Health and Safety Update - Feb 2009
Welcome to February’s Health and Safety Update. This month, we look at maximum and minimum indoor workplace temperatures and more:
- Health & Safety legislation commencement dates
- HSE publishes example Risk Assessments
- Legal liability of Senior Management
- HSE to repeats their warnings!
Maximum & minimum workplace temperatures
The recent cold snap is sure to raise many questions about indoor workplace temperature and the issue surrounding minimum and maximum temperatures.
The basic requirement set out by the Workplace Regulations is to provide a ‘reasonable’ temperature in the workplace, during working hours. This would mean that: any means of heating or cooling should not give rise to harmful or offensive fumes, gas or vapour; and that an adequate number of thermometers are provided to allow people to find out the temperature in any workplace inside the building.
Although, it is worth bearing in mind that the term reasonable depends on the nature of the workplace - for example, a kitchen, office, or warehouse.
There are currently no ‘legal’ minimum or maximum temperatures. However, the Approved Code of Practice, which is guidance with a particular legal status, suggests the following:
- Workroom temperatures should provide reasonable comfort without the need for special clothing.
- The temperature in workrooms should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius. In cases where a majority of the work involves severe physical effort, the temperature should be 13 degrees Celsius.
Don’t forget to listen to your employees, and if necessary, make reasonable adjustments based on the circumstances.
Health and Safety Legislation commencement dates
Ever changing health and safety law have been slowly replaced by risk-assessment based approaches. Since 2005, new health and safety legislation has been introduced on one of two ‘Common Commencement Dates’ which are April 6th and October 1st. This year, the next commencement date will be April 6th 2009.
HSE publishes example Risk Assessments
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has recognised the difficulty that some companies are facing when recording risk assessments, and so have published a set of useful examples and case studies on their website. The HSE point out that the examples are not intended as generic risk assessments – every business is different and all hazards and controls specific to your business itself must be considered.
Legal liability of Senior Management
Concerns over the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act, last year, led many people to incorrectly believe that new measures were introduced by which senior managers could be personally prosecuted in the event of an incident resulting in a fatality. The Act introduced no such measure - only organisations can commit Corporate Manslaughter, mainly because the possibility of individual prosecution was already available in law.
If a health and safety offence is committed with the permission or involvement of, or due to lack of care on the part of, any director, manager or other similar officer of the company, then that person and the company can be prosecuted under section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
Those found guilty are liable to penalties and, possibly in some cases, imprisonment. Also, the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 entitles the court with power to exclude an individual convicted of an offence linked with the management of a company. This is only at the discretion of the court.
Fatal incident urges HSE to repeats their warnings!
The HSE repeat their warning to companies to take the necessary measure to minimise workplace risks to employees and contractors. This is follows from a fatal incident where a wall collapsed throwing a supervisor from his ladder in Cardiff. The company involved for managing the building project pleaded guilty to a charge under Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £71,400.
There are recognised procedures in the construction industry for backfilling and cavity insulation which would have prevented the wall from surging outwards. The use of ladders was meant to be strictly controlled on-site, yet one was in use despite a method statement to the contrary.”
Remember, regular Health and Safety inspections are a must, as is adequate training!
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