In our monthly HSE update, we explore the key 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.
This month, the HSE is directing their attention towards the dangers of construction dust, the importance of good ventilation, and the risk of occupational lung disease. There is also a continued focus on the need for Covid-security at work, in which ventilation plays a major role.
3,500 builders die each year due to work-related cancer
As part of their long-term strategy to improve workers’ health in construction, the HSE will be ramping up their inspections for this industry during October.
In a campaign titled ‘Dust Kills!’, it is easy to see where the focus of site visits will be, as inspectors look for evidence of sufficient control measures and risk assessments relating to construction dust exposure.
If these risks aren’t considered, there is a significant chance that employees will develop respiratory issues, leading to occupational lung disease such as mesothelioma. The reality of this danger is evidenced by the 3,500 construction deaths which are attributed to work-related cancer each year.
To ensure that your employees are protected, we recommend visiting the HSE’s dedicated page for the ‘Dust Kills!’ campaign. This includes further guidance on how to minimise exposure and improve worker health.
It should also be remembered that those working with metalworking fluids or welding equipment are at risk of occupational lung disease. The HSE has dedicated a large amount of their attention towards these workplaces in recent months and this is only set to continue. Guidance for affected employers can be found here.
Returning to work? Remember to consider ventilation
Creating a safe environment should be a high priority for all employers as more and more people return to work. One of the biggest factors in achieving this, while ensuring that Covid-security is maintained, is the provision of good ventilation.
This involves identifying any areas of the premises where ventilation is poor and using both natural and mechanical ventilation to circulate fresh air. The HSE has created an in-depth resource on this which outlines the most effective ways of improving ventilation and reducing the spread of Covid-19.
All ventilation measures must be recorded in your company’s risk assessments, along with evidence of cleaning, hygiene, and handwashing. HSE inspectors will continue to visit businesses in all sectors to ensure that these measures are in place.
Employers fined over £3million during September
Prosecutions in September covered separate incidents involving three fatalities and 16 significant injury or ill health incidents. Overall, this led to over £3million in fines being paid by employers.
One community order spanning 12 months was also issued, after multiple safety failings associated with Covid-19, employee welfare, and site security. These issues continued despite earlier prohibition notices from the HSE, as well as two improvement notices which were ignored by the employer.
The largest fine issued in September was £1million, following the death of an employee at a chemical company in Norwich. When carrying out repair work with a welding torch, the employee accidentally ignited some flammable Toluene vapour which should not have been present in the workplace.
In another incident, a construction company received a £570,000 fine after a worker was struck with a falling load from a mechanical excavator. An inspection found that insufficient supervision was provided by the employer, alongside a lack of control measures and safe working practices.
Commonly identified issues in the month’s other incidents were:
- Unsuitable risk assessments
- No safe systems of work
- Poor training
- Inadequate protective measures
- Insufficient supervision
- Poor health and safety management system
How confident are you of your health and safety arrangements? Who is your organisation’s competent person, and can you demonstrate their competence? If not, or you would like support with any other area of health and safety, we 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.
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.