Category Archives: Health & Safety

Storing Chemicals

Whilst laboratories, hospitals, schools and factories are likely to store hazardous chemicals, they need to be stored correctly and not under a sink or at the back of a cupboard.

There are a few potential risks with hazardous chemicals:

-       If they mix with each other (e.g. through leakage).

-       If they are involved in a fire or have flammable properties.

The management of substances means you must only keep the minimum amount and lowest hazardous substances possible.  Another consideration is if the chemical is toxic, harmful or corrosive etc.  Staff who use these must be trained in its safe use etc.  Keep these chemicals in a safe and secure place and ensure that they are only accessed by competent staff.

Most general cleaning work can be carried out without either chemicals or with low hazardous products.  Choose substances that do not have a warning sign on the back as these can be left under the sink or in wash rooms without concern.  Remember to avoid storing chemicals in damp conditions as the packaging can be affected.  If you do store chemicals in large quantities, then remember plastic trays to stand the chemicals on are a good idea in case of spillages/leakages.  This will reduce the risk of accidental mixing and help with the ease of clearing up if necessary.


Government Plans For The Enviroment

The three government bodies that set the environment and energy agenda have given a few clues as to what is set out in the new 2016-2020 Environmental Policy.  The plans are designed to set out key policy objectives for the period 2015-2020 and give an insight into how departmental budget cuts, announced in the 2015 Autumn Statement are likely to be implemented.The Department for Environmental, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) promises to “deliver a strong economy and health environment” through 6 fairly high level objectives.  These include:-

-       Creating a cleaner, healthier environment.

-       A world-class food and farming sector.

-       A thriving rural economy.

-       Better protection against floods.

-       Delivering on time and budget, and

-       Delivering efficiency.

Defra promises a new approach to tackling waste crime by making use of £20 million from a reform of the Landfill Communities Fund.  The details are yet to be released.

Climate Change

The Department of Energy & Climate Change is prioritising energy security, keeping bills low, decarbonisation (focussing on reducing emissions across homes) and building an “energy legacy”.

There are plenty of details on large-scale energy infrastructure projects but less on businesses saving energy.  However, plans to promise to develop a renewed strategy for renewable heat and the government’s response to the recent business energy efficiency consultation was published in the 2016 budget.


The Department for Transport says it will focus on local air quality and throw all its weight behind the use of ultra-low emission vehicles (especially in cities).  Congestion charging and low emission zones, which ban the most polluting vehicles from entering certain zones will be further promoted.


Strains and Sprains in the Cleaning Industry

In 2003, the HSE published Caring for Cleaners: Guidance and case studies on how to prevent musculoskeletal disorders.  This has since been withdrawn.   The original document gave a good insight into the topic including the root causes of health problems e.g. “poorly organised work”, “a lack of time”, “poor scheduling”, “fear of making mistakes” and “unsuitable working at height”.

As we are aware, cleaning is demanding and labour intensive work.  Full time workers in particular risk pain affecting the back, neck, shoulders and upper limbs.  Injuries may result if equipment is too heavy to move, e.g. Floor polishing machines.  Manual lifting may also be a concern when moving bags of rubbish.

When selecting staff to use heavy machinery you should make sure they are fit enough for the task and are properly trained.  Using lighter equipment will help and breaking tasks up with lighter duties will assist.

Too busy to get systems in place? Want recognised accreditation to win contracts?

What could Hawksafe do for you?

  • Assist in PQQ’s and gaining accreditations such as CHAS, Construction line and Achilles.
  • Provide you with training ranging from first aid to face-fit and asbestos awareness and food safety.
  • Write job specific RAMS for you.
  • Assist in compliance with regulations such as CDM including as acting as principal designer.
  •  Help you with any risk assessments you need from manual handling to COSHH.
  • Workplace/site assessments and inspections.
  • DSEAR assessments.

We have clients in many sectors including; specialised access, pest control, construction, electrical, heating, transport and logistics through to food manufacturing.



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.

Safety Goggles

By providing staff with suitable personal protective equipment (PPE) this reduces the risk of harm. This is also a requirement of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (PPEWR). Regulation 2 of the PPEWR states that employers must assess the suitability of all PPE by taking into account the nature of the risk, working conditions, length of time the PPE is to be worn and individual fit.  Items worn must be CE marked to show that they comply with the applicable European standards.

There are different types of eye protection on the market which are available:-

  •   Safety spectacles/glasses – these look like prescription glasses or sunglasses.  They can incorporate side shields and some types can be fitted with prescription lenses.
  • Safety over-glasses or eye shields – these are designed to fit over existing prescription spectacles and are commonly used to protect visitors or other occasional users.
  •  Goggles – These protect the eye area from all angles as the complete rim is in contact with the face.  They have a plastic frame and one or two lenses depending on their purpose and grade.  There are ventilated and unventilated products, the latter being suitable to protect from chemicals and fine dusts.
  • Face shields – These are mounted on a helmet or head harness and cover the whole face.  However, they do not fully enclose the eyes.

In 2013 an employee of a company was struck in the eye by a shard of metal caused by a colleague’s operation of a nail gun.  In court in November 2015 the company was criticised for failing to provide appropriate eye protection.  The injured party, had no PPE protection and the nail gun operator, was only wearing safety spectacles, not goggles.  The company pleaded guilty to a breach of the PPEWR and was fined £6,500.


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.





Proof of Training

If any staff training has been completed even if it is a short Toolbox Talk you should ask your staff to sign and
confirm that they have attended and understood what they have been told.

If there is an accident/incident you are likely to face questions from an HSE or local authority inspector and the first question will be “whether anyone was involved in the incident and whether they had any health and safety or skills training?”.

This will identify if the incident was caused by staff not knowing the safety rules, being unsure of the correct way to operate a machine, not knowing what personal protective clothing was required with chemicals etc.

Remember to keep all documentation and training records undertake for your staff in case you are visited by the HSE or local authority inspector.

The appropriate forms are available for Hawksafe clients. Contact us if you would like any more information.

Suspended Access Equipment: LOLER certificates

Suspended access equipment is used for cleaning and maintenance of multi-storey buildings. It includes tracks, rails, trolleys, cradles, travelling ladders and the fixings which secure it to the building.

A well thought out inspection and maintenance regime would satisfy the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (1998) LOLER. Remember you will need a LOLER certificate to confirm the load/capacity and this will ensure that the equipment is fit for its intended purpose.

Having an anchor point for rope access work has been raised as a warning. On multi-storey buildings it is commonly used for activities such as inspection, minor repairs, cleaning, pest control, painting and net rigging. Such work must only be undertaken by trained specialists.

When you want to choose a contractor, one of the easiest ways of checking competence is to look for membership of the Industrial Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA).

You should discuss/monitor the work carried out by your contractor as both their safety and prevention of damage to the building is paramount. Check that you deal with an IRATA Level 3 supervisor or higher during the assessment stage.

This information is taken from our monthly Tips and Advice newsletter, sent to all Hawksafe clients.

New Food & Drink Manufacturing Guidelines

The HSE have published a new edition of a recipe for safety (GSG252). It is for anyone who is involved in food and drink manufacturing sectors. The HSE has identified that 96% of all injuries and occupational ill health in these sectors are caused by:-

  • Machinery
  • Workplace transport
  • Working at height
  • Entry into silos and confined spaces
  • Being struck by objects and knives
  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Manual handling

The occupational health issues suffered by those working in the sector include:-

  • Upper limb disorders
  • Occupational dermatitis
  • Occupational asthma
  • Noise-induced hearing loss
  • Work related stress

The guidance identifies that positive steps could have prevented about 80% of these cases. If these steps are not followed then you will find it hard to convince an inspector that you have done enough to comply with your legal duties.

You can find A Recipe for Safety on the HSE website.

This post is taken from our monthly Tips & Advice newsletter for April 2015.