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

 

 

HEALTH & SAFETY NEWS UPDATE – 30TH JULY 2015

IN THIS UPDATE

Introduction

HSE Safety Alert

Poor design of scaffold loading bay gate, providing inadequate edge protection to prevent falls from height

HSE Myth Busters Challenge Panel

Case 363 – Unable to open office windows

Case 357 – Consultants and Letting Agents misinterpreting the risks of exposure to legionella of their tenants

Case 355 – All tools on building sites need to be a maximum of 110V

Case 345 – Council erecting a barrier on sloping grass bank to prevent workers and the public falling onto concrete path below

News & Research

1.3 million tradespeople at risk from dangers of asbestos

HSE Research Report 1052 – The effect of wearer stubble on the protection given by Filtering Facepieces Class 3 (FFP3) and Half Masks

Face Fit testing of RPE (Respiratory Protective Equipment)

Introduction

Welcome to this week’s Health & Safety news update – our second since the launch of our new website. We’re settling into it quite nicely, and hope you are too. Don’t forget that comments and/or feedback are always welcome!

We experienced a few teething problems last week with subscription registrations, and apologise if you were affected by these. Fingers crossed they’ve now been solved, so if you want to receive email notifications of our updates, just click on “Register” (bottom-left), and you’ll be directed to a page where you can enter a user name of your choice, and your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time and each email will contain an unsubscription link for this purpose. If you experience any difficulties at all, please email us at Fiona@eljay.co.uk, or via the “Contact us” page on our website (http://www.eljay.co.uk/contact-eljay-risk-management.php)

This week, after bring your attention to this week’s HSE Safety Alert, we’re quashing a few Health & Safety myths via the ‘Myth Busters Challenge Panel’, and highlighting the HSE’s asbestos safety campaign, before leading into our new ‘Face Fit Testing’ service with some interesting research on the topic.

HSE Safety Alert

Extendable Scaffolding Loading Bay Gate – use of cable ties to secure loose mesh and unsafe means of operation

HSE has become aware that a number of manufacturers/suppliers are marketing an extendable scaffold loading bay gate that does not satisfy legal requirements or applicable standards when in some configurations. When extended the loading bay gate, which forms part of the edge protection on a scaffold, is not robust enough to fulfil this function and is therefore not suitable and sufficient to comply with the Work at Height Regulations 2005. For more information click on the link: http://www.hse.gov.uk/safetybulletins/loading-bay-gate.htm?ebul=gd-cons/jul15&cr=1 or contact us on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk

HSE Myth Busters Challenge Panel

‘Health and Safety’ is often incorrectly used as a convenient excuse to stop what are essentially sensible activities going ahead when instead, we should be using good health & safety principles and practice to ensure that work proceeds, but safely. The Health and Safety Executive has set up an independent panel – the Myth Busters Challenge Panel – to scrutinize such decisions.

Below are just a few of the cases that the panel have recently considered, and their findings.

Case 363 – Unable to open office windows

Issue

Enquirer’s office has been told that they cannot have the keys to open the windows in their office on the 3rd floor as this would breach health and safety. The windows run almost floor to ceiling with the top section opening inwards. Standing next to the window, the open section is just below the enquirer’s chest height (they are 6ft tall). With summer coming the office is getting hotter and they are unable to have any fresh air in the building.

Panel opinion

In some circumstances it may be appropriate to prohibit people from opening windows if there is a real risk of someone falling out; but where this is a concern, the problem can also be addressed by fitting controls to limit the extent to which the windows can be opened. In this particular case it seems more likely that “health and safety” has been used as a cover when the real reason is to do with concerns over the effectiveness of the air conditioning.

“Health and safety” should not be used simply to avoid having a discussion about the real concerns and what solutions might be possible.

Our comment

More information about the safe opening and closing of windows, etc, as well as glazing safety in relation to impact and cleaning, can be found in Building Regulations Approved Document N (http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/uploads/br/BR_PDF_ADN_1998.pdf) or contact us on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk

Case 357 – Consultants and Letting Agents misinterpreting the risks of exposure to legionella of their tenants

Issue

Consultants and letting agents are i) using the revised L8 ACOP to infer there is new legislation regarding landlords responsibilities and ii) misrepresenting what the law requires of landlords of domestic rented properties in relation to assessing and controlling the risks of exposure to Legionella bacteria of their tenants, for financial gain.

Panel opinion

Health and Safety law does not require landlords to produce a ‘Legionnaires testing certificate’. Legionella testing is required only in exceptional circumstances and generally not in domestic hot and cold water systems. Such letting agents and consultants are scaremongering landlords, for financial gain, by misinterpreting and exaggerating the legal requirements to manage and control legionella in domestic premises.

HSE has published guidance for landlords, free to download from HSE’s website:

http://www.hse.gov.uk/legionnaires/faqs.htm – As a landlord, what are my duties?

http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/priced/hsg274part2.pdf – PDF – Paragraphs 2.138-2.146

Our comment

Whilst Legionella testing is not always required, if you are an employer, or someone in control of premises, you need to take the right precautions to reduce the risks of exposure to Legionella by carrying out a risk assessment, which includes management and prevention or control of any risks, as well as keeping and maintain the correct records. For more information click on the link http://www.hse.gov.uk/legionnaires/what-you-must-do.htm or contact us on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk

Case 355 – All tools on building sites need to be a maximum of 110V

Issue

The enquirer was tasked with carrying out sound insulation tests in houses on a construction site. The site manager asked him if his equipment was battery operated to which his reply was “no, it will need to be plugged into a 230V socket”. He asked if there was 230V power in the plots and the site manager said yes it was available but all “tools” on site need to run off a maximum of 110V as this was the company policy.

Panel opinion

The enquirer appears to have been planning to work in a completed (or nearly) completed house with the electrical system installed and compliant with requirements for electrical installations. This is a significantly lower risk from when the house is under construction. Whilst health and safety law does not ban 230v tools on construction sites, HSE strongly advises that 110v tools are preferable given the wet, dirty and dusty nature of construction sites and the possibility of mechanical damage to cables and tools.

In this instance a standard which is reasonable for a live, temporary, construction site is being applied to a different (domestic) environment where the risks would be much lower and the electrical system permanent and compliant with the latest standards.  If a site or company decide to impose a higher (disproportionate) standard in this lower risk environment they can but it is not health and safety law that requires this.

Our comment

More information about this construction safety topic can be found on the HSE web page “Electricity – Systems in buildings”. Click on the link http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/safetytopics/systems.htm or contact us on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk

Case 345 – Council erecting a barrier on sloping grass bank to prevent workers and the public falling onto concrete path below

Issue

A sloping grassed bank, whose base is retained by a vertical wall, runs along behind social housing dwellings. The council has identified a risk of injury to workers from a fall from the top of the retaining wall when working on the bank above and also identified a similar risk of injury for residents and the public who access the bank. The council plans to install a barrier on top of the wall to reduce the risk of fall from height onto the concrete path below.

Panel opinion

The Council is taking a sensible approach to find a way of minimising various risks to its own employees and members of the public. They should continue to discuss with residents to find a suitable means of fencing/protection that reduces risk without restricting access unduly.

Our comment

If you manage or own property in which others live or work, it is your duty to ensure that the premises (inside and out) are in a satisfactory state from a health and safety perspective. Falls from height is just one of the many risks that need to be considered. We provide health & safety inspections of residential and commercial properties, as well as fire and Legionella risk assessments. For more information contact us on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk.

News & Research

1.3 million tradespeople at risk from dangers of asbestos

Health and Safety Executive launches new safety campaign as an average of 20 tradespeople die every week from asbestos related disease

Tradespeople, including construction workers, carpenters and painters and decorators, could come into contact with deadly asbestos on average more than 100 times a year* according to a new survey commissioned by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)**.

As well as illustrating how often tradespeople can be exposed to asbestos, the survey revealed some common myths believed by those at risk, with 1 in seven (14 per cent) believing that drinking a glass of water will help protect them from the deadly dust and one in four (27 per cent) thinking that opening a window will help to keep them safe.

Only a third (30 per cent) of those asked, were able to identify all the correct measures for safe asbestos working, whilst more than half (57 per cent) made at least one potentially lethal mistake in trying to identify how to stay safe.

Twenty tradespeople, on average, die every week from asbestos related diseases.

Asbestos can be found in walls and ceilings, or the structure of a building, as well as a host of other places like floor tiles, boilers, toilet cisterns, guttering and soffits.

It can be disturbed by basic maintenance work like drilling holes and sanding and once disturbed, the microscopic fibres can prove lethal if breathed in, causing lung disease and cancer.

The research, undertaken by Censuswide in September 2014, shows that while more than half (53 per cent) knew that asbestos could be in old buildings built before 1970, only 15 per cent knew that it could still be found in buildings built up to the year 2000.

And although many of those surveyed could pinpoint some asbestos-containing materials, others were clueless, with only 19 per cent recognising it could also be hidden in common fixtures such as toilet seats and cisterns.

To encourage tradespeople to think about asbestos on every job so they are prepared to deal with the danger, HSE has launched a new safety campaign. A key feature of the campaign is the creation of a new web app for phones, tablets and laptops that helps tradespeople easily identify where they could come into contact with the deadly material as they go about their day-to-day work and gives them tailored help on how to deal with the risks.

Philip White, HSE’s Chief Inspector for Construction, said:

“Asbestos is still a very real danger and the survey findings suggest that the people who come into contact with it regularly often don’t know where it could be and worryingly don’t know how to deal with it correctly, which could put them in harm’s way. Our new campaign aims to help tradespeople understand some of the simple steps they can take to stay safe. Our new web app is designed for use on a job so workers can easily identify if they are likely to face danger and can then get straight forward advice to help them do the job safely.”

Former electrical consultant Simon Clark, who in 2012 was diagnosed with mesothelioma – the life-threatening and aggressive cancer caused by exposure to asbestos – when he was just 52, said:

“When I was younger I didn’t think of the dangers of asbestos and I must have been exposed to it frequently. Since being diagnosed, I’ve had to give up my work and let some of my employees go – which is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It is vitally important that everybody knows when they might be exposed and takes the correct steps to protect themselves.”

To download the web app please visit www.beware-asbestos.info/news

For more information on asbestos safety please visit http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos or contact us on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk

HSE Research Report 1052 – The effect of wearer stubble on the protection given by Filtering Facepieces Class 3 (FFP3) and Half Masks

HSE Inspectors routinely come across workers with various degrees of stubble growth using respiratory protective masks, despite guidance to the contrary. This research studied the effect of 0-7 days stubble growth on the protection given by FFP3 filtering facepieces and half masks.

Fifteen male volunteers took part, each testing four masks. For most, three different design FFP3 and one half mask were tested, selected from seven models of FFP3 and 2 half masks. Fit tests were carried out immediately after shaving and repeated six times during the following week, without further shaving.

Results showed that the effect on protection was quite specific to the mask/wearer combination.

Protection could be significantly reduced where stubble was present, beginning within 24 hours from shaving, and generally worsening as facial hair grew. Statistical analysis predicted this could reach an unacceptable level for all of the masks tested.

While some individual wearers did grow some stubble without significantly reducing protection with some masks, this was unpredictable and it would not be practical to conduct the necessary testing to confirm this for every individual wearer.

The current guidance advising being clean-shaven in the area of the mask seal is justified.

Face Fit testing of RPE (Respiratory Protective Equipment)

As you will be aware you must ensure that any RPE you use provides adequate protection for individual wearers. RPE can’t protect the wearer if it leaks. A major cause of leaks is poor fit – tight-fitting face-pieces need to fit the wearer’s face to be effective. As people come in all sorts of shapes and sizes it is unlikely that one particular type or size of RPE face-piece will fit everyone. Fit testing will ensure that the equipment selected is suitable for the wearer and, importantly, will help ensure the safety of your workers.

RPE fit testing should be conducted by a competent person – you should take steps to ensure that person who carries out the fit test is appropriately trained, qualified and experienced, and is provided with appropriate information to undertake each particular task.

We can carry out your face fit testing, so if you need help selecting and fit testing RPE, contact us today on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk to discuss your requirements and we will provide you with a no-obligation quotation.

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

 

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