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|Executive opinion - September 22||14/09/2022|
Jennifer Webster explores how organisations can lower the risk of work-related stress, anxiety and depression.
WORK-RELATED Stress is a priority health topic for HSE and features prominently within its Health and Work Strategy. Recognising the signs of stress and then taking action will help employers to take steps to prevent, reduce and manage stress in the workplace. This strong focus on worker health and safety, in turn, benefits organisational performance.
I’ll be joined by HSE colleagues to host a free, virtual HSM webinar this October to raise awareness of the preventative measures that organisations can take to identify and manage work-related stress and we’re reaching out to organisations to get involved. More details on that below.
HSE launched its campaign ‘Working Minds’ in November 2021. It calls for a culture change across Britain’s workplaces to get employers to recognise and respond to the signs of stress, making it as routine as managing workplace safety.
The intention is to increase reach, and drive action, on preventing work related stress to promote, support and sustain good mental health in the workplace. Key to the success of the Working Minds campaign is collective efforts to raise the profile of stress and the impact it has on mental health and business.
Employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work by doing a risk assessment and acting on it. The earlier a problem is tackled the less impact it will have.
If you already have a risk assessment in place, consider whether you need to re-assess the situation due to changes and challenges brought about by COVID-19. Social distancing, working from home and all the other safeguards that have been put in place may have changed or created new stress.
Stress affects people differently – what stresses one person may not affect another. Factors like skills and experience, age or disability may all affect whether an employee can cope. Employees feel stress when they can't cope with pressures, demands put on them and other issues. Employers should match demands to employees' skills and knowledge.
Six key factors to consider
Employers should assess the risks in the following areas. If not properly managed, they are associated with poor health, lower productivity and increased accident and sickness absence rates.
Help and guidance is available
HSE has a range of practical support and guidance including a risk assessment template, a talking toolkit to help start conversations, a workbook that provides step by step guidance, posters, a mobile app and an automated stress indicator tool (SIT). For more information visit www.hse.gov.uk/stress
So, register for HSE’s free, live, virtual webinar 10:30am on Tuesday 18 October 2022
In this event HSE will raise awareness of the preventative measures that organisations can take to identify and manage work-related stress. The process of identifying conditions in the workplace that can cause stress and addressing them before they cause harm is the most effective way of ensuring that workers go home healthy and safe at the end of every working day. This strong focus on worker health and safety, in turn, benefits organisational performance.
This event will give you access to HSE experts and the HSE risk management approach, official HSE training, resources, products and services and a chance to ask us questions.
Jennifer Webster is a chartered psychologist and registered occupational psychologist at HSE. For more information, visit www.hse.gov.uk
|Executive opinion - June 22||09/08/2022|
Matt Birtles provides an insight to musculoskeletal disorders and the importance of managing the risk of manual handling
I'VE BEEN working in the field of musculoskeletal disorders now for over 20 years. The working world has changed over those years (especially in the last few) and in this new normal, organisations must take ongoing action to monitor and manage MSD risks. This strong focus on worker health and safety, in turn, benefits organisational performance.
Musculoskeletal disorder risk can be found in all occupations and can result in huge costs. On average, people take 14 days off work following significant injury. Indicative costs, borne mainly by the employer, for each significant health issue case costs around £9,000. It actually costs more than that in societal costs if you also include things like medical help, prescriptions and loss of earnings. Your own organisational costs per incident are well worth estimating so that you can report the overhead cost of interventions and the savings gained from reducing incidence. You don't have to reduce too many incidents on each process before you've just saved your organisation a few thousand pounds.
So how do we manage MSDs? First, we identify the higher risk jobs that are more likely to contribute to an injury. The best way of doing that is through engagement with your workforce on walkabouts. Get yourself seen on the operational lines where the work is being done. It’s a good way of identifying high-risk activities and also gaining the engagement of the workers doing those jobs. Once you've identified the higher risk activities, question whether it’s possible to avoid them. Often mechanisation or automation can help with this but if these types of solutions are out of reach and you can't avoid those high-risk jobs then assess the risk. This is the step where we understand the levels of risk and what kind of emphasis we need to put in to control. We assess to help us understand so that we can prioritise where we need to either reduce or eliminate the risk (can we design out the risk?). The residual risk that can’t be eliminated needs to be managed through measures such as training. Trainers can come in and mop-up residual risk by teaching our operators and our colleagues how to do those higher-risk activities more safely and raise awareness of safer operating procedures or changing their own behaviours.
I hope that this article has sparked some good ideas or helped even to re-iterate what you already know. My challenge to you is to look at your risk management process with fresh eyes. Where are the risks in your organisation? Can they be tackled in another way? If it’s been a while since you engaged with your workforce, do it again. Ask them questions and be prepared to listen and take action.
Further information from HSE
Matt chaired a free webinar in June: Musculoskeletal Disorders: Managing the Risk of Manual Handling and Display Screen Equipment for Workers on Site or Working From Home. You can watch this on demand by registering here: https://tinyurl.com/ms2sbnzp
To help to inform employers, we are hosting this free webinar on how to effectively manage the risk of MSDs in your workplace and protect your home workers. This hour-long event will feature experts from HSE to discuss current guidance and principles and give some practical examples of where the right, proportionate approach has worked well. For more information and to register visit the HSE event page.
More guidance on MSD regulations
The MSD section of the HSE website has links to more guidance, resources, tools and publications that can help in your MSD Risk Management.
Publications and products from HSE that can help to improve your risk management process
The HSE Books website offers information about publications and the New Musculoskeletal (MSD) Online Assessment Tool, which combines the popular MSD assessment guides MAC, ART and RAPP and transforms them into an all-in-one digital solution.
Training from the experts, informed by the regulator
Matt Birtles has helped to write, and regularly delivers HSE training courses, which are developed to include practical guidance around regulations in order to help organisations comply with law, enhance performance and keep workforces healthy and safe.
Matt Birtles is principal ergonomist at the Health and Safety Executive. For more information, visit www.hse.gov.uk/msd
|Executive opinion - March 2022||09/02/2022|
Now is the time to make talking about stress and how people are coping, as routine as managing workplace safety, says Elizabeth Goodwill.
IT SEEMS that everywhere you look people are talking about stress and mental health issues, with Covid and lockdowns only adding to the pressures.
Statistics covering the 2020/21 period, show of the 1.7 million workers suffering from a work-related illness, 800,000 were stress, depression, or anxiety. A recent survey by the charity Mind suggests that the mental health of two in five employees has worsened during the pandemic.
With the support of partners, HSE launched its Working Minds campaign to help explain what employers need to do to comply with the law on stress. Many employers, particularly small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs), simply aren’t aware that they have a legal duty to assess the risks from work-related stress and that they need to act on any identified issues. Although the campaign is largely targeted at SMEs, the campaign messages are relevant to all employers.
The campaign promotes the 5 Rs –
There are six main areas that may cause work-related stress if not managed well - demands, control, support, relationships, role, and change. These potential issues should be considered and discussed at regular check-ins to avoid them becoming a potential stressor in the workplace.
A significant factor in stress is change and due to the pandemic, many workers have been in a state of flux, adapting to many changes such as hybrid working, working from home, or returning to the workplace - all these things are adding to the pressures and anxiety, which people feel. It’s important to recognise these factors and talk to your workers about how best to manage their return.
Assessing the risks from any hazard is not a one-off process. Who'd
have thought 10 years ago that many workers could work from home due to new technology, yet the same IT could cause so much stress when it breaks down or it prevents workers from switching off after their shift ends.
In work, the onus is often on management to identify problems and do something about them, but they can’t do anything if they don't know there's a problem – tell your manager how you're feeling, talk to your colleagues, it doesn't have to be anything formal. The important thing is to make talking about stress and how people are feeling and coping, normal.
HSE is a source of help and advice, we have lots of freely available guidance - have a look at the Work Right website, or the HSE Stress webpages, and you'll find lots of useful material and tools. You can also sign up for campaign updates through our regular ebulletins.
We've partnered with lots of other organisations, such as Acas and Mind, who have additional skills, expertise, knowledge, and tools.
We also have some regional and industry specific guidance about stressors or mental health issues including construction and agriculture.
We’re calling for a culture change across Britain’s workplaces where recognising and responding to the signs of stress becomes as routine as managing workplace safety, and we can’t do it alone. Along with partners, we’re also encouraging people and organisations to sign up as campaign champions to share information through their networks.
We want to protect the mental health of everyone, no matter where you work or what you do. Stress and poor mental health – can affect any of us at different times and in different ways
Whether your workers have been in the workplace throughout the pandemic, or they are returning after working at home, HSE and its partners are encouraging every employer to take the opportunity to review health and safety policies.
Let’s remove the stigma around stress and mental health and look after each other!
Elizabeth Goodwill is head of stress and mental health policy at the HSE. For more information, visitwww.hse.gov.uk
|Executive opinion - October 21||22/09/2021|
Imagine if you could not just monitor incidents, but predict them and prevent them using data. The Health and Safety Executive looks at this possibility.
SAVING YOUR organisation money and keeping your workforce healthy and safe… HSE, as part of the data programme ‘Discovering Safety’ are working with academics and the construction industry to find an evidence base for using ‘leading indicators’ to prevent people from being harmed at work. Leading indicators are measures linked to the proactive, preventative things we can do to keep people safe. These can include things such as providing protective clothing to less obvious ones such as promoting healthy lifestyles and looking after mental health.
We hope this work will help avoid some of the accidents that happen in construction – a high-risk industry that still sees 40 fatal injuries to workers each year, 61,000 non-fatal injuries, 2.1 million working days lost due to work-related injuries or ill health and a total cost to the UK economy of around £1.2 billion each year.
Safety has come a long way through industry being open about what goes wrong, and learning lessons from accidents and incidents, statistics like this show there is a long way to go before harm is reduced to zero. The next step is to prevent things going wrong in the first place, according to Steven Naylor, the data scientist leading this project:
“If, by getting the construction industry to be more proactive in how they manage risks, we can achieve even a 5% reduction in these metrics, it would mean two lives saved every year, over 3,000 serious injuries and over 100,000 lost work days avoided and cost savings to the UK economy of the order of £50 million.”
Safety professionals in industry have understood the link between proactive measures and better safety outcomes for some time. But proving this with hard evidence has been elusive.
The ‘Leading Indicators’ project is a key part of our Discovering Safety programme. Steven explains: “Using leading indicators means being more proactive and understanding the processes that lead to things going wrong, not just reacting when they do. We’re making the case for developing safety processes based on what we do, rather than what we don’t.”
Rigorous collection of statistics on accidents, incidents and near misses is now standard, and drilling into this data can bring forth useful insights into root causes. Our Leading Indicators project goes further by using sophisticated software to show the causal link between positive interventions and better safety and wellbeing at work.
We are supporting the construction industry to gather data on the effectiveness of preventative measures such as training, communications and health and safety management practices – as well as the important ‘lagging indicators’ such as accident frequency rates and lost time injuries.
By measuring the number of times that things are done right, we hope to find and demonstrate the correlations between good practice and reducing harm. This evidence-based approach will allow employers to show their workforce the benefits of the positive measures they put in place.
Steven’s team is using not only readily available data but also data from the pre-construction stage of a project. This is more challenging to obtain but provides insights that will help the new, proactive processes work in the real-world, complex construction workplace, where the workforce comprises not only contractors, but client representatives, subcontractors and designers.
“One thing that’s becoming really evident is that lots can be done at the design and planning stages, before construction work begins,” says Steven.
Having more proactive and more data-driven safety management processes will mean that contractors have:
Come along to our free Data-driven Insights Webinar on 19 October!
In this free webinar a panel of Health and Safety Executive experts, including Steve Naylor alongside collaborators will present how we aim to use data and analytical techniques to provide new insights and approaches to help to reduce injuries and fatalities from workplace activity. This includes a section to introduce our work on Leading Indicators. We’ll talk through how techniques could be applied to your workplace and answer any questions you might have.
You can register for this webinar and watch it on demand here: https://events.streamgo.live/data-driven-insights-webinar-discover-new-data-solutions-from-hse-that-help-you-solve-your-health-and-safety-challenges/register
You can also find out more about our work in this area from our YouTube video: https://youtu.be/Nj4G_NqqW2A
|Practical tips for mobile or agile working||02/09/2019|
Management of musculoskeletal risks from mobile devices – phones, tablets and laptops – offer interesting prospects, writes Ed Milnes, chartered ergonomist & human factors specialist, Guildford Ergonomics.
Mobile devices in their ‘natural form’ are designed for convenience and portability, not for prolonged work. Increasingly we are seeing upper limb and neck issues – from low-level discomfort to conditions such as De Quervain’s (tenosynovitis) and employers are keen to do what they can to manage these issues.
When we think about practical tips to reduce MSD risks from mobile devices, often the first thing that comes to mind is physical alterations/modifications such as external keyboards, styluses, stands to raise screen height etc. These can be helpful, but they are likely to be most effective when they sit within a behaviour-management framework.
The hierarchy of risk control is still a useful starting point; step one - elimination of risk / removal of hazard.
Practical tip 1: Consider - do people actually need to be using their mobile devices intensively or for long periods or can the work be planned another way, avoiding prolonged device use?
For example, it is useful for people to be able to check emails and messages on-the-go, but longer periods of data entry are typically better suited to more conventional DSE, which leads to the next tip:
Practical tip 2: Set clear boundaries and expectations for device use – type of work to be done and periods of use.
Depending on how ‘locked-down’ devices are, there is scope for creeping increase in use, simply because they are a familiar format, convenient and increasingly powerful/capable to do what we want them to. Setting clear expectations is one way of keeping use within reasonable levels.
You could even consider steps like the ‘Right to disconnect’ – setting periods when there is no formal expectation to check devices. Although this kind of approach needs to avoid being draconian and should balanced against employees’ needs for flexibility.
Mobile devices are often provided to staff who have mobile/field-based roles. The convenience of mobile devices helps them manage their time and workflow more effectively. However it should still be discussed with them, as part of a DSE assessment how they can limit their device use.
We need to acknowledge though, that in many cases, efficient work is reliant on device use, hence the next tip.
Practical tip 3: Select suitable equipment for the work being done.
For example, in roles where people are holding the devices for long periods whilst using them (such as a healthcare environment), consider the size and weight of the device. Or consider if people need larger screens - their tasks may be visual or require quick scanning of larger amounts of data – in which case the screen size requirement needs to be balanced against device weight.
Even with effective device selection, any unavoidable prolonged use should be supported with suitable equipment.
Practical tip 4: Provide equipment to improve working ergonomics.
For laptops in prolonged use, lightweight stands are recommended in combination with lightweight portable keyboards. An ideal scenario is to issue mobile workers with detachables, so only the stand needs to be carried additionally.
For tablets, prolonged users should also use a stand – preferably a riser that actually lifts the screen – rather than a case stand. This should be combined with a keyboard and – for Android and Windows users – an input device.
Where tablets are held for long periods, a comfortable handle / grip should be provided, and a strap fitted to allow users to stop holding it.
Phones can also be connected with keyboards – for any longer typing / data entry. They can also be placed on stands and risers to free the hands and improve neck posture. Although the small screen size still limits practical use. Styluses also offer a cheap and effective way of helping users vary their wrist posture during direct use.
Practical tip 5: Provide training in the risks and risk management.
Employers should provide guidance and training in safe use, and appropriate use of supplementary equipment.
Advice such as holding the screen up with arms supported where possible, safe typing techniques, keeping responses / typing short, use of dictation facilities and styluses, regular checking of bags for unnecessary weight. These are all things that people don’t necessarily think of independently, because we are so used to using these devices every day, and we don’t necessarily associate our aches and pains with how we are interacting with them.
Training has a threefold impact: helping safer work, encouraging safer use of devices at home (which can itself have an impact on health at work), and putting out information that can be passed on to future generations of workers.
This third point is perhaps the most important, and it offers employers a valuable opportunity to use mobile device training to contribute to Corporate Social Responsibility; benefitting the long-term health of the wider population.
HSE will host the Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders Summit on 21 March 2018 at the QEII in London.
|Company fined £1.1m following Red Arrows pilot death||28/02/2018|
An ejection seat manufacturer has been sentenced following the death of a Red Arrows pilot in 2011.
Lincoln Crown Court heard that Martin Baker Aircraft Company Ltd made and supplied the ejection seat that failed on 8 November 2011 after Flt Lt Sean Cunningham, a pilot, was ejected whilst the Red Arrows were preparing to take off from RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that a mechanical fault led to the failure of the parachute deployment mechanism designed to bring the 35-year-old pilot to ground safely. This resulted in the main parachute failing to deploy.
Flt Lt Cunningham suffered multiple serious injuries and was pronounced dead shortly after being airlifted to hospital.
A number of inquiries took place after the incident, including a police investigation, a Ministry of Defence investigation and an Inquest. HSE worked alongside Lincolnshire Police, the Coroner, and the military investigators throughout these inquiries.
HSE inspectors found that in the 1990s two aircraft manufacturers had made Martin Baker Aircraft Company Ltd aware of issues with the drogue and scissor shackles, designed to deploy the main parachute for the ejection seat mechanism. The design of the component was such that at zero speed and zero altitude the ejection seat could fail to operate as intended.
Martin Baker Aircraft Company Ltd of Lower Road, Higher Denham, Near Uxbridge, Middlesex pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. On 23rd February 2018, the company was fined £1.1 million and ordered to pay costs of £550,000.
HSE operations manager Harvey Wild said: “Our investigation found that Martin Baker Aircraft Company Ltd failed to take all reasonably practicable steps to protect users from the risk of harm after it was told of concerns regarding the shackles which deployed the main parachute.
“The death of Sean Cunningham was therefore avoidable. Our thoughts today are with his family, who are both devastated by these appalling events and proud of Sean for fulfilling his ambition of becoming a pilot with the Red Arrows.
“We understand that a great deal of time has passed since this tragic event. However, this was an extremely complex investigation and no prosecution could be initiated until after the Inquest and other inquiries had concluded.
“We would like to publicly thank Sean’s family for their patience and support throughout.”
|Tata Steel fined £1.4m after health and safety failings lead to death of worker||06/02/2018|
A steel producer has been fined after the death of 26-year-old maintenance electrician, Thomas Standerline.
On 2nd February 2018, Hull Crown Court heard how, on 23 April 2010, Mr Standerline, an employee of Tata Steel, was examining a crane as part of his inspection duties as a maintenance electrician. Whilst carrying out this work, an overhead crane travelled over the cage he was in, trapping and then crushing him. Mr Standerline died instantly.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found Tata Steel had failed to enforce its own safety procedures, despite having two previous incidents before Mr Standerline’s death. The HSE investigation also found Tata Steel failed to put in place essential control measures which would have prevented the overhead crane that killed Mr Standerline from even being in operation.
Tata Steel UK Limited of Millbank, London, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 and Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £1.4 million with costs of £140,000.
Speaking after the hearing, a member of Mr Standerline’s family said: “Thomas’s death has devastated us as a family. There’s not a day goes by when we don’t think about him. We miss him always, especially on family occasions when he should be with us. He was well loved by everyone who knew him, and had lots of friends. Every day we think about what might have been if he had still been here. We would like to thank, once again, all those who have helped and supported us over the course of the last eight years. It means a great deal to us.”
HSE principal inspector Kirsty Storer said: “This tragic loss of life could have been avoided had the company adhered to and enforced its own safety procedures. Despite two previous incidents sharing features with the one which ultimately cost Mr Standerline his life, the company failed both to take these as a warning sign and to act on safety recommendations.”
|London Borough Council fined after HSE investigation||05/02/2018|
A London Borough Council and large waste company have been fined after a worker was crushed by a reversing dust cart, suffering significant injuries.
Southwark Crown Court heard how, on 9 May 2016, an employee of London Borough of Croydon, working within the motor vehicle repair undertaking of Veolia as a workshop cleaner, was struck by a reversing 17 and a half tonne dust cart.
The worker suffered multiple fractures to his right fibula, femur, knee, ankle, wrist and hand. He also suffered an injury to his right hand requiring a skin graft. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the workshop cleaner was employed as a ‘supported employee’ due to his learning difficulties with a recognised need for heightened supervision.
Due to his work, he was often required to work in parts of the site, such as the workshop, where large vehicles with low rear visibility for drivers were manoeuvring. He was known to have a history of standing in the path of moving vehicles, an issue known to both duty holders which they failed to address adequately. The court heard that direct management or supervision of the individual had diminished over time and the worker was left with no active management. It was found that London Borough of Croydon failed due to their presumption that Veolia were managing the injured party and that they should have communicated with Veolia to keep their employee safe.
Veolia ES (UK) Limited did not recognise this ‘agreement’ nor did they require the services of the workshop cleaner but, nevertheless, the worker continued to operate within their workshop and had done since their contract began.
London Borough of Croydon has guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,842.83. Veolia has pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and has been fined £250,000 and ordered to pay costs of £11,359.83
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Megan Carr said: “This serious workplace transport incident could have been avoided if both duty holders had taken the appropriate safety precautions when planning this activity. Failing to identify the risks led to this man suffering serious life changing injuries.”
|HSE decide against softening asbestos checks||23/01/2018|
Plans to water down medical checks on asbestos workers have been abandoned.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has abandoned plans to reduce the period between medical examinations for asbestos workers after being lobbied by unions including Prospect.
Following a review of the Control of Asbestos Regulations published in 2017 the HSE decided to launch a consultation on one aspect of the regulations. Views were sought on reducing the frequency of asbestos medical examinations for licensed contractors from two years to three years.
Prospect’s submission to the consultation strongly opposed the change and analysis by the HSE of the responses found that 61 per cent did not support the proposed amendment.
Commenting on the outcome of the consultation, Garry Graham, deputy general secretary of Prospect said: “Asbestos is a silent killer of thousands of workers every year. Frequent medical checks for those engaged in the dangerous removal of asbestos from old buildings is vital to pick up any symptoms as early as possible. We welcome the HSE seeing sense on this issue.”
|HSE food manufacturing inspections target the causes of workplace ill-health||03/01/2018|
Companies and people working in food manufacturing are being told they must pay closer attention to how they manage workplace health risks or face serious penalties.
The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) programme of proactive inspections will review health and safety standards in food manufacturing businesses across the country, and the sector is being warned that a programme of unannounced inspections will begin on 8th January.
The inspections will focus on two of the main causes of ill-health in the sector which are currently occupational asthma from exposure to flour dust in bakeries, cake and biscuit manufacturers and grain mills and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) – predominantly lower back pain and upper limb disorders from manual handling activities and repetitive tasks across the sector.
The inspection visits come as HSE recently released its Manufacturing sector plan which prioritises the reduction of cases of occupational lung disease and MSDs.
Exposure to flour dust is the UK’s second most common cited cause of occupational asthma. MSDs are the most common type of work-related illness in food manufacturing with handling injuries, accounting for around 20% of reported employee injuries (RIDDOR). HSE insists that such ill-health can be prevented when organisations have proper risk control systems in place.
The inspections will ensure measures are being taken by those responsible to protect workers against health risks and HSE will not hesitate to use enforcement to bring about improvements.
The HSE’s head of manufacturing sector, John Rowe, said: “The food manufacturing sector is made up of over 300,000 workers and its health and safety record needs to improve. This inspection initiative will look to ensure effective management and control of targeted health risks.
"HSE is calling on anyone working in the industry to take the time to refresh their knowledge of our advice and guidance, available for free on our website.
Food manufacturing companies should do the right thing by protecting workers' health; everyone has the right to go home healthy from work.”