Do you need a stress risk assessment?

A stress risk assessment is simply a careful examination of what in a workplace could cause staff to suffer from work-related stress. This is so that you can weigh up whether you have done enough, or should do more to prevent harm.

Under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 employers have a general duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health of their employees at work. This includes taking steps to make sure they do not suffer stress-related illness as a result of their work.

Employers also have a specific duty under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.  They must undertake risk assessments that seek to identify, and eliminate or reduce, risks to their employees’ health, safety and welfare. Stress is one of the risks to health, safety and welfare that must be assessed.

Risk assessments must be reviewed periodically.  This should be whenever there is a change to any aspect of the work activity which could significantly affect the health, safety, or wellbeing of employees.  They should also be reviewed under any other circumstances where the existing risk assessment is thought to be no longer valid. The regular period of review should be decided locally.  This will depend on the level of risk and how susceptible to change the activity is.  This includes a stress risk assessment.

Hazard Identification – Factors to be considered

When considering the likelihood that a work-activity could result in employees becoming stressed, it is necessary to first identify the potential hazards. The section below includes the factors identified by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) as being most significant contributors to workplace stress.  Also a list of eight factors – external factors that can impact on individual ability to cope with work pressures

Factor Considerations

1. Demands – High volume of work, competing priorities, unrealistic deadlines, intense periods of activity, requirement for very fast work.  Also expectation of very long hours, high pressured environment.

2. Control Level over pattern of work and breaks, inability to decide on work speed, priorities, access to flexible working.

3. Role Clarity – understanding of role itself; how to carry it out; how it relates to immediate team and the wider organisation’s strategic plans.

4. Relationships – Inter-relationships with work colleagues, staff, and manager(s); bullying; harassment; conflict; unkind behaviour.

5. Support in dealing with work difficulties, accessibility, constructive feedback, praise for good work, encouragement.

6. Support from Colleagues – Support/assistance in dealing with work difficulties, respect.

7. Change Communication, consultation, and management of change.

8. External Factors – Mental health, other serious ill health, bereavement, dependant illness.

Required Actions and Prioritisation

Ideally, when considering risk assessment, the goal should be to remove the hazard. In relation to work-related stress, this may only be possible in a limited number of situations.  The standard adopted in law when considering the cost, both financial and operational, of implementing a control measure is reasonable practicability. The next best measure is either to reduce the hazard, or the likelihood of it causing harm, through various control mechanisms.

When determining the specific required actions, consider the gaps you found when looking at existing control measures.  Also consider whether equivalent measures could be implemented in the relevant work area.

Always consult with the affected staff for their contribution to ideas that might help resolve the difficulties. Consequently, this can either remove the hazard or reduce the level of risk.

It is important to appreciate that whilst some control measures help to reduce or prevent stress, others serve only to support employees who are already experiencing stress. Whilst, in time, these support mechanisms may assist those employees in recovering from this episode of stress, and even avoiding future episodes, the employee has already experienced harm. This in no way invalidates such measures which are widely recognised as not only valuable but also an expected facility for staff of responsible employers. However, provision of support services is generally perceived by the regulatory bodies as the minimum standard an employer can adopt to manage workplace stress.

We can help you with risk assessing your workplace, just get in touch.

Face Fit Testing

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

Morally we have a duty to ensure that workers go home safe and are not exposed to airborne hazards during their work.

Legally

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.

Qualitative Testing
  • 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.
Quantitative Testing
  • 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.

Home working – HSE advice on lone working, DSE and mental health

Do you have people working from home temporarily as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak?

As an employer, you have the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as for any other workers.

HSE website has advice on how you can minimise the risks to their health, which includes information on the following topics:

  • Lone working
  • Working with display screen equipment (DSE)
  • Stress and mental health

Do you have the right workplace facilities?

Employers must provide the right workplace facilities and a working environment that’s healthy and safe for everyone, including those with disabilities. Read more

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/

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. 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

Working Safely with Display Screen Equipment (DSE)

The HSE have redesigned their online guidance for DSE.

It now features a step-by-step guide to working safely with DSE and covers topics from workstations and assessments, to eyesight testing.

Take a look at the redesigned guidance.

Their website also has related resources including their free, downloadable publication Working with display screen equipment (DSE)

Skin Health

Our skin is amazing. On average it is about 1.5mm thick, contains 17km of blood vessels and is just as important for our wellbeing as a healthy heart or lungs. So it’s not surprising that the HSE has guidelines for companies on effective skin health surveillance.

Read more

Musculoskeletal Disorders

The HSE have updated their guide to Musculoskeletal Disorders (INDG143).

This leaflet (previously published in 2012) provides practical guidance on reducing the risk of injury from hazardous manual handling. It helps employers comply with their duties under the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992. Read more