SPEEDIER PROSECUTIONS FOLLOWING FATALATIES
Some health and safety prosecutions following a death at work will be able to take place before an inquest has concluded, from this month. The change is part of amendments to the Work Related Deaths Protocol due to be introduced.
The changes have been welcomed by construction union UCATTwhich says it currently often takes between four to five years following a worker's death for the company responsible to be convicted. At present no charges can be made until a coroner's inquest has concluded.
UCATTsays it hopes that the reforms will increase the conviction rates of employers whose workers are killed. The union says roughly only 30 per cent of companies are convicted following the death of a construction worker. Research undertaken by the HSE has found that management failings contributed to 70 per cent of fatal accidents.
UCATTsays the delay between a worker being killed and a court case occurring means that many employers opt to take their company into administration and then start another company with the same equipment and a similar name, in order to avoid a fine.
COSTS RECOVERY PILOT
The HSE is aiming to pilot its costs recovery scheme this month. The scheme will enable the HSE to recover fees from duty holders who breach health and safety law, even if no prosecution results (see page 1, ‘Monitor', September 2011). In a speech to the National Safety Symposium, Judith Hackitt said that, subject to consultation responses,
"[i]f everything goes according to plan by April 2012 we expect to be in a position to formally introduce the regime."
TUC CALLS ON SAFETY REPS TO PUSH FOR HIGHER DUST LIMITS
New TUCguidance recommends that unions and union health and safety representatives should try to ensure that employers follow a precautionary standard of 2.5 mg/m3 for inhalable dust (as opposed to the current 10 mg/m3 standard) and 1 mg/m3 for respirable dust (as opposed to the current 4 mg/m3 standard) for all general dust and dusts where there is not a lower WEL.
The recommendation follows research from the Institute of Medicine (IoM), which has said that "the current British occupational exposure limits for airborne dust are unsafe and employers should attempt to reduce exposures to help prevent further cases of respiratory disease amongst their workers" (see page 3, ‘Monitor' July 2011).
The TUCpoints to a wide range of research that shows that a considerable number of the cases of cancer and COPDcaused by dusts are caused by exposure that is below the current legal limit.
Research done for the HSE in 2006 looked at five kinds of dust, including coal dust, talc and kaolin. For coal dust the evidence showed sizeable reductions in lung function at exposures as low as 1 mg/m3 over a working lifetime of 40 years. In addition, the four dusts which were compared with coal dust all showed more severe effects on the lung at the same exposure levels. HSE data suggests that at least 12 per cent of workers could develop significant reductions in their lung function, with profound results for their respiratory health.
‘Dust in the Workplace' is available from: www.tuc.org.uk/tucfiles/69/DUSTintheWorkplace.doc
CANCER RISKS AFTER RADIATION EXPOSURE
Areport from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) provides new estimates on the risk of developing some types of cancer after exposure to ionising radiation.
The HPA's Advisory Group on Ionising Radiation (AGIR) reviewed the latest scientific evidence on the lifetime risks of developing ‘solid cancers' - such as cancer of the breast, lung and colon cancer - following exposure to ionising radiation.
Professor Sir Nicholas Wald, who chaired the Working Group, said: "The benefits of a medical procedure, such as surgery, should always outweigh the risks."
Average annual ionising radiation doses in the UKpopulation are estimated at 2.7 millisieverts per person. Of this, occupational exposure and nuclear weapons fallout makes up less than 1 per cent. Exposure of the UKpopulation to man-made ionising radiation from medical and industrial uses is closely monitored and controlled.
‘Risk of Solid Cancers following Exposure to Ionising Radiation: Estimates for the UKPopulation', can be obtained from www.hpa.org.uk/Publications/Radiation/DocumentsOfTheHPA/
LEGIONNAIRES' DISEASE OVERVIEW
An OSHAreport looks at how legislation on Legionella spp. and Legionnaires' disease is translated into policy and what kind of events (e.g. outbreaks on a local level) or decisions (e.g. directives on European level) have influenced the current policy for protection of both the general population and workers.
The report concludes that Legionnaires' disease, like other infectious diseases, should be better integrated into an OSH perspective as a matter of policy. In most cases the cause of this disease lies in systems found in workplaces whose faulty operation can affect not only the health of the general population but also that of the workers.
Copies of ‘Legionella and Legionnaires' disease: a policy overview' can be obtained from: http://osha.europa.eu/en/publications/literature_reviews
EMPLOYER WORKPLACE STRESS GUIDE
The Irish Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has set out a brief overview to managing stress at work. The guide describes three main types of stress management interventions used in organisations:
The HSAsays a combination of all three is generally advisable, rather than focusing solely on any one to the exclusion of all others.
‘Work-related stress, a guide for employers is available from: www.hsa.ie/eng/Workplace_Health/Workplace_Stress/Stress_in_the_Workplace/
ONLINE ASBESTOS GUIDANCE
There is a wealth of information on working with asbestos available from the HSE's Asbestos Essentials at www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/essentials/ Asbestos Essentials is described as a task manual for building, maintenance and allied trades on how to safely carry out non-licensed work involving asbestos.
Information sheets available include: