The Orbit Health and Safety Blog

working in cold weather - HSE

Cold Weather Working

Employers are being reminded of their responsibilities to keep workers safe as the first spell of cold weather is set to hit the country.

Great Britain’s workplace regulator, the Health and Safety Executive, is stressing the importance of protecting workers during the cold weather. It comes as the Met Office has issued a yellow weather warning for ice and snow for parts of the UK.

John Rowe, Head of Operational Strategy, said: “We’re calling on all employers to take a sensible approach during the cold weather that is coming our way. There are lots of jobs that will be more difficult in the these conditions. Most employers will recognise this and make appropriate accommodations for their staff. That is the right thing to do.

“It’s also important employers ensure staff are working in a reasonable temperature. People working in uncomfortably cold environments are less likely to perform well and more likely to behave unsafely because their ability to make good decisions deteriorates.”

Temperatures in indoor workplaces are covered by the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, which place a legal obligation on employers to provide a “reasonable” temperature in the workplace.

All employers are expected to ensure indoor workplaces are kept at a reasonable temperature. The Approved Code of Practice suggests the minimum temperature should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius. If the work involves rigorous physical effort, the temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius.

John Rowe added: “Complying with the code of practice is the right thing for an employer to do. By maintaining a reasonable temperature, employers are likely to maintain the morale and productivity of their staff as well as improving health and safety.”

More information can be found on the HSE website here

work at height breach - HSE

HSE launches inspection initiative targeting manufacturing sector

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors have begun a targeted inspection initiative focusing on manufacturing businesses where materials that contain silica are used.

The inspections, which started on Monday (October 3), will check whether employers and workers know the risks involved when dealing with silica and ensure that businesses have control measures in place to protect workers’ respiratory health.

Prolonged exposure to airborne particles of respirable crystalline silica (RCS) can lead to life-changing respiratory conditions such as silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer warns Britain’s workplace regulator.

As part of the HSE’s role as an enabling regulator it has recently refreshed its silica guidance for brick and tile manufacturing, stonework and foundries and has an ebulletin to support this industry. HSE also has advice for employers and workers in manufacturing that use materials that contain silica.

Silica is a natural substance found in most stone, rocks, sand, quartz and clay. Silica particles are produced during many manufacturing tasks involving these materials. Silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer can all be caused by breathing in tiny particles of silica. Over time, exposure to silica particles can harm a worker’s ability to breathe and cause irreversible, often fatal, lung disease.

Employers have a legal duty to put in place suitable arrangements to manage health and safety and ensure they comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH). Inspectors will be looking for evidence that businesses have put in place effective measures, such as Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV), water suppression and where appropriate, use of protective equipment such as Respiratory Protective (RPE), to reduce workers exposure to the RCS. If any health and safety breaches are discovered, HSE will take enforcement action to make sure workers’ health is protected.

More information can be found on the HSE website here

Building Safety Act

Building Safety Bill: Bill receives Royal Assent to become the Building Safety Act

The Building Safety Bill, which was first announced in draft form in July 2020, was published on 5 July 2021 and outlined by then-Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick as the next “key step in an extensive overhaul to building safety legislation”. The reforms are set to create “lasting generational change and a clear pathway for the future on how residential buildings should be constructed and maintained”, affirms the UK Government.

The Bill received Royal Assent on 28 April 2022, and has now completed all the parliamentary stages in both Houses to become an Act of Parliament – The Building Safety Act.

Many of the measures included within the 252-page bill are likely to take between a year and 18 months to introduce, according to the Government.

The Building Safety Bill is designed to give residents more power to hold builders and developers to account and toughen sanctions against those who threaten their safety, while a Building Safety Regulator will oversee the new regime and be responsible for ensuring that any building safety risks in new and existing high rise residential buildings of 18m and above (or of seven storeys or more) are effectively managed and resolved.

These changes will simplify the existing system to ensure high standards are continuously met, according to the Government, with a ‘golden thread’ of information created,stored and updated throughout the building’s lifecycle, establishing clear obligations on owners and enabling swift action to be taken by the regulator, wherever necessary.

The Bill also includes measures to prevent leaseholders from being responsible for the remediation costs of their building, with Michael Gove announcing plans to get developers and other industry stakeholders to pay for remediating defective buildings in January.

The Building Safety Bill can be found here

work at height breach - HSE

PPE at work regulations updated

On 6 April 2022 the Personal Protective Equipment at Work (Amendment) Regulations 2022 (PPER 2022) amend the 1992 Regulations (PPER 1992).

They extend employers’ and employees’ duties regarding personal protective equipment (PPE) to limb (b) workers.

UK health and safety legislation does not currently have a definition of worker. Worker is defined in section 230(3) of the Employment Rights Act 1996. The definition has two ‘limbs’: limb (a) and limb (b).

Limb (a) are employees under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) and are already in scope of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (the PPER 1992).

Limb (b) are those who generally have a more casual employment relationship and work under a contract for service; this group are known as limb (b) workers and do not currently come under the scope of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (the PPER 1992).

This Statutory Instrument creates its own definition of worker intended to capture both of these groups.

More information can be found on the HSE website here

work at height breach - HSE

HSE Reveals Covid-19 Work Death Rate

Figures published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reveal that 446 workers may have died as a result of being exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace.

The latest figures for the total suspected occupational COVID-19 reports, which cover the period 10 April 2020 to 5 February 2022, also indicate that there were 42,059 disease notifications. Employers who are notified that a worker has been diagnosed as having COVID-19 and have reasonable evidence to suggest that the infection was caused by occupational exposure must report the case to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or local authorities under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR).

However, the figures are ‘as-reported’ by employers so there is a potential for some error in some of the reported data items, says the HSE. In particular, there is potential for some non-fatal COVID-19 cases to have been reported as fatal and vice versa.

The HSE adds that the data is intended to provide an indicator of the numbers being reported to the enforcing authorities and how this changes over time rather than an accurate count of the absolute number of occupational COVID-19 cases. The safety regulator notes that many of the reports made reflect historic cases, sometimes from up to several months ago. The latest data offers an insight into Covid’s impact on the workforce during the pandemic. Although the number of reports reached a peak of 5,710 in January 2021 and then dropped to its lowest in May last year, the data indicates there was a slight and steady rise throughout the second half of last year.

A striking feature of the data is that it indicates that the number of reports received by month has continued to increase since December last year, with 2,624 reports received in January 2022, around double the number received the previous month.

The number of reports received increased week-on-week throughout December and early January. In the week ending 22 January, the data indicates that just over 700 reports were received, the highest weekly number since February 2021. The HSE points out that, although the number of reports in the most recent two weeks have fallen, they remain markedly higher than in early December when weekly numbers started increasing.

The figures come as the government ended the legal requirement for people who test positive for Covid in England to self-isolate yesterday (24 February). The government’s decision has been widely criticised by unions who argue the move will inevitably lead to a spread of infections in the workplace.

work at height breach - HSE

Unsafe Roof Work

A Salford construction firm has been fined £42,500 and its director handed a community order after Manchester Crown Court found the business had undertaken unsafe work on the roof of the Iraqi Consulate in central Manchester in early 2019.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which brought the prosecution against Exquisite Solutions (Alsager) Limited and its director Ali Wit Wit, said that a supervisor and two workers had been put at significant risk of death or serious injury as there were no safety measures to prevent a fall from the roof edge of the multi-storey building in Norfolk Street. The safety regulator estimated that the fall from the roof edge to the ground floor was around 16 to 18 m.

The roofing work first came to the HSE’s attention in early January 2019 when a member of the public who was working in a neighbouring building alerted the regulator by email and supplied photos showing that work was underway without any safety measures in place to prevent a fall.

On 21 January 2022, Manchester Crown court found Exquisite Solutions (Alsager) Limited guilty of breaching s 2(1) of the HSW Act and handed the company a £42,500 fine. The Salford firm was also required to pay £5,049 in costs.

Company director Ali Wit Wit was also found guilty of breaching section 37 of the HSW Act in relation to the company’s failing of s 2(1) of the same legislation. He must complete the terms of a community order that require him to undertake 270 hours of unpaid work. In addition, he must pay the same amount in costs plus a victim surcharge of £85.