Phoenix Blog

  • Valentine’s Day: A risk assessment

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    We’re fast approaching Valentine’s Day and lovers all over the country are scratching their heads over which romantic gesture they will offer up to their significant other. Last year, it was predicted that people in the UK would spend £1.9 billion on Valentine’s Day, embracing that one time of the year where cliché’s are commonplace. Now we’re not ones to put a dampener on that, but we would advise that you take the relevant precautions.

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  • Wilko fined £400,000 for forklift fatality

    Homeware retailer Wilko has been fined £200,000 plus £199,943 in costs after one of its workers died from injuries sustained in a forklift truck crash. He was not wearing a seatbelt.

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  • What is Legionnaires' disease?

    Legionnaires

    Phoenix quote: Legionella bacteria is potentially fatal and the risks must be managed properly and in accordance with the law. A key element is to ensure staff involved in maintenance of workplace premises are properly trained. Our courses on Legionella are available at https://www.phoenixhsc.co.uk/e-learning-courses/legionella-awareness-course more information on this matter can also be found below.

    Legionellosis is a collective term for diseases caused by legionella bacteria including the most serious Legionnaires’ disease, as well as the similar but less serious conditions of Pontiac fever and Lochgoilhead fever. Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia and everyone is susceptible to infection. The risk increases with age but some people are at higher risk including:

    ·        people over 45 years of age

    ·        smokers and heavy drinkers

    ·        people suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease

    ·        diabetes, lung and heart disease

    ·        anyone with an impaired immune system

    The bacterium Legionella pneumophila and related bacteria are common in natural water sources such as rivers, lakes and reservoirs, but usually in low numbers. They may also be found in purpose-built water systems such as cooling towers, evaporative condensers, hot and cold water systems and spa pools.

    If conditions are favourable, the bacteria may grow increasing the risks of Legionnaires’ disease and it is therefore important to control the risks by introducing appropriate measures.

    Where does it come from?

    Legionella bacteria are widespread in natural water systems, e.g. rivers and ponds. However, the conditions are rarely right for people to catch the disease from these sources. Outbreaks of the illness occur from exposure to legionella growing in purpose-built systems where water is maintained at a temperature high enough to encourage growth, e.g. cooling towers, evaporative condensers, hot and cold water systems and spa pools used in all sorts of premises (work and domestic).

    How do people get it?

    People contract Legionnaires’ disease by inhaling small droplets of water (aerosols), suspended in the air, containing the bacteria. Certain conditions increase the risk from legionella if:

    ·        the water temperature in all or some parts of the system may be between 20-45 °C, which is suitable for growth

    ·        it is possible for breathable water droplets to be created and dispersed e.g. aerosol created by a cooling tower, or water outlets

    ·        water is stored and/or re-circulated

    ·        there are deposits that can support bacterial growth providing a source of nutrients for the organism e.g. rust, sludge, scale, organic matter and biofilms

    What are the symptoms?

    The symptoms of Legionnaires' disease are similar to the symptoms of the flu:

    ·        high temperature, feverishness and chills;

    ·        cough;

    ·        muscle pains;

    ·        headache; and leading on to

    ·        pneumonia, very occasionally

    ·        diarrhoea and signs of mental confusion

    Legionnaires’ disease is not known to spread from person to person.

    What you must do

    If you are an employer, or someone in control of premises, including landlords, you must understand the health risks associated with legionella. This section can help you to control any risks.

    Duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA) extend to risks from legionella bacteria, which may arise from work activities. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR) provide a broad framework for controlling health and safety at work.  More specifically, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) provide a framework of actions designed to assess, prevent or control the risk from bacteria like Legionella and take suitable precautions.  The Approved Code of Practice: Legionnaires’ disease: The control of Legionella bacteria in water systems (L8) contains practical guidance on how to manage and control the risks in your system.

    As an employer, or a person in control of the premises, you are responsible for health and safety and need to take the right precautions to reduce the risks of exposure to legionella. You must understand how to:

    ·        identify and assess sources of risk

    ·        manage any risks

    ·        prevent or control any risks

    ·        keep and maintain the correct records

    ·        carry out any other duties you may have

    Identify and assess sources of risk

    Carrying out a risk assessment is your responsibility. You may be competent to carry out the assessment yourself but, if not, you should call on help and advice from either within your own organisation or from outside sources, e.g. consultancies.

    You or the person responsible for managing risks, need to understand your water systems, the equipment associated with the system such as pumps, heat exchangers, showers etc, and its constituent parts. Identify whether they are likely to create a risk from exposure to legionella, and whether:

    ·        the water temperature in all or some parts of the system is between 20–45 °C

    ·        water is stored or re-circulated as part of your system

    ·        there are sources of nutrients such as rust, sludge, scale, organic matter and biofilms

    ·        the conditions are likely to encourage bacteria to multiply

    ·        it is possible for water droplets to be produced and, if so, whether they can be dispersed over a wide area, e.g. showers and aerosols from cooling towers

    ·        it is likely that any of your employees, residents, visitors etc are more susceptible to infection due to age, illness, a weakened immune system etc and whether they could be exposed to any contaminated water droplets

    Your risk assessment should include:

    ·        management responsibilities, including the name of the competent person and a description of your system

    ·        competence and training of key personnel

    ·        any identified potential risk sources

    ·        any means of preventing the risk or controls in place to control risks

    ·        monitoring, inspection and maintenance procedures

    ·        records of the monitoring results and inspection and checks carried out

    ·        arrangements to review the risk assessment regularly, particularly when there is reason to suspect it is no longer valid

    If you conclude that there is no reasonably foreseeable risk or the risks are low and are being properly managed to comply with the law, your assessment is complete. You may not need to take any further action at this stage, but any existing controls must be maintained and the assessment reviewed regularly in case anything changes in your system.

    Managing the risk

    As an employer, or person in control of premises, you must appoint someone competent to help you meet your health and safety duties and to take responsibility for controlling any identified risk from exposure to legionella bacteria. A competent person, often known as the responsible person, is someone with sufficient authority, competence, necessary skills, knowledge of the system, and experience. The appointed responsible person could be one, or a combination of:

    ·        yourself

    ·        one or more workers

    ·        someone from outside your business

    If there are several people responsible for managing risks, e.g. because of shift-work patterns, you must make sure that everyone knows what they are responsible for and how they fit into the overall risk management of the system.

    If you decide to employ contractors to carry out water treatment or other work, it is still the responsibility of the competent person to ensure that the treatment is carried out to the required standards. Remember, before you employ a contractor, you should be satisfied that they can do the work you want to the standard that you require.

    Preventing or controlling the risk

    You should first consider whether you can prevent the risk of legionella by looking at the type of water system you need, e.g. identify whether it is possible to replace a wet cooling tower with a dry air-cooled system. The key point is to design, maintain and operate your water services under conditions that prevent or adequately control the growth and multiplication of legionella.

    If you identify a risk that you are unable to prevent, you must introduce a course of action ie a written control scheme, which will help you to manage the risk from legionella by implementing effective control measures, by describing:

    ·        your system, e.g. develop a schematic diagram

    ·        who is responsible for carrying out the assessment and managing its implementation

    ·        the safe and correct operation of your system

    ·        what control methods and other precautions you will be using

    ·        what checks will be carried out, and how often will they be carried out, to ensure the controls remain effective

    You should:

    ·        ensure that the release of water spray is properly controlled

    ·        avoid water temperatures and conditions that favour the growth of legionella and other micro-organisms

    ·        ensure water cannot stagnate anywhere in the system by keeping pipe lengths as short as possible or removing redundant pipework

    ·        avoid materials that encourage the growth of legionella (The Water Fittings & Materials Directory link to external website references fittings, materials, and appliances approved for use on the UK Water Supply System by the Water Regulations Advisory Scheme)

    ·        keep the system and the water in it clean

    ·        treat water to either control the growth of legionella (and other microorganisms) or limit their ability to grow

    ·        monitor any control measures applied

    ·        keep records of these and other actions taken, such as maintenance or repair work

    Keeping records

    If you have five or more employees you have to record any significant findings, including those identified as being particularly at risk and the steps taken to prevent or control risks.  If you have less than five employees, you do not need to write anything down, although it is useful to keep a written record of what you have done.

    Records should include details of the:

    ·        person or persons responsible for conducting the risk assessment, managing, and implementing the written scheme

    ·        significant findings of the risk assessment

    ·        written control scheme and details of its implementation

    ·        details of the state of operation of the system, i.e. in use/not in use

    ·        results of any monitoring inspection, test or check carried out, and the dates

    These records should be retained throughout the period for which they remain current and for at least two years after that period. Records kept in accordance with (e) should be retained for at least five years.

  • Work related stress

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    Definition - What is stress?

    "The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them"

    Stress is not an illness but if it becomes excessive and/or prolonged, mental and physical illness may develop. Work is generally good for people if it is well designed, but it can also be a great source of pressure. Pressure can be positive and a motivating factor, it can help us achieve our goals and perform better. Stress is a natural reaction when this pressure becomes excessive.

    Are you stressed?

    Stress produces a range of signs and symptoms, the following is not an exhaustive list of the symptoms of stress but if you feel that your attitudes or behaviour is changing due a situation at work or home, these may indicate stress and a need to seek further advice from your GP.

    Anyone can suffer from work related stress, no matter what work they do.

    Well-designed, organised and managed work is good for us but when insufficient attention to job design, work organisation and management has taken place, it can result in Work related stress. Work related stress develops because a person is unable to cope with the demands being placed on them. Stress, including work related stress, can be a significant cause of illness and is known to be linked with high levels of sickness absence, staff turnover and other issues such as more errors.

    Stress can be an unnoticed and gradual build-up of the many pressures experienced in work, at home and in everyday life. Most people are able to cope with the big issues in life and can find them exciting but for some they are too demanding or combined with everything else going on, they can become overwhelming, resulting in stress. Stress effects people in different ways that can either be dealt with or if not spotted or understood, or adequately tackled lead to more problems both physical and mental.

    Phoenix quote: Stress is a difficult issue to deal with as everyone handles pressure in a different way. Personal issues can also affect the workplace, as people can arrive at work already under pressure from home life pressure. There are however actions that an employer can take, including clear policies, stress assessments and training for employees.

    Training for stress awareness can be found at https://www.phoenixhsc.co.uk/e-learning-courses/stress-awareness

    More information on work related stress can be found at www.hse.gov.uk/stress

  • Landlord fined for gas safety breaches

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    A private landlord was prosecuted today after failing to provide gas safety certificates for two rented properties.

    Harrogate Magistrates’ Court heard that following a complaint from a tenant, an Improvement Notice (IN) was issued to landlord Dean Taylor by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for non-provision of a gas safety certificate for the gas appliances in his property.

    Mr Taylor did not comply with that notice and during the investigation another of his properties was found to also not have a gas safety certificate.

    Dean Taylor, of Gentian Glade, Harrogate, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 33 (1) (g) of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, also Section 36(3) and Section 36(6) of the Gas Safety Installation and Use Regulations. He was given 240 hours of community service and instructed to pay full HSE costs of £2767 by Harrogate Magistrates’ Court.

    After the hearing, HSE inspector Julian Franklin commented: “If you rent property out, you must comply with requirements of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations, including the need to have a gas safety certificate. Gas appliances should be regularly checked, as faulty appliances can kill.”

    A Phoenix representative thinks private landlords can still be held accountable for their actions under the Health and Safety at Work Act and associated legislation. They are making money from their activities, and have a duty of care to their tenants that must be fulfilled.

  • Firms fined after asbestos failings

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    A food company and their contractor have been fined after asbestos was disturbed during building work and only identified by chance when an asbestos removal contractor attended site.

    Stafford Crown Court heard no asbestos survey had been carried out by Mizkan Euro Ltd or D H Welton & Co Ltd and either company could have commissioned a refurbishment/demolition before the work commenced.

    An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found Mizkan Euro Ltd were undertaking a project to remove tanks from a factory which required the demolition of an external wall. They failed to provide an asbestos survey to enable their contractor DH Welton to quote and plan appropriately for the work to be undertaken. However, it also found DH Welton could have commissioned a survey when they discovered that Mizkan only had access to a management survey for the building.

    When the wall was demolished asbestos insulation board at the top of the wall was unknowingly broken up. A skip of demolition debris was found to contain asbestos insulation board, which had been identified by an asbestos contractor who had been called to site. For the work to be undertaken correctly, a licensed asbestos removal contractor should have been appointed to remove the asbestos under controlled conditions prior to the wall being demolished.

    Mizkan Euro Ltd of Chiswick Park, Chiswick High Road, Chiswick, London pleaded guilty to breaching sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act after failing to plan and manage the work carried out under their control without ensuring that risks to health and safety are prevented. It was fined £60,000 for each charge (£120k) and ordered to pay costs of £13,589.

    D H Welton & Co Ltd of Corn Street, Failsworth, Manchester admitted breaching Section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act and regulation 5(1)(a) Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 after failing to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment as to whether asbestos was present or liable to be present during the removal of a wall It was fined £15,000 for each charge (£45k) plus costs of £4,529.

    A Phoenix manager said:

    Asbestos is a highly dangerous substance, and the risks from asbestos have been known for many years. It can cause cancers and other health issues some 20 or 30 years down the line, and for many of the diseases there is no cure. Many thousands of people die every year from past asbestos exposure. It is vital that employers know exactly where asbestos is on their premises and in what condition. Procedures must be in place to ensure that anyone working on or in the area is fully aware, and adequate precautions must be taken.

  • Health & Safety in Numbers - Infographic

    Whether you are a start-up business or long established company, the well-being of your employees should be a top priority. It is vital to have the correct practices in place to ensure members of staff remain safe when carrying out their jobs. Here's why health and safety is too important for any manager to ignore.

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  • Keeping construction workers safe

    All jobs are associated with a certain degree of danger. However, roles in the construction industry can be particularly risky. After all, individuals who are employed in the sector often have to work at height or with heavy equipment.

    According to figures provided by the Health and Safety Executive, while the industry accounts for only around five per cent of Britain’s workforce, it sees 27 per cent of fatal injuries to employees and ten per cent of reported major injuries.

    This means it's vital that bosses in the construction sector take the issue of health and safety extremely seriously. By adopting appropriate risk management policies and offering their workers suitable safety training, they can help to drive down the risk of accidents.

    Recruitment on the rise

    This issue may be particularly important now, with new figures showing that activity is building in the industry. According to the latest UK Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index from Markit, output growth reached a four-month high in June, while job creation hit a survey record.

    The index climbed to 62.6 in June, which was up on the 60 recorded during the previous month and was well above the 50 mark that represents no contraction or expansion. Residential construction was the best performing sub-sector  over the 30-day period.

    A surge in activity

    Responding to the findings, senior economist at Markit Tim Moore said: “UK construction companies started the summer with another surge in house building and commercial activity. He added: A key recent development across the construction sector has been the return to pre-recession rates of job creation, following a prolonged period of falling payroll numbers and cuts to operating capacity. Moreover, the latest rise in construction employment was the fastest since the survey began in 1997, which represents a remarkable yardstick of progress as the sector looks to recover the ground lost over the past seven years.” According to the expert, improvements in the underlying health of the country’s economy along with increases in new housing starts and favourable funding conditions have driven growth in the industry.

    No room for complacency

    At times like this when activity is up, building companies can find themselves under pressure. However, regardless of how much work they have to complete, it is vital that managers do not lose sight of the importance of safety. After all, the consequences if they do, can be disastrous. Firms risk potentially long and costly legal action if they are found to be flouting safety laws. They can also suffer major reputational damage. Even more importantly, workers can be placed at unnecessary risk.

    While it can take a little time and money to improve safety standards, this should prove to be a savvy investment.

    Here to help

    If you are on the lookout for health & safety training or consultancy services, you've come to the right place. Here at Phoenix Health & Safety we should be perfectly placed to help. Just take a look around our website for more information. You can also get in touch with our friendly and knowledgeable team.

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