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Pallet safety – fish processing firm fined after man killed by falling boxes

A Plymouth company has been fined £500,000 after an employee suffered fatal injuries when a stack of boxes of frozen fish fell on him.

The employee was helping to clear up a fallen stack of frozen fish boxes in one of the cold store areas when there was another fall of stock which struck him. He received multiple and severe injuries which proved fatal.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive into the incident, which occurred in 2013, found there was no safe system of work or instruction to staff on how pallets should be stored. There was no written procedure for dealing with falls of stock when they occurred.

HSE inspector Emma O’Hara said after the hearing: “Safe stacking of stock is a cross-industry necessity and can often be overlooked when considering safe systems of work. Duty holders need to ensure that they are stacking safely and that they have a plan for dealing with any unforeseen circumstances such as a fall of stock.”

Pallet safety


This guidance covers general-purpose flat pallets, which can be manufactured from a variety of materials. Pallets are used widely throughout industry, and this practical advice is for two audiences:

  • those who have responsibilities for buying and using pallets as a base for assembling, storing, handling and transporting goods and loads;
  • those who have responsibilities for the design and manufacture of pallets.

It tells buyers what they should ask designers and manufacturers to consider when designing a pallet. It also recommends how both new and used pallets should be used and inspected.

Relevant legislation

The use of work equipment such as pallets is covered by the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER).  This includes a requirement for work equipment to be ‘constructed or adapted as to be suitable for the purpose for which it is used or provided’, as well as meeting maintenance and inspection requirements.

Your risk assessment, required by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, should cover the hazards and risks from using and stacking pallets in the workplace. It should include not only the risks to employees but also any others at risk, for example members of the public or contractors visiting the workplace.

What is the legal definition of a pallet?

A pallet is defined in BS ISO 445 as follows:

‘a horizontal platform of minimum height compatible with handling by pallet trucks, and/or forklift trucks and other appropriate handling equipment, used as a base for assembling, storing, handling and transporting goods and loads in factories, warehouses etc’.

It may be constructed with, or fitted with, a superstructure.

The accident record

Pallets are heavy, so when accidents occur they tend to be serious. Falling pallets have caused a number of fatal accidents but the risks posed by falling pallets are often not fully appreciated. Most accidents could be prevented by developing and following safe working practices.

Accidents directly attributable to pallets are usually caused by:

  • poor design, construction or repair;
  • using inferior materials;
  • using a pallet which is unsuitable for a particular load, handling or storage method, eg pallets taken at random from a ‘mixed bag’ of used pallets for which the original specification is not known;
  • unsafe stacking resulting in falling stacks or pallets;
  • handling problems caused by mixing smaller Europallets (800 mm x 1200 mm) with larger UK pallets (1200 mm x 1000 mm) in racking systems. The smaller pallet may fall from the rack beams or be displaced by the larger pallet;
  • continuing to use a damaged pallet;
  • bad handling techniques;
  • pallets being used in an unsuitable environment.


The majority of pallets are designed for moving a certain class or type of goods and are intended to be handled or stored in a particular way. For example:

  • a pallet designed for transporting cartons of cornflakes with a forklift truck and stored singly in racking is unlikely to be suitable for goods such as cans of paint lifted by a bar sling or multiple stacking;
  • a pallet designed specifically to carry evenly distributed loads, such as cartons of cornflakes or sheet paper, will not be strong enough to carry concentrated loads such as an electric motor of the same weight. The design parameters should ensure that a pallet is of adequate strength for the purpose intended, particularly if it is to be used with a variety of loads, handling and storage methods.

Pallet design considerations

Most manufacturers produce basic pallet designs suitable for general duties.

However, user requirements can differ widely and these basic designs may not satisfy some customers’ requirements. Good communications between the pallet manufacturer and user are essential to ensure the pallet construction is suitable for its intended use.

It is recommended that, where possible, the pallet design should satisfy the requirements of the appropriate British Standards (BS ISO 6780: 2003, BS EN ISO 8611-1:2012, BS EN ISO 8611-2:2012 and BS EN ISO 8611-3:2012).

The designer needs to know the following information to make sure the pallet is suitable for its intended use:

Pallet loads

  • The type of loads to be carried, for example if they are solid, liquid, powder, packed in drums, sacks, cartons etc
  • If the loads have any characteristics likely to damage the pallets, such as having corrosive properties
  • The weight of the loads and how they are distributed on the pallet, ie evenly over the whole surface or concentrated at one point
  • If there is a recommended way for the load to be placed on the pallet and the consequences if this is not followed
  • The requirements for the safe transportation of the loads, ie if the surface friction between the pallet and the load is adequate or if additional restraint will be required

Pallet environment 

  • Where the pallet will be used, for example in cold-store, outdoors, indoors, chemical works, or drying rooms
  • If the pallet will be used in an environment which has high or low temperatures or high humidity

Pallet movement

  • If the pallet is to be moved by pallet truck, forklift truck, cranes with fork attachments, bar slings, or automated stacking equipment – also if any conveyors are to be used
  • If two-way or four-way entry is needed
  • If the pallets will be lifted under their baseboards, eg as in storage and retrieval machines

Stacking loaded pallets – height and weight considerations

  • When pallets are stacked, think about the load on the bottom pallet and the capacity of the baseboards of each pallet when it comes to spreading the load. This should ensure that the payload does not distort over time, making the stack unstable. Such distortion is called ‘creep deflection’
  • This sort of distortion can take place with various payloads, such as the deflection of plastics, powder settling in bags and the weakening of cardboard boxes due to moisture

Pallet racking

  • The type of racking to be used, eg shelf, beam, or drive-in-racking and if pallet support bars are fitted
  • Drive-in racking places considerable stress on a pallet if it is stored with the longest dimension across the rack span. The shortest dimension should therefore be used
  • The dimension span between vertical beams of the drive-in-racking, as this must be compatible with the design of the pallet. Pallet support beams must be wide enough to support a pallet positioned off-centre and close to one side of the rack opening.

Pallet reuse

  • If the pallets are to be non-returnable/disposable or if they are intended to be reusable ‘durable’ equipment

Pallet transportation

  • The dimensions of the vehicles or containers that will carry the pallets

Pallet size

  • Where possible, pallet sizes should follow those recommended in BS ISO 6780: 2003

Pallet management planning

Problems can be caused by a user selecting a pallet at random from a pallet store on the premises, without thinking of what it is being used for. Here are some recommendations to help you promote both effective and safe usage in your pallet management plan.

Stability of the load

Pallets should be loaded to an established pattern designed to achieve maximum stability and safety within the rated load of the pallet. Loads should be applied gradually and, unless the pallet has been specifically designed for point loading, should as far as possible be uniformly distributed over the deck area.

Height of the load

As a general guide, the height of the load should not exceed the longest base dimension of the pallet. Shrink- or stretchwrapping the load usually provides greater security, minimising the possibility of movement of the goods being moved. With these techniques you can safely transport loads taller than the longest base dimension of the pallet. This will result in palletised loads that are around the internal height of closed vehicles or freight containers.

Plastic pallets

Plastic pallets have slippery surfaces and extra measures may be needed to secure the goods to them during transportation and to ensure that empty plastic pallet stacks are stable. Special attention is required when transporting plastic pallets by forklift truck as they are extremely slippery and potentially unstable on the forklift’s tines.

If palletised loads are to be stacked directly on top of each other, provide a firm base on the floor and on top of the preceding pallet load.

Deciding on a safe stacking height

When deciding on a safe stacking height, the pallet user should take into account:

  • information from the pallet manufacturer – this is particularly important for plastic pallets. All safe loading information should use the terminology defined in BS EN ISO 445;
  • the support characteristics of the pallets payload – get information from the payload supplier where necessary;
  • local conditions/stacking pattern.

Stacks should be checked periodically, as stability depends on the type and shape of the load and on prevailing humidity and temperature conditions.

Stack height depends on the height, strength and stability of the unit loads, and the ability of the operator to see clearly. Only build taller stacks after detailed consultation with the manufacturer or other competent authority, and the maximum height should be no more than six times the narrowest dimension of the bottom pallet. This is provided that:

  • you have carefully assessed the block stacking pattern and the compression characteristics of the payload;
  • the pallet itself is designed to meet the stacking height required.

For more information, including compression hazards, handling layout, and pallet use/maintenance/inspection, download the HSE guidance note free by clicking on the link: or visit the HSE Warehousing web page: Alternatively, contact us on 07896 016380 or at, and we’ll be happy to help.

Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence




We hope you find our news updates useful. If you know of anyone who may benefit from reading them, please encourage them to register at the bottom-left of our news page ( and we’ll email them a link each time an update is published. If in the unlikely event any difficulties are experienced whilst registering we’ll be more than happy to help and can be contacted on 07896 016380 or at

Electrical safety at work – worker suffers serious injury from contact with overhead power line

A stonemasonry company in Perth has been fined £16,000 after an apprentice stonemason was seriously injured from contact with an overhead power line.

Perth Sheriff Court heard how the 20 year old apprentice was working for the stonemasonry company, carrying out repairs at a cottage in Perth.

During this work, he erected a tower scaffold to carry out some re-pointing work.

While on the scaffold he came into contact with overhead 240volt electricity power lines that were supplying the cottage. The wind caused the power line to brush against his back causing him to turn around instinctively and grab the live wire. The flow of the current meant he was unable to let go for a few seconds until he jumped down from the board on the tower scaffold. His weight broke the wire and interrupted the flow of current.

He received an electric shock and suffered burns to both hands requiring graft surgery and a possible future amputation of a little finger.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident which occurred on 2 August 2012 found that the stone masonry company should have developed a safe system of work.

Overhead power lines

What you need to know

Accidental contact with live overhead power lines kills people and causes many serious injuries every year. People are also harmed when a person or object gets too close to a line and a flashover occurs. Work involving high vehicles or long equipment is particularly high risk, such as;

In Construction – Lorry mounted cranes (such as Hiabs), Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWP’s), scaffold poles, tipper vehicles, cranes, ladders;

In Agriculture – combines, sprayer booms, materials handlers, tipper vehicles, ladders, irrigation pipes, polytunnels; Remember:

  • going close to a live overhead line can result in a flashover that may kill. Touching a power line is not necessary for danger;
  • voltages lower than 230 volts can kill and injure people;
  • do not mistake overhead power lines on wooden poles for telephone wires; and
  • electricity can bypass wood, plastic or rubber, if it is damp or dirty, and cause fatal shocks. Don’t rely on gloves or rubber boots to protect you.

You can download a free leaflet called “Safe working near overhead power lines in agriculture”:

The guidance note “Avoiding danger from overhead power lines” describes how to work safely near overhead power lines in a range of industries:

The Electricity Networks Association (ENA) publications:

  • Safety Information for Farmers and Agricultural Contractors
  • Watch It! In the Vicinity of Overhead Lines
  • Safety Information for Farmers Utilising Polytunnels
  • Safe tree working in proximity to overhead electric lines ENA Engineering Recommendation G55/1
  • The ENA also provide advice on what to do if machinery comes into contact with an overhead power line.

What you need to do

Plan and manage work near electric overhead power lines so that risks from accidental contact or close proximity to the lines are adequately controlled.

Safety precautions will depend on the nature of the work and will be essential even when work near the line is of short duration.

Safety can be achieved by a combination of measures:

  • Planning and preparation
  • Eliminating the danger
  • Controlling the access
  • Controlling the work

Planning and preparation

The first step is to find out whether there is any overhead power line within or immediately next to the work area, or across any access route.

Information will be available from the local electricity supplier or Distribution Network Operator (DNO). If any overhead lines are found, you should assume that they are live unless proved otherwise by their owners.

If there are any overhead lines over the work area, near the site boundaries, or over access roads to the work area, consult the owners of the lines so that the proposed plan of work can be discussed.

Allow sufficient time for lines to be diverted or made dead, or for other precautions to be taken as described below.

Eliminating the danger

You can eliminate the danger by:

  • Avoidance – find out if the work really has to be carried out under or near overhead lines, and can’t be done somewhere else. Make sure materials (such as bales or spoil) are not placed near overhead lines, and temporary structures (such as polytunnels) are erected outside safe clearance distances;
  • Diversion – arrange for overhead lines to be diverted away from the work area; or Isolation – arrange for lines to be made dead while the work is being done.

In some cases you may need to use a suitable combination of these measures, particularly where overhead lines pass over permanent work areas.

If the danger cannot be eliminated, you should manage the risk by controlling access to, and work beneath, overhead power lines.

Controlling the access

Where there is no scheduled work or requirement for access under the lines, barriers should be erected at the correct clearance distance away from the line to prevent close approach. The safe clearance distance should be ascertained from the Distribution Network Operator (DNO). HSE guidance documents Avoidance of danger from overhead electric power lines and Electricity at Work: Forestry and Arboriculture also provide advice on safe clearance distances and how barriers should be constructed. Where there is a requirement to pass beneath the lines, defined passageways should be made.

The danger area should be made as small as possible by restricting the width of the passageway to the minimum needed for the safe crossing of plant. The passageway should cross the route of the overhead line at right angles if possible.

Controlling the work

If work beneath live overhead power lines cannot be avoided, barriers, goal posts and warning notices should be provided. Where field work is taking place it may be impractical to erect barriers and goal posts around the overhead lines – these are more appropriate for use at gateways, on tracks and at access points to farm yards.

The following precautions may also be needed to manage the risk:

  • Clearance – the safe clearance required beneath the overhead lines should be found by contacting the Distribution Network Operator (DNO);
  • Exclusion – vehicles, plant, machinery, equipment, or materials that could reach beyond the safe clearance distance should not be taken near the line;
  • Modifications – Vehicles such as cranes, excavators and tele-handlers should be modified by the addition of suitable physical restraints so that they cannot reach beyond the safe clearance distances, measures should be put in place to ensure these restraints are effective and cannot be altered or tampered with;
  • Maintenance – operators of high machinery should be instructed not carry out any work on top of the machinery near overhead power lines;
  • Supervision – access for plant and materials and the working of plant should be under the direct supervision of a suitable person appointed to ensure that safety precautions are observed.

What to do if you come into contact with an OHPL

  • If part of a vehicle or load is in contact with an OHPL, you should remain in the cab and inform the Distribution Network Operator (DNO) immediately (stick the number in a visible place in the cab and keep it on your mobile phone).
  • Warn others to stay away.
  • Try to drive clear. If this is not possible, and you need to leave the vehicle to escape fire, JUMP CLEAR – do not dismount by climbing down the steps.
  • Never try to disentangle equipment until the owner of the line has confirmed that it has been de-energised and made safe.

WARNING: Contact with an overhead power line may cause the power to ‘trip out’ temporarily and it may be re-energised automatically, without warning.

Your local Distribution Network Operator (DNO) can generally supply stickers describing emergency procedures and containing contact numbers that can be stuck in the cabs of vehicles likely to be used near overhead power lines.

The leaflet called Safe working near overhead power lines in agriculture and the Electricity Networks Association (ENA) publications Safety Information for Farmers and Agricultural Contractors and Watch It! In the Vicinity of Overhead Lines provide advice on what to do if machinery or equipment comes into contact with an overhead power line.

Find out more

Working safely near overhead power lines (

This 4 page information sheet gives lots of practical guidance on how to avoid danger when working near overhead power lines. It is aimed at those working in agriculture, but many of the principles described are applicable to other work activities. Topics covered include safe working distances from overhead lines, assessing and reducing the risks from overhead lines, use of barriers and goalposts, operating vehicles near overhead lines, ladders, and the safe stacking of materials.

Avoiding danger from overhead power lines:

General electrical information

The Simple Precautions ( and Frequently asked Questions ( web pages will help you to select the best guidance on working with electricity

Many other organisations provide information about electrical matters:

Information on accident statistics is also available from a number of sources:

For more information visit the HSE web page, or contact us on 07896 016380 or at, and we’ll be happy to help.

Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence




We hope you find our news updates useful. If you know of anyone who may benefit from reading them, please encourage them to register at the bottom-left of our news page ( and we’ll email them a link each time an update is published. If in the unlikely event any difficulties are experienced whilst registering we’ll be more than happy to help and can be contacted on 07896 016380 or at

Waste management and recycling machinery – worker fatally crushed by refuse collection vehicle – firms fined £815,000

Two companies have been fined a total of £815,000 after a worker and father-to-be was crushed to death in Lancashire by a refuse collection vehicle.

A recycling/waste company and bin wagon repair company both pleaded guilty and were sentenced at Preston Crown Court, after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The court heard that, in May 2014, during a refurbishment task at the repair company’s premises, an operative using the controls within the RCV’s cab closed the tailgate on the worker who was at the rear of the vehicle, fatally crushing him to death.

The RCV was supplied with in-cab controls for raising and lowering the tailgate. The system was designed such that it should not have been possible to completely close the tailgate using the in-cab controls, with a minimum gap of 1m being left between the bottom edges of the body and the tailgate. Examinations revealed a fault with the safety limit switch – it was found to be jammed in the actuated position resulting in it being possible to completely close the tailgate using the in-cab controls.

The HSE investigation found the fatal injury occurred due to a poor system of work at the repair company, derived from a lack of a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks, including failure to prop the tailgate adequately.

In addition, the recycling/waste company failed in its inspection regime, which did not systematically review the functionality of the 1m safety limit switch (a designated safety function) on relevant RCVs. Had the fault with the 1m safety limit switch been identified and rectified by the recycling/waste company, the poor system of work employed by the repair company would have been unable to result in the closure of the tailgate causing the entrapment of the worker.

An HSE inspector said after the hearing: “This tragic incident was entirely preventable.

“It is important for organisations to maintain safety critical devices so they function correctly. Additionally, if a company utilises a system of work which does not rely on the effectiveness of that safety device, but then employs a contractor to work on the machine, there should be an effectively communicated handover so both are aware of any limitations and how the machine could function.

“[The recycling/waste company’s] failure to include the functionality of a manufacturer-stated safety critical device on its RCVs in its maintenance regimes resulted in an inability to relay information to any third party about its presence and condition. Therefore it exposed non-employees to unnecessary risk and ultimately contributed to this appalling loss of life.

“Similarly, [the repair company’s] failure to implement a safe system of work for the maintenance of the RCV meant that any of its employees were exposed to the same risk. The lack of an adequate assessment of the risks of working around RCVs enabled the hazard of the non-functioning switch to materialize in the worst possible manner.

“As a result of the failings on behalf of both duty-holders, … a young man and father-to-be lost his life whilst going about his work.”

Waste management and recycling machinery


A wide variety of work equipment and machinery is used across the waste and recycling industry (eg conveyors, lifting equipment, waste baling and compacting machines). Every year, a significant proportion of accidents (many serious and sometimes fatal) occur as a result of poorly guarded work equipment or improper use (eg unsafe interventions such as clearing blockages, maintenance or repair activities being undertaken when machinery is running). To prevent and reduce the risk of serious or fatal injury adequate arrangements and systems of work are required.

Machinery related legislation

Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 [PUWER]:

These Regulations require that the equipment provided for use at work is: suitable for the intended use; safe for use; maintained in a safe condition and, in certain circumstances inspected to ensure this remains the case; used only by people who have received adequate information, instruction and training; and accompanied by suitable safety measures, eg protective devices, markings, warnings.

Providing and using work equipment safely: A brief guide:

Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 [LOLER]:

These Regulations require that lifting equipment provided for use at work is: strong and stable enough for the particular use; marked to indicate safe loading loads; positioned and installed to minimise any risks; used safely, ie the work is planned, organised and performed by competent people; and subject to ongoing through examination and, where appropriate, inspection by competent people.

Lifting equipment at work: A brief guide:

What can be done to reduce the risks?

Use the right equipment for the job:

Many accidents happen because people have not chosen the right equipment for the work to be done. Controlling the risk often means planning ahead and ensuring that suitable equipment or machinery is available.

  • Buying new machinery – A short guide to the law and some information on what to do for anyone buying new machinery for use at work:
  • Supplying new machinery – Explains the main health and safety requirements of the law, what you need to know about and what you can do in practice to meet the requirements:
  • Hiring out equipment – those who hire out work equipment are responsible for ensuring that the equipment is safe to use at the point of hire. The hirer should also make reasonable attempts to find out what the equipment will be used for and provide advice on how it should be used. The safe use of the equipment is the responsibility of the person who hires it.

Preventative actions:

  1. Risk assess your work activities and introduce (and maintain) safe systems of work for all the machinery in use. Useful information on safe systems of work for the use of balers and compactors can be found in Guidance for the recovered paper industry ( The underlying principles of this guidance can be applied to other machinery (eg, conveyors, shredders, trommels etc.) used in the waste and recycling industry.
  2. Ensure all fixed guards are in place (and are replaced after removal) and secured to ensure access to moving parts is not possible when the machine is in operation.
  3. During, cleaning, repair or maintenance activities inadvertent powered movement can be prevented by securely isolating the plant from power sources – usually the electricity supply, but can also involve hydraulic and pneumatic power, and take into account the dissipation of stored energy if applicable. Security (‘lock off’) can be provided by padlocks on electrical isolator switches, for instance, and multi-user padlocks can be provided if more than a single maintenance worker is involved.
  4. Further information on Machinery lock-off procedures has been produced by the Environmental Services Association (ESA):
  5. Permits to work can be utilised for more extensive plant, more complex management systems, and where entry into confined spaces may be required.
  6. Ensure operators have received appropriate information and training relating to the safe operation of machinery.

Other issues:

  • Access and work at height: falls can occur both when gaining access to places of work, and from the place of work itself (which may not have been designed for this purpose). Where access to items of plant for maintenance purposes requires working at height suitable risk assessments and systems of work must be in place.
  • Falling of heavy objects: it is not uncommon for heavy items to be moved, temporarily supported or inadvertently disturbed during maintenance activities. Suitable risk assessments and systems of work are in place for maintenance activity where heavy items may be moved, temporarily supported or disturbed.
  • Confined spaces: a number of people are killed or seriously injured in confined spaces each year in the UK. This happens in a wide range of industries, from those involving complex plant to simple storage vessels. Those killed include not only people working in the confined space but those who try to rescue them without proper training and equipment.

A confined space is defined as any space of an enclosed nature where there is a risk of death or serious injury from hazardous substances or dangerous conditions (eg a reduced oxygen atmosphere). Some confined spaces are fairly easy to identify, eg enclosures with limited openings such as storage tanks, reaction vessel, enclosed drains or sewers. Others such as open topped chambers; ductwork, enclosed conveyor systems and unventilated or poorly ventilated rooms may be less obvious but equally dangerous.

A suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks for all work activities must be undertaken for the purpose of deciding what measures are necessary for safety. For work in confined spaces this means identifying the hazards present, assessing the risks and determining what precautions to take.

For more information, visit the HSE web page: or contact us on 07896 016380 or at and we’ll be happy to help.

Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence




We hope you find our news updates useful. If you know of anyone who may benefit from reading them, please encourage them to register at the bottom-left of our news page ( and we’ll email them a link each time an update is published. If in the unlikely event any difficulties are experienced whilst registering we’ll be more than happy to help and can be contacted on 07896 016380 or at

Managing workplace temperature – Britain set to experience hottest summer in 40 years

According to news reports, weather experts have predicted that we’re about to experience the hottest summer in 40 years. This is worrying, considering a recent work environment survey of 12,000 people across 17 countries, which revealed that UK employees are most likely to be unhappy with their workplace temperature, and with less than half of those being able to do something about it.

Minimum/maximum workplace temperature

The law does not state a minimum or maximum temperature, but the temperature in workrooms should normally be at least:

  • 16°C or
  • 13°C if much of the work involves rigorous physical effort

A meaningful maximum figure cannot be given due to the high temperatures found in, for example, glass works or foundries. In such environments it is still possible to work safely provided appropriate controls are present. Factors other than air temperature, ie radiant temperature, humidity and air velocity, become more significant and the interaction between them become more complex with rising temperatures.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 lay down particular requirements for most aspects of the working environment. Regulation 7 deals specifically with the temperature in indoor workplaces and states that:

‘During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.’

However, the application of the regulation depends on the nature of the workplace, such as a bakery, a cold store, an office, a warehouse.

These Regulations only apply to employees – they do not apply to members of the public, for example, with regard temperature complaints from customers in a shopping centre or cinema.

The following guidance outlines your responsibilities as an employer, and suggests some ways you can manage the temperature in your workplace for the ‘thermal comfort’ of your employees. Thermal comfort describes a person’s state of mind in terms of whether they feel too hot or too cold. How you manage the effects of temperature of your workplace depends on whether it is indoors or outdoors and the normal operating temperature of that environment.

Indoor workplaces

You should provide:

  • a reasonable working temperature in workrooms – usually at least 16°C, or 13°C for strenuous work (unless other laws require lower temperatures)
  • local heating or cooling (ie making best use of fans, opening windows, using radiators) where a comfortable temperature cannot be maintained throughout each workroom (eg hot and cold manufacturing processes)
  • thermal clothing and rest facilities where necessary, eg for ‘hot work’ or cold stores
  • heating systems which do not give off dangerous or offensive levels of fume into the workplace
  • sufficient space in workrooms

When people are too hot

You can help ensure thermal comfort in warm conditions by:

  • providing fans, eg desk, pedestal or ceiling-mounted fans
  • ensuring that windows can be opened
  • shading employees from direct sunlight with blinds or by using reflective film on windows to reduce the heating effects of the sun
  • siting workstations away from direct sunlight or other situations or objects that that radiate heat (eg plant or machinery)
  • relaxing formal dress code – but you must ensure that personal protective equipment is provided and used if required
  • allowing sufficient breaks to enable employees to get cold drinks or cool down
  • providing additional facilities, eg cold water dispensers (water is preferable to caffeine or carbonated drinks)
  • introducing formal systems of work to limit exposure, eg flexible working patterns, job rotation, workstation rotation etc
  • placing insulating materials around hot plant and pipes
  • providing air-cooling or air-conditioning plant

When people are too cold

You can help ensure thermal comfort when working in the cold by:

  • providing adequate workplace heating, eg portable heaters
  • reducing cold exposure by designing processes that minimise exposure to cold areas and cold products where possible
  • reducing draughts
  • providing insulating floor coverings or special footwear when employees have to stand for long periods on cold floors
  • providing appropriate protective clothing for cold environments
  • introducing formal systems of work to limit exposure, eg flexible working patterns, job rotation
  • providing sufficient breaks to enable employees to get hot drinks or to warm up in heated areas

PPE and thermal comfort

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is considered to be a ‘last resort’ to protect employees from the hazards in the workplace (PPE Regulations 1992).

PPE reduces the body’s ability to evaporate sweat. Additionally, if the PPE is cumbersome or heavy it may contribute to an increase in the heat being generated inside the body.

Wearing PPE in warm/hot environments and/or with high work rates may increase the risk of heat stress.

Removal of PPE after exposure (and where necessary allowing it to dry out or replace with dry PPE before permitting re-entry) will prevent any heat retained in the clothing from continuing to heat the employee.

PPE may prevent the wearer from adapting to their environment by removing clothing because to do so would expose them to the hazard that the PPE is intended to protect them from. Ensure that people wear their PPE correctly (eg they do not undo fasteners to increase air movement into the garment) and thereby expose themselves to the primary hazard.

Very high or low workplace temperatures

You may require specific advice for your workplace if you are working in very high or low temperatures, for example on heat stress, dehydration or cold stress.

If thermal discomfort is a risk, and your employees are complaining and/or reporting illnesses that may be caused by the thermal environment, then you should review the situation and if necessary implement appropriate controls to manage the risks:

  • the thermal conditions may need to be monitored and where possible recorded as part of your risk management programme
  • health surveillance or medical screening may be required for staff who have special requirements due to pregnancy, certain illnesses, disabilities and/or maybe taking medication. This is particularly relevant when working in temperature extremes. Medical advice should be sought if necessary
  • working habits and current practices need to be reviewed periodically and (where necessary) changed, to control the risks

For more information visit the HSE web page or contact us on 07896 016380 or at and we’ll be happy to help.

Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence


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Tyre removal, replacement and inflation – firm fined £1million after young worker killed by exploding tyre

A Kent tyre company has been sentenced for safety failings after a 21-year-old employee was killed when a tyre exploded.

Canterbury Crown Court heard how he was repairing a puncture to the tyre of a ‘dresser loading shovel’ when it exploded.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that he was working on his own with inadequate work equipment which was not properly maintained. He was not trained or competent to undertake the work he was told to complete.

After the hearing, HSE Principal Inspector Mike Walters said: “Employees need to be provided with properly maintained equipment and the correct equipment to undertake tasks whilst out on site. Employees also need to be trained and competent in the tasks they were asked to undertake.”

The type company pleaded guilty to breaches of Section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 were this week fined £1 million and ordered to pay costs of £99,485.

Tyre removal, replacement and inflation

Tyre removal, replacement and inflation should only be tackled by competent staff. The main hazards which can arise include:

  • manual handling injuries, which account for nearly a half of all tyre-related incidents reported;
  • tool-related injuries (which make up a quarter of incidents), particularly from handtools such as tyre levers; and
  • compressed-air accidents eg from a ruptured or burst tyre or violent separation of the component parts of the wheel. These accidents tend to result in serious injuries, including fatalities.

Safety during tyre inflation

Inflated tyres contain a large amount of stored energy, which varies according to the inflation pressure and the surface area of the tyre (eg the sidewall of a typical commercial vehicle tyre has to withstand over 34 tonnes of force from compressed air before additional carriage weight is taken into account).

If the tyre fails, an explosive force can be released at an angle of up to 45 degrees from the rupture (which is often, but not always, the face of the sidewall). This has resulted in numerous fatalities over the years. It is crucial that the airline hose between the clip-on chuck and the pressure gauge/control is long enough to allow the operator to stand outside the likely trajectory of any explosion during inflation. This will vary depending on the size of the tyre and its positioning.

Car tyres generally contain less energy than truck tyres and their size and profile make them less likely to fail catastrophically. Sensible precautions are still required, but a restraining device such as a safety cage is not normally necessary.

Light commercial tyres are now commonly found with pressures around 70psi, which may be sufficient to cause serious injury. If so, use enhanced safety measures such as those required for conventional truck/bus tyres. When inflating above 15psi this will include using a restraint such as:

  • A strong, firmly secured cage. Consider lining this with mesh to retain debris. For fixed installations it is helpful to mark the safety exclusion zone on the workshop floor as a reminder to staff
  • A secured horizontal stool and associated clamping mechanism
  • A portable restraint. These are available in the form of a lightweight cover that encloses the tyre and wheel rim and may be particularly advantageous for off-site repairs

Airlines should have quick-release couplings at both ends to allow the tyre to be deflated from outside the likely explosion trajectory if a fault (eg a potential ‘zipper’ failure of the sidewall) is detected. The valve connector should not require the operator to hold it place.

The pressure gauge/control valve should never be jammed in the open position, nor should ‘unrestricted’ airlines (ie without a gauge or pressure control device) be used to inflate any tyre. For bead-seating of large commercial tyres, removing the valve core allows faster inflation without usSplit rim wheels are now uncommon but they may be found on older vehicles and in some specialist applications. Unfamiliarity can increase the risk of a catastrophic failure so additional training will probably be required. Use only metal restraints of adequate excessive pressure.

Special cases

Very large tyres such as those found in agriculture, quarries etc may be too big to fit into a restraint. Safe systems of work will need to be devised to ensure:

  • the wheel is restrained;
  • the effects of any explosion are contained safely; and
  • everyone stays outside the likely explosion trajectory

For more information visit the HSE web page or contact us on 07896 016380 or at and we’ll be happy to help.

Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence