Health and safety for older workers – UK’s longest serving employee, aged 89, has no plans to retire

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Following the recent news of an 89 year old accountant becoming the UK’s longest serving employee, after working for the same engineering firm for 70 years, we’re sharing HSE guidance this week on health and safety for older workers.

Introduction

Today’s workforce is likely to contain a higher proportion of older workers because of factors such as increased life expectancy, removal of the default retirement age and raising of the State Pension Age, which means that many people will need, and want to continue working.

Employers have the same responsibilities for the health and safety of older employees as they have for all their employees.

This guidance will help employers take older workers into account when considering how to meet their responsibilities.

Dispelling the myths

Health and safety should not be used as an excuse to avoid employing older people. A separate risk assessment is not required specifically for older workers.

Research that has been carried out on age and employment is listed in the resources and useful links section of this guidance (http://www.hse.gov.uk/vulnerable-workers/older-workers.htm#useful) and includes the following findings:

  • That instead of being unfit to work due to ageing and ill health, 62 per cent of over 50s describe themselves as feeling as fit as ever, with structural and (other people’s) attitudinal barriers thwarting their ability to stay involved.
  • Some employers can have stereotyped views of the abilities and attitudes of older workers.
  • That key elements of cognitive performance important for workplace health and safety, such as intelligence, knowledge, and use of language, do not generally show any marked decrease until after the age of 70.
  • Where decline in cognitive abilities such as working memory and reaction time does occur, there is evidence that safe performance of tasks is unlikely to be affected, as older individuals can generally compensate for them with experience, better judgement and job knowledge.
  • Strong evidence that, although speed of learning tends to slow with age, older workers can generally achieve a good standard in learning and performing new skills, given additional time and practice.
  • Little conclusive evidence that older workers have an increased risk of occupational accidents than younger workers. However, while older workers are generally less likely than younger workers to have occupational accidents, accidents involving them are likely to result in more serious injuries, permanent disabilities or death, than for younger workers. Older workers may experience more slips, trips and falls than younger workers, and recovery following an injury may take longer.

Guidance for employers

Older workers bring a broad range of skills and experience to the workplace and often have better judgement and job knowledge, so looking after their health and safety makes good business sense.

You should:

  • Review your risk assessment if anything significant changes, not just when an employee reaches a certain age
  • Not assume that certain jobs are physically too demanding for older workers, many jobs are supported by technology, which can absorb the physical strain.
  • Think about the activities older workers do, as part of your overall risk assessment and consider whether any changes are needed. This might include:
  • allowing older workers more time to absorb health and safety information or training, for example by introducing self-paced training.
  • introducing opportunities for older workers to choose to move to other types of work.
  • designing tasks that contain an element of manual handling in such a way that they eliminate or minimise the risk.
  • Think about how your business operates and how older workers could play a part in helping to improve how you manage health and safety risks. This might include having older workers working alongside colleagues in a structured programme, to capture knowledge and learn from their experience.
  • Avoid assumptions by consulting and involving older workers when considering relevant control measures to put in place. Extra thought may be needed for some hazards. Consultation with your employees helps you to manage health and safety in a practical way.

Further information

Guidance for older workers

As an employee, you have a duty to take care of your own health and safety, and that of others who may be affected by your actions.

You must cooperate with your employer and other employees to help everyone meet their legal requirements.

If you have specific queries or concerns about your health and safety or if you are experiencing difficulty in carrying out your work, you should raise this with your employer.

Further information

The law

Under health and safety law, employers must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of all their employees, irrespective of age.

Employers must also provide adequate information, instruction, training and supervision to enable their employees to carry out their work safely.

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR)

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers have a duty to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the workplace risks to the health and safety of his employees. This includes identifying groups of workers who might be particularly at risk, which could include older workers.

Equality Law

Discrimination in respect of age is different from all other forms of direct discrimination in that it can be justifiable if it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate end, such as considering changes to work that may be needed to ensure older workers can remain in the workforce.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) provides information and further advice on age discrimination: http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/about-us/about-commission/our-vision-and-mission/our-business-plan/age-equality

For more information, visit the HSE web page: http://www.hse.gov.uk/vulnerable-workers/older-workers.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

 

 

Questions you need to ask if you employ contractors – three prosecuted after man loses life due to fall through fragile roof

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Three prosecuted after man loses life due to fall through fragile roof

A company, its director, and a self-employed contractor have been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), after a man was fatally injured by falling through a roof light.

Warrington Crown Court heard how in June 2013, the man was working with his friend. They were cleaning roof lights on the roof of a building at a Cheshire industrial estate.  The man fell approximately 7m through a roof light to the work-shop floor underneath, and subsequently died.  Both the roof and the roof lights were not able to support the weight of a person.

The HSE investigation found that his friend, who primarily was a gardener and not a roofer, did not take precautions to prevent a fall through the roof, nor off its edge. He did not have the necessary knowledge or competence to carry out the work.

The company failed to have adequate systems in place to ensure a competent roofer was appointed. Both the company and its director failed to adequately plan and supervise the work, due to their own lack of understanding of standards and the law relating to work on fragile roofs.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1) and Regulation 5 of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, and were fined £20,000 with more than £8,000 costs.

The company’s director pleaded guilty to breaching two counts of Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. He was sentenced to four months imprisonment on each count (suspended for 12 months) and was ordered to pay more than £8,000 costs.

At a recent hearing, the man’s friend pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. He was sentenced to six months imprisonment (suspended for 12 months) and was ordered to pay more than £8,000 costs.

An HSE inspector said after the hearing that if the company and its director had asked questions about the man’s friend’s experience and knowledge (of roof work standards), they would not have employed him. “He should have recognised he was not competent and should not have carried out the work. With these simple considerations, [the man] would not have been on the roof and would not have died in the way he did.”

Do you employ contractors?

If you employ contractors, you have a legal duty to make sure they are competent to do the work you want them to do.

Questions you need to ask

Their experience:

  • What experience do they have in the type of work?
  • Can they provide references? You may want to check these.

Their competence:

  • Do the contractor’s employees hold relevant certificates of competence? (e.g. chainsaw use, tree climbing and aerial rescue, chippers, MEWPs?)
  • Are they a member of a trade or professional body? (e.g. the Arboricultural Association, International Society of Arboriculture, Forestry Contracting Association)
  • What is their safety performance like? (e.g. accident records)?
  • Can they provide examples of methods of work, risk assessments or other documentation to show they are familiar with the type of work?

Their management arrangements:

  • What are their procedures for managing health and safety?
  • Do they properly plan and organise work at height? (e.g. use of MEWP v climbing)
  • Will the work be sub-contracted and if so, how will they control it?
  • How do they supervise and manage their site work?
  • What Codes of Practice or standards will the contractor be working to e.g. AFAG safety guides, Guide to good climbing practice
  • Do they provide employees with the correct personal protective equipment? How do they monitor and check their own safety standards?
  • How do they inspect and check their equipment (owned or hired) e.g. as required by the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations
  • Do they have employers’ liability, public liability and professional indemnity insurance?
  • Are they asking you about your risks or needs?

The more complex and potentially dangerous the activities, the more likely it is that the answers and information will need to be recorded. As the client, you will be responsible for checking that any contractor you appoint is competent to do the work safely.

Once you have selected a competent contractor, you will need to exchange information and agree the method of work. Both will need to be done before work starts. Pre-work meetings are a good way of ensuring that the work is properly planned and controlled. Finally, you will also need to monitor the work.

For more information, download the free HSE leaflet “Using contractors – A brief guide”: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg368.pdf 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