Our monthly update explores the focus area of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), as they continue to visit workplaces across the UK for spot checks and inspections. We also provide a roundup of prosecutions from the previous month, highlighting the commonly identified issues for employers to avoid.
With the government’s Plan B for Coronavirus due to remain active throughout most of January, HSE inspectors will continue to visit businesses where home working is not possible. As with previous months, virus transmission is likely to be the focus of these visits, as inspectors look to identify instances of poor ventilation.
Workplace ventilation – Don’t get left in the cold
Maintaining a comfortable and Covid-safe working environment is challenging during winter, with cold weather and closed windows leading to limited fresh air inside buildings.
In response to this, the HSE recommends using a mechanical ventilation system (HVAC) to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission.
These systems use fans, ducts, and vents to circulate fresh air within buildings, without the need to open windows and let in cold weather.
In additional guidance, the HSE has issued a reminder that fresh air can be circulated easier in cold temperatures, with narrow or intermittent window openings being sufficient to maintain a safe working environment.
Statistics show harsh reality of workplace mental health
Last month saw the release of the HSE’s annual statistics on work-related injury and ill health, which shows a concerning level of stress, depression, and anxiety amongst workers.
Key statistics from the 2020/21 release include:
- 1.7m workers are suffering from work-related ill health
- 822,000 workers are suffering from work-related stress, depression, or anxiety
- 645,000 workers feel their work-related illness was made worse by the pandemic
These findings reaffirm the importance of supporting mental health in the workplace, as highlighted by the HSE’s ongoing Working Minds campaign.
This includes free guidance and resources for organisations, leaving managers better equipped to recognise potential issues and reduce the chances of them escalating further.
If you would like further guidance surrounding mental health at work, AHR Consultants can help. We are providers of Mental Health First Aid training, with full details on this course and its benefits available here.
Employers fined over £2.5million during December
Prosecutions in December covered separate incidents involving three fatalities and 15 significant injury or ill health incidents. Overall, this led to over £2.5million in fines being paid by employers.
Four prison sentences were also issued during the month, including a 15-month sentence and 200 hours of unpaid work for a self-employed gas engineer. This was issued following the completion of unsafe gas work when installing a new boiler, which had been incorrectly assembled using parts from multiple manufacturers.
A contractor was also sentenced to 100 hours of community service and 10 days of rehabilitation activity, after labourers had disturbed asbestos and worked dangerously at height while refurbishing a disused park toilet block.
The largest individual fine issued in December was £530,000, after a manufacturing worker’s hand became entangled with rotating machinery, with the company deemed liable for the incident. Upon investigation by the HSE, it was found that there were failures in the safety arrangements for the task, while the unsuitable and insufficient risk assessment had not considered the danger of entanglement. Training and supervision were also deemed inadequate by the HSE, as a proper approach could have prevented the incident from occurring.
Commonly identified issues in the month’s other incidents were:
- Unsuitable risk assessments
- No safe systems of work
- Poor training
- Lack of tool maintenance programme
- Insufficient supervision
- Lack of proper planning
- Poor health and safety management system
Are you confident with health and safety compliance? Were your risk assessments completed by a competent person? When did you last assess your training needs?
If you have a question or concern relating to any area of health and safety compliance, AHR Consultants can help. Our team of H&S experts can act as your competent person, provide onsite risk assessments, and train your employees in a range of crucial areas.
Call us today on 0345 076 2288 or complete the form below to see how we can help.