Archive | August, 2011

Nigel Bryson to examine worker involvement at the Health and Safety ’11 show in Edinburgh

30 Aug

The greater the worker involvement, the better the health, safety and business performance of organisations. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is so convinced of the evidence supporting this statement, that worker involvement is one of its current top three priority issues. Britain’s safety regulator also made increasing worker involvement one of the central aims of its revised Health and Safety Strategy in 2009.

As workers are often referred to as an organisation’s ‘greatest asset’ it could be assumed their employers treat them accordingly. Yet HSE estimates that 60% – yes, the majority – of workers are not consulted over health and safety when they should be. Consultation is the minimum legal duty on employers with regards to worker involvement. This means that large numbers of employers in Great Britain are missing out on a huge opportunity to improve their health and safety efficiency. They are also breaking the law, of course, by not consulting their staff.

Research for the government on worker engagement published in 2009 concluded that if the performance of the workforce is central to the success of an organisation, “whether or not the workforce is positively encouraged to perform at its best should be a prime consideration for every leader and manager, and be placed at the heart of business strategy”. Worker involvement should therefore be at the heart of business strategy, but 60% of employees in Great Britain are not even permitted the minimum legal consultation rights over their health and safety!

This situation must change if employers are going to get the best out of their workforce and overcome the many challenges facing organisations in the current recession. People support what they help create. At the Health and Safety ’11 – Scotland show in Edinburgh on the 8 September 2011 I will outline how organisations have successfully transformed their health, safety and business performance by greater worker involvement. Please come along and hear more – attendance is free (see www.healthandsafetyevents.co.uk).

For those not able to get to Edinburgh my book Zero Harm Worker Involvement – the missing piece! covers the topic in detail and is available to order through the following website www.workerinvolvement.co.uk

About our guest blogger

Nigel Bryson is a health and safety consultant who specialises in helping companies improve their health, safety and business performance through better worker involvement. He is a former director of health and environment at the GMB trade union and has many years of experience in the field of health and safety.

He can be contacted at nigel@brysonconsulting.co.uk and will be on hand to answer questions on worker involvement following his talk at the Health and Safety ’11 – Scotland exhibition, where the British Safety Council is running a series of free educational seminars.

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No more excuses

24 Aug

So health and safety has been in the news again today, but this time it seems to be for all the right reasons. HSE released its top 10 most bizarre health and safety excuses from this year earlier today, prompting a lot of tweeting from ourselves and our followers. At one stage it was even in the top 10 most popular stories on the BBC’s website.

We at the British Safety Council have long been campaigning for sensible safety, but health and safety has developed a bad reputation over the years. “Someone’s got a paper cut…quick call the health and safety police” is a joke I’ve heard in the past when I’ve mentioned I work for a health and safety organisation. And more recently it has become the excuse for banning the most silly of things. People are no longer to bump in bumper cars? Have you heard anything more bizarre?

Reading HSE’s list of 10, I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself at the ridiculousness of these stories. But on a serious note, it is these stories that are giving health and safety a bad name and detracting from the very serious message we are trying to get across.

Following the release of the list, employment minister Chris Grayling warned that “an epidemic of excuses wrongly citing health and safety is needlessly curtailing people’s personal freedoms”. We wholeheartedly support Chris Grayling’s efforts to highlight the needless application of health and safety laws to ban or restrict day-to-day activities. People should challenge health and safety myths and overzealous practices and take the common sense approach.

Alex Botha, our chief executive, said in a statement today: “We need to think in terms of sensible safety and dispel the harmful myths that have grown up and which trivialise a serious issue through the banning of perfectly reasonable and low risk activities. We should be able to enjoy ourselves at work or at play without being tied up in red tape and unacceptable bureaucracy; and without sweeping away regulations that are there to make our schools and our workplaces as safe as necessary. 

“Our work with members and the wider business community demonstrates that good health and safety really is good business and it’s this positive message the British Safety Council will press to help bust these myths once and for all.”

Read HSE’s list of 10 most bizarre health and safety bans: http://www.hse.gov.uk/news/bizarre-bans/index.htm

On the road to reducing injuries

24 Aug

I’m late for work. On a normal day I’d be whizzing along the dual carriageway, sticking to the speed limit of course. Instead, I’ve moved about 200 yards in half an hour. The reason? Roadworks.

As I pass the workers busily resurfacing the road I realise that their job is one I could never do. There’s just a thin barrier of cones between the workers and my car, the driver behind me is on his phone and I don’t think he’s noticed the workers walking around just feet away from his vehicle. These workers are literally putting their lives in the hands of me and ‘phone guy’ – relying on us to drive safely through the roadworks so they can go home and see their families at the end of a long shift.

I had the opportunity to interview John O’Keefe – health, safety and environmental director for highways maintenance company EnterpriseMouchel – a few weeks ago, and the reality of the dangers that workers face really hit home. “When our people are working on the road network, they are at risk of people who fall asleep at the wheel, those who are drunk or on the phone, and these can all result in accidents. That’s our biggest concern and we rely on them to drive safely in order for us to stay safe,” he told me.

According to John, there have been occasions where people have either not seen or have purposefully disregarded the company’s roadworks and have steamed on through regardless. “There have also been issues with cyclists, particularly in London, who often feel safer in our closed off works area than they do on the highway,” he explains. “I can understand their mentality, but that puts our workers at risk in our own working area. The main challenge we face is keeping the public safe in relation to the work we’re doing while keeping our own workers safe in a protected zone.”

The company is currently trialling a ‘cone intrusion system’ which is effectively a warning system if the line of defence is broken. “If someone comes through our barrier of cones, an alarm will sound. It might be a minimal warning but it might give workers just enough time to get out of the way,” adds John. As part of its ongoing trial of this concept, the company is experimenting with various types of detection including the use of laser technology and investigating the fitting of personal alarms that will trigger in addition to audible warnings.

So next time you’re stuck in traffic due to roadworks, spare a thought for the workers risking their lives to make the roads safer for us. Having previously been frustrated at having to slow down to 40mph and merge into one lane on a motorway, I now realise that the restrictions are there for a reason.

Read my full article on EnterpriseMouchel in the September issue of Safety Management.

Mark Thomas asks: can slips and trips be prevented?

23 Aug

Statistics show that slips and trips are the most common cause of major injuries in UK workplaces, costing UK society around £600m a year. Reported accidents to workers for 2009/10 reveal that slips and trips resulted in four fatalities, 10,561 major injuries (41% of all major injuries) and 23,088 over-3-day injuries (23% of the total). They also accounted for just under 40% of all reportable injuries to members of the public, and are often the initial cause of other accidents, such as falls from height.

However, despite efforts from HSE and others in recent years – including large publicity campaigns, such as Shattered Lives (http://www.hse.gov.uk/shatteredlives) – the accident figures remain stubbornly high. So, can the problem be solved or are slips and trips ‘just one of those things that happen’ and for which ‘nothing can be done about them anyway’?

On question that needs to be asked is why are slips and trips rarely, if ever, covered on health and safety vocational training courses? Two years ago HSE developed a useful e-learning package on slips and trips (STEP) aimed at managers, supervisors and shopfloor staff – is it being used to train people in your workplace?

In addition, although there are European Standards on flooring and footwear many are beginning to question if these are adequate, given there are so many slipping accidents. Are employers able to easily identify the appropriate type of flooring for their workplace from manufacturers’ literature? If you find yourself charged with buying slip-resistant flooring, do you understand all the slip test data that manufacturers and suppliers quote for their products?

And if the European Standard for slip-resistant footwear is up to scratch why do nearly 40% of reportable slips and trips occur in sectors where workers already wear safety boots?

On the other hand, many slipping accidents are caused by inappropriate cleaning – smooth floors being left wet after mopping, for example. Surely this is a simple problem to solve? What are your thoughts?

There are some success stories quoted in HSE’s Shattered Lives campaign, where companies have reduced slips and trips. Have you got a successful intervention on slips and trips that others could learn from? And what effect will the planned 35% cut to HSE’s budget have on the UK’s efforts to prevent  slips and trips at work?

If you want to learn more about this subject, watch out for my article in the September edition of Safety Management magazine, landing on doorsteps in the coming days.

About our guest blogger

Mark Thomas is a consultant on slips and trips who previously worked as a policy adviser for HSE’s slips and trips team. He can be contacted at: markslippythomas@hotmail.co.uk

The sad loss of an influential safety campaigner

19 Aug

We were sad to hear the news that Diana Lamplugh OBE died this week after suffering a stroke.

Following the disappearance of her daughter, Suzy, in 1986, Diana and her husband, Paul, founded the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which became a well-known national charity for personal safety.

The aim of the trust is to raise the awareness of the importance of personal safety and highlight the risks people face while offering advice, action and support to minimise those risks. It also provides training courses on personal safety, particularly for lone workers.

After setting up the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Diana campaigned successfully for the licensing of minicabs; safer car parks, train and tube stations; and for stalking to be recognised as a criminal offence. The charity works with the government, police, public bodies and businesses to encourage better personal safety.

Diana was forced to retire from the Suzy Lamplugh Trust after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease following a massive stroke in 2003. Her husband, Paul, also retired but became a trustee of the charity.

Diana and Paul were both awarded OBEs for their work for the charity and were jointly awarded the Beacon Prize for leadership for their work in raising awareness of personal safety and addressing the causes and solutions to violence and aggression in society.

Suzy Lamplugh, a 25 year old estate agent, disappeared in 1986 after she went to meet a client, known as Mr Kipper, and show him around a house in Fulham, west London. Reports say she was seen arguing with the man before getting into a car with him. Her body has never been found. She was officially declared dead, presumed murdered in 1994.

It’s a shame Diana never received any justice for her daughter’s disappearance, and never really discovered what happened to her. However, she can be proud of the fact that her campaigning has helped thousands of other lone workers keep safe in vulnerable situations.

We hope the Suzy Lamplugh Trust continues with its fantastic work and our thoughts are with Diana’s family at this sad time.

To find out more about the Suzy Lamplugh Trust visit www.suzylamplugh.org

Just three weeks until the best health and safety expo and conference in Scotland – register now for your free place and build your CPD points

18 Aug

Health and Safety ’11 Scotland taking place on 7-8 September at the Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston, Edinburgh, is a must attend health and safety event. More than 50 major providers and suppliers of health and safety products and services will be attending and ready to answer your questions concerning how better to manage the risk of injury and ill health in your organisation.

Increasingly health and safety practitioners, working across a range of professions and occupations, are seeing the health and safety exhibitions as an essential part of building their knowledge, developing their competence and keeping abreast of fast changing health and safety policy and law.

The speaker line up for the eight education seminars taking place over the two days is impressive. Dr Paul Stollard, HSE’s director for Scotland, Laura Cameron, one of the country’s leading health and safety lawyers and partner at McGrigors LLP and Ian Tasker from the Scottish TUC are just three of the speakers.

The British Safety Council is honoured to be partnering the seminar programme once again.  I look forward to seeing you in Edinburgh.

Register now at http://www.eventdata.co.uk/Forms/Default.aspx?FormRef=Hea91Visitor

HSE Board: Decisions on RIDDOR etc

17 Aug

http://www.hse.gov.uk/aboutus/meetings/hseboard/2011index.htm

A substantial discussion with some significant decisions. At the top of the list, the HSE Board agreed to change the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases, Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR), following a consultation earlier in the year. Under the current system, employers have to report to HSE if a worker is off work for more than 3 days due to a work-related accident/ill health. The change will make this over 7 days. It will also move the obligation to report to 15 days from the date of the accident (from 11 currently).

The Board discussion highlighted differences of opinion. Although response to the consultation (776 responses, including by the British Safety Council) was 2:1 in favour of the change, some thought that the change will have little impact. The duty to record any 3 day accident under RIDDOR remains, and some thought that little was gained by moving reporting to 7 days – the burden is slight, and useful information on accidents causing up to 7 days absence will be lost, diminishing the quality of stats on health and safety. In contrast, others highlighted that this is the view of the majority who were consulted and many SME’s don’t have a dedicated health and safety officer – the change will be significant for them. It was also pointed out that there was strong support for the change by health and safety professionals and safety reps.

In the end the Board’s decision was to support the change to RIDDOR (leading to change in the law in April 2012). However there will be a clear message to employers that recording is vital (and remains for over 3 day), and that HSE will be watching closely for any negative impact and review the decision in 2 years.  

Other highlights included a discussion on the latest fatality statistics for 2010/2011 – 171 fatalities (provisional), against 147 from 2009/2010. Although graphs show the trend is downward, some members pointed out that when adjusted for numbers of people in work at the time of recession, the statistics have flat-lined. Re-emphasis is needed to drive further improvements (though there remains a budget freeze on HSE campaigns). These numbers need to be put in the context of far greater deaths caused by occupational disease (exposure to dust, asbestos etc), and the Board will consider a further paper on this in November. Plus, the sectors in the spot-light – agriculture, waste/recycling, construction and manufacturing – confirms its strategic priorities.

Other agreements: a high level summit for leaders in waste and recycling by the end of the year to drive improvements in a challenging environment, marked by high levels of migrant and agency workers. Construction is making progress, but more needs to be done on occupational health issues – the good work of the ODA needs to be publicised and spread; and HSE will report to the Board on its review of Construction Design and Management (CDM) Regulations.