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|Falling in line||07/09/2018|
Latest annual workplace fatality figures from the HSE show that falls from height were the biggest killer in 2017-18 but why are they remaining stubbornly high and what’s being done about it? Georgina Bisby investigates.
The HSE’s provisional annual data for work-related fatal injuries showed that 144 workers were fatally injured between April 2017 and March 2018 which represents an increase of nine fatalities over 2016/17. Significantly, 35 of these deaths were caused by a fall from height, accounting for 25% of the total number of fatalities. This compares to the next highest figure of 26 people being killed when struck by ‘a moving vehicle’ which accounted for 18 percent of total fatalities and 23 people being ‘struck by a moving object, which accounted for 16 percent.
Meanwhile, the Building Safety Group (BSG), has already reported a 13% rise in the number of ‘Working at Height’ safety breaches recorded on construction sites in 2018 based on 10,000 site inspections conducted during the first 6 months of 2018, comparing Q1 with Q2, which is a cause for further concern.
A complex subject?
Jonathan continues: “Looking at the statistics around age is particularly interesting. Across the industry, education and training is being ramped up to ensure safety remains the number one priority. This is clear to see in vocational education for example, where safety training is now incorporated into the teaching syllabus. This has had a knock on effect where those in the younger age brackets now expect higher standards from their employers. We can see this correlating with the statistics - fatal injuries are at their lowest for those aged 16-24.
Adds Jonathan: “It is important that self-employed workers understand what working at height means and what precautions need to be put into place to help ensure risks are managed as best as possible. This isn’t just about wearing the correct PPE or being aware of the ‘usual’ risks that could crop up on a job. Each job is unique and so the precautions taken prior should also be specific to that individual job.
Jonathan warns: “Self-employed workers need to be competent enough to carry out work in the safest way. In order to do so, risks should be managed as best as possible, thorough training needs to be taken and the correct equipment should be used to complete the task in hand.”Tougher fines
In light of the latest figures evidence that courts are getting tougher on work at height safety is welcome news. In July 2018 Kier was fined £200,000 while its subcontractor JHH Engineering was hit for £30,000 after a roof fall from a school in east London left a worker with a life- threatening injury.
Southwark Crown Court heard how, on 1 December 2014, following a leak on a flat roof at Downsell Primary School, facility managers Kier Facilities Services Ltd requested subcontractors, JHH Engineering to take action. While undertaking the repair work, the JHH Engineering Ltd employee fell, suffering a life-changing head injury. The worker has been left with severe cognitive effects including memory loss, behavioural and mood changes, and a reduced ability to care for himself.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), found that site-specific planning was not requested from JHH Engineering, nor provided, and that the work was not monitored. In addition Kier Facilities Services failed to implement its own work at height procedures and ensure subcontractors were vetted. The investigation also found the roof was accessed by an employee of JHH Engineering Ltd using an unsecured, damaged ladder of insufficient length which was missing its rubber feet and stability bar. No harness was found, and the employee had not used the fall restraint system provided by Kier whilst on the roof.
Elsewhere Essex based Survey Roofing has been ordered to pay £65,000 in fines and costs after two workers were seen working unsafely on a 12.5m high pitched Homebase roof in Cardiff. Cardiff Magistrates’ Court heard how, in August 2015, during repair work on the roof at the store in Llanishen, a HSE inspector witnessed two workers working on a roof which had unprotected potentially fragile roof lights, without sufficient control measures in place.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the work created a risk of injury to employees from falling from or through the roof, and to members of the public from falling objects. The investigation found suitable and sufficient measures had not been taken to protect employees, such as completing the work from the basket of a mobile elevated work platform and that members of the public had not been protected from falling objects, by closing the store or cordoning off below the work area. Survey Roofing Group and the Survey Roofing Group companies, which share many of the same directors, had received previous advice and enforcement from HSE regarding unsafe work at height.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Paul Newton said: “Falls from height remain one of the most common causes of work-related fatalities in this country and the risks associated with working at height are well known. All work at height should be properly planned, including short-term reactive work, so workers and members of the public are not put at risk. Commercial clients and companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”
It is also worth noting that the introduction of new guidlines for manslaughter by the Sentencing Council which will come into force in courts on 1 November 2018 could also see tougher penalties in incidents where there is a fatality due to negligence.
Wake up call
Comments PASMA’s chairwoman, Gillian Rutter: “Everyone involved in the work at height sector will be disappointed and concerned by these figures. They reinforce the need for two things. First, the unrelenting promotion of safety, standards and best practice. Second, the need to seek out and introduce new initiatives.”
An official inquiry into the number of serious injuries and fatalities resulting from falls from height and falling objects in the workplace was launched by the APPG last year. The group received over 60 evidence submissions and held its first oral session on 28 March 2018. They are expected to publish a report of their findings in the Autumn of 2018.
Meanwhile the brand new No Falls Foundation is said to be the first and only UK-based charity dedicated exclusively to the work at height sector. Supported by the AIF and other stakeholders, its aim is to prevent falls from height and to help people affected by the life-changing consequences of a fall. It has three principal objectives: Preventing falls; researching the causes of falls and providing support.
The work at height charity has set out three distinct objectives: to advance health and the saving of lives through understanding and reducing the likelihood, impact and risk of falls from height and injuries sustained from objects falling from height; to research the causes of falls and falling objects; and to support people facing the aftermath and consequences of falls.
Concludes Gillian Rutter: “These initiatives will, over time, add considerably to the resources available to help keep people safe when working at height. It’s only by constantly advancing the height safety agenda that we will make a significant impact on these alarming statistics. These are people, not numbers”.
|Up in the air||25/07/2018|
Air pollution is an increasingly urgent public health issue yet evidence suggests many businesses are confused about what could and should be done. Thankfully the construction industry has taken action through an initiative which is committed to sharing inspiration and information for tackling air pollution with the construction industry and beyond. Georgina Bisby finds out more
According to the World Health Organisation around seven million people die each year from exposure to fine particles in polluted air that lead to diseases such as stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections, and more recently exposure to polluted air has been linked to diabetes.
Consequently tackling air pollution is a priority that is rising up the international agenda. The WHO will hold its first international conference on clean air and health in Geneva in October 2018 and in the UK a National Clean Air Day was launched in 2017 in response to surveys that showed that there is a lack of understanding about how to avoid or reduce air pollution. The Government also currently has a draft Clean Air Strategy out for consultation and a group of MPs have been calling for a new Clean Air Act.
As a heavy-polluting industry, the construction industry needed to drastically reduce its contribution to air pollution so in February 2018, the Considerate Constructors Scheme launched ‘Spotlight on… air pollution’ to raise awareness of the impact of air pollution and provide the industry with advice on tackling the issue.
Construction sites are a heavy-polluting industry responsible for 7.5% of nitrogen oxide emissions, 8% of large particle emissions and 14.5% of the most dangerous fine particle emissions. Considerate Constructors Scheme Chief Executive, Edward Hardy told HSM: “A staggering 40,000 deaths a year are linked to air pollution in the UK, and many people are suffering long-term health problems caused by poor air quality. As construction is a significant contributor to air pollution, it is essential for the industry to put measures in place to clean up our air by working together to reduce our impact on air quality.”
As part of the research for this campaign, the Scheme issued a survey to industry professionals asking for their views and approaches to air pollution. Of those surveyed, 84% asserted that there is an issue with air pollution in the construction industry, with an additional 64% saying the industry is not doing enough to tackle this issue. Despite this urgency, 39% said they only had an average understanding of the regulations surrounding air pollution. As air pollution is an area which is tightly governed by legislative standards it is essential for construction professionals to understand what they need to do to comply with air quality measures.
Somebody else's problem?
In subsequent research Considerate Construction Scheme Monitors, who visit 18,000 construction sites and offices every year, identified an urgent need for additional training on air pollution to help end misconceptions and improve understanding of the topic. A common thread in their comments was that SMEs and companies located away from busy urban centres was that air pollution is only a problem in bust urban areas such as London. Others were said to believe that air pollution solely concerns dust and didn't recognise how diesel exhaust emissions from machinery and vehicles also play a considerable part.
Among those who did appreciate the issue, their answer was often that it is a head office or supply chain issue, as they believed site managers have little control over what equipment is used.
To help clarify meet the demand for further information, the Scheme has developed a new e-learning course focused on air pollution which is free of charge and can be accessed by all registered Considerate Construction Scheme Hub users.
Edward explains: “The Scheme’s ‘Spotlight on…air pollution’ campaign and e-learning course on air pollution provides access to a practical suite of resources including best practice, guidance and case studies from Scheme-registered construction sites, companies and suppliers on how to tackle this issue, as well as guidance from organisations including the Institute of Air Quality Management, Healthy Air Campaign and the Greater London Authority.
“The need for this campaign and associated e-learning is clearly evident through the huge response the Scheme has received from the construction industry. The ‘Spotlight on…air pollution’ has already been viewed over 3,500 times since its introduction earlier this year. The air pollution e-learning course has received the fastest uptake; with over 500 people taking the course within the first seven days of its launch.
New best practice and innovations
To reinforce the messages of the campaign, the Scheme issued guidance to all of its Monitors ensuring they raise the issue of air pollution when visiting registered sites, companies and suppliers.
Consequently a number of sites and companies have initiated new and interesting ways of tackling air pollution on their projects.
Diesel Generator – Air Quality Impacts (Laing O’Rourke)
The results of the monitoring indicated that the levels of black carbon were incredibly high when the generator was running. The air quality in the canteen and offices would have been significantly impacted.
A Firefly hybrid power-pack unit (essentially a battery) had been installed, which charged from the generator and was able to provide base-load power. When the power switched over to this source there was (as expected) a noticeable improvement in air quality and noise levels.
The study highlighted the need to consider where generators are located and also try to use the highest emission standard possible. The results of this study directly influenced the FLO Tideway site to procure a Euro Stage IV emission standard generator to reduce the impact on air quality.
The Firefly hybrid power pack was shown to have demonstrable benefits in terms of air pollution and noise pollution, as well as reducing carbon emissions.
Photocatalytic hoarding – breaking down pollution (Sir Robert McAlpine)
Through photocatalysis, the safe and non-toxic coating uses UV light from the sun to break down harmful nitrogen oxides and other pollutants into molecules of water and nitrogen. The product is low maintenance and self-cleans with the help of rain.
High NOx levels in the capital, mostly caused by diesel vehicles, have been a particular concern for both national and local government and is a growing issue on construction sites. Cutting-edge technology such as this may be a small step towards tackling the problem.
Through passively reducing the levels of harmful atmospheric gases the hoarding is improving the air quality for the workforce on site as well as potentially helping to combat the Macro environmental issue of air quality in London.
Using exhaust filters to reduce air pollution (Kier)
They contacted a supplier who manufactures heavy duty exhaust filters that can be fitted externally to items of plant, this filter kit removes 95% of particulate from diesel engines.
Georgina Bisby is contributing editor for FSM and is also editor of Skill Builder. For more information, visit www.hsmsearch.com
|Why is head trauma making the headlines?||01/06/2018|
Head trauma has become a hot topic in recent years, particularly in the sports world, as a growing body of research suggests even minor concussion and one-off impacts to the head can cause serious and long term health issues. Georgina Bisby examines the latest research and considers the wider implications for head protection
In July 2017 a study published in the medical journal, JAMA, found evidence of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, currently known as CTE, in 99% of deceased National Football League (NFL) players' brains that had been donated to scientific research. This was sobering, but not altogether shocking, as by this point it was well documented that frequent knocks to the head, such as the regular concussions experienced by NFL players, could cause neurodegeneration. It was also suspected that returning to play too soon after a head trauma could delay recovery with the brain likely to be vulnerable to further changes immediately after an injury.
What was more surprising however were the findings of the largest study of its kind, published in JAMA Neurology in May 2018, that showed that just one mild traumatic brain injury could have long term health effects and double the risk of dementia later in life.
After adjusting for age, sex, race, education and other health conditions, they found that those who had experienced concussion without loss of consciousness led to 2.36 times the risk for dementia. These risks were slightly elevated for those in the loss-of-consciousness bracket (2.51) and were nearly four times higher (3.77) for those with the more serious moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury.
The study identified participants from two databases: one listing all-era veterans whose traumatic brain injuries included concussion or mild traumatic brain injury which could have occurred during civilian or military life; and the second from veterans serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, for whom most of these injuries had occurred in combat zones, such as from shockwaves in blasts.
"The findings in both groups were similar, indicating that concussions occurring in combat areas were as likely to be linked to dementia as those concussions affecting the general population," said first author Deborah Barnes, PhD, MPH, professor in the UCSF departments of psychiatry, and epidemiology and biostatistics.
In total, 357,558 participants, whose average age was 49, were tracked. Half had been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, of which 54 per cent had had concussion. The study followed participants for an average of 4.2 years; 91 per cent were male and 72 percent were white.
Among Iran and Afghanistan veterans, concussion was defined as mild traumatic brain injury resulting in alteration of consciousness and amnesia for one day or less, based on a comprehensive medical evaluation. In the other veterans, concussion was defined using a wide list of diagnostic codes in the electronic health record.
Discussing the findings, senior author and principal investigator Kristine Yaffe, MD, professor in the UCSF departments of neurology, psychiatry, and epidemiology and biostatistics, said: ”There are several mechanisms that may explain the association between traumatic brain injury and dementia. There's something about trauma that may hasten the development of neurodegenerative conditions. One theory is that brain injury induces or accelerates the accumulation of abnormal proteins that lead to neuronal death associated with conditions like Alzheimer's disease.
"It's also possible that trauma leaves the brain more vulnerable to other injuries or aging processes," said Yaffe, "but we need more work in this area.”
Kristine Yaffe advises: For those who experience a concussion, get medical attention, allow time to heal and try to avoid repeat concussions. Although our study did not directly examine this issue, there is growing evidence that repeated concussions appear to have a cumulative effect."
The study's results are the latest in a growing volume of research that links concussion and other traumatic brain injuries to various psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders. In April 2018, UCSF researchers also reported a link between concussion and Parkinson's disease, this time finding veterans who had experienced concussion faced a 56 per cent increased risk for Parkinson’s.
Making an impact
Meanwhile research into the association between sports-related head traumas and brain injury has been ongoing. In 2016 the International Concussion and Head Injury Research Foundation (ICHIRF), begun a three year project looking at the long-term effects of concussion in men and women who have competed in impact sports. Part of a multi-national collaboration between concussion research centres in Australia, Switzerland and the USA, the ICHIRF is seeking to establish whether retired sportsmen and sportswomen have an increased incidence of, or suffer an earlier onset of euro-degenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease and CTE.
For the first 12 months, ICHIRF concentrated its research on retired jockeys, both amateur and professional, but the project has now been expanded to include athletes from a wide variety of other impact sports.
Elsewhere, in the US, after initial reluctance to address the issue, the NFL is now funding research into head trauma and in 2016 launched Play Smart, Stay Safe, which it describes as a commitment to “drive progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of head injuries, enhance medical protocols and further improve the way the game is taught and played.”
There are already some interesting developments in terms of head protection coming out of the Play Smart, Stay Safe initiative. The project's biomechanical engineers have suggested taking lessons from the automobile industry where modern tools and rich data analysis have been used to improve safety could lead to improvements in head protection. Specifically they believe the collection of data accurately representing on-field impacts will enable engineers to improve helmet performance. Once the problem can be measured, the engineering community can work on creating a better helmet. The NFL says its goal is to provide the resources and information to stimulate the marketplace to design solutions.
Tackling risks in rugby
The rugby world has also been compelled to take action, bringing in a new law for head injury assessments in August 2017 but the sport is under increasing pressure to go further. One UK brain expert suggesting that the game should limit contact time during training sessions. Consultant neuropathologist Dr Willie Stewart told the BBC that rates of concussion in the professional game are still "unacceptably high" and suggests limiting or banning contact training sessions during the season would be a significant step towards reducing the risk of brain injury for players.
Others would like to see more done to prevent head trauma at a youth sport level. In March 2016, scientists and doctors from the Sport Collision Injury Collective a multidisciplinary collective of academics who say they are committed to reducing injuries sustained in youth sport called for tackling in youth rugby to be banned. So far their calls have been rejected; with health experts citing lack of exercise and obesity as greater threats to children’s health but this has not quietened the campaigners.
In an opinion piece published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in September 2017, Allyson Pollock and Graham Kirkwood from the Institute of Health at Newcastle University and part of the collective urged once again that harmful contact should be prohibited during school rugby games.They pointed to the fact that most injuries in youth rugby occur due to the collision elements of the game and urged ministers to “put the interests of the child before those of corporate professional rugby unions”. The academics also suggested that “teacher training in the skills of rugby are lacking, as is concussion awareness training.” Professor Pollock, went on to urge that under United Nations conventions, governments have a “duty to protect children from risks of injury”. World Rugby rejected the claims as “extreme and alarmist” a sentiment which was echoed by The Rugby Football Union.
As these debates and recent research findings show, head trauma in sport is an emotive and complex area and there are still a great many unanswered questions about its prevalence and long-term effects. What is clear is that in light of latest research the traditional attitude in some sports that playing through concussion is just 'part of the game' is no longer acceptable which is likely to have a knock on effect in the workplace. Greater understanding and awareness of the consequences of head trauma may well inspire a universally more cautious approach to dealing with impacts to the head and employers may look for areas where there is room for improvement. For example, while most employers understand that where there is a risk of impact to the head from moving objects, an industrial safety helmet in accordance with BS EN 397:2012 is required, fewer employers consider bump caps for scenarios where there is a risk of impact between the head and stationary objects such as low ceilings, work stations or overhead piping. This is perhaps because sporting culture has traditionally portrayed knocks to the head as a benign and every day occurrence, but with an increasing body of evidence suggesting otherwise, it seems this attitude is ripe for review both on and off the sports field.
|Combating construction dust||27/04/2018|
Georgina Bisby discusses recent progress around the prevention and control of construction dust
According to HSE statistics occupational lung disease claims 12,000 lives a year so it’s no surprise that dealing with dust has become one of the regulator’s top priorities with serious fines for companies who fail to manage the hazard effectively.
Regularly breathing in even small amounts of construction dust over time damages the lungs and airways causing lung diseases including lung cancer; silicosis; Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) and asthma. Unfortunately, by the time the damage is noticeable the conditions have often become difficult to treat.
In December 2017 a London based building contractor, MY Construction & Carpentry Limited (MY Construction), was fined £40,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2313.10 after failing to plan, manage and monitor work under its control, leading to gross exposure of workers to Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) otherwise known as silica dust, one of the three main types of Construction Dust along with non-silica dust and wood dust.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that failures in health and safety management had led to numerous issues on site. Workers were not informed of the dangers of inhaling the dust, they were not made aware of the correct controls, and the work was not supervised by a competent person.
Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Prentiss Clarke-Jones said: “Over 500 construction workers are believed to die from exposure to silica dust every year. It is the biggest risk to construction workers after asbestos.
“This number can be reduced by those in control of the work through adequate planning, managing and monitoring of the work on site.
“MY Construction has been repeatedly warned by HSE about the dangers of silica, and has today been held to account for failing to take adequate action to protect the health and safety of its workers.”
Such cases serve as a reminder of how seriously the HSE takes exposure to dangerous dust and also demonstrate how, following changes to the sentencing guidelines which came into force in February 2016, companies can now receive significant fines for putting employees at risk of harm as well as for causing actual demonstrable harm.
Because construction dust is classified as PM10 - particulate matter less than 10 microns in diameter, invisible to the naked eye it also affects air quality - which is an issue that is rising up the agenda, especially in London where there is deemed to be an air pollution crisis. In fact in March 2018 the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Environmental Audit, Health and Social Care, and Transport Committees published a joint report on improving air quality that suggested the situation is so severe a new Clean Air Act is necessary to tackle what is described as “a national health emergency”.
This follows the launch of new guidance on the assessment of dust from demolition and construction by the Institute of Air Quality Management in 2014. The Chair of the working group who prepared the guidance, Dr Claire Holman, comments: “The potential for construction dust is often given scant consideration in the planning process, yet it can increase particulate matter in the air causing health effects as well as annoying the local community. There is no excuse. Demolition and construction dust can be well controlled using established methods. This guidance is important because it provides a method for assessing the risk and determining the appropriate mitigation measures that should be used.”
With this in mind there is increasing pressure on construction companies to examine where they can make improvements in managing construction dust.
Choosing & using RPE
This is helped by the fact that respiratory devices are themselves becoming easier to fit and wear. Innovations in RPE include improved comfort and fit with fit-checking methods being built into the RPE’s design.
However there is evidence that there is still more work to be done around fit testing. According to the fit2fit initiative, research indicates that up to 50% of all RPE used does not offer the wearer the level of protection assumed and one of the major reasons is that it simply does not fit. Yet, under the regulations RPE must be correctly selected and this includes, for many types of RPE, a face piece Fit Test conducted by a competent person.
Other obvious areas for improvement include making sure those working around someone generating dust are protected as well as the worker who is generating dust themselves. It’s not uncommon to see unprotected workers working closely to workers who are generating construction dust - this is of particular concern given the invisible nature of a lot of dangerous dust.
Controlling construction dust
Where creating dust is unavoidable the HSE says the most important thing is to stop the dust getting into the air. There are two main ways of doing so, the first of which is to use water to damp down dust clouds. The HSE suggests this is very effective provided it is done correctly which means using enough water for the whole time that the work is being done. Just wetting an area of ground before cutting does not work.
The other main method of stopping dust getting into the air is via vacuum extraction – specially designed tools can be fitted with an industrial vacuum unit that sucks the dust away as it is being created and stores it until emptied. It is also a useful method of cleaning up. Awareness of the need for suitable dust extraction is increasing with some sites only permitting access if contractors and tradespeople have dust extraction. There is also a move among larger sites to completely ban sweeping, which recirculates dust, in favour of vacuuming.
This has been driving innovation in dust extraction. Dust extraction comes in three classes: L (Low), M (Medium) and H (High) with M class dust extraction a minimum requirement for construction dust. M and L class dust extractors actually have the same filtration but M class dust extractors include an audible alarm to alert users when the suction rate has reduced, from for example a blocked hose or full dust bag. H class dust extractors are designed for higher hazard dusts which pose a more serious health risk such as asbestos, mould and formaldehyde.The role of power tool manufacturers
Given that a significant proportion of construction dust is created through the use of power tools the power tool manufacturers have an important role to play in reducing dust and are making decent progress as demand for safer, cleaner tools grows.
Several power tool manufacturers including Bosch, DEWALT, Hilti and Milwaukee now offer hollow drill bits which attach to a vacuum for built-in dust collection that has the bonus of making drilling faster and more efficient.
Bosch is also concentrating on its Click and Clean systems with stand alone mains powered wet and dry extractors with HEPA filters as well as a very affordable 10 litre cordless extractor which uses the same 18 volt battery platform as their cordless power tools. It is hoped that the smaller contractor (white van man) will adopt this system and keep it on site for all jobs. The fact that it is portable and can handle liquids makes it a very versatile system.
Hilti meanwhile has a research centre dedicated to dust. As their core business lies in civil and commercial construction they have some high end solutions which include wet diamond drilling rigs that remove the dust slurry before recirculating the water to the cutting core. There is a school of thought that wet drilling is a more effective way of controlling dust and the mission for Hilti is to manage the water so their wet systems can be used in occupied buildings.
An increasing number of power tools are also now bluetooth enabled allowing connectivity between the users cordless tools and their dust extractor making dust free working easier. Festool for example has introduced two new Bluetooth batteries and a Bluetooth remote control, as well as a new smooth hose and mobile dust extractor.
Despite these innovations and evidence of growth in awareness of the dangers of dust it is still not unusual on smaller domestic sites to see builders and, in particular, roofers cutting concrete tiles with dry diamond discs surrounding the neighbouring properties in silica dust. At present very few of the general population appreciate the health hazards associated with construction dust but this is changing. As awareness of the impact of air quality on health grows and people are able to monitor their local air quality using their mobile phone, tolerance of activities that have a negative impact on air quality is likely to fall. Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 dust can be judged to be causing a statutory nuisance to neighbouring properties and complaints can result in prosecutions. When that becomes common knowledge there may be real progress on the war on construction dust.
|Sitting versus standing - where do we stand?||23/04/2018|
In recent years headlines claiming that sitting is the new smoking have caused alarm among desk based workers especially in light of suggestions that regular exercise is not enough to undo sitting's ills. Georgina Bisby reports
The idea that “Sitting is the new smoking” garnered attention after Dr. James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative suggested during an interview with The Los Angeles Times in 2014: “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.”
Dr Levine’s comments came in the wake of several research studies which had indicated that sitting for long periods of time might not be such a good idea and was associated with a catalogue of health problems. According to a study published in 2012 led by the University of Leicester, in association with researchers at Loughborough University, sitting for long periods increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease and death.
In light of the findings Loughborough University’s Professor Stuart Biddle, a co-investigator on the study, recommended: “There are many ways we can reduce our sitting time, such as breaking up long periods at the computer at work by placing our laptop on a filing cabinet. We can have standing meetings, we can walk during the lunch break, and we can look to reduce TV viewing in the evenings by seeking out less sedentary behaviours.”
These recommendation were embraced by offices across the country and sit-stand desks which were already popular in Scandinavia, with over 90% of office workers having a sit-stand desk in Denmark, started becoming more commonplace in the UK. Standing at work quickly became trendy with companies publishing pictures of their standing meetings, Google and Microsoft offering sit-stand desks to workers who requested them and the likes of Victoria Beckham sharing snaps of their sit/stand desk set up on social media.
Meanwhile the evidence against sitting kept coming and anyone left sitting at a desk was regularly be reminded of the serious health problems they were storing up. A study published in the US publication, the Annals of Internal Medicine in October 2017, found both the total volume of sedentary time and its accrual in prolonged, uninterrupted bouts are associated with all-cause mortality. If the sitting didn't kill you the stress of worrying how devastating it could be for your health surely would.
Standing more dangerous than sitting?
The study by Curtin University in Australia published in the Journal of Ergonomics had observed 20 participants working at standing desks for two hours. During this time, although problem-solving improved, discomfort significantly increased in all body areas and reaction time and mental state deteriorated. The report therefore urged that replacing prolonged sitting with standing should be done with caution and those who had invested in sit/stand desks were left asking whether they now had new health risks on their hands.
The report’s findings were in contrast with a previous Cochrane review published by Shrestha et al (2016) looking at workplace interventions for reducing sitting at work had concluded that while sit-stand desks did not have a considerably positive effect on work performance, musculoskeletal symptoms or sick leave they equally did not produce harmful effects, such as musculoskeletal pain, varicose veins, or a decrease in productivity. The Cochrane review did however highlight the need for more comprehensive research.
One size doesn’t fit all
“The evidence we have suggests that sit/stand desks are a good idea, if regularly used, but they are not the whole answer. Having a fixed height sitting desk is fine, provided it is set up for your use and you can take regular breaks from the seated posture. Whole body movement is important as it encourages good blood flow that, in turn, maintains alertness and reduces muscular fatigue. It’s always advisable to walk around the office as much as possible whether that’s making a hot drink or walking over to a colleague’s desk rather than sending them an email. If you’re likely to stay in a seated position for 3 to 4 hour sittings and not take regular breaks, then a sit/stand desk would probably be preferable – at least you could make regular changes between the two postures,” says John.
There’s also no one size fits all solutions urges John. “It’s difficult to accurately determine whether sitting or standing will increase risks of serious illnesses as people all have an individual level of risk for certain conditions based on their genetics, life history and environment that is totally unrelated to their sitting habits. I think it’s important to point out that we would all benefit from a greater level of movement, so whether you install a sit/stand desk or decide to stick with a traditional sitting desk, make sure you take opportunities to walk around, stretch and get your blood moving,” he concludes.
Don’t just stand there
“But the evidence is catching up and it’s showing there are some drawbacks. They are not a panacea for back pain, yet companies are worried that if they provide them they’ll be sued.”
Research into the risks and benefits of standing desks is ongoing and Professor Taylor suggested that benefits of standing desks may come to light in the future but in the mean time workers with standing desks shouldn’t ignore advice to keep mobile and go for regular walks just because they have a standing desk.
“Get up, go and make a cup of tea or coffee - don’t just stand there,” he said.
Box out: What are sit-stand adjustable desks?
Sit-stand adjustable desks enable users to easily switch between sitting and standing.
A standing desk can be easily adjusted to sitting or standing height. There are four mechanisms:
Box out: On your feet day - Friday 27th April
On 27th April 2018, Get Britain Standing, campaign to increase awareness and education of the dangers of sedentary working and prolonged sitting time, in association with the Active Working initiative are asking the nation to unite against prolonged office sitting by taking on the challenge to get on their feet.
Get Britain Standing wants workplaces and individuals across Britain to sit less and move more during their working day and has several resources to help available on their website: www.getbritainstanding.org
Ideas to get you moving
Run a lunchtime fitness workshop for the office.
It’s free to sign up at: onyourfeetday.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org
|Do proposed mobile phone penalties go far enough?||06/01/2016|
Last month the Government announced that motorists who use handheld mobile phones while driving could face an increase from the current three penalty points to four, and fines could go up to £150 from £100. The proposals form part of the Department of Transport's road safety plan which the Government will be consulting on in 2016.
But with mobile phone use increasingly a contributory factor to road accidents in Britain do the proposals go far enough?
According to a Department for Transport (DfT) study, 1.6% of all drivers in England were observed using a mobile phone in 2014, up from 1.4% in 2009 and statistics show mobile phone use contributed to 21 fatal accidents and 84 serious accidents in 2014. Yet analysis of Ministry of Justice data, published by the RAC in October 2015, shows that prosecutions for the offence have fallen by almost half in five years.
It’s no surprise then that more severe penalties for offenders have been welcomed. Michael Lloyd, director of AA Car Insurance, has praised the Government for at last catching up with the insurance industry, which has long regarded mobile phone offences as being significantly more serious than speeding.
Explains Lloyd: “Drivers using a handheld mobile phone are at four times greater risk of having a crash than a driver not using one and I’m delighted that the penalty will now better reflect the seriousness of this offence.
"Car insurers already reflect this in the premiums of offenders who can expect an average premium increase twice that imposed for a speeding conviction."
But some are questioning whether the proposed measures will have any real impact. Tim Shallcross from the Institute of Advanced Motorists says evidence shows previous increases in fines have not changed driving behaviour, explaining: "The Department for Transport's own research showed that when they doubled the penalty from £50 to £100 in 2013 it made no discernible difference whatsoever."
"What deters people from using mobile phones is the fear of being caught and, frankly, with fewer police on the roads that possibility is becoming less and less."
With even the police finding it difficult to resist using their mobile phone while driving, Top cop is'caught using mobile phone while driving away from police station and
What do you think? Do the Government's proposed increases in penalties for mobile phone use while driving go far enough? If not, what do you think would really deter motorists from using mobile phones while driving? We’d like to hear your views.
|A+A 2015 was all about getting connected||09/11/2015|
As would be expected from an international trade fair, getting connected was a central theme for A+A 2015 which took place in Düsseldorf from 27th -30th October.
For the trade show’s 30th year in Düsseldorf, 887 exhibitors from 57 countries came together to showcase the latest trends and technologies in occupational health, safety and security. The biennial exhibition has come a long way since its launch in 1954 when 2000 visitors were invited to see 74 stands; with 65,000 visitors through the door in 2015 it’s fair to say A+A has established itself as the meeting place for the industry.
But at the 2015 event getting connected wasn't just about shaking hands and sharing business cards; it was at the core of technological innovation too. The Internet of Things (IoT), a term used to describe the growing number of devices that are connected to the internet, to each other and to us, is a hot topic in manufacturing and its potential to improve processes, efficiency and safety is believed to be so great it has been dubbed the fourth industrial revolution, or "Industry 4.0".
While most people will be familiar with connected technologies such as fitness monitors or home automation devices, as the size and cost of sensors and web connection falls, the projection is that everything that can be connected will be connected. This will span billions of devices across a wide range of technologies and is predicted to have an enormous economic impact. It was no surprise then that at A+A 2015 connected technologies were generating a lot of interest.
On the JSP stand, for example, the company reported strong demand for its new system for keeping track of height safety equipment, JSPCheck, which uses durable Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags to uniquely identify assets and includes a secure, cloud-based database where asset profiles and data can be stored and backed up in real time. RFID scanners help to connect assets and data anywhere, at any time and scanning can also be done using Android mobile devices.
Automatically updated, JSPCheck removes the need for a company to maintain data on its own servers and replaces inefficient pen and paper inspections. Disaster recovery of inspection histories is therefore completely taken care of.
JSPCheck has a myriad of uses, tracking asset and inspection history, asset location – including named locations or people and GPS coordinates – usage, warranty dates, date of first use, end of life date, manufacturer’s serial numbers and safety information on each piece of equipment. Required safety forms can be built into the system so the user simply scans the RFID tagged asset and uses the JSPCheck cloud software to perform and store safety inspections.
Meanwhile on the Honeywell Safety Products stand the company was sharing its vision of the future of safety: connected safety solutions. Honeywell asserts that by connecting different elements of the safety environment, businesses can improve processes, productivity and efficiency while also improving worker safety.
"In an increasingly competitive marketplace where a business’s reputation and productivity can be significantly impacted by a single failure, safety has become a critical factor in ensuring success,” said Stuart Turnbull, director sales excellence at Honeywell Industrial Safety EMEA. "Providing workers with the right safety equipment is crucial but, in today’s fast-changing world, by itself is not enough. Safety managers also need real-time visibility of their operations so they know what is happening at the precise moment it happens and can act before it becomes a crisis.”
In the week following A+A, at Intel's Internet of Things (IoT) Insights Day held in San Fransisco, Honeywell Industrial Safety demonstrated a prototype of a personal connected safety solution developed in conjunction with Intel.
The Honeywell Connected Worker solution includes a Mobile Hub that collects and provides sensor fusion, which refers to data collected from a variety of sensors on a worker that are compiled to provide a broader picture of what that worker is experiencing. The Mobile Hub pulls data from a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), a heart rate monitor, and several Intel Quark SE microcontroller based devices, including a toxic gas monitor, an activity detection device, and a non-verbal gesture device.
The solution monitors workers for toxic gas exposure, breathing, heart rate, posture and motion. The resulting data and actionable intelligence is displayed remotely on a visual, cloud-based dashboard, giving plant managers the information needed to better anticipate unsafe conditions and prevent potential "man-down" scenarios that could threaten worker safety. In addition, the data can be used to prevent equipment failure that could create unsafe conditions or costly downtime.
Carl Johnson, president of Honeywell Industrial Safety describes the solution as, "a major breakthrough for worker safety and productivity that will revolutionise the industrial workplace.”
It’s a bold claim but there is little doubt that the IoT and the insights derived from the data it generates are rapidly changing the way we live and work so the solutions on display at this year's A+A show are likely to be just the tip of the iceberg. In its report "The internet of things: Mapping the value beyond the hype”, the Mckinsey Global Institute (MGI) suggests that the hype around the IOT may actually understate its full potential and the value potential per year by 2025 for health and safety and operations optimisation could be in the region of $160B-930B.
|Lessons in hygiene||11/09/2014|
As the winter flu season approaches, attention often turns to how best to prevent the spread of illness in the workplace.
The business case for doing so is well understood; a report conducted by the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) identified that by investing in workplace hygiene, it is within employers’ power to reduce the £100 billion a year that sickness among working age people currently costs Britain by 13%, and in turn save the country £13.7 billion. Simple measures such as regular deep cleaning and the promotion of good hand hygiene can maximise the chances of keeping both staff healthy and reduce levels of sickness absence, as Luke Rutterford and Dr Peter Barratt explain in their article Getting your premises ready for winter.
While infection control is a topic HSM covers regularly in the autumn, this year the focus has been sharpened by the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. Deaths from the disease have now exceeded 2000 and The World Health Organisation (WHO) is warning that thousands more may die in the coming weeks, particularly in Liberia where it says: "Transmission of the Ebola virus is already intense and the number of new cases is increasing exponentially."
The NHS advises on its website (www.nhs.uk) that the virus currently poses no direct threat to people in the UK. It is generally spread through blood and bodily fluids rather than through routine social contact such as shaking hands and it is not airborne, so it is not as infectious as diseases such as the flu. However the virus can survive for several days outside the body, including on the skin of an infected person, which suggests why the WHO believes taxis are "a hot source of potential virus transmission" in Liberia because they are not disinfected.
Educating people on the importance of effective hygiene is therefore clearly an essential tool in the fight against the spread of Ebola in West Africa but there are also important lessons to be learned for the UK. At present business attitudes to infection control in the workplace vary enormously from the extremely vigilant who follow the kinds of measures recommended in Rutterford and Barratt's piece, to those who do the bare minimum.
Writing in HSM's sister magazine Cleaning Matters in light of the Ebola outbreak, director of EMEA Services Keith Baker for The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association (ISSA) urges: "ISSA has long held the view that there is room for improvement in the way and the frequency with which many facilities are cleaned in order to adequately reduce any risks to the public’s health. However, as no industry standard exists, facilities need to decide on an individual basis – based on factors such as number of occupants, amount of traffic, surfaces, age of the building, geography and budget – the frequency with which they are cleaned."
Baker places the responsibility for raising hygiene standards at the door of the cleaning industry, who he says should promote better infection control procedures and support businesses in implementing them, but UK Plc must also play its part by being receptive to this message. As Ian Samson explains in this month's Insight article Are we ready for a pandemic? in which he considers whether the UK is prepared should a disease such as Ebola gain a foothold on our shores: "The outbreak is a timely reminder that with globalisation diseases that once took months or years to spread widely can now be transmitted globally in the space of a few hours." So it's never too early to be prepared.
Or do we clean to often? (AlanM - Updated on 04/02/2015)
I understand the need to thoroughly clean hospitals, but we have to be careful not to feel we need to clean the world. The body must be allowed to develop its own internal <b>cleaning</b> system. As Melissa Kaplan says, antibacterials may lead to resistant bugs and weak immune systems see http://www.anapsid.org/tooclean.html. However, Dr Phillip Tierno of York Uni says "Hand-washing is the single-most important thing you can do to safeguard your health." But let's not go crazy and clean everything that moves or doesn't move.
|Happy Anniversary HSWA||30/07/2014|
The 31st July 2014 marks 40 years since the Health and Safety at Work Act received Royal Assent. Much has been written about the Act's success; it has protected millions of British workers since its introduction in 1974 and workplace fatalities have fallen by 85 percent and non-fatal injuries by more than 75 percent. It has given the UK a health and safety record that is envied the world over.
The Act replaced a plethora of detailed and prescriptive regulations with a model based on self regulation and a proportionate, targeted and risk-based approach. It's a system that has stood the test of time. As HSE chair Judith Hackitt explains in her blog on the subject: "Forty years on this approach still applies. Despite having diversified away from an economy based predominantly on heavy industry and manufacturing, much of the original vision and framework of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 remains relevant. The principles have been applied time and again to new and emerging technologies and sectors." (www.hse.gov.uk/news/judith-risk-assessment/40th-anniversary-of-act.htm).
What then of the next 40 years? It is generally accepted that the Act is fit for purpose and flexible enough to be applied to a changing economic landscape but what will these changes look like? In a special anniversary feature we speak to a panel of industry experts about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead (bit.ly/1u2nSkb)). They paint a picture of a fast changing workplace. Globalisation, extended supply chains, climate change and ageing and migrant workforces all pose their own unique challenges. Meanwhile a rapid rise in new technologies bring new risks. The EEf’s chief medical adviser, Sayeed Khan, envisages a world where people will soon be 3D printing both at work and at home, which will raise new health and safety issues over potential exposure to chemicals and how to regulate them. Managing the risks associated with nanotechnology is another significant challenge.
There is also a consensus that in the next four decades health must be given as much attention as safety if there is to be progress in tackling work-related illness and disease. As you will see from these pages work is already underway to address this. In our annual Construction Industry Focus the HSE shares the findings of its construction site inspection blitz which focussed specifically on health. During the two week programme jobs had to be stopped on at least 13 occasions because of poor site conditions so there is clearly a lot of work to be done (www.hsmsearch.com/page_488870.asp?hlight=Time+for+the+construction+industry+to).
We also have a report on an emerging health issue which has been dubbed "sitting disease," a term coined by medical experts to refer to the effects of an overly sedentary lifestyle including long hours spent sitting at a desk (www.hsmsearch.com/page_485618.asp). Research shows that when we sit for long periods of time, enzyme changes occur in the muscles that can lead to increased blood sugar levels and increase the risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic obesity and some cancers.
In Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark, over 80% of office workers using computers now work at sit-stand desks. In Britain, this figure is less than 1%, a reminder that while the HSWA has given the UK an excellent foundation in worker protection, we mustn't rest on our laurels, or indeed our behinds, when it comes to our health and safety record.
|Rising to the height safety challenge||25/06/2014|
While the government's latest crack down on insurance fraudsters (www.hsmsearch.com/page_472378.aspsee) could see a drop in fraudulent slips and trips claims in the workplace, at the other end of the spectrum, Slips, Trips and Falls (STFs) remain one of the most significant challenges in occupational safety.
According to HSE statistics in 2012/13 STFs were responsible for more than half of all major (56%) and almost a third of over seven day (31%) injuries to employees, making up 37% of all reported injuries. And falls from height were the most common cause of fatalities, accounting for almost a third of fatal injuries to workers (31%). (RIDDOR)
These persistently high figures suggest more could be done to help with the management of this issue. The Health & Safety Executive has risen to this challenge by publishing new and simplified guidance on working at height which was released in January of this year while HSM is rising to the challenge by publishing its second Work at Height handbook. As well as discussing the impact and effectiveness of the HSE's new guidance, the handbook brings together best practice advice from leading authorities on working at height as well as signposting useful sources of further information, products and services. In his foreword for the handbook, the AIF's chairman Peter Bennet concludes that: "The real challenge going forward is to change the thinking and consequent behaviour of not only those who work at height, but also those who are responsible for its planning and implementation."
Promoting safe behaviour at work is a critical part of the management of health and safety not just for working at height but across the board and the growing emphasis on its significance is evident throughout this issue of HSM. Advocating a human factors approach to managing health and safety in the workplace in this month's RoSPA column, Rob Burgon reminds readers: "Everyone can make errors, regardless of how well trained and motivated they are but in the workplace, the consequences of such human failure can be severe." Adding: "With that in mind, it is essential that employers consider certain aspects when trying to manage human failure to avoid accidents and ill health at work." (www.hsmsearch.com/page_466721.asp).
In her article, Influencing employee behaviour (www.hsmsearch.com/page_469608.asp?hlight=Influencing+human+behaviour), Mary Clarke of Cognisco discusses the rise in popularity of situational judgement assessments as a means to assess how people perform and behave at work. "Such assessments provide insight into what an individual truly knows, how confident they are using their knowledge and highlight gaps in knowledge, as well as areas of high confidence – which is where potential risks lie. The gaps can then be addressed with targeted training interventions to improve performance and reduce risk," explains Clarke.
For anyone not convinced about the benefits of taking a closer look at behavioural safety here's an unsettling final thought from Clarke: "In our 30 years’ experience of assessing workforce competence around the world, we have evidenced that around 30% of any workforce don’t fully understand key aspects of their role."
Western Business Publishing Group Editor