Safe storage of chemicals

By now, you will have read about the devastating explosion in Lebanon. Whilst the investigation is still ongoing into the causes of the incident, it is thought that inadequate chemical storage has played a role in the disaster.

This is probably, therefore, a good time to look at the way you are storing chemicals and ensure you are doing everything you should to prevent anything like this happening in your business.

So, let’s look at the basics.

 

Dedicated chemical store

All chemicals should be stored in a dedicated area and access to the chemical store should be restricted to authorised personnel only. The store should be well organised, well-lit and well ventilated with a chemical resistant floor that is easy to clean.

Incompatible materials should not be stored together, for example flammable substances should be stored in a separate area to oxidising chemicals. Areas for each type of substance should be designated with clear signage displayed.

Chemicals and containers should be stored in bunded areas to collect any spills. These should be sited away from vehicle routes, walkways and ignition sources, where possible.

 

Planning

The amount of chemicals stored should be minimised as much as possible and emergency procedures should be developed that are suitable for the chemicals and amounts stored.

Spill kits and suitable fire extinguishing equipment should be located nearby and there should be adequate arrangements for the removal of waste.

Regular checks should be made of the chemical stores to ensure they remain in good condition and that they are being kept clean and tidy.

 

Training and supervision

Safe work procedures should be in place for the storage and use of chemicals and all employees should have received training in these. Supervisors should be on hand to ensure these procedures are being followed.

Training provided should include:

  • emergency procedures
  • safe handling procedures
  • good record keeping
  • how to use RPE and check that it is working
  • how to clean up spills correctly
  • what to do if something goes wrong

 

 

If you would like any assistance with your chemical storage, please contact our Health and Safety Team on 01302 341 344. 

By Rachel Cuff CMIOSHRisk Consultant

The Changing Landscape of Foreign Travel & Returning to the UK

The latest chapter in this year’s Covid-19 nightmare continues with employers now having to deal with the ever-changing landscape of foreign travel and quarantine rules and the subsequent impact this is having on employees and the business. 

The Government is asking employers to be understanding in situations where employees are being asked to self-isolate on return from countries outside of the ‘travel-corridors’, however for many businesses this will be an added pressure in what are already challenging trading conditions. 

Where employees can work from home it may be possible to accommodate remote working for the 14 days after their return from holiday, but what if that’s not possible? 

Statutory Sick Pay does not extend to employees required to quarantine under these circumstances. So, unless employees are suffering symptoms themselves, live with someone with symptoms or have been notified by contact tracing that they have been in contact with a confirmed case, then SSP is not an option. 

Where your employee has annual leave left for the year you can ask them to use this (insisting is probably not an option as you won’t have the required notice!). If they have used up leave days or don’t have enough annual leave to use, you should try to be flexible and offer some unpaid leave. 

In circumstances where an employee was travelling abroad for business purposes, and quarantine is brought in, we recommend you pay them as normal on their return, even if they cannot carry out their role from home.   

It would be useful to communicate with employees as soon as possible, how you intend to deal with this situation so that they have complete clarity on your stance.   

  • Recommend that they keep an eye on FCO guidance which is being updated as things change and reiterate that FCO guidance will drive travel insurance implications.  
  • If they are planning to travel to a country where quarantine is required on return, ask them to let you know in advance (please note that any travel against FCO advice will mean that their travel insurance will not operate).  
  • Ensure they are aware that they if guidance changes whilst they are on holiday and they are required to quarantine they should report absence in the normal way. 
  • Set out whether they will be paid during quarantine and if not whether they will be able to take outstanding holidays or whether absence will be unpaid leave.  

Whilst some employers may be considering cancelling leave to prevent staff travelling abroad, this is not ideal, and you should talk to us if this is something you are thinking about. It will be unpopular with your staff and could land you with legal challenges and claims for compensation of cancellation costs.  

Similarly dealing with absence due to quarantine via your disciplinary process may be possible in theory but a court may be sympathetic to an employee who is simply following government advice, particularly if it changed whilst they were on holiday.  

So, keep calm, carry on and talk to us if you have any queries. We’ll update you if things change.

By Angela Stancer ACII HR Manager

 

Cyber Security & Homeworking – 12 Top Tips

The “new normal” has seen many companies re-organise to facilitate homeworking by their employees. This unfortunately has given cyber criminals an opportunity to take advantage of the new situation & we are seeing a dramatic rise in cyber crime as a result. How can businesses protect themselves & their employees from criminals focused on attacking IT networks & infrastructures that now have to support many more people working from home?

There are 12 things businesses can do to enhance security for remote workers.

  1. Password complexity & management. A system needs to be in place to ensure rules exist & are followed. Use a mixture of capitals & lower case, numbers & special characters with a minimum number of digits – at least 8. The National Cyber Security Centre recommends using 3 random words. for example, pencilchairfilm, – pencil2chairfilm! would be even better. NEVER use date or place of birth, names of partners, children or pets, or 12345 or 000000 – these are still very common & easily guessed by criminals.
  2. Multi-factor authentication (MFA). Having 2 forms of identification is a simple & effective way to increase security. This can be achieved by password then a randomly generated code sent by text message or via an app.
  3. User Privileges. Individuals should only have access to the systems, functions & software that they need to do their job. More secure areas should be restricted. Allowing blanket access can leave the entire network open to cyber criminals, should they gain entry via a user’s account.
  4. Virtual Private Networks (VPN). A VPN extends a private network across a public network to allow users to exchange data as if their devices were in a private network. This gives data the benefit of the private network’s security including password protection & encryption.
  5. Use of own equipment. Allowing users to access your business network from their own devices can introduce security issues – an employee’s laptop, even if not infected with a virus, could have out of date security or anti-virus software. Businesses should supply employees with standard-build equipment with security in place to protect business information.
  6. Anti-virus software updates. These can be an irritation to users as they take time, but employees should be made aware that updates are to be actioned as soon as they are available, as they will include the latest security improvements.
  7. Quick reference Guides. If there are many home workers there may be uncertainty about accessing the network remotely or unfamiliarity with different systems. The production of brief “How to” user guides will reduce the number of queries to the IT helpdesk or other reference point & could even reduce the likelihood of a security issue.
  8. Training staff to recognize phishing emails is essential – in particular, check the email address, grammar & spelling, is it addressed to you as an individual or a generic “Dear Customer”? Is it imposing an unreasonable payment deadline or something outside normal business practice? Be aware of emails selling supposed coronavirus cures or maps detailing virus outbreaks. Staff need to be vigilant & not click on any links in emails.
  9. Removable Media. There should be a policy that no removable media is used as memory sticks & SD cards can introduce viruses.
  10. Public Places. There are 3 things to bear in mind. Security – never leave devices unattended in a public place. Data – be aware of surroundings – can someone see what’s on your screen or watch your key stokes? Wi-fi – networks without passwords (or a password displayed on the wall) should not be used as they are easily accessed by criminals.
  11. Methods to encode information so that only authorized parties can access it may not stop an attack, but it does make data useless to the cyber criminal
  12. Reporting security Issues. Time is of the essence when reporting a security issue, whether it’s a lost phone, stolen laptop, security breach or clicking on a suspicious link in an email. Being able to assess a situation quickly & organise a response will limit losses & speed up the recovery process.

Insurance is available to protect businesses against cyber crime. If you wish to discuss the options available to you, please contact our team on Doncaster 01302 341 344 or Sheffield 0114 243 9914.

By Beverley Brown FCII MBA Broking Director & Chartered Insurance Broker. 

Insurance Claims: Late notifications & the possible affects of cover

Claims notification is part and parcel of an active insurance policy; however, does it matter when the claim is notified and does it make a difference to how the claim plays out?  Let’s take a look at a motor example and see how this operates in practice.   

Early notification after an accident has occurred is essential.  The sooner an insurer is notified, the quicker they can assist with the claim and get the vehicle back on the road or replaced.   

Allianz have undertaken some research and note that early notification is essential in keeping claims costs down. 

For example, if the insured driver hits the rear of a stationary third-party vehicle at traffic lights and moderate damage is caused, as well as the third-party driver suffering whiplash, the cost of the claim, if notified on day one, is estimated at £5,000. This is compared to £11,500 if notification occurs on day 15 and if a client waits until 30 days to notify insurers of a claim, the original figure quadruples to an estimated £20,000.   

Not only can prompt claims notification assist with ensuring claims costs and experience against policy records are contained, by gathering information from a policyholder first hand, the insurer is best placed to make enquiries, offer the third party to use their approved repairer network and act on the customers’ behalf if liability is contested.  

Now, it’s all very well telling people to notify claims early and collect the relevant information at the scene, however being involved in a motor accident is not the easiest of things at the best of times and at worse it can be quite harrowing.  To then expect a driver to find a pen and paper and start taking detailed information can be seen as being unrealistic.  

To help with this exact situation, ProAktive have developed a motor claims app to help ease the process.  No pen and paper is required (just a smart phone) and the app then guides you through a process on what information is needed and, if possible, allows the collection of photographic evidence as well.  Once finished all this information is pulled together in a pdf report that is then emailed through to the ProAktive claims team who will then liaise with you regarding the reporting of the incident to insurers.   

The app not only speeds up the process of reporting but also allows the collection of all the relevant information that will be required to help assist with the claim.   The app is available free of charge to any ProAktive client so should you be interested in taking a look, just ask any staff member of ProAktive for further information. 

In summary – the sooner an accident is reported, the lower the claim cost, the better the result! 

By Peter Ryder ACIIChartered Insurance Broker

 

The times, they are a-changin’

We’re at a point in time where there is a recognition that whilst the laws applicable to your business haven’t changed, the way that you are required to implement controls to comply with these regulations has almost certainly changed. There are also situations within your business that might have resulted in radical change – working from home for example. As Bob Dylan sang in 1964, “The Times, They Are A-Changin’” and I think they will continue to do so for quite some time.

Change can be challenging for you as business owners and managers and scary for your employees. So how do we manage these periods of change and get through these tough times? Well, this is the technique that I like to use when I’m faced with these situations and I thought that I’d share it with you.

The main point is to recognise that employees and organisations fundamentally don’t like to change their ways. We are all like this – it’s natural! We all like the things that we know, as we know how to do them well and we can do them in our sleep. It does not require any effort, or even hard work. This is our natural resting point, our comfort zone. But things cannot stay the same forever. We need them to change. We need, therefore, to understand our employee’s typical response and to deal with this. The typical response will essentially be to move through four stages: shock, uncertainty, a turning point, and moving forwards.

The shock stage is entirely understandable: “what do you mean I need to change what I do?”. The common consequence is that employees retreat into their shell and refuse to do anything different, or anything at all. If you can get them past this stage then uncertainty kicks in: “well okay, but I have no idea how to do this”. At this point efficiency and output will dip as employees struggle to get the hang of the new process or situation. Persevere though because after a while you’ll hit the turning point: “oh this actually isn’t that bad after all! I get it!”. Solutions will start to present themselves and things will start to get better. Efficiencies and output will start to return to normal, or better. We then ‘move forwards’ and the change becomes the new normal.

 

So, what’s the key? Communication, communication, communication! We’ve all been there before haven’t we? Our boss has said, “we’re going to do this from tomorrow, so get ready!” Err, what’s going to happen tomorrow? Why are we doing this? What’s the point? What do I have to do? Here’s a new plan for you to think about:

 

  1. Speak to your employees honestly about the situation. Explain why there is a need for change and get their thoughts on what they see as the issues that might be encountered.
  2. Ask your employees for their help. They’re the experts in what they do, after all they do the work and you pay them good money to do so. Use their knowledge and experience! If the situation needs to change, what suggestions have they got that could help? They might have got some fantastic ideas that you might never have considered.
  3. Make them feel part of the process. No one likes to be told what to do. By listening to your employees and getting them involved, they will start to take ownership of the change. If they feel like it belongs to them, they become invested in the process and are more likely to want to see it succeed.
  4. Get regular feedback. It’s unlikely that you’ll get the perfect answer from the very start. Things might need to be tweaked all throughout the process. Keep asking for any suggestions for improvement and any obstacles that are being encountered.
  5. Provide regular updates. Tell everyone how things are going. Share successes and any lessons that have been learned.

 

There is no getting around the fact that change is hard, but by communicating you can hopefully engage your workforce and by doing this, things should hopefully become easier to manage.

If you are in this situation and you cannot see a way forwards, then please don’t hesitate to contact us. We would love to help out and can even provide specialist training courses such as IOSH’s Leading Safely course, which talks in more detail about these concepts.

By Ian Clayton CMIOSHHealth & Safety Manager 

 

The Chancellor announces his Summer Statement

On Wednesday 8th July the Chancellor gave his ‘Summer Statement’ where he announced a series of initiatives designed to help the UK economy as it emerges from the Coronavirus lockdown.

The statement comes ahead of the Autumn Budget and includes plans to protect jobs, help for younger workers and the winding down of the furlough scheme.

End of the Furlough Scheme

To encourage businesses to keep employees in employment when the Job Retention Scheme finishes at the end of October, the Chancellor has announced a ‘job retention bonus’. A one-off payment of £1,000 will be paid to employers for every furloughed employee retained until the end of January 2021. This will apply to workers who have earned an average of over £520 per month each month after the furlough scheme ends. Further details are expected by the end of July with full guidance being available in the autumn.  

Kickstart Scheme

The Government has also announced plans for a ‘Kickstart’ scheme with the intention of helping young people secure jobs.

The scheme will pay employers directly if they create NEW jobs for any 16 to 24 year old who is at risk of long-term unemployment. It’s important to stress that these jobs must be entirely new jobs or roles, not existing ones that need filling and in order to claim the money, businesses must be able to evidence this.

The jobs must also provide the employees with at least 25 hours per week, paid at minimum wage. Businesses must also evidence that they have provided the ‘kick-starters’ (young workers) training and support to find a permanent job.

The Government plan to set aside an initial £2 billion to cover this scheme and have said that where employers can meet the criteria of the scheme, they will pay the young people’s wages for six months, plus an amount to cover overheads. So, for a 24 year old the amount they will pay equates to around £6,500.

Employers can apply next month, with the Government hoping the kick-starters can be in their role by Autumn.

There is no cap on the number of places available.

New Apprenticeship Grants

Rishi Sunak said employers will be paid £1,000 to take on new trainees, to encourage those businesses in high demand sectors (Engineering, Construction and Social Care) to bring on 18-19 year olds.

For the next 6 months the Government will pay employers to create new apprenticeships, “We’ll pay businesses to hire young apprentices, with a new payment of £2,000 and we’ll introduce a brand new bonus for businesses to hire apprentices aged 25 and over, with a payment of £1,500.”

No doubt further details on all of these initiatives will emerge over the coming weeks and months, however if you have any questions in the meantime please contact the ProAktive Employment Team on 01302 341 344.

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

 

Education sector: September 1st Changes

We’re sure you’ll have all read the Department for Education guidance that was issued last week. Thankfully we think the guidance is more straightforward for most schools than it will have been in recent months. It’s not our intention to go through the guidance in detail for this post, however we thought it would be useful to offer some prompts for some of the main points:

 

 

  • Numbers of persons in school – The main part of the new plans is that everyone will return to school in September. This coincides with relaxing of the shielding guidance from 1st August 2020. There may still be some medical exceptions for those persons that are still extremely susceptible but we anticipate that the majority of people will no longer be subject to restrictions. You may have a number of staff or students that will be anxious about a return to the school. You will need to reassure them, by being able to share you plans and documentation, that you have done everything possible to make the environment safe for all concerned.
  • Social Distancing – Currently the guidance is that everyone maintains a 2m distance. From September, this changes quite radically. For primary schools, the requirement for social distancing is much reduced. If smaller groups can be managed, then this should be the preference, but the reality will be that this isn’t practicable for most situations. It is therefore the case that for primary schools distancing between pupils can be reduced, however the guidance is still for adults to maintain 2m distancing wherever possible.

 

For secondary schools, however, the expectation is that distancing can and should be maintained. There is no mention of 2m specifically in the guidance, just “separation”. This will require some consideration as to how this will be achieved especially with the movement between lessons and the positioning and cleaning of furniture if different rooms are to be used.

 

  • Group sizes – The new buzzword “bubbles” is not over we’re afraid. This will now become the most important method of controlling infection spread. Mixing of bubbles must be kept to an absolute minimum, as the requirement to isolate in the event of a positive test remains in place. The good news is that bubbles can now be in excess of the current limit of 15 pupils. Again, for primary and secondary schools the practicalities differ slightly. In primary schools this makes sense as the class teachers will tend to remain with those pupils for the duration of the school day, and therefore the bubble size can be kept to the class sizes. For secondary schools this presents more of a problem and so the bubble size may have to be the size of the year group to allow the full range of subjects to be taught. This will mean that social distancing for teachers in secondary schools must be more rigidly enforced in order to prevent mixing of the bubbles.

 

There is an appreciation in the guidance for the requirements of those with SEND. As these pupils may require additional help there is an allowance for temporary workers, supply teachers etc. to travel between different schools and to be exposed to multiple bubbles. They must, however, follow strict distancing from other staff members and keep contact to a minimum.

 

  • Desk Arrangements – The big change here is reflected by the changes to social distancing. Pupils should now be positioned shoulder to shoulder, facing the same direction. Situations where pupils face each other should be avoided wherever possible. This might mean that schools need to consider the need to remove any unnecessary furniture from the classrooms in order to accommodate any new layouts. This could be problematic if classroom furniture is designed to form ‘grouped tables’, however it may be the case that, for example, furniture such as trapezoidal tables can be arranged alternatively to form a long line, rather than the usual hexagonal arrangement.

 

For primary schools, it may mean that the most favourable approach will be to form long rows in classrooms, as the need to separate desks is removed. Secondary schools may not have to adopt their classrooms too much, but in this case tables should still be kept separate as much as possible.

The big change here is that the capacity of each classroom is increased from the current limit of 15 pupils. The capacity now will be the total class size required in the room. Classroom calculations, therefore, should return to the normal calculation and you shouldn’t require a new calculation specifically for COVID-19 situations.

 

Everything else that is already in place should continue, just on a larger scale. This means that staggering of the start and end of the school day should continue. Staggering of breaks and lunches should also continue, however you may have to give consideration to the deliver of hot food, particularly if these arrangements are required to continue into winter months and if you have a larger number of vulnerable persons.

There is also still the requirement to assess and record your plans. This means that a specific risk assessment is required, although you may be able to amend your current assessment to reflect the changes. We’d also urge you to document any decisions that have to be made, especially when you can’t comply fully with the guidance. Demonstrating your thinking is essential and will be your defence against any criticism of your plans – this could be achieved by recording the issue, why the guidance can’t be met and therefore what you are planning to do instead. At times such as these, questions are bound to be asked and you do not want to be unprepared when giving any answers.

For our clients, revised documentation will be issued in the forthcoming week. For anyone who requires any advice, we are only too happy to help and so please do not hesitate to contact our trained consultants on 01302 341344 or info@proaktive.co.uk

By Ian Clayton CMIOSH, Health & Safety Manager

Employees Returning After Shielding

At the start of the Coronavirus Pandemic, around 2.2 million people in England with underlying severe health conditions were asked to Shield by the NHS by staying at home and avoiding non-essential face-to-face contact. Those with severe medical conditions were deemed to be of greater risk to the effects of Covid-19 and therefore were categorised as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’

The Health and Social Care Secretary confirmed that from the 6th July these measures will start to be relaxed and people previously told to shield will be able to gather in groups of up to 6 people outdoors and form a ‘social bubble’ with another household.

Further to this from 1st August, those who need to work and cannot do so from home will be able to return to work, provided their workplace is COVID secure, adhering to the guidance available.

Following this review of the shielding measures, the Government will be writing to all individuals on the Shielded Patient List with updated information on shielding advice and the ongoing support that will be available to them.

 

Employees unable to work from home may feel uncertain about returning to work and employers are being encouraged to ease the transition for their clinically extremely vulnerable employees, ensuring robust measures are put in place for those currently shielding to return to work when they are able to do so.

To facilitate this return, the furlough scheme or statutory sick pay (unless a Fit Note is issued by a doctor) will no longer be available after the end of July for those employees who are not able to attend the workplace, due to ‘shielding’.

To ensure a smooth transition back to work, we would recommend meeting with employees in advance of their return and carrying out individual risk assessments. It is important to discuss all of the measures you have in place and any additional measures for that employee specifically (if that is deemed necessary), to keep them safe and to listen to and address any particular concerns they have.

The recommended measures are likely to be no different from those that you already have in place for other employees already working in your premises, however, struct adherence to these are key in relation to those who were previously shielding, given the increased risk to those individuals.

Discussing these measures with employees should help to reassure them that they will be safe in the workplace and we would recommend that regular discussions are held with these individuals to ensure they continue to feel this way.

If you have any questions about this please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01302 341 344.

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

 

An update from our Health & Safety Team: social distancing

Following the Government’s announcement yesterday we are working on updating the relevant Covid-19 documentation for each sector and will have these sent out to you as soon as they are ready and in plenty of time for the measures to be introduced for 4th July.

In the meantime, we want to emphasise the importance of not reducing the social distancing unless absolutely necessary. The Prime Minister announced last night that the social distancing could be reduced to “1m plus” where 2m is not possible. The key here is that if the 2m social distancing has been possible up until now, and if you can reasonably continue to leave this in place, you should do so. If it is necessary to reduce this distance you must put additional measures in place and will need to update your risk assessments and other Covid-19 documentation accordingly.

If you have any questions about this please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01302 341 344.

 

Nostradamus and the world of insurance broking

Making predictions in this world is a particularly hazardous occupation.

Nostradamus springs to mind as someone with a monopoly on predicting the future but did he, really?

Nostradamus attended Avignon University but was forced to leave after just one year following an outbreak of an infectious disease. Sound familiar? Well, he didn’t see that coming.

Still, what goes around (in 1520) comes around (in 2020). The disease in question in 1520 was The Plague, for those of you who are wondering if Coronavirus has been around for a little longer than thought.

I much prefer the concept of being prepared for what might lie ahead. It is a simple case of ‘managing expectations’. In the business of risk and insurance broking, what lies ahead is largely determined by what has gone before.  And what has gone before in our world has proved to be extremely problematical for insurers.

 

Grenfell has caused many insurers of professional indemnity risks to exit the market.
Winter floods in this region were quickly replaced by Spring droughts and who knows, Summer floods? Our weather is becoming more extreme. We used to refer to some flood events as being “a one in a hundred year event”. Given there have been two such events in the last twelve years in South Yorkshire, you will understand why insurers are reluctant to listen to such missives.

Did I mention the pandemic and the economic uncertainty that follows? Insurers’ share prices took a hit at the beginning of the lockdown and this in turn impacts adversely on their underwriting capacity.

Insurers are worried.

The consequences are rather easy to predict. We are already seeing a hardening of rates in some sectors, particularly professional indemnity. We are also seeing reductions in policy coverage and the imposition of increasingly onerous terms. We are suddenly amidst a “hard market”. A buyers market has become a sellers market. Insurers with limited capacity chose where best to deploy that capacity and often those sectors seen as ‘high risk’ are left with a dearth of cover and premium increases of frightening proportions.

I fear I am beginning to sound like a BBC reporter. But far from asking questions, we are all about solutions.

The insurance market will be tough in the coming year. We won’t hide from that. We will tackle the issues early and be entirely frank with you about the likely outcome. Of course, now more than ever, it is essential to manage risk effectively. When all is said and done: those who claim less, pay less. It’s an old adage but it’s particularly true in a hard market.

And most importantly, we will leave no stone un-turned in producing the best possible outcome for you. We can’t predict the future but we can be prepared and being prepared is the key to the best possible outcomes. Perhaps if Nostradamus were alive today he might be an underwriter.

By Ian Laycock FCII – CEO and Chartered Insurance Broker