Thursday, November 06, 2008

New New New

Over the last couple of weeks I have converted this blog into a website. The content is much the same (in some cases updated or expanded) but I believe it will be far easier to use than this blog.

Go to

I'd like to hear what you think.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Updated and available as PDF or hard back

I have added a number of posts to this blog this week (December 2007) to update with regard to changes to legislation and simply to add a few sections.

I have converted this blog in to a book which is available for purchase. An electronic version is available for £3.99 by clicking the button on the right. Alternatively, I often have it on ebay - search for nebosh ebook

For a hard copy (£9.75* + postage) go to the printer's website

You can access the page to buy from, as well as get more information and access some previews, on my website

Why buy the book?

1. The text is far more refined;
2. The book links to many guidance documents available free from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website, allowing you to get more detail on subjects when you need it without hunting around for the relevant documents;
3. You will be able to use the book offline
4. Feedback so far has been very positive with comments such as:
* As described, excellent, very comprehensive
* Excellent item
* Seems to cover everything
* Looks very professional
* This is a great 'book' many thanks

You can access the page to buy from, as well as get more information and access some previews, on my website

Feeback received so far includes:
Exactly what was offered on ebay is what was delivered
* As described, excellent, very comprehensive
* Excellent item
* Seems to cover everything
* Looks very professional
* This is a great 'book' many thanks
* Clear and concise information
* ebook covers everything and easy to read
* Great item, will help alot, many thanks
* First class Health & Safety literature highly recommended NEBOSH student reading
* Well presented, easy to follow
* Exactly what I was looking for, a moderately concise, matter of fact insight into health and safety

*Please note all costs are approximate and depend on exchange rates.

First aid in the workplace

Even in the least hazardous workplace people can suffer injuries or become ill. Whatever the cause, it is important that they receive prompt and appropriate attention. First aid can prevent minor problems becoming worse, and for more serious events, calling an ambulance and getting the casualty to hospital can save lives.

Making first aid arrangements
As a minimum, any work site must have a suitably stocked first-aid box and an appointed person to take charge of first-aid arrangements. However, the following may require a higher standard of first aid provision:
* People working with hazardous substances, tools, machinery, loads or animals;
* Accidents or cases of ill health experienced in the past;
* A large number of people employed;
* Inexperienced workers and people on work experience;
* Employees with disabilities or special health problems;
* Premises that are spread out;
* Shiftwork or out-of-hours working;
* A workplace remote from emergency medical services;
* Employees who travel or work alone;
* Members of the public visiting premises.

First aid responsibilities

An ‘appointed person’ is someone who takes charge when someone is injured or falls ill (including calling an ambulance); and looks after the first-aid equipment (e.g. checks and restocks the first-aid box). An appointed person should be available at all times that people are ay work on site, which may mean appointing more than one. Appointed persons should not attempt to give first aid for which they have not been trained.

A ‘first aider’ is someone who has undergone a training course in administering first aid at work and holds a current first aid at work certificate. HSE approve training organisations. Work sites that are low risk and have relatively few workers may not require a first aider (but do require an appointed person). Higher risk sites and or where more people work may require more than one first aider.

Reference – ‘First aid at work - Your questions’ available free at

Basic principles of first aid
The priorities in an emergency where someone is injured or has fallen ill are:
1. Assess the situation, without putting yourself in danger;
2. Make the area safe;
3. Assess all casualties to identify any that are unconscious, which would be the highest priority for treatment;
4. Send for help.
When assessing a casualty the first thing to do is to check their consciousness. This can be achieved by seeing how they respond when gently shaken by the shoulders and asked loudly ‘Are you all right?’ If there is no response the priorities are to:
1. Get help;
2. Open the airway;
3. Check for breathing, and start Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if required.

After this, injuries requiring particular attention include severe bleeding, broken bones and spinal injuries, burns and eye injuries.
It is good practice to keep records of any first aid administered. This can assist with any subsequent investigation of the causes of the incident.

Reference – ‘Basic advice on first aid at work’ available free at

First aid regulations
The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 require employers to provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and personnel to enable first aid to be given to their employees if they are injured or become ill at work.
The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 require employers to provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and personnel to enable first aid to be given to employees if they are injured or become ill at work. These Regulations apply to all workplaces including those with five or fewer employees and to the self-employed.

What is adequate will depend on the circumstances in the workplace. This includes whether trained first aiders are needed, what should be included in a first aid box and if a first aid room is needed. Employers should carry out an assessment of first aid needs to determine this.

The Regulations do not place a legal obligation on employers to make first aid provision for non-employees such as the public or children in schools. However, HSE strongly recommends that non-employees are included in a first aid needs assessment and that provision is made for them.
Reference – Approved Code of Practice L74 provides guidance for complying with this legislation.

Hand tools

Hand tools can cause injury and the risks need to be managed. Basic precautions include using the appropriate tool for the job, keeping tools in good condition and training people to use the tools. The following specific guidance applies:
* Hammers - avoid split, broken or loose shafts and worn or chipped heads. Make sure the heads are properly secured to the shafts;
* Files - these should have a proper handle. Never use them as levers;
* Chisels - the cutting edge should be sharpened to the correct angle. Do not allow the head of cold chisels to spread to a mushroom shape (grind off the sides regularly);
* Screwdrivers - never use them as chisels and never use hammers on them. Split handles are dangerous;
* Spanners - avoid splayed jaws. Scrap any which show signs of slipping. Have enough spanners of the right size. Do not improvise by using pipes etc as extension handles.

Reference – ‘Use work equipment safely’ available free at

Improving the health and safety culture

It is not possible to improve culture directly. Instead, it is necessary to work at improving factors that can have a positive influence on culture. For example:
* Increase the amount of time managers spend visiting the workplace (not just after an accident);
* Improve managers non-technical skills (e.g. communication);
* Increase levels of workforce participation in safety related problems and solutions;
* Promote good job satisfaction and moral;
* Promote a ‘just culture’ where blame is only used where someone takes reckless risks;
* Implement a competence assurance program to ensure everyone throughout the organisation has the skills they need to work safely.

Reference – ‘HSE Human Factors Briefing Note No. 7 - Safety Culture’ available free at

Signs that suggest a poor culture

The symptoms of a poor health and safety cultural include:
• Widespread, routine procedural violations;
• Failure to comply with health and safety systems;
• Management decisions that put production or cost before safety.
These conditions can be difficult to detect because a poor culture not only contributes to their occurrence, it also means that people may be inclined to hide or cover-up violations and unsafe practices.

Reference – ‘Inspectors human factors toolkit - Common topic 4: Safety culture’ available free from

Friday, November 23, 2007

Update - asbestos

Asbestos attracts particular attention because it has had such a devastating effect for so many people.

There are three common types
1. White (chrysotile),
2. Brown (amosite)
3. Blue (crocidolite)

People working directly with asbestos are clearly at risk, but the main problem is that it has had many applications in the past, and this leads to exposure to others for many years after. Typical uses included:
* Pipe lagging;
* Ceiling tiles;
* Roof and wall sheeting (asbestos cement);
* Coatings sprayed on to steel structures to provide fire insulation;
* Thermal insulation in lofts and walls;
* Gaskets.

Illnesses caused by asbestos inhalation include
* Pneumoconiosis;
* Asthma;
* Asbestosis;
* Mesothelioma;
* Lung cancer.

Asbestos is covered by the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2006. They create a duty on employers if workers are likely to come into contact with asbestos based materials or if there is asbestos based material in the workplace.

A suitable and sufficient assessment of the presence and type of asbestos is required prior to commencement of work. Where there is doubt it should be assumed that asbestos is present and that all the applicable provisions of the regulations apply. Anyone likely to be exposed to asbestos at work requires training. Where asbestos is found in the workplace a decision needs to be made about whether it needs to be removed or made safe whilst leaving it is position (i.e. encapsulated). Most activities involving asbestos must be performed by companies licensed to do so, although there are some exceptions, the most notable being work with textured decorative coatings such as Artex, although precautions are still required.

There are two Approved Codes of Practice
* L143 “Work with materials containing asbestos” - Gives an in-depth look at the Regulations
* L127 “The management of asbestos in non-domestic premises” - Deals with how to manage asbestos.
The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007

CDM regulations apply to most common building, civil engineering and engineering construction work. They require clients of construction work to make reasonable arrangements for managing projects (including the allocation of sufficient time and other resources) so that:

1. Work can be carried out without risk to the health and safety of any person,
2. The welfare of people working on the construction site is addressed (e.g. providing sanitary and washing facilities, drinking water etc.)
3. Any structures designed for use as a workplace have been designed taking account of the provisions of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.

Under the regulations the client has a duty to appoint certain roles (listed below). They must take reasonable steps to ensure only competent people are appointed or engaged; and any person taking on a role must only do so if they are competent. The client must:

• Appoint a CDM co-ordinator – required to give suitable and sufficient advice and assistance to the client, ensuring suitable arrangements for the co-ordination of health and safety measures during the project, collating and providing health and safety information, liaising with the principal contractor, and notifying the HSE where required;
• Appoint a principal contractor – responsible for co-ordinating health and safety aspects during the construction phase;
• Ensure that the CDM co-ordinator is provided with health and safety information about the premises or site where construction work is to be carried out.

Appointments need to be made in a timely manner so that there is time to develop suitable health and safety plans before construction begins. Everyone involved in the project must seek the co-operation of, and co-operate with others working on the project. Also, any person working under the control of another person has to report anything they are aware that is likely to endanger the health or safety of themselves or others.

Every person involved in design, planning and preparation of a project must take account of the general principles of prevention of accidents and ill health.
For the purposes of these Regulations, a project is notifiable to the Health and Safety Executive if it is not for a domestic client (in which case there is no requirement for notification) and the construction phase is likely to involve more than 30 days or 500 person days of construction work.
A health and safety file must be developed that contains information relating to the project which is likely to be needed during any construction work, and future maintenance or modification. The file is passed on to the client at the end of the project. It should include any of the following where appropriate:

• ‘Record’ or ‘as built’ drawings and plans used and produced throughout the construction process;
• The design criteria;
• General details of the construction methods and materials used;
• Details of the equipment and maintenance facilities within the structure;
• Maintenance procedures and requirements for the structure;
• Manuals produced by specialist contractors and suppliers which outline operating maintenance procedures and schedules for plant and equipment installed as part of the structure;
• Location and nature of utilities and services, including emergency and fire-fighting systems.

The client must be given the safety file at the end of the project and take reasonable steps to ensure that it is kept available for inspection by those considering future construction work.

Reference – The regulations are available free

Update - corporate manslaughter

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 is due to come into force on 6 April 2008. It will mean that companies and organisations can be found guilty of corporate manslaughter if its activities are managed or organised by its senior managers in such a way that
1. causes a person’s death, and
2. amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased.

The offence will be Corporate Manslaughter in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and Corporate Homicide in Scotland.

The introduction of the act will make organisations liable for Corporate Manslaughter if a fatality results from the way in which its activities are managed or organised. This approach is not confined to a particular level of management within an organisation. The test considers how an activity was managed within the organisation as a whole. However, it will not be possible to convict an organisation unless a substantial part of the organisation’s failure lay at a senior management level.
Corporate manslaughter will continue to be an extremely serious offence, reserved for the very worst cases of corporate mismanagement leading to death. The offence is concerned with the way in which an organisation’s activities were managed or organised. Under this test, courts will look at management systems and practices across the organisation, and whether an adequate standard of care was applied to the fatal activity. Juries will be required to consider the extent to which an organisation was in breach of health and safety requirements, and how serious those failings were. They will also be able to consider wider cultural issues within the organisation, such as attitudes or practices that tolerated health and safety breaches.

The threshold for the offence is gross negligence. The way in which activities were managed or organised must have fallen far below what could reasonably have been expected.

More information is available at the Ministry of Justice website

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Blog now available as PDF and hard copy book

I have converted this blog in to a book which is available for purchase. An electronic version is available for £3.99 by clicking the button on the right. Alternatively, I often have it on ebay

For a hard copy (£9.75* + postage) go to the printer's website

You can access the page to buy from, as well as get more information and access some previews, on my website

Why buy the book?

1. The text is far more refined;
2. The book links to many guidance documents available free from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website, allowing you to get more detail on subjects when you need it without hunting around for the relevant documents;
3. You will be able to use the book offline
4. Feedback so far has been very positive with comments such as:
* As described, excellent, very comprehensive
* Excellent item
* Seems to cover everything
* Looks very professional
* This is a great 'book' many thanks

You can access the page to buy from, as well as get more information and access some previews, on my website

Feeback received so far includes:
Exactly what was offered on ebay is what was delivered
* As described, excellent, very comprehensive
* Excellent item
* Seems to cover everything
* Looks very professional
* This is a great 'book' many thanks
* Clear and concise information
* ebook covers everything and easy to read
* Great item, will help alot, many thanks
* First class Health & Safety literature highly recommended NEBOSH student reading
* Well presented, easy to follow
* Exactly what I was looking for, a moderately concise, matter of fact insight into health and safety

*Please note all costs are approximate and depend on exchange rates.

Friday, December 01, 2006

As well as a realistic perception of risk, people need to be motivated to work safely. In general terms people at work are motivated by:

* Skill variety – not having to do the same thing all day every day;
* Task significance – feeling their job is making a difference;
* Task identity – understanding how their contribution fits in to the bigger picture;
* Autonomy – having some control over how they do their task;
* Task feedback – getting information that they are doing their job well.

These can present a challenge to health and safety. In particular, the desire for variety and autonomy can lead to people deviating from laid down procedures. Also, if people do not perceive the risks to be high, some of the activities they do for safety can seem to have little significance.

Risk perceptions

One reason why people fail to pay sufficient attention to what they are doing or choose to either not read a procedure or to knowingly violate it is because their perception of the risk is less than reality (i.e. they think they are safer than they really are). Equally there are many high profile cases where people perceive the risk of something to be higher than is probably is (e.g. nuclear power, travelling by train in the days after an accident).

The reality is that people are pretty poor at evaluating risks. Lack of knowledge clearly has an influence, but there are greater powers at work. Complacency is one of these, and is a natural reaction when people become familiar with a hazard so that they can almost forget it exists. Also, people seem to make an automatic evaluation of risks vs. benefits, and will instinctively accept a risk where they feel the benefit is worthwhile. Road travel is a good example. People are happy to continue this activity even though an average of 10 people die per day on UK roads, but would not accept anything like this risk from any work setting.

The challenge for health and safety is to get people having a realistic perception of risks. We want to understand there are reasons for controls, but we do not want them to become overly risk averse as this can stifle the business and stops people actually engaging with the risk management process. Getting this level of understanding is not easy, and will require continuous attention. As with many things, communication is the key and will involve finding ways informing people about risks in a way they will understand.

Communications errors

Error is a natural part of human communication. It occurs when someone understands a message differently than the sender of that message intends. It is largely related to ambiguity in language, but also due to individuals having a different understanding of the subject. Errors are particularly common when one person is much more knowledgeable than another (i.e. experienced person talking to a trainee).

One-to-one face-to-face communication is usually most reliable because people have an opportunity to discuss the message so that both parties can be sure it has been understood properly. Of course that requires the people to choose to discuss. Other forms of communication including remotely (i.e. by telephone or radio) and written usually cause more errors.

Types of human error

There are many different types of error, but most fall into the following categories:

* Omitting an action;
* Doing the wrong action;
* Doing the right action on the wrong object;
* Doing the action to soon or late;
* Doing the action too quickly or slowly.

This list can be used during risk assessments to consider the potential consequences of different types of error.

Human error

Studies suggest that up to 80% of accident causes are contributed to some form of human failure. These failures are either people

* Meaning to do the right thing but making a slip or lapse of attention and ending up getting wrong;
* Thinking they are doing the right thing, doing it perfectly but it turns out they made the wrong decision or selection at the start;
* Choosing to do the wrong thing by violating a rule or procedure.

The important thing to realise that human failures are not random events and are actually caused. This means they can be predicted and their likelihood reduced. HSE guidance document HSG48 shows that the causes fall into three main categories:

* Job factors - illogical design of equipment, disturbances and interruptions, poor instructions, poorly maintained equipment, high workload and unpleasant working conditions;
* Individual factors - low skill and competence levels, tired staff, bored or disheartened staff or individual medical problems;
* Organisational and management factors - poor work planning, leading to high work pressure, lack of safety systems and barriers, inadequate responses to previous incidents, management based on one-way communications, poor health and safety culture.

Understanding the root causes of human failures and general performance problems is essential if effective solutions are to be developed.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Violence in the workplace

Although a violent is not usually seen as an accident, the potential for violence at work is a risk that needs to be managed. There are two sources of violence that need to be considered, employees attacking each other and members of the public attacking employees. People working in health sectors, education, handling cash (retail outlets and cash deliveries) and people in positions of authority (e.g. police) are most at risk, especially if working alone.

Whilst violence is largely unpredictable, there are certain factors that make it more likely. They include:

* The incentive for violence (e.g. perception that large amounts of money or drugs can be obtained);
* The perception of the likelihood of getting caught;
* The potential for conflict (e.g. situations where people may disagree with what is happening, such as when being arrested)
* Likelihood that people are drunk or have taken drugs.

The job and working environment need to be designed to minimise the opportunities and incentives for violence. Employees who are at risk need to be trained how to deal with it, including recognising warning signs and taking appropriate action. Arrangements need to be made to summon help when required and to increase deterrents (e.g. CCTV). Violent incidents should be recorded and investigated in a similar way to accidents, in order to identify trends.


Working away from the normal work place

People may have a location away from their main base for some or all of their work (e.g. working from home) or may travel away from base to work (e.g. to visit clients). In both cases, the problem is that it is more difficult to know what hazards are going to be encountered and hence to assess risk and implement controls. Also, travelling is a risk in its own right.

Issues to consider include

* Where people work at a separate location on a regular basis, this location should be subject to the same assessments and controls as those for the normal work space. If the work is hazardous, the additional controls necessary may make working away from base uneconomic. Most work will be of low hazard, and setting up suitable office space and work stations will be the main concern.
* Where people visit sites controlled by another organisation, it is difficult to impose any further controls. In this case the employer should take reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety standards at the site are adequate, and to impose restrictions on what the employee can and cannot do. The employee should be competent in assessing their own risks and know to stop work if they consider it to be unsafe.
* There are some steps employers can take to minimise the risk of travelling. These include making sure vehicles are in good condition, providing driver training (e.g. defensive driving) and planning routes in advance. Policies for use of mobile phones and other devices (e.g. satellite navigation) should be developed.

Lone working

People working alone are not really exposed to any different hazards than if someone else was present, but the risks can be greater and so need to be considered in assessments. The following may apply to lone workers:

* If they have an accident or fall ill it may be a long time before they are discovered;
* They may be more prone to violence
* They may be tempted to tasks that should be done by two or more people because there is no one available to help
* They may break rules more often because there is no supervision
* Some may have psychological problems working alone, and find it stressful.

As a result of the risk assessment it should be possible to determine if it is safe for someone to work alone. If it is, measures are likely to be required that ensure lone workers do not have health problems that make them unsuitable, provide communication, ensure adequate competence and supervision. There are alarm systems that automatically alert to a 'man down' situation, but of course it is important to ensure there is someone to receive and act on any alarm.


Night workers

Working nights can affect health and causes other safety concerns.

Health problems occur because people are working outside normal 'circadian' rhythms. This disrupts sleep patterns which causes fatigue, that can have physical and psychological consequences. Nights workers are believed to be at higher risk of heart and stomach problems. Also, working unusual hours can impact relationships.

People working at night are likely to be tired and so prone to errors. Also, it is likely to be dark and there is usually less support (e.g. technical), which can create problems.

Where people work shifts (i.e. not on permanent nights) the pattern of days to nights and how they rotate can make a significant difference. Night workers can reduce risks by making sure they take their breaks (i.e. do not work overtime), get sleep when they can, power napping, eating healthily and not smoking.

Young people in the workplace

Young people can be at higher risk than because of their age and lack of experience of working in general, and in the particular job they are doing.

The following need to be considered in risk assessments when young people are at work.

* People are at particular risk of injury in the first six months of a job as they may be unaware of existing or potential risks.
* Young people may lack experience or maturity or may be unaware of how to raise concerns.
* They may not have reached physical maturity and therefore lack the strength demanded
* They may be eager to impress or please people with whom they work

A young person's first employer has an excellent opportunity to instill safe and healthy work in them, that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Legislation defines young people as being under the age of 18. It places restrictions on some activities and the hours they are able to work.


Medical conditions

The health of people can be a significant risk factor for hazardous work. Problems can arise because a medical condition may be exacerbated by the activity and/or if they do have a problem it may not be easy for them to receive appropriate medical treatment in a timely manner. This needs to be considered in risk assessments. the following may be an issue for activities involving work at height (especially from a ladder), driving, confined space entry:

* Recurring dizziness
* Epilepsy
* Psychiatric conditions (inc fear of heights)
* Heart condition
* Severe lung conditions
* Alcohol and drug abuse
* Significant impaired joint function
* Medication that recommends you do not operate machinery could also be a problem

When people are working with hazardous substances it is important to consider whether they are more susceptible than most due to a health problem (e.g. eczema, lung problems).

Women of child bearing age

Unborn and young babies are particularly vulnerable to certain hazards. Therefore, any workplace where women of child bearing age may be present must assess the risks to unborn and young babies. It is not good enough to just deal with this when someone announces they are present as a lot of damage can be done in the early weeks of pregnancy, and it must be recognised that the woman may not even know she is pregnant at this time.

Particular concerns are where any of these are present or can occur

* Working in awkward spaces and workstations.
* Vibration.
* Noise.
* Radiation
* Biological agents
* Infections.
* Chemical hazards
* Handling drugs and pesticides,
* Lead etc
* Inadequate facilities (including rest rooms).
* Excessive working hours (nightwork etc).
* Unusually stressful work.
* Exposure to cigarette smoke.
* High or low temperatures.
* Lone working.
* Work at heights.
* Travelling.
* Exposure to violence.

Also, it is recognised that expectant and new mothers can suffer from pregnancy related health problems that need to be taken into account.

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to take particular account of of risks to new and expectant mothers. They require risks to be assessed and results made known to all women of child bearing age.



50% of all trip accidents are caused by bad housekeeping. Leaving flammable materials lying around can cause a fire risk, and any obstacles can hinder escape in a fire. Also, there is a cultural element to housekeeping with people tending to feel safety it more important if their workplace is tidy and well ordered.

* Ensure there is a suitable walkway through the workplace
* Keep it clear, no trailing wires, no obstructions.
* Make sure there are places to put waste materials and make sure people use them promptly after waste is produced (e.g. packaging, broken equipment and parts)
* Make sure there is enough room to store tools, equipment and supplies and make sure items are returned to the correct store immediately after use.

It is all simple stuff that does not cost any money. But it can have a big impact on safety and how people perceive the importance of safety.

Legal requirements for monitoring

there is a clear duty under the The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1992 for monitoring.

"Every employer shall make and give effect to such arrangements as are appropriate, having regard to the nature of his activities and the size of his undertaking, for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the preventive and protective measures"

Seting health and safety performance targets

As with most things in life, setting health and safety performance targets can help improve performance by giving people something tangible to aim for and because they show that the organisation is serious about the issue. However, setting targets can be fraught with problems. the obvious outcome we want from health and safety is that no one is harmed at work, but given that hazards always exist, risk management can only reduce the likelihood rather than eliminate it all together. But, setting what may be considered a more realistic target (i.e. something above zero) can give the impression that accidents are acceptable or that the organisation is willing to compromise on safety.

It is possible to set reactive targets (e.g. accident, incident and ill health rates; claims, enforcement and complaints) but their use may be limited. It is probably much better to set targets for positive outcomes. Examples may be:

* Completing inspections and audits as per schedule
* Implementing recommendations within a specified time scale
* People completing training
* People achieving competency standards
* Achieving a recognised standard (OHSAS 18001, RoSPA award)

Health and safety auditing

According to HSG65, audit is "the structured process of collecting independent information on the efficiency, effectiveness and reliability of the total health and safety management system and drawing up plans for corrective action." As such an the aims of an audit are to establish that:

There are two main types of audit

* Systems audit - checks that necessary systems are in place, comply with legislation, guidance and good practice and are generally appropriate for the level of risk
* Compliance audit - checks that the systems are being used and that this result in appropriate workplace precautions.

An audit cannot look at every element of a system, and so sampling is important. Some elements need to be checked more often than others, and it is bad practice simply to do the same audit every time. A useful concept is the idea of 'vertical' and 'horizontal' audits. A vertical audit takes a subjects and sees how it fits into all elements of the health and safety management system from top to bottom (i.e. how it is covered by policy, organisation, arrangements, measurement, audit and review). Whilst a horizontal audit selects one part of the system and considers how different items are addressed.

Any auditor should be able to act independently, so it is not normal for someone to audit their own system or compliance. However, internal audit can be carried out, typically by people from a different department from that being audited. These audits can be particularly useful at sharing best practice and learning through an organisation, and the auditors usually have the benefit of knowing the systems very well, including known weaknesses.

To ensure an audit system remains relevant it usually necessary to carry out some degree of external auditing. This is a requirement for auditing to standards, and has the advantage of the auditors being fully independent. However, there is the obvious cost of external audits and the possibility that the auditor does not understand the industry and its risks, or the organisations systems.

Auditing is not always as successful as it should be and there have been some high profile examples of where companies have had major incidents shortly after apparently successful audits. Part of the problem is that organisations get to know what they are going to be audited on, and make changes to do well in the audit. This can be at the expense of other items that are more critical but not covered by the audit. For this reason it is essential that all auditors use their schedule as a guide, whilst taking every opportunity to fully explore all aspects of the system that they feel may be critical.

Health and safety inspections

Inspections generally involve looking for physical evidence of how well health and safety is being managed. A general inspection of a premises is likely to involve people looking at the condition of premises, floors, passages, stairs, lighting, welfare and first aid facilities. These are all items that may considered to be low risk.

Inspections of higher risk items need to be more specific, and are often required by legislation. They include pressure vessels, lifting equipment, scaffolds, excavations and local exhaust ventilation.

The people carrying out inspections need to be suitably competent, and will usually use some form of inspection checklist. To be effective, inspections need to be:

* Properly planned so that they are carried out at a suitable frequency and address the key risk issues
* Record suitable remedial actions
* Not be restricted to the specific items, but used as an opportunity to make general observations (e.g. house keeping and cleanliness)

Results of inspections need to be reviewed periodically to identify any common features and trends. Also, the frequency of inspection may need to be varied, depending on findings.

Monitoring - active & reactive measures

Active measures give feedback about performance before incidents are experienced. Obviously this is preferable, assuming action can be taken to prevent incidents occurring. An additional benefit is that active monitoring measures success and reinforces positive achievement. Active measures usually consider the following:

* Achievement of specific plans and objectives
* Operation of a health and safety management system
* Compliance with standards and procedures
* Site condition inspection
* Environmental monitoring
* Health surveillance
* Behavioural observation

Reactive monitoring is triggered by events including

* Injuries
* Ill health
* Property damage
* Incidents with potential to cause harm
* Hazard reports
* Complaints

In reality reactive measures are more tangible than active, and for this reason many organisations remain fixated with them. Also, it is fair to say the occurrence of an incident does focus the mind more than some active measures can ever achieved. However, whilst reactive measures still give the opportunity to learn a great deal, these opportunities often occur after someone has been injured.

Monitoring, review and audit

Organisations need to monitor their performance to assess how well they are controlling risks. A low accident rate is not necessarily a sign that all risks are being managed, and so measures of performance need to be more wide ranging.

Audit is a formalised method of investigating a systems performance.

Of course it is no good collecting information if nothing is done with it to correct deficiencies. Organisations need to review the data information they have from all sources and act on it.

Formal reporting

The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 require certain specified occurrences to be reported to HSE. They include:

* Death
* Major injury (as specified, including significant fractures, amputation, dislocation etc.)
* Over-three three day injury
* Reportable disease (as specified, including certain poisoning, skin and lung diseases, infection, cancer)
* Dangerous occurrence (as specified, including failure of lifting equipment, explosion, collapse of scaffolding etc.)

The regulations place duties on employers, self-employed and people in control of work premises .


Investigating ill health

In theory, instances of ill health associated with work should be reported, investigated, analysed and recorded in the same way as any incident. If the ill health arose because of a specific incident, and occurred soon after this is usually straightforward. The trouble is that a lot of ill health cannot be attributed to a specific incident and it can come on gradually.

The main concern is that it is important to find out the direct and underlying causes of ill health so that action can be taken to prevent recurrence. Therefore, it is essential that instances of ill health caused by work are reported and that this in turn initiated the investigation process. The skills required to investigate and analyse are likely to be different to those for incidents, and this needs to be considered as part of the team competence.

Incidents - records

The whole point of reporting, investigating and analysing incidents is to contribute to the 'corporate knowledge' of an organisation, which gives an understand of how the organisation functions and its weaknesses. A recording system is required to achieve this that:

* Collects information accurately
* Presents information in a consistent form
* Enables analysis of trends
* Records information that might be useful in the future (e.g. to avoid making the same mistakes when designing a new plant)
* Alert others to a problem

Incidents - analysing

The analysis of incidents is often considered to be part of the investigation. This may make some sense, but has a number of potential problems. In particular starting the analysis before the investigation is complete can lead people to 'jump to conclusion,' which may result in them collecting evidence that supports a conclusion that may not be valid. Therefore, although they may well be carried out partly in parallel, it is useful to differentiate between investigation and analysis.

An analysis of an incident involves looking at the evidence collected to identify the causes of an incident. These causes are generally broken into two distinct categories:

* Immediate causes - features of premises, plant, substances, procedures and people that created a hazard or contributed to the incident. Often considered as unsafe conditions and actions
* Underling causes - failures of planning, risk assessment, control, cooperation, communication, competence, monitoring and review that resulted in the immediate causes being present and/or not dealt with. These are typically management and organisational failures.

As a result of the analysis it is important that recommendations are developed to address the underlying causes. This means it is not only the exact incident that can be prevented, but that a general improvement is safety can be achieved. To do this it is often necessary to consider previous incidents to identify any trends that indicate a wider problem than may be apparent from a single incident.

As with investigation, it is usually best if a team carry out the analysis. Once again competence in analysis tools and techniques should be held by the team.

Incidents - investigation

Incidents should be investigated so that organisation can exactly what happened so that they can

* Understand why substandard performance occurred
* Identify underlying failures in health and safety management
* Learn from events
* Prevent recurrence
* Satisfy legal requirements

Investigations should commence as soon after an incident as possible. The main aim at this stage is to collect evidence. This can be in the form of:

* Information about the scene (photo and sketches of the scene)
* Physical items (equipment, parts, fragments, substances)
* Clinical (samples of breath, urine or blood)
* Environmental (samples from air, water, soil)
* Documents
* Data print outs
* CCTV footage
* Interviews with people involved and witnesses

This evidence can then arranged to develop a time-line of what happened before, during and after the incident.

It is usually best to have a team of people involved in an investigation. This is partly because of the potential workload, but also because a number of skills are likely to be required. There are tools and techniques that can assist in investigation, and competence in these should be held by the team (i.e. by one or more individuals)

Incidents - reporting

Whilst the immediate priority following is an incident is to minimise harm, it is also important that the incident is reported so that any necessary longer term actions required can be implemented.

As well as forming a record of the incident, a key part of reporting is to determine what level of investigation is required.

Companies usually have incident report forms where basic information can be recorded including date and time, people involved, consequences, ongoing activities and conditions at the time of the incident.

When there have been obvious consequences of an incident, getting it reported is not usually an issue. However, for near misses or where is it possible to cover up the consequences, under reporting is a problem. The reasons why people may not report an incident include:

* They do not know it is a requirement
* They do not understand why it is necessary
* They feel it is a waste of time (especially if it is perceived that nothing has ever happened in the past as the result of reporting incidents)
* They are worried that their may be reprisals for themselves or others (if it is perceived that people have been unfairly blamed or punished in the past)

There is a significant cultural element to whether incidents are reported. In particular, people need to feel there is a fair and just culture, and one where the root causes of incidents are identified properly.

Incidents - immediate response

By definition (see previous post) the occurrence of an accident means someone has been hurt, and they will need to be attended to. Even where someone has not been hurt, the occurrence of an incident means that something unplanned has occurred, and this may have created a hazard. Therefore robust procedures and arrangements are required to respond to incidents.

The purpose of emergency procedures is to mobilise the appropriate resources to minimise the harm caused by an incident. There are clearly different levels of response, ranging from local personnel responding through to calling in some or all of the emergency services.

Wherever possible, part of the immediate response should be to preserve the scene of the incident so that it can be investigated.

If there has been a fatality or very serious injury the police must be notified.

Incidents - overall response

When an incident occurs there are a number of activities that need to be carried out

* Protect personnel, the environment and property (emergency procedures and making safe)
* Report and determine the level of investigation required
* Investigate the incident (gather data)
* Analyse the incident (use data to determine the cause)
* Capture and act on lessons learnt

Incidents, accidents and near misses

There are many definitions for these terms, and not all agree. However, the following seem to work quite well

An incident is an unintended event that did, or had the potential to cause harm

An accident is an incident that did cause harm

A near-miss is an incident that did not cause harm

Work on or near water

Whenever someone is working near water or on water (sea, river, lake, pond) the risk of drowning must be considered. Obviously it is most important that the likelihood of them falling in the water is minimised by providing barriers, working platforms, harness and lines etc.

Where the risk of falling into water cannot be eliminated it is important to consider the provision of buoyancy aids and rescue plans. Cheap and simple buoyancy aids tend to be bulky, and so generally not suitable for anyone doing any work. More practical buoyancy aids are likely to have a self-inflating mechanism, and it is essential that these are properly maintained and checked before use. It is also important that people know how to use them.

Drowning is not the only hazard of falling into water. Hypothermia can set in if someone is in cold water for sometime (within 30 minutes). Also, there are some animal born diseases that are commonly found near water (e.g. leptospirosis causing Weils disease)


Construction & demolition sites

In theory, there is nothing different about the hazards and risk associated on a construction site when compared with any other site. However, the nature of activity creates a degree of complexity and accident statistics show how difficult managing safety is.

The Construction (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1996 (CHSW Regulations) cover a wide range of health and safety problems , including:

* The prevention of falls,
* Dropped objects,
* Protecting against collapse of buildings and structures
* Excavations,
* Drowning,
* Provisions for higher risk trades such as roofing, demolition and structural erection.
* Emergency and fire procedures,
* Transport routes.,
* Provision of welfare facilities

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


The opposite of construction, but similar approaches are required to manage the risks. Specific issues to be aware of include:

* Exposure of people to hazardous materials within the building or structure being demolished (e.g. asbestos);
* Unpredictability of where material will fall - requiring adequate exclusion zones
* Potential to impact on members of the public
* Hazards from the method of demolition used (especially if using explosives)

As with construction, good planning is essential.

The CDM regulations apply to demolition.

Construction - CDM regulations

Construction (Design and Management) (CDM) Regulations (1994) apply to most common building, civil engineering and engineering construction work. You must notify HSE in writing before starting construction site if the work is expected to either
* Last longer than 30 days; or
* Involve more than 500 person days of construction work

Under the regulations The client has a duty to

* Appoint a planning supervisor
* Ensure that the planning supervisor is provided with health and safety information about the premises or site where construction work is to be carried out.
* Appoint a principal contractor.
* Ensure (as far a reasonably practicable) that appointments are competent and fulfil their duties.

Appointments need to be made in a timely manner so that there is time to develop suitable health and safety plans before construction begins.

A planning supervisor has responsibility for co-ordinating the health and safety aspects of design and for ensuring a pre-tender health and safety plan is prepared.

A principal contractor has responsibility for co-ordinating health and safety aspects during the construction phase.

The planning supervisor is required to prepare a safety file for the project. This should include any of the following where appropriate:

* ‘Record’ or ‘as built’ drawings and plans used and produced throughout the construction process;
* The design criteria;
* General details of the construction methods and materials used;
* Details of the equipment and maintenance facilities within the structure;
* Maintenance procedures and requirements for the structure;
* Manuals produced by specialist contractors and suppliers which outline operating and
maintenance procedures and schedules for plant and equipment installed as part of the structure;
* Details of the location and nature of utilities and services, including emergency and fire-fighting systems.

The client must be given the safety file at the end of the project and take reasonable steps to ensure that the it is kept available for inspection by those considering future construction work.

There are proposals to amend the CDM regulations (possibly sometime in 2007). The aim is to simplify the process, and whilst it seems the duties of those involved are unlikely to change the regulations are likely to make the requirements of duties more explicit or clear. One key change seems to be to redefine the 'planning supervisor' role to become 'co-ordinator'

Construction - health and safety during construction

Construction activity is inherently hazardous, and so good health and safety planning is essential. Plans should be developed that cover:

* The arrangements for the management of health and safety of the construction work;
* The monitoring systems for checking that the health and safety plan is being followed;
* Health and safety risks to those at work, and others, arising from the construction work, and from other work in premises where construction work may be carried out.

Construction - pre-tender

Making provision for safety can be expensive, and if not properly budgeted for it may not happen. Because of the competitive nature of tendering for construction work, it is important that principles contractors have full information about hazards and risks at the time of preparing their bid. That way they can prepare a safe schedule of work and therefore specify a realistic price.

Construction - parties involved

There are a number of parties involved in construction. All have a part to play in safety, and this requires them to cooperate.

Parties include
* The client - the person who has commissioned the work
* Designers - people who influence what is built
* Principle contractor
* Sub-contractors

Because of the number of parties, someone will typically need to take responsibility for co-ordinating the construction.

Confined space entry

A confined space is any space of an enclosed nature where there is a risk of death or serious
injury from hazardous substances or dangerous conditions (eg lack of oxygen). They include
* Storage tanks, silos and vessels;
* Enclosed drains and sewers;
* Open-topped chambers;
* Combustion chambers in furnaces etc;
* Ductwork;
* Unventilated or poorly ventilated rooms;
* Excavations

Hazards include lack of oxygen, hazardous substances either from the previous contents of the space or the work being carried out (e.g. fumes), flammable atmospheres and hot working conditions. Also, it must be recognised that rescuing someone from a confined space can be difficult due to poor access. Confined space entry must be carefully planned and controlled.

Factors to consider when planning confined space entry include

* Is it necessary?
* Are the people suitable for the task (competence and health)?
* Isolating the space from all potential sources of hazard
* Cleaning the space
* Ensuring a large enough entry
* Providing ventilation
* Testing air quality
* Provision of special tools
* Lighting
* Use of breathing apparatus if there is a risk of the air becoming unbreathable (but this must not be instead of isolation, cleaning etc.)
* Emergency plan
* Rescue equipment
* Communications


Rope access

Rope access is a method of working at height, developed from techniques used in climbing and caving. Typical jobs carried out using rope access include inspection and testing, maintenance, painting, cleaning structures and windows.

It can be hazardous, so people are have to be competent and apply rigorous safety precautions. These include

* Use of two
attachments, each having an independent anchorage point.
* When supported by ropes, use of fail-safe descent mechanism.
* All secondary tools and equipment (e.g. drills, sealant, etc.) are attached by lanyards to worker's harness.
* A minimum of two technicians are required for any job.
* Training in rescue procedures.
* All equipment is regularly inspected and maintained.


Working at height - mobile elevating work platforms

The following equipment is considered to be a MEWP:
* Vehicle mounted, articulated and telescopic booms
* Self propelled articulated and telescopic booms
* Trailer mounted articulated and telescopic booms
* Scissor lifts

Often known as 'cherry pickers' they are useful for working at height.

Problems with MEWPs include
* Collapsing
* Overturning
Ÿ* Persons being thrown from the carrier
Ÿ* Carrier being trapped against fixed structures
* People being crushed by them

The risk of falling from a MEWP is increased by a sudden movement caused by an impact, ground movement, or failure of a stability critical part of the MEWP. Some form of lanyard or other protection can prevent these events causing injury.

Issues to consider are really a combination of access to height, vehicle use, lifting operation and use of work equipment. In particular;

* Stability and slope of ground
* Hidden underground voids
* Overhead cables
* Vehicle collision
* Engine acting as ignition source
* Engine fumes creating a hazard (e.g. confined space)
* Formal inspection of equipment
* User checks

The correct equipment needs to be selected and operators must be competent.

Working at height - scaffolding

Scaffolding provides a means of working at height. However, erecting scaffolding can be hazardous in its own right, and the safety of the people using it depends on how it is design , erected and maintained whilst in place.

There are codes of practice that cover scaffolding, including use of fall arrest equipment whilst it is being erected or altered.

Key requirements for safe use of scaffolding include:* It must only be erected or modified by competent people;* It must be designed for the intended use by competent people* Handling various components (poles etc.) can cause hazard due to weight, dropped items or knocking people over.

* It must be inspected by a competent person before first use, after modification, after an event that may have affected its integrity (e.g. adverse weather) and at 7 day intervals
* Scaffolding must be erected on firm, level ground of foundations (beware of hidden voids, drains etc.)
* Beware of overhead cables
* Protect against vehicle impact
* If intended to take loads, it must be designed and constructed accordingly
* If intended to be sheeted, it must be design and constructed to withstand wind load
* Working platforms must be properly supported and large enough for people to work (minimum width 600mm)
* Guardrails should be provided at working platforms to prevent people falling (approximately 1m high, with intermediate guard rails provided so gaps are less than 470mm)
* Toe boards should be provided on working platforms to prevent materials falling (minimum height 150 mm)
* Safe ladder or other access must be provided
* Arrangements need to be made for raising and lowering of materials
* Make sure ends and other parts are easy to see so people do not walk into them
* Mark incomplete sections so that they are not use
* Prevent unauthorised access by removing ladders or covering rungs

For stability, the scaffold should usually be tied in to the structure being built or worked on. There are different types of tie:

* Through tie - scaffold pole is extended through an opening (e.g. window) and then arrangements are made so that pressure is applied to the wall opposite to the scaffolding (i.e. on the inside of the building if the scaffold in on the outside)
* Reveal tie - again in an opening, but pole is wedged horizontally into the opening and screw devices used to tighten the gap so that friction is used stop the pole moving
* Box tie - attached around a pillar or similar structure
* Eye bolts - screwed into the wall onto which scaffold is attached
* Putlog - poles with flattened ends which are inserted into gaps between brick courses

Where ties are not possible, angled supports can be used to support the scaffold.

Working at height - mobile access towers

Mobile access towers come in sections that are fitted together to create a platform for working at height. They can be very useful, avoiding the need for scaffolding, but have their limitations. They are usually quite light-weight, and so prone to toppling over. Also, they may not be particularly strong.

Manufacturers of towers have a duty to provide the information necessary to use them safely. This includes how they fit together, maximum height, use of stabilisers. Clearly they should only be used in accordance with these instructions.

Other points to note include:

* Only erect on firm, level ground
* Beware of overhead cables
* Protect against vehicle impact
* Do not put on blocks or bricks
* Make sure caster (wheels) are locked when being built or in use
* Do not attach any sheeting, unless designed for that use (wind can blow tower over)
* Only hoist material from the tower in line with design
* Ensure there is a safe way to get to the top. Some towers are designed to be climbed, others have ladders built in
* Never use a tower as a support for ladders, trestles or other access equipment;
* Do not use in weather conditions likely to make the tower unstable (wind, rain affecting ground)
* Beware of overhead cables when moving the tower - reduce height to below 4 metres
* Do not use powered vehicles to move towers


Working at height - ladders

Some people mistakenly believe that ladders and step-ladders are banned under the work at height regulations. This is not the case. However, it is important to recognise that people die every year falling from ladders, and so their use needs to be controlled.

* Ladders and step-ladders can be used if after assessing the risks the use of more suitable work equipment is not justified because of the low risk and short duration.
* Short duration is taken to be less than 30 minutes
* They should only be used for light work (less than 10kg)
* Ladders can also be used for low risk work where there are features on the site that mean a ladder must be used.

Precautions for using ladders include:

* Ladder angle 75o – 1 in 4 rule (1 unit out for every 4 units up)
* Always grip the ladder when climbing
* Do not overreach
* Do not work off the top three rungs – this provides a handhold
* Carry out daily pre-use check (feet included)
* Ensure there is space to fully open the ladder
* Use any locking devices
* Ground should be firm and level
* Floors should be clean, not slippery

Precautions for using step ladders include:
* Do not work off the top two steps unless you have a safe handhold on the steps
* Avoid side-on working
* Do not overreach