Category Archives: General News

Scaffolding Guidance

The National Access and Scaffolding Confederation has reissued its guidance on preventing falls (Preventing Falls in Scaffolding Operations).  It has been revised several times and has influential results of its standards, in that scaffolders now use fall protection harnesses and lanyards when erecting and dismantling scaffolding.

The National Access and Scaffolding Confederation say that as a result of the application there has been an 82% reduction in falls from height in a 15 year period amongst member companies.

The guidance is easy to understand and you do not have to be a scaffolder to understand it.  Whether you are a client, principal contractor, site supervisor or health and safety advisor you can check that scaffolders are working safely.

Points to remember are:- 

1)    Planning and working at height eg. Training, risk assessment, rescue plans, weather effects and design work.

2)    Description of the scaffolder’s safe zone and how to construct one.

3)    Less usual scaffolding applications eg. bridging, loading bays, chimney scaffolds, debris chutes.

4)    Methods of access and egress.

5)    Personal fall protection including the use of harnesses, lanyards and anchor points, and

6)     Rescue arrangements.


When working with stone, one of the health risks is a fine dust known as respirable crystalline silica (RCS).  RCS is drawn deep into the lungs where it can cause lung diseases including silicosis (inflammation and scarring of the lungs), cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Silica is one of the HSE’s top priorities as it is produced not only during stone work but also through activities such as cutting blocks, bricks and tiles.

It now seems that inspectors are extending their reach to the stone industry including those who manufacture work surfaces and stone and monumental masons.  During 2015, when inspectors visited 60 businesses in the South of England they examined whether firms had effective silica dust controls amongst other areas of health and safety management.  Unfortunately, the inspectors revealed poor standards and serious breaches were found at more than half of the premises inspected (35 out of 60).  The HSE issued four prohibition notices (which meant work had to be stopped immediately) and 54 improvement notices issued.

The HSE identified 4 common areas which the industry focus on:-

-       Silica dust.

-       The handling of storage of stone.

-       Machinery guarding, and

-       The maintenance of air compressors.

If you are in the stone industry and you have not addressed the silica dust issues, now is the time to do so.

Your arrangements should include:-

-       Dust extraction or suppression.

-       Vacuuming and wet cleaning methods rather than brushing up.

-       Issuing good quality respiratory protection and checking that it fits correctly.

-       Health surveillance.

Falling slabs are also a well-known cause of fatal accidents.  Review your methods of handling and storing stone slab and check they are not at risk of toppling onto staff when being moved, loaded, unloaded or stored in racks.

Obviously there are many safety hazards in stone masonry businesses, guarding machinery is the most important.  Once you have determined that your guarding is suitable, carry out daily checks and ensure it remains in place and not tampered with.

Injured Staff – Should you allow them back?

If you have a member of staff off work with a injured ankle for a number of weeks, with no broken bones but badly bruised and swollen. Should you allow them to come back to work, if they asked?

Before allowing your member of staff back to work you need to advise them to seek medical opinion on whether it is safe to return. On their return to work the member of staff should present you with a ‘fit’ note that confirms that they are safe to work. This is due to the fact that the employee is still injured and the note may say they should not be considered fit to complete full duties, only light duties. You will then need to carry out a risk assessment for light duties.

Remember, make sure both parties are satisfied and insists the employee signs the documents to show you have not put them at risk. Also, you are not at any obligation to allow the employee back to work too early and only seemed safe to do so.


If you are planning to carry out some major landscaping works eg. moving earth, paths, wall construction or planting then as a client you must:-

  • Ensure that you employ a competent contractor.
  • Check that they plan to work safely.
  • Monitor their work to make sure that the site and work activities remain safe.

Remember you will always need to consider the safety of the public (including children) and of your own staff and visitors.   This type of work can create significant risks and a risk assessment and method statement should be carried out in advance.

Check to see if the work site needs to be fenced off or made secure from the casual trespasser etc.  If it is not necessary to secure the entire site, you may still need to ensure that waste skip areas and plant are enclosed in secure compounds out of working hours.

If there is a need to drill into the ground, remember pipes and electricity supplies.  Remember this may be disruptive but may also be potentially fatal.  If you can locate any drawings or information from files/records to show where services are located it would be extremely useful.  Other risks to bear in mind are:-

  • The movement of vehicles and plant associate with the work.
  • Street works and traffic moving on and off your site.
  • Overhead power lines (risk to tipper trucks, excavators and other tall plant).
  • Issue an excavation permit.

In April 2015 the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM 2015) came into effect and The Landscaping Institute has agreed guidance with the HSE covering the application of the Regulations.  As a result, some types of the landscaping work are regarded as construction eg. earthworks, all hard landscaping, installation of pipes and pipelines, demolition, dismantling and preparation for these works.

However, planting and tree work (grassing) are not classed as construction work and therefore are not subject to CDM 2015.  However, if they take place within a construction site all construction rules must be adhered too.

Skin Exposure

The HSE has updated its guidance on its 2009 ‘Managing risks of skin exposure at work’.  There has been some rearrangement of the contents, plus:-

  • References to revoked legislation on chemical packaging have been removed.
  • There is no longer a detailed summary of legislation which applies to the subject.
  • A new appendix shows the standard European symbols used by glove manufacturers to show the protection provided.

This is non-compulsory guidance but should be followed if you have skin protection issues amongst your staff.  Inspectors are likely to refer to it whenever there are obvious risks on a site relating to skin exposure.  If you believe your staff are at risk then it would make sense to read, understand and apply precautions as necessary.

It is written in an easy to read format and will enable most managers and supervisors to gain a basic understanding of the subject.  It would be good to set this as required reading by managers and staff that are exposed to substances which are corrosive, irritant, trigger allergic reactions or cause disease.  This will ensure that the structure of the skin, how it acts as a barrier and how that barrier can be breached if skin exposure is not managed.

Abestos Issues

If you have the responsibility for repair and maintenance of premises you must identify asbestos containing materials (ACMs) and ensure that they are properly maintained.  This duty is described in the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR).  Although CAR came into force in 2012 the responsibility to identify and manage ACMs was first communicated in legislation in 2002.

It still seems quite common for companies to have made a start with CAR but have not followed it through.  One particular company had identified the need for an asbestos survey back in 2006 and engaged a qualified surveyor.  The Surveyor highlighted all the locations where carcinogenic material could be found, equipping the company with the knowledge it needed to prevent fibres from contaminating the workplace.

However, nothing has been done and construction work was carried out later which had the potential to disturb ACMs.  The HSE inspector visited and although no ACMs were known to have been disturbed, the company was prosecuted for its failure to manage the materials.

The company pleaded guilty to offences under Regulation 4 (8) (b) of CAR and was fined a total of £11,000 with costs of £1,610.

If your premises was built in or after the year 2000 you can assume it is free of ACMs but otherwise you will need to have a survey carried out.

If your Asbestos survey has found ACMs then you must implement asbestos management arrangements.   You must:-

  1. Remove or seal up dangerous materials.
  2. Affix asbestos warning labels.
  3. Warn maintenance staff and contractors of the materials located.
  4. Ensure that work does not disturb ACMs.
  5. Monitor the condition on an ongoing basis.

Remember to keep records of your routine inspections.



Flood Action

The Environment Agency suggests there are

260,000 business units employing 3.2 million people which are located in flood areas.

As we are aware the EA is investing heavily in flood defences because of the effects of climate change.  Obviously Cumbria is the evidence of how devastating these floods are.

A case highlighted in the EA’s Flood Action campaign identifies what can happen.  Greencore, which supplies many of the major supermarkets has also been hit by flooding.  More than one meter of water flowed through its premises making this unusable for months.  Fortunately Greencore could operate from another location, however, the impact of the flood was significant and resulted in a multi-million pound insurance claim.

 EA figures identify that in 2013/14 3,200 commercial properties were flooded.

The EA can provide you with a map to see if your premise is at risk.  If you are at risk it would be best to nominate a member of staff to monitor the EA’s flood warnings and keep you ahead of flooding risk.

ISO 14001:2015 Policy Statement

As stated back in September 2015 after the final text of the BS EN IS0 14001:2015 environmental management standard as been launched.

The scope of the standard has not changed by many of the requirements have.

If you are already following systems which are compliant with the 2004 version of the standard, you have up to 3 years to revise your arrangements. However you should start making the move across now beginning with your policy statement. Many of the changes have been to its structure.

Your organisation is required to formalise its commitments to environmental management in policy. This document should set out your objectives and the actions you have in plan to achieve the intended outcomes. Your policy should show how you will continually improve environmental standards within your organisation.

The standard states that your policy MUST include three basic commitments:

  1. To protect the environment
  2. To fulfil the organisation’s compliance obligations
  3. To continually improve the environmental management system to enhance environmental performance.  

A requirement of ISO 14001:2015 is that there must be commitment from the top of the organisation. Therefore the following statement has been included:

“Directors, management and supervisory staff have responsibilities for the implementation of the policy and must ensure that the environmental issues are given adequate consideration in the planning and day-to-day supervision of all work”

If you have any questions or would like us to contact you regarding the ISO 14001:2015 changes or you would like to know more about the accreditation please fill out the contact form below.

New Electrical Guidance from HSE

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (EAWR) is one of the oldest pieces of legislation still in effect. The guidance has not been amended since 2007.

The purpose of the EAWR is to prevent death or personal injury from electrical causes connected with work activities. This covers:

  • Construction of electrical systems, including strength, safety during fault conditions and mechanical suitability for the environment.
  • Safety equipment, earthing, excess current protection and insulation.
  • Means of isolation.
  • Precautions for work on both dead and live systems and for work in close proximity to installations.
  • Sufficient space, access and light for those working on the installation.
  •  Inspection and maintenance
  • The competence of electrical workers and their supervision.

Weak scaffold boards are a major concern in the construction industry

In September 2015 the HSE in Northern Ireland issued a Safety Alert on substandard boards. It describes how the boards failed:

  • The boards did not meet strength criteria before putting into use.
  • The boards have been damaged and not withdrawn from use.
  • The boards have become distorted.
  • The boards have been attacked by insects or fungus.

The HSE Recommends that only boards manufactured to standards of BS 24832:2009 However this is not a British Standard legal requirement.

Deterioration can occur due to misuse, age, accidental damage, deliberate cutting to fit around obstructions and unsuitable storage conditions.

Avoid the following:

  1. Driving over the boards.
  2. Using boards as ramps for wheelbarrow access.
  3. Throwing or dropping them from a height.
  4. Overloading e.g. leaving scaffolds stacked with heavy materials.

Make sure you check your boards for:

  1. Splits and deep fissures.
  2. Broken or damaged end bands.
  3. Cuts to the face caused by saws.
  4. Dents from being struck by loads or fork lift trucks.
  5. Loose or broken knots.
  6. Wet rot caused by poor storage conditions.
  7. Infestation.