Our monthly update explores the focus areas 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.

During November, the HSE is directing their attention towards the dangers of working at height, as falls remain one of the most common causes of work-related fatalities in the country. Alongside this, there is a continued focus on Covid-security and the impact of the pandemic on employee stress and wellbeing.

Working at height – The dos and don’ts

Falls from height continue to be one of the largest contributors to work-related injuries and fatalities in the UK. This is evidenced by the HSE’s statistics for construction, which show that 47% of fatalities in the industry are attributed to falls from height.

Although some employers will argue that these incidents are unavoidable, there are many effective ways to reduce the risk of them occurring.

HSE inspectors will be placing significant attention on this area of compliance during November, so it is crucial to familiarise yourself with the latest guidance.

If you have employees who work at height, we recommend following the dos and don’ts outlined below.

Do:

  • Avoid carrying out work at height unless absolutely necessary
  • Use suitable and regularly maintained equipment at all times
  • Ensure that a competent person has inspected your equipment
  • Take extra care around fragile surfaces
  • Have an emergency procedure in place

Don’t:

  • Allow anyone who is not competent to work at height
  • Overload or place excessive weight on ladders
  • Rest ladders against weak upper surfaces, such as glazing or plastic gutters
  • Overreach when using ladders or stepladders

For tailored guidance on how you may be affected by work at height regulations, call our health and safety team today on 0345 076 2288 or send us an email. We can also act as your organisation’s competent person, helping to ensure that all equipment and procedures are safe and compliant.

Are you preventing work-related stress?

When being visited by the HSE for a spot check or investigation, employers are sometimes surprised by the amount of focus placed on work-related stress and wellbeing.

It should be remembered that these areas are included in the HSE’s Spot Check Programme, with guidance provided online to help employers reduce stress and support mental health in their workplace.

This guidance suggests using regular keep-in-touch meetings or calls with employees, involving employees in the completion of stress risk assessments, and talking openly about the possibility of becoming stressed or mentally unwell.

Further support will also be available through the HSE’s new campaign for small businesses, aiming to educate on the triggers of work-related stress and mental health problems. You can be the first to hear about this campaign by signing up here.

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 £2million during October

Prosecutions in October covered separate incidents involving five fatalities and 11 significant injury or ill health incidents. Overall, this led to over £2million in fines being paid by employers.

Two prison sentences were issued to company directors for incidents in October, spanning a total length of six months. Another director was also sentenced to a 15-month community order.

One of the prison sentences was related to illegal gas work that had been completed by an unregistered gas safety person. The other two sentences were issued due to improper risk management and equipment maintenance, as well as the implementation of company policies relating to work permits.

The largest individual fine issued in October was £760,000, after a waste management employee and agency worker suffered multiple fractures on company premises. This occurred after they were walking along a first-level gantry and metal panels collapsed beneath their feet. A HSE inspector later found that no suitable inspection regime was present in the workplace, with screws in the metal panels becoming dislodged after being struck by a shovel loader.

Commonly identified issues in the month’s other incidents were:

  • Unsuitable risk assessments
  • No safe systems of work
  • Poor training
  • Lack of thorough safety check and workplace inspection
  • Insufficient supervision
  • Lack of work permit
  • Use of unlicenced contractors (relating to asbestos and gas heater)

Are you confident that your health and safety arrangements would be deemed compliant if visited by the HSE? Does your organisation have a competent person in place, and can you demonstrate their competence?

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.

This article was written by Akinjide Ajisafe, who is a H&S Consultant and Fire Risk Assessor in our team of health and safety experts.