Category Archives: Health and Safety

Call for tougher penalties as gross manslaughter guidelines come into effect

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has called for penalties that “reflect the gravity” of offences and greater use of measures such as director disqualification and retraining, as new sentencing guidelines for gross negligence manslaughter come into effect.

From Thursday 1 November 2018, those convicted of the offence of gross negligence manslaughter in England and Wales will face longer prison sentences, up to a maximum of 18 years, as well as compensation orders.

 

IOSH, which supports the new guidelines, says all employers are responsible for managing risks posed to workers and that those who cut corners and risk lives should be held properly to account.

Offenders can also be disqualified from being a director of a company for up to 15 years.

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Autumn Newsletter

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Tackling Health & Safety in 2018 (6)

In each newsletter we have been exploring the top 8 pieces of workplace health and safety legislation that you should be aware of.

In our Winter Newsletter, we explored the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the Working Time Regulations 1998. If you haven’t done so already, you can read our Winter Newsletter here.

In our Spring Newsletter, we looked at the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 and Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992.

In our Summer Newsletter, we touched on Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 and Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992.

And in this edition of our newsletter, we have chosen to talk about Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 and Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998

Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013

The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) require you to report wide-ranging work-related incidents, diseases and injuries to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). You can also report these to the environmental health department of your local authority.

Under the regulations, you are required to have an accident book where you record the date and time, who was involved and affected, and the nature of any incident, along with a note of what happened.

You must report:

  • The death of any employee or person visiting the workplace.
  • Injuries, including amputations, fractures, eye injuries, electric shock injuries and acute illness, that require a person be taken to hospital or immediate medical attention.
  • If an accident at work causes an employee to have to be relieved of their normal work for over seven days, known as ‘over-seven-day incapacitation’.
  • Occupational diseases, including asthma; RSI, where the hand or forearm cramps due to repeated movement; tendon injuries such as tendinitis; hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), where a person’s work involves using vibrating or percussive tools on a regular basis; dermatitis.
  • Near misses, known as ‘dangerous occurrences’. These do not have to have resulted in an accident or injury, but you should be aware of potential risks and seek to mitigate them.

Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)

For this regulation, you need to:

  • Make sure the work equipment that you provide is suitable and safe for the purpose for which it is provided.
  • Ensure equipment is properly maintained, no matter how old it is.
  • Provide information, training and instruction on how to use the equipment safely.
  • Check employees are protected from dangerous parts of any machinery.

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Approaching Winter Safety

The winter months entail specific health and safety concerns that pose threats to employees. Although these hazards can be particularly acute for outdoor workers, there are also many potential dangers within the workplace itself and surrounding areas such as car parks or walkways.

As an employer, you have a duty to keep your workforce safe. But it’s not solely up to you. The best way to prevent injuries associated with winter weather is to adopt the attitude that safety is everyone’s responsibility– whether in large, medium or small organisations.

Employers must initiate safety protocols so that every employee knows how to prevent accidents and injuries, but also understands what to do in the event of an emergency. Reinforce procedures regularly, so a culture of safety first becomes a natural part of how the company operates.

Involve your employees from the start, so they can help identify hazards and work on resolving problems. Inclusion gives you a strong platform for building a culture of safety within your organisation.

There are a number of key areas of winter safety that you should consider providing the safest working environment possible for your employees.

Safe winter driving

Car in the snowBusiness doesn’t stop in winter even when the weather is bad, but it can be disrupted. For instance, if your business depends on deliveries to and from your premises, or a travelling sales force as, everyone one should be prepared and equipped properly for conditions that may include snow, ice, heavy rain and floods.

Vehicle preparation: Vehicles should be fully serviced before the start of winter and anti-freeze checked. If you do this on site, ensure that batteries are fully charged, lights are clean and work, all windows, including windscreens, are clean and wipers are operating as they should. Check that tyres have good tread depth and are at the right pressure and that the brakes work effectively. Regularly check fluids and top up when necessary

Emergency kit: Prepare employees for bad weather with emergency kits. Include a shovel, towrope, sturdy water boots, a hazard warning triangle and a first aid kit. A working torch, de-icer and car blanket should also feature.

Preparedness: Wear warm clothes and take emergency food and a hot drink in a flask on winter journeys. Make sure that there is at least one fully charged mobile phone in the vehicle. Remember to de-ice your vehicle and clear any snow from it before embarking, to ensure visibility is not in jeopardy. Note that it is illegal to drive a vehicle if snow hasn’t been cleared off it.

Weather forecast: Listen to the news or forecasts. If there is impending dangerous weather, and a journey is nonessential, don’t drive. It’s better that you’re safe and time can be made up when conditions improve. If there is snow or ice, adapt your driving to these conditions by reducing speed so you decrease the risk of skidding and being unable to stop quickly.

All employees should take time to learn how to deal with severe winter conditions when driving.

Slips, trips and falls

Slip on iceTumbles are hazards at any time of year, but winter conditions increase their likelihood for employees unless safety precautions are put in place. Accidents can be expensive if you don’t have a proactive safety plan in place, as workers may be able to get compensation payments if they are injured. You could incur government fines too, so ensure you have good planning in place.

Car parks pose problems if they are not cleared properly, whether it’s your own team that does it or a snow removal company. Even stepping out of a car can be hazardous if snow or other debris is blocking a walkway to an entrance, or there is ice on the car park or walkways.

You should always be aware of the potential for danger and have measures in place to reduce the possibility of accidents.

  • Ensure stairways, walkways and other work areas are kept clear.
  • Remove hazards such as snow on pavements or water on floors at once.
  • Every employee should look where they are going and be prepared to steady themselves with their hands if they should slip.
  • Avoid carrying heavy loads in bad weather as they could put an employee off balance if the underfoot surface is slippery.
  • Make sure hazardous areas are clearly and appropriately signed.
  • Use footwear with heavy treads to improve traction.
  • Wear high-visibility clothing so drivers can see you.

Avoiding accidents

Winter conditions increase the potential for accidents, so your company’s safety plan needs to be fit for purpose. Assess risks, distribute the appropriate information, and ensure that protective equipment is in place.

There are many possible injuries that can occur in poor weather conditions including:

  • Falls caused by removing ice and snow from rooftops.
  • Employees being hit by vehicles or other mobile equipment if a driver loses control due to the conditions on the ground.
  • Injuries such as electric shocks, amputations or lacerations from using power equipment.
  • Being hit by falling trees or branches when out repairing telephone of electricity lines.

Training for all employees should include awareness of the problems that might arise from adverse weather or environmental conditions. Include instructions about how to mitigate the risks, and the importance of being alert to potentially dangerous situations at all times.

Carbon monoxide

When temperatures drop in winter the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning increases, especially during the first three months of the year. Accidental deaths from this are often due to malfunctioning furnaces or poor ventilation, but they can also occur through the use of portable generators and chain saws. In confined spaces carbon monoxide, an odourless gas, can build up and prove fatal.

It’s the role of the employer to schedule regular operational checks on devices that produce carbon monoxide. In areas where there may be danger, particularly confined spaces, install carbon monoxide detectors. These are essential safety devices that warn anyone in a particular area of high levels of carbon monoxide. Comprehensive alarm systems should always be installed, but there is no substitute for good maintenance of equipment and tools, preventative action, and a workforce well-versed in health and safety procedures.

Hypothermia and frostbite

hypothermiaIf you have workers who spend much of their time outside, raise awareness about the risks of hypothermia and frostbite. This goes for employers and employees. Many people associate these terms with mountaineers or arctic explorers who have been exposed to freezing temperatures. But hypothermia and frostbite occur in far more everyday circumstances, such as extended outdoor work situations without the proper protective clothing.

If any of these symptoms occur, seek medical care as soon as is possible. Meanwhile, mitigate potential harm by elevating the affected body part so swelling can be reduced and move the person, where possible, to a warm area. This helps prevent further heat loss. Remove wet clothing and dress affected areas in a dry, sterile bandage. If fingers or toes are suffering, then cotton should be placed between those affected.

Workplace temperatures

Maintain an appropriate ambient temperature in workplace areas. These will differ depending on the environment and the tasks performed there. Office workers who are mainly sedentary will require a warmer temperature, especially during the winter months, whereas workers on a factory floor may get additional warmth from machinery or processes being used. Always monitor temperatures because workplaces that are either too cold or too warm can affect the productivity of employees.

PPE for outdoor workers

PPE for winterPersonal protective equipment (PPE) should always be available for outdoor workers, especially when they have to undertake their duties in very cold weather. Examples include strong boots, warm socks, wind and waterproof jackets and trousers. These are essential to help keep workers safe. Protective headgear for outdoor work is another crucial requirement to prevent the potential of injury from falling debris or falls.

Working outdoors in bad conditions can be very challenging, so ensure that your employees are properly equipped.

Updating risk assessments

Winter presents multiple health and safety issues. Every season in the working year requires tailored risk assessments and specific protocols. But winter presents distinct threats to employee well-being. Keep your risk assessments up to date, adapt protocol accordingly, train your employees, raise awareness of individual obligations and responsibilities, and provide the safest working environment that you can. 

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Health and Safety and Brexit

eu flagThe Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is contributing to cross-government work being coordinated by the Department for Exiting the European Union to prepare the United Kingdom for exit from the European Union (EU). This includes work to support the Government’s commitment to protect workers’ rights as the UK leaves the EU by ensuring that health and safety regulation continues to provide a high level of protection in the workplace.

For further information on EU exit is available on the website of the Department for Exiting the European Union

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Top 10 Tips for Christmas Party Planning

  • Christmas PartyDon’t exclude anyone
  • Some days of the week are sacred to some religions, so make sure your party includes everyone in your workforce.
  • Don’t force people to attend
  • Too much pressure to join in will have the opposite effect. If it’s kept fun people will come.
  • Catering must be suitable for vegetarians, vegans, those who don’t drink alcohol and have special dietary requirements.
  • Relax that rule book
  • Yes, it’s a work’s do but it’s a chance for everyone to have fun and celebrate your business’ successes.
  • Written guidance is necessary
  • Before the party issue written guidance on personal conduct, such as no aggressive or bullying behaviour, and no harassment. Breaking these rules may result in a disciplinary
  • A free bar is a no no
  • It’ll make enforcing rules under point 6 more difficult.
  • Buy a round in, it’s Christmas after all and what better way to say thank you to your employees than buying them a drink.
  • Assign a designated watcher
  • Assign a member of the management team who has a clear head to keep a subtle eye, without being a party pooper.
  • Work night expectations
  • If it’s during the working week make it clear that you expect everyone to be in work the next day. But maybe let them come in a little later, or provide a free breakfast.
  • Don’t drink and drive
  • Advise employees not to drink and drive at all, and ensure they are fit to drive the following day. Organise a mini bus to help people get home.

We hope you have a wonderful time!

Health and safety

  • A member of the public buying a pair of shoes refused a box that was offered but was subsequently told by the shop assistant that “their health and safety man says we have to make the customers have a box”. This was felt to be a decision made to reduce waste rather than any valid health and safety reason.
  • Employees told they cannot leave hand wash purchased by themselves in company toilets and also that they are not allowed to bring cleaning products into work. This was felt to be over the top considered that they were bought in a high street shop. The panel felt that this was an overzealous application of the COSHH Regulations as high street brand hand wash and cleaning products will not contain chemicals in sufficient quantity as to be harmful.

If you have any questions relating to this newsletter, please contact Walker Health and Safety Services Limited. Info@walkersafety.co.uk 08458340400

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Improving worker involvement

Worker involvement is the term used by the Health and Safety Executive to describe the ways in which workers are encouraged to take part in making decisions about managing health and safety at work.

This goes beyond giving information or consulting on management proposals. Instead, it aims to create a genuine partnership between managers and workers for managing health and safety risks.

To be effective and sustainable, worker involvement requires careful planning and implementation. The methods adopted to improve involvement should enable good communication, the use of collective knowledge and highlight the commitment of all those involved.

Successful communication is an essential element. Methods should be adopted that encourage two-way dialogue, where the profile of health and safety can be raised and workers participating can express views and opinions freely.

To enable effective communication, knowledge and experience is vital for both employee and employer. Targeting employees with specific skills, knowledge and experience to get involved will build the effectiveness of the methods adopted to improve involvement. Joint learning and development sessions for managers and staff will help to raise awareness, trust and understanding.

Encouraging experienced staff to share their knowledge by getting involved in induction training for new starters or by advising on how best to educate employees in health and safety is also a good method that can be adopted.

To show commitment to worker involvement, managers should take care to support worker involvement and recognise the contribution of workers. For example, where workers and their representatives have been involved in developing health and safety policies and procedures, that contribution should be recognised in any written documentation.

On a practical level, there are a number of methods that can be utilised so as to improve worker involvement including:

  • safety committees that give an opportunity for employers to demonstrate their commitment to actively engaging with the workforce
  • workgroups to deal with specific health and safety issues or change in management procedures
  • schemes for feedback on health and safety concerns and to make suggestions for remedial action
  • risk assessments that include a representative of the staff who carry out the tasks being assessed
  • toolbox talks focused around specific health and safety issues to allow workers, safety professionals and managers to explore risks and develop strategies for dealing with them
  • away days to get staff involved in health and safety away from their usual work environment.

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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.

Contact us should you require further information.

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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.

Contact us should you require advice.

 

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