Author Archives: Emma Walker

Wellbeing: Quick Facts

Employee wellbeing is concerned with both the physical and emotional health of employees, helping to prevent problems arising or, if they do, helping employees to cope with them so as to have a minimal impact on their work — in short, to be more resilient.

Wellbeing is a multi-layered subject, involving not just the human resources department but the health and safety profession as well.

This topic discusses why employers should invest in employee wellbeing programmes and how employers can help improve the welfare of their employees.

  • Employee wellbeing is concerned with the physical and emotional health of staff, recognising that happy, healthy employees lead to better organisational performance.
  • Providing support and help for employees where they have problems, whether those arise from work or home, helps minimise the impact of these problems on the business. Employees who have problems — whether work-related or personal — are unlikely to perform as well as they would if the problem did not exist. People have their own mechanisms for coping with problems and some are better than others at minimising the impact on their work. Just as employers preserve their investment in plant and equipment by oiling and maintaining them, they need to maintain their investment in employees by nurturing their wellbeing.
  • As part of the employer’s duty of care, work should be properly defined and organised. Employers’ duty of care to their employees can manifest in many ways. Examples include:
    • properly defined and organised jobs
    • procedures for risk assessment and safe systems of work
    • consideration on how to motivate staff and minimise undue stress
    • training to ensure employees have the necessary skills to do their work
    • providing supervision, giving feedback on performance, identifying personal development plans and help to overcome poor work performance
    • good communication between management and staff so that staff are kept informed or are consulted about issues which affect their jobs and livelihood
    • managers alert to problem areas within their departments, eg bullying or harassment
    • well-maintained equipment and an absence of work-related injuries
    • areas for rest and relaxation at work so that staff can move away from their desks to eat lunch and even a quiet room where staff can go to spend a bit of time in prayer or meditation
    • ensuring that no-one works excessive hours
    • ensuring that all staff take their holidays
    • a culture in which employees are encouraged to raise concerns with their manager so that problems do not fester.

    If employees feel that the workplace is well organised, that their jobs are interesting and worth doing and that they have an opportunity to make their views heard, the potential for work-related stress and employee disengagement will be greatly reduced. In turn this provides a sense of job satisfaction for employees and contributes to a feeling of wellbeing.

  • Where staff have specific problems, employers may be able to point them in the direction of professional help. There are numerous issues which may arise and impact on an employee’s wellbeing, such as:
    • stress — this may be caused by personal as well as work-related issues
    • relationship problems, such as divorce
    • bereavement
    • family illness, particularly where the employee is responsible for caring for children or elderly or sick relatives
    • long term illness and coming back to work
    • financial problems
    • problems with teenage children
    • unwanted pregnancy
    • drug and alcohol problems
    • childcare difficulties
    • being harassed or bullied
    • housing issues, for example moving home
    • legal issues, for example disputes with neighbours or traffic accident claims
    • sudden injury or disability of self or relative
    • traumatic incidents, for example being a victim of crime.

    In many instances, employees will simply want support and some practical assistance, which is usually co-ordinated by the HR department and laid out in company policies, but occasionally some will have difficulty in coping with the problem and will need expert help.

  • There is a whole range of initiatives that employers can introduce to encourage employee wellbeing. At the most basic level, organisations can and often do provide back ground health awareness information, often consisting of NHS leaflets tacked to a staff notice board.
  • Employers need to evaluate the benefits of wellbeing initiatives from the perspective of both the employee and the employer. Wellbeing initiatives have a dual purpose.
    1. To increase the mental and physical health of employees.
    2. To help reduce employer costs through sickness absence and employee disengagement.

    Employers need to be sure that the initiatives they are taking are having the right effect but this may take time. The response of employees can be measured through staff attitude surveys as long as these are carried out regularly and have a high participation rate.

    Employers should also look critically at the statistics to see if the initiatives are having the desired effect on the bottom line, by analysing:

    • sickness and absence figures, the length of absence and causes of absence — this way you can see if rehabilitation procedures or in-house interventions are having an impact
    • staff turnover
    • staff retention figures
    • accidents at work
    • staff satisfaction (as measured through staff surveys).

    Where schemes or parts of schemes are not adding either to employee wellbeing or to the bottom line, employers need to revise and revisit the schemes, in consultation with employees.

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Improving well being in construction

The construction sector is proving to be one of the worst cases.

Several reasons have been suggested for particularly poor health, safety and well being figures in the construction industry, including the large numbers of transitory workers. You can imagine eyes glazing over at yet another health and safety induction. Meanwhile, there is a suspicion that some of the smaller companies are less committed to health and safety principles. Further improvements, it is suggested, must come from really understanding how people feel about the work and jobs — a potentially tough nut to crack.

In construction, this means moving away from its traditional macho culture. Evidence has shown that the increasing presence of women in the North Sea oil and gas industry over the past two decades quickly marginalised cavalier attitudes to safety. Would more women in the sector change attitudes to health?

In the highly fragmented construction sector, where driving costs down is a constant priority, such changes could be more difficult. There are also less obvious factors. The HSE figures show that nearly 20% of reported work-related illnesses result from stress due to long hours, depression often caused or intensified by long periods of separation from family members, plus general feelings of anxiety linked to job security fears. It is thought that suicide figures in the sector could be as much as 10 times higher than average sector work fatality figures.

As mental ill health becomes a growing problem throughout the working world, the union Unite encourages its members to become mental first aiders and ensure that all workers have someone they can talk to about personal issues. Companies need to take the same route in providing a sympathetic listening ear and signposting the way to professional support. Similarly, they should look at paving the way for a supported return to work where time off has been necessary, such as with flexible or part-time working.

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Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007: Quick Facts

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 came into force on 6 April 2008, and introduced a new offence for prosecuting companies and other organisations where there has been a gross failure in the management of health and safety with fatal consequences. This topic outlines types of manslaughter and some of the key areas of the Act.

  • Corporate manslaughter is a type of involuntary manslaughter (killing by gross negligence).
  • Before the 2007 Act, successful corporate manslaughter prosecutions were extremely rare because of the need to identify a “directing mind” of the company who was guilty.
  • Unlimited fines may be imposed, and the courts may force companies to publicise their convictions through a publicity order, leading to severe damage to reputation.
  • Under the legislation, individual directors will not be liable for any deaths due to a general breach of the duty of care by the firm.
  • Employers should take steps to review their management structures and health and safety policies.

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Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974: Quick Facts

Industrial CleaningThe Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 (HSWA) is the primary piece of health and safety law in the UK. It lays down broad principles for managing health and safety in all workplaces with the exception of servants in domestic premises and many government bodies, which cannot be prosecuted under the Act.

The HSWA is an enabling Act, which means it is the legal facility under which other health and safety regulations, eg the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, are made.

As this topic describes, the HSWA is part of statute law and breaches can result in prosecutions, which means offences are punishable in the courts, and fines and prison sentences can be imposed.

  • The Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 (HSWA) is the primary piece of legislation covering the main principles of health and safety
  • The HSWA aims to prevent the risk of injury rather than the injury itself. Thus a criminal offence is committed each time the terms of the Act are breached, regardless of whether or not anyone is actually injured by the breach
  • Under the Act, employers have a general duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees
  • The HSWA imposes a duty on people who are in charge of premises which carry out a trade, business or other undertaking (whether for profit or not) to use the best possible means to prevent the emission of noxious or offensive substances, and to render those substances harmless and inoffensive
  • If five or more people are employed, employers must have a written health and safety policy
  • Employers must ensure that articles or substances used at work are safe and that they do not expose the users to health risks
  • Employees must ensure their own health and safety and that of others while at work and co-operate with their employers in matters relating to health and safety
  • Issues of enforcement, the powers of inspectors, etc are detailed in the HSWA
  • Directors and managers also have health and safety duties

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Machinery Safety: Quick Facts

Machinery can pose a wide range of hazards to users and bystanders. As such, the control of machinery hazards is of paramount importance. Adequate training and instruction must be provided.

This blog provides an overview of the measures that need to be taken to protect operators and others from the hazards of machinery.

  1. The principal mechanical hazards are from contact with moving parts of the machinery resulting in entanglement, crushing, cuts, stabbing, punctures, fractures or amputation of fingers, hands or limbs.
  2. A risk assessment of all machinery must be carried out. It will help to define an action plan to eliminate or reduce the identified hazards.
  3. Before selecting employees to work with equipment, the job and personal attributes required for the job need to be specified. This will ensure that unsuitable candidates are not considered.
  4. Where employees cannot be completely excluded from hazards, a safe system of working should be adopted. The level of supervision should increase as the level of risk increases.
  5. If there are risks of serious injury or death, and no more secure method of risk reduction is practical, then a permit-to-work system should be introduced
  6. Training should be carried out to ensure that operators understand the hazards on the machinery, the precautions to be taken and the procedures to be adopted to ensure that they can carry out their tasks safely. Read our previous blog on staff working with machinery. https://blog.walkersafety.co.uk/2016/07/staff-working-with-machinery/

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Managing Stress

Actions to Address the Causes of Workplace Stress

To address the common aspects of working life that can cause stress, managers should regularly do the following.

 

Review workloads, targets and deadlines.

This may involve:

  • Reviewing the volume of work each employee is expected to achieve in order to assess whether it is fair, reasonable and realistic
  • Consulting employees about their workloads to establish how they perceive management’s expectations of them
  • Recognising that all individuals have their limits and are different in their abilities
  • Reviewing whether the demands being made on particular individuals are within those individuals’ personal coping resources
  • Taking steps to identify and cut out any unnecessary or duplicated work.

Examine working patterns and hours.

This may involve:

  • Accepting that it is detrimental both to individuals and the organisation if employees work excessively long hours
  • Examining ways of reducing working hours to a manageable and reasonable level, by considering strategies such as imposing a maximum number of permitted hours per week on all staff, monitoring whether employees take proper breaks and holidays, reviewing and/or redistributing workloads and/or recruiting additional staff
  • Offering employees a choice, wherever possible, as to their working patterns and the number of hours they work
  • Facilitating alternative ways of working, e.g. job-sharing or home working.

Review employees’ jobs and how they are done. This should involve:

  • Providing every employee with a clearly written job description which details their responsibilities, duties, objectives and priorities
  • Giving individuals more control over their day-to-day work whenever possible
  • Finding ways of giving employees opportunities to do different or more challenging work from time to time
  • Listening to employees’ views about their work and the ways in which it is performed.

Examine whether communication is effective. This may involve:

  • Reassessing how communication takes place in the organisation, e.g. if it is all conducted by email, seek to spend more time talking to people face-to-face
  • Introducing email etiquette and guidelines to encourage staff to think about when email communication is or is not appropriate and provide examples
  • Checking (rather than assuming) that each employee properly understands how his or her job fits in with the organisation as a whole
  • Consulting staff regularly about matters that might affect them
  • Providing individuals with regular face-to-face feedback on performance, remembering that a little bit of praise can go a long way
  • Encouraging employees to raise any workplace problems they may have, including problems related to workplace stress, while making sure that everyone knows they can do so without fear of recrimination.

Provide adequate training, support and resources. This should involve:

  • Ensuring that no employee is promoted or transferred before he or she has received the necessary training for the new post
  • Consulting each employee about his or her training needs, while recognising that different people need different amounts of support
  • Making time to provide individuals with relevant training and coaching.

Examine the prevalent management style. This may involve:

  • Conducting an attitude survey to find out how employees view the organisation’s management
  • Offering management training to all those who have supervisory responsibility for staff
  • Encouraging an open, consultative management style
  • Providing coaching to any managers whose traditional style is perceived as authoritarian or dictatorial.

Implement a bullying and harassment policy and associated complaints procedure. This will involve:

  • Recognising that workplace bullying happens, rather than denying its existence
  • Recognising that bullying can take many forms
  • Making and communicating a strong management commitment to the elimination of bullying and harassment in the workplace
  • Taking all complaints of bullying or harassment seriously
  • Investigating any complaints promptly with a view to putting a stop to any behaviour that is causing offence or distress
  • Providing awareness training on harassment for all staff
  • Taking disciplinary action against any employee who is found to have bullied or harassed a colleague.

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Epilepsy in the workplace: a 10 step guide

Epilepsy is a neurological condition affecting around 600,000 people in the UK — so it’s essential that every employer knows how to help those with the condition. Health, safety and ergonomics consultants System Concepts lay out the 10 key actions to take.

What every employer needs to know

The majority of people diagnosed with epilepsy are likely to be classified as disabled by the Equality Act 2010. This means that employers must make reasonable adjustments for people with epilepsy, and complete appropriate risk assessments.

There are many different types of epilepsy, but people who have it have a tendency to have epileptic seizures. A seizure is a sudden burst of electrical activity in the brain, which causes a temporary disruption to the way the brain normally works. Seizures can range from the person remaining alert and aware of their surroundings, through to the person losing awareness and becoming stiff, falling to the floor and/or experiencing uncontrollable, jerky bodily movements.

If your organisation has an employee with epilepsy, these are the 10 key actions you should take.

  1. Understand the nature of the condition. Have a private talk with the affected employee to discuss how the condition affects them. Ask about:
    • medication requirements (particularly at work)
    • how well their epilepsy is managed
    • type, duration and frequency of seizures
    • any associated musculoskeletal issues
    • any medication side effects
    • any warning signs that they are about to have a seizure.
  2. Identify any triggers for seizures. This will help you work out how these can be eliminated or reduced to minimise the risk as much as possible. Consider:
    • temperature
    • light
    • stress
    • tiredness
    • flicker
    • season
    • whether the work is indoors/outdoors
    • computer screens, etc.
  3. Understand the individual’s requirements during and after a seizure. Once you know these, you can ensure that appropriate provision is made, eg a suitable place for rest/recovery, such as a first-aid room with appropriate facilities. Questions to ask would include:
    • the likely recovery time
    • the individual’s preferences for recovery (location, need for sleep or rest, desire to be accompanied, ability to continue working, practicalities of recovering at work or home)
    • when paramedics are required or when first aiders should be able to manage the situation.
  4. Develop a care plan. This should be an individual care plan that sets out the details of the above three points.
  5. Consider allocating the person a dedicated locker. This would allow them to store items needed during/after they have a seizure (if not fully controlled by the medication). This could be used for:
    • their care plan
    • a breathable pillow
    • a blanket
    • any required medications
    • a spare change of clothes.

    Ideally, their line manager and first aiders would have a key to the locker for use when the individual is unable to access the contents themselves.

  6. Organise the individual’s work. Working hours, tasks and the pace of work should all be evaluated to ensure:
    • targets and workload are manageable
    • lone working is avoided
    • driving is not required
    • shifts that might influence seizures or medication times are avoided
    • adequate breaks are given
    • there will be at least one first aider on site with the individual at all times.
  7. Complete a DSE workstation assessment. This may indicate that certain equipment may be useful. Someone who has epileptic seizures is likely to require a:
    • LCD screen
    • fully padded chair with armrests, high backrest, headrest and braking system
    • padding around any hard surfaces or sharp corners (such as the desk)
    • wireless headset
    • large space around the workstation, free of any hazards (such as loose cables).
  8. Ensure their safety in the workplace. Things to consider would include:
    • implementing a buddy system or asking the individual to wear a fall-activated or pendant alarm
    • reducing the need for them to use stairs, wherever possible (the importance of enforcing this is dependent on the nature and frequency of their seizures)
    • (with the individual’s permission) inform everyone who regularly comes into close contact with them about the nature of their condition and how to react in an emergency situation — this includes site first aiders, close colleagues, reception staff, canteen staff and security staff.
  9. Provide easy access to an accessible toilet. If they are at risk of seizures, an accessible toilet offers more space and:
    • the risk of injury is reduced
    • they can use the alarm pull cord to request assistance, if needed
    • the door can be opened from the outside in the event of an emergency
    • how they will make their way to their nearest fire escape route
    • what assistance they will need to get to the nearest fire escape route
    • how they will travel down stairs to the final fire exit, including use of an evacuation chair and who is trained to use it
    • what assistance they will need outside of the office at the assembly point. Complete a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP) for the individual.Epilepsy at work is a more common issue than you may have realised, and employers need to be aware of their responsibilities to help employees with this neurological condition.

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Mobile Devices: Quick Facts

Networked mobile devices, cloud-based data management and 4G networks mean we can now work almost anywhere. Flexible working can save costs and improve the work-life balance of employees, resulting in more staff working while travelling and away from the office. This means an increasing use of mobile devices (laptops, tablets and smartphones).

However, mobile working comes at a cost: it has introduced ergonomics risks including musculoskeletal strain (eg “text thumb” or “tablet neck”) and digital eye strain. This topic explores the health risks associated with mobile devices and advises on how to ensure the safe use of mobile devices.

  • Mobile devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones are covered by the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 (as amended), which promote the safe and effective use of equipment with alphanumeric or graphic screens.
  • Mobile working includes working on a train, in a car, at home, in a hotel/café, when visiting other workplaces, and when working at your own workplace.
  • Sustained use of mobile devices can lead to poor neck and back posture and musculoskeletal strain from repetitive actions, as well as eye strain.
  • Employers can provide peripheral equipment to improve employees’ posture, comfort and wellbeing.
  • Organisations must provide training and information for staff who make prolonged use of mobile devices, or for whom mobile working forms a significant part of their work.

Contact Walker Health and Safety Services for further assistance.

 

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Vaping – Not safe at all!

E-cigarettes may be more harmful than we think, researchers have warned in a new study that may cause employers to review their corporate vaping policies.

The findings, which were published in the journal Thorax, have concluded that vaping disables key immune cells in the lung that keep the air spaces clear of potentially harmful particles, and as a result can boost inflammation in the body.

In July 2016, there was an article published on the Gov.uk website – Use of E-cigarettes in Public Places and Workplaces. Advice to Inform Evidence-based Policy Making. The advice said that, in contrast to the known harm from exposure to second hand smoke, there was at that time no evidence of harm from second hand e-cigarette vapour and the risks were likely to be extremely low.

However, the new findings have prompted researchers to suggest that while further research is needed to better understand the long-term health impact of vaping on people, e-cigarettes may be more harmful than we think, as some of the effects were similar to those seen in regular smokers and people with chronic lung disease.

With the fast evolution of technology, some workplace policies may become outdated. As such, employers should regularly review, amend and update their policies. Some employers may find that the smoking policies they  have do not cover e-cigarettes at all.

If, as an employer, you decide that you want to introduce policies to control vaping on the work premises within working hours, then you should decide whether you want to treat vaping in the same way as smoking. It may be recommended that the company support employees who choose to vape by assigning them a separate vaping area to the smoking area, to prevent passive smoking and so that smokers trying to quit will not be tempted. Whether you choose to introduce a policy for vaping or not, you should consider the views and comfort of all your staff: smokers, vapers, and non-users. Allowing vapers free range may affect the comfort of non-users and may not be practicable in certain workplaces, such as an office.

When making a vaping policy you should consider the following.

  • Make a distinction between smoking and vaping and make sure that the policy sets rules on both practices.
  • Consider bystanders, and non-users and their comfort. Ensure smoking/vaping areas are not in close vicinity.
  • Adapt your policy to limit exposure and uptake of vaping by children, young people or young workers, eg if the role involves working with children your policy may ban smoking and vaping in their view.
  • Conduct fact-finding investigations if you receive allegations of smoking in breach of the workplace policy, as some e-cigarettes can be easily mistaken for cigarettes.

if you require advice, please contact Walker Health and Safety Services.

 

 

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Employee PPE Responsibilities

PPE is designed to protect workers from workplace hazards and risk but PPE doesn’t last as long as you’d think. Once you have the equipment, your job isn’t over! It all depends on how often your PPE is used and in which conditions. PPE is provided by employers and needs to be inspected regularly to measure and test safety, but who should be in charge of carrying out those checks and determining when replacement is necessary? Is it the employer? The department manager? Or should there be employee PPE responsibilities? The easiest answer is that there should be a dedicated employee or team of employees who are responsible for each type of equipment.

Assigning an important task to your employees helps them take ownership of their well-being and safety. Of course, ultimately, it’s the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe work space through correct health and safety procedures and measures but having someone responsible for routine checks is a good idea with a more overarching view taken on, say, a quarterly basis.

Consider having a monthly check on all PPE that is given to employees. Inform employees that any damaged items are reported immediately, and all damaged equipment is replaced before the employee returns to work.

A Good PPE Program:

  • Conducts a Workplace Survey
  • Assesses Safety Measures
  • Selects Appropriate Controls
  • Selects the Right Equipment
  • Conducts Fit Tests
  • Trains Employees on Equipment Use
  • Offers Management Support
  • Maintains and Stores Equipment Correctly
  • Audits the Programme RegularlyAlways keep a stock of equipment on your premises. That way if equipment needs replacing, you can replace it quickly and safely. But keep in mind that some types of equipment can break down over time even if they’re unused (like hard hats and dust masks), but that’s only for equipment that has a date stamp on it.
  • It’s important to create a culture of responsible PPE use in the workplace. Having well stocked supplies and employees seeing the regular deliveries of new equipment will generate a sense of responsibility. When employees see a lack of commitment to PPE on the employers part (i.e. not regularly restocked and not up to regulation standards) they are much less likely to have that same motivation to implement a safe environment for themselves or others. Lead by example – you want to set a great example for your employees and demand that safety is taken seriously. If you do not adhere to safety standards it costs both you and your employee money – perhaps in sick days, compensation, or lost time at work.
  • If your employee reports faulty equipment and you do not replace it, then you are responsible. Make sure your employee knows that reporting damaged equipment is key for their safety.

A brief guide can be found here http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg174.pdf

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