HSE food manufacturing inspections target the causes of workplace ill-health

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Companies and people working in food manufacturing are being told they must pay closer attention to how they manage workplace health risks or face serious penalties.

The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) programme of proactive inspections will review health and safety standards in food manufacturing businesses across the country, and the sector is being warned that a programme of unannounced inspections will begin today (2nd January).

The inspections will focus on two of the main causes of ill-health in the sector which are currently occupational asthma from exposure to flour dust in bakeries, cake and biscuit manufacturers and grain mills and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) – predominantly lower back pain and upper limb disorders from manual handling activities and repetitive tasks across the sector.

The inspection visits come as HSE recently released its Manufacturing sector plan which prioritises the reduction of cases of occupational lung disease and MSDs.

Exposure to flour dust is the UK’s second most common cited cause of occupational asthma. MSDs are the most common type of work-related illness in food manufacturing with handling injuries, accounting for around 20% of reported employee injuries (RIDDOR). HSE insists that such ill-health can be prevented when organisations have proper risk control systems in place.

The inspections will ensure measures are being taken by those responsible to protect workers against health risks and HSE will not hesitate to use enforcement to bring about improvements.

HSE’s head of Manufacturing Sector John Rowe, said: “The food manufacturing sector is made up of over 300,000 workers and its health and safety record needs to improve. This inspection initiative will look to ensure effective management and control of targeted health risks.

HSE is calling on anyone working in the industry to take the time to refresh their knowledge of our advice and guidance, available for free on our website.

Food manufacturing companies should do the right thing by protecting workers’ health; everyone has the right to go home healthy from work.”

COSHH and bakers – key messages

Substances hazardous to health in baking include:

  • flour dust;
  • improver dusts containing enzymes etc;
  • dusts from protein-containing ingredients such as egg, soya;
  • spices, citrus oils and flavour concentrates;
  • cleaning and disinfectant products.

Dermatitis may result from some bakery tasks, and if hands are wet many times a day or for a lot of the time.

Control measures include:

  • careful working to avoid raising clouds of dust;
  • dust extraction;
  • vacuum or wet cleaning;
  • respirator for very dusty tasks;
  • skin checks.

Example: Flour dust

Flour dust can cause asthma when breathed in.

You must reduce exposure to flour dust as far below the WEL of 10 mg/m3 as is reasonably practicable. You normally need to use health surveillance (Check employees health for any adverse effects related to work. May involve checking skin for dermatitis or asking questions about breathing and may need to done by a doctor or nurse.)

Help in finding the right controls is on the Bakers and asthma website (http://www.hse.gov.uk/asthma/bakers.htm). Control information for flour dust appears in the following information sheets available from the COSHH essentials webpage: http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/essentials/direct-advice/baking.htm

Employees

Your employer provides equipment to protect your health, such as:

  • dust extraction;
  • personal protective equipment (eg respirator).

You have a duty to use these properly and co-operate with any monitoring and health surveillance.

For advice on preventing and managing musculoskeletal disorders, visit the HSE web page http://www.hse.gov.uk/msd/. Alternatively, contact us about any of the above-mentioned issues, 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

 

 

Hand-arm vibration at work – Oxfordshire based company fined for safety failings

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Oxfordshire based company fined for safety failings

An Oxfordshire based, ground engineering company has been fined £6,000 plus costs after a worker contracted severe hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS).

Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court heard how an employee, who was working at the company’s earth retaining division, was eventually diagnosed as suffering from HAVS after repeatedly flagging his symptoms to the company for over five years.

Symptoms of HAVS can include tingling, numbness and pain in the hands. This affects sleep when it occurs at night and sufferers have difficulties in gripping and holding things, particularly small items such as screws, doing up buttons, writing and driving.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company did not have the right system in place to manage the workers’ health as it did not have a suitable health surveillance programme in place to monitor for the early onset of HAVS and to prevent the irreversible condition from developing.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Mehtaab Hamid said: “This was a case of the company completely failing to grasp the importance of HAVS health surveillance.

“If they had understood why health surveillance was necessary, it would have ensured that it had the right systems in place to monitor worker’s health and the employee’s condition would not have been allowed to develop to a severe and life altering stage”.

Hand-arm vibration at work

Hand-arm vibration comes from the use of hand-held power tools and is the cause of significant ill health (painful and disabling disorders of the blood vessels, nerves and joints).

Advice for employers

The following information will help you understand:

  • What you may need to do as an employer under the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 which came into force in July 2005;
  • How you can protect your employees from hand-arm vibration.

This information will also be of interest to you if you are an employer whose business involves the use of hand-guided powered equipment and powered machines which process hand-held materials and of particular interest if your business involves the regular and frequent use of hand-held power tools.

You may also find this information helpful if you are:

  • An employee, or self-employed person, who uses vibrating equipment;
  • A trade union safety representative or an employee representative;
  • An adviser on occupational vibration risks.

If your workers use vibrating equipment you may also have to consider risks from exposure to noise.

Remember:

By law, as an employer, you must assess and identify measures to eliminate or reduce risks from exposure to hand-arm vibration so that you can protect your employees from risks to their health.

Where the risks are low, the actions you take may be simple and inexpensive, but where the risks are high, you should manage them using a prioritised action plan to control exposure to hand-arm vibration.

Where required, ensure that:

  • Control measures to reduce vibration are properly applied; and
  • You provide information, training and health surveillance.

Review what you are doing if anything changes that may affect exposures to vibration where you work.

The Health effects of hand-arm vibration at work

What is hand-arm vibration?

Hand-arm vibration is vibration transmitted from work processes into workers’ hands and arms. It can be caused by operating hand-held power tools, such as road breakers, and hand-guided equipment, such as powered lawnmowers, or by holding materials being processed by machines, such as pedestal grinders.

When is it hazardous?

Regular and frequent exposure to hand-arm vibration can lead to permanent health effects. This is most likely when contact with a vibrating tool or work process is a regular part of a person’s job. Occasional exposure is unlikely to cause ill health.

What health effects can it cause?

Hand-arm vibration can cause a range of conditions collectively known as hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), as well as specific diseases such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

What are the early symptoms?

Identifying signs and symptoms at an early stage is important. It will allow you, as the employer, to take action to prevent the health effects from becoming serious for your employee. The symptoms include any combination of:

  • Tingling and numbness in the fingers;
  • Not being able to feel things properly;
  • Loss of strength in the hands;
  • Fingers going white (blanching) and becoming red and painful on recovery (particularly in the cold and wet, and probably only in the tips at first).

For some people, symptoms may appear after only a few months of exposure, but for others they may take a few years. They are likely to get worse with continued exposure to vibration and may become permanent.

What effects do these symptoms have?

The effects on people include:

  • Pain, distress and sleep disturbance;
  • Inability to do fine work (eg assembling small components) or everyday tasks (eg fastening buttons);
  • Reduced ability to work in cold or damp conditions (ie most outdoor work) which would trigger painful finger blanching attacks;
  • Reduced grip strength, which might affect the ability to do work safely.

These effects can severely limit the jobs an affected person is able to do, as well as many family and social activities.

Do you have a hand-arm vibration problem at work?

This will depend on whether your employees regularly and frequently work with vibrating tools and equipment and/or handle vibrating materials. It will also depend on how long your employees are exposed to vibration and at what level. As a simple guide you will probably need to do something about vibration exposures if any of the following apply:

  • Do your employees complain of tingling and numbness in their hands or fingers after using vibrating tools?
  • Do your employees hold work pieces, which vibrate while being processed by powered machinery such as pedestal grinders?
  • Do your employees regularly use hand-held or hand guided power tools and machines such as concrete breakers, concrete pokers, sanders, grinders, disc cutters, hammer drills, chipping hammers, chainsaws, brush cutters, hedge trimmers, powered mowers, scabblers or needle guns?
  • Do your employees regularly operate hammer action tools for more than about 15 minutes per day or some rotary and other action tools for more than about one hour per day?
  • Do you work in an industry where exposures to vibration are particularly high, such as construction, foundries, or heavy steel fabrication/shipyards?

Which jobs and industries are most likely to involve hand-arm vibration?

Jobs requiring regular and frequent use of vibrating tools and equipment and handling of vibrating materials are found in a wide range of industries, for example:

  • Building and maintenance of roads and railways;
  • Construction;
  • Estate management (eg maintenance of grounds, parks, water courses, road and rail side verges);
  • Forestry;
  • Foundries;
  • Heavy engineering;
  • Manufacturing concrete products;
  • Mines and quarries;
  • Motor vehicle manufacture and repair;
  • Public utilities (eg water, gas, electricity, telecommunications);
  • Shipbuilding and repair.

What kinds of tools and equipment can cause ill health from vibration?

There are hundreds of different types of hand-held power tools and equipment which can cause ill health from vibration. Some of the more common ones are:

  • Chainsaws;
  • Concrete breakers/road breakers;
  • Cut-off saws (for stone etc);
  • Hammer drills;
  • Hand-held grinders;
  • Impact wrenches;
  • Jigsaws;
  • Needle scalers;
  • Pedestal grinders;
  • Polishers;
  • Power hammers and chisels;
  • Powered lawn mowers;
  • Powered sanders;
  • Scabblers;
  • Strimmers/brush cutters.

Do you engage in routine continual monitoring or logging of workers’ vibration exposure?

Vibration exposure monitoring Q&A: http://www.hse.gov.uk/vibration/hav/advicetoemployers/vibration-exposure-monitoring-qa.pdf

Worried about your hands?

Advice for workers: http://www.hse.gov.uk/vibration/hav/yourhands.htm

For more information visit the HSE web page: http://www.hse.gov.uk/vibration/hav/ 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

 

 

Metalworking fluids – ejector seat manufacturer fined £800,000 for failing to protect workers’ health

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Ejector seat manufacturer fined £800,000 for failing to protect workers’ health

A  manufacturer of ejector seats has been fined £800,000 after three workers developed debilitating lung conditions.

Three skilled CNC machine operators developed extrinsic allergic alveolitis after many years of exposure to the mist of working metal fluid. The lung condition, also known as hypersensitivity pneumonitis, is a body’s allergic reaction to breathing in a substance and symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath and joint pain.

Aylesbury Crown Court heard how the workers, who had served with the company for more than 20 years, were exposed to the working metal fluid mist over at least a three-year period. One worker has been so severely affected they have become virtually paralysed by the illness, another will never be able to work with metal working fluids again, a key material in the industry and a third must have special measures in place to ensure he never comes into contact with the substance.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the measures in place within the factory to stop the exposure to workers were inadequate. The fluid is commonly used as a lubricant and coolant in engineering processes. During the process of using the machines the fluid creates a mist, which in this case was breathed in by around 60 workers.

The manufacturer failed to put in place a system of cleaning away the excess fluid or providing extraction to prevent the build-up of the mist. There were also failings in the provision of health surveillance, which should have identified the issue early enough to ensure the company were able to put in place and monitor any appropriate safety measures.

The manufacturer pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act (1974) and Regulation 6(1) of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (as amended) (COSHH) and were fined £ 800 000 and ordered to pay costs of £36 912.36

The HSE said “Companies need to make sure they consider workers’ health just as much as their safety when carrying out risk assessments. The dangers of breathing in metal working fluid are well known within the industry. In this case one worker has had his health permanently and severely damaged, two others have also been affected, all will have to live with their condition for the rest of their lives.”

About metalworking fluids

Metalworking Fluids (MWFs) are neat oils or water-based fluids used during the machining and shaping of metals to provide lubrication and cooling. They are sometimes referred to as suds, coolants, slurry or soap.

The main health risks from working with metalworking fluids

Exposure to metalworking fluids can cause:

  • irritation of the skin or dermatitis; and
  • occupational asthma, bronchitis, irritation of the upper respiratory tract, breathing difficulties or, rarely, a more serious lung disease called extrinsic allergic alveolitis (EAA), which can cause increasingly severe breathing difficulties in recurrent episodes, following repeated exposure.

Fluid and mist from water-mix wash fluids and washing machines used to clean machined components may be hazardous in much the same way as fluid and mist from metalworking machines, and the same principles of risk assessment, prevention and control should be applied.

How harm is caused

Metalworking fluids are mostly applied by continuous jet, spray or hand dispenser and can affect your health:

  • if you inhale the mist generated during machining/shaping operations;
  • through direct contact with unprotected skin, particularly hands, forearms and heads;
  • through cuts and abrasions or other broken skin; and
  • through the mouth if you eat, drink or smoke in work areas, or from poor personal hygiene, eg not washing hands before eating.

Key messages for managing the health risks

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) requires exposure to metalworking fluids by inhalation, ingestion or skin contact to be prevented where reasonably practicable, or failing that, adequately controlled.

You should:

  • carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment – HSE’s self-assessment questionnaire (http://www.hse.gov.uk/metalworking/questionnaire.pdf) will help you do this;
  • maintain fluid quality and control bacterial contamination of fluids;
  • minimise skin exposure to fluids;
  • prevent or control airborne mists; and
  • where there is exposure to fluid or mist, carry out health surveillance.

To achieve the necessary control and risk reduction, among other actions, you will need to:

  • check and maintain exposure control measures, such as enclosures and local exhaust ventilation;
  • check levels of bacterial contamination using dip slides, or other means of measuring the level of bacterial activity, in both metalworking and associated fluids eg in washing machines, and act on the readings obtained in line with your risk assessment;
  • ensure that, as a minimum, a responsible person carries out the required health surveillance
  • conduct asthma health checks
  • refer anyone affected by exposure to a competent occupational health professional;
  • take prompt action after any diagnosis of ill health to identify the likely cause and ensure it is prevented or adequately controlled; and
  • keep workers informed of all findings.

For more information, visit the HSE web page: http://www.hse.gov.uk/metalworking/index.htm or contact us on 07896 016380 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 – 10TH DECEMBER 2015

REGISTER BELOW-LEFT TO RECEIVE OUR UPDATES BY EMAIL

IN THIS UPDATE

Introduction

Scaffold checklist – company fined after scaffolding blown over during dismantling

Construction hazardous substances: Cement – construction firm fined after worker suffers cement burns

Preventing exposure to carbon monoxide from use of solid fuel appliances in commercial kitchens

Introduction

This is our last news update of the year and we would like to take this opportunity to wish all of our readers Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

As we head into winter, the cold temperatures predicted have thankfully so far eluded us, but heavy rain and strong winds are, worryingly, becoming commonplace. Only last weekend, outside a North Staffordshire convenience store, a 40 metre stretch of scaffolding blew down, landing on six parked cars. Amazingly and luckily, nobody was hurt. And this week, a scaffolding company was fined after scaffolding they were dismantling blew over and hit a bus and pedestrians. Investigation by the HSE found that the scaffolding was not tied to the building, and sheeting was left in place. We open this week’s update with HSE guidance intended to clarify when a scaffold design is required and what level of training and competence those erecting, dismantling, altering, inspecting and supervising scaffolding operations are expected to have.

Staying with construction, we also share HSE guidance on controlling the risks of serious skin problems such as dermatitis and burns which can arise from using cement based products, like concrete or mortar. This is after a construction firm was fined £14,000 plus £1590 costs when a 54-year-old employee suffered severe cement burns to his knees while laying concrete flooring.

Finally, with the increasing popularity of charcoal and wood-fired ovens, the uptake of solid fuel appliances in restaurant kitchens has been rapid. But the Health Protection Agency has warned that wood burning stoves “can cause lethal carbon monoxide poisoning”. So the HSE have published a new catering information sheet which we share this week, aimed specifically at employers who use solid fuel appliances such as tandoori ovens, charcoal grills and wood-fired pizza ovens in commercial kitchens.

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

Scaffold checklist – company fined after scaffolding blown over during dismantling

A scaffolding company has been fined a total of £8,000 plus £2,000 costs after scaffolding hit a bus and pedestrians when it blew over during dismantling.

Leicester Magistrates’ Court heard how in January 2015 the company was dismantling scaffolding on a city centre street when the incident occurred. The scaffolding hit a bus, landed on a parked van and hit two members of the public.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident, found that the company was not following a safe system of work. The scaffolding was not tied to the building and sheeting was left in place. The scaffolding dismantling took place over four days and the workers failed to check the scaffolding condition before they started or to take adequate measures to correct defects and ensure it would not collapse during the dismantling.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Martin Giles said: “Scaffolding needs to be tied to a building and dismantling needs to be properly planned and carried out in a safe manner.”

Scaffold checklist

This guide is intended to clarify when a scaffold design is required and what level of training and competence those erecting, dismantling, altering, inspecting and supervising scaffolding operations are expected to have.

Scaffold design

It is a requirement of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 that unless a scaffold is assembled to a generally recognised standard configuration, eg NASC Technical Guidance TG20 for tube and fitting scaffolds or similar guidance from manufacturers of system scaffolds, the scaffold should be designed by bespoke calculation, by a competent person, to ensure it will have adequate strength, rigidity and stability while it is erected, used and dismantled.

At the start of the planning process, the user should supply relevant information to the scaffold contractor to ensure an accurate and proper design process is followed.  Typically this information should include:

  • site location
  • period of time the scaffold is required to be in place
  • intended use
  • height and length and any critical dimensions which may affect the scaffold
  • number of boarded lifts
  • maximum working loads to be imposed and maximum number of people using the scaffold at any one time
  • type of access onto the scaffold eg staircase, ladder bay, external ladders
  • whether there is a requirement for sheeting, netting or brickguards
  • any specific requirements or provisions eg pedestrian walkway, restriction on tie locations, inclusion/provision for mechanical handling plant eg hoist)
  • nature of the ground conditions or supporting structure
  • information on the structure/building the scaffold will be erected against together with any relevant dimensions and drawings
  • any restrictions that may affect the erection, alteration or dismantling process

Prior to installation, the scaffold contractor or scaffold designer can then provide relevant information about the scaffold.  This should include:

  • type of scaffold required (tube & fitting or system)
  • maximum bay lengths
  • maximum lift heights
  • platform boarding arrangement (ie 5 + 2) and the number of boarded lifts that can be used at any one time
  • safe working load / load class
  • maximum leg loads
  • maximum tie spacing both horizontal and vertical and tie duty
  • details of additional elements such as beamed bridges, fans, loading bays etc, which may be a standard configuration (see note 1 ref TG20:13) or specifically designed
  • information can be included in relevant drawings if appropriate
  • any other information relevant to the design, installation or use of the scaffold
  • reference number, date etc. to enable recording, referencing and checking

All scaffolding must be erected, dismantled and altered in a safe manner.  This is achieved by following the guidance provided by the NASC in document SG4 ‘Preventing falls in scaffolding’ for tube and fitting scaffolds or by following similar guidance provided by the manufacturers of system scaffolding.

For scaffolds that fall outside the scope of a generally recognised standard configuration the design must be such that safe erection and dismantling techniques can also be employed throughout the duration of the works. To ensure stability for more complex scaffolds, drawings should be produced and, where necessary, these may need to be supplemented with specific instructions.

Any proposed modification or alteration that takes a scaffold outside the scope of a generally recognised standard configuration should be designed by a competent person and proven by calculation.

Scaffold structures that normally require bespoke design

Includes:

  • all shoring scaffolds (dead, raking, flying)
  • cantilevered scaffolds
  • truss-out Scaffolds
  • façade retention
  • access scaffolds with more than the 2 working lifts
  • buttressed free-standing scaffolds
  • temporary roofs and temporary buildings
  • support scaffolds
  • complex loading bays
  • mobile and static towers
  • free standing scaffolds
  • temporary ramps and elevated roadways
  • staircases and fire escapes (unless covered by manufacturers instructions)
  • spectator terraces and seating stands
  • bridge scaffolds
  • towers requiring guys or ground anchors
  • offshore scaffolds
  • pedestrian footbridges or walkways
  • slung and suspended scaffolds
  • protection fans
  • pavement gantries
  • marine scaffolds
  • boiler scaffolds
  • power line crossings
  • lifting gantries and towers
  • steeple scaffolds
  • radial / splayed scaffolds on contoured facades
  • system scaffolds outside manufacturers guidance
  • sign board supports
  • sealing end structures (such as temporary screens)
  • temporary storage on site
  • masts, lighting towers and transmission towers
  • advertising hoardings/banners
  • rubbish chute
  • any scaffold structure not mentioned above that falls outside the ‘compliant scaffold’ criteria in TG20 or similar guidance from manufacturers of system scaffolds.

The above list is not exhaustive and any scaffold that is not a standard configuration or does not comply with published manufacturers’ guidelines will require a specific design produced by a competent person.

Note:

  1. TG20:13 provides compliant scaffolds for a limited range of cantilever scaffolds, loading bays, static towers, use of rakers, bridges and protection fans.
  1. TG20:13 provides a range of compliant scaffolds, which can be boarded at any number of lifts, but only two platforms can be used as working platforms at any one time.

Competence and supervision of scaffolding operatives

All employees should be competent for the type of scaffolding work they are undertaking and should have received appropriate training relevant to the type and complexity of scaffolding they are working on.

Employers must provide appropriate levels of supervision taking into account the complexity of the work and the levels of training and competence of the scaffolders involved.

As a minimum requirement, every scaffold gang should contain a competent scaffolder who has received training for the type and complexity of the scaffold to be erected, altered or dismantled.

Trainee scaffolders should always work under the direct supervision of a trained and competent scaffolder. Operatives are classed as ‘trainees’ until they have completed the approved training and assessment required to be deemed competent.

Erection, alteration and dismantling of all scaffolding structures (basic or complex) should be done under the direct supervision of a competent person. For complex structures this would usually be an ‘Advanced Scaffolder’ or an individual who has received training in a specific type of system scaffold for the complexity of the configuration involved.

Scaffolding operatives should be up to date with the latest changes to safety guidance and good working practices within the scaffolding industry. Giving operatives job specific pre-start briefings and regular toolbox talks is a good way of keeping them informed.

Guidance on the relevant expertise of Scaffolders and Advanced scaffolders including details of which structures they are deemed competent to erect can be obtained from the Construction Industry Scaffolders Record Scheme (CISRS) website (http://cisrs.org.uk/).

Scaffold inspection

It is the scaffold users / hirers responsibility to ensure that all scaffolding has been inspected as follows:

  • following installation / before first use
  • at an interval of no more than every 7 days thereafter
  • following any circumstances liable to jeopardise the safety of the installation eg high winds.

All scaffolding inspection should be carried out by a competent person whose combination of knowledge, training and experience is appropriate for the type and complexity of the scaffold.

Competence may have been assessed under the CISRS or an individual may have received training in inspecting a specific type of system scaffold from a manufacturer/supplier.

A non-scaffolder who has attended a scaffold inspection course (eg a site manager) could be deemed competent to inspect a basic scaffold structure.

The scaffold inspection report should note any defects or matters that could give rise to a risk to health and safety and any corrective actions taken, even when those actions are taken promptly, as this assists with the identification of any recurring problem.

Further information

National Access and Scaffolding Confederation (http://www.nasc.org.uk/)

For clarification or more information, visit the HSE web page http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/safetytopics/scaffoldinginfo.htm or contact us on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk and we’ll be happy to help.

Construction hazardous substances: Cement – construction firm fined after worker suffers cement burns

A construction firm has been fined £14,000 plus £1590 costs after a 54-year-old employee suffered severe cement burns to his knees while laying concrete flooring.

Sefton Magistrates’ Court heard that in November 2014, the employee kneeled in wet concrete to manually finish the concrete flooring being laid in a domestic bungalow. The cement burns to both his knees resulted in 12 days hospitalisation and ongoing treatment.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found the firm failed to adequately assess the risks and implement suitable and sufficient control measures to protect employees from contact of the wet concrete with the skin. In addition, it did not provide suitable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and there were no welfare facilities on site.

The court heard the company had been served with HSE Improvement Notices for lack of welfare facilities in September 2014 and June 2014.

HSE inspector Anne Foster said after the hearing: “The injuries the employee suffered were entirely foreseeable and avoidable had the company implemented suitable controls, such as the use of long-handled tools, or the provision of suitable chemical resistant PPE. It is also wholly unreasonable to expect workers to travel four miles to find welfare facilities.”

What you must do

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations (http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/index.htm) says you must protect against the risks from cement-based products. Follow the Assess, Control and Review model. Pay particular attention to:

Assess

Identify and assess: Identify those tasks where cement based products will be used. Workers handling / mixing cement powder or using wet mortar and cement are particularly at risk. Check for any existing skin or allergy problems as this work could make these conditions worse. Follow the control steps below.

Cement powder is also a respiratory irritant. The dust produced while cutting, drilling etc dried concrete and mortar can cause more serious lung disease. More information on assessing and controlling this risk can be found in the section on construction dust (http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/healthrisks/hazardous-substances/construction-dust.htm).

Control

Prevent: Where possible think about eliminating or reducing the amount of cement used and contact with it. Consider:

  • avoiding exposure to cement powder by using pre-mixed concrete / mortar
  • using work methods that increases the distance between the worker and the substance such as longer handled tools
  • rotating cement bags to ensure they are used before the shelf date. The ingredient added to reduce the risk of allergic contact dermatitis is only effective for a limited period.

Control: Even if you stop some of the risk this way, you may still do other work that might involve contact with cement. Control the risk by:

  • Gloves – gloves should be waterproof and suitable for use with high pH (alkaline) substances; eg marked with EN374:2003 and tested for use with “alkalis and bases” (class K) – some nitrile or PVC gloves may be suitable. Breakthrough time and permeation rate should also be suitable for the type and duration of the work. Gloves should be long and /or tight fitting at the end to prevent cement being trapped between the glove and the skin.
  • More information on gloves: http://www.hse.gov.uk/skin/employ/gloves.htm
  • Footwear – suitable footwear, such as wellington boots, should be used where large concrete pours are taking place. If standing in cement, these should be high enough to prevent cement entering the top of the boot.
  • Waterproof trousers – when kneeling on wet products containing cement, appropriate waterproof trousers should be worn or, if screeding, use appropriate waterproof knee pads or knee boards. Minimise any time spent kneeling. Wear trousers over the top of boots. This stops cement getting into them.
  • Washing – wash off any cement on the skin as soon as possible. Workers should be encouraged to wash exposed skin at breaks and after work. Good washing facilities are essential. There should be hot and cold or warm running water, soap and towels. Basins should be large enough to wash forearms. Showers may be needed in some situations where workers could get heavily covered in cement. Use emergency eyewash to remove any cement that gets into eyes.
  • Skin care products – these can help to protect the skin. They replace the natural oils that help keep the skin’s protective barrier working properly.

Train: Workers need to know how to use the controls properly. They also need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of dermatitis.  Finding skin problems early can stop them from getting too bad.

Review

Supervise: Ensure that controls such as work methods, PPE and welfare are effective and used by the workers.

Monitor: Appropriate health surveillance is needed to check your controls are preventing dermatitis. This could be done by a ‘responsible person’ who can be an employee provided with suitable training. They should:

  • assess the condition of a new worker’s skin before, or as soon as possible after, they start work and then periodically check for early signs of skin disease after this
  • keep secure health records of these checks
  • tell the employer the outcome of these checks and any action needed

What you should know

Skin problems are not just a nuisance, they can be very painful and sometimes debilitating. Cement and cement-based products can harm the skin in a number of ways.

Wet cement is highly alkaline in nature. A serious burn or ulcer can rapidly develop if it is trapped against the skin. In extreme cases, these burns may need a skin graft or cause a limb to be amputated. Cement can also cause chemical burns to the eyes.

Cement also causes dermatitis. It can abrade the skin and cause irritant contact dermatitis. Cement also contains hexavalent chromium (chromate). This can cause allergic contact dermatitis due to sensitisation. Manufacturers add an ingredient to lower the hexavalent chromium content and reduce this risk. This ingredient is only effective for a limited period as indicated by the shelf date. After this period, the level of hexavalent chromium may increase again. Once a person has become sensitised to this substance, any future exposure may trigger dermatitis. Some skilled tradesmen have been forced to change their trade because of this.

For more information on the effects of dermatitis see (click on the links):

For more information visit the HSE web page http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/healthrisks/hazardous-substances/cement.htm or contact us on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk and we’ll be happy to help.

Preventing exposure to carbon monoxide from use of solid fuel appliances in commercial kitchens

This new catering information sheet is published in collaboration with the Heating Equipment Testing and Approval Scheme, the Solid Fuel Association and the Hospitality Industry Liaison Forum.

The guidance is aimed specifically at employers who use solid fuel appliances such as tandoori ovens, charcoal grills and wood-fired pizza ovens in commercial kitchens. It is concerned with the risks of exposure to carbon monoxide gas for workers as well as members of the public and outlines how they can be protected and what the law says.

The information sheet can be downloaded free by clicking on the link: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/cais26.pdf

For clarification or more information visit the HSE web page http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/cais26.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