Quite often you can be left wondering what a HSE inspector will be looking at when or if they decide to visit. Is it equipment they’re going to look at? Will it be my premises? Could they be looking at everything? Well the answer to these questions is “they might do”. One thing we do know, though, is that the HSE’s strategy for the next three years is Occupational Health. This means that its inspectors are now specifically asked to focus on issues within your workplace that might have an effect on your employee’s health. The HSE have billed this as their “Go home healthy” campaign.
According to the HSE:
- 12,000 workers die each year from lung disease.
- 9,000,000 working days lost due to musculoskeletal disorders.
- 12,000,000 working days lost in 2016 due to stress.
Whilst we cannot tell each and every one of you how to ensure that you won’t fall foul of the dreaded inspector, we can offer some tips to start you off with:
- Ensure that you know what chemicals your employees are using and what vapours or dusts they might be exposed to. This could be anything from paint fumes to asbestos fibres. This would normally be done via a COSHH assessment.
- Think about how you might stop your employees being exposed. The best solution would be to remove the hazard completely, but this might not be practical. Instead, could you substitute a hazardous product for a less hazardous one? If you can’t then you need to control fumes and dusts by mechanical means wherever possible. Local Exhaust Extraction – even on building sites – is now expected by the HSE inspectors. Follow all of this up with Respiratory Protective Equipment for your employees to wear.
- Train your employees on the risks involved with the work tasks and the controls that you’ve decided to implement.
- Avoid manual handling where possible. Can you use mechanical means to transport the goods? Even if it is just a trolley that removes the human lifting element.
- Assess your work tasks that might involve manual handling with consideration to the Task, Individual, Load and the Environment.
- Ensure that your employees have received manual handling training.
- Make sure that you know the weights of objects that might be moved – the HSE guidance is a maximum of 25Kg under normal situations for an adult male and 16Kg for an adult female.
- Consider reducing work-related stress by consider the six key factors that can introduce stress in your workplace:
- Demands – What are the workloads, work patterns and work environments that the employee is exposed to?
- Control – How much say does the person have in the way that they do their work?
- Support – Can you provide encouragement, sponsorship and resources to the employee by the organisation, management and colleagues?
- Relationships – Promote positive working to avoid conflict and deal with unacceptable behaviour promptly.
- Role – Do your employees actually understand their role within the organisation?
- Change – Can you communicate organisational change (large or small) within the company?
If you can demonstrate that you’ve considered at least some of the above, you’ll be able to show the HSE Inspector that you’re serious about protecting the health of your employees. If you need advice on any aspect of the above, please don’t hesitate to contact our advisers on 01302 341344.
By Ian Clayton CMIOSH – Health & Safety Manager