Hazardous substances are commonly used in the workplace but what are the regulations and legislation that you should be following to make sure that any risk to your workers are reduced or dealt with.
When it comes to hazardous substances there are 3 main pieces of legislation that you should be aware of. These are as follows:
- Control of substances hazardous to health (COSHH)
- Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR)
- The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012
COSHH is the law that requires an employer to control substances that could be hazardous to health, and this includes nano-materials. Here are a list of bullet points you can work through to help with reducing risks involved with using hazardous substances:
- finding out what the health hazards are
- deciding how to prevent harm to health (risk assessment)
- providing control measures to reduce harm to health
- making sure they are used
- keeping all control measures in good working order
- providing information, instruction and training for employees and others
- providing monitoring and health surveillance in appropriate cases
- planning for emergencies.
Most businesses will use substances or materials made from several substances that could cause harm to employees, customers, or the public. Not all hazardous substances are marked and obvious so make sure to check any new products you might use, and risk assess the accordingly.
Further information can be found on HSE’s COSHH website.
DSEAR requires an employer to control the risks of fire and explosions.
Dangerous substances can put those who come into contact with that environment at great risk. This could be customers, employees, or the public. DSEAR puts the responsibility on the employer or those who are self-employed to make sure that all risks to those who could be harmed are suitably controlled.
Dangerous substances include anything used or present at work that could, if not properly controlled, cause harm to people as a result of a fire or explosion or corrosion of metal. They can be found in nearly all workplaces and include such things as solvents, paints, varnishes, flammable gases, such as liquid petroleum gas (LPG), dusts from machining and sanding operations, dusts from foodstuffs, pressurised gases, and substances corrosive to metal.
- find out what dangerous substances are in their workplace and what the risks are
- put control measures in place to either remove those risks or, where this is not possible, control them
- put controls in place to reduce the effects of any incidents involving dangerous substances
- prepare plans and procedures to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies involving dangerous substances
- make sure employees are properly informed about and trained to control or deal with the risks from the dangerous substances
- identify and classify areas of the workplace where explosive atmospheres may occur and avoid ignition sources (from unprotected equipment, for example) in those areas
The Control of Asbestos Regulations:
The control of asbestos regulations came into place on April 6 2012, and were released to update the previous regulations to take into account the European Commission’s view that the UK had not fully implemented the EU Directive on exposure to asbestos (Directive 2009/148/EC).
Asbestos is responsible for almost 4000 deaths per year in the UK. It was used in a range of building but was commonly used in commercial buildings that were constructed before the year 2000.
The legislation now states that the “duty holder”(who is responsible for the building, so may be the owner or the person in charge of maintenance) must conduct an assessment as to whether the building contains asbestos. If asbestos is present but in good condition and undisturbed it can be left but will need to be closely monitored to avoid it becoming an issue. If asbestos is found within the property and has been disturbed, then you will need to have it removed. Anyone carrying out the work should be properly trained in handling the material and should be aware of the risks involved.
COSHH, DSEAR and the control of asbestos are all important when it comes to keeping your workforce safe from hazardous substances and other laws such as the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 set out the responsibility for employers to protect their workers and the public from the effects of exposure to hazardous substances.
Accreditations in construction. Which ones do you need?
There are various types of accreditations in construction and knowing which ones your businesses needs to hold can confusing. There are various kinds of accreditation for those in construction, varying across different aspects of the business such as, health & safety, environmental, quality management etc.
It is not uncommon for accreditations to be a requirement that is asked for during the tendering process, whilst others may not be required but can be a huge benefit to your businesses reputation.
In this article we will go through the most common types of accreditation for those in the construction industry, where they are required and what kind of businesses would benefit from having them.
SSIP (Safety Scheme in Procurement) is a standard for health & Safety recognised throughout the UK. It is commonly requested by those within the house building industry but can be used for any sector to show health & safety compliance.
SSIP is completed online and will not require any on site auditing in order for you to pass. Depending on the member scheme you choose the number of questions may vary but for all schemes you will need to meet the core criteria.
If you are required to hold an SSIP certificate, SMAS Worksafe can help you to become accredited. For more information visit our packages page.
CSCS cards provide proof that individuals working on construction sites have the appropriate training and qualifications for the job they do on site. By ensuring the workforce are appropriately qualified the card plays its part in improving standards and safety on UK construction sites.
Holding a CSCS card is not a legislative requirement. It is entirely up to the principal contractor or client whether workers are required to hold a card before they are allowed on site. However, most principal contractors and major house builders require construction workers on their sites to hold a valid card.
CPCS (Construction Plant Competence Scheme) is a card scheme that was devised to prove the skills of plant operators. It’s based on a combination of professional competence and health and safety awareness – both essential qualities for plant operators.
All Build UK sites will require you to show your CPCS card and it is being enforced by most employers to show their skills. In some cases an employer might not ask for a CPCS card and certification may be enough to prove your skills.
The Electrotechnical Certification Scheme (ECS) is the sole ID and competence card scheme for electrotechnical operatives in the UK and is recognised and endorsed by the industry.
Holding an ECS card proves your qualification status, main electrical occupation, identity, your health and safety awareness, as well as any additional disciplines in which you are skilled to work.
ECS is a partner of the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS), so anyone in an electrotechnical-related occupation who’s told ‘you need a CSCS card’ will likely need to provide a ECS card.
Site Supervision Safety Training Scheme (SSSTS) is a course is designed for workers who are set to take on supervisory responsibility at an organisation and need official training and qualifications for the role.
The course will help individuals to understand:
- health and safety law and how it applies to supervisors
- your supervisory responsibilities in controlling site safely
- risk assessments and the need for method statements
- effective site inductions, toolbox talks and method statement briefings
- monitoring site activities effectively
- timely intervention when bad practice is identified.
Once passed, the certificate will last for 5 years and you will then need to take a refresher course (SSSTS-R) to maintain certification. If your initial certificate expires you will be required to retake the full course.
The Site Management Safety Training Scheme (SMSTS) is an industry recognised course providing companies who need to meet the ever increasing demand for evidence of health and safety compliance with all the relevant knowledge to meet today’s legislative demands.
The course will give you a full understanding of:
- how to implement all health, safety, welfare and environmental legislation affecting your daily work
- how to set up new guidance and industry best practice
- your duties and responsibilities with regards to health, safety, welfare and the environment
Once passed, the certificate will last for 5 years and you will then need to take a refresher course (SMSTS-R) to maintain certification. If your initial certificate expires you will be required to retake the full course.
ISO 14001 helps businesses of all sizes across all sectors make their day to day operations more sustainable. Sustainability can ultimately save money, improve brand reputation, engage employees and build resilience against uncertainty as well as the ability to rapidly adapt to change.
Designed for any type of organisation, regardless of its activity or sector, it can provide assurance to company management and employees as well as external stakeholders that environmental impact is being measured and improved.
An ISO is not a require but is recommended for any business that wants to set up, improve and then maintain an environmental management system to conform with industry regulations and requirements.
If you are interested or require help with an ISO 140001, you can go to our sister company QMS who will help you meet the criteria and guide you through the process.
ISO 9001 is the internationally recognised Quality Management System (QMS) standard that can benefit any size organisation. Designed to be a powerful business improvement tool.
This standard is based on a number of quality management principles including a strong customer focus, the motivation and implication of top management, the process approach and continual improvement.
While no company needs an ISO, they may see the benefits of having one when tendering for work.
If you are interested or require help with an ISO 9001, you can go to our sister company QMS who will help you meet the criteria and guide you through the process.
Lots of aspects from ISO 9001 can be transferred into ISO 14001. Combining the management systems can increase focus and remove any room for confusion.
Responsibilities for the combined standards might include:
- Drafting a policy statement and quantifiable objectives
- Setting up organisational charts and job descriptions
- Providing adequate resources
- Managing documentation for both standards in a single document control system
- Appointing a management representative as well as coordinators for the quality and environmental managements systems
When adding ISO 14001 components to those of ISO 9001, planning must be expanded to deal with environmental impacts, and the inspection and test systems modified to cover environmental conformance. The organisation must meet the environmental expectations of customers and the government, and it must incorporate environmental management elements into internal audit programs and training sessions.
The Common Assessment Standard is an accreditation designed to standardise the pre-qualification process, helping both clients and contractors improve supply chain efficiency, reduce supply chain risks, and find reliable business opportunities.
Launched by Build UK with the support of CECA in 2019, the Common Assessment Standard has fast become the construction industry’s gold standard for pre-qualification.
The standard is available for all businesses sizes and helps contractors to display compliance across wider criteria such as environmental, financial standings and modern slavery.
PAS 91 is a standardised pre-qualification questionnaire which has been developed to reduce the need for suppliers to complete a variety of different pre-qualification questionnaires for different, and in some cases, the same clients.
Developed by the British Standards Institute (BSI), the question set has been commissioned by Government and is a recommended common minimum standard for construction procurement.
PAS 91 was originally introduced as mandatory for central government contractors but is now recommended for all principal contractors.
Asbestos awareness training should be taken out by anyone that may come into contact with asbestos during the course of any work that they undertake, not just for those who will remove asbestos.
For those that may come into contract with asbestos, this would only need to be asbestos awareness training as opposed to the more detailed training for those that carry out unlicensed or licensed work on asbestos.
If you’re looking for asbestos training visit our partners UKATA. They are a leading asbestos training authority with training centre all over the UK.
Safety signs will be present in every working environment to give anyone who enters the best information about the risks and to help keep the working environment as safe as possible.
There are 4 distinct types of signs you should look out for and in this article we will go through them so you know what to look out for and what action’s you will need to take.
Prohibitory signs are put in pace to stop behaviours that might increase or cause danger in the workplace, such as smoking.
- Circular shape
- Black pictogram with White background. Located inside red circle with diagonal strike through the centre. (Red part of the sign must take up at least 35% of total area).
Warning signs are used to highlight risks or dangers in the workplace, such as flammable material.
- Triangular shape
- Black pictogram on a yellow background with black edging. (Yellow part of the sign must take up at least 50% of total area).
Mandatory signs are put in place to highlight acts that must be abided by, such as wearing eye protection.
- Circular shape
- White pictogram on blue background. (Blue part of the sign must take up at least 50% of total area).
Emergency escape or first aid signs are there to help you navigate a workplace to find safety via an exit or to locate a first aid box.
- Rectangular or square shape
- White pictogram on a green background (the green part of the sign must take up at least 50% of total area).
The Regulations implement European Council Directive 92/58/EEC on minimum requirements for the provision of safety signs at work state that employers are to provide safety signs where other methods, properly considered, cannot deal satisfactorily with certain risks and where the use of a sign can further reduce that risk. Safety signs are not to be used as a substitute for other methods of control and should be used on top of controlling methods.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (the Management Regulations) states that employers must consider the results of the risk assessment that has been created – the assessment will need to identify the hazards and risks, then state the control measures that have been put in place. Safety signs can then be used to highlight risks further and give employers more information. If the risk is not significant there may be no need to provide a sign.
An example for when risks might be small but a sign is still necessary would be if there was the use of flammable chemicals, you can make sure that safety equipment is worn and flammable materials are reduced but the risks may still be present to workers and therefore the use of a sign helps to highlight the dangers.
Although these regulations do not require safety signs to be used where there is no significant risk to health and safety, certain fire safety signs may have to be displayed under separate legal provisions. If you have any doubts check this with your enforcing authority for fire safety.
Your businesses health and safety procedures are the driving force behind reducing risks within your business’s day to day tasks, but behavioural safety hazards are something that you should be aware of and reinforcing with your workforce.
Behavioural safety hazards can be caused by new rules or precautions that workers feel are unnecessary and therefore do not feel the need to carry out, or because a workforce or organisation become careless with their safety procedures and culture.
Causes of behavioural safety risks
Normally behavioural risks are caused by habits or the unwillingness to adapt to an updated system or procedure, for example, someone who has worked with certain machinery for 10 or more years without accident may not see the benefit of using the latest technology to protect themselves and are in a habit built up over those 10 years to carry out the task in a certain manner.
This doesn’t usually mean the worker is purposely being disobedient but more likely there is stubbornness or ignorance to change.
“I’ve never had issues doing it this way so why do I need to change?”
Something along the lines of the above statement is often true when you’re looking to change a policy or introduce new steps in your health and safety procedure. These habitual procedures are even more difficult to introduce when the task one is carrying out becomes either more difficult or longer to complete due to the changes. For example, someone who has previously not been required to wear gloves is now asked to wear protective gloves, but they impede his ability to complete the task due to the bigger size and lack of movement.
When implementing a change in equipment or procedures you should make sure you sell it to your workforce. Most of the updated equipment’s marketing will be around the benefits of it, how it works and what risks it will reduce and/or stop. This should be relayed to those who will be required to use it going forward so they can see why you’re making the changes.
Changing the behavioural habits
Managing behavioural risks are a challenge that all businesses face and changing existing procedures can be extremely difficult.
Often these behaviours become habits and they can be extremely difficult to change, but here are a few steps your business can take to reduce bad habits creeping into the workplace.
Take a no-tolerance stand
The easiest and arguably the most effective way to stop behavioural risks from entering your workplace is to make sure you have a no-tolerance stance on your health & safety procedures. This simply means that all of your workforce are aware that if they’re found to be breaking rules or taking shortcuts they will be removed from the environment. This not only will help you to weed out anyone who might be starting to set a more relaxed culture, but it also reinforces to other employees that the matter is serious.
Sell the change to your staff
As mentioned previously, make sure your staff are aware of the reasons behind the changes in procedure or equipment. Make sure they’re aware of why you’re implementing the changes and are aware of the risks that come with not following the rules. This can often be done by using examples of instances where accidents have happened or showing them some worst-case scenarios of what has happened within other businesses. Also highlighted that the changes are being made for not just the safety of them individually but also their colleagues.
Often people are more willing to change if they know that it’s more than just themselves being put at risk, the thought of causing injury to a colleague is often more powerful than injuring themselves.
Create a safety-first culture
Creating a culture within your workplace will take time but once the culture is in place you will find it’s much easier to manage changes in the long term. Often people will push the boundaries with what they can get away with and if they know the repercussions of their actions is nothing more than a stern word, then they’re far more likely to push those boundaries.
Taking a no tolerance stamp on health & safety will help to reduce people pushing those boundaries and if you can get employees to buy into the changes with your sales pitch then what you can create is a self-regulating workforce who will report or at least have words with those that are dropping their safety standards. Once this culture has been created your task becomes much easier, the safety standards are now being pushed from within teams and not from a head at the top of the business.
A step-by-step guide to improving behavioural safety:
- Review your current processes and/or equipment and decide on the areas you want to improve. Consider using previous accident, incident and near-miss reports to help you identify areas of improvement.
- Once you’ve reviewed your procedures, select 1 or 2 key areas that can be improved. A complete overhaul of all procedures will be tougher for employees to follow and digest.
- Begin developing your communication strategy. How are you going to present the changes to your employees? Can you use examples from your business?
- Implement your changes with a few initiatives such as:
- Colleague observation studies
- Regular inspects from senior management
- Regular bite-sized training or refresher classes
- Reward those who excel with positive feedback and reinforcement
- Include behavioural risks within your risk assessments
- Monitor the changes and make improvements and changes where necessary. Be open with your employees and ask for their feedback.
Occupational risks occur when someone’s job leads them to greater risks. For example, a Landscaper or gardener that spends lots of time outdoors will have a greater risk of issues caused by direct sunlight.
Like many occupational risks they are hard to avoid, a landscaper’s job requires them to work outside and therefore trying to reduce the risks through less exposure would ultimately impact their job and cost them money.
Types of hazards:
All jobs come with risks to employees, although some may seem more obvious and dangerous than others. Jobs that may be seen as having no risks, such as working in an office still hold risks for an employee’s mental and physical health and should be considered when you’re setting up a workstation and working environment.
Common types of occupational risks:
- Biological: Often causes by viruses, bacteria, insects or animals.
- Chemical: Caused by the use or exposure to substances
- Physical: Environmental factors that can cause damage to a worker; heights, noise, radiation etc.
- Safety: The creation of unsafe working environment; exposed wires or moving vehicles
- Ergonomic: Physical factors that can result in musculoskeletal injuries; poor workstation setup
- Psychological: Hazards that can cause an employee to suffer from mental health issues; stress, sexual harassment, violence etc.
Managing hazards in the workplace:
Failing to protect your employee’s wellbeing could lead you to face financial and/or custodial penalties. Therefore, it is vital that you make sure you do your utmost to manage all workplace hazards.
Here are some of the steps you should take to help identify and reduce occupational risks:
- Carry out an appropriate risk assessment: if you are struggling with all the risks it may be worth asking employees and or other businesses like yours to help you.
- Introduce the control measures: once you have identified the risks to your staff you will need to implement the measures to reduce the risks. This could be avoiding the use of ladders to stop falls or be to supply workers with PPE if they’re working with dust or fumes.
- Train your employees: All employees should have at least level 1 health and safety training or office safety training. You will also need to have specific training if the workplace requires it. For example, how to deal with asbestos.
While there isn’t a specific legal requirement, much of what is considered to be health regulations are covered in other employment laws. Most of the occupational health and safety regulations are covered in the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. However, as there is such a variety of hazards it is important that businesses include their own risks assessment for hazards or risks that are unique to their industry.
For example, for those who are often exposed to chemicals that could lead to dermatitis, The HSE published a leaflet on preventing contact dermatitis and urticaria (another skin disease) at work, which includes reference to the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations.
For all cases, you should try and prevent the issues rather than cure it once it has happened. Occupational health regulations often highlight the importance of carrying out a thorough risk assessment and addressing any potential risks in advance to avoid workplace illness and injury.
SMAS Worksafe and SSIP:
Managing occupational risks can be hard, which is where an SSIP accreditation from SMAS Worksafe can help your business. A health and safety accreditation from SMAS Worksafe will help your business to identify all risks to your workforce and give you action plans on how you can make your business safer going forward.
To learn more about how SMAS Worksafe can help your business with an SSIP certificate, visit our SSIP accreditation page.
In the United Kingdom, it is an employer’s requirement to protect your employees, and others who come into your workplace from harm and therefore using RAMS (risk assessment method statements) is a great way to identify and reduce incidents occurring.
Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the minimum requirement
for employers is to:
- identify what could cause injury or illness in your business (hazards)
- decide how likely it is that someone could be harmed and how seriously (the risk)
- take action to eliminate the hazard, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk
There are multiple steps to reducing risks in your workplace and assessing the risks is just one part of the overall control and mitigation process.
For most small, low-risk businesses the steps you need to take are straightforward and are explained below.
Taking steps to reduce risks.
Risk management is a step-by-step process for controlling health and safety risks caused by hazards in the workplace.
You can do it yourself or appoint a competent person to help you.
- Identify hazards
- Assess the risks
- Control the risks
- Record your findings
- Review the controls
Look around your workplace and think about what may cause harm (these are called hazards).
- how people work and how plants and equipment are used
- what chemicals and substances are used
- what safe or unsafe work practices exist
- the general state of your premises
Use your accident and ill-health records to help you to identify risks that might occur in the future. If there is a history or a trend of injuries within a workplace then use that information to stop or reduce the risks of them going forward. Take account of non-routine operations, such as maintenance, cleaning or changes in production cycles.
Think about hazards to health, such as manual handling, use of chemicals and causes of work-related stress.
For each hazard, think about how employees, contractors, visitors or members of the public might be harmed.
Talk to workers
Involve your employees, as an employer you might not have a deep understanding of all the day to day tasks other people are doing and therefore what risks they face. Asking them for input will only help you create a more complete risk assessment.
Some workers might have specific requirements, for example, young workers, migrant workers, new or expectant mothers and people with disabilities. You should think about the requirements for all of your workforce and as mentioned previously, if you’re unsure ask them for input.
Assess the risks
Once you have identified the hazards, decide how likely it is that someone could be harmed and how serious
it could be. This is assessing the level of risk.
The key factors:
- Who might be harmed and how
- What you’re already doing to control the risks
- What further action you need to take to control the risks
- Who needs to carry out the action
- When the action is needed by
- Control the risks
- Look at what you’re already doing, and the controls you already have in place.
Things you should ask yourself:
- Can I get rid of the hazard altogether?
- If not, how can I control the risks so that harm is unlikely?
- If you need further controls, consider:
- redesigning the job
- replacing the materials, machinery or process
- organising your work to reduce exposure to the materials, machinery or process
- identifying and implementing practical measures needed to work safely
- providing personal protective equipment and making sure workers wear it
Once you have considered all the risks your next task is to put the controlling measures you have identified in place. You’re not expected to eliminate all risks, but you need to do everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to protect people from harm. This means balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the real risk in terms of money, time or trouble.
You can find more detailed guidance on controls relevant to your business and our in-house assessment team will also give you suggestions on anything they feel is missing.
Record your findings
If you employ 5 or more people, you must record your significant findings, these include.
- the hazards (things that may cause harm)
- who might be harmed and how
- what you are doing to control the risks
- To help you, we have a risk assessment template and examples. Do not rely purely on paperwork as your main priority should be to control the risks in practice.
Review your controlling measures
Once the controlling measures have been put in place you must review them to make sure they are working as you would have hoped. You should also review them if any of the following scenarios could take place:
- they may no longer be effective
- there are changes in the workplace that could lead to new risks such as changes to staff, a process, the substances or equipment used
- also consider a review if your workers have spotted any problems or there have been any accidents or near misses.
Update your risk assessment record with any changes you make.
Templates and examples
Here are some example scenarios from the HSE as to whether having a risk assessment would apply to your business or job role, especially for those who are self-employed. You can also find templates for work specific risk assessments on the HSE website.
Accountant – I am a self-employed accountant and I am proposing to take on a work placement student, will the law apply to me?
Yes, you will have duties as an employer and will need to take steps to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of your employees.
Employer – I am an employer, will this affect the way in which I manage sub-contractors?
No, as an employer you have duties under health and safety law to satisfy yourself that the contractor you choose can do the job safely and without risks to health. The proposed changes will not alter the duties you as an employer have to contractors.
Hairdresser – I’m a self-employed hairdresser, does the law apply to me?
If you use bleaching agents or similar chemicals then yes, the law will apply to you. If you are simply washing and cutting hair, then health and safety law will no longer apply.
Dressmaker – I work at home altering garments and making soft furnishings, does the law apply to me?
No, health and safety law will not apply to you.
Photographer – I take photographs of weddings and special occasions for clients which means that sometimes they visit my studio to discuss arrangements; does the law apply to me?
No, health and safety law will not apply to you.
Artist – I produce cards, gifts and pictures for sale at markets and fairs, does the law apply to me?
No, health and safety law will not apply to you.
Baker – I run a cake business from home, does the law apply to me?
No, health and safety law will not apply to you.
Office work – I work in an office at home, does the law apply to me?
It doesn’t depend on whether you’re at home; it is the work activity that matters. So, if you’re working on a client’s accounts, the law will no longer apply. If you’re writing a manual, which someone will use to operate machinery, then the law will still apply.
Advice – I am a health and safety consultant and visit clients to give advice, does the law apply to me?
Yes, your clients will act on your advice and this affects how other people do their job.
Landlords – I let rooms and properties to tenants; does the law apply to me?
Yes, you have specific responsibilities under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations
For the full Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 use the link below.
Last updated in 2002, the control of substances hazardous to health (COSHH) helps business to identify and reduce the risks to their workforce when dealing potentially dangerous substances.
The law states that an employer must control substances that are hazardous to the workforce’s health, as an employer you should:
· find out what the health hazards are
· decide how to prevent harm to health (risk assessment)
· provide control measures to reduce harm to health
· make sure they are used
· keep all control measures in good working order
· provide information, instruction and training for employees and others
· provide monitoring and health surveillance in appropriate cases
· plan for emergencies.
It’s very common for businesses to either use substances, or products thatcontain a mixture of substances. There may also be processes in place that create hazardous substances which could cause harm to employees, contractors and other people.
Sometimes substances are easily recognised as harmful. Common substances such as paint, bleach or dust from natural materials may also be harmful.
Most substances that are hazardous to health are covered by COSHH however some will need their own risk assessments, substances include:
· products containing chemicals
· gases and asphyxiating gases and
· biological agents (germs). If the packaging has any of the hazard symbols, then it is classed as a hazardous substance.
· germs that cause diseases such as leptospirosis or legionnaires disease and germs used in laboratories.
Areas not covered by COSHH are:
· Radioactive substances
If you’re self-employed COSHH regulations will still apply to your business as it not only covers employees but anyone who may be affected by the substances you’re using. Not all parts of COSHH regulations will apply, those about monitoring and health surveillance will not apply to your business.
What do you need to do?
The first thing you will need to consider when doing your COSHH is:
· What do you do that involves hazardous substances?
· How can these cause harm?
· How can you reduce the risk of harm occurring?
You should also do as much as you can to stop any exposure by identifying and stopping it at source, for example:
· Can you avoid using a hazardous substance or use a safer process – preventing exposure, e.g using water-based rather than solvent-based products, applying by brush rather than spraying?
· Can you substitute it for something safer – e.g swap an irritant cleaning product for something milder, or using a vacuum cleaner rather than a brush?
· Can you use a safer form, e.g can you use a solid rather than liquid to avoid splashes or a waxy solid instead of a dry powder to avoid dust?
If you’re struggling to think of risks that might apply to your business, you can always ask employees or if you attend trade meetings as them for ideas.
In some cases, you won’t be able to prevent the exposure to certain substances and therefore you will need to start planning on how you can control it.
The HSE states that “Control is adequate when the risk of harm is ‘as low as is reasonably practicable’.” This means:
· All control measures are in good working order.
· Exposures are below the Workplace Exposure Limit, where one exists.
· Exposure to substances that cause cancer, asthma or genetic damage is reduced to as low a level as possible.
Switching up your substances
If a substance you currently use is causing issues, then you might be able to reduce or mitigate the risks by changing it. For example
· substituting a powder for a liquid
· removing the need to weigh out powders by buying it pre-packed.
Below are six steps to practical, well thought out decisions about substance substitution.
1. Decide whether the substance or process is a hazard. Does storing, using or disposing a substance cause significant risks or exposure?
2. Look for and identify any alternatives.
3. Run the same checks against the alternatives as you have your current substance. (Storing, using and disposing).
4. Decide whether substituting the substance will reduce risks.
5. Introduce the substitute.
6. Assess how it is working.
For more information about the effect of substances you use visit the HSE REACH web pages. You can also ask supplies or trade associates about what substitutions can be made and look for advice from other businesses in your industry.
Exposure limits: How are you being exposed (skin, breathing etc) and what are the exposure limits on the substances being used?
Chemical safety data sheets: Use the safety data sheets for chemicals you’re using to help with your risk assessment.
Control measures: Consider using a wide variety of control measures, these could be ways of working, control equipment or worker behaviour.
Permits: Some tasks may require experts and therefore using a permit to work will help identify who will be carrying out the work and when it will be completed.
PPE: Employers and responsible for the supply of the correct PPE, so make sure your employers have the correct equipment for any given exposure.
Monitoring: You may need to put monitoring systems in place to show compliance with a WEL (Workplace Exposure Limit) or BMGV (Biological Monitoring Guidance Value) or when you need to show that control equipment or personal protective equipment is working well enough.
Health Surveillance: Monitoring the health of your employees to make sure they are not falling ill or unwell from work. This is not to be confused with general health screening could involve a scheduled annual check-up on, for example: lung function and skin conditions.
Training: Providing appropriate training for those who will be subject to exposure of the hazardous substances. This involves anyone who may be involved in cleaning and maintenance.
Emergencies: Make sure your business has a plan for accidents, incidents, and emergencies. This includes equipment, people, training, procedures and arrangements of any waste created.
For more information on COSHH and everything we have gone over, visit HSE.
SMAS Worksafe are thrilled to announce that they are now a registered signatory of Building a Safer Future promoting the safety of buildings in the UK.
SMAS Worksafe is a registered member of SSIP (Safety Schemes in Procurement) which helps businesses to reach their health & safety requirements. We pride ourselves on our excellent customer service and making sure we can do the utmost to help businesses to be compliant.
In April of last year, the UK Government encouraged industry-wide commitment to sign-up to a Charter, in its response to the ‘Building a Safer Future’ consultation ‘A reformed building safety regulatory system’.
In early 2020, the Considerate Constructors Scheme (CCS) was appointed to develop and manage the Charter. The CCS has established a new, not-for-profit organisation (Building a Safer Future Ltd) with an independent governance structure, to lead and develop the Charter.
Building a Safer Future is driving culture and behaviour change in the safety of the building environment and is essential to putting people’s safety first. In driving this change, the BSF Charter will seek to provide the industry and public with:
- An engaged online community where good practice on building safety is shared and relevant examples, case studies and other resources are signposted through a Learning & Excellence Hub.
- A public and workforce engagement portal for anyone (public, resident, other building users, those working across the built environment) to raise building safety concerns in relation to projects registered and verified with the BSF Charter. (To be launched end 2020).
- Benchmarking and verification (working closely with and learning from the ‘Responsible Care’ benchmarking approach adopted by the chemical industry). (To be launched end 2020).
SMAS Worksafe are delighted to have become a registered signatory and share the key value of putting people’s safety first, above all other priorities.
Chris Woodward-Biddle, Commercial Director at SMAS Worksafe is thrilled with the new partnership.
“It’s great to become a registered signatory of BSF, their values and ethos of making sure every individual’s safety comes first is something we share and backing their message is something we’re proud of and take very seriously when helping our members with their safety.”
Between June 14th and June 20th, the world celebrates Men’s health week. Both physical and mental health are important for everyone, but perhaps more challenging to control for those whose jobs have physical demands but are also in a very male-dominated environment where asking for help or talking about mental health could be a sign of weakness.
Construction is certainly an industry that would fall into both categories and can often lead to individuals suffering far more than they ever should.
Construction workers are often exposed to high-pressure and physically demanding situations, such as working from heights in windy conditions, using machinery, lifting and other physical activities like digging.
As an example, working at heights, like many other tasks within construction can be not just physically demanding on your body but it can also have mental implications. Situations like working from heights without the correct health & safety procedures or equipment can be extremely stressful, especially for those who are younger and might not have the confidence to question what they’re being told. This can lead to a build-up of stress and anxiety, especially if they’re working in those conditions for multiple days completing a task like fixing or retiling a roof.
There are also stressful factors away from sites that can have an impact, for example, late payments, meaning you and your employees might be strained financially can cause a lot of stress and pressure on you the employer and this can then have a knock-on effect on the employee’s that you’re responsible for and haven’t been paid.
In the UK, suicide accounts for the most deaths in males under 45. According to an article published by the Holistic healthcare group, those that work in construction are three times more likely to commit suicide than other industries.
The article also states that:
- Suicide kills more construction workers than falls every year.
- Depression and anxiety have overtaken musculoskeletal disorders in construction workers.
- According to the Office of National Statistics, there were 13,232 in-work suicides between 2011 and 2015. The construction industry accounted for 13.2% of them, despite only accounting for 7% of the total UK workforce.
- 23% of construction workers are considering leaving the industry in the next 12 months due to poor mental health.
- 73% of all construction workers feel that their employers did not understand or recognise the early signs of poor mental health or offer any support.
Between 2011 and 2015, the Office of National Statistics stated that of the 13,232 in-work suicides, the construction industry accounted for 13.2% of these. This comes despite the industry accounting for, at the time, roughly 7% of the UK workforce.
An article posted on the HR director website states that in a 2017 survey, 73% of construction workers felt their employers did not recognise the early signs of mental health. Consequently, 23% of those surveyed were considering leaving the industry, in the next 12 months, due to poor mental health.
There were an estimated 42,000 work-related cases of musculoskeletal disorders (new or long-standing) in 2018/19, about three-fifths of all ill health in the construction industry with 2.1% of workers reporting musculoskeletal disorders – almost double the percentage of the average for all areas of work in the same period.
Other common types of musculoskeletal injuries in construction:
- Carpet Layers’ Knee
- Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Raynaud’s Syndrome or White Finger Disease
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Common Causes of Construction Injuries:
- Pushing, pulling, tugging and sliding
- Whole Body Vibration
- Vibration from Hand Tools
- Repetitive Work
- Contact Stress (Tools and Sharp Objects)
- Forcefulness or Muscle Effort
Less common areas of injury and illness within the construction and physically demanding jobs:
Contact dermatitis: Painters and decorators, carpenters and joiners, and building trades not elsewhere classified all suffer from more than twice the all-industry rate of contact dermatitis.
Occupational asthma: Airborne materials from spray painting, welding, or cutting/grinding metals are among the contributory factors to those suffering from asthma.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): Commonly caused by exposure to fumes, chemicals and dust and environmental pollution. Smoking is the single most important causative factor.
Occupational Cancer: most commonly mesothelioma, a form of cancer that follows the inhalation of asbestos fibres. The extensive use of insulation board containing brown asbestos (amosite) within buildings for fire protection purposes is a common cause found in today’s construction industry.
Occupational Deafness – from years of exposure to loud machinery
Despite not being one you would expect, according to the HSE’s 2018/19 report, there were an estimated 16,000 work-related cases of stress, depression, or anxiety (new or long-standing), which made up a quarter of all ill health in this Sector.
It is incredibly important to make sure that anyone working on your sites is comfortable in the environment they’re working in. That means they’re being treated fairly and respected by their colleagues, feel safe with the machinery or tasks they have been asked to complete and making sure they’re not subject to discriminatory behaviour.
It is also important to look out for anyone who may be struggling physically or with illness, below are some areas you should look out for to help spot any signs early.
Signs of anxiety and depression:
- Loss of interest or no longer finding pleasure in activities or hobbies
- Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or emptiness
- Feeling hopeless or pessimistic
- Anger, irritability, or restlessness
- Feeling guilty or experiencing feelings of worthlessness or helplessness
- Difficulty controlling worry or fear
Signs of injury of physical discomfort:
- Rubbing or holding a specific area of the body
- Performing certain tasks unnaturally, for example bending their back to reach low areas rather than bending their knees
- Coughing regularly
- Running out of breath faster than normal
- A dramatic change in facial expression or demeanour
- Rash lasting several days or getting worse
- Infection at the injury site
Make sure if anyone is showing signs of a physical injury, illness, anxiety, depression or stress on-site that you’re open with them and ask if everyone is ok or what the issue may be.
A good option for employers could be setting up an employee assistance programme (EAP) where employees are able to talk to someone about the issues they may be facing anonymously and making staff aware that the system is in place and how to go about speaking to someone.
For more help on setting up EAP, check out this guide from our sister company Citation.