Your garden walls: better to be safe – local authority prosecuted after wall collapses onto child

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

Local authority prosecuted after wall collapses onto child

A local authority was sentenced last month after a brick boundary wall it part-owned collapsed and seriously injured a six-year-old girl.

Details of the Crown Court hearing reveal how, in August 2016, a wall spanning the back of two houses at a town in Essex collapsed onto the girl during a family barbecue. She was placed in an induced coma after sustaining serious and life-threatening injuries. She was in intensive care for 7 days and in hospital for 10 days in total. She has made a good recovery but still suffers some physical and emotional problems.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the local authority failed to take any action after receiving concerns about the wall’s condition from private tenants, two years prior to the incident. Wider concerns about the poor condition of brick walls in the vicinity, including council-owned walls, were not passed to building control or the Council’s inspections teams.

The local authority failed to implement a system of intelligence-led inspection, maintenance and repair, to adequately identify and remedy the risks of collapses to boundary walls, both owned solely by the Council, or jointly with private residents.

The local authority pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and has been fined of £133,333 and ordered to pay costs of £21,419.55.

Speaking after the case, an HSE inspector said: “This was a wholly avoidable incident which could easily have been fatal. If [the local authority] had properly recorded residents’ concerns about the state of the walls, then a suitably qualified individual could have been engaged to identify the level of risk and instigated the required remedial action. Despite the low frequency of wall collapses, they are high consequence events requiring those with the responsibility for structural safety to take proactive measures to ensure that boundary walls and other structures are safely maintained.”

Your garden walls: better to be safe

(Information on inspecting garden and boundary walls, published on 13 May 2013, by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government)

If you are an employer, or someone in control of premises, including landlords, the below information is relevant to you. Eljay Risk Management carries out Health and Safety Inspections of commercial and domestic premises, and we include checks of garden/boundary walls in our reports. Why not contact us for a no-obligation quote.

Garden walls

Garden and boundary walls should be inspected from time to time to see if any repairs are necessary, or whether a wall needs rebuilding. Such walls are amongst the most common forms of masonry to suffer collapse, and they are unfortunately one of the commonest causes of death by falling masonry. Your insurances may not cover you if the wall has been neglected.

Besides the general deterioration and ageing of a masonry wall over the years, walls may be affected by:

  • an increase in wind load or driving rain if a nearby wall is taken down
  • felling of nearby mature trees or planting of new trees close to the wall
  • changes leading to greater risk of damage from traffic
  • alterations, such as additions to the wall or removal of parts of the wall e.g. for a new gateway

Things to check

  1. Is the surface of the brickwork crumbling away?

If restricted to a few bricks this may not be serious but walls can be weakened by general crumbling across either face.

  1. Is the mortar pointing in good condition?

If the hard surface layer can be picked out from the joint, or if the mortar can easily be scraped out with, say, a door key, then this is a good indication that the wall may need repointing.

  1. Is there a tree near the wall?

As trees mature, there is a risk of the wall being damaged by the roots, and from wind-blown branches. Damaged sections may have to be re-built, perhaps with bridges incorporated to carry the wall over the roots. Removal of large trees can also lead to problems because the soil accumulates more moisture and expands.

  1. Is the wall upright?

Walls lean for a variety of causes, due for example to failure below ground caused by tree roots, a cracked drain, frost damage to the foundations or inadequate foundations. If your wall leans to an extent that could present a danger e.g. more than 30mm (half brick wall), 70mm (single brick wall) or 100mm (brick and a half wall) it is recommended that expert advice is sought. This may involve checking of the wall foundations.

  1. Is the wall thick enough for its height?

The map and table at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/your-garden-walls-better-to-be-safe give guidance on how high walls should be in different parts of the UK relative to their thickness. Seek expert advice if your wall exceeds the recommended height, or in circumstances whereby this guidance is inapplicable e.g. walls incorporating piers, or walls supporting heavy gates or retaining soil.

  1. Some climbing plants, like ivy, can damage walls if growth is unchecked.

Consider cutting them back and supporting regrowth clear of the wall.

  1. Is the top of the wall firmly attached?

Brick cappings or concrete copings may be loose or there may be horizontal cracks (frost damage) in the brickwork a few courses down. Loose or damaged masonry near the top of the wall will need to be rebuilt.

  1. Has the wall been damaged by traffic?

Minor scratch marks or scoring of the surface may obscure more significant cracks. Piers at vehicular entrances may have been dislodged by impact and be unsafe; in such cases they should be rebuilt.

  1. Are there any cracks in the wall?

Hairline cracks (0-2mm across) are common in walls and may not indicate serious problems. For wider cracks seek expert advice; some may indicate a need for partial or complete rebuilding. Seek advice on any horizontal cracks which pass right through a wall or any cracks close to piers or gates. Repointing of cracks can lead to problems. Do not repoint without establishing the cause of the cracking.

If you have any queries at all regarding the above, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 07896 016380 or at fiona@eljay.co.uk, and we’ll be happy to help.

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

 

HSE SAFETY ALERT: REVISION OF STANDARDS FOR POWERED DOORS, GATES AND BARRIERS

The Health & Safety Executive have issued the following safety alert, aimed at architects/specifiers, designers, manufacturers, suppliers, and installers of powered doors, gates and barriers primarily for vehicular use, and those responsible for servicing and maintaining these products in workplaces, car parks and the common areas of shared premises, including residential:

KEY ISSUES

Publication of two newly revised European Standards on the safety of doors, gates and barriers – BS EN 12453:2017 and BS EN 12604:2017.

These new standards replace four older standards from 2000 and 2001; they represent a significant move forward. However, these standards do not completely address the risks that may be present and additional consideration should be given to the following aspects:

  • Undertaking a risk assessment covering the unique environment and type of user
  • The selection and implementation of appropriate design measures
  • Ensuring appropriate levels of force limitation (below the specified maximum)
  • Where the technology permits, ensuring that the safety function is monitored and checked before each movement; and
  • Ensuring effective measures are in place to detect any means of failure in the means of suspension for vertically moving doors. More detail is given below.

INTRODUCTION

  • British/European standards BS EN 12453:2017 concerning the safety requirements and tests for powered doors, gates and barriers primarily for vehicular use, and BS EN 12604:2017 concerning mechanical requirements and tests for the safety of both powered and non-powered versions of these products, have now been published. They are available for purchase online from BSI.
  • They replace and supersede in full the 2000/01 versions of these standards which dealt with the same products and issues; these two new standards cover what was previously dealt with in four standards (BS EN 12453, BS EN 12445, BS EN 12604 and BS EN 12605).
  • These new standards are a major step forward in helping to define the ‘state of the art’ for all products in scope, especially for the safety related parts of the control system on which these products depend for safety. They maintain the previous requirements for basic strength, stability and testing, including where force limitation is the primary means of delivering safety. The requirement on force limitation is not to exceed the existing force limits (basically 400 N for crushing and 1400 N for impact).
  • HSE’s view, however, is that there are aspects of the standards where they do not as yet fully meet the objectives of the Essential Health and Safety Requirements (EHSRs) of the European Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC. This means that compliance alone with the standards will not be enough to meet the requirements of the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008 (SMR08) for either new products placed on the market, or when first put into service (e.g. in situ manufacture, and powering existing gates).

BACKGROUND

  • Following two child fatalities which involved powered gates in 2010, HSE carried out a detailed examination of the suite of British/European standards then available to support the design and construction of powered doors, gates, barriers etc (see the related previous Safety Bulletins). HSE concluded that collectively the standards failed in a number of areas to adequately support the EHSRs of the Machinery Directive.
  • The Directive, which has been implemented into UK law for well over 20 years by SMR08, applies to all machinery, which includes powered doors, gates and barriers, when newly placed on the market, or when first put into service (eg when made in situ, or existing manual gates are ‘motorised’).
  • The UK launched its Formal Objectionto the standards in December 2010, as permitted by Article 10 of the Machinery Directive.
  • The European Commission considered the objection and agreed with the UK that the key standards did not entirely satisfy the EHSRs of the Machinery Directive. Its decision was confirmed and published by two Decisions which were made publicly available in 2015. Additionally, warnings were placed against the entries for EN 12635 and EN 13241-1 in the list of standards harmonised under the Machinery Directive in the official Journal of the European Union, in effect removing the ‘presumption of conformity’ that they previously gave.
  • Removing this presumption of conformity does not prevent manufacturers and installers of these products complying with the Directive/UK Regulations. Rather it means that manufacturers/installers who choose to use these standards can no longer simply rely on complying with the standards to meet all of the requirements of the Directive/UK Regulations.
  • Regulation 7(1) of SMR08 requires all machinery such as powered doors, gates and barriers to be safe. It is the duty of the person responsible for the design, construction and placing on the market/putting into service of the machinery to ensure this. Others then have the ongoing responsibility to keep the product safe through its lifetime of use, which includes ensuring non-employed persons are not endangered by the equipment (see below for link to FAQs).

ACTION REQUIRED

  • The new standards are not “harmonised”. This means that manufacturers (and installers, who often ‘put into service’ a new machine made in situ), must continue to show through a detailed technical file for each product how it has been designed and constructed to meet the safety objectives of the legislation. This must be undertaken before the CE marking is applied and the product is made available to the end user, together with comprehensive User/Maintenance Instructions, and a Declaration of Conformity, which must be made out in the name of the person responsible for the product’s conformity.
  • While these new revised standards can help define the ‘state of the art’ which must be reached, in all cases a thorough assessment of risk must be undertaken which fully considers the unique environment of use, the presence of and use by any vulnerable person, and all hazards arising from use, and foreseeable misuse, such as riding on the door or gate.
  • Design measures (to avoid risk, eg from hinge areas, collapse/falling over) and protective measures (guarding, fencing, safety edges, presence detection, etc) must be implemented during construction, taking into account the presence of any vulnerable populations such as children and those with reduced mobility or other disabilities, and any foreseeable misuse that may arise (such as playing on or near such equipment, or anyone rushing through gaps). You cannot rely on warnings alone to manage significant risks, although they may have their place in some circumstances.
  • Where force limitation is the primary means of safety, impact and crushing forces should be as low as possible (the standards give maximum levels), and verified by testing post installation.
  • Where the technology permits, the check of the safety function should take place before each movement. This is very important where vulnerable populations are at risk, as even one failure could result in serious or fatal injury from crush/entrapment.
  • Effective measures should be taken to detect any failure in the means of suspension of vertically moving doors, preferably stopping further use (unintended movement beyond 300 mm should be prevented), so that action can be taken before any catastrophic failure.
  • The existing harmonised standard BS EN 12978:2003+A1:2009 on safety devices for power operated doors and gates gives specific requirements to support the safe design of these products (Note: a revision of this standard is expected in 2019).
  • Although these standards are not intended for retrospective application, many existing powered doors, gates and barriers may not be as safe as they should be (some did not meet the previous standards or requirements for safety when originally supplied), so they can be used to support the re-assessment and any necessary upgrades to make existing products safer for continued use.
  • All readers are advised to consider the other available information and the existing Safety Bulletins published by HSE on these products (see below for links).

For more information, the safety alert can be viewed by clicking on the link: http://www.hse.gov.uk/safetybulletins/revision-standards-powered-doors.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

Structural stability during alteration, demolition and dismantling – construction worker seriously injured in wall collapse

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

Construction Worker seriously injured in wall collapse

A building contractor and a flooring company owner have appeared in court after a worker was seriously injured on a refurbishment site.

The worker was employed as a labourer at the site of a refurbishment project in Manchester when the incident occurred in August 2014.

The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and last week the building contractor (principal contractor for the project) and the flooring company owner were prosecuted for serious safety failings.

Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard how two operatives working for the flooring company had started the demolition of a freestanding concrete block wall on the site using a demolition hammer.

One of the men had started to cut into the wall just above the half way point, when the second man took over and continued from the top using step ladders for access.   As he did so, the top half of the wall collapsed knocking him from the ladder and landing on top of him.

The injured person suffered fractures to his neck and back and spent three months in hospital following the incident. He has been unable to return to work since.

The HSE investigation found there was no suitable risk assessment in place for the work that was being carried out and the workers had not been provided with suitable work instructions for carrying out this task safely.

In addition to this no checks had been made regarding the injured workers training or experience, he was not provided with a site induction or adequate PPE for the task and the work on site was not being supervised.

The building contractor pleaded guilty to breach of Regulation 22(1)(a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and was fined £14,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2972.

The flooring company owner pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 37 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 relating to his companies’ breach of Regulation 13 (2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and was fined £1300 and ordered to pay costs of £2851

Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector Laura Moran said: “The risks associated with the demolition of the internal walls at [the refurbishment site] were not properly considered and, as a result, there was no safe system of work in place for the operatives to follow.

“Together with a lack of adequate supervision, these failings resulted in one man suffering serious and life changing injuries, which could have been prevented had the work been properly planned and managed.”

Structural stability during alteration, demolition and dismantling

What you need to do

The law says that all alteration, demolition and dismantling work should be carefully planned and carried out by competent people to avoid unplanned structural collapse.

The law requires commercial clients to provide contractors with relevant information about a building’s structure, including stability and structural form and any significant design assumptions, suggested work methods and sequences. The contractor must then use that information to plan and carry out the work safely.

Key requirements are:

  • Survey and assessment
  • Preventing structural collapse
  • Arrangements for demolition
  • Consulting building control departments

What you need to know

Workers and passers-by can be injured by premature and uncontrolled collapse of structures, and by flying debris.

Survey and assessment

A competent person should do a thorough structural survey and assessment before any potentially load-bearing parts of a structure are altered.

The structural survey should consider:

  • The age of the structure;
  • previous use;
  • type of construction; and
  • any nearby buildings or structures.

This information should be used to determine the steps required to prevent any collapse.

Preventing structural collapse

A competent person should decide the method and design of temporary supports. Temporary support provided must be designed, installed and maintained to withstand foreseeable loads and structures should never be overloaded.

Arrangements for demolition

Demolition or dismantling arrangements should be written down before the work begins. This safe system of work may be in the form of a safety method statement identifying the sequence required to prevent accidental collapse of the structure.

In addition to the design and method of temporary supports a safe system of work may include:

  • Establishing exclusion zones and hard-hat areas, clearly marked and with barriers or hoardings;
  • covered walkways;
  • using high-reach machines;
  • reinforcing machine cabs so that drivers are not injured; and
  • training and supervising site workers.

Consulting building control departments

You should consult the building control department of the local authority in the area where a building is located before any structural alterations are made to a building.

The local authority is the enforcing body for building regulations.

For more information, visit the HSE web page: http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/safetytopics/buildings.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 – 3RD MARCH 2016

REGISTER BELOW-LEFT TO RECEIVE OUR UPDATES BY EMAIL

IN THIS UPDATE

Introduction

Fairgrounds and amusement parks – HSE to prosecute Alton Towers’ owners after ‘Smiler’ incident

Temporary demountable structures – firm fined after circus tent collapse

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) – insulation company fined for health and safety failings

Introduction

The Health and Safety Executive has again been in the news over the last week, after informing Merlin Operations Ltd that it will be prosecuted over an incident in which five people were seriously injured on a rollercoaster ride at Alton Towers in Staffordshire. Two female passengers on the ‘Smiler’ ride suffered leg amputations and three others were also seriously injured when their carriage collided with a stationary carriage on the same track. The incident happened on 2 June 2015. We open this week’s update with HSE guidance on safe practice for fairgrounds and amusement parks.

Staying with the leisure industry, we also share HSE guidance this week on ‘temporary demountable structures’, following news of a marquee and tent supplier being fined after guy ropes securing a circus tent snapped causing it to collapse injuring three adults and five children at Burley Park, New Forest.

And finally, we close with HSE guidance on the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH), following news of a Welsh insulation company that produced natural insulation products being fined £30,000 plus £59,000 costs for health and safety failings.

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

Fairgrounds and amusement parks – HSE to prosecute Alton Towers’ owners after ‘Smiler’ incident

HSE media statement – 25th February 2016

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has today informed Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd that it will be prosecuted over an incident in which five people were seriously injured on a rollercoaster ride at Alton Towers in Staffordshire.

Two female passengers on the ‘Smiler’ ride suffered leg amputations and three others were also seriously injured when their carriage collided with a stationary carriage on the same track. The incident happened on 2 June 2015.

Merlin Attractions Operation Ltd based in Poole, Dorset, will appear at North Staffordshire Justice Centre, Newcastle-under-Lyme on 22 April 2016 to face a charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act etc, 1974.

Neil Craig, head of operations for HSE in the Midlands said:

“We have today informed Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd that it will be prosecuted for breaching health and safety law.

“This was a serious incident with life-changing consequences for five people.

“We have conducted a very thorough investigation and consider that there is sufficient evidence and that it is in the public interest to bring a prosecution.”

Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd is the company responsible for Alton Towers and under health and safety law is responsible for managing the risks created by the operation of the theme park’s rides.

Guidance on safe practice

Free to download by clicking on the following link: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/hsg175.htm – revised guidance on what the Fairgrounds and Amusement Parks Joint Advisory Committee on Fairgrounds and Amusement Parks (FJAC) considers appropriate safe measures for the industry to adopt in order to comply with the law.

Although fairgrounds and amusement parks are relatively safe compared to activities such as driving a car or riding a bicycle, as we are all too aware, there have been a small number of serious incidents involving employees and members of the public. The Health and Safety Executive has worked with the members of the Fairgrounds and Amusement Parks Joint Advisory Committee to improve standards and to produce this revised guide.

Acknowledging the inherent nature of fairgrounds and describing how risks can be managed effectively, it also promotes a sensible, over-arching approach recognising that while users expect high safety levels from risks beyond their control, incidental elements, eg a dodgem bump, are considered ‘part of the fun’.

The guide, however, concentrates on the safety of employers and employees, as well as the public, and begins with the industry-specific ‘system for safety of attractions’ presented in easy table-form, which then steers the reader smoothly through the publication.

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

Temporary demountable structures – firm fined after circus tent collapse

The owner of a company who supplies marquees and tents has been fined after guy ropes securing a circus tent snapped causing it to collapse injuring three adults and five children at Burley Park, New Forest.

Southampton Magistrates’ Court heard that on 10 August 2014 a sudden gust of wind went through the circus tent and eighteen of the guy ropes which secured the tent failed and snapped.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident found that Happy Promotions Limited had in December 2013 taken their tent for inspection and repair to the marquee and tent supplier, who was asked to replace the guy ropes.

However, the court heard the guy ropes supplied were in fact made up of unrated webbing and had no safe working load. This led to the incident at Burley Park 8 months later.

HSE inspector Andrew Johnson said after the hearing: “The fact the guy ropes snapped (rather than the pegs being pulled from the ground) is a clear indication that the fault lies with the strength of the guy ropes, rather than the method of erection. Fortunately, the tent was empty at the time of the incident. Had a performance been underway there would have been performers and around 30 people were due to attend the afternoon performance. Were the tent occupied the collapse would likely have resulted in multiple serious injuries.”

Temporary demountable structures (TDS) – Stages, seating, marquees etc

Your duties as an event organiser

You are responsible for ensuring that as far as reasonably practicable, employees and others at a venue who could be affected by the construction and use of a TDS (such as scaffolders, riggers and members of the public) are not exposed to risks to their health and are kept safe from harm.

What you should know

Most fatal and serious injuries arise when workers fall during construction work or as a result of the collapse of the structure, lifting operations or mobile plant.

Checklist – TDS dos and don’ts

Do

Planning

  • Consider what the structure will be used for, what it needs to be able to do, who will use it and how?
  • Prepare a clear specification for the structure’s required use. This should include the technical details required to enable a design to be undertaken by your appointed TDS contractor(s) / designer (s).
  • TDS contractors / designers hired to design, supply, build, manage and take down a structure for you, should be competent and adequately resourced.
  • Provide TDS contractors / designers with relevant site information and/or allow them site access to carry out their own site assessments.
  • Your TDS contractor should ensure that the proposed structure has a design prepared by a competent person, which takes account of the use and conditions in which it is to be installed.
  • Where a structure is to carry advertising / scrim, include this requirement in any design concept, specification and structural assessment.
  • Novel or unusual structures may require additional testing by a TDS designer to demonstrate the integrity of the design.
  • Whoever builds the structure should undertake an assessment of the likely construction hazards and risks. To help with an assessment and to find out more about construction hazards and risks see:
  • Falls from height
  • Construction safety topics (including lifting operations and vehicle safety)
  • Health risks in construction
  • Plan and work with your contractors to develop safe systems of working and make sure all significant risks on the site are properly controlled, eg use of cranes and lift trucks.
  • Plan to minimise confusion and conflict, particularly between those contractors carrying out concurrent or consecutive activities on the same structure.
  • Consider the extent of control that you and your contractors have over the work activity and workplace during each phase of the build, use and deconstruction cycle of a structure. Organisers and TDS contractors should agree the extent of their control at the planning stage, so that responsibility for structural safety is understood and maintained throughout the event.

Building and dismantling the TDS

  • The assessments done under Planning (above) should serve as a guide on how to build and dismantle the structure safely.
  • Make sure there is sufficient time and resources available to build and dismantle the structure safely.
  • Use competent staff and have a suitable onsite operational management system in place to supervise and monitor safety compliance.
  • A programme of works, including key safety checkpoints, can be helpful to communicate critical erection / dismantling stages to the site manager / crew bosses and operatives.
  • Build the structure to the agreed design in accordance with a safe system of work.
  • Arrange for the structure to be checked to make sure that it has been built according to the design.

While TDS is in use

  • Have arrangements in place to inspect the structure for deterioration during the time it is installed in line with a documented management plan and, if needed, arrange for remedial works.
  • Any change in the proposed use of the structure or site conditions which may affect the structure’s suitability should trigger a design check for the new conditions. An example of this may be the requirement to add additional banners to a structure such as a PA tower. The organiser is responsible for ensuring this is done.
  • Have arrangements in place to ensure that any measures required to keep the structure safe during use are implemented. For example, if the structure is susceptible to the weather, monitor and measure the local weather conditions. In adverse weather conditions, know what to do with the structure to protect its stability, eg when to open wind relief panels and when to evacuate.

Don’t

  • Take forward incomplete design concepts, as this could result in last-minute modifications, leading to safety problems.
  • Build a structure on unstable ground.
  • Put advertising / scrim on a structure if a competent person has not approved it as being safe – it can affect wind loading and increase the risk of collapse / overturn.
  • Use flammable fabrics.

For more information, visit the HSE web page http://www.hse.gov.uk/event-safety/temporary-demountable-structures.htm, or contact us on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk, and we’ll be happy to help.

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) – insulation company fined for health and safety failings

A Welsh insulation company that produced natural insulation products have been fined £30,000 plus £59,000 costs for health and safety failings.

Wrexham Magistrates’ Court heard that the company failed to conduct an adequate risk assessment for the processing of hemp. They also failed to adequately guard machinery.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the concerns raised anonymously found that the COSHH assessment was not suitable and sufficient.

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH)

What is a ‘substance hazardous to health’?

COSHH covers substances that are hazardous to health. Substances can take many forms and include:

  • chemicals
  • products containing chemicals
  • fumes
  • dusts
  • vapours
  • mists
  • nanotechnology
  • gases and asphyxiating gases and
  • biological agents (germs). If the packaging has any of the hazard symbols then it is classed as a hazardous substance.
  • germs that cause diseases such as leptospirosis or legionnaires disease and germs used in laboratories.

COSHH does not cover

  • lead,
  • asbestos or
  • radioactive substances

because these have their own specific regulations.

What you need to do

Before you start your COSHH assessment, you need to:

Think about

  • What do you do that involves hazardous substances?
  • How can these cause harm?
  • How can you reduce the risk of harm occurring?

Always try to prevent exposure at source. For example:

  • Can you avoid using a hazardous substance or use a safer process – preventing exposure, eg using water-based rather than solvent-based products, applying by brush rather than spraying?
  • Can you substitute it for something safer – eg swap an irritant cleaning product for something milder, or using a vacuum cleaner rather than a brush?
  • Can you use a safer form, eg can you use a solid rather than liquid to avoid splashes or a waxy solid instead of a dry powder to avoid dust?

Check your trade press and talk to employees. At trade meetings, ask others in your industry for ideas.

If you can’t prevent exposure, you need to control it adequately by applying the principles of good control practice (http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/detail/goodpractice.htm)

Control is adequate when the risk of harm is ‘as low as is reasonably practicable’.

This means:

  • All control measures are in good working order.
  • Exposures are below the Workplace Exposure Limit, where one exists.
  • Exposure to substances that cause cancer, asthma or genetic damage is reduced to as low a level as possible.

COSHH Essentials

COSHH Essentials sets out basic advice on what to do to control exposure to hazardous substances in the workplace. It takes the form of straightforward advice in ‘factsheets’ called ‘control guidance sheets’. There are two types of sheets, industry-specific ‘direct advice sheets’ and ‘generic control guidance sheets’.

Direct advice sheets (click on the link: http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/essentials/direct-advice/index.htm)

First check the direct advice sheets listed by industry to see if there are any direct advice sheets for tasks or processes in your industry. If your industry is not listed don’t worry, you can use our e-tool to identify which generic control guidance sheets are appropriate.

COSHH e-tool (click on the link: http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/essentials/coshh-tool.htm)

When using the tool you will be prompted by questions to enter some basic information about the substance you are using, before being directed to the most appropriate generic control guidance sheet for you.

Frequently asked questions (click on the link: http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/essentials/faq.htm)

  • Why does COSHH essentials not list all of the R phrases/H statements that are on my Safety Data Sheet (SDS)
  • I can’t find my safety data sheet. What should I do?
  • I have just completed COSHH essentials, is this sufficient to use as my COSHH assessment?
  • Some of the information I need is missing from my safety data sheet. What should I do?
  • There isn’t a boiling point in the safety data sheet?
  • Why can’t I mix a liquid with a solid?

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

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