Legal Article - Health & Safety

Workplace Health and Safety Legal Requirements: A Guide for Employers

Workplace Health and Safety Regulations 1992

There are strict obligations on the employer to ensure their premises meet the minimum requirements laid down in these Regulations.
 
 
These require that premises must:
 
 
 
• Be kept clean
• Provide each worker with 40 sq.ft. of floor space and (if the ceiling is less than 10 ft high) 400 cu.ft. of space
• Be heated normally to 16C, or 13C if much of the work is physical.

• Be provided with a thermometer
• Have adequate ventilation and lighting
• Have adequate washing and toilet facilities

• Provide drinking water for employees
• Have a secure space for employees’ outdoor and work clothing to be kept
• Have a seat for every employee

• Have a first aid box and train first-aiders where needed (i.e. where significant numbers of employees are employed, or in hazardous workplaces)
• Have soundly constructed and properly maintained floors, stairs, steps, passageways and gangways
• Have staircases with a handrail on any open side

• Have secure fencing around any dangerous machines or openings in the floor
• Have adequate fire precautions
• Where rest rooms are provided non-smokers must not share with smokers.


New and Expectant Mothers at Work

New and Expectant Mothers at Work

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 employers are required to protect the health and safety at work of all employees, but especially (i) women during pregnancy, up to 6 months following the birth of a live or dead child and up to the cessation of breast feeding if longer than 6 months, and (ii) young workers.

Employers must inform all female employees of child bearing capacity about the potential risks and what the employer will do to make sure that new or expectant mothers are protected.

It should also be emphasised that they should inform management in writing that they are pregnant as soon as possible in order to enable the employer to undertake an appropriate risk assessment.

The employer can also request in writing a certificate from a registered medical practitioner, or a registered midwife, confirming the pregnancy.

If the assessment identifies specific hazards the employer must take all reasonably practicable steps to prevent exposure to risks through the removal of the hazards or the implementation of appropriate controls.

If a risk remains which could damage the health or safety of a new or expectant mother or her baby and cannot be removed, the women must be offered suitable alternative work if available (on the same pay etc.) and if none is available she should be suspended from work on full pay as long as is necessary to protect the health and safety of the mother and child.

New and expectant mothers must not be required to work at night if they have a medical certificate stating that the night work could damage their health or safety.

Daytime work should be offered if available, or paid leave.

All of these rights apply regardless of a women’s length of service or hours of work.
The type of hazards and working conditions that may affect the health and safety of these mothers are:

Shocks, vibration or movement

 
Regular exposure to shocks, low frequency vibration (e.g. driving or riding in off-road vehicles), or excessive movement may increase the risk of a miscarriage.

Long term exposure to vibration does not cause foetal abnormalities, but this often occurs with heavy physical work so there may be an increased risk of premature labour or a low birth weight. Breast feeding workers are at no greater risk than other workers.

Manual handling of loads where there is a risk of injury

Pregnant workers are especially at risk from manual handling injury - for example, hormonal changes can affect the ligaments, increasing susceptibility to injury; and postural problems may increase as the pregnancy progresses.

There can also be risks for those who have recently given birth, for example after a caesarean section there is likely to be a temporary limitation on lifting and handling capacity.

There is no evidence to suggest that breastfeeding mothers are at greater risk from manual handling injury than any other workers.
 

Noise

There appears to be no specific risk to new or expectant mothers or to the foetus, but prolonged exposure to loud noise may lead to increased blood pressure and tiredness.
No particular problems for women who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding.
 

Extremes of cold or heat

When pregnant, women tolerate heat less well and may more readily faint or be more liable to heat stress. The risk is likely to be reduced after birth but it is not certain how quickly an improvement comes about.

Breastfeeding may be impaired by heat dehydration.
No specific problems arise from working in extreme cold, although clearly for other health and safety reasons, warm clothing should be provided.

Movements and postures, travelling – either inside or outside the establishment – mental and physical fatigue and other physical burdens connected with the activity of new or expectant mothers

Fatigue from standing and other physical work has been associated with miscarriage, premature birth and low birth weight.
Excessive physical or mental pressure may cause stress and can give rise to anxiety and raised blood pressure.

Pregnant workers may experience problems in working at heights, for example ladders, platforms, and in working in tightly fitting workspaces or with workstations which do not adjust sufficiently to take account of increased abdominal size, particularly during the later stages of pregnancy.

This may lead to strain or sprain injuries. Dexterity, agility, co-ordination, speed or movement, reach and balance may also be impaired and an increased risk of accidents may need to be considered.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide readily crosses the placenta and can result in the foetus being starved of oxygen. Data on the effects of exposure to carbon monoxide on pregnant women are limited, but there is evidence of adverse effects on the foetus.

Both the level and duration of maternal exposure are important factors in the effect on the foetus.

There is no indication that breastfed babies suffer adverse effects from their mother’s exposure to carbon monoxide, nor that the mother is significantly more sensitive to carbon monoxide after giving birth.

Lead and lead derivatives – in so far as these agents are capable of being absorbed by the human organism

Occupational exposure to lead in the early 1900s, when exposure was poorly controlled, was associated with high frequencies of spontaneous abortion, stillborn and infertility; More recent studies draw attention to an association between low-level lead exposure before the baby is born from environmental sources and mild decreases in intellectual performance in childhood.

The effects on breastfed babies of their mother’s lead exposure have not been studied. However, lead can enter breast milk. Since it is thought that the nervous system of young children is particularly sensitive to the toxic effects of lead, the exposure of breastfeeding mothers to lead should be viewed with concern.

Work with display screen equipment (VDUs)

Anxiety about radiation emissions from display screen equipment and possible effects on pregnant women has been widespread. However, there is substantial evidence that these concerns are unfounded.

The National Radiological Protection Board, which has the statutory function of providing information and advice on all radiation matters to Government departments, has given the advice below which summarises scientific understanding.

The levels of ionising and non-ionising electromagnetic radiation which are likely to be generated by display screen equipment are well below those set out in international recommendations for limiting risk to human health created by such emissions and the National Radiological Protection Board does not consider such levels to pose a significant risk to health.

No special protective measures are therefore needed to protect the health of people from this radiation.

There has been considerable public concern about reports of higher levels of miscarriage and birth defects among some groups of visual display unit (VDU) workers, in particular due to electromagnetic radiation.

Many scientific studies have been carried out, but taken as a whole their results do not show any link between miscarriages or birth defects and working with VDUs. Research and reviews of the scientific evidence will continue to be undertaken.

Protection of Young Workers

Protection of Young Workers

Employers are required to assess risks to young people (i.e. under 18 years of age) before they start work. Employers of young people already at work who have performed a risk assessment which takes account of their youth need not repeat their assessments.

Children under 13 years old are generally prohibited from any form of employment. Children between 13 and the minimum school leaving age (i.e. just before or just after their 16th birthday) are prohibited from being employed in motor retail workshops and petrol forecourts, except when on work experience schemes approved by the local education authority.

The Health and Safety (Training for Employment) Regulations 1990 designate children on work experience as employees for the purposes of health and safety legislation and they must have the same protection as other employees.

Young persons over school leaving age on training schemes (e.g. modern apprenticeships etc.) should be under proper supervision by a competent person when undertaking hazardous work.
Employers should take into account the inexperience, lack of awareness of risks and immaturity of young workers, paying particular attention to

• The fitting-out and layout of the workplace and the workstation
• The nature, degree and duration of exposure to physical, biological and chemical agents
• The form, range and use of work equipment and the way in which it is handled
• The organisation of processes and activities
• The extent of the health and safety training provided to the young persons.

Employers must give information to parents (and those with parental responsibility) of school age children about risks incurred by the child at work and the control measures. This does not have to be in writing.

In the motor retail industry there are very few circumstances where young persons are physiologically more at risk than adults, except those working with compressed air or conditions that cause regular exposure to whole-body vibration. It is their relative immaturity and lack of experience that should be given special consideration in the risk assessment.

 

Fire Procedures in the Workplace

Fire Procedures in the Workplace

Under the Fire Precautions Act 1971 all motor vehicle premises employing more than 20 people, or more than 10 persons on a floor other than the ground floor, must apply to the local fire authority for a fire certificate.

Prior to the issuing of a certificate the owner or occupier of the premises is under a duty to:

• Maintain existing means of escape
• Maintain existing fire extinguishing equipment
• Ensure all employees receive adequate instruction and training in what to do in the event of fire
• Continue to ensure the safety of employees as far as is reasonably practicable.

The fire authority has the power to exempt premises from the need to have a fire certificate, but once issued it must be kept on the premises.

The certificate will specify:

• The use or uses of premises it covers
• The means of escape from fire
• The means of securing that the escape routes can be safely used e.g. emergency lighting, direction signs, fire or smoke stop doors, safety signs etc.
• The storing of any explosives or highly flammable materials
• The means of raising the alarm (usually an electrical fire alarm system)
• The means for fighting fire e.g. fire extinguishers, hose reels etc.

These must not be changed without first obtaining the fire authority’s permission.

In addition, specific requirements may be imposed such as:

• Regular fire drills
• Instruction of occupants in fire matters
• The keeping of records
• Other managerial duties e.g. regular testing and maintenance of fire equipment
• A limit on the number of persons who may occupy the premises at any one time.

Non-certificated premises must have an adequate means of escape and adequate means for fighting fire.
Under the Health and Safety etc at Work Act 1974 and subsequent Regulations general duties are placed on all companies and employers to take all reasonable practical steps to protect the health and safety of people on their premises.

In the case of fire hazards this would include taking all the actions described above and in addition the following action is required:

• Management must undertake a risk assessment and any fire hazards, or potential ones, must be eliminated or reduced in some way
• The results of the risk assessment, especially any hazards identified and the action to be taken to remove or reduce them, must be communicated to all employees who may be affected
• A person should be nominated to be responsible for fire safety and trained
Accordingly
• Good standards of house keeping should be maintained e.g. no smoking policies enforced; all rubbish removed safely; fire exits kept clear.

The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR)

The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR)

Employers and self-employed people must report work-related accidents, diseases and dangerous occurrences to either the environmental health department of the local authority, or the area office of the Health and Safety Executive.

Employers need to act in the following circumstances:

i. Death or major injury. If an employee or self-employed person is killed or suffers a major injury (including as a result of physical violence) at work, or a member of the public is killed or taken to hospital, the authorities must be notified without delay (e.g. telephone) and within ten days the authorised accident report form (F2508) must be completed and sent.

ii. Over three day injury. If there is an accident connected with work (including an act of physical violence) and an employee or self-employed person working on the employer’s premises, suffers an over three day injury, a completed F2508 form must be sent to the enforcing authority within ten days. An over three day injury is one which is not major but results in the injured person being away from work or unable to do their normal work for more than three days (including non work days).

iii. Disease. If a doctor notifies the employer that one of his/her employees suffers from a reportable work related disease, the employer must send a completed disease report form (F2508A) to the enforcing authority.

iv. Dangerous occurrence. If something happens which does not result in a reportable injury, but which clearly could have done, then it may be a dangerous occurrence which must be reported immediately (e.g. by telephone). Within ten days a completed accident report form (F2508) must be sent.

Employers must keep a record of any reportable injury, disease or dangerous occurrence. This must include the date and method of reporting; the date, time and place of the event, personal details of those involved and a brief description of the nature of the event or disease.

The record can be kept in any form whatsoever, for example by keeping copies of completed report forms in a file or recording the details on a computer.

Reportable Major Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Major injuries

• Fracture other than to fingers, thumb or toes

• Amputations

• Dislocation of the shoulder, hip, knee or spine

• Loss of sight (temporary or permanent)

• Chemical or hot metal burn to the eye or any penetrating injury to the eye

• Injury resulting from an electrical shock or burn leading to unconsciousness, or requiring resuscitation or admittance to hospital for more than 24 hours

• Any other injury leading to hypothermia, heat-induced illness or unconsciousness, or requiring resuscitation, or requiring admittance to hospital for more than 24 hours

• Unconsciousness caused by asphyxia or exposure to harmful substances

Acute illness requiring medical treatment, or loss of consciousness arising from absorption of any substance by inhalation, ingestion or through the skin.

Dangerous occurrences

• Collapse, overturning or failure of load-bearing parts of lifts and lifting equipment

• Explosion, collapse or bursting of any closed vessel or associated pipework
• Electrical short circuit or overload causing fire or explosion

• Malfunction of breathing apparatus while in use or during testing immediately before use
• Unintended collision of vehicles

• Explosion or fire causing suspension of normal work for over 24 hours

• Accidental release of any substance, which may damage health.

Reportable diseases

• Poisonings

• Skin diseases such as occupational dermatitis, skin cancer, chrome ulcer or oil

• Folliculitis/acne

• Lung diseases including occupational asthma and asbestosis

• Other conditions such as occupational cancer, musculoskeletal disorders and handarm vibration syndrome.

The Use of Safety Signs in the Workplace

The Use of Safety Signs in the Workplace

Permanent signboards must be used for signs relating to prohibitions, warnings and mandatory requirements, and for locating and identifying emergency escape routes and first-aid facilities.

Places where there is a risk of collision with obstacles or falling objects must be permanently marked with a safety colour and/or signboard.

Permanent signboards are not expected to be used where the worksite is temporary, although safety signs should still be displayed. For example, signs warning of slippery floors may be needed during cleaning.

Signboards should be removed when the risk to which they refer ceases to exist.

Containers and pipe-work regularly used at work to hold dangerous substances or preparations must be labelled in the vicinity of the most dangerous points, such as valves and joints, and at reasonable intervals.

Areas, rooms and enclosures where significant quantities of dangerous goods or substances are stored must be identified by warning signs.

Places where there is a risk of colliding with obstacles, or of falling objects, should be marked with alternating yellow and black or red and white stripes. Where traffic routes need to be shown to protect workers they should be clearly marked by continuous stripes in a clearly visible colour.
Fire-fighting equipment and storage areas must be marked in red and the appropriate signboards used.

Light, sound and actions

Light, sound and actions

Illuminated safety signs, acoustic signals and/or verbal communications must be used where needed to signal danger, order a specific action or for emergency evacuation.

Illuminated safety signs must use the appropriate safety colours. They may be continuous or flashing but, if both modes are used, flashes should indicate a higher level of danger.

Acoustic signals must be audible above background noise without being excessively loud. If constant and variable frequencies are used the latter should indicate a higher level of danger. The evacuation signal must be continuous.

Messages communicated verbally must be as short, simple and clear as possible. They may be used together with gestures.

Hand signals and/or verbal communications must be used where needed to guide those carrying out hazardous or dangerous manoeuvres. They must be precise, simple, expansive, easy to make and to understand and clearly distinct from other signals.

In some circumstances, it may be appropriate to use more than one type of safety sign.
For example, hand signals can be used to supplement verbal instructions, or an acoustic alarm meaning 'general danger' may alert employees, and then an illuminated warning sign may provide more specific risk information.

Where an employee's hearing or sight is impaired, for example by personal protective equipment, additional measures should be taken to ensure that warning signs can be seen or heard, such as increasing their volume or brightness.

Fire


Fire safety signs are also covered, whether needed to comply with these Regulations or specific fire legislation.

Summary

The employer's responsibilities are to:

  • Use a sign to warn of the danger of the hazard and inform of any precautions to be taken if a hazard exists

  • Ensure that comprehensible and relevant information on the measures to be taken in connection with safety signs is provided to each employee

  • Ensure that each employee receives suitable and sufficient instruction and training in the meaning of safety signs and the measures to be taken in connection with safety signs

There are five major areas where signs and markings have changed or are now required:

  • Signboards
  • Pipes
  • Identification and location of fire-fighting equipment
  • Obstacles and dangerous locations
  • Marking of traffic routes

 

Noise at Work Regulations 1989

Noise at Work Regulations 1989

Hard on the heels of the COSHH Regulations, which broadly dealt with the effects of chemicals on employees health, we now have new Regulations to reduce the damage to hearing caused by loud noise in the workplace.

The action required by the Regulations depends upon the level of exposure. There are three significant noise threshold levels:

1. A First Action Level of 85db(A) over a working day. Very roughly this is a level at which most people need to shout to be clearly understood by someone two metres away.

2. A Second Action Level of 90 db(A) over a working day. Very roughly this is a level at which most people need to shout to be clearly understood by someone one metre away.

3. A Peak Action Level of 200 pascals (equivalent to 140 db). This is likely to be linked with the use of cartridge operated tools, shooting guns and similar loud explosive noises. In most cases workers exposed above this level will also be exposed above 90 db(A), so this action level is likely to be important where workers are subject to a small number of loud noises during an otherwise quiet day.

Employers must arrange for an adequate noise risk assessment to be made if employee's exposure is likely to reach any of the action levels. The risk assessment should identify which employees are exposed and provide enough information about the noise for the employer to decide what action is needed.

Adequate records of the assessment must be kept which are in an intelligible and readily retrievable form. For noise levels between 85 db and 90 db levels employers must provide suitable and sufficient ear protectors to employees who request them.

There is no requirement placed on either employers or employees to make sure they are used, but the employer must maintain them in a good condition At 90 db(A) and at Peak Action Levels employers must reduce noise where reasonably practicable by means other than the provision of personal ear protectors by either reducing the noise levels in the working environment, or the time workers spend in noisy areas.

Where this is not reasonably practical the employer must ensure employees have and wear ear protectors whenever they have to work above that level.

Employees must co-operate by wearing ear protectors, properly using any other noise control equipment and reporting any defects they may find.

Where these noise levels occur the employer must designate the work area as an 'Ear Protection Zone'. As far as is reasonably practicable these zones must be marked in compliance with BS5378 and make sure that everyone who enters them is wearing ear protectors.

An 'ear protection zone' sign is also necessary to make employees and visitors aware of the potential heightened noise level.

Employers have to provide information, instruction and training for their workers. This is to include information about the risk of damage to hearing, what the employee can do to minimise the risk, how the employees exposed to between 85 db and 90 db noise levels can obtain ear protectors and the employee's obligations under the Regulations.

Machine makers, suppliers etc. have to provide adequate information with machines likely to cause noise exposures of 85 db or more.

Summary of Employers Obligations

Summary of Employers Obligations

i. Display a certificate of insurance under the Compulsory Insurance Regulations.

ii. Have a written Safety Policy Statement (if you employ 5 or more persons)

iii. Display the statutory poster 'Health and Safety Law - What you should know' or give each employee the equivalent leaflet.

iv. Consult with all employees on matters affecting their health and safety, before making any decisions.

v. Make suitable and sufficient assessments of the risks to the health and safety of employees and others.

vi. Record the significant findings of risk assessments.

vii. Instruct and train employees exposed to risks on the protective/preventive measures.

viii. Communicate emergency and evacuation procedures to employees and others.

ix. Exchange information on health and safety hazards and risks with other employers sharing the premises.

x. Maintain records of injuries and first-aid treatment.

xi. Report notifiable accidents, diseases and dangerous occurrences in the workplace.

xii. Monitor and review health and safety arrangements as necessary.

xiii. Employers have a duty of care to provide a safe system of work for all employees and contractors, which includes provision of a safe working environment and ensuring employee competency and fitness for work - health screening may be required.

Published: 23 Mar 2011

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