Work with harmful materials. Shadow DOF. Developed from RAW; retouched with special care and attention; Small amount of grain added for best final impression. 16 bit Adobe RGB color profile.

Regulations and legislation for hazardous substances

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:

Work with harmful materials. Shadow DOF. Developed from RAW; retouched with special care and attention; Small amount of grain added for best final impression.

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:

Metallurgical plant, hot metal casting

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.

Employers must:

  • 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:

Man clearing asbestos from old roof / Hazardous substances

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.

Summary:

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.

A variety of signs on a construction site fence.

Accreditations in construction, which ones do you need?

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

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

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

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. 

ECS

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.  

SSSTS

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: 

  1. health and safety law and how it applies to supervisors
  2. your supervisory responsibilities in controlling site safely
  3. risk assessments and the need for method statements
  4. effective site inductions, toolbox talks and method statement briefings
  5. monitoring site activities effectively
  6. 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.

SMSTS

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: 

  1. how to implement all health, safety, welfare and environmental legislation affecting your daily work
  2. how to set up new guidance and industry best practice
  3. 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

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

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:

  1. Drafting a policy statement and quantifiable objectives
  2. Setting up organisational charts and job descriptions
  3. Providing adequate resources
  4. Managing documentation for both standards in a single document control system
  5. 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.

CAS

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

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

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. 

Construction work at night / road workers

Construction in the dark

Construction in the dark is a task that many construction workers in the UK are likely to have face at some point in their careers. This could be to undertake road works during the night or in winter when the daylight hours are shorter and those working past 5PM are forced into working in low light and darker conditions.

Working in the dark is therefore commonplace in the UK but that does not diminish the risks the workers face whilst working in poor visibility and employers and site managers should make sure that their workforce is equipped for working in dark conditions.

Worker risks:

worker using jackhammer / Working at night

One area that needs to be considered when workers are operating in the dark is that they are less likely to be alert to dangers. A lack of light will obviously lead to poorer vision, this requires greater concentration for the person to focus on the task, these risks are likely to be magnified in high-risk situations where concentration is key or with tasks that require high attention to detail.

For those that are working nightshifts, especially those that are strung together, fatigue can be another cause of increased risk. Often workers will offer to work nights to allow them more time with families or to free up their day for leisure. This however can lead to them being extremely fatigued whilst working. It’s important that those who work nights do their best to get the same amount of sleep during the day as they would on a normal evening. Creating a quiet, dark room for sleeping during the day will help improve their ability to sleep during the day and reduce the risk of fatigue during working hours.

Vehicles & Machinery:

Orange excavator digger working at night on the street

The next area of risk is perhaps the most serious. Using vehicles and machinery in low light greatly increases the risk to the operator and those around them. Most vehicles have blind spots and those used in construction often suffer from this hindrance to a greater extent due to their shape and sometimes the equipment they’re carrying.

All these issues are magnified when working in poor visibility and therefore making sure all workers are alert and wearing high visibility clothing is crucial to helping the driver spot fellow workers.

For those who are operating machinery, making sure suitable lighting is in place is paramount. Often using machinery comes with enough risks but using them in poor lighting greatly increases this risk. Make sure that if you’re operating machinery, you are happy with the lighting conditions and do not carry out work in which you have poor visibility.

Poor artificial lighting:

Although this is not as common, in some cases the artificial lighting used can often cause more issues than it is solving. Too much artificial light can cause glare, especially for those who are working with metals and reflective materials.

If the artificial light is too bright or causing lots of glare, workers vision may be impeded and it can also lead to headaches and stress, which will both increase the risks of mistakes, poor quality work and low productivity.

Managing night work:

To help reduce risks to your workforce, here is a checklist that managers can use to identify risks and safety practices that should be considered.

  1. Require daytime managers to periodically work at night – managers who have experience with the challenges of managing a site during the day may have additional input on how to reduce risks of a nightshift.
  2. Continue to evaluate your working environment – conduct comprehensive reviews of your workplace. Consider any near misses or accidents you may have had. Review lighting, temperature and poor airflow which may lead to fatigue.
  3. Put shift work safety at the forefront – Make sure that your sites are mandated and discussed at safety meetings. Also, include a seat for someone who works night shifts.
  4. Promote sleep and napping – Promoting the importance of good sleep following a night shift to help reduce risks to themselves and others. The appeal of having the ‘day off’ can lead to workers operating on next to no sleep.
  5. Allow short breaks – Working at night requires added concentration and over the course of a shift this can lead to greater risk. Allow workers 30 minutes of extra break so they can have a rest, eat, and recover.
  6. Access worker schedules – No shift work is optimal, but those who are required to go from nights to days and back to nights are likely to suffer from poor sleeping patterns. Allow these workers a day off in between shifts or consider changing their shifts less often.
  7. Monitor overtime – If you have workers who are offering to do nights as overtime, make sure to monitor the hours they’re doing. If they are following day shifts with nights, then you may have to tell them to reduce the work they’re doing and allow them a break.
  8. Standardise shift changes – Issues can often occur on sites where one set of shift workers end, and another starts. Poor communication can lead to issues being missed and risks increased.
  9. Don’t forget the drive home – After the shift has finished, workers will also have to drive home. Following a nightshift, the chances of falling asleep at the wheel increase. Make space for workers to nap before commuting home and promote car share to reduce the number of cars on the road.
SMAS Worksafe / Work Wallet annoucement

SMAS partner Health and Safety Platform Work Wallet®

SMAS Worksafe, one of the largest SSIP safety schemes in the UK, has partnered with Work Wallet® to provide its members with their state of the art health and safety app software.

Over 25,000 SMAS Worksafe members are being given the opportunity to use Work Wallet to help improve safety processes and keep operational in today’s working environment.

Work Wallet is used by many construction firms in the UK and in over 20 countries worldwide.

SMAS Worksafe members will gain access to the Essential Health and Safety modules: Audits and Inspections, Incident and Accident Reporting, Job Management and Safety Briefings.

Using Work Wallet will help ensure that SMAS Worksafe members keep on top of health and safety issues on sites including completing HSE inspections, creating and sending safety briefings, creating and sharing job packs, risk assessments, audits, training packs and all other documentation.

SMAS Worksafe members demonstrate their health and safety to clients through a full assessment of their health and safety systems to attain certification which is recognised nationwide by thousands of organisations. With the inclusion of Work Wallet within their membership, keeping on top of their inspections and safety records will be

SMAS Worksafe Logo

easier than ever.

Danny Marinou – Managing Director, SMAS Worksafe, said:

“We are delighted to offer this to our members as a crucial element of our Essentials Membership package. It adds great value and ensures that all their health and safety is stored and accessed in one place with this unique mobile app and online portal.

 

“At this time, when fewer people are in their offices and it’s harder to keep track, this clever mobile app solves many issues at the same time.”

Work Wallet provides an effective and easy to use way to link up data in real-time across any business, ensuring employees and contractors are fully connected, whether they’re working in the office, on the move or on site.

This means that whether staff are working on their own, with colleagues on one site or multiple sites, all their health and safety data can be gathered with one swipe.

Work Wallet CEO Jonny Gray, said:Work Wallet Logo

“We are delighted SMAS has chosen Work Wallet as their preferred health and safety app, Work Wallet has enabled thousands of people across UK businesses to create and record risk assessments, audits, near-misses and improve staff safety whether they’re on or off site.”

SMAS works with thousands of contractors, helping them to meet their health and safety obligations with their unrivalled health and safety assessment and compliance support.

Gray added:

“Work Wallet has also enabled staff to return to safe working environments by introducing Covid guidelines using the app.”

Although the UK is a safer place to work than Germany, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands, with fewer fatalities at work, according to the HSE in their latest stats, Work Wallet is helping businesses to be even safer by ensuring all critical information is available in one place as Work Wallet® delivers an All In One Health and Safety Management System.

 

Principal Contractor working on Construction project

Understanding the CDM Regulations

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 have been designed to help all areas of construction improve their safety. There have been a few revisions of the regulations, but their goals have remained the same, to ensure the safety and welfare of all people who are involved in construction projects (and projects that qualify as construction such as maintenance). Most recently updated in 2015 and hence known as the CDM regulations 2015.

In this piece, we will go over all the regulations to help you best understand how they can be applied to your business and help keep your projects compliant.

What the CDM Regulations aim to do

The CDM regulations were created to make sure that no matter the role, anyone involved within a construction project is safe. It places legal duties on those involved with the planning and carrying out of construction type activities.

The regulation should help you to understand:

  • How to sensibly plan the work so the risks involved are managed from start to finish
  • To have the right people for the right job at the right time
  • How to cooperate and coordinate your work with others
  • To get the right information about the risks and how they are being managed
  • How to communicate this information effectively to those who need to know
  • consult and engage with workers about the risks and how they are being managed

HSE has published Legal Series guidance that supports CDM 2015 and explains it in more detail.

The term “Duty holder” is applied to those who have legal duties under CDM – These “Duty holders”, are defined as follows; Clients (commercial and residential), Principal Designers, Designers, Principal Contractors, and contractors

Summary of duty holders and their responsibilities:

Commercial clients:

Organisations or individuals for whom a construction project is carried out that is done as part of a business.

Responsible for making sure suitable arrangements for managing a project, including:

  • Other duty holders are appointed as and where appropriate
  • Sufficient time and resources are allocated
  • Relevant information is prepared and provided to other duty holders
  • The principal designer and principal contractor carry out their duties
  • Welfare facilities are provided

Domestic Clients:

People who have construction work carried out in their own home (or the home of a family member) that is not a commercial undertaking.*

In the scope of CDM 2015, the client duties are normally transferred to:

  • The contractor for single contract projects
  • The principal contractor for projects that use more than one contractor

Please note, the domestic client can instead request to have a written agreement with the principal designer to carry out the client duties.

Principle designers:

Are to be appointed by the client in projects involving more than one contractor. They can be from an organisation or an individual with sufficient knowledge, experience, and ability to carry out the role.

Responsibilities include planning, managing, monitoring, and coordinating the health and safety during the pre-construction phase of a project, this includes:

  • Identifying, eliminating, and controlling foreseeable risks
  • Ensuring the designers carry out their duties
  • Prepare and provide relevant information to other duty holders
  • Liaise with the principal contractor to help in the planning, management, monitoring and coordination of the construction phase.

Principle contractors:

Appointed by the client to coordinate the construction phase of the contract where it involves more than one contract.

Responsible for the planning, managing and coordination of health & safety in the construction phase of a project, including:

  • Liaising with clients and principal contractors
  • Preparing the construction phase plan
  • Organising cooperation between contractors and coordinating their work.
  • Suitable site inductions are provided
  • Reasonable steps are taken to prevent unauthorised access
  • Workers are consulted and engaged in securing their health and safety
  • Adequate Welfare facilities are provided

 

Designers:

Organisations or individuals who on behalf of an organisation, prepare or modify designs for buildings and or products or systems relating to construction work.

When preparing or modifying designs, the designer must eliminate, reduce, or control foreseeable risks that may arise during these stages:

  • Construction
  • Future maintenance

They must also provide information to other members of the project team to help them plan and carry out their duties safely.

Contractors:

Those who carry out the actual construction work, contractors can be an individual or a company.

Will need to plan, manage, and monitor construction work under their control so it is carried out without risks to health and safety, including:

For projects involving more than one contractor, coordinate their activities with others in the project team – in particular, comply with directions given to them by the principal designer or principal contractor.

For single contractor projects, prepare a construction phase plan.

Workers:

Those working for or under the control of contractors on a construction site.

Workers must:

  • Be consulted about matters which affect their health, safety and welfare
  • Take care of their own health and safety, and of others who might be affected by their actions
  • Report anything, they see which is likely to endanger either their own or others’ health and safety
  • Cooperate with their employer, fellow workers, contractors and other duty holders

* Organisations or individuals can carry out the role of more than one duty holder, provided they have the skills, knowledge, experience and organisation capability necessary to carry out those roles in a way that secures health and safety.

SMAS Worksafe SSIP Accreditation

SSIP accreditation: Everything you need to know

SSIP or Safety Scheme in Procurement is a standard for health & safety that is recognised throughout the United Kingdom. It was created to ensure a reduction in health and safety assessment costs and bureaucracy in the supply chain, by making cross-recognition between member schemes as effective as possible.

SSIP is now accepted and recognised by thousands of clients across the UK, making the process for vetting contractors a simple process and there is no need to compare different standards of accreditation.

“Do I need SSIP?”

SSIP is something that any business across any industry can obtain but it is generally required for contractors in the construction industry.

The most common reason for businesses obtaining SSIP accreditation is that they work for a client requesting it as a requirement to enter and work on their site. Therefore, contractors who work with these clients are required to become accredited to work.

Although other industries might not require SSIP, businesses often take out accreditation as a good practice. It reassures business owners that their health & safety policies are of a high standard and any risks are being dealt with or reduced as much as possible. 

“How do I get SSIP accredited?”

If you’re required or want to become SSIP accredited, then you will need to find an SSIP Member Scheme that can give you a certificate once you have passed the question set.

There are 30 registered member schemes and SMAS Worksafe is one of these schemes. We help businesses obtain their SSIP certificates and help support them not just through the process but also with guidance on how they can improve their health & safety going forward.

Once all the questions have been answered and you’ve uploaded all the required information, one of our assessors will check over all the details and let you know if there are any issues with your submission. Once you have passed all the questions you will then hold an SSIP certificate which is valid for 12-months.

“What is the SSIP core criteria?”

To gain SSIP accreditation your business must be able to show that you meet the core criteria. All SSIP member schemes will require this information from you and below you can see a breakdown of what areas you will need to meet.

  1. Health & Safety policy and organisation for Health & Safety
  2. Arrangements
  3. Competent advice – corporate and construction-related
  4. Training and information
  5. Individual qualifications and experience
  6. Monitoring, audit and review
  7. Workforce involvement
  8. Accident reporting and enforcement action; follow up investigation
  9. Sub-contracting /consulting procedures (if applicable)
  10. Risk assessment leading to a safe system of work
  11. Co-operating with others and coordinating your work with that of other contractors
  12. Welfare provision

Additional Construction Sector Criteria: 

  1. Hazard elimination and risk control (Designers & Principal Designers only)
  2. Principal Designer duties (Principal Designers only)
  3. Supplementary Construction Industry Criteria (alignment with Common Assessment Standard)

“I already have an SSIP certificate, but I’m being asked for a SMAS?”

Although SSIP is recognised throughout the UK, some clients may have a preference on what scheme you hold your SSIP certificate with, for example, you might have an SSIP assessment with CHAS or Constructionline but a particular client is asking for one from SMAS Worksafe.

In this case, your best option is to take out a ‘deem to satisfy’ (DTS) with SMAS Worksafe – this is where instead of going through the full SMAS Worksafe assessment we will view your existing SSIP certificate and grant you a SMAS Worksafe accreditation without the need for a full assessment and for a reduced fee.

It’s also worth noting that if you are a contractor working for several clients asking for varied SSIP assessments, do some research into full and DTS pricing. For example, if you hold a full assessment with CHAS but require SMAS Worksafe for a client it might be cheaper to take a full assessment with SMAS Worksafe and then DTS with CHAS.

Benefits of having your SSIP accreditation with SMAS Worksafe

SMAS Worksafe are always trying to give their members the most from their SSIP assessments. We don’t want your yearly assessment to be the only time we touch bases with you and instead offer you year-round support and benefits.

SMAS Worksafe leads the way for customer service, all our expert assessors are based in-house and on the phones all day to help support you through your assessments should you need it. Lots of member schemes often outsource their assessors which can lead to the phone not being answered when you need it and inconsistent standards when going through your application.

We also lead the way in turnaround times, we can turn around your SSIP assessment in as little as 1 day. This allows you to get back on-site as soon as possible. Depending on your membership with SMAS Worksafe you may also have access to all these member benefits.

  • 10% off Tradepoint
  • 15% off all iHASCO courses
  • A Work Wallet subscription
  • Mid-year review
  • Year-round access to our expert in-house assessors

To learn more about SMAS Worksafe’s member options, please view our pricing and packaging page.

Hazardous signs - Red beach flag

Safety signs in the workplace

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.

Features:
  1. Circular shape
  2. 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).Prohibitory sign examples

Warning signs are used to highlight risks or dangers in the workplace, such as flammable material.  

Features:
  1. Triangular shape
  2. Black pictogram on a yellow background with black edging. (Yellow part of the sign must take up at least 50% of total area).

Warning signs / workplace signing

Mandatory signs are put in place to highlight acts that must be abided by, such as wearing eye protection.

Features:
  1. Circular shape
  2. White pictogram on blue background. (Blue part of the sign must take up at least 50% of total area).

Mandatory sign examples

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.

Features:
  1. Rectangular or square shape
  2. White pictogram on a green background (the green part of the sign must take up at least 50% of total area).

Emergency exit and first aid signs.

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.

An accident waiting to happen. An industrial worker using a cell phone in a warehouse.

Understanding behavioural safety hazards

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 

Woman on a ladder reaching for a box out of reach

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.

An accident waiting to happen. An industrial worker using a cell phone in a warehouse.

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:

Group training on 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:
  1. Colleague observation studies
  2. Regular inspects from senior management
  3. Regular bite-sized training or refresher classes
  4. Reward those who excel with positive feedback and reinforcement
  5. 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.
This pain is getting worser by the hour

Managing occupational risks

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:Businesswoman having back pain / 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:

Work Injury / 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.

 

The Regulations:

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.

Concept of risk management control circle

Understanding RAMS: Risk Assessment Method Statements

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

Risk management process

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

 

Identify hazards

Look around your workplace and think about what may cause harm (these are called hazards).

Think about:

  • 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.

 

Vulnerable workers

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

Construction site safety notices on wooden fence

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.

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1999/3242/contents/made