitable for your face profile in order to maximise protection against harmful airborne substances.
Recent research has shown that around 50% of RPE used does not offer the wearer the level of protection assumed. The major reason for this is that is simply does not fit.
What are the legal requirements?
The supporting guidance for COSHH, CLaW and CAW recommends face fit testing as a method of ensuring an adequate face seal.
The HSE may prosecute for not testing unless it can be proven that procedures meet or exceed the face fit testing protocol laid down in HSE guidance, OC 282/28.
What is Face Fit testing?
A face fit test is a simple test which checks whether a person’s mask fits their face shape and size.
When worn correctly RPE (respiratory protective equipment) should protect the wearer from airborne hazards (particulates, dusts, gases etc). As people come in all sorts of shapes and sizes it is unlikely that one particular type or size of RPE face piece will fit everyone. A face fit test will help ensure that the RPE selected is suitable for the wearer.
Morally we have a duty to ensure that workers go home safe and are not exposed to airborne hazards during their work.
Legally, face fit testing is a requirement of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations, the Control of Lead at Work Regulations and the Control of Asbestos Regulations. These regulations state that PPE must be “suitable” for its purpose. In this case it should protect the wearer from the airborne hazard.
Close fitting masks
All wearers of tight fitting or close fitting face pieces require a face fit test for each mask that they wear. The following are all defined as ‘close fitting’: full breathing apparatus masks (including positive pressure), escape set masks, powered respirators, re-usable half masks and disposable half masks.
When to do Face Fit testing
Ideally face fit testing should be carried out at mask selection stage. Employers will then ensure that the correct mask, models and sizes can be purchased. Repeat face fit testing should also be carried out on a regular basis. Typically this is every one, two or three years depending on risk. It could also be if the wearer loses or gains weight, has significant dental work, or gains scars, moles or other facial features where the mask seal meets the face.
There are two forms of face fit testing, qualitative and quantitative. Both result in matching an individual’s face shape with a compatible mask to ensure a tight seal is achieved. A face fit test is a simple 20 minute test.
- Used only for disposable and half face masks.
- The individual wears a hood over the head and shoulders and the tester sprays a bitter solution into the hood.
- The wearer carries out a series of exercises, such as turning the head from side to side.
- If the individual can taste the solution, there is a break in the mask’s seal.
- Used for all tight fitting respirators, including Full Face Masks.
- The mask is attached to a particle counting machine (a Portacount).
- The machine detects whether airborne particles are passing into the mask via a break in the seal.
- At the end of the test the machine will give a ‘pass’ or ‘fail’.
If you need any assistance with Face Fit testing, get in touch and we will be able to help you.
Air compressors are exceptionally versatile, supremely useful, and functionally essential to industries from automotive to pharmaceuticals. But they are only as valuable as they are safe. Safe operating and maintenance procedures ensure worker safety. They will also protect equipment, reduce downtime, increase productivity, and lower long-term operating and capital costs.
Compressed air can cause serious injury
Air compressors are powerful tools. When used incorrectly, they have the potential to cause serious damage to both workers and equipment. Overheated components can cause contact burns, while damaged or broken air hoses can result in serious bodily injury. Pressurised air can rupture the skin or even internal organs if directed at the body. Burst pressure tanks are liable to result in serious damage.
No amount of time and resources directed at injury prevention and equipment maintenance can ever exceed the costs incurred by serious safety incidents. Prudence demands the implementation of safe operating procedures for all compressed air applications.
Training is essential
First and foremost, it is important to thoroughly read and understand the owner’s manual for your compressed air system before using it. Workers who will be using the equipment should be provided with on-site training. Follow-up sessions should be scheduled as needed to make sure everyone is up to date on safety procedures. Workers should always wear appropriate protective equipment, including safety glasses or face shields along with adequate ear protection.
Keep equipment in a clearly visible area
Air compressors should be kept in a clearly visible area. Air tanks need to be positioned out in the open for easy inspection. Instructions for equipment use should be clearly displayed on the air system itself. The air intake should have access to a fresh air source. If you are operating indoors, you can increase air circulation with fans or other devices.
Ensure electrical safety
Electrical wires should be clean, unobstructed, and inspected for damage before the machine is turned on. Ensure that your machine is properly grounded. Improperly grounded machines can cause damage to electrical circuits, resulting in electrocution or fire.
Never point equipment at the face or body
When using an air hose with a blowgun, ensure that the nozzle is pointed in a safe direction, and that the trigger is not engaged. Air nozzles or air tools should never be pointed at the face or body. Hair and clothing should always be properly secured and kept away from tools.
Make sure that a shutoff valve is always within reach of operators. If anything goes wrong during operation, immediately cut off the air supply using the shutoff valve and address the issue before restarting the equipment.
Intake air usually contains pollutants and carbon monoxide and should never be inhaled without the proper filtration and monitoring equipment. Pressure gauges should be monitored regularly to ensure that the maximum working pressure of the air receiver is never exceeded.
Check air hoses regularly
Air hoses require attention, as damaged or broken hoses constitute significant safety hazards. Hose whipping, which occurs when a pressurized air hose breaks or pulls free from a fitting, can result in significant injury or damage. Whip-inhibiting devices should be placed along the coupling of a hose to avert this particular risk. Use standard or high-flow hose fittings instead of third-party ones, and regularly check to make certain they are well-secured. In addition to being a major safety hazard, loose or small-bore fittings can hinder the performance of your air tools or the machine.
All hoses and fittings should have a maximum pressure rating at or above that of the air compressor itself. Using hoses with inadequate pressure ratings could cause them to break during operation. Hoses should always be visibly labelled with the max pressure rating to ensure compliance.
Hoses should be kept clean of grease, oil, dirt, and debris. This will lengthen the life of the entire system. Hoses should be kept organised, out of the way of walkways, and should never be bent or kinked, during or after operation.
Service equipment regularly
Safe air compressor operating procedures should be followed during maintenance as well. Regular servicing and maintenance from your local authorised dealer is the best way to ensure your equipment is in proper working order. Your distributor can also ensure that the equipment is in compliance with Health and Safety regulations. Only trained personnel should change, replace, or adjust pressure-regulating equipment. These devices should be installed so that they cannot be removed or rendered inactive during operation.
When performing an inspection, shut off the source of air, bleed the air pressure, and disengage the air hose. Turn the machine off and allow oil or fuel to cool before changing it. Tools should always be isolated from the compressed air system before removal and should be fully depressurised first.
Replace rusted tanks
Air tanks rust over time from the inside-out due to high humidity and the presence of condensate. They tend to rust out near the bottom where the condensate collects. Rust eats away at the metal leaving it thinner and less capable of handling pressure. A rusted tank is very dangerous as it increases the likelihood that the integrity of the vessel cannot withstand the pressure and may burst causing major damage to personnel and/or the facility.
A free copy of the HSE’s Compressed Air Safety publication can be downloaded from their website.
Working during COVID-19 (written 7/7/20)
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses have had to close or have experienced a decrease in productivity. To combat the Coronavirus, certain measures must be put into place for a business to operate safely and for employees to be protected whilst working.
Conduct a COVID-19 risk assessment
Employers should conduct a COVID-19 risk assessment. This will highlight the risks from being exposed to COVID-19 and the control measures to be put into place to combat this. Update the risk assessment as control measures change and in line with any changes to government guidance. All employees should have seen a copy and understood the risk assessment. They should then sign it to acknowledge that they have read/understood the risk assessment and have access to it.
Provide information to employees and contractors.
Inform employees of any changes that have been implemented to the control measures in place. If possible, consult with employees on proposed changes to get feedback on whether they will be beneficial and if they will work. Protect those who are at a higher risk of contracting the virus and allow employees to work from home if their roles allow them to do so. Consider how employees may travel to and from work. When they should travel and what they must do upon entering and exiting the premises.
Preparing the working area
Employers should rearrange working areas by moving workstations, tables in canteen areas, working equipment etc. to promote social distancing. Mark out areas using floor markings or signage to help employees socially distance. If the workplace means employees cannot socially distance, the number of persons in the working area should be reduced. Separate employees by using screens; alternatively persons could be assigned to work in specific areas. Also consider the possibility of shift working. Where possible, stagger working times of employees including break times. Commonly used equipment and touch points should be cleaned more regularly. Provide additional handwashing facilities. Open other areas for breaks such as unused rooms or external areas.
Encourage employees to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer regularly. This could be when entering new areas within the premises, starting new tasks and after using welfare facilities. Employers should provide additional handwashing areas. Inform employees about avoiding touching their faces and coughing/sneezing into their elbows or tissues. Reinforce this with signage.
Information and guidance
Provide employees with information on any procedures that have been implemented to work safely. This information must be shared with them before they return to work. Once back at work it must be reinforced with reminders e.g. signage, updates etc. Don’t forget to share this information with all visitors, customers, and contractors.
Provide employees with PPE normally used, and any additional PPE that may be needed following the risk assessment. Face coverings are not considered to be PPE; however, employers should support any employees who may wish to wear them. It is not the law to wear face coverings in business premises and is the employee’s choice to do so.
Working from home
Any employee who can work from home must do so. The employer must support employees who are working from home by providing any necessary equipment. Regular contact should be made by having Teams/Zoom meetings, phone calls and emails. Employees working from home long-term should complete a DSE assessment to ensure that they are using a suitable workstation. This will make sure that they are not at risk of related health problems such as upper limb disorders, fatigue, eye discomfort and back pain.
Protecting vulnerable workers
Shielded/clinically extremely vulnerable workers cannot return to the workplace before August 1st. Allow shielded employees to work from home wherever possible. After August 1st 2020 if employees cannot carry out their work at home, they will be allowed to return to the workplace. This is providing that the COVID-19 risk assessment is regularly updated and the employer is doing everything reasonably practicable in order to protect the employee. Pregnant workers must strictly follow any social distancing measures. Pregnant workers who have been advised to shield by the NHS must work from home. They should be put on paid leave if adjustments to their work cannot be made.
Welfare facilities such as canteens and toilets should be cleaned more regularly, whilst ensuring that social distancing is enforced. Clean work areas and equipment between uses. Regularly touched surfaces should be frequently cleaned with ordinary household cleaning products. If there is a suspected case of COVID-19 in the workplace a deep clean of the area must take place immediately.
Employers must maintain records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace. A temporary record must be kept for 21 days of all persons in the workplace. Information should be collected in a way that is manageable. The NHS may request these records. Persons do not have to share their details if they do not want to nor do they have to share accurate information. When deleting these temporary records, do so in a way which complies with GDPR. The following information must be collected:
- the names of staff who work at the premises
- a contact phone number for each member of staff
- the dates and times that staff are at work
- Customers and visitors
- the name of the customer or visitor. If there is more than one person, then you can record the name of the ‘lead member’ of the group and the number of people in the group
- a contact phone number for each customer or visitor, or for the lead member of a group of people
- date of visit, arrival time and, where possible, departure time
- if a customer will interact with only one member of staff (e.g. a hairdresser, meeting etc.), the name of the assigned staff member should be recorded alongside the name of the customer
- Specific guidance – employers must follow measures put forth in their industry-specific guidance published by the Government. Employers must update their COVID-19 risk assessment and any control measures upon amendment of these guidelines.
For further information on this, see: https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/assets/docs/working-safely-guide.pdf and https://www.gov.uk/guidance/maintaining-records-of-staff-customers-and-visitors-to-support-nhs-test-and-trace
What should be included in a COVID-19 risk assessment?
- The work activity or situations which may cause transmission of the virus. This should include travelling to/from work, poor personal hygiene, high traffic areas such as canteens, corridors, entrances/exits etc.
- Persons who could be at risk i.e. employees, visitors, contractors, customers, delivery drivers etc.
- Determine how likely it is for someone to be exposed to COVID-19. This could be done either as a number rating (1-5) or low/medium/high.
- In the first instance attempt to eliminate the risk. If this is not possible, control the risk through measures such as increased handwashing, social distancing, maximum occupancy in areas, one-way systems etc. For industry-specific control measures, consult the Government guidance that has been issued.
For further information on this, see: https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/assets/docs/risk-assessment.pdf and https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19
What consultation needs to take place with employees regarding COVID-19?
Talk to your employees before they return to work. This is to develop plans on making the workplace secure and to inform them of any measures to be implemented. Repeat these discussions if something changes. For instance, amended guidelines are published; the plans are not working as expected and need to be altered; changes to tasks and work – this could be some equipment not being able to be used, staggering shifts etc. Also very importantly if an employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
If equipment is currently shared, this may need to be assigned to one person. If possible, additional equipment should be sourced or the employees reassigned. Tasks may need to be redesigned for one person to do for instance by using mechanical aids. Rooms may need to have a maximum occupancy. Someone may need to be in place to enforce that employees are following these measures.
Organising the workplace
Workstations and tables in break areas may have to be moved to promote social distancing. Screens may have to be installed to separate areas where people may interact. One-way systems may also have to be implemented to maintain social distancing. Hand sanitizer will have to be provided in multiple areas to promote hygiene measures.
Common areas such as door handles, handrails, work equipment and welfare areas should be regularly cleaned. If possible after each use. If travelling to another business premises, ensure that you sanitise your hands before and after visiting. Consider measures needed to handle incoming and outgoing goods.
Ensure employees know everything they need to work safely. Ensure any information is passed on in the best way e.g. emails, posters, inductions, conversations etc. Consider ways to reinforce messages and how to check if employees have understood any messages given to them. Ensure information is in place for anyone else who may visit your workplace.
Wellbeing and support
Ensure employees are prepared to return to work and feel safe to do so. Keep in contact with employees, and if possible, allow employees to work remotely.
For further information on this, see: https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/assets/docs/talking-with-your-workers.pdf
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
There are many causes of warehouse accidents. The following will give you some idea of the areas to consider.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The HSE website contains further information on COSHH –
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
- loss of consciousness
- 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.