Exposure to workplace noise, vibration, dusts and fumes are still significant issues as found by the HSE during their visits to the metals sector. Besides these, there is the ubiquitous matter of machinery guarding. All of these should have been addressed quite well by now, given that regulation has been in place for at least 15 years.
• Noise and Vibration – there are obligations under both the Noise at Work & Vibration at Work regulations to control both hazards as much as possible at source. This includes actively trying to procure machinery or tools that are low in noise &/or vibration. The default cannot be to go straight to personal protective equipment (PPE) as this is the last resort and it cannot be guaranteed that everyone will use it as they should all the time.
• Dust and Fumes – LEV (local exhaust ventilation) should be in use in areas with hazardous dusts or fumes. However, unless a business first tests the air to establish what is being emitted, they will not know if it something is harmful and therefore must be controlled. If something is hazardous there must be an assessment of it and what measures put in place to control it, ideally at source, as it is often easier to control, at the point of emission.
• Machinery – businesses continue to be found to still have unguarded machinery in use, capable of causing life-changing injuries or worse. This still gets missed in site reviews, risk assessments & maintenance/repair plans. Faulty or missing guards must be repaired/replaced so that employees are kept safe.
Despite everything thrown at them during 2020, the HSE has continued to investigate fatal RIDDORS and Covid related deaths (in workplace settings).
In court during the last operational year (2019/20) the UK HSE achieved:
• 355 court convictions with a success rate of over 95% in the cases bought;
• Over 7000 enforcement notices issued to UK businesses;
• Over 90% of duty holders who received a visit have taken at least one action as a result of the visit;
• In excess of 32,000 concerns about workplace and activities were handled and addressed.
The figures above clearly demonstrate that there is still much to do to improve overall safety in the UK, and the metals sector is far from exempt in needing to resolve problems on site.
Dealing with the above is a significant cost, but resources are expected to be in place to do so in any business. Failure to do so leads to significant costs, in both time and money to address accidents, deal with possible prosecutions, as well as civil claims.
The need to maintain a safe working environment has been around ever since the UK led the way with the first true piece of health and safety legislation in 1802. This need will never go away, so businesses must ensure they tackle safety and occupational health, each working day.
Richard Heath, Health, Safety and Environment Officer @ Cast Metals Federation