HEALTH & SAFETY NEWS UPDATE – 25TH AUGUST 2016

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Fire and explosion – worker suffers serious burns after clothing catches fire

A foundry has been fined £15,000 plus £9,000 costs after a worker suffered serious burns when his clothing caught fire.

Bradford Crown Court heard how an employee of the foundry was undertaking work involving the use of isopropanol and a paint-like solution. The bucket containing the solution caught fire which then set light to his clothes, causing serious burns.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident which occurred in August 2014 found that the company failed to provide adequate training, work equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector John Boyle said:

“A worker was left with serious injuries as a result of this incident. Had the company taken a number of simple measures prior to the work activity taking place – such as the provision of suitable work equipment, training and personal protective equipment – then it may well have been avoided.”

About dangerous substances

Explosive atmospheres can be caused by flammable gases, mists or vapours or by combustible dusts. If there is enough of a substance, mixed with air, then all it needs is a source of ignition to cause an explosion.

Each year people are injured at work by flammable substances accidentally catching fire or exploding. Work which involves using or creating chemicals, vapours, liquids, gases, solids or dusts that can readily burn or explode is hazardous.

The effects of an explosion or a fire in the workplace can be devastating in terms of lives lost, injuries, significant damage to property and the environment, and to the business community.

Most fires are preventable, dealing with workplace process fire safety is important and those responsible for workplaces and other non domestic premises to which the public have access can avoid them by taking responsibility for and adopting fire safe behaviours and procedures.

Liquids

Liquids (such as petrol and other fuels) and solvents in industrial products (such as paint, ink, adhesives and cleaning fluids) give off flammable vapour which, when mixed with air, can ignite or explode. The ease by which liquids give off flammable vapours is linked to a simple physical test called Flashpoint (ie. the minimum temperature at which a liquid, under specific test conditions, gives off sufficient flammable vapour to ignite momentarily on the application of an ignition source) which allows them to be classed according to the fire hazard they present in normal use.

Flammable liquids are classed as:

Extremely flammable

Liquids which have a flashpoint lower than 0°C and a boiling point (or, in the case of a boiling range, the initial boiling point) lower than or equal to 35°C.

Highly flammable

Liquids which have a flashpoint below 21°C but which are not extremely flammable.

Flammable

Liquids which have a flashpoint equal to or greater than 21°C and less than or equal to 55°C and which support combustion when tested in the prescribed manner at 55°C.

Dusts

Dusts which can form explosive atmospheres are also classed as dangerous substances. Dusts can be produced from many everyday materials such as coal, wood, flour, grain, sugar, certain metals and synthetic organic chemicals. They are found in many industries such as food/animal feed, chemicals, woodworking, rubber and plastic processing and metal powders. They may be raw materials, intermediates, finished or waste products. A cloud of combustible dust in the air can explode violently if there is a source of ignition (eg naked flame, sparks).

Find out more:

Gases

Gases, such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or methane, which are usually stored under pressure in cylinders and bulk containers. Uncontrolled releases can readily ignite or cause the cylinder to become a missile.

Find out more:

Solids

Solids include materials such as plastic foam, packaging, and textiles which can burn fiercely and give off dense black smoke, sometimes poisonous.

Other fire and explosion hazards

Many chemical substances can give rise to harmful heat and pressure effects because they are unstable or because they can react violently with other materials. Chemicals need to be stored correctly and when reacted together sufficient information obtained to ensure that correct process controls can be used to prevent dangerous exothermic runaway reactions.

Further information can be found at:

Gas welding

The flammable gases and oxygen used as a fuel for hot work and flame cutting can give rise to fire and explosion risks on their own without any involvement of any other dangerous or combustible substances. A risk assessment carried out according to DSEAR will help to identify the correct controls and equipment before the work is carried out.

Further information can be found at:

Regulations

The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002, DSEAR and ATEX, require employers to assess the risk of fires and explosions arising from work activities involving dangerous substances, and to eliminate or reduce these risks.

HSE and local authorities are responsible for enforcing those workplaces covered by the legislation on working in potentially explosive atmospheres. These are covered in the following pages:

For more information, visit the HSE ‘Fire and explosion’ web pages: http://www.hse.gov.uk/fireandexplosion/ or contact us on 07896 016380 or at fiona@eljay.co.uk 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

HEALTH & SAFETY NEWS UPDATE – 11TH AUGUST 2016

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 (http://www.eljay.co.uk/news/) 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 Fiona@eljay.co.uk

General fire safety in construction – timber-frame firm fined for fire safety and traffic offences

A construction firm has been fined £100,000 for running an unsafe timber-frame construction site.

The HSE launched an investigation last month after making an unannounced visit to the site.

Fifty-four timber-frame houses were under construction, which carry a serious fire risk if not planned or managed properly, as the structures are made from wood. If a fire starts, the speed and intensity of fire spread can be extreme – putting workers and even members of the public at risk of harm.

HSE found that measures to prevent a fire starting and getting out of control had not been properly taken. All the houses were under construction at broadly the same stage with little fire protection, a lack of site management control, insufficient means to detect a fire and raise the alarm, poor control of ignition sources and a general lack of emergency planning. Workers were also at risk of being struck or crushed by construction vehicles on site.

Improvement Notices were served regarding fire and vehicle safety issues and these were complied with after two further inspection visits.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Liam Osborne said: “[the construction firm] had been given plenty of warnings about fire-safety and traffic risks in the recent past, including from HSE.

“Timber-frame houses are perfectly safe once they’re finished and protected, but when under construction they can be very dangerous. Stringent fire-safety standards need to be in place well before the build starts, and then maintained and monitored”.

General fire safety in construction – what you need to do

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) sets out the law on construction site general fire safety.

The FSO requires that a ‘responsible person’ must carry out, and keep up to date, a risk assessment and implement appropriate measures to minimise the risk to life and property from fire.

The responsible person will usually be the main or principal contractor in control of the site.

You should identify sources of fuel and ignition and establish general fire precautions including, means of escape, warning and fighting fire, based on your fire risk assessment.

In occupied buildings such as offices, make sure the work does not interfere with existing escape routes from the building, or any fire separation, alarms, dry risers, or sprinkler systems.

Key issues are:

  • Risk assessment
  • Means of escape
  • Means of giving warning
  • Means of fighting fire

Construction of timber frame buildings will require significant additional measures – please refer to the specific guidance listed.

What you need to know

Each year there a number of serious fires on construction sites and buildings undergoing refurbishment.

Risk assessment

In most cases, conducting a risk assessment will be a relatively straightforward and simple task that may be carried out by the responsible person, or a person they nominate, such as a consultant.

There are five steps in carrying out a fire risk assessment:

  1. Identify hazards: consider how a fire could start and what could burn;
  2. People at risk: employees, contractors, visitors and anyone who is vulnerable, eg disabled;
  3. Evaluation and action: consider the hazards and people identified in 1 and 2 and act to remove and reduce risk to protect people and premises;
  4. Record, plan and train: keep a record of the risks and action taken. Make a clear plan for fire safety and ensure that people understand what they need to do in the event of a fire; and
  5. Review: your assessment regularly and check it takes account of any changes on site.

Means of escape

Key aspects to providing safe means of escape on construction sites include:

  • Routes: your risk assessment should determine the escape routes required, which must be kept available and unobstructed;
  • Alternatives:well-separated alternative ways to ground level should be provided where possible;
  • Protection: routes can be protected by installing permanent fire separation and fire doors as soon as possible;
  • Assembly: make sure escape routes give access to a safe place where people can assemble and be accounted for. On a small site the pavement outside may be adequate; and
  • Signs: will be needed if people are not familiar with the escape routes. Lighting should be provided for enclosed escape routes and emergency lighting may be required.

Means of giving warning

Set up a system to alert people on site. This may be temporary or permanent mains operated fire alarm (tested regularly), a klaxon, an air horn or a whistle, depending on the size and complexity of the site.

The warning needs to be distinctive, audible above other noise and recognisable by everyone.

Means of fighting fire

Fire extinguishers should be located at identified fire points around the site. The extinguishers should be appropriate to the nature of the potential fire:

  • wood, paper and cloth – water extinguisher;
  • flammable liquids – dry powder or foam extinguisher;
  • electrical – carbon dioxide (C02) extinguisher.

Nominated people should be trained in how to use extinguishers.

For more information, visit the HSE web page: http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/safetytopics/generalfire.htm or contact us on 07896 016380 or at fiona@eljay.co.uk, 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

 

 

HEALTH & SAFETY NEWS UPDATE – 4TH AUGUST 2016

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 (http://www.eljay.co.uk/news/) 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 Fiona@eljay.co.uk

How to carry out a COSHH risk assessment – worker dies from toxic gas

A medicinal herbal manufacturing company has been fined £45,000 after a worker died from exposure to a toxic gas.

The 50 year old employee was using cleaning chemicals to clean a changing room when he was exposed to a toxic gas (likely to be chlorine) and died at the scene.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident which occurred in September 2014 found that he had not been trained in the safe use of chemicals and no company Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) assessment had been carried out.

HM Inspector Stephen Farthing said: “This was a tragic industrial incident that was entirely preventable had suitable precautions been taken. [The employee] had not received any training in the safe use of hazardous chemicals and as a result died from the exposure to a toxic gas.

“Companies should ensure that they assess all the risks associated with the use of dangerous chemical and that exposure to their employees is either eliminated or minimised.”

How to carry out a COSHH risk assessment

A COSHH assessment concentrates on the hazards and risks from hazardous substances in your workplace.

Remember that health hazards are not limited to substances labelled as ‘hazardous’. Some harmful substances can be produced by the process you use, eg wood dust from sanding, or silica dust from tile cutting.

Identify the hazards

  • Identify which substances are harmful by reading the product labels and safety data sheets (SDS)
  • If you are in doubt, contact your supplier
  • Remember to think about harmful substances produced by your processes, such as cutting or grinding, or to which workers may be otherwise exposed

Decide who might be harmed and how

  • How might workers be exposed? Think about the route into the body (whether the substance can be breathed in, get onto or through the skin or can even be swallowed) and the effects of exposure by each of these routes
  • Think of how often people work with the substance and for how long
  • Think about anyone else who could be exposed
  • Don’t forget maintenance workers, contractors and other visitors or members of the public who could be exposed
  • Also think about people who could be exposed accidentally, eg while cleaning, or what happens if controls fail

Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions

Once you have carried out a risk assessment and identified which harmful substances are present, and how workers can be harmed, you need to think about preventing exposure.

  • Do you really need to use a particular substance, or is a safer alternative available?
  • Can you change the process to eliminate its use or avoid producing it? If this is not possible, you must put in place adequate control measures to reduce exposure

The measures you adopt could include the following:

Changing the process to reduce risks

  • Consider whether you can change the process you use to reduce the risk of exposure. For example, you could reduce the temperature of a process to reduce the amount of vapour getting into the air or use pellets instead of powders as they are less dusty

Containment

  • Enclose the process or activity as much as possible to minimise the escape or release of the harmful substance
  • Use closed transfer and handling systems and minimise handling of materials
  • Extract emissions of the substance near the source

Systems of work

  • Restrict access to those people who need to be there
  • Plan the storage of materials, and use appropriate containers. Check that storage containers are correctly labelled and that incompatible materials, for example acids and caustics, are separated
  • Plan the storage and disposal of waste

Cleaning

  • Exposure to hazardous substances can occur during cleaning, so plan and organise the workplace so that it can be easily and effectively cleaned
  • Smooth work surfaces will allow easy cleaning
  • Have the right equipment and procedures to clear up spillages quickly and safely
  • Clean regularly using a ‘dust-free’ method – vacuum, don’t sweep

If you have five or more employees, you must record your assessment but, even if you have fewer than five, it makes sense to write down what steps you have taken to identify the risks. And the really important part is making a list of the actions you have taken to control the risks to workers’ health.

The risk assessment should be regularly reviewed to ensure that it is kept up to date to take into account any changes in your workplace.

For more information, visit the HSE web page: http://www.hse.gov.uk/toolbox/harmful/coshh.htm or contact us on 07896 016380 or at fiona@eljay.co.uk, 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