Beyond COSHH when dealing with
In some industries, working with hazardous substances will be the mainstay of your business. You’ll be familiar with the law, with assessing risks and fulfilling your responsibilities. For others, this won’t be so clear – hazardous substances won’t be part of your core operations, but they may still be present on site. So it is important to be clear on what is expected of you.
COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) is the law requiring you to control hazardous substances. It regulates the labelling and handling of substances and lays down the principles of good practice.
As a business, you are required to find out what your health hazards are, provide control measures to reduce harm to health and ensure that those controls are used and in good working order. You also have a responsibility to educate and train your employees, protect those visiting your site and provide monitoring and health surveillance in appropriate cases.
But it’s not necessarily just COSHH that you have to consider, as these following two prosecution cases highlight. Depending on your sector, there may be other legislation relevant to you.
The HSE recently investigated and prosecuted a bio-sciences company for being in possession of a large quantity of infectious avian influenza and West Nile virus without licences.
The regulation dealing with these biological agents requires a licence under the Specified Animal Pathogens Order 2008 (SAPO) and is necessarily strict to protect the UK livestock economy from exotic animal diseases. This particular company admitted to two breaches of Section 73(a) of the Animal Health Act 1981 and was fined heavily – £40,000 and they had to pay costs of £80,000.
A manufacturer of agricultural trailers received a 10-month suspended prison sentence after pleading guilty to breaching Sections 37 and 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
He was judged to have deliberately put his workers at risk of developing severe lung disease by regularly using aerosolised paints containing isocyanates and solvents without proper controls. At least one employee suffered a life-changing condition. The manufacturer also had to pay more than £5,000 in costs and carry out 20 hours of unpaid work.
In both instances, the companies were deemed to have paid insufficient attention to the use of the substances or care for the consequences of misuse.
You may be an expert on hazardous substances in need of a little clarification, or maybe you don’t know where to begin. Whatever your situation, we can help give advice and guidance to ensure you are following best practice and complying with all legislation relevant to your operations.
Scalding criticism for train operator
failing to go green
Protecting your employees and others from health and safety risks is generally accepted as an essential responsibility of an employer. But what happens when implementing necessary safety measures elicits criticism from other quarters?
This is exactly the dilemma faced by an Irish train operator which banned reusable cups on its trains. Safety concerns arose when the cups customers were bringing on to the train failed to fit underneath the nozzle of the hot drinks machine, so creating a risk of scalding. Train speeds exacerbated this concern and the company decided to stop the practice of filling up customers’ own cups.
This decision, made for sound health and safety reasons, had unanticipated consequences, however. The company faced vociferous criticism from its passengers for what was perceived as a retrograde, anti-environmental stance. In response to the backlash, the rail company began trialling its own reusable cup designed to fit under the nozzle – an innovation adopted to satisfy all parties.
If you are facing a dilemma like this when a health and safety measure creates bad PR, ask us for advice. We can help you navigate the complexities and reach a solution that placates those concerned whilst retaining health and safety standards.
Make mental health a priority in 2020
Mental health awareness is taking centre stage in 2020. Mounting evidence of the devastating impact of poor mental health, and widespread advocacy against stigmatisation have put the spotlight on this long-neglected issue.
Many businesses are reacting to this sea-change by putting mental health first aid on the same footing as physical first aid. The recent inclusion of ‘mental health trained first aiders’ in the HSE’s first aid needs assessment for employers reflects this priority, and is a reminder to employers of their duty of care. More than just a moral imperative, this duty of care is, of course, a legal requirement under the Health and Safety Work Act 1974.
There are also sound economic reasons to address mental health issues in your workplace. Recent data from the Department of Work and Pensions revealed some 300,000 people with a long-term mental health problem lose their jobs each year. It has been calculated that this issue costs employers up to £42 billion a year.
So, if you are looking to improve mental well-being in your company, there is plenty that you can do. Training up mental health first aiders with confidence and knowledge is a great start. We offer several industry-specific, e-learning courses designed to promote understanding and offer practical support to manage day-to-day mental health. Just ask us.
Creating a mentally healthy organisation is an investment definitely worth making. So make 2020 the year to double down on mental health first aid and you’ll definitely reap the rewards!
With the new year upon us, we are no longer blinded by the twinkly lights of Christmas and can reflect on the festive season with more clarity. It’s easy to cast the figure of ‘Health and Safety’ in the Grinch role, the ultimate party pooper; but perusing the HSE’s Myth busters may encourage you to think differently.
The drinks are on us! Not anymore…
An employer stopped paying for alcohol at a Christmas party citing health and safety.
An employer may have due concerns about overindulgence. Or might be trying to find a scapegoat for a decidedly un-festive miserliness. But don’t be fooled. There is no health and safety legislation stopping employers paying for drinks at a Christmas party.
No Santa hats for refuse collection workers. Bah humbug.
Refuse collection workers in Colchester were banned from wearing Christmas hats on the grounds of health and safety. The council stated drivers and other road users could be distracted.
There is no legislation preventing refuse collectors from donning a bit of festive adornment. Naturally, a bit of common sense needs to be applied. Decoration that impedes a driver’s vision is not a good idea. But otherwise workers should be free to channel Santa and enter into the festive spirit!
No material change to health and safety
law after Brexit
It certainly won’t be the last we hear of it, but Brexit has finally happened! It’s understandable to feel trepidation about the potential changes for your business after Brexit, but you do have reassurance on health and safety law.
That’s because health and safety law and guidance will not be materially affected. The EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 ensures that we can provide certainty on health and safety for duty holders across the UK. All rules will remain the same. All that will change is that the legislation will now refer to the UK rather than to the EU.
There are three HSE-led statutory instruments supporting the Act which convert current EU regulation into domestic law. Ask us if you want to know more.