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Health & Safety update - Sep 2008

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Welcome to a new, regular section in Ceridian Connection - the Health & Safety update. Every month, we will give you a brief overview of the latest developments in Health & Safety that may affect your business. This month, we look at a major £10,000 fine for one company, call centre safety, and much more:

£10,000 fine for company over serious burns

A company has been fined £10,000 after an employee suffered burns to his hands and legs from flammable cleaning liquids. They were also ordered to pay £1,910 costs after pleading guilty to breaching the Health & Safety at Work Act of 1974 by failing to ensure the safety of an employee while he was handling a flammable liquid.

The employee was cleaning components with acetone when a fire started. The vapours from the acetone provided a fire risk. The HSE inspector said that the incident "could have been avoided if the company had put a safe system of working in place to help protect employees when handling this sort of highly flammable and toxic substance and made employees aware of the dangers associated with acetone."

The law states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees."

Young worker injured

A large food store has been fined after a young worker's arm was crushed at a store in Birmingham. The employee had been mending a machine when a colleague pressed an eject button which trapped the employee for an hour and a half, breaking bones in his arm and requiring a number of operations including a bone graft.

The company pleaded guilty and was fined £20,000 for breach of the Health & Safety at Work Act, plus a further £5,000 for failure to carry out a sufficient risk assessment for the young people it employed. In addition, they were forced to pay costs of £4,792.

Councillor Neil Eustace, Chair of the Public Protection Committee, said: "Health and safety legislation is important as it protects the public and workers, particularly young workers as in this case. This shows that we will not hesitate to prosecute any company when appropriate, big or small, if they fail in their duty to protect people."

Complicated risk assessments

The HSE has announced its support for a two-year European Campaign for Safety & Health at Work. Its central theme is the risk assessment.

It is promoting the idea that the risk assessment need not be so complicated, and that the approach to it must be participatory, involving the workforce. All businesses face requirements to undertake assessments of health and safety risks in their workplace (from the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations).

Additional regulations outline specific risks they need to consider, such as those faced by users of computers (Display Screen Equipment Regulations); those from lifting and carrying things (Manual Handling Regulations); and those from chemicals (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations). All of these requirements apply in some way in most businesses.

Ceridian can help with your risk assessment by providing clear and simple guidance, empowering your company to carry out effective, uncomplicated risk assessments and eliminating or controling Health & Safety risks. Call our experts on 0800 0482 737 or contact us online.

Call centre safety

The Health & Safety Executive is looking at research which has suggested that call centre operators may be exposed to noise levels and conditions which may cause problems to their hearing.

The Acoustic Safety Programme (ASP) was launched in 2004 by the Call Centre Management Association to address issues around hearing loss and acoustic shock.

The call centre industry itself is relatively young and whilst cases of acoustic shock have entered litigation, employers involved have all settled out of court, keeping public profile low.

So what is acoustic shock?

The basic cause is a sudden, unexpected noise, often delivered at a very intense frequency. This is generally to call centre workers but other users of headsets can also be affected. Causes are from electrical feedback, faulty telephone lines or equipment, caller abuse (shouting / screaming, whistles etc) and background interference.

What are the effects?

The effects of acoustic shock will vary on the individual but can include at the early stages; discomfort or pain around the ear, muffled hearing, feeling light-headed, fatigue, lethargy, nausea and dizziness. Later symptoms shown have been tinnitus, hyperacusis (high level of sensitivity to sound), dysacusis (difficulty in processing details of sound) with delayed effects of anxiety, depression and phobias.

What are the legal impacts?

Every employer must comply with; The Health & Safety at Work Act, The Noise at Work Regulations, Provisions and Use of Work Equipment Regulations, Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations and Reporting of Injuries, Disease and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations.

So what can be done?
  • Review noise levels and design of any call centre
  • Educate employees in identifying acoustic shock, use of mobile phones, volume control and hygiene practices
  • Implement reporting and investigation system for incidences of suspected acoustic shock
  • Purchase equipment with the best available technology
  • Keep records on headset life, user history, maintenance and testing

Further advice on call centre safety can be found in the local authority circular aimed at helping call centres interpret the relevant regulations and guidance which is available from the HSE website.

For further information and advice on acoustic shock visit www.acousticshock.org.

 

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 September 2008
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