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Time to face facts 15/12/2020

Carl Waring looks at five accident at work facts that every employer should know.

There’s nothing worse than reading an article that starts by blinding you with facts, figures and statistics. We apologise, therefore, for the fact that this one does just that. There are some occasions where the sheer scale of a problem, dictates that the bad news comes at the start.

Take the annual HSE Health and Safety Statistics, for instance. Each year a report is produced by the HSE that contains a voluminous amount of information on the numbers and types of accidents at work, industrial disease and work-related ill-health.

Some of the key figures revealed in the report are mind-blowing. For instance, the last produced HSE figures for 2019/2020 tell us that during that year:

  • 693,000 workers suffered an injury at work
  • 559,000 workers suffered new cases of ill health which they believed to have been caused or exacerbated by their work
  • 38.8 million working days were lost due to workplace injury or work-related illness
  • The total costs of workplace injuries were said to be £16.2 billion, split as to £9.6 billion borne by individuals, £3.2 billion being employers costs and £3.5 billion representing the cost to the country.

Quite startling numbers, unless you read the annual HSE reports every year, in which case you will be familiar with accident figures of such magnitude.

Preventing accidents at work happening in large numbers, cannot be beyond the wit of all concerned. After all, in each case, they are at such a high level because of someone being negligent, or careless, if you prefer. That ‘someone’ who was the cause of the accident, might be an employer, it could be the worker who got injured, or it could be a colleague of the injured worker. 

What’s the best way to start trying to reduce the number of accidents at work? 

One place to start would be to get back to basics, with each individual employer leading the way. After all, if an accident at work happens as a result of an employer’s negligence then not only does the business face an accident at work compensation claim from the injured worker, it could also find itself on the receiving end of an HSE prosecution too.

When trying to find a solution to a problem, we can all sometimes be guilty of over-complicating things, when what we really need to do is keep it simple.  With that in mind here are five facts that we think every employer should know and use as a basis of looking at ways to reduce the level of workplace accidents in their own business.

1.      Employers owe a duty of care to all their employees.

Employers have a common law duty to take reasonable care of the health and safety of their employees’ (during the course of their employment). That duty has been defined as requiring an employer to provide:

  • competent staff
  • adequate equipment and plant
  • a proper system of work with adequate supervision 
  • a safe place of work

The common law duty of care is supplemented by acts of parliament, such as the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and a plethora of others.

Employers should focus on:

  • maintaining a workplace that is staffed by employees who are both capable of doing the work that they are employed to do and of doing it in a manner that does not endanger the health of their co-workers 
  • ensuring that they provide their employees with adequate equipment and plant. By ‘plant’ we are not just referring to heavy machinery. The definition also includes such items, for instance, as a workstation in an office. 
  • Providing a proper system of work, i.e., one that has been put together after identifying potential hazards, to produce a formal procedure that eliminates the risks associated with those hazards. In other words, one that ensures that the job gets done safely. Supervision and monitoring of the system of work will ensure compliance with that safe system.
  • Keeping a safe and healthy environment for employees to work in. This entails ensuring that:
    • the workplace buildings are in good repair,
    • faulty equipment is repaired or replaced,
    • floors are kept free from hazards,
    • safety gates and fences are in place,
    • the lighting in the building is satisfactory,
    • cleanliness and hygiene facilities are adequately maintained, and
    • the workspace is comfortable in terms of heating and ventilation.

Employers who read this, doubtless nodded an affirmatory, ‘yes, we do that’, as they went through the points above. Yet, every single case of an accident at work that was the fault of an employer, will have been caused by a breach of duty of care, that originated from failing to take one or more of the precautionary or preventative measures, we have just outlined.

2.   Slips, trips and fall accidents accounted for 29 % of all non-fatal accidents at work last year, according to the 2019/2020 HSE stats.

If ever there was a pressing reason for employers to look again at the four components that define an employer’s duty of care, then the fact that over 200,000 workers got injured from slips, trips or fatal accidents at work last year, should be the catalyst for doing so. 

The incidence of the most common type of workplace accident; slips, trips and falls, could be significantly reduced by employers;

  •  recruiting competent staff and maintaining that competence by providing ongoing training,

  • making sure that employees have adequate plant and equipment,

  • operating and enforcing a safe system of work, and 

  • providing safe places of work

3.   The concept of vicarious liability

An oft-forgotten fact is that as well as employers owing a duty of care to their employees, workers also owe a duty of care to their employer and their co-workers. This duty is imposed by the Health and Safety at Work Act(1974) (HASAW).

The duty extends to co-operating with an employer to enable it to fulfil its legal responsibilities in respect of health and safety regulations.

What if despite all the best efforts of a diligent employer, his/her efforts are undermined by the negligent act of one employee, that causes injury to another? 

Examples

A forklift truck driver injures a colleague who is walking along the factory floor, by driving into him, because the driver’s view was obstructed by the load he was carrying. 

An employee spills liquid onto a hard floor and then fails to either get it cleaned up or to notify anyone about the hazard, with the result that another employee slips on the wet floor and suffers an injury.

Vicarious liability means that in each of those cases, the employer could be held responsible for the actions of their negligent employee.

Suppose the injured person decided to make a personal injury claim? In that case, they could bring it against the employer on the basis of vicarious liability, in the knowledge that any compensation awarded, would be met by the employer’s liability insurance policy.

4.   The effect of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013

S. 69 of The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 amended s47 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and in doing so, removed any possibility of civil liability arising from a breach of statutory duty in the case of accidents at work taking place, after 1st October 2013.

Employers had long argued that the doctrine of strict liability produced some very unfair consequences. Sometimes employers found themselves having to pay out compensation for workplace accidents that were ‘freak accidents’ that the employer could do nothing to prevent. 

These were cases where, whilst the employer had not been negligent, they had been in breach of the HASAW, e.g., a failure to keep maintenance records up to date. In such cases, as a result of the breach of statutory duty, strict liability applied. The employer was held liable for the accident, without any need to prove that they had been negligent.

The introduction of the Enterprise Act has meant that for accidents happening after 2013, the doctrine of strict liability no longer applies to any civil case brought by an injured employee, against their employer. Instead, the employee has to prove that the employer was negligent.

Employers are cautioned against thinking that the Enterprise Act is their saviour in every case where they have been in breach of a statutory duty (that is a duty imposed by an act of parliament).

Whilst a breach of statutory duty might no longer give rise to an employer being held strictly liable for an accident at work claim brought by his employee, there are still two other factors to take into account:

  • Breach of a statutory duty could still see an employer prosecuted for that breach in the criminal courts
  • In a civil workplace accident claim, an experienced accident at work solicitor will be quick to seize upon the fact that an employer has been found guilty of a breach of statutory duty. It is most likely that he or she will ask the civil court to take the breach of statutory duty into account as evidence of the employer’s negligence.

5.   Training is the key

Creating robust health and safety policies after conducting rigorous risk assessments, providing employees with the right equipment, recording accidents properly and inspecting and maintaining equipment, all play a significant part in keeping, places of work safe and employees free from harm. 

However, to paraphrase former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, we’d suggest that the three main priorities for any employer aiming to ensure that accidents in the workplace are kept to a minimum, should be:

“Education, education, education” (or “training, training, training”)

For whilst employers can buy the best equipment possible for their workforce, have carried out the most in-depth risk assessments and have the best health and safety policies possible, if employees do not receive any, enough or adequate staff training, the numbers of preventable accidents at work, will remain at consistently high levels. So too will all the associated costs. 

Employers via their insurers will continue to pay out millions of pounds in accident at work compensation. Workers will continue getting hurt at the very place they go to earn a living.

Carl Waring is a solicitor at Mooneerams, The Personal Injury Solicitors in South Wales. For more information, visit www.mooneerams.com


 

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Six steps to improve mental well-being in the workplace 08/10/2020

AWARENESS OF the importance of good mental health at work is growing, but action is also important; CHAS shares some steps for improving mental well-being in the workplace:

1. Produce, implement and promote a mental health plan

According to Thriving at Work: the Stevenson/Farmer review of mental health and employers published in 2017 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/thriving-at-work-a-review-of-mental-health-and-employers all employers, regardless of size or industry should create, implement and communicate a mental health plan.

Formulating a plan can help to demonstrate your commitment to supporting workers’ mental health and enable you to continually review your approach to ensure it’s up-to-date and accounts for changing work conditions - such as those brought about by COVID-19.  

For information on what to include in your mental health plan, as well as details of the other core standards employers should follow to effectively manage mental health, see the HSE’s management standards approach workbook, Tackling work-related stress https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/wbk01.pdf and Mind’s, guide to implementing mental health standards: https://www.mind.org.uk/media-a/4659/how-to-implement-the-thriving-at-work-mental-health-standards-final-guide-online.pdf

2. Encourage staff to complete a Wellness Action Plan (WAP)

Wellness Action Plans (WAPs) are gaining popularity as a tool individuals can use to manage their mental health and become more resilient regardless of whether they have a mental health problem. 

Workplace WAPs are an adaptation of the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) system created by mental health recovery advocate, Mary Ellen Copeland, which focuses on mastery of five key principals - hope, personal responsibility, education, self-advocacy and support.

When shared with a manager, a Wellness Action Plan (WAP) can help foster ongoing discussion over what keeps an employee well at work and when and why they might become unwell.

An example WAP template is available from the mental health charity MIND here: https://www.mind.org.uk/workplace/mental-health-at-work/taking-care-of-your-staff/employer-resources/wellness-action-plan-download/ 

3. Consider offering an Employee Assistance Programme 

An Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is a benefit programme offered by some employers. It can help support employees dealing with personal issues that might impact their work by providing access to counselling and referral services.

Those without an EAP who work in construction in the UK and Ireland can make use of the Construction Industry Helpline:  www.constructionindustryhelpline.com

4. Stay social

The necessity to find new ways of working during the Coronavirus lockdown shone a light on the fact that we are social creatures at heart. 

Many businesses increased their use of online communication tools such as Slack, Zoom and Microsoft Teams during the lockdown period, not just to keep their businesses operational, but also to engage their staff and stave off feelings of social isolation through events such as quizzes. 

Social engagement tools designed to unite the workplace are also growing in popularity. Yammer, part of Office 365, for example enables everyone to share everything from company initiatives to personal achievements.

5Invest in mental health first aiders as well as physical first aiders

According to HSE Guidance, employers might want to consider covering Mental Health First Aid training in addition to First Aid at Work training www.hse.gov.uk/firstaid/needs-assessment.htm

Mental Health First Aid involves spotting the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues, providing non-judgemental support and reassurance, and guiding a person to seek professional support.

Buddy and mentoring systems can also provide an opportunity for employees to support one another’s mental health. 

6. Prioritise mental health throughout your supply chain

Look for evidence that your supply chain takes mental health as seriously as you do by checking that they are accredited by an organisation such as CHAS, or in the case of the construction industry, that they have been assessed to the industry’s Common Assessment Standard. This will give you confidence they have the processes in place to manage and promote mental well-being within their organisations. 

To find out more about how to become a CHAS Client free of charge which includes instant access to CHAS’s database of pre-qualified, accredited contractors, see https://www.chas.co.uk/clients/

To find out more about how to become an accredited CHAS contractor, see www.chas.co.uk/contractors/

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Top tips for returning to the workplace 16/09/2020

COUNTRIES AROUND the world are at different stages of their coronavirus response. Many are still in the grip of lockdown, but some are starting to look at how to re-emerge from it.  Ius Laboris, the world’s largest HR and employment law firm alliance has listed some general tips  to help manage the process of getting staff safely back to the workplace.

Health assessment

Check for COVID-19 symptoms before travelling to work (e.g. a high temperature of 37.5C or more or a continuous cough). If you have symptoms (however mild), you should not travel to work and you should self-isolate. If a member of your household or someone you have been in proximity with develops any of the COVID-19 symptoms, you should also not travel to work and should self-isolate. If you are unable to attend work, HR and your line manager should be contacted. If you are well enough to work and your job allows it, you should work from home.

Attending meetings

You should avoid arranging meetings in small rooms or with a large number of people. During meetings, please keep a distance from others and wash your hands or use a hand sanitiser before and after attending meetings. Avoid meetings with clients or customers, unless business critical and comply with social distancing rules (i.e. no physical greetings and the requisite distancing), if they do take place.

Office area management

Ensure that you wash your hands upon your arrival at work and after visiting any other places. Carry a hand sanitiser and use it throughout the day. Avoid touching your face (particularly your eyes, nose and mouth) as much as possible. Catch coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue and wash your hands or use a hand sanitiser afterwards.

Avoid the common areas of the office as much as possible. When using office equipment or the kitchen, wipe the surfaces with the anti-bacterial wipes. Wash your hands or use a hand sanitiser after touching common touch-points, shared equipment and before you touch food. Follow social distancing rules when in the office. Avoid face-to-face work and avoid sitting at a desk adjacent to a colleague (where possible). Try to minimise handling of physical documents and paperwork as much as possible.

Travelling to and from work

If you can, avoid public transport and car shares or taxis. Where possible, try to walk or 4 cycle for all or part of your journey. If you can’t avoid public transport, we will discuss your working hours with you and try to avoid you needing to travel during peak time. When on public transport, you should wear a face mask and protective gloves. You should try to keep social distance from other passengers, e.g. by avoiding sitting next to or standing close to other passengers. Carry a hand sanitiser and use it as often as needed (especially before touching your face). Wash your hands before and after your journey. 

Follow instructions 

Instructions may be given to help everyone reduce the amount of contact with others. This might involve instructing staff to use a particular entrance, stairwell or lift, to arrive and leave work at a particular time or to use hand sanitiser before entering the building. 

Note: these tips are not based on the rules of any particular country - and specific advice should be taken locally about those - but do cover some general themes. 

For more information, contact www.iuslaboris.com

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What is Mesothelioma Awareness Day? 07/09/2020

MESOTHELIOMA AWARENESS Day takes place on September 26, and was established in hopes of increasing general awareness around the debilitating disease that is mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is rarely a cancer brought into public view due to many factors; one reason being that there are only 3,000 new diagnoses annually. While a lesser known cancer, mesothelioma is one of the few types of cancer that can feasibly be prevented. That being said, the prognosis of this disease is generally bleak with pleural mesothelioma, the most common form, having a 5-year survival rate of only about 5%.

Due to the latency period of asbestos related diseases, individuals who came into contact with the material decades ago may still be or will be affected by this disease and not even know it. This is why continued education is imperative in prevention. Mesothelioma Awareness Day aims to improve upon that knowledge, and in turn increase funding for possible cures or treatment options to become more widely available in hopes of extending the lifespan of patients.

What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a cancer caused by asbestos exposure that commonly develops in the lining of the lungs or abdomen. Mesothelioma patients, on average, have a life expectancy of 12-21 months, although symptoms may not develop for decades, usually between 10 to 50 years after initial exposure. Currently, the only known cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos fibers, and generally the risk of developing mesothelioma increases the longer amount one is exposed to asbestos. However, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration states that no amount of exposure to this material is safe. 

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos was a widely used mineral known for its high heat and chemical resistance. This is what made its use so popular in products like insulation, paint, and even brake pads. There are even cases surfacing today regarding asbestos in various cosmetic products. Individuals are most commonly exposed to this hazard in the workplace, but with the sheer magnitude at which asbestos was used during its height makes environmental, product, and secondhand exposures a continued worry. 

What kind of treatment options are available?

Treatment options for this disease are generally quite limited, due to the long latency period and common misdiagnosis of mesothelioma patients. However, if identified and diagnosed early, treatment has proven to show success. Traditional chemotherapy and radiation are generally the most common options, although newer alternatives such as CAR-T and transarterial chemoperfusion have recently shown promise in clinical trials. Because these treatments are in the early stages, however, increased awareness and funding is needed to continue research and improve prognosis for mesothelioma patients.

What can I do to help?

With such a debilitating and underrepresented disease, it may seem at times that there is little one can do to help. But on the contrary, there are actually several things individuals can do on a personal scale. Speaking up about the risks associated with this hazardous substance, petitioning to your local and federal government about stricter regulations, and donating funds to specific research organizations and groups are all ways people can help. This will assist by spreading awareness of mesothelioma and asbestos exposure, as well as push those in power to create more conversations around advocating for a full ban on all asbestos products. This would be in the public’s best interest in avoiding further cancers and health conditions related to asbestos exposure.

To learn more about mesothelioma and asbestos exposure visit these resources below:

https://www.mesothelioma.com/mesothelioma/

https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/asbestos/

https://www.epa.gov/asbestos

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Getting the most out of your marketing post COVID-19 06/07/2020

Rachel McHugh, Managing Director at creative marketing and PR agency, Clear B2B – Construction Marketing Awards’ ‘Agency of the Year’ – shares her thoughts on how those in the building and construction industry can get the most out of their marketing activity post-COVID-19.

Keeping customers and winning new clientele 

The building and construction industry is an inherently competitive one – a fact only accentuated by the pandemic. Reduced construction output and increased pressure on margins will mean that businesses need to work hard to keep their customers and win new clientele. With all brands vying for a greater share of the industry, marketers need to keep innovating and assessing their approach to stay ahead of the competition. Let’s look at how.

We’ve seen, for instance, customers’ expectation for efficiency increase, meaning that brands’ have had to quickly adapt to a new way of doing things, from online conferences and virtual networking, to shopping digitally for essentials.

Now more than ever, prioritising customer experience will help brands stand out and build a loyal customer base. We expect this to continue way beyond the pandemic era. Brands who are doing their absolute best to provide a good service during these trying times are already seeing appreciation for their efforts. Those who can continue such high levels of service, engagement and transparency will ultimately win. 

Know your audience better than they know themselves

It may seem obvious, but to truly reach your audience you need to know them inside out. It’s easy to let this slip or disregard because you “already know them”, but your audience and how they prefer to be communicated with is constantly shifting. So, take this time to get back to the grassroots and take a fresh look. Speak to your employees at the sharp-end of your business. After all, they’re the ones on the front line, speaking with your customers and clients, day in day out, hearing feedback first-hand and picking up trends. This exercise can be run independently or via moderated focus groups. 

More and more, customers’ expectations in the business-to-business (B2B) world are influenced by their consumer experiences. They expect the best. Some food for thought from Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report: 57% of people surveyed said that they’ve stopped buying from a company because a competitor provided a better experience. 67% of customers say their standard for good experiences are higher than ever. 69% expect Amazon-likebuying experiences. The benchmark has been set. Customers expect the same high-end level of service across the board, regardless of what they’re buying, so ask yourself: “why would a customer choose your brand over one of your competitors?”. 

The solution? Plot your customers’ journey versus your competitors and identify where your business falls down and/or where it has an edge. Then explore how technology can help to improve your customers’ experience. Inspiring your customers with innovative solutions, whether it’s a chatbot, voice-activated personal assistant or an AI brand ambassador, is essential. 66% of buyers, according to Salesforce’s report, actively seek to buy from the most innovative companies.

Are you an educator? 

Consumers demanding valuable information from the businesses they engage with is a growing trend, so adopting an educational approach – and positioning your business as the go-to source for knowledge and information within the industry – is absolutely necessary.

Your business and the experts within it have thoughts and opinions that make them unique. Be sure to use them! Curate content – whether it be editorial, infographics or videos – that provides insight and solves customers’ common problems; take views on popular trends and create a unique angle on it. Whatever you do, make sure it has your stamp of identity on it. Demonstrating your authority within the market increases your influence and influence persuades people to buy. 

Getting personal

A recent Forbes report suggests that a huge 72% of buyers expect companies to personalise communications in a way that suits their needs. And remember, these buyers will quickly switch to another company if they believe their needs can be better catered for elsewhere.

All communications should therefore be tailored to the individual customers’ preferences – it is what customers have come to expect. But this doesn’t just include segmenting by sub-industry, but by also personalising names, company details and buying preferences. As an example, email marketing – executed via automated programmes – is where personalisation really comes to the fore. It enables you to send communications instantly based on triggers and to a smaller segment to which the message is relevant, all while saving time by reducing manual tasks. In short, by sending emails which are tailored to customers’ likes, dislikes, profile information and overall behavior, they’re less likely to become uninterested and unsubscribe.

Take social seriously 

For many B2B businesses, COVID-19 has propelled social media into the boardroom and stakeholders are finally giving it the attention it deserves. In a limited-contact society that’s increasingly buying online, social media can present your content, organisation, brand, culture and offerings in a way that inspires engagement. Remember, to grab attention, social media posts have to be succinct, yet powerful and that takes adequate investment in ideas and execution. 

Fly the flag for the industry

It’s an industry your business is deeply passionate about, so champion it! Shout about the good work being done in the merchant and wider building and construction industries, and how your employees are helping. Highlight your sustainability credentials, promote safety, help to develop people’s skills, and encourage innovation. Whatever it might be, it’s beneficial for both your business and the industry generally, so don’t leave it out of your marketing mix. 

What does history tell us?

The knee-jerk reaction to a crisis is to hunker down and protect short-term profitability, but brands that hold their nerve and retain visibility will gain extra share of voice and achieve competitive gains. The data proves as much: research from Kantar shows that 60% of brands that “go dark” during an economic downturn saw brand use decrease by 24% and brand image by 28%. Kantar also estimates that brands who go dark to save costs will likely see a 39% reduction in brand awareness. McGraw-Hill Research looked at 600 companies from 1980 to 1985 and showed that those that maintained or increased their marketing spend during the 1981 recession had sales that were 256% higher than those that didn’t by 1985.

The bottom line? Businesses that continue to maintain share of voice and share of market during a downturn have shown a longer-term improvement in profitability, outweighing short-term savings.

Need help unlocking your business’s marketing potential? Get in touch with me on +44(0)1285 626000 / r.mchugh@clearb2b.com, or check out our website: www.clearb2b.com.

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Are employers responsible for homeworkers? 16/04/2020

Employers have a legal duty of care for the health, safety and wellbeing of their employees. Chris Salmon looks at how to mitigate risk.

With millions of people suddenly working from home as Coronavirus measures continue, many employers don’t realise that their legal obligations include homeworkers. 

So what does the law say about homeworking, how are employers exposed, and what should you do to mitigate risk?

What the law says

The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 states that employers must “make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work”. The Act makes no distinction between home workers and those working from the office premises.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 stipulates that employers are responsible for the health and safety of homeworkers, as far as is reasonably practicable. 

In summary, employers owe exactly the same duty of care to their employees, whether they are working from their employer’s offices or from home.

How can employers fulfil their duty of care?

Employers will be taking all possible steps to protect the health of remote employees during the pandemic.  However, it is equally critical that employees are not exposed to new and preventable risks as a result of homeworking.

Providing a safe working environment for home workers presents a specific challenge. The employee’s workspace cannot be monitored and managed as easily as it could be in communal offices.

For example, if there are trip hazards such as trailing cables or obstructions to access, these would likely be spotted and remedied in an office environment.  With homeworking, the employer is reliant on the employee setting up and maintaining a safe workspace.

In order to establish a safe environment, from the outset, employers must carry out a risk assessment.

At-home risk assessments

In most cases, it is both reasonable and practical for employers to provide homeworking employees with an ‘at-home risk assessment’.

The employee can assess their own workspace with a detailed checklist, provided by the employer.  HR managers should offer assistance and training throughout the process.

For most people, homeworking will mean working behind a desk with a PC or laptop. The assessment should consider the workstation, and any equipment to be used by the employee, such as a monitor, peripherals and lighting.

You will also need to verify that there is a suitable fire escape route, unobstructed access to the working area, a fire extinguisher and possibly even signage.

If the employee is expected to lift or carry anything, manual handling training must be provided. In fact, anything that can have a bearing on the health and safety of the employee and minimise exposure to the employer must be addressed by the risk assessment.

Employers may struggle to create a detailed risk assessment, given the sudden wholesale move across to homeworking.

If the company does not already have an at-home risk assessment, there are numerous templates available online that can be used or adapted.  The HSE has a free Display screen equipment (DSE) workstation checklist.

Belt and braces

Employers should embrace the spirit of health and safety at home. However, employers should also recognise that compensation paid out to an employee injured at work can be significant. A robust at-home assessment will protect the employer as well as the employee.

One idea for making the assessment more robust is to ask the employee to provide photos of their workspace as this will make a virtual process more tangible for HR managers.

Some firms are even experimenting with video. Employees can use a mobile device to stream their home environment to the HR manager who can ask pertinent questions and give advice in real time.  For the purposes of an audit trail, there are apps available that can record the video call.

Once the pandemic restrictions are relaxed, employers may find that some employees wish to continue working from home.  A subsequent and more bespoke assessment may then be advisable.

Employer’s responsibilities

The following are the key points to address:

  • Check, and if necessary update, your Employers’ s Liability (EL) insurance policy.  Many policies do not include homeworking cover by default.

  • Give the employee two copies of your health and safety policy. Ask the employee to sign and return a copy.

  • Carry out a risk assessment of the employee’s workspace.

  • Implement any measures to manage and minimise risk as identified in the assessment.

  • Check any equipment that you provide to the employee (e.g.does any electrical equipment have any exposed or frayed wires?)

  • Provide protective equipment - as required. (e,g,  back support, ergonomic chairs, monitor glare filters etc.)

  • Ensure that there is a first aid kit and provide an emergency contact.

  • Arrange for regular updates and reviews

Employee’s responsibilities

Employers should encourage employees to:

  • Read the health and safety policy and any other information you provide.

  • Raise any questions or concerns as early in the process as possible.

  • Confirm if there will be other people, including children, passing through the home office.

  • Inform you of any special equipment required (e.g. a standing desk or platform, footrest or wrist support).

  • Report any new hazards and concerns as they arise.

What are the legal consequences of a homeworking accident?

If an employee is injured or made ill during the course of their employment, your business could be held liable. This applies equally to homeworkers.

That said, case law on homeworking injury is constantly evolving and will no doubt be stress-tested in the coming years. 

Where the line is drawn between working and living at home, is not always clear. The most prudent approach for any employer to take would be to assume the broadest interpretation.

If an injured employee takes legal action, compensation is usually paid by the company’s liability insurance.

If the insurance cover does not include homeworking, or if the company has failed in its duty of care, the company may have to settle an expensive injury claim from its own pockets.

Chris Salmon is the Operations Director of Quittance Legal Services in the UK. For more information, visit www.quittance.co.uk

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Are your employees at risk? 10/03/2020

WORLD GLAUCOMA Week takes place from 8 to 14 March this year and its goal is to encourage everyone to have regular eye tests so glaucoma can be detected as early as possible. It is a joint global initiative between the World Glaucoma Association and the World Glaucoma Patient Committee.

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that affect the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain. It often affects both eyes, usually to varying degrees. As most cases will not have any symptoms, one of the best ways to detect glaucoma is during a routine eye test, which is why it is so important to have one regularly. 

Glaucoma can be treated but early detection is important. It left untreated, glaucoma can cause visual impairment and damage that cannot be reversed. But, if it is detected and treated early enough, further damage to vision can be minimised or prevented. 

A timely reminder

This week is a good opportunity for safety professionals to think about their eye care policy and to consider whether it meets the requirements for regular eye checks for all employees. In general, optometrists recommend having a routine eye test every two years, although the specific frequency required will depend upon each individual and is best advised by the optometrist. 

Infrequent checks

Specsavers recently held an event in partnership with the International Glaucoma Association in which a virtual reality (VR) tool was used to replicate the vision of someone driving with undetected glaucoma. Of the 150 people who took part, in four locations across the UK, nearly a quarter, 23%, had not had an eye test in the last two years.

Driver caution 

While we are all at risk of glaucoma and its effects, there are potentially serious consequences for those who drive with affected eyesight. 

The VR simulation was used by Specsavers to replicate the vision of someone driving with undetected glaucoma. People were asked to use the VR sight simulator to navigate as if driving along a road while avoiding potential hazards. The results showed that driving with glaucoma increases the risk of accidents by 11%. Furthermore, on average, people’s reactions to hazards were 0.3 seconds slower when driving with a slight visual impairment, compared to clear vision. 

Workplace impact

The study shows that more needs to be done to educate people on how a change in vision can impact road safety. The workplace is the perfect place for this to happen. 

It is important for safety professionals to feel confident that each of their company’s employees is as safe as possible behind the wheel, and a large part of this is knowing that their vision is adequate.

Sight can deteriorate gradually, without the individual being aware of any change. This is why eye tests for employees who drive are so important. Implementing driver eye care is a key step in meeting health and safety obligations under the health and safety regulations. Eye care can be easy and inexpensive to put in place and the benefits for both the employee and employer could be huge.

Without proper eye care, company drivers may be putting themselves, the public, and the business at risk from poor eyesight, without even being aware of the issue. Why not use this World Glaucoma Week as an opportunity to review eye care policies and to educate the workforce?

More details can be found at www.specsavers.co.uk/eye-health/glaucoma

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The holy grail of construction 16/01/2020

Will Woodhead gives an insight into how technology is helping to solve problems in the construction industry.

Perhaps you have heard of a project manager describing the completion of a successful project, it may have sounded something like, “we completed the entire project on budget, on schedule and without hurting anyone”. Even as recent as 10 years ago that project manager may have described success as “not killing anyone” instead of hurting anyone. Times have changed, fantastic progress has been made however the appetite to do better has still not been satisfied, perhaps it may have swung the other way and people are even more motivated to prevent the injuries on site. 

There is no getting away from the fact that safety is categorically one of the hardest problems to solve, NASA put a man on the moon but couldn’t stop people getting hurt. We have a dynamic, subjective multidimensional problem that is only considered solved when no-one gets hurt or sick. Zero injury and more recently zero illnesses really is the holy grail of construction.

What’s changed? 

20 years ago, when I was working in shipyards and heavy industry construction sites, the primary focus was on safety (not necessarily health) and such hazards as falling from height or dropped objects. Fall protection in the form of harnesses or regularly inspected scaffolding was one of the first items discussed in every safety meeting. The consequence of this approach on safety saw very positive results and looking at the figure below it can be easily seen that this has saved 100s of lives every year since. But what about the ‘health’ part of H&S, have we forgotten this?

In contrast, over the last 20 years the work-related ill health has remained flat. Ill-health often influences mental health as well as involuntary retirement age. Construction is a physical job and not being able to work due to ill-health has significant consequences on a family reliant on a sole bread-winner. Saving lives undoubtably has a significant positive impact on society however improving the health of a workforce can deliver positive changes which can also have profound consequences.

This is genuinely being recognised by many forward-thinking construction companies as an area which needs attention and improvement. This is great for the UK’s construction industry however the problem remains, how do we solve this? Health and safety is a complex multi-dimensional problem with high stakes and people at the heart of it.

Leading or lagging indicators

In order to better understand where the risks are in an organisation, ‘HOC’, ‘HAZID’, ‘STOP’, ‘CLOSECALLS’, ‘NEARMISS’ cards are often used to identify hazards which nearly or could have created a safety incident. These are what’s known as leading indicators and using the principle of Heinrich’s Safety Pyramid areas of high / low risk can be identified so resources can be focused and safety improved. The problem is, this leading indicator data is not complete or robust enough to form strong correlations between unsafe conditions and the fatalities or injuries (lagging indicators) which follow. This is true when safety is discussed but how about health? If someone is consistently exposed to high levels of noise or continuous repetitive strain we are confident that these individuals will develop tinnitus or a muscular skeletal injury. So if ill-health is ‘so predictable’ why have we been more successful in reducing safety events which are historically harder to predict?

Industry 4.0

Enter industry 4.0 and the ability to understand an individual’s exposure to various different hazards. Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) now allows as to measure noise, hand and arm vibration, fatigue and potentially the muscular-skeletal dosage someone is receiving whilst performing a task. Although this does not solve the initial problem it does allow us to better understand the exposure so that mitigation measures or technology can be put in place to reduce the harmful effects. The challenge is to create a system which effectively understands exposure however does not place any additional burden on the individual nor compete for his or her attention. Unfortunately some approaches to collecting data have resorted to additional reporting being completed by the individual on a smart phone or tablet. The thought is that this is smart technology but in truth it is just modern day paperwork.

Data transparency

Safety is the responsibility of all individuals, not just the HSE manager. Perhaps further empowering the workforce to understand problems by giving them access to the information and then getting them to implement the changes creates a culture of ownership and responsibility whilst also improving the engagement of the employees. Helping a colleague reduce the exposure to a hazard and then seeing the positive effects of that change would surely warm the most disengaged employees and help create a culture where health and safety really does come first.

Will Woodhead is the managing director of a Construction tech company called Mafic. Mafic uses Industry 4.0 technology to help solve these health and safety problems in construction. Mafic want to help improve the health, safety, employee engagement and job satisfaction of the construction industry and create some exceptional workplaces. www.mafic.ltd

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Five simple solutions for site safety 25/11/2019

To ensure the best health and safety practice on your site this winter, Andrew Egerton has identified five simple outdoor health and safety solutions you can implement during this cold, dark season.

Sprinkle liberally… Don’t wait for ice and snow to form before de-icing your site. Spreading salt beforehand prevents freezing occurring, making for a more effective approach to site safety. To avoid wastage and ensure all areas are evenly covered, consider using a salt spreader. 

Rain, rain go away… Winter weather hazards aren’t just about snow and ice; you’ll also need to consider the increase in rainfall too. That means there’s increased risk of slips and falls on wet walkways, paths and sites. Combat this by investing in entry matting and boots with non-slip rubber soles. Particularly popular are non-metallic lightweight boots with waterproof and breathable lining, hardwearing outsole and anti-static and slip-resistant properties. 

Keep warm… Just because you’re working outdoors doesn’t mean you can’t keep warm. Keep the Christmas jumper at home and instead invest in outdoor workwear. Unlike standard sweatshirts, ensure your new piece of kit has a close fit around the hem, cuffs and neck and is triple stitched on all main seams for ultimate strength. A brushed fleece inner is particularly good for warmth, comfort and breathability

Get a Grip… Gloves are a must in winter and not just to keep hands warm, but also to provide grip in wet or icy conditions. Gloves that feature a thermal lining and outer made from leather or artificial leather are ideal. 

See… With days getting shorter and nights longer, make sure staff working on site can see by using efficient and effective lights. For this, rechargeable LED Flood Lights are popular for outside use. Ensure your floodlights are rated to IP 65, meaning they’re water and dust resistant. You might also want to consider a product with no cable (thus reducing trip hazards) as well as one which is portable (with non-slip rubber feet) so can be moved to where they are most needed. Be sure to also check the operation time; a standard rechargeable floodlight should last up to five hours before charging is needed. 

And be seen. You will need different types and styles of Hi-Vis PPE depending on the kinds of tasks performed onsite. A high vis jacket is essential and often a compulsory health and safety onsite requirement. To get the most out a high vis jacket, select one which features a 4-in-1 design. Popular for winter work, a standard 4-in-1 jacket offers four combinations: lightweight outer, outer with a body warmer combined, wear-alone body warmer and reverse colour body warmer. This feature alone means the jacket is highly adaptable to all weather conditions and provides full wearer visibility in low light conditions. 

So, this winter, don’t get caught out in the cold, ensure you and your team have the right PPE to get the job done. 

Andrew Egerton is head of category tools and general maintenance at Brammer Buck & Hickman. For more information, call 08450 510 150

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Technology transforms safety 11/11/2019

Improving safety isn’t just about reducing workplace risks within industrial and process environments; it’s also about safeguarding neighbouring communities and environments. Matt DeLorenzo, business director for Safety io, an MSA Safety company, explains how technology is improving safety via a transformation of the way safety devices are managed, and how operator safety is monitored while at work.

Improvements in safety, both in practice and equipment, have essentially always stemmed from one thing: the availability of good information. In the past, that learning was often observational, based on talking to individuals, or derived from scrutiny or analysis of historic written and pictorial hard copy records.

Today, thanks to the advances in digital data capture and recording by sensors and devices, information is a commodity that is not in short supply. The seamless connectivity driving the Internet of Things is already touching workplaces globally. The latest flame and gas detection devices typically offer the ability to log performance and environmental data. But translating that into tangible learnings is not always easy.

The Big Data challenge

Processing and intelligently analysing large data volumes, particularly when gathered from “real-time” streams, is now one of the safety industry’s biggest challenges. For data to be meaningful, it has to provide real insight. That starts with being able to automatically detect, highlight, interrogate and share those events that are most relevant and significant to the operation of a device, or the ability of an operative to complete his or her work safely.

Recent advancements of AI-enabled automated reporting tools allow safety managers to look beyond just managing safety compliance towards changing how workplace safety really works. The ability to analyse and review historic logged data and extract actionable information to reduce risk and improve workplace safety, is transformative.

Insight to plan ahead

Data analysis and proactive maintenance can help to streamline the day-to-day monitoring of equipment, eliminate potential risk of human error, and free up time for safety managers to concentrate on driving meaningful behavioural safety improvements. Automatic notifications, for instance, can highlight when equipment components are likely to require maintenance or replacement, allowing pre-emptive action. Worker safety is improved, and costly downtime or operational delays minimised. Gas detectors, for example, rely on sensors that have a finite lifetime. Analysis of usage data can automatically highlight that a sensor’s end-of-life is approaching, and a replacement should be ordered. Similarly, correct detector operation is verified by using bottled gas testers before use. If the gas runs out, detectors cannot be tested. Safety protocol dictates that operatives cannot work. Yet by providing automated alerts about remaining capacity, spare cylinders can be ordered in good time. The ability to instantly track equipment and its location digitally, without resorting to lists on clipboards, also offers significant savings in time and loss of assets.

An essential record

Historically, daily data would remain on each device and be routinely overwritten, unless an event prompted a sporadic download, or a written report. Today, maintaining historic central archives of detection device data - sometimes spanning decades - provides companies with an invaluable record. Any exposure incidents or toxic breaches can be thoroughly analysed and documented. 

For workers, the advent of real-time monitoring during operations via live feeds is revolutionising safety. Data streaming can provide safety controllers and colleagues with situational awareness, physical status and the ability for workers to issue individual or team evacuation alarms and even mobilise first responders should a situation arise.

Engineering value, not innovation, first

Developing next-generation safety technology is of course hugely dependent on innovation, but truly listening to and understanding customer needs and feedback to engineer the necessary hardware and software functionality is of equal importance. It’s listening carefully to customers’ feedback and applying those learnings in an innovative way that produces next-generation safety technology.

Adoption will stand or fall on the ability of solutions to add value to multiple stakeholders without completely changing the way safety management and procedures work. Seamless integration and easy, intuitive operation only comes from extended testing by everyone involved - from safety managers to supervisors to operatives. Of course, innovation is meaningless unless the underlying outcome offers a real-world, practical benefit.

Expect the best

There is no doubt that technological advances are having huge impact on the world as a whole. All things considered, the health and safety industry should embrace the opportunities new technologies provide to keep workers connected, thus providing an additional layer of safety through technology.

MSA’s mantra is certainly to encourage the industry to ‘expect more’ from gas detection programmes. The whole reason behind the creation of Safety io is to pioneer technology advancements, with the ultimate goal of improving decision making, reinforcing best practices and pursuing a safety-first, injury free workforce. It’s too good of an opportunity to miss.

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