FAQ

Below are some faq questions on Health and Safety

A safety statement is a document which represents the company’s approach to managing health and safety. It has to be site specific, true in all of it statements and needs to be updated as changes occur but reviewed at a minimum at least once a year. It should be a working document not just one that sits on a shelf. Once prepared it has to be signed by Managing Director or owner and then communicated to all employees, visitors, contractors and others who might be affected by it.

Yes, it has been a legal requirement since 1989 and employers can be prosecuted if they do not have one. Even single self-employed people (e.g. painters, decorators, tillers, roofers, gardeners, IT support people etc.) have to have one. Farmers also have to have one as do small shop owners. No one is exempt. It is not determined by the size of the business but by the nature of the hazards – you could have a call centre with 1,000 employees and risks overall could be quite low and equally you could have a roofing company employing 3 people where the risks are much higher.

Yes they can, there is no rule which requires them to use the services of a Safety Consultant. However if they do their own then they must stand over it if it is found to be lacking. Whereas if a Safety Consultant prepares it they have to stand over it.

They can bring in a competent Health and Safety Consultant to complete the statement or they may wish to complete it themselves.

There is no set format and each consultant will use their own format.  But each one should contain the following 8 parts:

 

Part 1   Policy statement

Part 2   Responsibilities of Management and others

Part 3    Management of Risk

Part 4    Fire and Emergency Arrangements

Part 5     Accidents, First Aid & Protection of Health

Part 6     Health and Safety Arrangements

Part 7      Risk Assessments

Part 8       Appendices (to include Emergency Plan, Stress, Prevention of Bullying and other relevant policies)

Within Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Act 2005 there is a requirement for every employer to have, where necessary, the services of a “competent person” and this is defined as:

“For the purposes of the relevant statutory provisions, a person shall be deemed to be competent where, having regard to the task he or she is required to perform, and taking account of the size or hazards (or both of them) of the undertaking or establishment in which he or she undertakes work, he or she possesses sufficient training, experience and knowledge appropriate to the nature of the work to be undertaken”.

This competent person can be an employee within the business if there is someone suitably qualified or employers can bring in a consultant. As a consultant myself I act as the “competent person” to many of my clients who do not need a full time safety professional or who cannot afford one.

Ask if they are a member of IOSH (if they are not then in my view alarm bells should go off in every employer’s head). Ask them about their specific experience in your sector of business to make sure they are a good fit. Ask them to supply names and contact details of previous companies or organisations that they have worked with, then call them yourself to verify how competent they were. Ask them for evidence of their Professional Indemnity Insurance.

It is a careful examination of what, in your work place, could cause harm to people, so that you can weigh up whether you have taken enough precautions or should do more to prevent injury or ill health.

The aim of a risk assessment is to make sure that no one gets hurt or becomes ill. It is designed to identify hazards before they actually harm anyone enabling management to take appropriate action. Effective risk assessment prevents accidents, injuries and illnesses from happening.

In order to do one the employer has to:
Identify the hazards
Assess the risks
Determine who might be harmed and how badly
Then put in control measures to eliminate, reduce or control in some way those hazards actually harming anyone.
All risk assessments must be written down, communicated and then put into practice. They will form an important part of the Safety Statement.

A hazard is anything that can cause harm e.g. electricity could shock or kill employees unless it is managed safely, chemicals might harm the hands and eyes of those using them if they are not stored, used and disposed of in a safe way, a slippery floor on a wet day can cause employees to slip and fall and an aggressive customer (e.g. in a shop or post office who might try to rob the takings) etc. so they too could be a hazard. Hazards can be physical. chemical

A risk is where employers look at the hazards they have identified and consider the following:

  • How likely is it that this can happen in the workplace?
  • How serious will it be (in terms of degree of injury or ill health)
  • How many people might be exposed to the hazard or be injured by it?

Some risk assessments use a scoring mechanism from one to ten or they use colour coding to identify the really dangerous hazards that are highly likely to happen and that will have major consequences in terms of the level of injury or the number of people affected.

The important point is to identify the main hazards and address them. Some times it is useful to prioritise them from the most serious to the least harmful. However the focus should always be to control or eliminate the most serious ones first and then move down to the less serious.

Having identified a hazard what do you do then? Depending on the nature of the hazard there is a hierarchy of controls that Health & Safety Authority recommends which is (in this order):

  • elimination
  • substitution
  • segregation
  • enclosure
  • guarding
  • limit time exposed
  • limit persons exposed
  • information, training, supervision
  • (LAST RESORT!) personal protective equipment
According to Health & Safety Authority’s own statistics manual handling related injuries continue to account for about one third of all non-fatal injuries reported to them. Lifting, pushing, pulling and putting down loads of various kinds happen in all workplaces. Ideally if all manual handling could be eliminated then that would solve the problem. However this is rarely possible. As with all other activity there needs to be a risk assessment of: what is being lifted, from where to where, by whom, the characteristics of the load (is it big, bulky, heavy, hot, cold, slippery etc.) and the conditions in which the lift is taking place (is it in a freezer, on a building site, is it the lifting of a person in a healthcare situation etc?) Various control measures can be looked at including: arranging for the load to be dropped exactly where it is going to be needed, to save moving it at all, pump it in, gravity feed it in, use trolleys, hand trucks, pallet trucks, forklift trucks, conveyors etc. to move the item. If all of these controls have been exhausted and there is still a risk, then Manual Handling training should be provided by a competent instructor. Training on its own, with no other control measures, may not be enough to eliminate Manual Handling risks.
Slip, trip and fall incidents represent a sizeable proportion of all accidents reported to the Health and Safety Authority every year. Slips can be caused by: poor lighting, uneven floors, slippery surfaces, unsuitable footwear, carrying a large load which blocks the employee’s view of where they are going, spillages etc. Obviously when floors are being cleaned (and made wet) suitable barriers and/or signs should be put in place to keep pedestrians out, also cleaning if possible should be done in non-busy times and floors should not be left really wet etc. Trips can be because of poor housekeeping, cluttered walkways or stairs, uneven floors, unmarked steps up or down etc. Falls can be on the flat or from a height. Even falling from one step up can be serious depending on how the person falls. A risk assessment should be carried out of walkways, corridors, staircases etc. and how they are used to determine if enough has been done to prevent slips, trips and falls.

Within the General Application Regulations 2007 – Part 4: Work at Height it is defined as: work in any place, including a place at, above or below ground level, where a person could be injured if they fell from that place. Access and egress to a place of work can also be work at height. Examples of work activities that are classified as working at height:

  • Working on trestles
  • Working on a flat roof
  • Working on a ladder
  • Working at ground level adjacent to an excavation (near a cellar opening in a bar)
  • Working near or stepping on to a fragile roof light or other materials
  • Working on a kik- steps
  • Working in a vehicle where the person could fall off the back or side of it
  • Working in or over water where the person could fall into the water (lake, reservoir, fast moving river, harbour etc.)

Even standing on a chair in the office to reach a file on a top shelf is technically working at height.
Again a risk assessment needs to be carried out of all the circumstances where employees work at height with a view to eliminating it, controlling it and minimising the risk of falls etc. All such work should be planned, organised and carried out by a competent person. If work is taking place outside then ground conditions, wind, snow, frost etc. are key factors to take into account.
In essence all platforms on which people work must have guard rails to prevent falls. When using Mobile Elevated Work Platforms harnesses may also need to be worn.

Fire poses a significant risk to the safety of employees and others who may be in the workplace. The Health & Safety Authority is interested in how employers are managing fire and emergencies while the Local Authority through the Fire Officer is primarily involved in issuing Fire Certificates and enforcing fire issues.

Again Fire needs to be risk assessed under the following headings:

  • What is the risk of fire?
  • What could cause a fire (use of electricity, build- up of combustibles, use of flammable substances, contractor work creating sparks, flame e.g. welding, other heat sources e.g. deep fat fryers in a kitchen etc.)?
  • What is being done to prevent fires (is rubbish being moved regularly so it does not accumulate, are all electrics checked by a competent electrician, is hot work strictly controlled etc.? ).
  • How will the fire be detected (this refers to smoke detectors, heat detectors, break glass units, fire alarms etc.)?
  • How will the building or site be evacuated?
  • Who will oversee the evacuation – main emergency co-ordinator and/or fire wardens?
  • Who has duties in this regard, have they a procedure to follow and have they had training (are fire drills being carried out)?
  • Are all exits checked regularly to ensure that they will open in the event of a fire?
  • Who maintains the smoke detectors and fire alarm systems?
  • Is there emergency lighting and clear evacuation routes with assembly points?
  • Are there enough exits and are they open when the building is occupied?
  • What fire extinguishers, water hoses and/or fire blankets are in place?
  • How often are they checked and serviced?
  • Have employees been trained how to use them?
  • This is not an exhaustive list of issues to be considered.

Chemicals are used extensively in Irish workplaces and they must be managed to ensure there are no injuries or fires. Again a risk assessment needs to be carried out to determine:

  • What is in use – create a full list of all chemicals?
  • Who is using them in what areas and under what conditions?
  • How hazardous are these substances (are they flammable, toxic, irritant, cancer causing etc.)
  • Are they being stored, dispensed, used and disposed of safely?
  • Have relevant employees been given information about and training in the safe use of chemicals?
  • Have they been provided with relevant personal protective equipment (e.g. gloves, aprons, goggles, breathing apparatus?)
  • If there is a risk of spillage, are there spill kits available and have employees been trained to deal with dangerous spillages?
  • Do we really need them?
  • Is there a safer, less dangerous substitute available?
  • Determine if you are a supplier of chemicals or a downstream user under REACH
  • Know your Downstream User duties
  • Ensure that all substances are registered under REACH or notified to C&L inventory
  • Check if you are using substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) or substances subject to
  • Authorisation and in Annex XIV of REACH
  • Do you have Material Safety Data Sheets on all chemicals so you know their properties and hazards?
  • Are employees being protected from these substances in terms of restricting access, usage, time exposed etc.?
  • Are there arrangements to deal with accidents and injuries from chemicals – (emergency eye wash stations, showers, trained first aiders who know what to do if someone ingests chemicals?)
  • Do you need to carry out Occupational Hygiene measurements to determine the levels of exposure to vapours, dusts etc.?
  • Is health surveillance being made available?
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