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Health & Safety Update - May 2009

Health and SafetyWelcome to our May Health & Safety update. In this issue, we report on new research from Denmark which has identified a link between night work and breast cancer, REACH regulations and what they mean for you, working in confined spaces, plus more...

REACH Regulations

Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals (REACH) is the new European legislation aimed at regulating chemical safety, and will affect most UK businesses.

REACH may be applicable if...

  • you manufacture or import chemical substances into the European Union (EU) in quantities of one tonne or more per year,
  • you retrieve a chemical substance from waste in quantities of one tonne or more per year,
  • you distribute or use chemicals,
  • or if you handle goods which contain chemicals in some finished products, known as articles (Packaging of any description is usually considered as an article under REACH).

Remember... you must register chemical substances covered by REACH. If you fail to do so, you will be committing an offence. However, there are some exemptions e.g. radioactive substances, waste and some naturally occurring low-hazard substances.

Action you can take:

  • Create an inventory which includes all chemicals that come in and go out of the business.
  • Identify any chemicals that may be substances of very high concern.
  • Establish your role in relation to each substance on the inventory, so that you can determine what you are required to do next.

Night work and risk of breast cancer

Findings from a Danish research project suggest that night work could have more of a damaging effect on health. The results found that women who work extra hours into the night are 1.5 times more likely than daytime workers to be diagnosed with breast cancer.

Those women who developed breast cancer after working late night shifts have been paid compensation by the Danish government, and now the pressure is on the UK health authorities to take more action to tackle the dangers of working nights.

The HSE has been on the ball in this area and has commissioned a very eminent epidemiologist to examine the risk of working at night and whether there is any link to breast cancer. This report will be completed in 2011. The Health and Safety Executive's chief medical officer, John Osmond

Action you can take:

According to the Working Time regulations, night workers are defined as those who regularly work 3 hours per night including the hours from 11pm to 6am. As an employer, you must offer these workers a free health assessment (normally a questionnaire) to be completed before their night work commences and also on a regular basis after that. This is generally completed once a year and it’s not a requirement for the employee to take the health check if they don’t want to.

Working in confined spaces

Some companies overlook the need to assess work in confined spaces. But what is a confined space, and what necessary measures must be made? A confined space can be an area of an enclosed nature where there is a risk of death or injury from hazardous substances or dangerous conditions (e.g. lack of oxygen)

Action you must take:

In order to decide what measures are necessary for safety, you must conduct a suitable and adequate assessment of the risks for all work activities (as laid out in the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations).

In most cases the assessment will include consideration of:

  • The task
  • The working environment
  • Working materials and tools
  • The suitability of those carrying out the task
  • Arrangements for emergency rescue

Controlling the risk

The Confined Spaces Regulations outline the following:

  • Ensure entry to a confined space is not permitted unless it’s essential
  • Consider alternative methods for completing the task at hand
  • Can the work be completed outside, or even by modifying the space?

If this is not possible, a safe system of work must be arranged instead.

As part of Ceridian's Pay & People offer for small businesses, we propose a Health & Safety service that not only makes sure your business stays compliant with Health & Safety legislation, but covers you in the case of a claim and acts as your competent person. To talk to one of our qualified experts, call us on 0800 0482 737 or contact us online and we'll call you back.

  • 1st May 2009
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