A COOPER SAFETY BRIEFING
Recent Court of Appeal rulings on Health and Safety offences have provided guidance on the level of fines given. The guidance was that fines should reflect;
· The means of the offender (wealth)
· The seriousness of the offence
· Any mitigating circumstances
· Whether it was private sector or a public service.
· The level of public disquiet.
· The message for the organisations management.
The recent fines on Balfour Beatty of £10 million and Railtrack of £3 million following train derailments, and Transcos fine of one million pounds following a preventable gas explosion in a house indicates that public service cases are being treated more seriously. The recent round of court reports for Health and Safety prosecutions makes grim reading following some horrific deaths and injuries. The cases have been ordered by increasing size of fine.
· Climber on course in North Wales was told to let go of the ropes. Two colleagues holding the ropes also let go and the climber fell 30 feet suffering spinal injuries leaving her paraplegic (£1,500)
· Stone cladding worker killed when six tonne pack of granite slabs fell forward crushing his head (£3,000)
· Electrical contractor fell 2.5m onto concrete floor from basket balanced on forklift. The 85kg basket landed on top of him causing fatal injuries (£13,000)
· Engineering worker crushed to death when a 300kg steel grid toppled onto him from a forklift truck (£20,000)
· Electrical contractor suffered fatal injury falling from ladder in plastics factory (21,000)
· Child of two crushed by a 300kg concrete slab balanced outside a building site (£29,000)
· Lorry driver crushed by a three tonne portakabin which came lose during unloading (£50,000)
· Scrap yard worker was sliced cleanly in half in a car crushing machine (£50,000)
· Young worker suffered fatal crushing injuries beneath one tonne of falling steel rods on construction site (50,000)
· Lorry driver crushed by wooden beams as they fell from a fork truck (£60,000)
· Security guard poisoned by carbon monoxide fumes from generator in unventilated area in hospital (£60,000)
· Motorist killed when their vehicle struck a poorly positioned machine on highway (£70,000)
· A labourer fell forty feet through a hole in the fourth floor of a five-storey house. (£100,000)
· Two workers were asphyxiated when they entered a steel tank during inspection where all oxygen had been consumed by oxidation (£125,000)
· Maintenance worker killed in a 20 feet fall through a perspex roof-light on a workshop (£133,000)
· Fork lift truck driver was crushed to death when his machine carrying tyres to a shredder overturned (£140,000 fines & £3,500 funeral expenses plus £7,500 widow bereavement order)
· Biscuit lorry driver fell from vehicle when faulty cab door opened; he fell striking head on concrete. (£150,000)
· Engineer suffered fatal head injury falling from machine in bakery (150,000)
· Two workers suffocated when two tonnes of hydrocarbon gas escaped through a temporary repair patch which had been in place for ten months (£900,000).
Even with all these serious accidents, the Health and Safety Executive still indicate a small reduction in the number of people being killed at work in 2004. The overall number was 220 with the top three killers being falls from height (53), falling objects (46) and moving vehicles (35).
The number of members of the public killed in workplaces stood at 361 of which 244 involved suicide or trespass on the railways.
The number of days lost from work was 39 million of which 30 million were from ill health and nine million from injuries.
Fit Employees Increase Productivity
The Harvard Medical School found that healthy employees were more productive. No real surprise here! The government Choosing Health white paper and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy added to the good advice.
Some employer priorities might include:
· Increasing physical activity at work
· Encouraging balanced diets
· Keeping healthy through the working day
· Canteen menu changes
· Nutritional balance reviews
· Serving fruit at meetings instead of pastries and biscuits
· Ensure plenty of protein dishes
· Encouraging staff to cycle or walk
· Raising awareness of tax incentives.
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The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy has released new figures showing that the number of employees suffering from workrelated upper limb disorders, known as Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI), is on the increase. These are musculoskeletal disorders that mainly affect the upper limbs or neck and are caused, or made worse, by their current or past work. 448,000 British workers now suffer from RSI. Rates in the North East are worse than other regions.
Workers now most likely to be affected are in health and social work, followed closely by those in construction and manufacturing. Rates are also rising among those employed in communications, transport and education.
4.7 million working days were lost through RSI in 2003/4 & each affected person took an average of 18.3 days off. Employers can make a big difference to the health of their workers, and improve the productivity and profits of their business. Pain or discomfort caused by upper limb disorders can lead to more sick days and low motivation.
Here are some simple steps to protecting the health of the workforce:
· Provide assessments for each staff member to see what risks are associated with their jobs
· Encourage early reporting of any symptoms
· Provide access to appropriate help, such as an occupational health physician
· Ensure employees are able to organise their work and take regular breaks.
Watch Your Step Campaign October 2005
Each year, slips and trips cause over 11,000 major injuries (37% of the total) and 26,000 over three-day absence injuries (20% of the total). Slips and trips cost the UK economy about £800 million each year. The three worst industries for major slip and trip injuries are:
· Public administration
· Manufacture of food and drink.
Well done to the clients who put up posters and information on notice boards.
Ladders and Stepladders Campaign 14th-25th November 2005
Movable ladders and stepladders account for an average of 14 fatalities per year. The purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness of the problem and promote forthcoming HSE guidance on safe use of ladders and stepladders.
The HSE will also be facilitating awareness and promotional events and carrying out targeted inspections of those companies or organisations likely to have key hazards.
What you can do is promote sensible precautions during training, audits or inspections that you carry out or you could host an awarness-raising event.
Errors of the Month
Just to keep things light-hearted we report here on the most amusing events during recent months:
· A written procedure for moving unconscious patients in a hospital operating theatre instructed: One nurse should push whilst two horses should pull!
· An accident form described how working too late had led to a domestic argument and involvement of the police.
· An accident form described how a hospital patient received a blackened face when they went against advice and smoked a cigarette whilst wearing an oxygen mask, resulting in the unexpected flash-burn of the tobacco!
We appreciated the feedback on the last newsletters menopausal safety article. This was a genuine report on an idea by the TGW union and was not intended to be sexist. We have considered the suggestion from several colleagues for a Grumpy old man at work safety policy. On discussion with female friends and family, it would appear that the need for assessment extends beyond the workplace to husbands and boyfriends. We will keep you informed of any progress.
Hazardous Waste Regulations
The waste legislation changed on 16th July 2005 when the special waste regulations ceased to operate. These old regulations suggested that we classify Special waste by feeding a set amount of the waste to a small child of specified mass (a virtual child of course!). If harm was caused, the waste was Special!
Examples under the new classification of Hazardous include certain types of the following wastes;
· Infectious waste (most clinical waste is hazardous)
· Cyto-toxic and cyto-static waste (includes medicinal wastes above certain concentrations, where toxic, carcinogenic, toxic for reproduction or mutagenic)
· Photographic wastes
· Organic solvents
· Vehicle wastes
· Mercury containing wastes i.e. fluorescent tubes
· Computer Monitors
Waste producers must;
· Segregate hazardous and non-hazardous waste.
· Register as a producer.
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· Produce consignment notes showing waste code, description, hazard information, weight and container type.
· Accurately describe waste.
For more information contact the Environment Agency on 08708 506 506.
Assessments by the Risk-Averse
A number of mad Health and Safety decisions have appeared in the press including;
· Children playing conkers must wear safety goggles
· A lake swimming club banned from swimming
· Ramblers having to risk assess rabbit hole risks
· Egg boxes banned from classrooms for fear of salmonella risk
· Work experience programmes cancelled
· Backstroke banned at a swimming pool
· Educational and outward bound trips prohibited.
It is not Health and Safety professionals making these decisions but often senior executives being concerned their organisation may be sued. Before banning an activity assess whether anyone is really likely to be harmed.
London Fire Deaths Down
The number of people who died in London fires in the year 2004 2005 was 41. This is a massive improvement on the previous year as it is exactly half of the 82 reported in the year 2003 2004.
With such a remarkable reduction we are checking with the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority to ensure the figures are correct.
The best job seen in the safety journals recently was Helicopter Flight Test Safety Advisor! Get in the queue to apply for this one!
Tel 01483 225911
01483 765 557
copies of this Newsletter are available on our Website.