Making Sense of Health and Safety

Geoff Davies predicts that the focus in 2021 will be about the "health" in health and safety.

Since the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 came into force, over 45 years ago, it has helped to reduce fatality and major accident rates by over 75%. This is a massive achievement that should be celebrated more than it is.

The UK consistently has one of the lowest rates of fatal injury across the EU. In 2017 the standardised rate was 0.52 per 100,000 employees, which compares favourably with the EU-28 average of 1.18 per 100,000 employees.

That is a great safety record. However, when we look at health things are a little different. Although there is a slow downward trend in all occupational illness there is an upward trend in instances of workplace stress, depression or anxiety.

Also showing an upward trend in the last few years is the incidence of occupational lung disease. Currently there are 12,000 lung disease deaths each year estimated to be linked to past exposures to work. There are also 17,000 estimated new cases of breathing or lung problems caused or made worse by work each year on average over the last three years.

Given these worrying statistics, Geoff Davies of MD Safety Management Ltd feels that it is inevitable the focus will be on reducing ill-health moving forward. "The UK has done the "safety" bit really well but the "health" bit needs a concerted effort for things to change. I see a lot more evidence being requested in pre-qualification processes linked to dust, noise and vibration this year".

Such evidence will include evidence of controlling dust using extraction methods as well as use of respiratory protection - RPE (P3) with associated face fit training records.

Companies will be required to evidence noise assessments and strategies for noise control and personal protection including justifying chosen specifications of hearing protection (i.e. signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) choices).

Vibration exposure can lead to a range of ill-health conditions and needs to be controlled by a formal system to eliminate and reduce individual exposures. Expect to be asked for Vibration risk assessments (Hand Arm Vibration (HAVS) Assessments) and demonstration of the risk control strategy in place.

Each of these issues also comes with the requirement to provide health surveillance for those who are at particular risk. This may be as simple as a self-declaration or may need to be more formal (e.g. employing an occupational health provider to provide specific testing such as lung function, audiometry and HAVS screening, amongst other services.

MD Safety Management Ltd can assist in establishing effective strategies for each of these topics and also partner with a noise consultant and an occupational health provider where comprehensive systems need to be established.

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