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Treasury extends tax cut to PPE costs 03/07/2020

THE TEMPORARY scrapping of VAT on PPE has been extended until the end of October - saving care homes and businesses dealing with the coronavirus outbreak £155 million, the government has announced.

The decision, which will make it easier and cheaper for care homes, charities and businesses to acquire the vital kit - comes after a temporary zero-rate of VAT was applied to PPE sales for an initial three months from 1 May 2020 to 31 July 2020.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury Jesse Norman said: "Extending the zero VAT rate on PPE will provide the relief needed by care homes in particular, so that as many people as possible continue to be protected against the coronavirus."

Due to the extension, the zero-rate will apply for six months in total with consumers including care homes, home care providers and businesses estimated to save an additional £155 million.

Ministers had previously removed import duties from PPE and medical supplies intended to assist with the response to the coronavirus pandemic in April 2020 to ensure more essential equipment can get to the front line quicker.

EU law governing VAT – which the UK is bound to until the end of the transitional period – requires the UK to charge VAT on the equipment.

But the government has acted under an exceptional basis allowed by EU rules during health emergencies. The European Commission recently indicated support for member states to introduce temporary VAT reliefs to mitigate the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. The move will particularly benefit care providers, who are often unable to reclaim the 20% VAT they incur on their purchases.

Funding has been provided to DHSC to support the centralised procurement and supply of PPE, including supply to the NHS and care providers. It has already acted to speed up PPE supply, harnessing the power of UK industry, scouring the world for new stocks, and creating a new distribution network to send PPE to frontline staff around the country.

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Latest HSE figures show record low workplace deaths 02/07/2020

THE HEALTH and Safety Executive (HSE) has released its annual figures for the number of work-related fatalities in 2019/20, which have dropped to a record low.

The provisional annual data for work-related fatal accidents revealed that 111 workers were fatally injured at work between April 2019 and March 2020 (a rate of 0.34 deaths per 100,000 workers), the lowest year on record.  This represents a fall of 38 deaths from the previous year, though it is likely that this fall was accentuated by the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on the economy in the final two months of the year.

In line with previous years’ fatal injury statistics, these figures do not include deaths from occupational disease. Covid-19 infection is therefore not part of these figures and will not feature in fatal injury statistics in subsequent years*.

While there has been a long-term reduction in the number of annual fatalities (the number has almost halved in the last 20 years), aside from the current fall, the number has remained broadly level in recent years.

Following the release, HSE’s chief executive, Sarah Albon, said: “No one should be hurt or killed by the work they do. In these extraordinary times, we have seen many workers risking their lives to help others during the coronavirus outbreak. Although these statistics are not a reflection on Covid-19 related loss of life, it is a pertinent time to reflect.

“Every workplace fatality is a tragedy and while we are encouraged by this improvement, today’s statistics is a reminder that we cannot become complacent as we look to continue to work together to make Great Britain an even safer place to live and work.”

The new figures show the spread of fatal injuries across industrial sectors:

  • 40 fatal injuries to construction workers were recorded, accounting for the largest share. However, over the last five years the number has fluctuated. The annual average for the past five years is 37. The annual average rate over the last five years in construction is around 4 times as high as the all industry rate.
  • 20 fatal injuries to agricultural, forestry and fishing workers were recorded, the lowest level on record. Despite this fall, this sector continues to account for a large share of the annual fatality count. It has the highest rate of fatal injury of all the main industry sectors, around 18 times as high as the all industry rate.
  • 5 fatal injuries to waste and recycling workers were recorded. Despite being a relatively small sector in terms of employment, the annual average fatal injury rate over the last five years is around 18 times as high as the all industry rate.

Sarah Albon continued: “These statistics remind us that in certain sectors of the economy, fatal injury in the workplace remains worryingly high. Agriculture, forestry and fishing accounts for a small fraction of the workforce of Great Britain, yet accounted for around 20 per cent of worker fatalities in the last year. This is unacceptable and more must be done to prevent such fatalities taking place.

“Work-related deaths fracture families, they shatter communities, and so many of them can be avoided. The work that HSE does is about more than numbers, we are continually working with duty holders to ensure that they assess and appropriately manage risk to their employees. These efforts are a vital part of keeping essential services going, particularly as duty holders adapt to the current circumstances.”

The three most common causes of fatal injuries continue to be; workers falling from height (29), being struck by a moving vehicle (20) and being struck by a moving object (18), accounting for 60 per cent of fatal injuries in 2019/20.

The new figures continue to highlight the risks to older workers; 27 per cent of fatal injuries in 2019/20 were to workers aged 60 or over, even though such workers make up only around 10 per cent of the workforce.

In addition, members of the public continue to be killed in connection with work-connected accidents.  In 2019/20 51 members of the public were killed as a result of a work-connected accident in HSE enforced workplaces and a further 41 occurred on railways (enforced by the Office for Road and Rail). Typically, in recent years the number of such deaths has ranged between 12 and 16 deaths annually.

Mesothelioma, which is contracted through past exposure to asbestos and is one of the few work-related diseases where deaths can be counted directly, killed 2446 in Great Britain in 2018. This is slightly lower than the average 2550 over the previous five years.

The current figures are largely a consequence of occupational asbestos exposures that occurred before 1980. Annual mesothelioma deaths are expected to fall below current levels for years beyond 2020.

A fuller assessment of work-related ill-health and injuries, drawing on HSE’s full range of data sources, will be provided as part of the annual Health and Safety Statistics release on 4 November 2020.

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Concerns raised over face mask shortage 01/07/2020

UNITE, THE UK’s construction union, is urging workers not to risk their health if they are not supplied with the correct PPE.

The union’s warning follows the revelation that many contractors are struggling to purchase the appropriate dusk masks. The shortage is understood to be a result of the vastly increased demand for face masks due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Unite national officer Jerry Swain said: “Workers must not place their health at risk. “If PPE is required and the correct masks are not available then work has to be delayed until they can be sourced. Workers must not feel pressurised into taking shortcuts with their safety.

 “If a worker is at all uncertain about whether they require PPE they must request to see an appropriate risk assessment. If they still believe it is unsafe, an employee legally has a right to remove themselves from a dangerous situation.

“Unite will fully support a member who declines to work due to safety concerns. Clearly most responsible employers will follow the rules and reschedule work but there remains too many rogue employers who are willing to risk the health of their workers.

“It is all too easy to forget because of the pandemic that there are many reasons why an appropriate mask may be required while undertaking construction work other than preventing the spread of Covid-19.

“Even when you are socially distancing you may still need to wear a mask because of the dangerous nature of the work being undertaken.”

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New dates for NEBOSH paper exams 01/07/2020

NEBOSH HAS announced new dates for its paper-based and multiple-choice exams.

Many people have been unable to complete and achieve the qualification and NEBOSH has announced that as an interim measure it plans to run the following exams on 9 September 2020:

  • Invigilated paper-based exams
    • NEBOSH National and International General Certificate – GC2
    • Certificate in Environmental Management – unit EC1
    • National Certificate in Fire Safety and Risk Management - FC1
    • International Certificate in Fire Safety and Risk Management – unit IFC1
    • International Technical Certificate in Oil and Gas Operational Safety – unit IOG1
    • National Certificate in Construction Health and Safety – unit NCC1
    • International Certificate in Construction Health and Safety – unit ICC1
    • National Certificate in the Management of Health and Well-being at Work – unit NHC1
  • Multiple-choice question papers
    • Health & Safety at Work – unit HSW1
    • Environmental Awareness at Work – unit EAW1
    • Health, Safety and Environment in the Process Industries – unit HSEP1
    • NEBOSH HSE Certificate in Process Safety Management – unit PSM1

NEBOSH says its committed to developing safer, alternative assessment routes for all of its learners. The first phase of this transformation project includes units NG1, IG1, NGC1 and IGC1 in the English language only and the date of the first exam for these will be announced shortly.

For more information, visit www.nebosh.org.uk/

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HSE resumes occupational health and hygiene testing services 01/07/2020

THE HEALTH & Safety Executive (HSE) has announced that it is resuming some of its occupational health and hygiene testing services on a limited basis.

In order for the HSE to work in a COVID-secure way, the organisation is currently operating at a reduced capacity, which means that the usual turnaround times cannot be guaranteed.

In a statement, the HSE said: "All testing will be completed as soon as possible, and we will be keeping all customers up to date with regular communications.

"We appreciate that the Coronavirus pandemic has been a difficult time for businesses and individuals alike and we thank you for your continued patience while we adjust to new ways of working."

For an overview of the testing & monitoring services, click here.

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HSM Podcast - Episode 5 01/07/2020

THE FIFTH episode of the Health & Safety Matters (HSM) podcast is now available and it features interviews with BSI Group Certification Manager Nathan Shipley and Shawcity Managing Director Neil O'Regan.

The HSM Podcast is sponsored by The Health & Safety Event, which now takes place on 27-28 April 2021 at NEC Birmingham.

In this episode, Western Business Media CEO Mark Sennett covers shocking new research on the number of people seriously injured in the workplace and also interviews BSI PPE Group Certification Manager Nathan Shipley on what BSI is doing to ensure standards of PPE products in the market. Mark also chats with Shawcity managing director Neil O'Regan on the next major innovation needed for monitoring technology and the key issues facing that market.

You can listen to the HSM Podcast for free on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, YouTube or Podbean. To download the podcast on Spotify, Google Play or iTunes all you need to do is enter Health and Safety Matters into the platform's search box.

Alternatively you can listen to the podcast online at hsmpodcast.podbean.com or watch it on YouTube by clicking HERE

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Ireland unites in calls for increased farm safety 29/06/2020

MINISTERS FROM Northern Ireland and the Republic come together to call for increased awareness of farm safety.

With the ongoing high rate of fatal farm accidents in 2020, Minster Creed, Minister Poots, Minister Dodds and Minister Humphreys have urged all farmers across the island of Ireland, and all of those involved in agriculture, to play their part and reduce the rate of farm incidents.

In a joint appeal the Ministers said: “We all have a long association with farming and have all seen first-hand the devastation that follows farm incidents and fatalities. 

“It is very concerning to see a surge in the number of fatal farm incidents on our farms. This year, there have been 15 fatal incidents on farms on the island of Ireland, with 12 fatal incidents in the South and 3 fatal incidents in Northern Ireland. The majority of these accidents have occurred during the Covid-19 restrictions and in particular it is very sad to see the number of children and older people that have died on our farms in recent weeks”

Three children and eight people over 65 have died this year. Thirteen have occurred during the Covid-19 restrictions. The Ministers continued: “There has been a remarkable level of public awareness across both jurisdictions of the need to flatten the Covid curve. Faced with an overwhelming public health imperative, practices such as physical distancing, coughing etiquette and hand sanitising have become a cultural norm.

“We need a similar and immediate effort if we are to make a real impact on the prevalence of farm incidents. Farm safety has to be built into our DNA. We have demonstrated with our collective response to Covid that this can be done. 

“Research shows that farmers and contractors are generally aware of the risks, but often don’t adhere to the safety rules or take specific steps to ensure that the work they are engaged in can be done safely.  Farm safety cannot be left to someone else.  It has to be lived by the farmer, by all of us, and built into the routine. We are appealing to farmers and those working on farms to take time to think about farm safety every morning, before you go out into the yard. You should always plan your work, take a moment to STOP and THINK:

  • How am I going to do this job safely?
  • Do I have everything I need?
  • Are there other people or hazards (machinery, obstructions, livestock) in the area I’m working in?

“This approach does not cost anything.  It only takes a few moments. It does, however, require conscious reflection on farm safety every single day, and before every single job is tackled.

“There are additional risks just now with farmers and contractors busy working with animals, making silage and spreading fertiliser and slurry.  Also many farms will have children at home from school so everyone needs to be extra vigilant.

“Following on from the good weather that we enjoyed during May, it is important that everyone is aware of the increased risk when it comes to working with slurry. The good weather has the potential to cause greater level of gasses to be released from the slurry during agitation than what may usually be experienced. We remind all farmers and contractors that just one lungful of slurry gas can kill. So take great care when working with slurry and always follow the published advice.”

Farming is a vital part of the structure and economy across the Island. Farmers continue to work hard and long hours on a daily basis to produce essential foodstuffs. While farms are high-risk workplaces, farming does not have to be dangerous. Simple basic precautions can reduce the risks and prevent future accidents. This is particularly important at present during the Covid-19 restrictions as more people are at home and on the farm including young children and older members of families.

Along with our Farm Safety Partnerships, the four Ministers have come together to outline their concern and collectively are calling on all to work together with the single goal of preventing accidents and therefore saving lives.

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School fined after a pupil severely injured using a band saw 29/06/2020

CARGILFIELD SCHOOL has been fined following the incident where a pupil sustained severe cuts to his middle and index finger on his right hand and serious tendon damage, when using a band saw.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard that, between 1 September 2015 and 2 November 2017, in the Construction Design and Technology Workshop at Cargilfield School, Edinburgh, pupils made wooden boxes using a band saw which is classed as a dangerous machine.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found Cargilfield School failed to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks arising out of or in connection with use of the band saw and failed to adequately supervise pupils while they were carrying out tasks using the band saw. The pupil was making a free hand cut on the band saw without adequate workpiece support and was not adequately supervised.

Cargilfield School of Gamekeepers Road, Edinburgh pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act and was fined £3,350.

After the hearing, HSE inspector, Karen Moran said: “A band saw is considered a dangerous machine when used by adults, let alone children. This significant and very serious injury could have been prevented had the risk been identified and properly managed. All schools should take steps to ensure the safety of their pupils and HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

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Health and Safety Event postponed until 2021 29/06/2020

THE HEALTH and Safety Event has once again been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and will now take place on 27-28 April 2021.

The event was originally scheduled to take place in April 2020 and then moved to September 2020 due to Covid-19. It will now take place on 27-28 April 2021 at NEC in Birmingham and will still be co-located with The Fire Safety Event, The Security Event, The Facilities Event and the Emergency Services Show.

In a letter sent to exhibitors, which has been shared with Health and Safety Matters, Nineteen Group said: "Thank you for bearing with us during this incredibly difficult time. Your feedback across all shows, along with that of our visitors, has understandably been mixed, ranging from ‘supportive for September’, to ‘not sure’, to ‘prefer to postpone’.  

"Also, as stated previously, our venue NEC, require authorisation from Government to open for shows, which at the time of writing this letter, they unfortunately still do not have. 

"This lack of Government authorisation, and guidance, means we cannot commit to September as we are prevented from having sufficient time to ratify exactly what, and how, we can work with the venue and partners to finalise what a Covid-secure event looks like.

"Ultimately, safety must come above all else. Given this continued uncertainty, we are left with no option other than to postpone allowing us to safely deliver our events."

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Employers warned despite changes to Covid-19 restrictions 24/06/2020

THE BRITISH Safety Council has responded to the government’s plans to further ease lockdown restrictions from 4 July, reminding employers that they have a duty of care to their staff.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that on 4 July pubs and restaurants will re-open, as well as hairdressers, hotels and bed and breakfasts, cinemas, museums and galleries. The government is publishing new guidance on how businesses can reduce the risk by taking certain steps to protect workers and customers. These include avoiding face-to-face seating, reducing the number of people inside, improving ventilation, changing shift patterns and increasing face coverings, including mandatory face coverings on public transport.

In the course of his statement in the House of Commons the Boris Johnson said: “At every stage, caution will remain our watchword and each step will be conditional and reversible”. A key change announced today is a revision of guidance on social distancing from two metres to “one metre plus”. The prime minister said that “where it is possible to keep two metres apart people should”.

After hearing the statement, British Safety Council chief executive Michael Robinson commented: “I know that many people will welcome the relaxation of the lockdown rules today which will mean they can more easily see their friends, and from 4 July visit their local pub or restaurant – subject to the necessary precautions. Throughout the coronavirus crisis we have been working to support our members and others to adapt how they work and to make sure their workers and customers are safe. The same principles must now apply to hospitality and leisure businesses, reducing risk as far as is practicable and talking through the necessary changes with employees so that the whole team is acting to keep everyone safe.

“Covid-19 has obviously not gone away, it remains a risk and it is right that employers, who have a duty of care to their staff, do everything they can to protect them as they get ready to re-open in July. The prime minister has said that caution is the “government’s watchword”, and I hope that it is. The precautionary principle is at the heart of health and safety management – by planning, acting and checking processes we can reduce the risk and keep people safe.  

“The scientific advice coming from the Health and Safety Executive has not changed – the risk of transmission is significantly higher the closer people are to one another and it is still recommended that people keep two metres apart where they can – as the prime minister has said. Where social distancing is not always possible, such as on public transport, then face coverings can mitigate risk. Like the prime minister, I hope people will apply common sense, and that means taking into account the very real risk that remains, even as the lockdown ends.”

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