Here’s food for thought.  According to a report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services, the number of building fire safety checks has fallen across England by 42% during the last seven years.

The number of audits carried out by firefighters fell from 84,575 in 2010-11 to 49,423 in 2017-18.

This has been credited to finance cuts, reducing “vital” prevention work where buildings are given regular safety checks.  There’s no doubt that the Fire Service’s heroic actions do a good job in emergencies – and the Grenfell Tower, Chester Zoo and Liverpool car park incidents are great examples – but there’s a gaping hole in checks to ensure buildings are kept up to scratch.

During building inspections, firefighters look for hazards such as blocked fire exits or faulty doors and give notice to owners of essential safety improvements.

As visits to local buildings have reduced, fire services might not be familiar with where the high-risk sites are in their region and that increases risks to fire service personnel.

The Fire and Rescue Services can enforce fire regulations, but as they cannot visit all premises to do so, the onus falls on an organisation’s Responsible Person to ensure the safety of everyone in the premises.

So, knowing that official checks have become less likely, what can organisations do themselves?  Ignorance of the law is no defence and proactive fire safety audits have never been more critical.

The use of an effective fire safety management system helps to manage audits and identify corrective actions, embedding a fire safety culture.  This helps ensure everyone is conscious of fire risks and does everything possible to reduce them.

We offer some simple fire safety tips in this short film:
https://blog.riskex.co.uk/grenfell-tower-fire-london-fire-safety-advice-riskex/

When fire safety complacency sets in, disaster may not be far away.  Remember, there are only 3 things needed for a fire: 1. A source of ignition, 2. Fuel and 3. Oxygen.  Remove one, and you’ve prevented a fire.

With the right processes for observation and engagement, the disasters at Grenfell, Chester Zoo, and Liverpool, among many others, may have been avoided.  And with Fire Service checks no longer a “given”, nobody can afford to be complacent.

It may not come as a surprise that workplace incidents continue to plague employees carrying out their day-to-day routines, with over 600,000 injuries reported last year.  Whether an unreported hazard is to blame, or misbehaviour at work, join us as we take a look at the top 5 non-fatal injuries to employees.

1. Slip, trip or fall on the same level

Taking the top spot are slips, trips and falls on a level surface, compiling 29% of the overall results. From trailing cables to ignored spillages, most workplaces will at some point encounter a slippery surface or tripping hazard, so it’s no surprise that it finds itself at the top of our list.

Preventing these accidents from happening can be as simple as displaying a ‘wet floor sign’, or organising all cables and equipment out of walkways.  AssessNET’s Hazard reporting module allows you to quickly and easily identify these hazards and assign remedial actions before accidents happen.

2. Manual handling

It’s natural for us to follow the mindset that to carry more will result in less journeys without thinking about  the manual handing risks.  However, this goes way beyond carrying the shopping in from the car boot it’s common for employees to forget the practice of how to lift an item safely when in a rush at work.  A simple way to remember, is that the bend should be in your hips and knees, and not your back.  Bending your back forces huge strain directly to your spine, whereas your legs do not contain the sheer number of pivot points that exist in your spine.

Of course, if an object is too heavy to lift, regardless of the posture, it should not be lifted without assistance.  Lifting and handling claims 22% of the overall results.

AssessNET’s Manual Handling module allows risk assessments to be conducted for activities of concern and lays out in simple terms the actions required to prevent manual handling injuries occurring.

3. Struck by an object

Driven, fallen, swinging, flying… in some workplaces, objects can come at you from all angles. Although not the most common, this could be perceived as the most potentially fatal so far in our list – of course depending on the object.  This claims 10% of the overall results.

Preventing accidents of this nature needs further analysis about what the striking object is.  Let’s say it’s a forklift truck, all walkways and crossings should be clearly marked, and drivers should all be trained.  If its objects with a risk of falling they be securely fastened, and hard hats should be worn in marked zones. 

The risks presented by these hazards need to be assessed. AssessNET’s Risk Assessment module is a simple and easy tool that allow you to record all these hazards and ensure that the controls measures required to prevent injury are in place.

4. Fall from height

Many roles require working at height, such as using a ladder, scaffolding or cranes.  Improper training or setup can lead to a potentially fatal accidents.  Whilst this list looks at non-fatal injuries, it claims 7% of the these overall results, it still remains top of the fatal injuries list.

The AssessNET Training module can identify training needs by roles and ensure that competency is maintained for all activities involving working at height. AssessNET’s Asset and Inspections modules allows all the required pre-use checks and inspections to be recorded for all levels of access equipment.

5. Acts of violence

Our final spot is slightly unusual in comparison to our other entries, mainly being that the injuries are caused by fellow employees and not the workplace itself.  There is a high chance that the leading cause of this is workplace stress, however employee relations can also be influenced from outside the workplace, often making this difficult to manage.  This also comes in at 7% of the overall results, with the final 25% consisting of accidents such as contact with machinery and striking a stationary object.

Using the AssessNET Incident Reporting module acts of violence can be recorded and analysed to identified where and what controls measures are required.

Summary

You do not have to be a superhuman to be safe at work, however an accident is what it says on the tin – accidental!  This is with the exception of number 5, which could be seen as intentional, however still preventable. 

Everyone has the right to be safe in the workplace.  Creating a culture of safety awareness using simple to use tools such as AssessNET and providing suitable training and equipment means the risk of all these accidents can be minimised.

 

Despite some recent worrying stories about lithium-ion battery fires, electric cars will soon be commonplace in the UK. Britain is due to ban the sale of all new diesel and petrol cars from 2040, amid fears that rising levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) are damaging public health.

Tesla has recently been in the headlines after their Li-ion batteries have been suspected of causing or exacerbating fires after car crashes. The other risks are the excessive heat and duration when the batteries burn, and the toxicity of the fumes they emit. Fire departments have had to contact Tesla for advice while actively fighting fires.

As with all emerging technologies, electric car developers will be working hard to resolve issues and strive to ensure consumer safety.

However, given the rising number of electric cars, there is another looming Health and Safety risk that threatens at a more widespread level – unsuspecting pedestrians falling over trailing extension cables.

In Slaithwaite, Huddersfield, photos were taken of multiple extension cables laid along a footpath, which were necessary for a resident to charge his car. Due to a lack of a private driveway, or the inability to park directly outside his house, the cables trailed some 10 metres along the pathway.

The resident (who preferred to remain un-named) said that he usually placed a yellow warning triangle and anti-trip mats. The photographs that were taken don’t show these in use on this occasion, however.

He wished to point out that electric cables along a pathway are no different from the risks posed by a hosepipe or vacuum cleaner cable, when residents clean their cars at the roadside.

He may have a point – up to a point. At some time in the future, Councils (or someone) will be obliged to place charging points along highways and find safe methods of charging vehicles avoiding trailing cables. In the meantime, as we still rely on petrol stations while the number of electric cars increases, the tripping hazard risk of trailing cables on pavements will remain.

 

On April 28th, the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) SafeDay and the World Day Against Child Labour (WDACL) are running a joint campaign to highlight the critical need to improve the safety and health of young workers and end child labour – in all its forms, including hazardous work.

There are commemorative and proactive events in many organisations around the UK, and worldwide.  This important day in the Health and Safety calendar has an impressive history, and has done much to improve conditions at work around the world:

  1. Workers’ Memorial Day originated in Canada in 1984 and is now recognised as a national day in 19 countries
  2. Since 1989 trade unions in the UK, USA, Asia, Europe and Africa have organised events on and around 28 April. This date was chosen for International Workers’ Memorial Day as it is the anniversary of the Occupational Health and Safety Act in the USA and also commemorates the day that 28 people were killed in a construction accident in Connecticut.
  3. Workers’ Memorial Day has been informally recognised in the UK since 1992
  4. In 2001 the International Labour Organisation recognised Workers’ Memorial Day and announced April 28th as an International Day of Action for Safety and Health at Work.  This is an annual international campaign to promote safe, healthy and decent work around the globe.

An interesting piece of research crossed my desk and it has stimulated some debate in the Riskex office – is it Safety “gone mad”, or is there a valid concern to be aware of?

At the University of Iowa, USA, a research project was undertaken to determine how safe it is for children of varying ages to cross the road when there is oncoming traffic.

Having put groups of children through a 3D virtual reality experience, where they had to deal with the complexities of distance and the speed of oncoming vehicles, they found there might be a significant risk to younger children.

This might not be that surprising, but it drew memories from colleagues of walking alone to school from age 8, crossing roads without any risk of near misses with cars.  So if we survived when we were children, what’s the fuss about now?  Is Health and Safety going too far?

The research has shown that the risk is real, due to gradual brain development, where children’s lack of fully formed motor skills and visual judgement means they can’t reliably judge speed and distance of traffic until the age of 14.

Using a study in a virtual reality road environment, groups of children were tested for their reactions to traffic scenarios.  Accident rates were as high as 8% among six year-olds, and even those aged 12 were struck 2% of the time.  It wasn’t until age 14 that the children began to cross without incident.

The lesson here is perhaps that parents should take extra precautions by being aware their child might not be able to judge whether a traffic gap is large enough to cross safely.  Obviously, everyone is different, and children do develop at different rates.

Also, younger children may not have developed the fine motor skills to step into the street the moment a car has passed – unlike the way that adults have mastered – so we can’t just assume that they are capable of crossing the road in the way that we do.  The issue is that although they might pick the right sized gap between vehicles, they can’t time their movements, so they are more at risk of a collision.

So, as parents, where does that leave us?  There’s the environmental benefit of ditching the car for the school run in favour of getting children to walk to school, but is it safe until they are 14?

One suggestion is to lobby Council planners to identify high traffic places where children are likely to cross roads to get to school, and make sure those areas have a pedestrian-crossing aid.

And perhaps it comes down to individuals.  If in any doubt about your child’s coordination or readiness, then supervision surely is a must.   What do you think?  Are we in danger of mollycoddling a generation?  Or do we leave them to their own devices?

For more about the research, take a look at the following link:

https://now.uiowa.edu/2017/04/why-children-struggle-cross-busy-streets-safely