On International Womens Day 2022 it seems only fitting to say a massive congratulations to Holly Welch for achieving her University Diploma in Event Safety Management.
Changes to the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992
In November 2020, a court judgment found that the UK had failed to adequately transpose aspects of two EU Directives into domestic law:
Article 8(4) and 8(5) of EU Directive 89/391/EEC (“the Health and Safety Framework Directive”)
Article 3 of EU Directive 89/656/EEC (“the PPE Directive”).
The UK implementation of these provisions only applied to employees, and the court found that the UK’s implementation should extend to limb (b) workers. The government transposed the PPE Directive through the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992.
The PPE Regulations place a duty on every employer in Great Britain to ensure that suitable personal protective equipment (PPE) is provided to employees who may be exposed to a risk to their health or safety while at work. Currently, employers only have a duty to their ‘employees’ in respect to PPE – changes to the legislation will ensure this duty also extends to ‘limb (b) workers’. Amendments to the PPER will ensure the legislation reflects the court judgment and will apply in England, Scotland and Wales.
PPE is defined in the regulations as follows:
“All equipment (including clothing affording protection against the weather) which is intended to be worn or held by a person at work and which protects the person against one or more risks to that person’s health or safety, and any addition or accessory designed to meet that objective.”
What does this mean?
Employers will have a duty to provide limb (b) workers with the same health and safety protections in respect of PPE as they do currently for employees.
Options on how to achieve the extension of the provisions to workers in the legislation will not be presented during the consultation as the key legislative changes are being made to align with the court decision.
What is a limb (b) worker?
There are two main employment statuses for employment rights: ‘employee’ and ‘worker’. Employees are defined as limb (a) and workers are defined as limb (b) in the Employment Rights Act 1996 s.230:
“..an individual who has entered into or works under– (a) a contract of employment; or (b) any other contract, whether express or implied and (if it is express) whether oral or in writing, whereby the individual undertakes to do or perform personally any work or services for another party to the contract whose status is not by virtue of the contract that of a client or customer or any profession or business undertaking carried on by the individual.”
Generally, limb (b) workers:
- Carry out casual or irregular work for one or a number of organisation(s).
- Receive holiday pay, but not other employment rights such as the minimum period of statutory notice, after one month of continuous service.
- Only carry out work if they choose to.
- Have a contract or other arrangement to do work or services personally for a reward (the contract doesn’t have to be written) and they only have a limited right to send someone else to do the work, for example, swapping shifts with someone on a pre-approved list (subcontract).
- Are not in business for themselves (they do not advertise services directly to customers who can then also book their services directly).
The changes to PPE Regulations will ensure the amending legislation aligns with the court judgment.
The HSE is seeking the views on:
- The types of PPE that are used and how often they are replaced.
- Cleaning, maintenance and storage costs of PPE.
- Costs of training limb (b) workers to use PPE.
- Costs of ensuring PPE is properly used.
- Costs of familiarisation.
- The numbers of limb (b) workers likely to be brought into the scope of the PPER as a result of the change.
- Whether limb (b) workers tend to supplement work done by employees or tend to do different types of work.
- The likely additional costs and wider impacts that may follow as a result of the change.
PPE not regulated and enforced under the PPE Regulations
Employees and workers may be required to wear items of PPE under legislation other than the PPE Regulations. This includes for example crash helmets worn by employees on the road which is legally required under road traffic legislation.
Specific PPE required and provided for in the below health and safety regulations should also not be considered for the purposes of this consultation:
This is PPE required in relation to:
- Lead exposure – Control of lead at work.
- Ionising radiation – Work with ionising radiation.
- Asbestos – Managing and working with asbestos.
- Substances hazardous to health in the workplace (for example: chemicals, fumes, dusts, non-water vapours, non-water mists, nanotechnology, and/or gases) – Control of substances hazardous to health.
- Noise – Controlling noise at work.
Source: Barbour EHS
Why should you test your workforce?
Well…. the obvious is this…. workplace testing will identify more positive cases of COVID-19 and ensure those infected isolates thereby reducing the spread of the virus and protect those who cannot work from home. This is the GOV.UK advice. The UK Government would like as many employers as possible to sign up to regularly testing their employees and will under certain circumstances provide free tests to employers. So… why wouldn’t you?
Well… good advice from the CBI is that before engaging in testing, businesses need to think carefully about their operations and staff, learning lessons from their response to the pandemic so far to determine what will work best. These questions may help as a starter:
- What type of workplace settings will testing be most useful for?
- Which test will best suit the organisation’s need?
- What will testing enable the organisation to do?
- What are my legal obligations as an employer?
- What will the health and safety requirements be?
- How can I incentivise my workforce to take up testing?
- What are the logistical and practical requirements around the delivery of workplace testing? Do I require additional trained staff to manage the programme?
- How regularly does testing need to be undertaken? How long should I implement testing for?
The UK Government recognises that every employer and every sector is unique, providing 3 options for businesses:
Option 1: An employer-led DIY setup.
Employers can set up their own on-site testing programmes, outside of that which currently exists with the NHS Test and Trace service.
For more information: On Site Testing Program
Option 2: Use a third-party provider.
Employers who would like on-site testing but would prefer an accredited private provider to organise and run the testing on their behalf can partner with one of the providers on the list of providers: Third Party Providers
Employers will need to pay for this service provision but are still eligible to order the free government testing kits by registering to order workplace coronavirus tests. The onus falls upon the employer to ensure that they order the test kits.
In partnering with a third-party provider, responsibility still lies upon the employer to ensure that they register to order a sufficient number of test kits.
Option 3: Community Testing
For organisations in the public and private sector that have fewer than 50 employees, access to testing is through local authorities who are establishing testing sites for those without symptoms within their local areas.
If you are an organisation with fewer than 50 employees, a sole trader, self-employed or a member of the general public, visit your local authority’s website to find out more about their testing services.
So the message is clear…. The UK Government want as many employers as possible to sign up to regularly test their employees. But…… it does remain a voluntary decision for employers to run testing programmes for their staff.
How mental ill health and work-related stress can go together
Work-related stress and mental health problems often go together and the symptoms can be very similar.
Work-related stress can aggravate an existing mental health problem, making it more difficult to control. If work-related stress reaches a point where it has triggered an existing mental health problem, it becomes hard to separate one from the other.
Common mental health problems and stress can exist independently – people can experience work-related stress and physical changes such as high blood pressure, without having anxiety, depression or other mental health problems. They can also have anxiety and depression without experiencing stress. The key differences between them are their cause(s) and the way(s) they are treated.
Stress is a reaction to events or experiences in someone’s home life, work life or a combination of both. Common mental health problems can have a single cause outside work, for example bereavement, divorce, postnatal depression, a medical condition or a family history of the problem. But people can have these sorts of problems with no obvious causes.
As an employer, you can help manage and prevent stress by improving conditions at work. But you also have a role in making adjustments and helping someone manage a mental health problem at work.
Failure to detect dangerous gas/vapour due to incorrect specification of sample tube
Health and Safety Executive – Safety alert
Chemicals, Explosives and Microbiological Hazards Division (CEMHD)
CEMHD1 – 2020
10 September 2020
- Personnel specifying and selecting devices for measuring concentrations of flammable and toxic gases
- Chemical processing and production
This safety alert highlights the risk of misleading gas detection readings associated with the use of sampling tubes with pumped gas detectors. Sampling tubes are sometimes used to extend the reach of the detection device and/or to allow detection at an increased distance from the user.
In a recent incident a gas detector failed to detect the presence of a flammable vapour. Hot work proceeded in the belief that there was no flammable vapour present. The subsequent explosion resulted in a fatal injury.
The investigation found that a significant contributor to the failure to detect the flammable vapour was it being adsorbed on the inner surface of the sample tube. This meant that no flammable vapour reached the detector before the test was completed and a false conclusion that the work area was free of flammable vapour.
This incident has highlighted the importance of selecting the correct systems for gas detection and verifying the effectiveness of the detection system.
The purpose of this safety alert is to highlight the risk of adsorption if an unsuitable sample tube is used.
- Gas detection may be used in support of a risk assessment associated with, for example, hot work or confined space entry. It is important that the gas detection system used is suitable for the intended purpose and gives a sufficiently accurate and reliable indication of the presence of the hazardous material. Pumped gas detectors can be used to sample locations at a distance from the detector via a sampling tube.
- In a recent incident, a gas detector failed to detect a flammable atmosphere. Hot work proceeded based on the false reading. The hot work resulted in ignition of a flammable atmosphere and a fatal injury.
- While there were errors in the selection and set-up of the gas detector, the most significant contributor to the failure of the gas detector was the adsorption of the flammable vapour on the surface of the sample tube before it could reach the gas detector.
- This safety alert is to remind operators of the need to ensure the suitability of gas detection system for its intended purpose.
- The gas detector involved in the incident performed in accordance with the manufacturer’s specification.
- The manufacturer’s technical performance information reported that it was not suitable for the detection of the substance to be measured. The detector was being used for a substance other than its calibration gas but had not been configured to include a correction factor. Each of these issues would have resulted in an incorrect reading. On this occasion, if these had been the only faults the reading would still have been sufficient to result in a decision not to proceed with the hot work.
- The most significant contributor to the failure was the adsorption of the substance of interest on the inner surface of the sample tube. During laboratory testing of the gas detector and at a concentration of 50%LEL (lower explosion limit) of the substance involved, the sample tube extended the time to achieve a non-zero reading by more than 1 minute. This extension was considerably longer than the time taken to test at any particular location with a recommended sample tube fitted. At 50%LEL of the substance involved, the time to achieve 90% of the final reading was over 15 minutes.
- The same gas detector and sample tube had a response time of less than 5 seconds to the calibration gas (methane).
- The phenomenon of adsorption of some substances on sample tubes is known. It is mentioned in each of the references to this safety alert and has been studied in previous HSE research (eg Research Report RR635).
- Review of manuals for gas detectors from a range of manufacturers has identified that most manuals include little or no information on the importance of selecting a sample system of a suitable material.
- While the incident to which this safety alert refers involved a highly flammable substance and measurement of LEL, similar issues may apply to some other gases, particularly reactive gases such as H2S and NOx.
- Operating instructions for most gas detectors recommend a function check (often referred to as a ‘bump test’) before each day’s use. This is additional to the requirement for periodic calibration. It is recommended in the case of gas detectors that will be used with a sample tube, at least the first function check (‘bump test’) for a new intended use and/or a new sampling configuration be conducted using the combination of the gas detector and its sample tube and the substance of interest, where practicable. This is of particular importance if the substance of interest is not the substance used to calibrate.
- For example, the head space in a sample jar containing a liquid sample of the substance of interest at a temperature above its flashpoint would be expected to give an output representing greater than 100%LEL.
- Sample tubes should be as short as possible. The increase in response time should not exceed the response time of the gas detector without a sample tube plus the delay time specified in the gas detector manual or, where no time is specified in the manual, 3 seconds per metre (eg BS EN 60079-29-1:2016, section 5.4.15). The combination of gas detector and sample tube should be considered unsuitable where this time is exceeded.
- Particularly for spot testing, users should be aware of the response time of the combination of the gas detector and its sample tube.
We would be really interested in your opinion of how health & safety training should be effectively delivered. Traditionally we may have all at one time or another engaged in face to face training and maybe some of us have undertaken distance learning, either to a set timeline or as self paced learning. In a post COVID world, what would your opinion be an how we should effectively deliver training?
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If you run a business or organisation
The UK Converment provided guidance on how businesses should dispose of face coverings and PPE that is used in conjuction with your business COVID secure measures.
- provide extra bins for your staff and customers to throw away their waste face coverings and PPE used for social distancing, and any other additional waste, such as takeaway packaging and disposable tableware
- make sure that staff and customers do not put face coverings and PPE in a recycling bin as they cannot be recycled through conventional recycling facilities
- make sure bins are emptied often so they do not overflow and create litter
You do not need to collect PPE separately but, if you do, you must describe and code your waste correctly.
Ask your waste contractor if there is anything else you need to do.
If your staff are using PPE at work to protect against risks other than coronavirus, they can throw it away in the usual way.
You can put used disposable face coverings and PPE in an ‘offensive waste’ collection (yellow bags with a black stripe), if you have one.
You may be able to use specialist PPE recycling services for some items. Ask your waste contractor.
Source: UK Gov
Disinfecting Premises Using Fog, Mist, Vapour or Ultraviolet (UV) Systems During the Coronavirus Outbreak
The HSE has issued this guidance. It notes that, during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, fog, mist, vapour or UV treatments may be suitable options to help control the spread of the virus, by cleaning and disinfecting a larger space or room. Any use of these treatments for these purposes should form part of the COVID-19 risk assessment. Users must be competent and properly trained.
Selecting the correct treatment will depend on:
- the size of the area to be treated, its shape and how easily it can be sealed off if delivering an airborne product
- whether there are hard or soft surfaces – soft furnishings may act as a ‘sink’ for the airborne chemicals and emit them for some time after treatment (it may be possible to remove items such as sofas before treatment)
- the type of business you have – some areas may be better suited to UV surface treatments than airborne chemicals or vice-versa.
Disinfectants applied as a fog, mist or vapour may reach harmful levels during delivery and UV systems may cause eye/skin damage if people enter an area undergoing treatment. Discuss with suppliers what safety features they can provide to prevent inadvertent access to a room during treatment. For example, safety sensors, simply locking rooms during treatment if feasible, or safety signage as part of a safe system of work.
The guidance says:
- do not spray people with disinfectant
- do not disinfect large outdoor spaces.
Ensure that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure you are using the product safely and effectively. Advice on the law on chemicals is set out.
The guidance goes on to cover sealing off rooms – which is necessary to avoid risk of human exposure to the potentially harmful treatments. Disinfectants may reach harmful levels during delivery and UV systems may cause eye/skin damage if people enter an area undergoing treatment. It suggests that rooms that are very difficult to seal may not be suitable for delivering airborne chemicals.
Source: Barbour 2020
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is carrying out spot checks on businesses that have reopened since the UK went into lockdown.
The UK regulator’s inspectors are visiting workplaces across a range of sectors following up any reports or concerns about safety in the workplace including over COVID-19 and ensuring compliance. They are also carrying out proactive checks to ensure that appropriate measures are in place to protect workers from COVID-19.
Between 9 March and 29 June, the HSE received 23,569 COVID-related contacts, of which 7784 were COVID-related concerns, 9944 were COVID-related calls and 5871 were COVID-related advice requests.
Of the 3856 businesses contacted between 26 May and 2 July, 2386 spot checks were carried out by a mixture of phone checks and site visits. The phone checks included obtaining visual evidence such as photos and video footage.
Out of nearly 4000 spot checks, 295 were follow ups to check on issues with cleaning regimes, social distancing as well as failure to engage with the regulator. All but 41 of these were deemed compliant after the second check. The remaining 41 are currently subject to inspector visits and further investigation.
HSE state that ‘Putting dutyholders on the spot, and checking on how they are managing risks, has always been part of our regulatory approach.
‘This has continued to be the case throughout the pandemic. We’ve responded to workplace concerns and are inspecting some workplaces in response. This will continue as more businesses return to work.’
Source: IOSH magazine
Advice has been published by HSE with regard to Air Conditioning within buildings.
HSE say that the risk of air conditioning spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) in the workplace is extremely low.
It is advised that you can continue using most types of air conditioning system as normal. But, if you use a centralised ventilations system that removes and circulates air to different rooms it is recommended that you turn off recirculation and use a fresh air supply.
You do not need to adjust air conditioning systems that mix some of the extracted air with fresh air and return it to the room as this increases the fresh air ventilation rate. Also, you do not need to adjust systems in individual rooms or portable units as these operate on 100% recirculation.