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HSE launch “Go Home Healthy” campaign

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched a new occupational awareness campaign at their first annual conference on 18 September.

“Go Home Healthy” is aimed at a wide audience, from employers, managers and employees, to industry sector bodies, and aims to spread an overarching message that leads to specific guidance and information on the HSE's three priority areas:

  • occupational lung disease;
  • musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs); and
  • work-related stress.

The campaign centres on a website that links to videos and case studies on the three focal themes. The title “Go Home Healthy” is said to represent  the overall goal and “promise” rather than simply encouraging workers to consider their own health risks. There's also a sub-theme, which urges employers to “shine a light” on the hazards in their organisations, and to “do the right thing”, expressed by the Twitter hashtag #workright.

For more information, see:

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Heavy fine after fork lift truck death

On 10 February 2015, 19-year-old Ben Pallier-Singleton died after the fork lift truck (FLT) he was driving down a sloping roadway at night time overturned at his employer's site in Chinley, Derbyshire. Although Ben was not wearing a seatbelt at the time, his employer Vinyl Compound- a waste management company based in Derbyshire- did not train him properly, as found by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Vinyl Compound have been held liable and hence had to pay a £450,000 fine and a costs total of £71,778,20.

After the sentencing hearing, Ben's devastated mother, described Ben as the “shining light” of their family, only at “the start of his life”. HSE inspector Brian Price explained that the fatal incident could have been avoided, had the company adequately trained staff, put sufficient lighting or edge protection in place, informed employees of the on-site speed limit, and put speed control measures in place. Price describes Ben's death as “needless”; a direct result of Vinyl Compound's failures.

Vinyl Compound pleaded guilty to a breach of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations SI 1999/3242, and the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

For more information, see:

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Major acid leak in Hull

A major acid leak in Hull has caused a “vapour cloud” over residential areas, sparking concern.

The leak stemmed from a tank containing 580 tonnes of hydrochloric acid at the King George dock on the evening of 18 September. Fifty firefighters responded to the incident.

Residents of the area were not evacuated and instead advised to stay indoors with doors and windows shut.

Details are still emerging from this incident and will be reported on when released.

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Viridor and Sheffield University’s robotics project may improve plant safety and efficiency

Viridor, a UK-wide recycling, renewable energy and waste management company, have been working closely with the University of Sheffield's robotics team for two years. Within this technological partnership's existence, various robots have been produced which may positively effect current plant safety and efficiency measures.

This combined robotics project, is hoped to produce a working robot onsite in one of Viridor's Material Recycling Facilities (MRFs) within a year. This robot will hopefully execute a 'quality control picker' role, according to Viridor's development manager and co-ordinator of technology and innovation Mr Marcus Du Pree Thomas. He has expressed his excitement for the project's future progression, and adds that the project is the first project in which a waste company has worked with academia. Du Pree Thomas adds that that the robot will not only identify an object in the waste stream, but it will identify objects in the way we receive them. For instance, a crushed metal can will be identified as such rather than just a metal can. Toxins, both inside and outside objects, must be spotted. Du Pree Thomas believes that the only way for complex challenges of waste management tasks to be fully understood by institutions like the Univeristy of Sheffield, is by their team working and hence learning from us.

According to Viridor, this project will not only have particular and practical applications, but important health and safety applications too (which the university agree with). These health and safety applications are believed to arise due to the broad range of materials in the waste stream, like gas cannisters. The project largely focuses on sensor technology, to identify single components in a complex array of materials and spot non-target materials within the feed. One precise aim of the work is to recognize non-target materials from the feed into the MRF, hence preventing harm to the facility. Both the University & Viridor examined which type of robotics or ‘cobotics’ (i.e. a combination of robotics but with human intervention) was most appropriate for the task, with Viridor stating that robotics are the preferred technological choice.

The project's future advancement is not definite, but Viridor may potentially use hive robots to find and separate a certain material from a pile of waste. In their most recent report to Viridor, Sheffield Robotics team emphasised organized separation of materials as the recycling plant's main goal. The University of Sheffield’s senior research fellow Dr Jonathan Aitken, from the automatic control and systems engineering department, believes that autonomous robotics provides a reliable way to safely prevent harmful products before they are separated, hence avoiding the risk of plant damage, which Viridor say is currently expensive to manage. Aitken believes that combining robotics and intelligent sensing would give more information at source, as the robots would be able to show potential problems and identify key markers when waste is received even when these markers are hidden deep underneath other waste.

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Roofing contractor given suspended prison sentence

A roofing contractor has been given an eight-month prison sentence suspended for two years and ordered to complete 200 hours of community service for safety breaches after workers were left at risk of falling from unprotected roof edges. The breaches had been noticed by health and safety staff who saw the unsafe scaffolding from their office window.

Leeds Crown Court heard that in November 2015 C Smith Roofing was contracted to carry out repairs on the roof of a Guest House in Northallerton. Although scaffolding was erected along the full length of the front of the property, the company did not take into account the presence of a conservatory at the rear, which meant that only a partial scaffold was constructed. This left approximately two thirds of the rear roof edge unprotected.

In February 2016 nearby health and safety risk managers at North Yorkshire County Council had concerns about the safety of two workers on the roof as there were inadequate fall measures in place. The two workers under the control of Mr Smith were at risk of falling seven metres from the unprotected edge. Mr Smith pleaded guilty to breaching the Work at Height Regulations SI 2005/735. In addition to the sentence, he was ordered to pay £5800 costs.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector Tania Shiffer commented: “Work at height, such as roof work, is a high-risk activity that accounts for a high proportion of workplace serious injuries and fatalities each year.” She went on to say that this is “a good example of HSE working closely with local authority partners.”

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New Year, new Ionising Radiation Regulations

A September board meeting of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has revealed new Ionising Radiation Regulations, which will apply to workplaces where radioactive substances and electrical equipment emitting ionising radiation are used.

The new Regulations will replace the Ionising Radiations Regulations SI 1999/3232, in order to implement Directive 2013/59/EURATOM, on basic safety standards for protection against the dangers arising from exposure to ionising radiation, which covers public, occupational and medical exposures to ionising radiation.

Between February and April, the HSE carried out an eight week consultation on how to implement the legislation. It highlighted two proposed major changes, including a reduction in the dose limit for exposure to the lens of the eye. The second change is the introduction of a “graded approach”, which is a new three tiered risk-based system of regulatory control. This will involve the HSE implementing an authorisation system, which grants permission for higher risk activities through a system of registration and licensing. The higher the radiation risk that comes with the work in question, the greater the regulatory requirements.

The reaction to the consultation was good, with 129 responses, mainly from the nuclear and medical sectors. They backed plans for new Regulations, which will maintain the calculation and assessment of exposure to ionising radiation on a yearly basis, which has been in place for over 30 years. Respondents also generally found the revised ACOP about as easy to understand as the current ACOP.

It is hoped that the new Regulations will come into force on 1 January 2018.

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Almost a third of fit notes related to mental health

An NHS study has shown that almost one third of fit notes relate to mental health conditions. A massive 31.3% of fit notes with a known diagnosis were for mental and behavioural disorders in 2016 to 17 compared to 18% for diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue.

The research covered data on electronic fit notes issued in GP practices throughout England over 28 months from December 2014 to March 2017. Data showed that more than five million people are being signed off work every year.

Mental health and behavioural conditions were the most common by far, with a 14% rise in notes relating to anxiety and stress in one year. The length of a fit note also varied depending on the reason for it, with 21.5% of mental and behavioural episodes lasting more than 12 weeks.

The head of the NHS, Simon Stevens commented:

“These figures explain why the NHS is now putting mental health front and centre… When it comes to mental health, what's good for patients is also good for taxpayers, because untreated mental health problems directly affect work, unemployment and benefits”.

The research also showed that one fit note per 48 patients aged 18 to 65 years, were issued by GPs on average each month.

6.5% of fit notes reported were classified as “may be fit for work”, with four out of five of these recommending an adaptation in the workplace, working hours or duties to help adjustment back into work.

The report has been taken from the introduction of the new “Statement of Fitness for Work” system by the Department of Work and Pensions. It was intended to encourage employees back to work more quickly, by improving access to treatment and finding ways to ensure pressures were manageable.

Dr Steve Mowle, spokesperson for the Royal College of GPs stated:

“We know that working is beneficial for our patient's long term physical and mental health and wellbeing, and we need a society-wide approach, including involvement from employers, to put measures in place to get people back into work, where possible, safely and appropriately.”

In the future, NHS Digital plan to publish similar data on a quarterly basis in October, January, April and July.

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New study indicates link between artificial light and breast cancer

A study conducted between 1989 and 2013 suggests women who are exposed to large amounts of artificial light could be 14% more likely to develop breast cancer, with those working night shifts at highest risk.

The study, the Nurses' Health Study II, was conducted by researchers from Harvard university's TH Chan School of Public Health who analysed data from 109, 672 women, making it the largest study into breast cancer and night shifts.

A large number of lifestyle risk factors were taken into consideration including the working hours of female nurses and the home addresses of each study participant were linked with data from satellite images of earth taken at night.

The study, published on 17 August 2017, found breast cancer rates increased as participant's exposure to outdoor light at night increased. There was an estimated 14% increased risk of breast cancer in the top fifth of exposure compared with the lowest fifth of exposure.

The association between outdoor light at night and breast cancer was found only among women who had not yet reached menopause, and those who were past or current smokers. The link between light at night and breast cancer risk was also more prominent among women who had worked night shifts.

The study gave the following conclusion:

“This prospective study, conducted over 22 year of follow-up with time-varying and objective measures of ambient LAN (light at night) across the contiguous United States, provides evidence that women living in areas with high levels of outdoor LAN may be at higher risk of breast cancer even after accounting for individual and area-level risk factors for breast cancer. Although further work is required to confirm our results and to clarify potential mechanisms, our findings suggest that exposure to outdoor light at night may contribute to breast cancer risk.”

Lead author of the study, Peter James summarised:

“In our modern industrialised society, artificial lighting is nearly ubiquitous. Our results suggest that this widespread exposure to outdoor lights during night time hours could represent a novel risk factor for breast cancer.”

The researchers admitted the study had limitations such as possible exposure misclassification due to missing satellite data and data processing errors, but also argued it had many strengths such as the longevity of the study.

Earlier studies have indicated that melatonin, a hormone produced in the human brain, appears to suppress the growth of breast cancer tumours, but exposure to light may decrease its levels, disrupting circadian rhythms and, in turn, lead to increased breast cancer risk.

The link between breast cancer and night shift work has been widely debated and in 2007 the International Agency for Research on Cancer which is part of the World Health Organization classified night shift work as a “probable carcinogen”.

Since then, however, a study commissioned by the Health and Safety Executive from October 2016 found that night shift work had no or little effect on breast cancer.

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HSA announces changes to recognition of First Aid Response Education and Training Standard

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) in the Republic of Ireland has announced that as and from 31 December 2017, only the Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council (PHECC) First Aid Response Education and Training Standard (FAR) will be recognised as meeting the needs of Occupational First Aid (OFA) in all workplaces.

The HSA had previously announced that it would only recognise the PHECC FAR standard as and from 1 September 2017. Following concerns expressed by employer groups and other stakeholders regarding aspects of the FAR standard in comparison to Quality and Qualifications Ireland's 5N1207 OFA standard, the HSA has decided that dual recognition of QQI 5N1207 and PHECC FAR should continue for a further four months.

The HSA will recognise training and assessment in relation to QQI 5N1207 as well as refresher certificates issued by recognised training providers. This recognition will last for a two year period, following which existing occupational first aiders can apply for an individual assessment of their qualifications by a participating PHECC recognised institution, in accordance with the institution's recognition of prior learning policy and procedures.

The FAR Standard provides for recognition of prior learning, enabling the transition of OFA instructors to FAR. OFA instructors who have not done so should apply to a PHECC recognised institution for an assessment of their qualifications in order to become FAR certified.

Considerable progress has been made in the transition, as there are a substantial number of new FAR instructors. This number is made up of existing OFA instructors who have made the transition to FAR status through recognition of prior learning, as well as successful candidates who have completed the FAR instructor course.

Editor's note

Wondering why we're covering Republic of Ireland legislation? Watch this space…

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Company fined 450k after death of employee

A company based in Derbyshire have been handed a £450,000 fine for the death of a 19 year old employee.

Ben Pallier-Singleton died when the forklift he was operating overturned, inflicting fatal crushing injuries, in February 2015.

The Health and Safety Executive's (HSE) investigation found that Mr Pallier-Singleton was driving the vehicle at night on a “sloping” road. He was not wearing a seatbelt.

The HSE found, during the investigation, Vinyl Compound did not inform employees of the site speed limit, and they did not have adequate lighting and protection in place to prevent overturning.

Vinyl Compound Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations SI 1999/3242.

HSE inspector Berian Price said: “This tragic incident could have easily been prevented. The company's management of fork lift truck driving operations and its failure to provide various measures to ensure the safety of the external yard area coupled with the lack of safe driver measures, such as wearing a seat belt, exposed employees to serious safety risks. Sadly, in this case, these failures resulted in the needless loss of Mr Pallier-Singleton's life.”

For more information see, the:

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