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Group Newsletter Issue 5 Volume 5 October 2013 1.

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Presentation on theme: "Group Newsletter Issue 5 Volume 5 October 2013 1."— Presentation transcript:

1 Group Newsletter Issue 5 Volume 5 October

2 Group NewsPage 3 Exhibitions InformationPage 4 SGUK NewsPage 6 HSE Information Page 7 Other stories/informationPage 17 2

3 Please remember that the book written by Doctor Bob Rajan on Controlling Skin Exposure to Chemicals and Wet-Work, a practical book is still available on loan to members. Contact either Mike or Cathy on or for more Please remember that if you are employed by an SME or are an individual wishing to do a NEBOSH Certificate then please contact us as some sponsorship may be available if you meet the criteria. Courses are provided either by SETA in Stockport or ACT Associates Please contact the Secretary for details 3

4 Please add these dates to your diary and consider visiting the shows. These shows are supported by Safety Groups UK

5 Discounts available through SGUK Please remember if you work for a small company, or Consultant, who perhaps do not receive a discount at Arco to request a Safety Groups UK card which gives 15% off in Arco shops only (not online). You must produce a card to obtain the discount. (only available to members). Members 15% Exclusive discount Safety Groups UK has negotiated corporate benefits for Group members. ACT is working with Safety Groups UK to provide an exclusive discount to all Safety Groups UK members. ACT offer an exclusive 15% discount off the list price of any product or service to all Safety Groups UK members. ACT is established as a high quality single point solutions provider of auditing, consultancy and training services. We have evolved into an integrated provider of all learning solutions including conventional, e-learning and blended learning options. Obtaining the 15% discount Call ACT on – Quote ACTSG12 For more info on our products and services go to 5

6 Mike and Cathy represented Safety Groups UK at the Health and Safety North Exhibition at Bolton Arena earlier this month. We had over eighty registered visitors to the stand, together with several Group members who dropped by for a chat. As usual, thanks to Tim Else and his team at Western Exhibitions for their excellent organisation of the event and our very grateful thanks for the provision of the complimentary stand. 6

7 Judith Hackitt’s ‘Risk Assessment’ : Learning lessons Last week in my role as President of IChemE I visited the London office of a major global engineering group. The organisation has an admirable focus on training chemical engineers of the future and I was delighted when in their opening presentation, without any prompting from me, they stated that safety was one of the organisation's core values. Core value is absolutely the right place for safety to be in any organisation. When people tell me it's their "top priority" it never quite rings true. I spoke to an audience of about 50 engineers at all stages in their careers, all of them had enthusiasm etched on their faces, rightly engaged and excited about the prospect of a wonderful career that could see them championing top class British engineering and safety standards on projects around the world. What great ambassadors for the UK. The chemical engineering sector in our country is internationally viewed as a centre of excellence and high quality. Companies around the globe are seeking out UK engineers to design and build their projects because they know they will get excellence. One of our great business assets is the ability to not only export knowledge, but also to take the principles of commitment to safety overseas with us. I was inspired by the engineers I met this week, not least because I also met a group of Year 5 and 6 schoolchildren who were there in the same offices learning about what it means to be an engineer. I know that any safety messages they pick up from these people will be the right ones. But sadly we have seen a couple of examples this week of schoolchildren being given very confusing messages about what health and safety is about. In one story we saw new pupils to a primary school being disappointed when they were turned away on their first day at school because their parents apparently did not attend compulsory briefings about several issues including health and safety, initiated by a school governing body. The other story reported that an 'eco-school' had banned pupils from bringing their bikes through the gates because of health and safety concern, when it seems the real reason was that the bike shed had been removed to make way for more car parking space! 7

8 It goes without saying there is no real health and safety element to either of these tabloid tales but what is really disappointing is seeing schools apparently joining the bandwagon of using health and safety as an excuse. Of course schools need to teach children about risk, but it must be about real risks not this nonsense. We don't want see this skewed view of what safety means being passed on to the next generation of possible engineers - there's a real risk it will turn them off. Projections suggest that by 2050 the human population will reach at least nine billion. For that many people to stay alive, access to clean water, affordable food, housing, clothing, transport, healthcare and energy supplies will be essential and chemical engineering will be a vital part of that jigsaw. Good schools need to focus on turning out people who are risk savvy, not risk averse petty bureaucrats equipped with tick-box clipboards. Safety needs to be a core value in schools just like everywhere else - not the first excuse of choice when things get a bit difficult. 8

9 A building product supplier has been fined after an employee severed three fingers in an inadequately guarded dust extraction machine. Derby Crown Court today (25 September) heard that the Tarmac Building Products Ltd employee was emptying waste dust from the machine’s hopper into a bag at their plant on the Swains Park Industrial Estate, Overseal, Swadlincote on 27 September Each bag holds approximately three quarters of a tonne of dust. If the side of the bag folds in then the dust will follow the crease in the bag and spill onto the floor. To avoid this, the 45-year-old, from Coalville, would periodically lift the sides of the bag. He was standing with his feet in the gaps of the pallet the bag was on and attempted to lift the sides of the bags but lost his balance and fell forwards. As he put his hand out to stop his fall it landed on the hopper and three of the fingers of his right hand went into it, coming into contact with the rotary valve. He was off work for some nine months. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found the dust extraction unit originally had a fully-enclosed recycling system where waste dust was blown back into a silo to be reused. But earlier in 2012 a section from underneath the hopper was removed to try to solve a contamination problem, which enabled access to the rotary valve. Tarmac Building Products Ltd, of Millfields Road, Ettingshall, Wolverhampton, pleaded guilty to a breach of Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £4,999 in costs. Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Edward Walker said: "This incident could easily have been avoided had an appropriate guard been fitted when the hopper was modified. When modifying machinery and equipment it is important to make a suitable assessment of any increased risk that changes may cause. Tarmac Building Products failed to do that and a man was left with a permanent impairment." 9

10 A Nottingham plant hire company has been fined after a worker was crushed by a two-and-half tonne excavator during an unsafe cleaning operation. The 40-year-old from Mansfield, who does not want to be named, suffered four fractures to his pelvis, dislocated his thumb and sustained soft tissue damage to his left hand and both legs in the incident at L&M Glazing Ltd in Bulwell on 3 July L&M Glazing was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation identified serious safety failings with the chosen method of work. Nottingham Magistrates’ Court heard on Monday (23 September) that the injured worker was cleaning an excavator that had been returned covered in dirt. The work needed to be done quickly because the vehicle was due to be hired out again later the same day. The excavator was positioned over a wash bay and raised off the ground by its hydraulic excavator arm and shovel blade, allowing the caterpillar tracks underneath to turn while they were sprayed with a jet washer. Cable ties were used to lock controls in position and they were configured so that the tracks could spin while the cab was empty. As the worker was cleaning near the excavator arm his foot became trapped under the moving track. A colleague ran to his aid and, worried that he was being dragged closer to the machine, hit two side levers in the cab in a bid to help him escape. However, this caused the vehicle to lurch forwards, which knocked him backwards before pinning and trapping him. The worker was rescued after other colleagues used jacks to lift the vehicle. HSE found there was no formal safe system of work for the cleaning task. The court was told it was unsafe to work either beneath or immediately adjacent to an excavator when it is supported only by the bucket on the excavator arm and the shovel blade, and that had the work been better planned and managed then the incident could have been avoided. L&M Glazing Ltd of Hucknall Lane, Bulwell, Nottingham, was fined £11,000 and ordered to pay £6,400 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act

11 Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector David Butter said: "The injured employee was put in serious danger and could have been killed because there was no safe method for cleaning the excavator. "The machine manufacturer recommends jack-stands are used to hold it in place, and not to service or adjust the machine while the engine is running. That guidance was clearly ignored, and to have the engine running was both dangerous and unnecessary. Simply cleaning the tracks while the vehicle is stationary, then moving it to expose the unclean tracks and stopping it, before continuing to clean it, would have be the safest and simplest way of doing the work. "L&M Glazing failed to manage the risks to its employees. Employers who neglect their duty to protect workers will continue to be held to account where they fail to do so.“ For advice and information on working with machinery, go to 11

12 An asbestos expert has been fined after workers under his supervision were exposed to potentially-deadly fibres at a college in Greater Manchester. Steven Kelly was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after three men were spotted without suitable protective clothing in an area of Trafford College in Stretford where asbestos was being removed. Trafford Magistrates’ Court in Sale heard today (11 October 2013) that Manchester-based firm Winsulate had been hired to carry out asbestos removal work during a refurbishment project at the college. Mr Kelly, 41, from Kirkby in Merseyside, was the supervisor on the project but he ignored the company’s procedures on working with asbestos, and broke the law as a result. The court was told HSE inspectors carried out an unannounced visit to the college, on Talbot Road, during the evening on 12 December They witnessed three workers in the area of the college where asbestos was being removed but without suitable protective clothing or masks. The inspectors discovered Mr Kelly had sent the men into the undercroft beneath the classrooms, which had been sealed off from the rest of the building, to fix the temporary lighting. They were wearing their own clothes instead of disposable clothing under their overalls, and half masks instead of full-face respiratory masks. The men were also wearing lace-up instead of wellington boots, which meant asbestos fibres could stick to their laces or get inside their boots. This led to them being put at risk of breathing in asbestos fibres, and other fibres could have remained on their clothes when they went home to their families in the evening. Mr Kelly is a fully-trained and qualified supervisor in licensed asbestos removal but, despite this, several other issues were also discovered on the site. “ 12

13 These included insufficient water for workers to properly sponge down boots and masks to stop fibres becoming airborne, used clothing discarded inside the enclosure, and a failure to carry out daily checks on masks. Mr Kelly, of Burwell Close in Kirkby, was fined £790 and ordered to pay costs of £250 after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by failing to take reasonable care of workers under his supervision. Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Laura Moran said: Asbestos is responsible for thousands of deaths in the UK every year but it only becomes dangerous when it is broken up and fibres are released into the air. “That’s why asbestos can only be removed by specialist contractors but, as the site supervisor, Steven Kelly put workers at risk by not following the correct safety procedures. “He simply should never have allowed three men to go into a contaminated area while wearing their own clothes, and without the correct protective clothing and respiratory masks. “Workers, their families and anyone else who came into contact with them would have been put at risk as a result of Mr Kelly allowing the men to wear lace-up boots and the clothes they intended to go home in. “Thankfully, we were able to stop the work and make sure the clothes were disposed of as contaminated waste.” Around 4,000 people die every year as a result of breathing in asbestos fibres, making it the biggest single cause of work-related deaths in the UK. Airborne fibres can become lodged in the lungs or digestive tract, and can lead to lung cancer or other diseases, but symptoms may not appear for several decades. Information on how to work safely with asbestos is available at 13

14 Young People at Work 14

15 A construction firm has been prosecuted after it allowed subcontractors to carry out refurbishment work on a Grade 2 listed building in Preston for nearly seven weeks without toilets or running water. Altrincham-based RNT Developments and Construction Ltd brought in roofers, damp treatment experts, electricians, joiners and plasters to work on the nineteenth century Harris Institute – a former dance academy – on the outskirts of the city but it failed to provide basic facilities for workers. The issue was spotted during an inspection initiative earlier this year when inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) made announced visits to construction sites across the region. Preston Magistrates’ Court heard that refurbishment work had started on the Avenham Lane building on 3 January 2013, but HSE were not alerted to the absence of amenities until an inspector visited the site on 19 February. During this time, a dry rot treatment subcontractor had filled six skips with plaster from the walls, with other contractors removing rotten timbers and floor boards in dusty conditions. Workers had to use wet wipes and paper towels to clean themselves, and leave the site to find toilets elsewhere in the city. Magistrates were told that the three-storey building had been empty for two years before the work started and the water supply had been turned off, which meant the existing toilets could not be used. The temperature inside the building was also bitterly cold. RNT Developments and Construction Ltd, of Sheldrake Road in Broadheath, was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £1,000 after pleading guilty to a breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 on 16 October

16 Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Stuart Kitchingman said: “It would have been easy for RNT to reinstate the existing welfare facilities in the building, but instead the firm allowed work to be carried out in grimy and dusty conditions for nearly seven weeks without access to the most basic facilities. “It’s totally unacceptable in the twenty-first century to find Dickensian-like conditions. In fact, it’s a legal requirement that workers aren’t treated in this way. “The working conditions were archaic – more like they would have been when the building was first erected in Victorian times – and will no longer be tolerated in the 21st Century. “RNT should have made sure there were welfare facilities on the site before it allowed the refurbishment project to start. Instead, workers had to face needlessly unpleasant conditions over several weeks.” The inspection of the RNT site was carried out during a month-long national initiative earlier this year in which one in five construction sites were served with enforcement notices after failing health and safety checks. HSE inspectors made unannounced visits to 2,363 sites where refurbishment or repair work was taking place. They issued notices at 433 sites, either ordering work to stop or for improvements to be made. More information on the welfare facilities requires on construction sites is available at 16

17 Company fined after toppling trolley severs worker's fingers A food manufacturer has been fined for safety failings after a customised rack toppled over and sliced through a worker's hand. The 35-year-old, from Middlesex, who does not want to be named, had the little and ring fingers on his right hand severed to below the knuckle in the incident at Noon Products Ltd, on Dean Way, Southall, on 26 July sed company was prosecuted yesterday (25 September) by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found the rack posed a clear danger. Westminster Magistrates' Court heard the worker was using a tall rack with wheels to move trays of products. It featured a custom-made sheet metal top cover that had been unsuccessfully trialled but needlessly left in situ. The rack had been poorly loaded by a colleague and as he pushed it, it overbalanced and toppled over, taking him with it. The sharp edge of the top cover landed directly on his right hand and cut clean through his fingers and knuckles. He was hospitalised for ten days as surgeons successfully reattached his fingers. However, he is still unable to return to work and has been left with limited mobility that makes everyday tasks difficult or impossible. HSE found the rack was inherently unsafe because it was top heavy thanks to the custom cover, which had been made in-house by Noon Products. It should have been removed as soon as an earlier trial had established it required modification, especially as a standard cover was available from the rack manufacturer that would have provided a safer suitable alternative. Magistrates were told the incident could also have been prevented had the company better communicated and monitored the risks arising from overloading the rack, which are well known in the industry. Noon Products Ltd, of Thorpe Lea Road, Egham, Surrey, was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £5,068 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act After the hearing HSE Inspector Neil Fry said: "Thankfully this incident was not symptomatic of widespread failures at Noon Products Ltd. The company has a proactive commitment to health and safety, and is keen to instigate improvements. "Nevertheless, a worker was seriously injured and it serves as a reminder that irrespective of what processes and systems are in place you have to be vigilant at all times. "Equipment must be safe, all employees must be competent and properly trained, and any non-compliance with safe-working practices must be stopped." 17

18 Work related skin diseases can be caused by the skin coming into contact with hazardous substances, this is preventable yet 40,000 new cases are recorded every year by the HSE and it’s only the tip of the iceberg based on anecdotal evidence. ‘It’s in your hands’ was originally launched seven years ago to significantly reduce the incidence rate of work related skin disease. By providing information on what to look out for and evidence on how to protect workers against hazardous substances. In 2013, the campaign has been updated and expanded to include up-to-date statistics on incidence of skin disease, advice on avoiding the risk of skin cancer and work related dermatitis, as well as skin care considerations by work area. Work-related dermatitis can be caused by the skin coming into contact with some of the following agents; chemicals, frequent contact with water, biological agents and mechanical abrasion. Dermatitis accounts for over 70% of work-related skin disease. Skin cancer can be caused by prolonged contact with carcinogens, such as mineral oils including engine, machine oils and coal tars. This is the most common form of cancer in the UK, with over 125,000 new cases being diagnosed each year in the UK and over 2,700 deaths each year. The updated ‘It’s in your hands’ campaign provdies useful information on: The causes of work related skin disease Employers’ legal obligations to workers Measures to protect workers against skin disease Employers are encouraged to read and circulate the booklet and put the poster up on notice boards to alert workers to the campaign. The ‘It’s in your hands’ booklet and poster are free to download here: 18

19 Burscough explosion: Chemical firm fined after three injured A chemical firm has been fined £150,000 after three workers suffered serious injuries in an explosion. Personnel Hygiene Services (PHS) Ltd pleaded guilty at Liverpool Crown Court to a health and safety breach in October Three employees suffered serious burns when 150 aerosol cans were put in a nearby shredder at Burscough industrial estate. PHS said the incident was of "great regret" and changes had been made. The court heard that the employees were "caught in a fireball" and surrounding buildings near Tollgate Crescent were evacuated while firefighters dealt with the blaze. A thick cloud of smoke developed above the fire. Extremely flammable Almost 60 police officers were deployed to oversee road closures and a cordon around the site, while smoke from the blaze drifted towards Southport. A joint investigation by HSE and the Environment Agency found the company allowed 150 cans containing extremely flammable substances to be put into a shredder at the site, the court heard. 19

20 The investigation found that PHS had no procedure for checking the contents of boxes of waste materials delivered to the site. The company also failed to ensure that a chemical specialist monitored the waste being put into the shredder to check for flammable substances. A risk assessment carried out in April 2010, was found to be wholly inadequate after the company wrongly identified the risk of aerosols being added to the shredder as 'very unlikely'. PHS Ltd, of Caerphilly, south Wales, admitted a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 at a hearing on Thursday. A spokeswoman for PHS said: "We have cooperated fully with the HSE and Environment Agency at all times during the course of their investigations and have taken steps to prevent any such incident happening in the future, including reviewing and updating our processes and investing in state-of-the-art equipment in all of our relevant sites.“ Principal HSE Inspector Neil Rothwell said: "The chemical waste industry has the potential to be extremely hazardous, and PHS could and should have done more to protect the lives of its employees and the public. "The explosion and fire led to three workers being seriously injured and caused considerable disruption in the local area." 20

21 Employee crawled out from overturned forklift A company has been ordered to pay over £28,000 after a worker narrowly avoided injury when a forklift truck overturned. Midland Steel Reinforcement Supplies (GB) Limited, which supplies reinforced steel bars (rebar) to the construction industry, was prosecuted by the HSE this week (9 October) after an investigation identified safety failings. Westminster Magistrates' Court heard that the worker was told to empty bins at the site, an instruction he understood to include small skips containing offcuts of rebar. He used a forklift truck to lift and move one of the skips to a larger waste container, which he balanced on the edge. He then retracted the forks of the forklift and used them to tip the skip and empty the contents within. The worker then jumped from the cab and into the waste container in order to attach a sling to the empty skip and the forks of the forklift, so that he could pull and lift the skip back out. He climbed back into the cab and attempted to do so, but the forklift overturned, with the lifting column coming to rest on the edge of the container. The fact that the forklift didn't hit the ground created a small gap between the cab and the floor that the operator was able to crawl through. The HSE found that the system and method of work was unsuitable and posed clear risk, not least because the operator of the forklift was untrained and unsupervised. Inspectors also found that he wasn't wearing a seatbelt when the forklift overturned – making it all the more remarkable that he avoided harm. Magistrates were told that a safer method was available to empty the waste steel rebars in the form of tipper skips, which were in use elsewhere at the site. Midland Steel Reinforcement Supplies Ltd, of Fishers Way, Belvedere, was fined a total of £17,500 and ordered to pay £11,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulations 4(3) and 9(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations

22 Midland Steel Reinforcement Supplies Ltd, of Fishers Way, Belvedere, was fined a total of £17,500 and ordered to pay £11,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulations 4(3) and 9(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations Following the hearing, HSE inspector Maria Strangward, said: "The forklift truck should have never been used to lift and manoeuvre the skip in this way. It was a system and method of work that posed clear risk, and the worker is extremely fortunate to avoid being seriously injured – possibly even killed had the forklift struck and crushed him as it overturned. "The onus is on employers, like Midland Steel Reinforcement Supplies, to ensure operations are properly planned, managed and supervised, and that adequate training, instruction and equipment is provided at all times to protect workers.” 22

23 An agricultural machinery manufacturer has been fined after an HSE investigation found employees were at risk of developing asthma through the spraying of a hazardous chemical. Grantham Magistrates' Court heard on 14 October that Marston Agricultural Services Ltd allowed trailers to be sprayed with isocyanate-containing paint, without fully assessing the potential dangers and implementing adequate controls to protect workers from the effects of the chemical. The failings came to light following an unannounced HSE visit to the company at Toll Bar Road in Marston on 20 June Inspectors found that the paint was being sprayed in large quantities, and that the respiratory protective equipment and spray booths were not being used correctly. The court heart that although staff were provided with personal protective equipment, the overalls were ripped and the gloves were unsuitable for preventing chemicals to break through and infiltrate clothing and skin. In addition, the inspectors found that the spray booths had not been maintained properly; they were being used with the doors open and parts of the trailers were protruding into the workshop, meaning there was potential for significant exposure. The hygiene facilities provided for staff were found to be in an extremely unhygienic condition, so much so, that employees were reluctant to use them. The facilities included an emergency shower that had been broken for years. Marston Agricultural Services Ltd, of Toll Bar Road, Marston, Grantham, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay a further £13,420 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the HSWA Following the hearing, HSE inspector Emma Madeley, said: "Marston Agricultural Services failed to adequately control their employees' exposure to hazardous chemicals over an extended period of time, despite having repeatedly received advice from the HSE and others on the requirements of the COSHH regulations. "Breathing in isocyanate paint mist can cause asthma and paint sprayers are about 80 times more likely to get asthma than the average worker. Continued exposure may lead to permanent and severe asthma for which there is no cure. In some cases sufferers also become unable to use common household chemicals such as cleaning materials and shampoo. Almost certainly the sufferer would have to give up their current job.” 23

24 New young drivers face new restrictions Young drivers – including those who drive for work – may face new restrictions designed to address the public health risk posed by young and inexperienced drivers. The Government is considering recommendations from the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), which wants to see a graduated driver licensing (GDL) scheme for new young drivers. It estimates that such a move could lead to 4,471 less casualties a year and savings of £224 million. TRL recommends that young people wait until they are 18 before getting a 12-month probationary licence. During this 12 month period they would not be able to drive at night on their own. There would also be restrictions on carrying passengers aged under 30 for novice drivers under 30 years old. Learner drivers of all ages would have to log 120 hours of supervised practice in different conditions before taking their test. TRL says that the evidence from other countries for introducing a graduated driver licensing (GDL) scheme is “strong and consistent”. It also says that the move would not have a major impact on youth employment and argues that any exemptions on night-time or passenger restrictions for work could lower any new scheme’s effectiveness. The report was published on 9 October.report The Government says that the TRL report will inform its Green Paper on improving safety for young drivers, which it is publishing later this year. In 2011, nearly a quarter (22 per cent) of all fatalities on UK roads involved collisions involving drivers aged 17 to 24 years old. 24

25 The Department for Transport has published new guidance for schools and local authorities on who is entitled to drive school minibuses.guidance The guidance can also be used by council youth workers and charitable groups working with young people. The guidance explains when a member of staff with a car driving licence can drive a minibus in the UK. Car drivers can drive minibuses on behalf of non-profit organisations such as schools, using a Section 19 permit. The exact circumstances depend on when the driver passed their test, and are explained in the guidance. Drivers are responsible for checking with their insurer whether their insurance policy covers them driving a minibus. It is also their responsibility to check whether their driving triggers other legal requirements on, for example, drivers’ hours, tachographs and Certificates of professional competence. The non-statutory guidance was jointly produced by the Department for Education (DfE), the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). Data from the Road Safety Observatory shows that in 2011, 742 minibuses were involved in road accidents and of these, 115 minibuses were involved in traffic accidents involving fatalities or serious injuries.Road Safety Observatory 25

26 PM’s taskforce calls for end to SME risk assessment records Around 220,000 small businesses could be exempted from written risk assessments Govt red tape taskforce calls for revisions to REACH and working time law Scrapping written risk assessments for “low-risk” small businesses and urgent action to simplify the REACH requirements for chemicals registration are among the recommendations in a government sponsored report on cutting EU regulations. The report, Cut EU red tape, sets out how the authors say the EU could remove barriers to competitiveness for European business by curbing existing regulation on employment and growth.Cut EU red tape The document, presented to the Cabinet this morning (15 October), was compiled by a taskforce of six senior business leaders, including the chief executives of Diageo and Marks and Spencer, appointed by Prime Minister David Cameron. Among its 30 recommendations, presented to the Cabinet last month, the report says the requirement to keep written risk assessments, under the Framework Directive on Health and Safety at Work, costs businesses unnecessary time and money. Exempting small businesses in low risk sectors would benefit more than 220,000 UK organisations and save businesses across the EU an estimated €2.7 billion (£2.27 billion), it claims. “The European Commission should give national governments the flexibility to decide when small, low-risk businesses need to keep written risk assessments,” the report says. Barry Holt, director of policy and research at the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management (IIRSM), told Health and Safety at Work: “It still appears that business and government views safety as a cost rather than a benefit. Current legislation does not require risk assessment for risks which are “insignificant”; are we now saying that no record should be kept of those risks which are likely to cause harm to employees? “In terms of claims for compensation, it is unlikely that insurers would be prepared to fight claims if there is no documentary evidence to support their case,” he added. Construction union UCATT described the proposal as “outrageous”. General secretary Steve Murphy said it would recreate 19th Century welfare and employment practices, “where a worker’s rights and their safety were ignored in a rush for profits”. 26

27 The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) said the report has misunderstood health and safety and wrongly labelled it a threat to small firms. Richard Jones, IOSH head of policy and public affairs, added that the report fails to make it clear that UK firms employing fewer than five employees are already exempted from keeping written risk assessments. UEAPME, an employers’ organisation representing European crafts, trades and SMEs at EU level, said that while “very much supporting simplification and better legislation”, it opposes general exemption from health and safety laws for small firms because of the fear it would create a two-tier system in the internal market and be detrimental to its members. On the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals) regulation, designed to codify the import, manufacture and use of chemicals, the report argues it is costly, complex and unwieldy, and calls for clearer guidance, though no substantial change to the regulation. Current guidance forces small companies to buy in expertise to help them comply, the authors say. It claims that the cost of registering chemicals under the regulations is excessive and SMEs across the EU are hit disproportionately hard. Changes to registration thresholds due in 2018 will also mean that “most SMEs will be covered by the regime” and will have little option but to pay fees, often prohibitively high, to join “registration” consortia to gain access to information on chemicals and register for REACH. The report calls for: clear guidance (in draft form by December 2013) to be issued on fair cost-sharing with SMEs and other experts simplified guidance focusing on the areas SMEs find most difficult to interpret, with a clear timetable for publication also outlined by December known authorisation consortia to be listed on the European Chemicals Agency website a worked example of what an “authorisation dossier” would look like, so companies have a better idea of what is required consistent implementation and enforcement of REACH across the EU. The taskforce consulted more than 100 European industry bodies and drew on more than 250 ideas for EU reforms for the Cut EU red tape report. The prime minister said the proposals would cut back EU regulation and unleash the potential of the EU single market. Another recommendation in the report covers what it calls “inflexible and unclear rules” on working time. It argues that keeping the capacity for employees to opt out of the 48-hour working week limit is essential. “Losing the … opt-out would have an impact on nearly three-quarters of businesses (73%), with close to half (46%) saying it would be severe or significant”, the report says, citing a survey of UK employers by the taskforce. It claims company after company admitted that complying with the Working Time Directive is difficult. 27

28 European Court rulings that some “on-call” time is treated as working hours and requiring paid leave to be given to workers on sick leave need urgent action, the taskforce says, as they have expanded the original scope of the legislation. Companies also need more flexibility and clarity on the rules. Holt said his experience in other EU countries “suggests that compliance with the Directive does not depend on an opt-out”. “While accepting that some employees say they appreciate the flexibility to choose how long they work, they probably do not understand the psychosocial risks, such as stress, which can result from this. “In the UK, this is leading to a range of ‘new’ working practices, which can increase the level of these risks.” Holt added that a recent survey of 246 practitioners by IIRSM suggests at first glance (the data is currently being analysed) that in 70% of organisations, staff regularly work in excess of contractual hours. “When this becomes part of ‘normal’ work, it becomes a major workplace stressor,” he said. The Working Time Directive is already the subject of revision talks between unions and employers’ organisations in Brussels and several other recommendations in the report, such as those on environmental compliance, overlap with the European Commission’s recently announced REFIT programme to reduce unnecessary regulation. Among the plans, the commission revealed it will not table health and safety proposals covering musculoskeletal disorders, screen displays, hairdressers, and environmental tobacco smoke.programme 28


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