Safe Systems of Work

Many companies have risk assessments covering their work activities. It is a legal requirement to do so and it’s the first port of call when an incident occurs, but is it enough? Even if your employees have read the risk assessments and have signed to say they have understood, will you be deemed to have done enough if further action is taken as a result of the incident?

The answer is not clear cut and that is because risk assessments are complex documents and can sometimes be overwhelming, especially for employees.

What can you do?

What we are seeing in abundance recently is the reliance upon safe systems of work in both criminal prosecutions and personal injury claims. A large percentage of accidents occur due to lack of or failure in systems of work.

What is a safe system of work?

A system of work is a set of procedures according to which work must be carried out. Employees should be involved in the process of creating the safe system of work and they should set out in detail, the correct method for carrying out an activity. This can then be documented and used as part of the training procedure for employees undertaking this activity. Without a set method for carrying out a task safely and a recognised procedure in place to deal with non-routine processes, the threat of mistakes being made is high.

Why is it important to develop safe systems of work?

Safe systems of work ensure that all the steps necessary for safe working have been anticipated and implemented and are designed to reduce human error. They prevent situations where workers attempt to cut corners, rush through a task or take unnecessary risks, reducing the likelihood of accidents occurring.

For employers, devising safe systems of work, and providing training to ensure they are carried out effectively, will not only help to prevent accidents occurring in the first place but will help to defend prosecutions should accidents occur by providing evidence of the steps taken to ensure safe practices. With fines having increased 450% since the introduction of new sentencing guidelines in 2016, taking the time to proactively strengthen your safety systems is crucial, and developing safe systems of work is a key part of this.

Are safe systems of work required by law?

Whilst there is no specific requirement for documented safe systems of work to be implemented there are areas in all health and safety legislation that would be difficult to adhere to without them.

Under Section 2(a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act (HSWA) 1974, employers must, ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’, provide and maintain systems of work that are practical, safe and without risks to health.

Many regulations made under the HSWA require that workers are given appropriate information and instruction on how to work safely.

Employees also have a legal duty under the HSWA to take reasonable care of their own health and safety and co-operate with their employer by following any safe systems of work that are in place.

In prosecutions by the HSE, there is a phrase that is used time and time again: ‘Those in control of work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workers in the safe system of working.

Are yours in place?

If you would like some further advice please contact the health and safety team on 01302 341 344.

By Rachel Cuff CMIOSHRisk Consultant

Managing Drug and Alcohol Misuse in the Workplace

Did you know that research conducted by the CIPD highlighted that drugs and alcohol are contributory factors in 26% of all workplace accidents? With that in mind would your managers, supervisors or directors know how to effectively and safely deal with an employee that was suspected or found to be under the influence of drugs and alcohol at work?

First thing’s first. What are your responsibilities as an employer? Seems like a simple question however, as an employer, you have a responsibility to look after your employee’s well being as well as providing them with a safe working environment. You also must consider that employers are acting illegally if they knowingly allow drug or alcohol related activities to occur at work, specifically if:

  • an employee under the influence of excess alcohol is knowingly allowed to work
  • controlled substances are produced, supplied or used on an employer’s premises
  • drivers of road vehicles and transport system workers are under the influence of drugs while driving or unfit through drugs while working

As an employer you are therefore expected to walk the fine line between supporting employees if they are struggling with substance abuse (especially as some of the symptoms of long term misuse of drugs and alcohol could be classed as a disability) yet maintaining a safe environment for the rest of your employees, whilst staying on the right side of the law. When considering supporting an employee it is important to remember that the misuse of these substances is often associated with underlying issues including mental ill health and therefore can be complex situations to tackle.

As this is an employment blog we always recommend starting with a policy. Your Drug and Alcohol policy should outline:

  • your responsibilities as the employer
  • the standards you expect from your employees
  • what, if any, testing regimes you employ within the business
  • what disciplinary action may occur on failing or refusal of a test

With a policy in place, it is important to share this with your employees, and ideally have them sign to say they have read and understood it, which is important when it comes to dealing with issues later on.

What to do when you suspect an employee is under the influence at work?

It’s difficult to prescribe a one size fits all approach, however some fundamentals include trying to tackle it informally and discretely if possible. It’s important not to ignore the issue so calling them into an informal meeting is a good start. If you are on a safety critical site or their role involves driving or using heavy machinery you may want to consider sending them home on full pay while you investigate.

If you do decide to send them home, do not let them drive home themselves and assist in finding them an alternative method of transport.

If you have a testing regime, then now would be a good time to follow through and utilise it. Although testing can be carried out by an employer, tribunals usually prefer to see an external third party conduct the testing. This carries with it the questions of how quick can your third-party provider get out to conduct the testing and how quickly can they get the results back to you?

It’s important to remember that even if an employee fails a drug and alcohol test it does not necessarily mean that a tribunal will support it being a fair dismissal. You still have to go through your disciplinary procedure, and you would be expected to demonstrate how their performance would be impacted to enough of a level that warranted dismissal.

This blog barely scratches the surface on this topic so if you would like some further advice please contact the employment team on 01302 341 344.

By Kris Kerins BSc (Hons) PGC (Tech Mgmt) Risk Services Adviser

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unpredictability – the new normal

Business resilience is the key issue firms are grappling with when faced with increasingly large & unpredictable business interruption & supply chain risks. How resilient is your business if the worst happens? Whether it’s a flood on the other side of the world, a fire at a supplier’s premises or a major cyber-attack, business interruption claims can stop a business in its tracks. As companies become more reliant on technology & global supply chains, they have become more vulnerable to disruption, which can threaten their very existence.

From a global perspective, natural catastrophes have emerged as a key driver of business interruption losses. According to the World Economic Forum, disruptions to the production & delivery of goods & services due to environmental disasters have increased by nearly a third since 2012 – reflecting the impact of climate change & global supply chains.

The growing importance of intangible assets is also a key issue. An incident can damage or disrupt the use of an intangible asset, such as data, intellectual property or a company’s brand, but such damage is hard to quantify & insurance cover not always clear. Cyber is a significant exposure – businesses are increasingly dependent on technology & data, which are susceptible to human error, technical flaws & security issues.

Increasing levels of dependency are also becoming a factor. Supply chains are increasingly complex & concentrated. This is particularly evident is some areas of manufacturing – for example cars, where around 30,000 individual parts from thousands of suppliers are used to build a single car. A fire at a US magnesium plant in 2018, for example, disrupted the operations of five different manufacturers – the parts were so specialised the firms did not have effective back-up options.

Maintaining supply chains is becoming more challenging in today’s unpredictable political environment. Tensions in the Middle East & Asia threaten key trade routes, with tankers & container ships being attacked, but closer to home, Brexit has huge implications for UK/EU cross border supply chains. Many UK firms are maintaining stockpiles of key supplies, whilst lengthy delays at UK ports will affect the delivery of components & production capacity.

Problems can be quick to arise, but it takes longer for businesses & supply chains to recover. Longer periods of disruption are evident in business interruption claims where periods of indemnity now commonly need to be 24 or 36 months, up from the more standard 12 months we have seen historically.

As supply chains have become more important, firms have been investing in risk management, supply chain management, business continuity planning & crisis management. Despite this, business interruption incidents continue to happen & many organisations struggle to recover. Too often business continuity plans reveal serious shortcomings – many firms do not have a written business continuity plan &, even if one is in place, it may not have been tested. The number & complexity of business interruption & supply chain incidents suggest that firms need to do more to improve their resilience. Business continuity planning is important, but wider business resilience with a focus on risk management & “what-if” thinking is needed if businesses are to prosper in an increasingly unpredictable & volatile world.

By Beverly Brown FCII, Chartered Insurance BrokerGroup Broking Director

It’s nothing to do with Brexit

There was a time when insurance premiums followed a well-trodden cycle. Premiums would decrease based on competition and then a ‘hard market’ would follow (broker speak for rapidly rising premiums: 20%, 50%, 100%, 200% – big numbers) as a result of insurance companies desperately trying to get more money into the pot. It’s a time when brokers tell their clients that their renewal premium has risen by just 50% but not to worry, it could have been much worse!

The root cause of this problem is simply GCSE economics – the market forces of supply and demand.

But over the last 10 years the cycle has disappeared, or so we thought. Premiums remained static (or fell slightly) as competition was rife. We cautioned clients that the dam would break at some point, but they didn’t. We began to wonder if the algorithms and financial models used by insurers had developed to a point where losses could be accurately predicted and premiums set accordingly. So, had the cycle of the hard and soft market disappeared?

Afraid not. The bad news is the hard market is back, but only for some sectors. Professional Indemnity has seen the biggest impact.

The Grenfell disaster sent shock-waves through the insurance market. Any business engaged in the design and build sector is seeing significant increases in premiums allied to restrictions in cover. Small increases for some – “just 20% but not to worry, it could have been much worse” – up to 100% for others. The worst pain being reserved for those involved in the design, specification or installation of cladding, particularly to high rise buildings. The fire is now spreading; Professional Indemnity cover for solicitors is seeing similar rising premiums.

So, will the fire spread further? It’s difficult to predict. It’s all about supply and demand. When insurers see losses mounting in one country they tend to deploy their limited capital in another country where returns are better. It’s a vicious circle; losses mount, capacity reduces and premiums increase.

There is of course one silver lining; when premiums rise so steeply, profitability is quickly restored, capacity is returned to the market and once again competition amongst insurer serves to drive down premiums. The return of that well-trodden cycle? Perhaps.

So, what can you do to alleviate the problem? What can we do between us to alleviate the problem?

Well, two things really. Plan ahead. We will guide you through the process at the earliest opportunity. Forewarned is forearmed. But that aside, the message is the same as ever. Those who claim less, pay less. A lot less in a hard market. “It’s only a 25% increase but don’t worry, it could have been worse” is the kind of message we deliver for those who ‘claim less’. Yes, I know it doesn’t sound great but the alternative message is not worth repeating.

Managing your risk can take many forms. From managing safety, to checking contract conditions, to managing culture. The list is endless. Whatever it is, be proactive.

Talk to us now. We can’t stop the cycle of hard and soft markets but we can alleviate some of its worst excesses.

Oh, and one last thing, it’s nothing to do with Brexit.

By Ian Laycock FCIIChartered Insurance Broker – Group CEO

Be proactive and audit your workplace

Do you use accident statistics to judge your health and safety performance?

Accident statistics can provide a good indication that you’re on the right track. Low accident rates are good! Analysing trends over time can show where you may have problems and allows you to implement measures to correct them. However, there is a problem with using accident statistics to measure performance: It’s a reactive measure and cannot change what has already happened.

So, what can we do to prevent incidents before they occur?

One of the best ways of measuring health and safety performance is to look at what you’re doing now. Auditing is a proactive method to measure your performance which can be very effective in improving health and safety standards. Auditing may sound complicated, but it can be proportionate to your workplace’s requirements. There are different types of auditing and here’s a few examples:

  • Safety tours are a simple walk around your premises noting areas for improvement or good performance. They can be long or short depending on time constrains and can cover the whole premises or just a small portion. Where possible problems can be resolved at the time or noted for later action.

 

  • Health and safety inspections sound a little more formal but are really a safety tour where we create a more detailed report. Again, areas for improvement and good performance can be recorded. Photos can be used with a short description, action points, who is nominated to complete the action and by when. This is a great way of providing information in a format that is easy to digest.

 

  • Health and safety audits are more formal yet. They can cover all areas of your business, including health and safety policies, risk assessments, work procedures and other documentation etc. Audits can be tailored to your business requirement and be specific to your industry. Generally, a formal report with recommendations for improvements is created.  These may be carried out in-house by your own staff or you can enlist the help of ProAktive – Auditing is normally built into the service we offer our clients.

Auditing can be carried out by individuals or teams and be carried out on a planned cycle to cover all areas of your business. An effective auditing programme can involve all of your employees and is a great way of getting employees involved in health and safety.

Auditing does not necessarily require a lot of training, however attending a training course, such as the IOSH Managing Safety course, is ideal to provide background information and the skills required for carrying out simple audits in your workplace.

Whichever type of auditing you choose to carry out, auditing provides a proactive way to measure your performance and identify opportunities for improvement. Don’t forget to praise good performance as this is a great way of encouraging employees to work safely and can help to improve the overall health and safety culture in your workplace.

If you would like more information or some help you can contact us on 01302 341 344 or -0114 243 9914.

Ainslie Johnson Grad IOSHRisk Consultant

 

Holiday pay calculation nightmare continues to evolve

A recent case heard in the Court of Appeal has rejected an Employers Appeal that they did not underpay a part time, term- time worker in respect of their holiday pay.

In Brazel v The Harpur Trust,  the Court of Appeal found in favour of the Employee. The original case saw Brazel challenge the way their employer had calculated their holiday pay, which had resulted in an underpayment. Brazel was a term time worker

and worked part time hours and his employer calculated his holiday pay using the method of 12.07% of hours worked during the previous term (a calculation which is regularly used for workers who do not work the same  hours and which equates to the statutory 5.6 weeks holiday entitlement).

However, the court ruled that the Working Time Regulations and the Employment Rights Act required the employer to calculate a ‘weeks pay’ based on an average earned over a 12 week period and based on this equation, Brazel’s holiday entitlement worked out at 17.5%.The Employer cannot discard this method and use their own.

This is a useful case for all businesses who work based on term time contracts. If you would like any further advice on this subject or any other HR matter, please give our HR Consultancy Team a call on 01302 341 344.

By Jodi Cooling MBA Dip CIIGroup Operations Director and HR Consultant

Mental Health First Aid 2 Day Course in association with Westfield Health

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is an internationally recognised training course developed by Mental Health First Aid England. It is the mental health equivalent of physical first aid and is designed to raise the awareness of mental health in the workplace and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

Having a qualified Mental Health First Aider in the workplace provides a point of contact for an employee who is experiencing a mental health issue or emotional distress. This interaction could range from having an initial conversation through to supporting the individual to get appropriate help. In a crisis, Mental Health First Aiders can spot the signs of mental ill health and are valuable in providing early support for someone who may be developing a mental health issue.

 

The two day Mental Health First Aid training course teaches practical skills that can be used every day, including being able to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental health issues and feel confident guiding people towards the right professional support.

 

Course Benefits:

  • Gives a deeper understanding of the issues that impact on and relate to people’s mental health
  • Raises awareness and mental health literacy
  • Reduces stigma around mental health
  • Boosts knowledge and confidence in dealing with mental health issues
  • Promotes early intervention which enables recovery
  • Creates a more positive and supportive workplace culture

Details:

Thursday 17th and Friday 18th October 2019

Location: ProAktive House, Sidings Court, White Rose Way, Doncaster, DN4 5NU.

Time: 08:45 registration and refreshments and 17:00 finish, both days.

£325 + VAT per person including lunch and refreshments.

 

To book your place please call our HR Team on 01302 341 344 or email KrisKerins@ProAktive.co.uk

 

 

If we keep our ‘Sums Insured’ low it won’t cost us as much…

…WRONG!  

This could end up costing you a lot more in the long run.

There are a surprising number of businesses both large and small that are drastically under-insured.

Some may genuinely believe that they have insured for the correct amount at the time whilst others may have intentionally left their sums insured low in order to keep premiums to a minimum.

We cannot stress the importance of ensuring that yours Sums Insured in respect of buildings, contents, stock etc are set correctly at the outset and reviewed on a regular basis.  Most policies, unless stated otherwise, are on a reinstatement (new for old) basis and therefore you should be insuring for the new replacement value – not what you believe it is worth now.

The reason most policyholders get caught out is because they do not realise that most insurance policies contain an “Average clause”.  This means that if you have under-insured, your claim will be reduced proportionately; for example; let’s assume you have insured your business contents for £500,000, when the actual replacement value should be £1,000,000; effectively you are 50% under-insured.  You may think “it’s fine, I can replace everything second hand for £500,000”, however, in the event of a claim any settlement will be reduced by 50%. So, if the claim was for £20,000 you would only receive £10,000.

If you suffer a small claim it may not be the end of the world, but in the event of a large or catastrophic loss this could cost you dearly!

Ultimately, it is your responsibility as the policyholder to get the sum insured right as neither your insurer, or broker, is a professional valuer and they do not have a responsibility in this regard. One sure way to guarantee an accurate valuation is to employ the services of a professional valuer.

In the event of a loss to your business, life can be stressful enough without adding to this when you find out you are also significantly under-insured.

By Helen ParsonsCommercial Broking Manager

 

 

First Aid legislation updates coming your way soon

The next year is going to be an interesting one in terms of changes to first aid, with several major changes coming over the next 12 months.

In this blog post we are specifically looking at the changes to workplace first aid kit requirements.

 

What has changed?

We now have the new British Standard BS 8599-1:2019, which came into effect on 31st January 2019 & relates to the specification of first aid kits for use in the workplace. The existing British Standard (BS 8599-1:2011) won’t be withdrawn until 31st December 2019, as they’ve allowed an overlap period for manufacturers & vendors of first aid kits sufficient time to refresh their stocks of 2011 compliant kits.

The first thing that you’ll notice about the new Standard is that they’ve amended the recommended quantities of some of the contents.

The main changes are as follows:

  • Small workplace first aid kit: 2 medium 12 x 12cm dressings (decreased from 4), 2 large 18 x 18cm dressings (increased from 1), and safety pins are no longer required, as they are replaced with microporous tape.
  • Medium workplace first aid kit: 4 medium 12 x 12cm dressings (decreased from 6), 3 large 18 x 18cm dressings (increased from 2), 2 rolls of microporous tape (increased from 1), and safety pins are no longer required.
  • Large workplace first aid kit: 6 medium 12 x 12cm dressings (decreased from 8), 4 large 18 x 18cm dressings (increased from 2), 3 rolls of microporous tape (increased from 1), and safety pins are no longer required.

 

The number of first aid kits and its content you need should be risk assessed, as a guide:

 

For low hazard workplaces (e.g. offices environments) we would suggest:

  • Fewer than 25 employees: 1 small workplace first aid kit.
  • From 25-100 employees: 1 medium workplace first aid kit.
  • Over 100 employees: 1 large workplace first aid kit per 100 employees.

 

For higher hazard work environments (factory environments, construction sites, etc.) you should consider the requirement to be slightly more stringent:

  • Fewer than five employees: 1 small first workplace first aid kit
  • From 5-25 employees: 1 medium workplace first aid kit
  • More than 25 employees: 1 large kit per 25 employees

 

Note: we would always want you to consider, what is the type and severity of the injury likely to happen, and that is the first aid contents you should be looking at when you open your first aid kit.

The employer is responsible for providing suitable work equipment and training staff to use it, again numbers of kits and numbers of first aiders for the workplace.

A good idea is that the equipment remains fit for purpose and should be checked weekly for re-supply.

 

You should be aware that there are three new first aid kits now available:

 

  • The ‘travel and motoring first aid kit’. It’s a good idea to provide these for company car/vehicle drivers, they are designed to be transportable and used when employees are working away from the main workplace.
  • The ‘personal issue first aid kit’ aimed specifically at lone workers.
  • And the ‘critical injury first aid kit’ where employees will be engaged in work with dangerous machinery, cutting equipment, power tools, construction, agriculture, etc.

 

Do I need to be worried?

In simple terms, if you were to go out and buy a first aid kit today, you’ll probably receive one that is compliant with BS8599:1-2011 That’s ok, but it maybe worth asking if the new kit is compliant with the new Standard.

It is important to remember that the standard is simply a recommendation and not law – you need to undertake a needs assessment to determine exactly what you require for your workplace. As such, a 2011 compliant kit will probably be suitable for your needs in 2019 or beyond because you will have determined exactly what it is that you need in your need’s assessment.

Should you need any help with regards to first aid at work assessments we will only be too glad to assist you.  Richard Wadkin CMIOSH IMaPs

By Richard Wadkin CMIOSH Risk Consultant

What makes the perfect induction for new employees?

With growing pressures on management time, I am often asked why it is important to induct new employees.

Research demonstrates that there are many benefits to a well-managed induction process.  For employers these include reducing turnover, absenteeism and increasing employee commitment and job satisfaction. For employees, starting a new role in an organisation can be an anxious time and an induction programme enables them to understand more about the organisation, their role, ways of working and to meet new colleagues.

So, what should be included in a good induction programme?

Regardless of whether there’s a formal induction programme co-ordinated by HR, or a less formal programme run by managers, it’s important to provide practical information on areas of compliance and company policy. It is useful to keep a checklist of the areas of induction training received, ideally countersigned by the individual. This list can be a vital source of reference later in employment – for example to produce evidence of training in the event of a health and safety inspection.

The list below outlines the key areas that can be included in an induction process.

  • Key HR policies such as Equity & Diversity Policy, Social Media Policy, Disciplinary and Grievance Procedure
  • Explanation of employee benefits such as private medical insurance, annual leave entitlement, life insurance
  • Role specific information such as job description, break times, introduction to colleagues
  • Facilities and IT policies and procedures
  • Health and safety, and compliance
  • Organisation information such as mission statement and company structure chart

But what should managers also look to avoid when carrying out an induction?

  • Providing too much, too soon – the employee should not be overwhelmed by a mass of information on the first day
  • Keep it simple and relevant
  • HR rather than local managers providing all the information – it should be a shared process.
  • Creating an induction programme that focuses only on administration and compliance and does not reflect organisational values – an effective induction programme should be engaging and assure the new employee that they have made the right decision to join the business.

Induction shouldn’t be treated as a ‘tick box’ exercise; it’s a key opportunity to introduce new employees to the culture and ways of working of the business. It also helps set expectations on both sides, ensuring employees are clear on what is expected from them in the role and allowing them to understand where they fit in the organisation. Managers need to invest time in inducting new employees – an effective induction process can help them settle in, become productive more quickly and avoid confusion down the line.

If you would like to talk to us about this area of HR, or any other matter, please call us on 01302 341 344.

By Louise Turner Dip Mgmt (Open) Assoc CIPDHR Business Partner