In order to improve associated death and injury statistics, the HSE and Local Authority inspectors are tasked with focusing on the following priority areas within businesses in 2017:
1. Falls from height – work on/adjacent to fragile roofs/materials
2. Health risks – respirable silica dust exposure
3. Duty to manage asbestos
What does this mean in practice for businesses?
A health and safety inspector may visit a business if its work activities fall within any of these focus topics. This visit may focus solely on these topic areas or form part of a routine inspection where all areas of risk are looked at, but with greater emphasis on these focus topics.
Businesses may think that if their primary activities are not listed above, that they are safe from an inspector’s visit, but this is unfortunately not the case. This makes it even more paramount that businesses stay on top of their health and safety management, especially with the new sentencing guidelines in place.
What do inspectors look for?
1. Falls from height – work on/adjacent to fragile roofs/materials – Fragile roofs/skylights etc. are common place in workplaces. Inspectors will be looking at and questioning business owners on how repair and maintenance work (e.g. gutter cleaning) is performed.
2. Health risks – respirable silica dust – dust, containing harmful respirable crystalline silica (RCS), can be generated during common operations such as block cutting, chasing brickwork and cutting concrete floors.There is detailed HSE guidance for controlling this dust. Inspectors will be looking at whether there is any minor construction work going on at a business that could generate this dust and whether this is effectively controlled in accordance with the guidance. This also applies to routine business operations that create this dust, such as granite cutting, where again, the focus will be checking controls are adequate.
3. Duty to manage asbestos –Buildings built before 2000 may contain asbestos. Inspectors will be checking to see whether the risk of asbestos in the building has been assessed, whether an asbestos survey has been conducted and a management plan with necessary monitoring put in place. They will also look for any minor construction work going on that breaches the fabric of the building without a proper asbestos survey and effective controls in place.
4. Construction – The construction sector includes building construction, trades and civil engineering and whilst improvements have been made to reduce the injury statistics, the fatal and major injury statistics remain high.The key risk areas inspectors will focus on in this sector are exposure to asbestos, silica dust, and paint and diesel exhaust fumes. Furthermore, exposure to dust, fume, vapour or gas, and dermatitis risk, along with manual handling, noise and vibration are all focus areas in this sector.
What can the inspector do?
The purpose of inspection is to assess how well businesses are managing these health and safety risks and, where they are not, to bring about improvements to achieve this.
Inspectors have a range of enforcement tools they can use to achieve improvement but must be proportionate to the level of risk and used in accordance with their enforcement policy.
This can range from verbal and written advice, through to Improvement Notices, Prohibition Notices and/or prosecution. Under the Fees for Intervention (FFI) cost recovery scheme, the HSE can charge you for their time for inspection, investigation and enforcement action.
Three tips to stay one step ahead
1. Be prepared by making sure you have considered the risk of asbestos in your building if it was built before the year 2000. Building owners or landlords may need to invest in an asbestos survey and act upon the results.
2. Prior to employment of contractors for work at height or minor building works, make sure you check their risk assessments, method statements, insurance, professional membership and references. It is your responsibility to engage a suitable contractor.
3. For those involved in processes generating respirable crystalline silica (RCS), ensure you effectively follow the HSE guidance for controlling this dust.