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Health and Safety Frequently Asked Questions

Corporate Manslaughter Lighting, Blinds, Temperature & Space
Driving On Business Lone & Home Workers
Asbestos, C.O.S.H.H. & Legionellosis Manual Handling
Disability Access & Welfare Outside Contractors
Employee Consultation Risk Assessment & Policy Statement
Electrical Safety Seating & Eye Sight Care
Fire Arrangements, Induction & Training Stress, First Aid & R.I.D.D.O.R
Food Hygiene Young Persons and New & Expectant Mothers

CORPORATE MANSLAUGHTER

When did the Corporate Manslaughter Act 2007 come into effect?
The Corporate Manslaughter Act 2007 came in to effect on the 6th April 2008.

What are the key measures / aims of the Corporate Manslaughter Act 2007?
To create a new offence of corporate manslaughter, providing a more effective sanction for holding companies and other organisations to account when gross negligence of their senior management has had fatal consequences. This will improve the effectiveness of the law by enabling a wider range of senior management conduct to be taken into account when prosecuting an organisation for manslaughter.

Who is at risk of prosecution under the Corporate Manslaughter Act 2007?
The offence of Corporate Manslaughter is levied against the organisation. However, individuals / employees may be charged with Manslaughter under existing health & safety legislation.

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DRIVING ON BUSINESS

Is it required for an organisation to consider the risks associated with commuting?
It is not required for an organisation to consider the risks associated with commuting, unless the employee is travelling from their home to a location which is not their usual place of work.

What are the maximum penalties which may be imposed for a work-related driving accident?
In the case of a worst case scenario, where a road traffic accident results in a fatality, recent changes in the law mean that where the accident has been caused by an avoidable distraction, the driver and / or employer will now face a lengthy prison sentence, rather than just a fine.

What would be considered as an avoidable distraction to a person driving for work?
Avoidable distractions which courts will consider when sentencing motorists who have killed include using a mobile phone (talking or texting), eating or drinking, applying make-up, or anything else which takes the drivers attention away from the road and which a court judges to have been an avoidable distraction.

Should organisations now be banning all employees from using a mobile phone while driving for work?
Not necessarily, although this would certainly be a prudent policy. In cases where it is deemed necessary for an employee to use a mobile phone while driving, the employee must be provided with a suitable hands-free kit, be provided with induction training covering the organisations driving at work policy and provide sign-off to the organisation that the policy has been received and understood.

What should be included within a driving for work policy?
A driving at work policy should include the requirement for daily / weekly and periodic checks of company cars (or privately owned cars used for business purposes) including tyre pressure, windscreen wipers & washers and body work. Weekly checks should also be made for levels of oil and water, as well as break lights and other lights. It is also prudent to request that all staff who drive for work have their eyes tested at least every two years, and provide confirmation that their eyesight is of a suitable standard for driving, or that corrective appliances will be worn to achieve this standard.

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ASBESTOS, C.O.S.H.H. & LEGIONELLOSIS

How do I know if Asbestos is present in my building, and what should I do?
If your accommodation / building was constructed prior to the 1990’s, there is a high percentage chance that Asbestos may be present in the fabric of the building.
It is a legal requirement that any occupier and or owner / landlord should establish the presence of Asbestos and manage the risk accordingly, especially when modernisation and or building / refurbishment work is planned.

What is C.O.S.H.H.?
C.O.S.H.H. is the Control Of Substances Hazardous to Health, as regulated by the C.O.S.H.H. Regulations, 1999. C.O.S.H.H. substances, eg. bleach, toilet cleaner, window cleaner, furniture polishes, floor cleaners, paints, solvents and lubricating oils are commonly found in office environments and require separate risk assessment. C.O.S.H.H. substances should be stored securely with accompanying C.O.S.H.H. data sheets, providing essential safety information.

What is Legionellosis (including Legionnaires disease)?
Legionellosis is the term used for infections caused by Legionella pneumophila and other bacteria from the family Legionellaceae. Legionnaires disease is principally a form of pneumonia. You will require a suitable water treatment programme specifically in respect of the following:
• Water system incorporating a cooling tower and / or evaporative condenser
• Hot water services, except where the volume of hot water in the system does not exceed 300 litres
• Hot and cold water services, irrespective of size in premises where occupants may be susceptible

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DISABILITY ACCESS & WELFARE

What do I need to consider when employing disabled persons?
Rights of access, goods, facilities, services and premises should be available and accessible to disabled persons. In this respect, a disability access survey should be undertaken in order to conform with the requirements under this Act, where reasonable to do so, including provision for welfare facilities.
In addition, an employer must carry out a specific risk assessment in order to ensure the health, safety and welfare of disabled employees. In respect of fire safety, a P.E.E.P. (personal emergency egress plan) should also be put into place.

Do I have to provide disabled access for my employees?
Yes. Service providers will have to make “reasonable adjustments” to the physical features of their premises to overcome physical barriers to access.

What guidance documentation is available, detailing specific requirements for buildings?
The Building Regulations 2000, Approved Document M is widely available, offering guidance on a comprehensive range of requirements relative to those with disabilities.

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EMPLOYEE CONSULTATION

Does the employer have to consult with employees on health & safety matters?
Yes. In accordance with The Health & Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996. The employer is required to consult with employees upon any measure at the workplace which may substantially affect their health & safety, including hazards identified by risk assessment and resultant control measures, safe systems at work and health & safety arrangements.

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ELECTRICAL SAFETY

Do I have to test electrical appliances?
Yes. Testing of the mains electrical system is required at 5 yearly intervals, together with portable electrical appliances being tested on an annual basis (for high usage wear and tear items), or every 2-3 years for lower usage items.

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FIRE ARRANGEMENTS, INDUCTION & TRAINING

What do I need to know about the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, 2005?
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, 2005 repeals The Fire Precautions Act 1971 and The Fire Precautions (Workplace) (Amendment) Regulations 1999. The main practical change is that fire certificates will no longer be issued, and existing fire certificates are no longer valid. Fire safety is now entirely the responsibility of the employer, occupier or manager, mainly by way of fire risk assessment.

Should induction training be provided by the employer?
Yes. Induction and orientation should be provided to all new employees at commencement of their employment. This should include information, instruction and training in safe systems of work, awareness of fire arrangements and procedures (evacuation, nearest fire exits, routes, and meeting point) together with an introduction to the appointed first-aider and fire marshal. This also applies to outside contractors and service providers whilst on site.

How often should fire evacuations be practiced?
At 6 monthly intervals.

How often should fire marshals be trained?
Suitable and sufficient information, instruction and training should be provided at commencement of the appointment, and thereafter refresher training every 2 years (maximum).

How many fire marshals are required in an office environment?
The number of fire marshals required in an office environment will depend on the layout and number of floors the office occupies, as well as the nature of work being carried out, i.e. work processes involving flammable materials may require a higher number of fire marshals. There should always be a minimum of 2 appointed and trained fire marshals, no matter how small the office is (within reason) in case 1 is off sick, on leave or out of the office at the time of an evacuation.
For companies who are not able to provide sufficient trained fire marshals, it is acceptable (where practical) to share fire marshals with neighbouring companies, particularly within multi-occupancy buildings. There must, however be a written formal agreement in place documenting this, and all staff should be made aware of who their fire marshals are.

How often should the fire alarm be tested?
Weekly, upon the same time and day of each week (during normal business hours).

What is the minimum width allowed for a fire route or exit?
The width of escape routes and exits depends on the number of persons needing to use them, as stated in The Building Regulations 2000, Approved Document B.

Max number of persons Minimum width
50 750mm
110 850mm
220 1050mm
>220 5mm per person

What are the responsibilities of the Health & Safety Officer / Responsible person?
As the appointed person, you may be held responsible for any breaches of Health & Safety both in the Criminal and Civil Courts. You therefore have a substantial corporate and personal liability, together with your Employer.

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FOOD HYGIENE

Is food hygiene a Health & Safety issue in the workplace, and how does it affect me?
Food hygiene has always been an important Health & Safety issue, non-more so than now, with a worrying increasing trend of food poisoning in the workplace. If you prepare food in the workplace either in the kitchen or canteen / catering dept., it is of paramount importance that Food Hygiene Legislation is adhered too, including Training, Audits and HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points).

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LIGHTING, BLINDS, TEMPERATURE & SPACE

How does lighting affect Health & Safety?
Good lighting, whether natural or artificial, has an important role to play. It helps us to see hazards and can reduce the likelihood of visual fatigue and discomfort, and is therefore an important consideration in respect of workstation activities. Average luminance for workstations should range from 200 to 500 Lux.
 
Should window blinds be provided?
In accordance with The Health & Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992, windows should be fitted with a suitable system of adjustable covering (blinds), to attenuate the daylight that falls on the workstation.
 
What is the minimum legal temperature in the workplace?
In accordance with Welfare Regulations the minimum temperature should be in the region of 16 Degrees Celsius and upward, for an office or similar environment.
 
Is there a maximum temperature for the workplace?
There is no maximum legal limit on temperature under UK Health & Safety Legislation, although an Employer would be expected to co-operate with Employees in cases of temperatures exceeding 27 Degrees Celsius relative to flexi time working and arrangements in order to minimise the effects of excessive temperatures.
 
What are the minimum space dimensions required for a workstation user?
The Health & Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 states that "The workstation shall be dimensioned and designed so as to provide sufficient space for the operator or user to change position and vary movements".
The Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992 states that "the total volume of the room, when empty, divided by the number of people normally working in it should be at least 11 cubic metres". This assumes a maximum ceiling height of 3 metres, and may be insufficient if the room is taken up by furniture etc.

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LONE & HOME WORKERS

What do I need to consider when employing lone workers?
If you employ lone workers, eg. out of hours support staff, in your place of work, or from other remote locations, you should put into place a surveillance and / or monitoring system to ensure regular communication at agreed intervals, and to provide adequate first aid relative to the risks identified. In the case of home workers using display screen equipment, a separate risk assessment should be undertaken at the users home.

Is an Employer responsible for the Health & Safety of Home Workers?
Yes. If an Employer has designated Home Workers and provides equipment and recourses for that purpose, the Employer is duty bound to carry out a suitable and sufficient Risk Assessment, in order to identify the associated hazards and put into place control measures to either eliminate or reduce the Hazards to an acceptable level (specifically Display Screen Equipment).

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MANUAL HANDLING

What is manual handling?

Manual handling of loads by human effort using bodily force. Manual handling includes both transporting a load and supporting a load in a static posture. The load may be moved or supported by the hands or any other part of the body. Also including lifting, lowering, pulling, pushing, catching, throwing. The first rule of manual handling is to avoid the task if reasonably practicable by the introduction of automation, mechanisation and manual handling aids.

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OUTSIDE CONTRACTORS

What responsibilities does the employer have regarding the safety of outside contractors?
Where outside contractors and service providers are working in or on your premises, you are responsible for their safety in respect of orientation and emergency arrangements and procedures. In addition you should request a method of work statement which identifies the hazards, control measures and resultant risks arising from the contractors work activity. In the absence of a method of work statement, and in the event of an accident occurring, the employer could be held responsible by way of vicarious liability.

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RISK ASSESSMENT & POLICY STATEMENT

Why do I have to carry out a risk assessment?
In order to identify foreseeable hazards in the workplace, assess the risk and put into place control measures to either eliminate or reduce the hazard. In accordance with regulation 3 of Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations, 1999, every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health & safety of his employees, to which they are exposed whilst they are at work, and the risk to the health & safety of persons not in his employment, arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking.

Who should undertake risk assessments?
Risk assessments should only be undertaken by competent persons, either internally or externally (consultant), as long as the risk assessor has suitable knowledge, understanding and practical experience of the subject of the risk assessment.

What risk assessments do I need to undertake?
The following risk assessments must always be carried out for working environments by organisations with 5 or more employees:

  • General Risk Assessment: Required under The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  • Fire Risk Assessment: Required under The Regulatory Reform (fire) Safety Order 2005
  • Workstation Risk Assessments: Required in accordance with Health & Safety Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992
  • Manual Handling Risk Assessment: Required in accordance with The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992

The following risk assessments must be carried as and when circumstances dictate:

  • New & Expectant Mothers Risk Assessment: Required under The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  • Stress Risk Assessment: Required under The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  • Home Worker Risk Assessment: Required in accordance with Health & Safety Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992
  • COSHH Risk Assessment: Required in accordance with Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002
  • Young Persons At Work Risk Assessment: Required in accordance with The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  • Lone Worker Risk Assessment: Required in accordance with The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  • Working at Height Risk Assessment: Required in accordance with The Work at Height Regulations 2005 and The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  • Driving on Business Risk Assessment: Required in accordance with The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  • Specific risk assessment (for any foreseeable hazards which are not identified in any of the risk assessments above): Required in accordance with The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999

Once you have the required risk assessments in place, an annual audit is required to ensure that they remain up-to-date, taking account of any changes to the working environment or systems of work, and also including control measures which have been carried out since the original risk assessments or previous audit.

What is a Health & Safety Policy Statement?
An organisations Health & Safety Policy Statement should incorporate:
The policy statement is intended as a publication of the employers policy on all matters of health & safety, and should be divided clearly into 3 sections as below, namely "statement of intent", "organisation of health & safety", and "arrangements of health & safety".

  1. A clear statement of intent and overall policy and objectives
  2. The organisation of health & safety, including specific responsibilities
  3. Detailed health & safety arrangements to cover all areas and activities

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SEATING & EYE SIGHT CARE

Is seating at work important?
Unsuitable seating can cause people to adopt awkward postures which can lead to discomfort, back pain and upper limb disorders. This may prove costly to employers in the form of staff absences, potential civil claims and lost production. Individuals also bear some of the costs in the form of suffering and lost income.

What aspects of seating do I need to be aware of?
The chair needs to be comfortable for the intended period of use, providing adequate support for the lower back, and providing sufficient padding and shaped to prevent uncomfortable pressure on the thighs. The chair also needs to have adequate types and ranges of adjustment, e.g.. adjustable height, so that work can be carried out at or below elbow height, and a sufficiently adjustable backrest in height and angle to allow the user to gain support. Also, armrests (which are not legally required) need to be suitable for the task and workstation, allow adequate arm movement and must not prevent the user from bringing the chair far enough forward.

What rules are there regarding eye sight testing?
Under the Display Screen Equipment Regulations, 1992, an employer, upon request will provide an appropriate eye and eye sight test, to be carried out by a competent person and be responsible for the cost. Furthermore, the employer will also be responsible for the basic cost of corrective devices (spectacles) required for display screen work.
 
Should an employee take a break from the display screen?
Yes, where the display screen use involves extensive use of the keyboard, mouse and screen, breaks should be taken before the onset of fatigue. Short frequent breaks are more satisfactory than occasional longer breaks, e.g. a 5-10 minute break after 50-60 minutes continuous screen and / or keyboard work, is more beneficial than a 15 minute break every 2 hours.
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STRESS, FIRST AID & R.I.D.D.O.R.

Is stress in the workplace a Health & Safety issue?
Yes. An employer has a responsibility to identify Excessive Stress in the workplace and if identified or brought to the attention of the Employer, it should be acted upon, in order to reduce excessive workplace stress to an acceptable level.

Is the employer required to provide first aid facilities?
In accordance with The Health & Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981, the employer should make an assessment of first-aid needs, appropriate to the circumstances of each workplace, including the appointment of suitably qualified first aid personnel and first aid kit and equipment.

How many first aiders are required in an office environment?
The number of first aiders required in an office environment will depend on the layout and number of floors the office occupies, as well as the nature of work being carried out, i.e. hazardous work processes may require a higher number of first aiders. There should always be a minimum of 2 appointed and trained first aiders, no matter how small the office is (within reason) in case 1 is off sick, on leave or out of the office at the time of an accident.
For companies who are not able to provide sufficient trained first aiders, it is acceptable (where practical) to share first aiders with neighboring companies, particularly within multi-occupancy buildings. There must, however be a written formal agreement in place documenting this, and all staff should be made aware of who their first aiders are.
 
What is R.I.D.D.O.R.?
R.I.D.D.O.R. is Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995. It is an offence to fail to report an accident at work or at another site where R.I.D.D.O.R. applies, eg. in the event of a death, absent for over 3 days as a consequence of injury, specified dangerous occurrences and diseases, any fracture other than to fingers, thumbs or toes, any amputation, dislocation of the shoulder, hip, knee or spine, loss of sight, a chemical or hot metal burn to the eye, or any penetrating injury to the eye, an injury resulting from electric shock and burn, and any admittance to hospital for more than 24 hours.

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YOUNG PERSONS AND NEW & EXPECTANT MOTHERS

What do I need to consider, when employing young persons?
Anybody under the age of 18 is considered a young person at work. Employers must ensure that young persons are protected from risks to their health & safety which are a consequence of their lack of experience, or absence of awareness of existing or potential risks, or the fact that young persons have not yet fully matured.

What do I need to consider when employing new and expectant mothers?
The Employer should immediately be informed in writing of any pregnancy, forthcoming or prior. Once informed, the Employer should carry out a Risk Assessment, in order to identify hazards in the workplace, ie manual handling, workstation and computer use, and the provision and use of welfare facilities etc.

Where the risk assessment identifies risks to new or expectant mothers and their children and these risks cannot be avoided by the preventative and protective measures taken by an employer, the employer will:

  • Alter her working conditions or hours of work, if it is reasonable to do so.
  • Identify and offer her suitable alternative work that is available
  • Suspend her from work on full pay