Archive | March, 2011

Let’s have our day in the sun

25 Mar

I recently had the pleasure of spending a long weekend in Basel, Switzerland. Basel sits on the border with Germany and France and has the luxury of all three countries. You can pop to France to buy your frogs legs in the morning, take a stroll along the Rhine in Switzerland in the afternoon and bask in the last rays of the day in Germany with some German beer and sausage. Parfait! Perfekt!

As we drove into Germany one morning and the road wound through small country villages, there were the typical German houses: painted shutters, a low thatched roof. But as we left the heart of the villages, into new housing areas, there was a marked contrast in the dwellings. New housing estates had a distinctly different look. Gone were the thatched roofs and tudor-esque designs. Instead, solar panels lined the roofs and the designs were simple and modern. Every house in this obviously new neighbourhood had a roof full of solar panels and a few even had smaller wind turbines in their gardens.

Germany initiated incentives for renewable energy back in 1991. The scheme was enhanced and drove a massive increase in the installation of solar PV panels. In 2005, 10% of Germany’s electricity came from renewable sources. In 2009 it was up to 16%. The target in the UK for last year was 10%. We are well behind our energy saving European neighbours.

In the next issue of Safety Management we take a look at renewable energy and some major plans and projects which are happening and have happened both here and around the world. The fact remains: the earth’s natural resources (gas, coal, oil) have an expiration date. They will disappear and our planet is begging us to look for safe and clean alternatives.

The rewards for investing in renewable energy know no bounds: reducing CO2 emissions; technological innovation; creating a variety of green jobs; securing more sustainable domestic power supplies; building a cleaner and safer environment, not just for today, but for many, many tomorrows.

Businesses have a huge part to play, as does the government in supporting them. The policies it is putting in place, and the initiatives through the Carbon Plan, have been welcomed by businesses: funding for apprenticeships in the green industry; investment in new technology; the desire to develop more wind turbines. More can always be done, and we can all play our part.

Henrik Tikkanen wrote that “because we don’t think about future generations, they will never forget us.” We all need and use energy, and we all have to take responsibility today. Striving to create a safe and healthy world for everyone will have little meaning if there will be no energy left to keep us enjoying and living it.  

Check our the next issue of Safety Management for the full article on renewable energy.

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International Safety Awards deadline fast approaching

22 Mar

Organisations that wish to apply for an International Safety Award from the British Safety Council have just days left to submit their applications before the 31 March deadline, but it seems the process of applying is itself bringing health and safety benefits to the companies concerned.

To apply for an International Safety Award, organisations must complete a stringent application form which asks challenging questions about what the business is doing ‘on the ground’ to maintain high standards of health and safety. This means organisations must really examine and review their safety procedures when applying, a process which can prove beneficial in other ways, according to one applicant, housebuilder Croudace Homes Ltd from the south east of England.

Croudace’s health and safety manager Matthew Stubblefield says: “We have found the new application format to be very useful from an in-house perspective, and it will be utilised as a reference document for various future initiatives – for example, inductions of new managers.

“It has also provided us with the perfect opportunity for cataloguing all the good work we do, with regards to the management of health and safety at Croudace Homes.”

The company is now awaiting the result of its application from the independent adjudicators, but for those organisations still thinking of entering, remember you only have until next Thursday (31 March) to submit your completed application.

More details can be found at: http://www.britsafe.org/isa, or you can call the Awards Team direct on +44 (0)20 8741 1231 for further advice.

Neal Stone reports from H&S government briefing

21 Mar

The British Safety Council was one of a number of organisations invited to a meeting this morning at which the Minister for Work and Pensions, Chris Grayling, set out the detail of government proposals for further reform of health and safety.

The main thrust of the proposals include shifting the focus of inspection to high risk workplaces and cutting out proactive inspections for smaller lower risk businesses.  It is planned that HSE will in future, recover all of the cost of inspection or investigation where a serious breach is detected and enforcement action is taken. The government also announced that there will be a major review of health and safety legislation with the aim of scrapping measures that are considered unnecessary and a burden on business.

This will involve a root and branch overhaul of our regulatory framework much of which has been in place since 1974. In response to a question from the British Safety Council, the Minister assured the meeting that there would be detailed consultation on the reform proposals, including the future of regulation and the reform of health and safety law, with sufficient time for organisations as ours to fully consult it members on these important measures.   

For further detail of the proposals go to the DWP website – Good health and safety, Good for everyonehttp://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/good-health-and-safety.pdf

A worrying situation

21 Mar

Unless you have been living on the moon for the past week or so, you will not have escaped the news of the nuclear disaster in Japan following a devastating earthquake and tsunami on Friday 11 March.

The April issue of Safety Management magazine – which should be landing on desks next week – includes an article on the nuclear disaster, and this was a particularly hard article to write, not least because it is a constantly developing situation, even though it is more than a week since the earthquake first hit.

Although we may not know the full impact of the situation or the harm that the Fukushima Daiichi power plant has caused for some time yet, it is clear that this is a huge event which has had a devastating impact and has shocked people around the globe.

Using the International Nuclear and Radiological Events Scale (INES), which runs from zero to seven, Japan’s nuclear safety agency has increased the rating of the Fukushima power station incident from a level four – and accident with local consequences – to a level five – an accident with wider consequences.

Experts say it is the worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. So far, Chernobyl is the only seven-rated incident in nuclear history.

The main worry now is the threat of widespread radiation contamination, which can cause fatal health effects. Workers have been risking their lives to restore power to the reactors and have been battling to cool the reactors down to avoid a large-scale release of radiation.

Villagers living near the plant have been told not to drink tap water because of high levels of radioactive iodine, while spinach and milk produced near the nuclear plant has been found to contain levels of radioactive iodine far higher than the legal limits.

Higher than normal levels of radiation have even been registered in the capital Tokyo, 140 miles away.

Energy secretary Chris Huhne has called on HSE’s chief nuclear inspector Dr Mike Weightman for a thorough report on the implications of the situation and the lessons to be learned. There will be an interim report by mid May 2011 and a final report within six months.

Huhne said, in a statement: “It is essential that we understand the full facts and their implications, both for existing nuclear reactors and any new programme, as safety is always our number one concern.”

According to experts, a similar disaster in the UK would be very unlikely. The British Safety Council’s Dr Keith Whitehead explains: “We are not in the same seismic or earthquake zones as Japan, so it is unlikely a similar quake could happen here. However, there are many earthquake zones around the world where nuclear power plants do exist so the lessons learned from Japan should be applied on global basis to prevent a similar disaster occurring.”

It is not possible or sensible to speculate on the outcome of this nuclear disaster while the Japanese government works to control the situation. It is too early to ascertain the impacts and it may take months or years, depending on the final outcome.

Safety Management will, of course, report on any developments regarding the situation in Japan as and when they arise. Look out for the full article in the April issue of the magazine.

Next steps for health and safety reform

21 Mar

The Work and Pensions Minister, Chris Grayling MP, who has responsbility for health and safety, has called representatives from business, trade unions, health and safety organisations and HSE to a meeting on Monday 21 March at which he will set out the next stage of the government’s proposals for health and safety reform. Although the detail of the proposals are yet to be revealed the Minister in the meeting invitation sent to the British Safety Council and others stated that the reforms herald, “a new start for health and safety regulation for Britain’s businesses.”

Details of the proposals will be posted following the meeting.

News from Prospect Conference

18 Mar

Lynda Armstrong, Chair of the British Safety Council, presented the keynote address earlier this week to the Prospect trade union’s ‘Promoting health’ conference. Lynda, in her introduction, identified a number of factors that were contributing to possibly significant changes in our health and safety landscape. The agenda for change set out in Common Sense, Common Safety, the government’s plans for further reform, the significant reduction in HSE and local authority resources available for enforcement, together, pose serious questions about the future of health and safety regulation. She said it was vital that organisations like Prospect, the British Safety Council and their respective members and other stakeholders work together to ensure that we do not lose sight of our primary goal, that is, to ensure our workplaces and workers are healthy and safe.

The central focus of the conference was on work, health and well-being against a backdrop of economic and organisational change. Sarah Page, Prospect’s health & safety officer, highlighted the impact that change, if not managed effectively, could have on the health of workers and the finances of organisations. The conference enabled those attending to share their experiences and hear from the experts as Dr Paul Lichfield, chief medical officer, BT Group on successful initiatives to improve mental well-being. Lynda Armstrong also highlighted the work done by E.On UK, a British Safety Council member, through health surveillance to detect and address early signs of work related ill health.

Easy peasy PPE

16 Mar

This afternoon I was in a school with a group of drama students. We’re starting to work on a very special secret safety mission. Part of the brief was to show several safety videos… And this one is such a cracker, I thought I’d share it with you too…