Two Bank Holidays in one month is always welcomed, however, it does mean that extra time must be spent sorting the garden out.
Last month on the May Bank Holiday I found myself spending a long day carrying out the much-needed shed clearing session to determine if a new larger shed was needed (as my husband believed it was!). This session involved a mass clear-out of old cleaning chemicals and paints (safely disposed of at the local tip); sorting of all the power tools to ensure stored safely and not ‘dumped’ on the floor by my husband; checking the step ladders were undamaged; and evicting the millions of bugs and spiders that had taken residence! I did try my hardest to adhere to the correct manual handling techniques, but must admit there were a number of items I did not wish to ‘hug’ due to the eight-legged occupants running over them.
If I was carrying the above out in a workplace things would have needed to be done slightly differently. Staff handling hazardous substances would need to be trained and aware of the safety data sheets or COSHH assessments in place; portable appliance testing would be needed on electrical equipment and user checks completed prior to use; ladder checks would need to be recorded, and preferably access equipment secured to prevent unauthorised use; staff carrying out manual handling would need to be trained in the correct techniques and adhere to it. Thankfully there is no legislation (currently) regarding the correct removal of bugs and spiders- much to both my and their relief!!
So after the mass clear-out of old, broken and un-needed items, and the introduction of new storage units the old shed is still going strong and everything is in its correct and safe place. Even the bugs and spiders are happy in their new re-vamped abode.
Well, the summer holidays are over for most of us for another year, the children are back at school, and already the evenings are drawing in. It seems to me that this starts to happen when we are still enjoying summer, but in that case I suppose that conversely the nights seem to draw out in the middle of winter! Added to which, the clocks change in late October which means shorter days as well. Perhaps that will help to convince motorists to use their headlights more readily (and no, this will not drain the battery!!)
Autumn can be a season of preparation for what may arrive in the next few months on the weather front. We have the threat (yet again) of the worst winter on record, so now is the right time to check any hazards which may lurk outside. A wise move might be to make sure there is a supply of grit or salt in case of an early cold snap. Paths may need to be checked to remove slippery mosses – bad enough to contend with ice and snow when it arrives without any further complications. Uneven paving can easily cause slipping and will need to be checked and replaced if necessary.
Overgrown shrubs and bushes could put your employees at risk when entering and leaving their place of work. They could easily conceal intruders which could obviously cause safety issues. Exterior lights are of little use with faulty bulbs! The Health and Safety Executive reported a case of a television satellite engineer who would not carry out any installations after 5pm because it “is unsafe to do so and contravenes H & S regulations” Maybe external lighting may have helped!
So, we are well into Autumn, and Bonfire Night and the dreaded “C” season is fast approaching. So get outside and get sort whilst we still have time.
Yesterday on route to Nottingham city centre in our car we saw, well I saw in the loosest terms possible, a cyclist weaving along the middle of a busy main road on his bike. He was dressed all in black, no helmet (unless you count his baseball cap), no reflectors and no lights, so what’s wrong with this you may be thinking, cyclists have a right to be on the roads too. I agree, but this was at 6.30pm at night! Luckily both my husband , who was driving, and I spotted the cyclist in plenty of time and my husband slowed our car due to the cyclists erratic manoeuvring, and also as he was unsure which direction the cyclist would be taking at the approaching crossroads. Thankfully, for us, he went straight ahead as we turned left, but that started a conversation about driving at night.
With the clock going back recently, the majority of drivers finishing work at the end of the working day (or indeed fetching their children from school) are driving in darkening conditions. Part of my work trek involves narrow unlit country lanes. I have been travelling these road for many years yet I still slow down considerably during the winter months, unfortunately other road users I frequently encounter seem not to be as wise or safe in their road use.
RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) have long campaigned for the adoption of Single/Double Summertime so that we have lighter evenings, saving up to 80 lives and 212 serious injuries a year. They have stated that things won’t change for this winter but they emphasise the importance of keeping yourself safe by being extra careful when driving, walking or cycling to work or school. The use the phrase “Make sure you can see and be seen! “. To view their campaign go to http://www.rospa.com/about/currentcampaigns/lighter-evenings/?utm_source=communicator&utm_medium=email&utm_content=article1_lighter_evenings_campaign&utm_campaign=safetymatters+24+-+completed%2fsent
In the meantime, I will be driving home in the dark again tonight. And after yesterday’s experience will be keeping an extra watchful eye for cyclists whom seem to believe peddling along the road dressed as a ninja is the safest option for them! Hopefully he reached his destination safely and in one piece without traumatising too many drivers.
This year it will be 40 years since the Health and Safety at Work Etc Act 1974 (HSAWA) was introduced. This piece of legislation is the cornerstone of modern health and safety, but health and safety legislation has been around much longer than that.
In a recent newsletter I talked about a blog I had read on the ROSPA web-site. The blog talked about the history of health and safety stretching back to 1772 BC! It continued explaining that the Ancient Babylonians are regarded as the first civilisation to legislate to provide safer working practices, with Law 229 of the Code of Hammurabi: If a builder build a house for a man and do not make its construction firm, and the house which he has built collapse and cause the death of the owner of the house, that builder shall be put to death.
So even nearly 4000 years ago people saw the importance of carrying out work in a safe manner, and had penalties, even if very extreme, if they did not adhere to these laws. But after all these years still hundreds of people are dying or being seriously injured each year as a result of poor health and safety in the workplace.
We do not need more legislation to stop this happening, believe me being the one in our office who has to read legal documents to interpret them into plain English, we have sufficient Acts and Regulations in the UK. The problems lie with employers, and others with legal responsibilities, not assessing the risks in their workplace and ensuring whatever they are planning to do is not going to harm themselves or others. Unfortunately people are now too quick to blame all ‘this new health and safety legislation’ for putting restrictions on your lives, when in fact it probably is not health and safety legislation at all to blame but jobs-worths and over-zealous restrictions from insurance organisations.
There are discussions that within our schools lessons on workplace health and safety should be on the curriculum. Great idea, but should they not be teaching future generations a common sense risk-based approach as well. If you drop a drink on the floor, get a paper towel and wipe it up. If the playground is icy don’t go ‘skidding and sliding’ about on it. If a wall looks too high to jump down from, don’t climb the wall in the first place! I am not for wrapping children up in cotton wool, but teach them about avoiding risks, taking a common sense approach in life and taking responsibility if they do something wrong.
So whether it is 40 years on from the HSAWA or nearly 4000 years since the Code of Hammurabi workplace health and safety legislation is definitely with us to stay. Hopefully jobs-worths, blame culture and lack of common sense are not!
Happy 40th HSAWA.
Reading one of the Health and Safety Executive’s myth busting cases this week made me chuckle. The case (case 225 for those interested) said ‘Notice in charity shop window states they are unable to accept further donations due to health and safety’. The truth being that the shop wanted a temporary halt to donations to enable them to process the high volume of donations they had received- nothing to do with health and safety.
And why did this make me chuckle? I had a similar run in with my local charity shop a while back. I had sorted out our loft and had several bags of donations. As I wanted them out the house quickly we carried the bags to our local charity shop, run by a very nice lady. I passed the bags across, and on the top of one was a lampshade. Her face showed an expression of sheer horror “We can’t take that. It’s against health and safety law” she almost screamed at me. I laughed thinking she was joking. “No seriously we can’t. If we hang them from the ceiling and they fall and hit someone we will get sued”. At this point my husband was edging me toward the door, lampshade in hand, before I could start questioning her about the knowledge of health and safety legislation she had that surpassed mine. Once outside we saw a notice in the window stating “For health and safety reasons we cannot take donations of lampshades, suitcases, electrical goods or pushchairs”. I fully appreciate it is a small shop, and lack of space means they have to restrict what donations they can take, but the reasons need to be better explained than simply blaming health and safety.
The HSE myth-busters challenge panel was introduced by the HSE to challenge inaccurate or inappropriate advice or decisions being made in the name of health and safety. This time of year we will once again see local councils banning Christmas trees in town squares in case the wind blows them over; theatres preventing sweets being thrown at pantomimes in case they hit the audience; and office workers being prevented from hanging decorations from ceiling as step ladders are illegal. I agree that there is a level of risk to all these activities but being correctly carried out (with some common-sense and forward planning) they need not be unsafe- or banned due to health and safety.
So if you have five minutes to spare over the festive season and want to read some of the bizarre, far-fetched and very funny ‘health and safety ‘ excuses given, then click on the link below http://www.hse.gov.uk/myth/myth-busting/index.htm
Wishing you all a safe and very Merry Christmas
Everywhere you look at the moment you cannot escape the fact that Christmas is racing towards us at an alarming rate, especially now that Halloween and Bonfire Night are over. Taking my excited 9 year old to school this morning consisted of what he would like on the big day and the Christmas adverts have not even started in full force yet to influence him.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas. I can’t wait to hear this year’s news reports about ‘elf and safety gone mad’, ‘bah humbug bosses banning decorations’ and ‘being banned from throwing sweets at pantomimes’ . I kid you not follow this link to the Health and Safety Executive myth busting site. All joking aside certain accidents do increase in the workplace during the festive season due to people not stopping, thinking and then carrying out tasks in a safe manner.
Putting up tinsel and paper chains need not be a health and safety risk, however climbing on an office chair with wheels, or climbing on a desk to fix the items to the ceiling is. Use a suitable foot stool, step ladder or a tall member of staff instead! Christmas lights on trees make them look magical, and I have been asked in the past whether fairy lights are permitted in the workplace. Yes they can be, but as with all portable electrical appliances you need to ensure they are fit for use. Check the plug for signs of wear or damage, check the cable for fraying, maybe plug into a RCD, and definitely turn them off and unplug when the workplace is empty. In fact follow the same steps you would in your own home. If in doubt as to their safety then get them portable appliance tested or throw them away and buy a new set.
After the workplace is decorated to rival Oxford Street, work parties and meals will also be in full swing. Do not worry I am not about to say that there is health and safety legislation restricting what can occur at a workplace shindig. Just be careful what you get up to, keep away from photocopiers and arrange your transport back home before the festivities start. Also remember that it can take up to 12 hours (or more depending on how much was consumed) before alcohol levels in the blood can diminish to under the legal driving limit. So be careful when you plan on doing the following day.
I won’t wish you Happy Christmas yet as it is far too soon and I am still in denial even though it is only 7 weeks away today!!! Maybe when the infamous Coca-Cola red truck appears on my TV screen, with its catchy ‘Holidays are coming’ jingle I will be a little more prepared.
I guess with the sun still shining brightly and weather still warm I should not be thinking about dreaded winter weather already- but I am (sorry). Snow, and its sinister partner in crime, ice, have caused me much annoyance and upheaval in the past.
The weatherwoman reported this morning by the end of the week the temperature may have dropped by 10°C. It may not be long before we see the little white fluffy snow clouds appearing on the weather chart, accompanied by the blue temperature figures, and the Country will spiral into chaos. For the last few years as soon as the temperature plummets and the little white flakes start to fall fear sets in, as do school closures, disrupted public transport services and icy paths. So now is the time to start thinking about your ‘snow policy’.
Having a snow policy (or adverse weather policy) is not only about who will grit the paths from the car park to the entrance, but also what will the company do if their staff cannot get into the office due to snow and ice difficulties. Staff have the right to take unpaid leave from work in an emergency involving their children or a dependant . A school being closed due to snow is classified as such an emergency. Asking staff to get into work “under any conditions” may also put them at risk- what if they get into work by public transport then buses are cancelled mid-afternoon? . Maybe discussing now want you expect your staff to do when the weather is extremely bad may help on a bleak icy December morning. Could staff work from home, could they come in later or leave earlier, could they ask a nearby colleague to pick them up if they are unable to get public transport?
So my recommendation on this sunny Monday afternoon is to start thinking about the not so fun snow days to come and maybe taking a look at this link to the BBC web-site http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-11886185