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.
Renewed focus on construction dust in the West Midlands
During July, HSE inspectors will be visiting construction sites across the West Midlands with a renewed focus on dust control.
This is to ensure that construction workers are better protected against occupational lung disease, with thousands still being exposed to harmful dust at their place of work.
Concerningly, deaths from occupational lung disease are happening on a weekly basis in the UK, due to conditions such as lung cancer, asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and silicosis.
It should be remembered that employers have a legal duty to control the risk of dust exposure in the workplace, and the steps taken to ensure this will be under inspection during HSE visits.
To help businesses prepare for this, the HSE has provided a wide variety of resources via their Dust Kills campaign page. There’s also content for the workers themselves, so it’s worth considering how these resources can be shared with staff.
In addition to this, we recommend watching the HSE’s new YouTube series on the safe management of construction dust, presented by the body’s Chief Medical Advisor.
This includes bitesize guidance on:
- The general risks of construction dust
- Activities that generate construction dust
- Consequences of exposure to construction dust
- Preventing exposure to construction dust
- Wood dust in construction
If you’re looking for support with managing construction dust in your workplace, our online portal includes a COSHH Risk Assessment template, where you can evaluate risk level and set out actions to address it.
£3.3m in fines after two fatalities and eight injuries
Prosecutions in June 2022 covered multiple incidents involving two fatalities, eight significant injuries, and several ill health accidents. Two prison sentences were also issued, spanning a collective total of 28 months.
As a result of the month’s incidents, £3.3m was paid in fines by employers, with the alcohol giant Carlsberg contributing £3m to this total. This fine was issued for an ammonia gas leak at a company brewery, leading to the death and serious injury of two contractors.
In other cases, two SMEs in the construction industry were fined for separate asbestos incidents.
- A £30,000 fine for failing to implement the necessary control measures for asbestos, despite completing an asbestos survey
- A £45,000 fine and two prison sentences for directors, after the unsafe removal of asbestos led to significant exposure for employees
These incidents offer a stark reminder of the consequences associated with improper asbestos management, impacting both the employer and employee.
If you’re unsure whether your approach to asbestos is suitable and sufficient, we recommend exploring our dedicated Asbestos Awareness training course. This can be delivered on-site at your premises, helping us to tailor course content for your individual requirements.
The final notable case during June comes from Lancashire, where an SME with 27 employees was fined £96,000, after a worker fell from height and suffered life changing injuries.
Upon investigation, the HSE discovered that the employer had failed to provide adequate safety training to its employees, meaning the incident could have been easily avoided.
When did you last review your organisation’s training needs? Businesses are always changing, whether it be the people within them or the environment that surrounds them, creating an ongoing requirement for additional or updated safety training.
Looking for further support?
If you would like to receive tailored guidance on any of the issues discussed above, AHR Consultants can help.
Download a free personalised Health and Safety Risk Report to assess the current compliance levels across your policies, risk assessments, and training. These areas are summarised as the three pillars of defensibility, helping you to minimise the prospect of enforcement action if utilised correctly.
For any other health and safety queries, call us today on 0345 076 2288 or submit a question using the form below.