Diesel engine exhaust emissions (DEEEs) and non-road mobile machinery (NRMM) – the risk to construction (and other) workers

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Recent headline news has made us all too aware of the effects of air pollution on the climate and our health, and this is contributed to significantly by emissions from combustion engines installed in non-road mobile machinery (NRMM) – used extensively in the construction industry. The Mayor of London has responded by targeting the sector with the world’s first “ultra-low emissions zone” for NRMM and – nationwide – under the Clean Air Strategy, the government will be exploring the use of environmental permitting to address the problem.

Whilst “cleaner” engines have started to become available, those powered by diesel are still the most widely used on construction sites, and inhalation of diesel engine exhaust emissions (DEEEs) can cause a number of ill health effects – both short term and long term, including – evidence suggests – an increased risk of lung cancer. According to HSE statistics, each year, around 3,000 workers in construction suffer with breathing and lung problems they believe were caused or made worse by their work. That is 0.14% of workers in the sector, compared with 0.09% of workers across all industries.

So, what should be done to prevent this risk?

The below HSE guidance “Control of diesel engine exhaust emissions in the workplace” includes control measures which can be implemented quickly and easily on a construction site and in other workplaces, e.g. switching off engines when not required, and adopting a programme of regular engine maintenance.

But a reduction in pollution can also be achieved through the use of cleaner fuels. Alternatives include low sulphur diesel (LSD), ultra low sulphur diesel (ULSD), biodiesel, blends of biodiesel with petroleum diesel and emulsified diesel. Low sulphur diesel has sulphur content of 300 – 500ppm and reduces particulate matter (PM) by 10 – 20% compared to non-road diesel fuel (which has a sulphur content or 3000 – 5000ppm).

And pollution control equipment such as diesel oxidation catalysts or diesel particulate filters can be retrofitted directly onto an engines exhaust system.

Under CDM 2015, design decisions made during the pre-construction phase of projects should also be considered, as these too have a significant influence on the health and safety of everyone affected by the work. For example, lighter buildings, often delivered by low carbon building methods (with no increase in cost), can reduce on-site excavation and heavy machinery due to the requirement for smaller foundations. An example of this is the timber structure of Dalston Works in London which weighs a fifth of its concrete equivalent. And as most the construction was off-site, there were 80% fewer site deliveries than usual.

The below guidance can be downloaded by clicking the link: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/priced/hsg187.pdf and more information is available on the HSE web page: http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/healthrisks/cancer-and-construction/diesel-engine-exhaust.htm. Alternatively, please contact us on 07896 016380 or at fiona@eljay.co.uk, and we’ll be happy to help.

Control of diesel engine exhaust emissions in the workplace

Legislation

The law requires that a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to health which arise from exposure to hazardous substances is made, eg DEEEs. This is covered by the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and several other regulations, in particular the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (as amended) (COSHH) and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Having completed the assessment, there is a further duty to take the necessary steps to prevent or adequately control exposure to the hazard, and to use and maintain the relevant controls.

Risk assessment (COSHH regulation 6)

The health risk assessment will help you to assess the risks to health from exposure to hazardous substances and identify the necessary steps needed for controlling these risks. As workload, frequency of work, and work practices may change over a period, it is necessary to regularly review the assessment. In all but the simplest cases, you should record the assessment.

For DEEEs, the aim of the health risk assessment is to decide on the level of potential exposure, and then on the preventive measures or the level of control which you will need to apply. For example, if there is obvious blue or black smoke in the workplace, the controls need to be more stringent. In some circumstances, such as if there are visible exhaust emissions or complaints of irritancy, the assessment may necessitate carrying out monitoring to assess the effectiveness of the controls.

In order to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment you need to ask a series of questions, find answers and then come to a conclusion. These questions include:

  • How likely is it that exposure to DEEEs will happen?
  • Who could be affected, to what extent and for how long? How many people are potentially exposed to the DEEEs? Can the exposures be avoided?
  • Have there been any ill-health complaints from potentially exposed groups? If yes, what has been done about it?
  • Is the engine being operated at full speed or left idling? What is the purpose of running at idling speed or full speed. Can it be avoided?
  • What is the state of the engine, and how many miles or hours have been completed? Can the engine efficiency be improved, and can operating times and distances be reduced? Improving the efficiency of the engine will also bring financial benefits.
  • What happens to the exhaust emissions: do they enter directly into the workplace, or are they piped away or processed through a treatment system? Could they trigger your fire detection system?
  • Is there visible smoke near the exhaust point? What is the type of smoke, ie white, black or blue? How could it be avoided? Is there a visible haze in the workplace? Can it be avoided and how?
  • What controls are in place to comply with COSHH? Are they satisfactory?
  • Are there soot deposits in the workplace; how significant are they? What can be done to avoid them? What methods are in place for regularly cleaning the workplace?
  • How many engines are running at any one time? Are they all necessary?
  • Is it necessary to use diesel engines, or can alternative power sources be used?

Prevention and control of exposure (COSHH regulation 7)

The answers to the questions in paragraph 17 will guide you in deciding on the actions necessary to prevent or control exposure to DEEEs in the workplace. The control measures you choose need to be based on: the levels of risk and exposure; the type of workplace; present work practices; cost and benefit factors. Because of the variety of workplaces where exposure may occur, the potential exposure and the level of risk will be different. For example, there may be increased exposure where fork-lift trucks are being used in a warehouse all day for moving goods, whereas in a maintenance depot the exposure may be intermittent as the vehicles enter, stay there for maintenance, and then leave.

Prevention

Health and safety legislation requires you to prevent the exposure of employees and others to substances hazardous to health. You should be able to prevent exposure to DEEEs by adopting one or a combination of options, for example:

  • changing the method of work;
  • modifying the layout of the workplace;
  • modifying the operations to eliminate exhaust emissions inside the workplace; or
  • substituting diesel fuel with a safer fuel or alternative technology where practicable, eg compressed natural gas, battery powered vehicles.

Your risk assessment should take account of any other risks posed by these alternative fuels and technologies, for example the use of alcohols may generate greater quantities of aldehydes with possible accompanying irritancy.

Control

There will be situations where it may not be reasonably practicable for you to prevent exposure to DEEEs. In these situations, you should consider the circumstances individually and take the necessary control measures to reduce exposure. These may include:

Engineering controls

  • the use of lower emission or more fuel-efficient engines where possible, eg higher engine injection pressures to reduce particulates, fitting exhaust gas recirculation systems to reduce gaseous oxide emissions;
  • the use of cleaner fuels such as low sulphur diesel fuels;
  • enclosing the exhaust tailpipe from which DEEEs are emitted, for example by using a fixed flexible hose with a tailpipe exhaust extraction system (see Figures 2 and 3);
  • using partial enclosure with local extraction ventilation (LEV) as shown in Figure 4;
  • the use of diesel exhaust gas ‘after-treatment’ systems such as catalytic converters to oxidise organic substances and gases, and catalysed and non-catalysed particulate traps to remove particulate matter;
  • using a combination of LEV and sufficient general ventilation, eg tailpipe exhausts with open doors or roof extraction;
  • using sufficient general ventilation, eg manual or mechanical roof extraction;

Practice and administrative controls

  • using processes or systems of work which will help you to reduce the generation of DEEEs, for example switching off engines when not required for a substantial period of time and adopting a programme of regular engine maintenance;
  • where practicable, reducing the number of employees directly exposed and their period of exposure, eg ensuring that office staff working adjacent to DEEE areas are not exposed, job rotation; and

Respiratory protective equipment (RPE)

  • as exposure to DEEEs is best controlled at source or by other means as described previously, RPE should only be used as a last resort. The RPE chosen should be suitable for protecting against the gaseous and particulate components. The use of nuisance dust masks as worn by cyclists are ineffective against DEEEs and, therefore, should not be used as a means of control in the workplace. Detailed information on RPE for use in the workplace can be found in the HSE guidance book HSG53 Respiratory protective equipment at work: A practical guide.

Use of control measures (COSHH regulation 8)

You should ensure that any control measures are properly used or applied. Employees should make full and proper use of any control measure or personal protective equipment provided by the employer, and report any defects to management for immediate attention.

Maintenance, examination and the testing of control measures (COSHH regulation 9)

You should ensure that all the measures provided to control exposure to DEEEs in the workplace are maintained in an effective state, and kept in efficient working order and in good repair. Where engineering controls are used, they should be thoroughly examined and tested at suitable intervals. LEV, for example, should be thoroughly examined and tested at least once every 14 months.

With the exception of disposable filtering facepiece respirators intended for single shift use, RPE should not be used unless it has had a recent thorough examination and maintenance. The interval between thorough examination and maintenance should not be more than one month.

You should keep a record of such examinations and tests of LEV and RPE for at least five years from the date on which they were made. The record should be readily available for inspection by employees or their representatives, or by enforcement authorities.

Monitoring for exposure to DEEEs in the workplace (COSHH regulation 10)

Under regulation 10 of COSHH, monitoring at the workplace may be required for the following reasons:

  • to determine if there is a failure or deterioration of the control measures which could result in an obvious health effect, eg irritancy from exposure to DEEEs;
  • to determine whether any workplace exposure limit (WEL) or any in-house working standard has been exceeded; and
  • when necessary to check the effectiveness of a control measure provided, eg particulate filter, LEV and/or general ventilation.

The health risk assessment will help you decide if it is necessary to carry out monitoring, for example, to judge the effectiveness of controls. A suitable monitoring strategy, as determined by a competent person such as an occupational hygienist, will indicate whether personal monitoring, fixed placed (static) monitoring, or both are required. It will show which site(s) require monitoring, when and how often, and which sampling and analytical methods would be appropriate.

Personal monitoring for exposure to DEEEs

You may need to carry out personal monitoring to determine the extent of inhalation exposure to DEEEs, and hence the level of risk. Personal monitoring samples should be collected in the breathing zone of the employees. Such samples should be collected where there is a significant potential for exposure during their working shift and include peak exposures, eg while repairing or testing/maintaining an engine, while driving a fork-lift truck or during lashing in ro-ro ferries.

The duration of sampling depends on the workplace situation, such as the nature of the work and the type of monitoring. However, to collect sufficient material from the workplace air and determine the time-weighted average (TWA) exposure, sampling periods will mainly be between six and eight hours. In some instances though, depending on the circumstances, short-term measurements may be all that is required to make decisions on the risk of exposure and level of control. The number of people you decide to sample at each location will depend on the nature of exposure and size of the exposed workforce, for example:

  • processes or operations where exposures are likely to occur;
  • the number, type and position of sources from which the DEEEs are released; and
  • which groups of employees are most likely to be exposed.

Fixed place monitoring

Fixed place monitoring is appropriate in those areas of the workplace where it is impractical to collect personal samples, eg outside a toll booth. Such fixed sampling is useful for determining the effectiveness of your control measures and for measuring background concentrations of DEEEs.

What substances to monitor

Levels of carbon dioxide (CO2 ) above 1000 ppm 8-hour TWA in the workplace, may indicate faulty, poorly maintained or inadequately designed control systems in particular LEV or roof extraction systems. As measurement of the CO2 level is easily carried out and because it is a useful indicator of the overall adequacy of control measures, it may be used as one of the steps in any assessment of the level of exposure to DEEEs.

Respirable dust levels may be measured to help you assess the particulate exposure if, for example, the workload is particularly heavy. However, the levels measured will include particulates from all sources and not just the DEEEs.

In situations where personal exposure to carbon monoxide (CO) may be high (such as at toll booths and in car parks where the majority of vehicles are petrol driven) measurement of CO will provide an indication about the adequacy of controls.

Irritancy

As the definite causes of irritancy are unknown, if any of your workforce complain of this health effect, it is important to look for better means of control rather than to monitor for other gaseous constituents of DEEEs.

Health surveillance (COSHH regulation 11)

Under COSHH, no formal health surveillance is required by employers of those exposed to DEEEs or related emissions. However, if employees are concerned about the short or long-term health effects of exposure to DEEEs, they should discuss the problem with management. If still not satisfied with the outcome, they should voice their concerns with their union representative if available or the works safety representative. Furthermore, if management notices that employees are suffering irritancy effects following exposure to DEEEs, it may indicate that the controls have failed and prompt action is required.

Employers must provide information on health and related matters to employees or their representatives in accordance with the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 and the Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996. Such information allows employees or their representatives to help employers develop control measures.

Information, instruction and training (COSHH regulation 12)

Adequate information, instruction and training should be given to employees on the health hazards associated with occupational exposure to DEEEs and on the proper use of control measures. This information should also be made available to employee safety representatives or other appropriate people.

The information, training and instruction should enable employees to recognise obvious deterioration in the controls used (such as poor maintenance of engines, damage to extraction equipment or ineffective general ventilation), so they can report to employers who would then take the necessary action to rectify the situation.

 

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

Control of legionella (and other) bacteria in metal working fluids (MWFs)

Legionella bacteria are commonly found in water supplies at low concentrations and if conditions (eg temperature and nutrients) are right, these microorganisms will grow. Water mix metal working fluids (MWFs) are mostly water and their industrial use may produce aerosols. Inhaling an aerosol contaminated with Legionella bacteria can cause Legionnaires’ disease. HSE guidance L8 “Legionnaires’ disease. The control of legionella bacteria in water systems” recommends that the MWF storage and distribution system of lathe and machine tool coolant systems should be cleaned and disinfected every six months or more frequently if recommended by machine tool or fluid suppliers.

However, the Health and Safety Laboratory has carried out research, Survival of Legionella pneumophila in metalworking fluids, which shows there is a minimal risk of Legionella bacteria contaminating such a system, if the system is properly managed.

HSE’s guidance on managing bacterial contamination of metalworking fluids suggests a risk-based approach, based on monitoring fluid condition and bacterial contamination: http://www.hse.gov.uk/metalworking/bacterial.htm

If you can demonstrate that metalworking fluids are managed in accordance with the COSHH essentials sheet Managing sumps and bacterial contamination (http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/guidance/mw05.pdf) and HSE’s guidance on managing bacterial contamination in metalworking fluids an additional assessment of the risk of Legionnaires’ disease is normally unnecessary. However, further assessment and precautions will be necessary to cover any special circumstances, such as deep cleaning of sumps and machinery with jet washers, where the potential for exposure to airborne hazardous bacteria is much greater. This is due to the disturbance of microbial slime known as biofilm – where Legionella may survive. Avoid water jetting where possible, as it tends to create fine water droplets or mists.

If water jetting is necessary carry out a risk assessment, to include respiratory and other risks such as those arising from the use of high pressure and electricity, see,

More guidance on metalworking fluids can be found on the HSE web page: http://www.hse.gov.uk/metalworking/index.htm

For more information on controlling the risk of Legionnaires’ disease, see Legionella and Legionnaires’ disease: http://www.hse.gov.uk/legionnaires/index.htm, or contact us on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk, ad we’ll be happy to help

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

 

Cancer and construction: Diesel engine exhaust emissions

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The subject of air pollution has been very much in the headlines recently, particularly in London, where it was described in January as being worse than that in Beijing. And the London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory (LAEI) shows that the construction industry’s contribution to this is disproportionate compared to that of the usual road transport related suspects, with site-based plant and machinery being mostly to blame. This is due to the fact that emissions from these “non-road mobile machines” or NRMMs, are regulated under a different and (until now) more relaxed system to road transport. Even whilst complying with recent regulatory standards, emissions from a modern excavator, for example, are still apparently 15 times greater than those from a modern double decker bus. And whilst attempts are being made by London mayor Sadiq Khan to address these issues and their effects on the health of Londoners, the health of construction workers themselves is also thrown into doubt by the absence of legal diesel fume exposure limits.

According to the HSE, as of 2005, cancers relating to exposure to diesel exhaust emissions accounted for 6.5% of construction-related cancer deaths – that’s an estimated 230 construction workers each year. At the very least, short-term exposure to diesel engine exhaust emissions or DEEEs, can cause eye or respiratory irritation. And longer periods of exposure, in particular to any blue or black smoke, can lead to coughing, chestiness and breathlessness.

The law requires that a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to health which arise from exposure to hazardous substances is made, eg DEEEs. This is covered by the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and several other regulations, in particular the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (as amended) (COSHH) and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Having completed the assessment, there is a further duty to take the necessary steps to prevent or adequately control exposure to the hazard, and to use and maintain the relevant controls.

The HSE provides the following guidance on managing the risks to construction workers from DEEEs.

Cancer and construction: Diesel engine exhaust emissions

What is it?

Exhaust emissions from diesel engines are made up of a complex mixture of gases, vapours, liquid aerosols and soot particles. It contains many known carcinogenic substances such as Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (known as PAHs). These PAHs are adsorbed onto the soot which makes them easy to inhale.

The quantity and make-up of DEEEs depends mainly on the engine type and setting, how it is maintained, fuel quality, the demands placed on the engine and temperature that it is working at. Three different types of visible smoke may be produced:

  • blue smoke (mainly oil and unburnt fuel) which indicates a poorly serviced / tuned engine
  • black smoke (soot, oil and unburnt fuel) which indicates a mechanical fault with the engine
  • white smoke (water droplets and unburnt fuel) which is produced when the engine is started from cold and disappears when the engine warms up

What is the risk to construction workers?

The major source of DEEEs on a construction site is likely to be from generators and heavy vehicles like lorries, excavators or telehandlers. The more significant risks are linked to longer periods of work with this equipment in enclosed spaces and / or situations where there is blue or black smoke.

Breathing DEEEs can cause a number of ill-health effects. Short-term exposure may cause eye or respiratory irritation. This should stop when you are in fresh air. Longer periods of exposure, in particular to any blue or black smoke, can lead to coughing, chestiness and breathlessness.

There is also evidence that repeated exposure to DEEEs over many years can increase the risk of lung cancer. HSE commissioned research highlighted it as a significant risk to construction workers from DEEEs, estimating that over 200 died prematurely in 2005. It is important to note that this estimate is based on past exposures up to 50 years ago. Engine and fuel technology has changed significantly since then. However, risks remain that you need to control.

Can you prevent this risk?

Yes. There are a number of steps you can take: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/hsg187.htm (click on the link to download a free copy of HSE publication “Control of diesel engine exhaust emissions in the workplace”)

For more information, visit the HSE web page http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/healthrisks/cancer-and-construction/diesel-engine-exhaust.htm or contact us on 07896 016380 or at fiona@eljay.co.uk, and we’ll be happy to help.

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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 – 3RD DECEMBER 2015

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IN THIS UPDATE

Introduction

Legionella and Legionnaires’ disease – coatings firm in court for legionella failings

Solder fume and you – an employee’s guide

3M SafeTea Break 2015 Campaign

Introduction

Legionnaires’ disease is, unfortunately, in the news regularly. Only last month a driving test centre in Kent had to be shut down after the bacteria – which can cause the potentially fatal lung infection – was found during a routine water test. One of the worst outbreaks in UK history was in 2002 in Barrow-in-Furness, the source of which was an arts centre air conditioning unit. 172 cases of the disease were reported, resulting in seven deaths. If you are an employer, or someone in control of premises, including landlords, you must understand the health risks associated with legionella, and take the right precautions to reduce the risks of exposure to the bacteria, guidance on which we share below. Failure to do so recently resulted in an international engineering firm being fined at total of £110,000 plus £77,252 costs.

If you work in an electronics, metalwork or plumbing related industry, you’re probably familiar with soldering processes, and the fact that serious health problems can arise from rosin, which is contained in solder fluxes. This week we share the HSE’s recently revised guidance document ‘Solder fume and you’ (INDG248) which gives advice to employees on safe working whilst soldering with rosin (colophony) based solder fluxes.

And finally, we share details of 3M’s SafeTea Break 2015 campaign which encourages employers to deliver bite-size ‘tea break’ talks to engage their workforces in discussions about health and long latency occupational diseases.

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

Legionella and Legionnaires’ disease – coatings firm in court for legionella failings

An international engineering firm, which refurbishes turbine blades, was recently fined a total of £110,000 plus £77,252 costs for failing to manage the risk to public and employees to potentially fatal legionella bacteria.

The company, which has sites in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, failed to properly manage the risk of bacteria growing in their cooling towers for over a year, from May 2011.

Derby Crown Court heard that during a visit to one of the sites in May 2012, a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector felt spray on his face, saw the yard’s surface was wet and that nearby cooling towers were corroded.

Corrosion can encourage the growth of legionella bacteria which is carried in water droplets. If water is inhaled which contains the bacteria, it can lead to a number of diseases, but most commonly legionnaire’s disease, a potentially fatal form of pneumonia.

The inspector extended his visit to the rest of the factory plus the company’s other site, and found significant failings in the company’s control, recording and management of legionella risks.

HSE issued four improvement notices in June 2012 requiring inlet screens to be placed on the cooling towers to stop debris falling in them which could encourage legionella growth, and for corroded items of plant to be replaced.

Two similar notices were served on the company in 2008 seeking improvements on rusting towers and a number of management failures. All the notices had been complied with.

The court was told a laboratory analysis of a water sample taken from one of the sites before the HSE investigation had found legionella bacteria levels to be so high that immediate action was required to clean the system.

As well as failing to maintain its infrastructure, the company did not keep biocides (chemicals which kill bacteria) at effective levels.

What is Legionnaires’ disease?

Legionellosis is a collective term for diseases caused by legionella bacteria including the most serious Legionnaires’ disease, as well as the similar but less serious conditions of Pontiac fever and Lochgoilhead fever. Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia and everyone is susceptible to infection. The risk increases with age but some people are at higher risk including:

  • people over 45 years of age
  • smokers and heavy drinkers
  • people suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease
  • diabetes, lung and heart disease
  • anyone with an impaired immune system

The bacterium Legionella pneumophila and related bacteria are common in natural water sources such as rivers, lakes and reservoirs, but usually in low numbers. They may also be found in purpose-built water systems such as cooling towers, evaporative condensers, hot and cold water systems and spa pools.

If conditions are favourable, the bacteria may grow increasing the risks of Legionnaires’ disease and it is therefore important to control the risks by introducing appropriate measures outlined in Legionnaires’ disease – The Control of Legionella bacteria in water systems (L8) (http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/l8.htm).

What you must do

If you are an employer, or someone in control of premises, including landlords, you must understand the health risks associated with legionella. This section can help you to control any risks.

Duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA) extend to risks from legionella bacteria, which may arise from work activities. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR) provide a broad framework for controlling health and safety at work.  More specifically, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) provide a framework of actions designed to assess, prevent or control the risk from bacteria like Legionella and take suitable precautions.  The Approved Code of Practice: Legionnaires’ disease: The control of Legionella bacteria in water systems (L8) contains practical guidance on how to manage and control the risks in your system.

As an employer, or a person in control of the premises, you are responsible for health and safety and need to take the right precautions to reduce the risks of exposure to legionella. You must understand how to:

  • identify and assess sources of risk
  • manage any risks
  • prevent or control any risks
  • keep and maintain the correct records
  • carry out any other duties you may have

Identify and assess sources of risk

Carrying out a risk assessment is your responsibility. You may be competent to carry out the assessment yourself but, if not, you should call on help and advice from either within your own organisation or from outside sources, e.g. consultancies.

You or the person responsible for managing risks, need to understand your water systems, the equipment associated with the system such as pumps, heat exchangers, showers etc, and its constituent parts. Identify whether they are likely to create a risk from exposure to legionella, and whether:

  • the water temperature in all or some parts of the system is between 20–45 °C
  • water is stored or re-circulated as part of your system
  • there are sources of nutrients such as rust, sludge, scale, organic matter and biofilms
  • the conditions are likely to encourage bacteria to multiply
  • it is possible for water droplets to be produced and, if so, whether they can be dispersed over a wide area, e.g. showers and aerosols from cooling towers
  • it is likely that any of your employees, residents, visitors etc are more susceptible to infection due to age, illness, a weakened immune system etc and whether they could be exposed to any contaminated water droplets

Your risk assessment should include:

  • management responsibilities, including the name of the competent person and a description of your system
  • competence and training of key personnel
  • any identified potential risk sources
  • any means of preventing the risk or controls in place to control risks
  • monitoring, inspection and maintenance procedures
  • records of the monitoring results and inspection and checks carried out
  • arrangements to review the risk assessment regularly, particularly when there is reason to suspect it is no longer valid

If you conclude that there is no reasonably foreseeable risk or the risks are low and are being properly managed to comply with the law, your assessment is complete. You may not need to take any further action at this stage, but any existing controls must be maintained and the assessment reviewed regularly in case anything changes in your system.

Managing the risk

As an employer, or person in control of premises, you must appoint someone competent to help you meet your health and safety duties and to take responsibility for controlling any identified risk from exposure to legionella bacteria. A competent person, often known as the responsible person, is someone with sufficient authority, competence, necessary skills, knowledge of the system, and experience. The appointed responsible person could be one, or a combination of:

  • yourself
  • one or more workers
  • someone from outside your business

If there are several people responsible for managing risks, e.g. because of shift-work patterns, you must make sure that everyone knows what they are responsible for and how they fit into the overall risk management of the system.

If you decide to employ contractors to carry out water treatment or other work, it is still the responsibility of the competent person to ensure that the treatment is carried out to the required standards. Remember, before you employ a contractor, you should be satisfied that they can do the work you want to the standard that you require. There are a number of external schemes to help you with this, for example, A Code of Conduct for service providers (http://www.legionellacontrol.org.uk/). The British Standards Institute have published a standard for legionella risk assessment (http://shop.bsigroup.com/ProductDetail/?pid=000000000030200235)

Preventing or controlling the risk

You should first consider whether you can prevent the risk of legionella by looking at the type of water system you need, e.g. identify whether it is possible to replace a wet cooling tower with a dry air-cooled system. The key point is to design, maintain and operate your water services under conditions that prevent or adequately control the growth and multiplication of legionella.

If you identify a risk that you are unable to prevent, you must introduce a course of action ie a written control scheme, that will help you to manage the risk from legionella by implementing effective control measures, by describing:

  • your system, e.g. develop a schematic diagram
  • who is responsible for carrying out the assessment and managing its implementation
  • the safe and correct operation of your system
  • what control methods and other precautions you will be using
  • what checks will be carried out, and how often will they be carried out, to ensure the controls remain effective

You should:

  • ensure that the release of water spray is properly controlled
  • avoid water temperatures and conditions that favour the growth of legionella and other micro-organisms
  • ensure water cannot stagnate anywhere in the system by keeping pipe lengths as short as possible or removing redundant pipework
  • avoid materials that encourage the growth of legionella (The Water Fittings & Materials Directory (http://www.materialstesting.co.uk/materials_directory.htm) references fittings, materials, and appliances approved for use on the UK Water Supply System by the Water Regulations Advisory Scheme)
  • keep the system and the water in it clean
  • treat water to either control the growth of legionella (and other microorganisms) or limit their ability to grow
  • monitor any control measures applied
  • keep records of these and other actions taken, such as maintenance or repair work

Keeping records

If you have five or more employees you have to record any significant findings, including those  identified as being particularly at risk and the steps taken to prevent or control risks.  If you have less than five employees, you do not need to write anything down, although it is useful to keep a written record of what you have done.

Records should include details of the:

  • person or persons responsible for conducting the risk assessment, managing, and implementing the written scheme
  • significant findings of the risk assessment
  • written control scheme and details of its implementation
  • details of the state of operation of the system, i.e. in use/not in use
  • results of any monitoring inspection, test or check carried out, and the dates

These records should be retained throughout the period for which they remain current and for at least two years after that period. Records kept in accordance with (e) should be retained for at least five years.

Other duties

Under the Notification of Cooling Towers and Evaporative Condensers Regulations 1992, you must notify your local authority in writing, if you have a cooling tower or evaporative condenser on site, and include details about where it is located. You must also tell them if/when such devices are no longer in use. Notification forms are available from your local authority/environmental health department.

Although less common, other systems that do not rely solely on the principle of evaporation, are dry/wet coolers or condensers. Owing to their different principles of operation, these systems may not require notification under the Notification of Cooling Towers and Evaporative Condensers Regulations 1992 (NCTEC) but it is important to assess the system against the notification requirements defined in NCTEC, eg where such systems spray water directly onto the surface of the heat exchanger.

In addition, under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR), you must report any cases of legionellosis in an employee who has worked on cooling towers or hot and cold water systems that are likely to be contaminated with legionella.

Specific risk systems

You will also need to consider technical and further information on the following risk systems (click on the links):

For more information visit the HSE web page http://www.hse.gov.uk/legionnaires/index.htm?ebul=gd-welding&cr=12/Dec15 or contact us on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk and we’ll be happy to help. We carry out Legionnella Risk Assessments of hot and cold water systems in commercial and residential property and can provide further information on request.

Solder fume and you – an employee’s guide

This guidance is aimed at people who solder using rosin, specifically colophony-based solder flux, which can cause asthma and dermatitis.

Be aware:

  • Working with rosin-based solder fluxes requires you to take action. You should take appropriate steps to prevent, control or reduce exposure to fumes, as they can cause serious health problems.
  • There are different types of solder flux. Find out from your manager what type of solder fume you are using.

Remember:

  • Serious health problems can occur when soldering.
  • Report symptoms of ill health to your manager. These can include: coughing; wheezing; runny eyes or nose; tight chest. These can all be symptoms of occupational asthma or serious illness.
  • If solder flux fume makes you ill, the effects will become worse if you carry on breathing in the fume.
  • Where it is necessary to have a health surveillance process in place to help protect the health of employees, your employer will ask you to co-operate.

To protect your health:

  • Keep your face out of the solder fume.
  • Use the correct control measure(s), such as: local exhaust ventilation (LEV); solder fume extraction; on-tip extraction; down-draught benches; enclosing hoods; moveable capturing hoods. Look at Controlling health risks from rosin (colophony)-based solder fluxes (see Further reading) for further information on which method you should use.
  • Use fume extraction when you are either: – soldering using rosin-based fluxes; or – using alternative fluxes for more than a few minutes a day.
  • You should check that the system works properly every time you use or move it.
  • Check for yourself to see how effective the LEV is where you work.

Further reading (click on the links)

For clarification or more information, contact us on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk and we’ll be happy to help.

3M SafeTea Break 2015 Campaign

3M in conjunction with Safety Groups UK have launched SafeTea Break 2015 Campaign. The campaign has an accompanying toolkit for bite-size ‘tea break’ talks to engage your workforce in discussions about health and long latency occupational diseases.

The kit provides open questions to present to the workforce in a breakout session that will generate debate across health topics, ultimately driving a useful action plan, and a better understanding of the health risks and consequences of non-compliance for the workforce.

Visit the website at http://safetynetwork.3m.com/blog/safetea/?WT.mc_id=www.3m.co.uk/SafeTea?ebul=gd-welding&cr=11/Dec15 where you can download the SafeTea Break pack for free.

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