HSE Proactive Inspections to Resume

HSE Proactive Inspections to Resume

Following the call to return to work, where work cannot be undertaken at home, it was announced by the UK Government that ‘spot inspections’ of workplaces would be undertaken to ensure that COVID-19 safe measures are being adhered to and put in place by employers to ensure the safety of their staff.

Some 4500 complaints with regard to workplace safety, specifically relating to COVID-19, have been received by HSE and it has been reported by SHP that HSE will be resuming their workplace proactive inspections of Construction Sites following an injection of cash from the Government.

Quite when these inspections will begin is a little vague and how soon these inspections will roll out to other manufacturing sectors is as yet unknown, however it will be happening.

Screening Employee’s… What’s your best option?

Back to work

With many workplaces beginning to re-open or have gradual phased return to work the question is which technology, if any, do you use to assess infection in returning staff?

Many companies have opted to use temperature and moreover an abnormal rise in ‘core’ temperature to highlight possible cases of COVID-19.

If you are going to use temperature as a guide then you should be aware of the shortcomings so we’ve used peer reviewed evidence to give you the information you need.

So… what is normal ‘core’ temperature? The reality is, there isn’t one exact “normal” body temperature, so be prepared for a range of “normal”. However, the NHS consider a fever is usually when your body temperature is 37.8 C or higher.

Measurement of core temperature, if you want to be super accurate is best done using pulmonary artery catheterization as it is the reference standard to measure core body temperature, however we would not suggest you use this in the workplace…. “don’t do this at home folks”. Then of course there is the use of rectal and oral thermometers, which moderately correlates to core temperature but is also a tad invasive.

The tympanic (in your ear) infra-red thermometer frequently used in patient care has been shown to correlate with core body temperature and could be self administered to adhere to distancing guidance.

Handheld cutaneous (skin) infra-red thermometer is popularly used to screen large numbers of individuals due to it’s portability and that it does not require contact or cause discomfort to the individual being assessed, however there is little data to support its use.

Among common cutaneous infra-red thermometers evaluated for their ability to measure temperature traceable to the International Temperature Scale of 1990 (ITS-90), the majority performed outside the accuracy range stated by the manufacturers and the medical standard. (Fletcher et al 2018).

The handheld cutaneous infra-red thermometer was less accurate than the tympanic thermometer and other infra-red thermal systems for temperature measurements and fever detection. (Bijur et al, 2016, Lui et al, 2004, Hausfater et al, 2008 and Tay et al 2015).

The study by Tay et al 2015, showed that the handheld infra-red thermometer had a low sensitivity of 29.4% when compared with the oral thermometer to detect fever.

The performance of the hand held cutaneous infra-red thermometer is operator-dependent, as the thermometer is aimed at the temple or forehead, and distance between the thermometer and skin may affect its accuracy. It is not unlikely that sub-optimally trained operators, shying away from close contact with those being screened, hold the thermometer further away than the required proximity and thus compromise its effectiveness.

In a pandemic, a false negative is a false reassurance and a potential future infection cluster (Aw, 2020)

Information taken from The Journal of Hospital Infection.

AW, J. 2020. The non-contact handheld cutaneous infra-red thermometer for fever screening during the COVID-19 global emergency. The Journal of hospital infection, 104, 451-451.

Returning to Work and Risk Assessments

Returning to Work and Risk Assessments

Almost every risk assessment in your workplace may need to be reviewed as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Many organisations will also need to carry out a specific COVID-19 risk assessment.

Careful review of risk assessments will need to decide whether any of the changes put in place as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak will alter the risk rating in your existing risk assessments and if so what else do you need to do?

Identification of those at greater risk from the virus and those employees who may be shielding more vulnerable persons at home is paramount in order to decide whether you need to take further precautions for these employees.

Being able to distance employees through moving their desks 2m apart and staggering breaks, start time, shift patterns etc may be the assessments that are more straight forward to undertake. Assessing the risk of ‘buddy’ work systems and the impact of reduced staff within a manufacturing setting may prove more challenging.

A review of safe systems of work is necessary to determine whether distancing guidance can be observed either when traveling to a job or whilst carrying out a task safely. Other considerations may include whether appropriate control measures and PPE are present, if operators are working abnormal shifts or increased hours leading to fatigue or unfamiliarity with the operation.

When re-deploying staff to unfamiliar tasks has an appropriate training regime been undertaken and how can it be assessed and audited?

If you would like to discuss your individual workplace, or get general advice, then please get in touch via the contact page. We are always happy to help.

Home Working and Young Workers

During these Covid-19 restrictions, everyone who can is now having to work from home. For young workers and their managers this may present additional considerations and challenges to be overcome.

Workstation and DSE

The HSE have advised that for those working from home temporarily home workstation assessments are not needed. Advice could be provided for home workers on completing their own basic assessment at home. Younger workers could well be living at home or in shared accommodation so are more likely to have to work where they can, as opposed to choosing where would be the most suitable place. As a result their workspace may have distractions and not allow for the ideal IT set-up.

Things to consider:

• Does the employee have the correct IT kit, for example screen, mouse?

• Does the employee have a desk or makeshift desk? Is space for a desk set-up available? Can a kitchen table be used, for example, if a desk isn’t available?

• Can the employee work comfortably? Will using cushions make the seating more comfortable?

• Does the employee know how to get help with IT or kit issues?

• Breaks should be taken from DSE work (a minimum of 5 minutes each hour).

• The employee should change position regularly, get-up and stretch.

• If an employee doesn’t have the correct work equipment, breaks should be taken every 25 minutes to stretch.

Source: Barbour