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Your questions answered - March 23

17 February 2023

Each issue, British Safety Council will use this page to answer YOUR questions. Please send any problems, issues or general enquiries about health, safety and wellbeing to policy@britsafe.org and their experts will respond in future issues.

Q: We’re being urged by the Government not to undertake “risky activities” while NHS ambulance staff are on strike. With the current disruptions, as well as staffing and other pressures, employers and their staff and customers may face greater risks. What is your advice?

Trained first aiders in all workplaces should check the ambulance service’s websites which publish how they categorise the most serious incidents to prioritise their response times. They can use this to inform their own response to an incident and determine how long they may have to administer first aid while awaiting the arrival of the emergency services. 

It’s possible in the circumstances, staff might try to move an injured person, may not call 999 for some less serious incidents, or could even drive them to A&E directly. 

It is always advisable for you to call 999 and ask some specific questions first. 1. Should the patient should be moved? 2. How long is it expected to be until an ambulance will arrive? 3. Is it OK for the patient to be taken to A&E directly, rather than wait?

Employees should act in line with the advice they receive. Also, customers or staff being treated should be told know this was advice given by the NHS experts and that the company first aiders cannot go behind anything that the 999 call handlers have told them. 

Q: We hear a lot about outdoor air pollution, but I am concerned about indoor sources of pollution. Can you advise what might be the biggest risks to my health from breathing in toxic fumes indoors.

You are right that Outdoor air pollution is still a problem. In fact, it’s the biggest environmental threat to our health, and kills around 36,000 people each year in the UK. Check out the British Safety Council’s Time to Breathe campaign pages for more on this.

You are also right to be concerned about indoor air quality because concentrations of pollutants inside are often two to five times higher than outside. The major problem is that indoor air hazards cannot be escaped, and as most people spend approximately 90 per cent of their time indoors, we are even more exposed.

Numerous sources add to pollutants in indoor air. These include building materials, furnishings, asbestos-containing insulation, radon, unvented heating and cooking stoves, products such as air fresheners and cleaning solutions, and a multitude of occupants’ activities, including drying clothing indoors, smoking and DIY.

With more of us working from home, we should not discriminate or differentiate in our standards for good air quality between home, workplaces and/or public spaces. Many studies have shown that measures that improve indoor air quality can be cost-effective – for instance by reducing sickness, reducing absence from work and increasing people’s performance.

For more advice on ventilation, visit the HSE’s website: https://www.hse.gov.uk/ventilation/

Q: I keep reading in the press that the Government is getting rid of lots of regulations which protect our health and safety at work, as well as other employment rights. Should I be worried and what can I do about this?

What you are referring to is a piece of legislation currently going through Parliament called the Retained EU Law Bill which, if enacted, would mean that any regulations which are derived from EU laws will automatically go from our statute book, after the end of this year, unless Ministers decide to keep or update them.

While we don’t know what will stay and what will go, we should be worried in the sense that this, in itself, creates huge amounts of uncertainty and confusion, though it remains to be seen will happen to the more than 3000 pieces of legislation that the Government has identified. 

You can be reassured that the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974), which sets out and governs the principles by which businesses must operate, will remain in place. But many of the regulations under it, which tell employers how to keep people safe, are at risk. 

What you can do is to join the many other people writing to their MP, express your concern, and urge them to call for the unrealistic timescales to be changed or, if not, for the Bill to be dropped altogether.

Don’t forget to submit YOUR questions to policy@britsafe.org