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


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.


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.


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.


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.

Safe maintenance – packaging manufacturer in court over workplace injury

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Packaging manufacturer in court over workplace injury

A supplier of corrugated packaging has been fined £400,000 after a maintenance employee was injured when he was pulled into machinery.

The injured person was repairing a cardboard printing, slotting and forming machine at the packaging plant when he put his foot onto an exposed conveyor and was dragged into the machine’s moving parts.

Wolverhampton Crown Court heard that the packaging company allowed uncontrolled maintenance work to take place without any assessment of the risks posed by maintenance activities or having procedures in place for safe maintenance.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the machinery had a ‘jog mode’ which could have been set up to enable such maintenance work to be carried out safely, but the company had not identified this, trained staff to use it or enforced its use.

Speaking after the case, HSE Inspector Caroline Lane said: “The company relied on the experience of maintenance employees rather than controlling risks through careful assessment and putting safe systems of work in place.

In summing up, his Honour Judge Berlin considered the maintenance practices used by [the packaging company] to be ‘utterly dangerous’ and the risk to workers was wholly avoidable”.

Safe maintenance

Hazards during maintenance

What is maintenance?

In this context, maintenance simply means keeping the workplace, its structures, equipment, machines, furniture and facilities operating safely, while also making sure that their condition does not decline. Regular maintenance can also prevent their sudden and unexpected failure.

There are two main types of maintenance:

  • preventive or proactive maintenance – periodic checks and repairs; and
  • corrective or reactive maintenance – carrying out unforeseen repairs on workplace facilities or equipment after sudden breakage or failure. This is usually more hazardous than scheduled maintenance.

Why is it an issue?

Maintenance-related accidents are a serious cause of concern. For example, analysis of data from recent years indicates that 25-30% of manufacturing industry fatalities in Great Britain were related to maintenance activity.

Undertaking maintenance activities can potentially expose the workers involved (and others) to all sorts of hazards, but there are four issues that merit particular attention because of the severity of the harm that could be involved, and because they are commonly encountered during plant and building maintenance.

The health consequences of disturbing asbestos when drilling holes into the building fabric or replacing panels can be severe, as can the clean up costs involved.

Maintenance work often involves using access equipment to reach roofs, gutters, building services, and raised sections of plant and machinery. It can be all too easy to fall from these positions, or to drop things onto people beneath.

Isolation and lock off arrangements, and in some cases permits to work, are essential to enable maintenance work to be conducted safely.

Heavy items sometimes have to be moved, or get disturbed, during maintenance work. If one of these falls, the results can be fatal. There may well be cranes, fork lift trucks or props available for use, but maintenance tasks can sometimes involve one-off situations and the handling of heavy loads isn’t always properly planned.

You may do some or most of your plant and building maintenance in-house, but there will always be tasks that are too big or specialised and require contractors. To enable both in-house and contracted staff to work in safety you will need to properly brief them on your site and processes, and you will need them to follow safe working practices.

For more information, visit the HSE web page: http://www.hse.gov.uk/safemaintenance/index.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



Violence at work – company told by insurers to employ a professional ‘Keyholding Service’ to comply with health and safety regulations

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Company told by insurers to employ a professional ‘Keyholding Service’ to comply with health and safety regulations

The HSE ‘Myth Busters Challenge Panel’ Case 404 is the subject of this week’s news update.

‘Health and Safety’ is often incorrectly used as a convenient excuse to stop what are essentially sensible activities going ahead. The Health and Safety Executive has set up an independent panel – the Myth Busters Challenge Panel – to scrutinize such decisions.

The Panel is chaired by the HSE Chair, supported by a pool of independent members who represent a wide range of interests. This includes small businesses, public safety, Trade Unions, the insurance industry and others.

This Panel will look into enquiries regarding the advice given by non-regulators such as insurance companies, health and safety consultants and employers and, quickly assess if a sensible and proportionate decision has been made. They want to make clear that “health and safety” is about managing real risks properly, not being risk averse and stopping people getting on with their lives.

If you think a decision or advice that you have been given in the name of health and safety is wrong, or disproportionate for the activity you are doing, you can contact the panel here: http://www.hse.gov.uk/contact/contact-myth-busting.htm. But please note this is not the right route into HSE for raising a concern or complaint about your workplace, or for general enquires. Instead, go here (http://webcommunities.hse.gov.uk/connect.ti/concernsform/answerQuestionnaire?qid=594147) to raise a workplace health and safety concern, here (http://www.hse.gov.uk/contact/complaints.htm) to make a complaint, or here (http://webcommunities.hse.gov.uk/connect.ti/advice/answerQuestionnaire?qid=593891) to get advice.

Issue (Case 404)

A company with an employee nominated as a primary intruder alarm keyholder was told by insurers that there is a legal requirement to establish a “Keyholding Service” with a professional security company in order to comply with health and safety regulations.

Panel opinion

Employers do need to take steps to ensure that those responding to alarm call outs are not exposed to a risk of violence. Those steps will be based on an assessment of the risks to their employees. Whilst a ‘keyholding’ service’ may form part of a safe system of work, there is no legal requirement to engage such a service. The insurance company should not have implied that this was the case.

Violence at work

People who deal directly with the public may face aggressive or violent behaviour. They may be sworn at, threatened or even attacked.

The following guidance gives practical advice to help you find out if violence is a problem for your employees, and if it is, how to tackle it. The advice is aimed at employers, but should also interest employees and safety representatives.

Violence is …

The Health and Safety Executive’s definition of work-related violence is:

‘any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work’.

Verbal abuse and threats are the most common types of incident. Physical attacks are comparatively rare.

Who is at risk?

Employees whose job requires them to deal with the public can be at risk from violence. Most at risk are those who are engaged in:

  • giving a service
  • caring
  • education
  • cash transactions
  • delivery/collection
  • controlling
  • representing authority

Is it my concern? 

Both employer and employees have an interest in reducing violence at work. For employers, violence can lead to poor morale and a poor image for the organisation, making it difficult to recruit and keep staff. It can also mean extra cost, with absenteeism, higher insurance premiums and compensation payments. For employees, violence can cause pain, distress and even disability or death. Physical attacks are obviously dangerous but serious or persistent verbal abuse or threats can also damage employees’ health through anxiety or stress

What the law requires

There are five main pieces of health and safety law which are relevant to violence at work. These are:

  • The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSW Act)

Employers have a legal duty under this Act to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees.

  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

Employers must assess the risks to employees and make arrangements for their health and safety by effective:

–  planning;

–  organisation;

–  control;

–  monitoring and review.

The risks covered should, where appropriate, include the need to protect employees from exposure to reasonably foreseeable violence.

  • The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR)

Employers must notify their enforcing authority in the event of an accident at work to any employee resulting in death, major injury or incapacity for normal work for three or more consecutive days. This includes any act of non-consensual physical violence done to a person at work.

  • Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 (a) and The Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996 (b)

Employers must inform, and consult with, employees in good time on matters relating to their health and safety. Employee representatives, either appointed by recognised trade unions under (a) or elected under (b) may make representations to their employer on matters affecting the health and safety of those they represent.

Effective management of violence 

A straightforward four stage management process is set out below

Stage 1: Finding out if you have a problem

Stage 2: Deciding what action to take

Stage 3: Take action

Stage 4: Check what you have done

It is important to remember that these four stages are not a one-off set of actions. If stage 4 shows there is still a problem then the process should be repeated again. Stages 1 and 2 are completed by carrying out a risk assessment

Stage 1 Finding out if you have a problem

The first step in risk assessment is to identify the hazard. You may think violence is not a problem at your workplace or that incidents are rare. However, your employees’ view may be very different.

A major petrol company was not aware of the size of the problem faced daily by forecourt employees, until it sought their views during a series of meetings. Filling station employees believed strongly that increased customer violence was the most serious threat to their personal health and safety.

Ask your staff – do this informally through managers, supervisors and safety representatives or use a short questionnaire to find out whether your employees ever feel threatened. Tell them the results of your survey so they realise that you recognise the problem.

Keep detailed records – it is a good idea to record incidents, including verbal abuse and threats. You may find it useful to record the following information:

  • an account of what happened;
  • details of the victim(s), the assailant(s) and any witnesses;
  • the outcome, including working time lost to both the individual(s) affected and to the organisation as a whole;
  • the details of the location of the incident.

For a variety of reasons some employees may be reluctant to report incidents of aggressive behaviour which make them feel threatened or worried. They may for instance feel that accepting abuse is part of the job. You will need a record of all incidents to enable you to build up a complete picture of the problem. Encourage employees to report incidents promptly and fully and let them know that this is what you expect.

Classify all incidents – use headings such as place, time, type of incident, potential severity, who was involved and possible causes. It is important that you examine each incident report to establish whether there could have been a more serious outcome. Here is an example of a simple classification to help you decide how serious incidents are:

  • fatal injury;
  • major injury;
  • injury or emotional shock requiring first aid, out-patient treatment, counselling, absence from work (record number of days);
  • feeling of being at risk or distressed.

It should be easy to classify ‘major injuries’ but you will have to decide how to classify ‘serious or persistent verbal abuse’ for your organisation, so as to cover all incidents that worry staff.

You can use the details from your incident records along with the classifications to check for patterns. Look for common causes, areas or times. The steps you take can then be targeted where they are needed most.

A survey by a trade union after 12 separate shop robberies found that each incident occurred between 5 and 7 o’clock in the evening. This finding could have useful security lessons for late night opening of stores and shops.

Try to predict what might happen – do not restrict your assessment to incidents which have already affected your own employees. There may be a known pattern of violence linked to certain work situations. Trade and professional organisations and trade unions may be able to provide useful information on this. Articles in the local, national and technical press might also alert you to relevant incidents and potential problem areas.

Stage 2 Deciding what action to take

Having found out that violence could be a problem for your employees you need to decide what needs to be done. Continue the risk assessment by taking the following steps to help you decide what action you need to take.

Decide who might be harmed, and how

Identify which employees are at risk – those who have face-to-face contact with the public are normally the most vulnerable. Where appropriate, identify potentially violent people in advance so that the risks from them can be minimised.

Evaluate the risk

Check existing arrangements, are the precautions already in place adequate or should more be done? Remember it is usually a combination of factors that give rise to violence. Factors which you can influence include:

  • the level of training and information provided;
  • the environment;
  • the design of the job.

Consider the way these factors work together to influence the risk of violence.

Examples of preventive measures are listed at the bottom of this page.

Training and information

Train your employees so that they can spot the early signs of aggression and either avoid it or cope with it. Make sure they fully understand any system you have set up for their protection.

Provide employees with any information they might need to identify clients with a history of violence or to anticipate factors which might make violence more likely.

The environment

Provide better seating, decor, lighting in public waiting rooms and more regular information about delays.

Consider physical security measures such as:

  • video cameras or alarm systems;
  • coded security locks on doors to keep the public out of staff areas;
  • wider counters and raised floors on the staff side of the counter to give staff more protection.

The design of the job

Use cheques, credit cards or tokens instead of cash to make robbery less attractive.

Bank money more frequently and vary the route taken to reduce the risk of robbery.

Check the credentials of clients and the place and arrangements for any meetings away from the workplace.

Arrange for staff to be accompanied by a colleague if they have to meet a suspected aggressor at their home or at a remote location.

Make arrangements for employees who work away from their base to keep in touch.

Maintain numbers of staff at the workplace to avoid a lone worker situation developing.

The threat of violence does not stop when the work period has ended. It is good practice to make sure that employees can get home safely. For example where employees are required to work late, employers might help by arranging transport home or by ensuring a safe parking area is available.

Employees are likely to be more committed to the measures if they help to design them and put them into practice. A mix of measures often works best. Concentrating on just one aspect of the problem may make things worse in another. Try to take an overall view and balance the risks to your employees against any possible reaction of the public. Remember that an atmosphere that suggests employees are worried about violence can sometimes increase its likelihood.

In one housing department it was found that protective screens made it difficult for staff and the public to speak to each other. This caused tension on both sides. Management and safety representatives agreed a package of measures including taking screens down, providing more comfortable waiting areas and better information on waiting lists and delays. This package of measures reduced tension and violent incidents.

Record your findings

Keep a record of the significant findings of your assessment. The record should provide a working document for both managers and employees.

Review and revise your assessment

Regularly check that your assessment is a true reflection of your current work situation. Be prepared to add further measures or change existing measures where these are not working. This is particularly important where the job changes. If a violent incident occurs, look back at your assessment, evaluate it and make any necessary changes.

Stage 3 Take action

Your policy for dealing with violence may be written into your health and safety policy statement, so that all employees are aware of it. This will help your employees to co-operate with you, follow procedures properly and report any further incidents.

Stage 4 Check what you have done

Check on a regular basis how well your arrangements are working, consulting employees or their representatives as you do so. Consider setting up joint management and safety representative committees to do this. Keep records of incidents and examine them regularly; they will show what progress you are making and if the problem is changing. If your measures are working well, keep them up. If violence is still a problem, try something else. Go back to Stages 1 and 2 and identify other preventive measures that could work.

What about the victims?

If there is a violent incident involving your workforce you will need to respond quickly to avoid any long-term distress to employees. It is essential to plan how you are going to provide them with support, before any incidents. You may want to consider the following:

  • debriefing – victims will need to talk through their experience as soon as possible after the event. Remember that verbal abuse can be just as upsetting as a physical attack;
  • time off work – individuals will react differently and may need differing amounts of time to recover. In some circumstances they might need specialist counselling;
  • legal help – in serious cases legal help may be appropriate;
  • other employees – may need guidance and/or training to help them to react appropriately.

The Home Office leaflet Victims of crime gives more useful advice if one of your employees suffers an injury, loss or damage from a crime, including how to apply for compensation. It should be available from libraries, police stations, Citizens Advice Bureaux and victim support schemes.

Further help may be available from victim support schemes that operate in many areas. Your local police station can direct you to your nearest one. Alternatively you can contact them yourself at the addresses below:

In England and Wales:

Victim Support, National Office, Cranmer House, 39 Brixton Road, London SW9 6DZ

Tel: 020 7735 9166


In Scotland:

Victim Support Scotland, 15/23 Hardwell Close, Edinburgh EH8 9RX

Tel: 0131 668 4486

Fax: 0131 662 5400

E-mail: info@victimsupportsco.demon.co.uk


Where can I get further information?

Please download the free guidance leaflet http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg69.pdf, visit the HSE web page http://www.hse.gov.uk/violence/ 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




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

How to carry out a COSHH risk assessment – worker dies from toxic gas

A medicinal herbal manufacturing company has been fined £45,000 after a worker died from exposure to a toxic gas.

The 50 year old employee was using cleaning chemicals to clean a changing room when he was exposed to a toxic gas (likely to be chlorine) and died at the scene.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident which occurred in September 2014 found that he had not been trained in the safe use of chemicals and no company Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) assessment had been carried out.

HM Inspector Stephen Farthing said: “This was a tragic industrial incident that was entirely preventable had suitable precautions been taken. [The employee] had not received any training in the safe use of hazardous chemicals and as a result died from the exposure to a toxic gas.

“Companies should ensure that they assess all the risks associated with the use of dangerous chemical and that exposure to their employees is either eliminated or minimised.”

How to carry out a COSHH risk assessment

A COSHH assessment concentrates on the hazards and risks from hazardous substances in your workplace.

Remember that health hazards are not limited to substances labelled as ‘hazardous’. Some harmful substances can be produced by the process you use, eg wood dust from sanding, or silica dust from tile cutting.

Identify the hazards

  • Identify which substances are harmful by reading the product labels and safety data sheets (SDS)
  • If you are in doubt, contact your supplier
  • Remember to think about harmful substances produced by your processes, such as cutting or grinding, or to which workers may be otherwise exposed

Decide who might be harmed and how

  • How might workers be exposed? Think about the route into the body (whether the substance can be breathed in, get onto or through the skin or can even be swallowed) and the effects of exposure by each of these routes
  • Think of how often people work with the substance and for how long
  • Think about anyone else who could be exposed
  • Don’t forget maintenance workers, contractors and other visitors or members of the public who could be exposed
  • Also think about people who could be exposed accidentally, eg while cleaning, or what happens if controls fail

Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions

Once you have carried out a risk assessment and identified which harmful substances are present, and how workers can be harmed, you need to think about preventing exposure.

  • Do you really need to use a particular substance, or is a safer alternative available?
  • Can you change the process to eliminate its use or avoid producing it? If this is not possible, you must put in place adequate control measures to reduce exposure

The measures you adopt could include the following:

Changing the process to reduce risks

  • Consider whether you can change the process you use to reduce the risk of exposure. For example, you could reduce the temperature of a process to reduce the amount of vapour getting into the air or use pellets instead of powders as they are less dusty


  • Enclose the process or activity as much as possible to minimise the escape or release of the harmful substance
  • Use closed transfer and handling systems and minimise handling of materials
  • Extract emissions of the substance near the source

Systems of work

  • Restrict access to those people who need to be there
  • Plan the storage of materials, and use appropriate containers. Check that storage containers are correctly labelled and that incompatible materials, for example acids and caustics, are separated
  • Plan the storage and disposal of waste


  • Exposure to hazardous substances can occur during cleaning, so plan and organise the workplace so that it can be easily and effectively cleaned
  • Smooth work surfaces will allow easy cleaning
  • Have the right equipment and procedures to clear up spillages quickly and safely
  • Clean regularly using a ‘dust-free’ method – vacuum, don’t sweep

If you have five or more employees, you must record your assessment but, even if you have fewer than five, it makes sense to write down what steps you have taken to identify the risks. And the really important part is making a list of the actions you have taken to control the risks to workers’ health.

The risk assessment should be regularly reviewed to ensure that it is kept up to date to take into account any changes in your workplace.

For more information, visit the HSE web page: http://www.hse.gov.uk/toolbox/harmful/coshh.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




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

Maximum workplace temperature: what the law says

As the Met Office declares a Level 3 heatwave alert, and London endures its hottest night in 10 years, two MPs are now taking their campaign to Parliament for employers to be legally forced to provide water, breaks or air conditioning when workplace temperatures are uncomfortably high (above 30C, or 27C where strenuous work is carried out).

In the meantime, whilst the Health & Safety Executive advises that a meaningful figure for maximum workplace temperatures cannot be given (due to the high temperatures found in, for example, glass works or foundries), the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 place a legal obligation on employers to provide a “reasonable” temperature in the workplace.

What is a reasonable working temperature?

A reasonable temperature for a workplace depends on work activity and the environmental conditions of the workplace.

To find out if you have a reasonable workplace temperature you need to:

  • carry out a thermal comfort risk assessment

A simple way of estimating the level of thermal comfort in your workplace is to ask your employees or their safety representatives (such as unions or employee associations) if they are satisfied with the thermal environment ie to use the thermal comfort checklist (http://www.hse.gov.uk/temperature/assets/docs/thermal-comfort-checklist.pdf).

Use the downloadable thermal comfort checklist to help you identify whether there may be a risk of thermal discomfort to your employees. Please note that this is a basic checklist and does not replace a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, taking account of thermal comfort.

Read the descriptions for each thermal comfort factor, and tick the appropriate box. If you tick two or more ‘Yes’ boxes there may be a risk of thermal discomfort and you may need to carry out a more detailed risk assessment

Assessing thermal comfort

Once you have identified a problem using the thermal comfort checklist, in most instances the guidance on the HSE website will be sufficient to enable you to improve thermal comfort in your workplace.  If you need to take further action in measuring thermal comfort, you should refer to the relevant British Standards (http://www.hse.gov.uk/temperature/assets/docs/british-european-int-standards.pdf) that cover this area.

If thermal comfort is an issue in your workplace you may need to consider it as part of your risk assessment (http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg163.htm) process. Read the six basic factors (http://www.hse.gov.uk/temperature/thermal/factors.htm) affecting thermal comfort and think about how they may be affecting your employees and about resolving the ones having the largest impact. If the environment is affected by seasonal factors you may need to reassess the risk at different times of year. For example consider scheduling maintenance work to a cooler time of the day.

Controlling thermal comfort

There are a number of ways that you can control thermal comfort in the workplace, some of which are very simple. Click on the link for more information: http://www.hse.gov.uk/temperature/thermal/controlling.htm

Act on the findings of the risk assessment by implementing appropriate controls. If the effect is seasonal they may only need to be in place temporarily. For advice on controls when working in very hot conditions please refer to heat stress in the workplace (http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg451.htm).

For more information, visit the HSE web page http://www.hse.gov.uk/temperature/faq.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