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Health & Safety Management Systems – Why Bother?

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When someone uses the phrase “management system” it conjures up an image of an office full of clerks, busy filling in endless reams of paper, without anyone actually knowing what the end result is. This does not need to be the way, especially when it comes to health and safety, the object of the exercise is to have a system that works for your needs, one that not only gives you results but also achieves its objectives of keeping you and everyone else safe. 

A health and safety management system can be as simple as a one page set of tick boxes, to make sure you haven’t forgotten something important, right up to an OHSAS 18001 system which not only controls everything you do with health and safety, but can be audited to an international standard as well as demonstrating that you are working to best practice. The important thing is that the system should do what you want or need it to do, it should not create procedures for the sake of it and should be clear in its results and observations.  

Given that a health and safety management system can be simple, certainly shouldn’t be excessive and will produce clear results, what will we gain from having one and how much is it going to cost? There are some very simple answers to these questions:

 What will we gain? 

A safer working environment, Less absenteeism, Increased production, Happier workforce,  Customer recognition, Peer recognition, Mitigation against legal costs, Defence against legislation breeches, Lower insurance costs &  Access to additional work opportunities.  

How much will it cost? 

Debit:  

Producing the system, Necessary capital expenditure (guarding etc), Training costs of personnel,  Monitoring & auditing

  Credit: 

Less absenteeism, Increased production, Lower legal costs, Lower insurance costs, Mitigation against fines and claims, Maintenance of company reputation, Increased tendering opportunity

 

Taking all of the above, together with many more benefits, it can be seen that the reasons we bother are simple, a well produced health and safety management system will help you keep all around you safe thus avoiding absenteeism, lost production and legal claims against you, it will help you comply with current legislation avoiding legal costs, it will demonstrate to customers and your peers, that you are a company they would like to do business with, it can help keep your insurance costs down, maybe even reducing them and it could provide the conditions that will allow you to access many other tendering opportunities.

 So, why bother? 

Increased profitability

 Increased reputation and profile 

 Happier, more productive workforce

Increased work opportunities

Legal compliance

Because it’s the right thing to do!

 If you would like to know more about how effective a health and safety management system can be or to discuss any other matters relating to health and safety, then please contact us via our website at www.anchorhands.co.uk

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Risk and your business

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Here we will be looking at the physical risks that need to be accounted for within any business planning, but hopefully will cover the general areas necessary to give you an idea of what to look out for.

Before we move on let’s be clear what we are talking about.

   What is Risk?                                           

“Risk is the likelihood of a body or event to cause harm.”

This should not be  confused with Hazard.         

 What is Hazard?            

“Hazard is the ability of a body or event to cause harm.”

From this we can see that in order to reduce the risks to our businesses we need to remove, reduce or protect against the hazards we come across. The way we do this is by carrying out a Risk Assessment

 There are five steps to carrying out any risk assessment.

 Step 1: Identify and record the hazards that are present, these fall broadly into five categories

Physical: such as pressure, heat, damp, noise, radiation and electricity

Chemical: such as dusts, fumes, chemicals, toxic materials and gases

Biological: such as infections, viruses and contagions

Ergonomic: work conditions, stress, RSI and man-machine interaction

The fifth one we’ll come back to as it’s covered under specific legislation

 Step 2: Identify the people that may be affected by the hazard

Paying particular attention to those groups that may be especially vulnerable such as the elderly, blind, young and disabled.

At this point it is possible to rank the severity of the risk, giving it a more tangible identity

 Step 3: Remove, reduce the severity or Protect against, the Hazard.

The preference here is always to remove the hazard completely (rearrange items to avoid trips and impacts), if this cannot be done then reduce the severity of the hazard (use low voltage equipment or less aggressive chemicals) and as a last resort protect against the hazard (provide warnings or personal protective equipment).

Once again assuming that all the measures have been put into place, it will be possible to rank the severity of the residual risks. You can then establish whether the remaining risks are acceptable or if they need further action.

 Step 4: Record, Plan, Inform and Train            

Record the significant findings from steps 1 to 3 and what actions have or need to be taken as a result.

Prepare any plans or procedures that may be required in order to facilitate the actions

Inform and instruct all relevant people, co-operate with all concerned.

Provide any necessary training that may be required as a result of the assessment.

 Step 5: Review

Having carried out the assessments they must be kept relevant, which means that they should be reviewed on a regular basis or when conditions change (such as work practices, new technology, legislation or results of monitoring)

Remember any revisions to the assessments must be communicated to those that need to know the results of those revisions.

 Why have we gone to the trouble of doing these risk assessments and putting whatever precautions in place, is it because of our genuine concern for our fellow workers safety, is it because it makes financial sense to do it or is it our legal duty?

 The answer is all of the above!

 From a humanitarian and moral point of view, we do not want to cause or allow to be caused, harm to anybody

  1. Research shows that investing in risk reduction leads to better company performance.
  2. A good working environment is good business.
  3. Staff feel that they are valued.
  4. Your customers see a company that does it right and cares.
  5. You avoid costs associated with disruption, sickness, investigation, down time, compensation claims, increased insurance premiums and loss of goodwill
  6. And for those companies that cannot see the benefit, there are legal requirements, with quite hefty penalties for non compliance

 Remember under step 1 of the risk assessment we said there was a fifth hazard, which was covered under its own legislation, this is Fire!

 Potentially this one can be the most destructive, obviously to your staff, the public and visitors, but also to a business and as such should be carried out by a competent person.

 If your stock and premises are all destroyed, how are you going to trade?

 This is why in March 2006 the “Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005” came into force, making it the responsibility of all owners or occupiers of commercial properties, to carry out a Fire Risk Assessment of those premises and put into action any necessary precautions and planning, specific to those risks.

 For the purpose of the legislation “Commercial” means anything non-domestic, so that includes churches, schools, libraries etc. In fact only military and some government buildings are exempt.

 When we carry out our Fire Risk Assessment it’s worth remembering how fire works, for this we use the fire triangle.

  Fire needs 3 elements to exist firstly Fuel (flammable gases, flammable liquids or flammable solids. Secondly Oxygen (The air around us, oxidizing agents and stored oxygen) and finally Ignition (Naked flame, faulty electrical appliances, hot processes and hot machinery)… Remove any one of these and the fire goes out.

 We have seen that there are many types of hazards and therefore risks, surrounding our businesses, it is essential then that we Eliminate these risks, if we cannot do this, then we should Reduce the effect of them, and finally Protect against any residual risk.

 Remember none of this will work if we do not communicate your findings and plans to those who may be affected.

 This way our businesses should be safe environments in which to work, be protected from the disruption and costs that incidents can bring and demonstrate to others that we are responsible and considerate business people.

All of this has to be a cost effective  benefit to all of our businesses, a benefit which you can take to the bank!

 

If you would like more information, then please contact us via www.anchorhands.co.uk

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Jim Wallace of Seaward Electronic highlights the importance of ensuring that workplace electrical appliances are safe

 

The figures speak for themselves: nearly a quarter of all reported electrical accidents are caused by portable and transportable electrical equipment, and around 1000 workplace accidents involving electricals take place each year.

In 2003-2004, electrical shocks accounted for 14 deaths and 148 non-fatal injuries among the UK workforce. Faulty equipment and leads are to blame for more than 6000 fires a year.

Against this backdrop, it is easy to see why legal duties covering the integrity of new electrical or electronic equipment fall to manufacturers and suppliers. But responsibility for the safe operation of equipment in the workplace rests squarely on the shoulders of employers.

The use and maintenance of all electrical equipment is covered by the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (EAWR). The EAWR demand that all electrical appliances that plug into an electrical system – whether they are fixed or portable and transportable – must be maintained, as far as reasonably practical, to prevent danger.

Testing times

Many organisations use field service organisations and contractors’ specialist portable appliance testing operations. Others rely on in-house testing protocols supervised by maintenance managers, safety engineers and site electricians, or facilities management personnel.

Whichever route you take, electrical safety policies must be capable of revealing potential problems with appliances before they occur, and this is where preventative maintenance programmes come into their own.

Most equipment defects can be found by visual inspection; according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), you can find 95% of faults or damage simply by looking. For example, a detailed examination by a competent person is likely to reveal hazards caused by cable or plug damage, faulty wiring or other obvious signs that the condition of the equipment could lead to faults or endanger users.

But for maximum effectiveness, visual inspections should be part of a larger programme of periodic inspection and testing aimed at identifying any “invisible” electrical faults such as lack of earth continuity, compromised insulation, incorrect polarity, or unacceptable earth leakage before they become serious hazards.

Tailored fit

These combined inspection and testing programmes should be tailored to the risk. This  means maintenance procedures in some commercial environments may be needed less frequently than in high-risk environments, such as industrial premises or construction sites. Smaller offices or workplaces with only a few common electrical appliances are relatively low-risk environments. In such locations, regular, formal user checks plus visual inspection, combined with some restricted periodic testing is probably the best approach.

Larger organisations, with numerous departments and a wider variety of equipment, call for a different approach because they must show they have tested equipment at the right time and in the right sequence. These organisations must be able to provide proof of maintenance and testing, such as records of test levels and results.

The frequency of equipment inspection and testing will depend on whether electrical items are rated Class I or Class II, and where they are used. An office kettle (which is Class l) might need a visual inspection every six to 12 months, for example, but combined inspection and testing only every one to two years.

For advice on Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) contact us at info@anchorhands.co.uk

Article courtesy of  Jim Wallace, who is research and technology manager at Seaward Electronic,

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Some years after changes to fire safety law, London Fire Brigade is warning that many businesses still don’t have enough understanding of how the law affects their business or premises, and could be risking financial ruin or even prosecution.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order came into affect in October 2006 and replaced over 70 separate pieces of fire safety legislation. The Order applies to virtually all buildings, places and structures (the main exception being private homes) so includes premises like shops, restaurants, offices, nightclubs, care homes, sports venues and also communal areas, parts of blocks and houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) used in common by the occupants of more than one flat or bedsit.

The law places the responsibility for fire safety in the hands of employers and other people who have control of premises such as landlords, owners and other people with control of premises, so having an understanding of fire safety and the role you have to play is at the heart of good business management. This understanding is particularly important for small and medium size businesses and landlords who might not consider fire safety to be a top priority. Research from Touche Ross and London Chamber of Commerce estimates that up to 80 per cent of businesses fail within 12 months of suffering a major catastrophe, such as a fire.

The biggest change under the legislation is that fire risk assessment and a duty of fire safety care was introduced for most premises and replaced fire certificates for those premises that previously required them (factories, offices, shops, railway premises, hotels and larger boarding houses). If you are an employer or have control over a premises (known as the ‘responsible person’) then you are required by law to carry out a fire risk assessment and act on its findings.

The document should assess the fire risks to the property and people that work, live in or visit the premises. The risk assessment should also identify actions which need to be taken in order to protect the building from fire. It must be kept under consent review and amended if any changes are made to the premises.

London Fire Brigade carries out around 14,000 fire inspections of premises each year and although the majority of buildings are managed well in regard to fire, there are still too many buildings that do not have an adequate fire risk assessment and as a result have fire exits blocked, inadequate fire alarms or poor training for staff. The Brigade can and does prosecute companies or individuals if there are breaches to fire legislation and though court action is a last resort, recent cases show that the courts will issue fines or even consider prison sentences for serious cases.

London Fire Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety Regulation, Steve Turek said; “It is essential that anyone who owns a business or premises understands their responsibility under the fire safety order. The honeymoon period is over and the legislation can no longer be classed as new, as it has been in place for over three years. The amount of businesses that do not recover shows that during economic hardship it is even more important to take fire safety seriously. You cannot run a good business without good fire safety management.”

For further advice and assistance with assessments contact: info@anchorhands.co.uk
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