Last year Ed Sweeney, ACAS chair, said: The removal of the DRA will raise practical issues for employers in managing the older worker such as succession and workforce planning performance management and ensuring consistency and fairness in their policies and practices. This was an understatement to say the least.

On 13th January ACAS published their Guidance for employers. For our busy client we have summarised the document below. which outlined recommendations which he believed would improve health and safety procedures in workplaces. The reforms are aimed at returning workplaces to ‘common sense safety’.

The report outlined Lord Young’s view that there is alarm amongst business owners of the increase in compensation claims resulting in the implementation of extremely risk averse policies. The aim of these proposals was to eradicate this fear., activities or outcomes
• Development or training needs
• Employer’s future plan
• Aims and aspirations of the employee
• Future performance requirements

We must emphasise that whilst we support the practice of such reviews, our experience is that the quality of such meetings is extremely variable and requires training so that good quality information is obtained and that management do not inadvertently fall into the traps of discriminatory behaviour on the grounds of age or any other of the eight protected characteristics of discrimination.

Whilst most of us welcome the warmer temperatures that we are currently enjoying not everyone copes well with the increase in heat especially when we have to work in it. Employers need to give some consideration to making sure that workers can cope with the heat particularly outdoor workers which is a little more complex than just issuing sun block cream! We should also not forget the needs of those who work in offices, particularly if you do not have air conditioning, again there is more to think about than just making sure people have access to drinking water. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 lay down particular requirements for most aspects of the working environment. Regulation 7 deals specifically with the temperature in indoor workplaces and states that:

‘During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.’

However, the application of the regulation depends on the nature of the workplace, such as a cold store, an office, a warehouse.

The associated Approved Code of Practice explains:

‘The temperature in workrooms should provide reasonable comfort without the need for special clothing. Where such a temperature is impractical because of hot or cold processes, all reasonable steps should be taken to achieve a temperature which is as close as possible to comfortable. ‘Workroom’ means a room where people normally work for more than short periods.

The temperature in workrooms should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius unless much of the work involves severe physical effort in which case the temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius. These temperatures may not, however, ensure reasonable comfort, depending on other factors such as air movement and relative humidity.’

Where the temperature in a workroom would otherwise be uncomfortably high, for example because of hot processes or the design of the building, all reasonable steps should be taken to achieve a reasonably comfortable temperature, for example by:

• insulating hot plants or pipes;
• providing air-cooling plant;
• shading windows; and
• siting workstations away from places subject to radiant heat.

Where a reasonably comfortable temperature cannot be achieved throughout a workroom, local cooling should be provided. In extremely hot weather fans and increased ventilation may be used instead of local cooling.

Where, despite the provision of local cooling, workers are exposed to temperatures which do not give reasonable comfort, suitable protective clothing and rest facilities should be provided. Where practical there should be systems of work (for example, task rotation) to ensure that the length of time for which individual workers are exposed to uncomfortable temperatures is limited.

HSE previously defined thermal comfort in the workplace, as: ‘An acceptable zone of thermal comfort for most people in the UK lies roughly between 13°C (56°F) and 30°C (86°F), with acceptable temperatures for more strenuous work activities concentrated towards the bottom end of the range, and more sedentary activities towards the higher end.’

Therefore are employees beginning to complain that they are feeling too hot (and in the winter too cold)? If they are then the following limits have provisionally been adopted. They are intended as the trigger to indicate that a thermal comfort risk assessment may be necessary, and as such they are not prescriptive. The limits have been set up to take into account differences between premises, types of occupations and the ability to control the environments in those situations.

Air conditioned offices – Are more than 10% of employees complaining of being too hot or too cold?

Naturally ventilated offices – Are more than 15% of employees complaining of being too hot or too cold?

Retail businesses, warehouses, factories and all other indoor environments that may not have air conditioning – Are more than 20% of employees complaining of being too hot or too cold?

If the answer is YES to the above, then you may need to conduct what the HSE call a thermal comfort risk assessment. When conducting a risk assessment:

• Listen to your workers views and concerns. They are experts in their jobs, and may have noticed things that are not immediately obvious. Also speak to your safety representatives.

• Contact industry federations or associations etc, and consider speaking to managers in other organisations that are involved in the same business as your own.

Identify the problems

Is a detailed risk assessment required, or might the problem be solved simply? Simple solutions may include:

• closing windows in air conditioned offices;
• pulling down blinds to prevent solar radiant heat etc;
• providing employees with sufficient control to adapt the environment by adding or removing layers of clothing;
• look – visually inspect the workplace to identify hazards that may impact on employee thermal comfort;
• look for patterns in the absenteeism rates, types of illnesses and their frequency of occurrence, the nature of employee complaints etc.; and
• take particular note of where the employee may work, their job, how experienced they are, whether any illnesses are recurring etc.

Things to look out for include:

• Are there any heat sources in the workplace?
• Are workers exposed to external climatic conditions?
• Are workers wearing PPE?
• Are workers involved in intensive physical activity?

The HSE have produced a free leaflet providing general guidance to Employers on heat stress and one specifically for outdoor workers regarding the risks of being exposed to the hot sun – see attached.

Keeping Cool in a Heat wave briefing sheets are aimed at facilities managers and other building users, but are of general health & safety interest to managers. The briefing sheets offer a series of useful tips to help ensure office staff stay comfortable while in the office during the summer months. The briefings also suggest taking action in key areas, such as reducing internal heat gains and checking the effectiveness of windows, blinds and ventilation. Office staff can also access tips on keeping themselves and their workspaces cool so you may wish to distribute the relevant one out. Both briefing sheets are also attached for your information.

The Government has announced that it will remove the Default Retirement Age (DFA) of 65 permitted by the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006. It proposes to begin phasing out the DRA from April 2011. The proposals are subject to a consultation, which will run until 21 October 2010. The new plans allow for a six-month transition from the existing Regulations, following the announcement in the Budget that the DRA would be phased out from April 2011. Currently employers can force staff to retire at the age of 65 regardless of their circumstances. The key proposals are:

• retirements under the DRA will cease completely on 1 October 2011 and no new notices of intended retirement may be issued after 6 April 2011 .

• retirement dismissals will still be permissible after 1 October 2011, but only if objectively justified.

• transitional arrangements will apply to retirements that have been notified before 6 April 2011 to take effect before 1 October 2011. Retirements notified before 6 April, but intended to take effect after 1 October, will not be valid (unless objectively justified).

• the procedural requirements applicable to a retirement dismissal, i.e. notification letter, meetings to consider and appeals etc and currently set out in Regulations, will be abolished.

The consultation paper recognises that Employers and Employees may want to talk about retirement plans but we simply do not know as yet what will be considered to be ‘objective justification’ for a retirement dismissal. As employers almost certainly will not be able to issue any notification of compulsory retirement to staff under the existing DRA regulations after 6 April 2011, then serious consideration should be given to employees coming up for retirement or who are already over retirement age.

To justify a compulsory retirement age, the employer would have to be able to show that it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim means that:

• what the employer is doing is actually achieving its aim;
• the discriminatory effect should be significantly outweighed by the importance and benefits of the legitimate aim; and
• the employer should have no reasonable alternative to the action that it is taking.

A “legitimate aim” could be:

• economic factors such as the needs of and the efficiency of running a business;
• the health, welfare and safety of the individual (including protection of young people or older workers); or
• the particular training requirements of the job.

The aim of saving money by dismissing older workers (who might be paid more than a younger worker for doing the same job) is certainly not in law a legitimate aim.

Employers will also not be able to rely on generalised i.e. ageist assumptions that lack a solid foundation as sufficient evidence of justification. Most employers currently have a compulsory retirement age of 65 which they have not had to justify up to now and there few cases considering how specific employers can objectively justify retirement. A very recent Court of Appeal case provides employers with some indication of what might constitute objective justification. In a law firm which forced partners to retire, the Court of Appeal said that it could be a legitimate aim to avoid forcing an assessment of a person’s falling off in performance, thus maintaining a confrontation-free workplace. The Employment Appeal Tribunal in the same case had already agreed that two legitimate aims were ensuring that solicitors in the practice had the opportunity to become a partner after a reasonable period and facilitating the workforce planning in the partnership.

Once the consultation phase is over and the Government publishes more detailed plans about exactly how it intends to proceed on this matter we will let you know what we recommend.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSW) include regulations that protect the health and safety of new and expectant mothers who work. This requirement goes beyond those who you know are pregnant to include workers who could become pregnant as well. The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 also provides that, if an employer fails to protect the health and safety of their pregnant workers, such an omission is automatically considered sex discrimination. Risk assessment

Some substances, processes and working conditions may affect human fertility as well as pose a risk to a pregnant worker and/or her unborn child. Therefore, you must think about the health of women of childbearing age, not just those who have told you that they are pregnant.

Many employers unwittingly fall into the trap of waiting until they are informed that an employee is pregnant before arranging for a risk assessment to be undertaken. This may already be too late, since the law requires an assessment of the risks to all workers including those who, in future, could become expectant mothers. This means that any significant risks to unborn children and expectant mothers even at the early stages should be identified. Having said that it is better to be late than not do it at all.

You should also encourage workers – e.g. via your staff handbook – to notify you as soon as possible if they become pregnant. This is so you can identify if any further action is needed. Until your employee has given written notification of her pregnancy you are not obliged to take any further action other than those resulting from the risk assessment for all employees.

As soon as it is known that an employee is pregnant, arrange to meet her to discuss her job duties and working environment and whether any measures need to be taken to protect her health and safety. You might also seek advice from an occupational doctor and/or the employee’s GP regarding any recommendations in respect of the employee’s health and well-being during her pregnancy. You must take all necessary steps to ensure that an employee who is pregnant, is not required to perform any work that could knowingly place her health or safety at risk. Things that might be hazardous to female employees – and pregnant workers in particular – include: long hours. stress, noise, violence from customers, exposure to toxic substances, e.g. lead, pesticides, mercury, radiation and regular manual handling.

In a recent case before the Employment Appeal Tribunal, a Ms O’Neill argued that there was a general obligation to carry out a risk assessment for pregnant workers. However, the (EAT) rejected this approach, and found that the duty to carry out a risk assessment is only triggered where the following pre-conditions are met:

• The employee has notified the employer in writing that she is pregnant
• The work must be of a kind that could involve a risk of harm or danger to the health and safety of the expectant mother or her baby
• The risk must arise from either processes, working conditions or physical, chemical or biological agents in the workplace.

There is no more a general obligation to carry out a risk assessment for a pregnant worker.

The EAT also confirmed that where the duty to carry out a risk assessment arises, there is nothing in the legislation to suggest that the employer is required to meet with the employee to satisfy its obligations. However, the employer is required to inform the employee of the results of the risk assessment, and provide them with comprehensive and relevant information on the risks to their health and safety as identified by the assessment.

This is quite a difficult case which turned on the particular facts but it is difficult for employers to be certain that there is no risk from processes or working conditions.

Therefore, where there is an element of doubt, a sensible employer would carry out a risk assessment and should involve her in the process and continue to review the assessment as her pregnancy progresses to see if any adjustments are necessary.

Delay

It is important to act promptly as the case of Mrs Nnachi demonstrates. She had notified her employer of her pregnancy on 9 May 2005. On 22 May 2005, a risk assessment meeting took place. An employment tribunal was critical of the employer for the delay in carrying out the assessment. The employer explained that the delay was caused by a manager being absent. However, the employer could not explain why another manager could not have carried out the assessment.

The tribunal and then the EAT found that Nnachi, a care worker, was working in conditions which could, by reason of her pregnancy, pose risks to herself and her baby. In particular her work as a care worker posed risks of physical aggression, lifting and carrying, and stressful situations. In that case, there was a finding of sex discrimination against the employer.

Going too far

The case of New Southern Railway Ltd. v Quinn illustrates that when carrying out the necessary risk assessments, it is possible to take this requirement too far.

Ms Quinn successfully applied for the more senior post of duty station manager. Shortly before the end of her trial period, she found she was pregnant. This prompted her employer to undertake a risk assessment. The draft report highlighted a number of risks, but indicated that, with some adjustments, Quinn could continue in the role. However, two weeks later, she was told that, due to health and safety concerns (particularly the perceived risk of assault), she was suspended from her duties, and must return to her former post with a reduced salary. She claimed for detrimental treatment by reason of her pregnancy, and sex discrimination.

The tribunal concluded that Quinn had been removed from her role due to her pregnancy, and not for legitimate health and safety reasons. It found her employer had been patronising and paternalistic, having no regard for the contents of the draft risk assessment and, as a result, was guilty of sex discrimination. The EAT held that the term ‘avoid the risk’ does not mean to eliminate any risks entirely but to reduce them as far as is reasonably possible. Adopting an over-protective or paternalistic approach in circumstances such as these can cause a breach of the law. It is important to carry out proper risk assessments based on facts, not supposition, and taking a common sense approach..

Other Problems

If the risk assessment requires it or you are otherwise made aware of a significant risk you should review whether an employee’s job duties can be altered, or whether she can be transferred to suitable alternative work in order to ensure that she does not perform any work that presents a real risk to her health or safety during pregnancy. Ensure that any alternative work offered to an employee during pregnancy is suitable and appropriate for her to do in the circumstances and is on terms and conditions not substantially less favourable than those of her normal job. If alternative work is not available or would not remove or reduce the risks to the employee, you may have to place her on paid suspension until the commencement of her maternity leave. This is an expensive option so we recommend that you find alternative and reasonable work that she is capable of carrying out.

Rest facilities

The Workplace (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 recommend that facilities be provided for workers who are pregnant to rest and be conveniently situated in relation to sanitary facilities.

Time Off

All pregnant employees, however long or short they have been in employment, are entitled to reasonable time off work for antenatal care. Any time off must be paid at their normal rate of pay. You can ask for evidence of antenatal appointments from the second appointment onwards. Antenatal care may include relaxation or parent craft classes as well as medical examinations, if these are recommended by the doctor. You can ask but not insist that they try to avoid taking time off work when they can reasonably arrange classes or examinations outside working hours.

Nights

The MHSW Regulations also states that where a new or expectant mother works nights and provides a medical certificate from her GP or Midwife which says that working nights will affect the health of the woman, then the employer must be prepared to adjust her working hours or shift pattern on the same terms and conditions and if that is not possible to suspend her from work, on full pay, for as long as necessary.

Summary

In reality there are few jobs that immediately pose a real risk to expectant and new mothers but that is not an excuse to do nothing. As soon as you are informed of her pregnancy undertake with her an agreed risk assessment identifying any temporary changes that may be sensible, particularly later on in her pregnancy, and make sure the risk assessment is documented and the employee is given a copy. If you are unsure please do not hesitate to contact your HR Consultant who will be happy to offer further assistance.

The Government has announced that its new ‘fit note’ system (the ‘Statement of Fitness for Work’) will be up and running from 6 April this year. Fit notes are set to replace sick notes i.e. medical certificates. It appears that fit notes are coming despite much speculation that they would be quietly dropped. The Social Security (Medical Evidence) and the Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) (Amendment) Regulations 2010 are intended to come into force on 6 April 2010 despite concerns that this will not allow time for stakeholders such as employers and doctors to familiarise themselves with the new ‘fit notes’. Doctors will be able to say a person ‘may be fit for some work now’ rather than that they are not ready to resume normal work. The new draft form is attached to this newsletter for your information. Under the new system:

• The statement will contain a short list of frequently recommended changes that could be made to an employee’s work environment or job role to help facilitate a return to work. Where a doctor wishes to suggest something that is not on the list and considers another option is more appropriate, he or she can write in a comments box.

• The doctor must provide general information to support this statement. This could include advice about changes that could be made by the employer in agreement with the employee that would assist a return to work.

• There will no longer be ‘a fit for work’ option as doctors were felt not to have the appropriate knowledge about individuals’ roles and the risks involved to be able to assess this.

• The ‘may be fit for some work’ option that was being considered will be replaced with ‘you may be fit for work taking account of the following advice’……. This acknowledges that it is not the doctor, but the employer, in consultation with their employee, who is best placed to make the decision as to whether they can accommodate any changes to facilitate a return to work.

• The maximum duration a medical statement can be issued for will be reduced from six to three months during the first six months of a health condition.

• If an employer is not able to facilitate a change or an adjustment, a revised statement is not necessary; the existing statement is evidence that an individual has a health condition preventing him or her carrying out the current role.

• The Government intends that specific guidance for individuals, employers and healthcare professionals will be available shortly. There will also be a communications campaign to raise awareness of the changes. At present there is anecdotal evidence that GPs are not fully aware of the Government’s proposals and the policies behind them (namely reducing sickness absence and enabling people with health conditions to return to work as quickly as possible).

• Telephone consultations with GPs and their patients will be acceptable.

• There is no need for the GP to see their patient and sign them back to work at the end of the ‘statement period’ but the GP may request the individual to see him/her again to review their health and fitness.

• GPs will be able to say that they recommend that an Occupational Health Assessment be considered.

A Government evaluation of the new medical statement will be published in 2012/13.

So what difference will it make?

Given that research shows that only one in 20 GPs currently follow government advice on sick leave, with employees often being signed off for far longer than the time recommended, and an enormous disparity between GPs in the amount of time signed off for the same conditions, then any changes are likely to be slow in taking effect. GPs are not trained in occupational health to make an informed assessment of the employee’s work-related capabilities. Employers are not required to follow the GP’s recommendations (subject to any obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act). It is as well to see these as permissive rather than mandatory, i.e. they are not binding.

Employers should take the initiative when it comes to managing sickness absence by having in place detailed sickness policies which clearly set out triggers for action, and for employers to follow those procedures properly.

A policy that promotes dialogue between the employer and employee, making it clear that the employer wants to try to get the employee back to work and giving support including, where appropriate, adjustments such as a phased return, will all help to get your employees to get back to work. Employers should also consider referral for an independent assessment from a specialist doctor or occupational health expert, depending on the illness concerned.

It is likely that a significant proportion of the new notes will be in the ‘may be fit’ category and employers will need to work pro-actively to act on this – to the benefit of both business and employee.

It is not hard to see that the new fit notes could become areas for disagreement between employers and their employees as well as potentially important evidence in disability discrimination cases involving a failure to make reasonable adjustments. This is particularly the case where changes to the employee’s duties or workplace could be made that would help disabled employees return to work sooner.

It is also explicitly stated that where someone wishes to return to work before the end of a period identified in a sick note you do not need to wait until the end of the statement period for them to do so. What is not stated, is that you really ought to do some sort of risk assessment, before you agree to this.

Your consultant will always be pleased to help with anything from minor questions to claims that the employer is discriminating by not doing what the employee, or their GP, is requiring.

The winter cold, vehicles and first aid are the topics for this first safety newsletter of 2010. Winter Weather Risk Management

During the winter months, worsening weather conditions inevitably lead to storm, frost and burst pipes damage to business and increase the likelihood of injury to employees.

The damage is likely to come from three sources:

• Wind
• Frost and Snow – a surprisingly prevalent feature of this winter already
• Burst Pipes

Wind

In the UK we generally do not get the devastating hurricanes which regularly affect areas of the US, however many coastal areas can suffer storms, with winds gusting to over 100 miles an hour.

Protection and Preparation

• Keep track of weather forecasts.
• Periodically inspect roofs and flashing.
• Check vents, skylights, and signs to ensure they are secure.
• Check that windows, doors and their frames are securely fixed to the building.
• Ensure loads are secured during transit.
• Inspect all buildings after a severe storm.

Frost, Snow and Burst Pipes

Freezing conditions regularly lead to flooding from burst pipes. In addition, snow melts combined with fresh rain falls can overwhelm the drainage system and result in local flooding. In very extreme conditions heavy snowfalls can impose significant loads on roof structures although this is thankfully extremely rare in the UK. In addition to direct damage to property from the buildings, accidents and incidents are also more likely during periods of cold weather.

Protection and Preparation

• Plan for safe methods of snow removal. Check all heating units for reliable operation as winter approaches. See that building insulation is in place, windows are not broken and openings are sealed.
• Provide fire hydrants, sprinkler valves and fire brigade sprinkler connections with markers visible above potential snow piles.
• Provide generators as back-up power supplies for critical operations.
• Develop a strategy for protecting water pipes.
• Ensure temperature sensitive materials are adequately stored.
• Store all stock and work in progress off the floor to prevent damage by flooding.
• Clean all roof gutters and down pipes ensuring they are free from obstruction.
• Service heating systems regularly and ensure thermostats/frost-stats are working correctly and set appropriately.
• If portable heaters are required, ensure they are adequately maintained, staff are trained to use them safely and that fire risk assessments are updated to reflect the additional hazard.
• Ensure sprinkler systems are maintained; alternate systems are drained.
• Ensure sprinkler pump houses are adequately heated.
• Drain water pipes in areas likely to freeze. Where this is not possible ensure the pipes are properly lagged.
• Ensure fire hydrant markers are kept clear of snow drifts.
• Inspect your buildings after a period of freezing weather.

For employees who have to work outside or work in unheated buildings, risk assessments must be revised, taking the cold weather into account. Simple controls can be implemented to mitigate the effects of the cold weather.

• Provide warm waterproof clothing where required
• Ensure regular breaks where employees can rest in a warm area.
• Provide regular hot drinks.
• Undertake job rotation, ensuring individual exposure to the cold is limited.

The following checklist may help when determining the required actions.

Building Features

1. Building heating system repairs or annual maintenance scheduled before cold weather?
2. Heating equipment, combustion controls and safety devices tested for proper operation?
3. Heating on a frost setting when the building is unoccupied?
4. Windows and doors in good repair and properly weather-sealed?
5. Gutters, downspouts and roof drains are clear?
6. Roofs visually inspected for water pooling, structural deficiencies, etc?
7. Areas subject to freezing provided with non-freeze type fire extinguishers?
8. Designated individuals authorised to initiate a winter weather alert?
9. Procedure for monitoring snow depth on roofs and snow removal action plan established?
10. List of equipment containing water that is to be drained in the event of building heat failure?
11. List of suppliers for portable boilers and/or heating units developed?
12. Water pipes in unheated areas drained or adequately lagged

Stock

1. Is all stock likely to be damaged by water stored off the floor, on pallets and away from water pipes?
2. Is all temperature sensitive stock stored in a temperature-controlled environment, with suitable monitoring and warning systems?

Vehicles and people

1. No unnecessary journeys planned?
2. Ensure vehicles are serviced, water levels and anti-freeze are adequate.
3. Plan routes to avoid minor roads, which may not have been cleared of snow and ice.
4. Drivers trained and equipped.
5. Where employees are required to drive for work, employers also have a health and safety duty to ensure drivers are allowed extra time to complete journeys and factor in alternative routes – and that they are not pressurised to complete any journeys made dangerously difficult by the weather.

Slips

To reduce the risk of slips on ice, frost or snow, you need to assess the risk and put in a system to manage it.

1. Identify the outdoor areas used by pedestrians most likely to be affected by ice, for example: – building entrances, car parks, pedestrian walkways, shortcuts, sloped areas and areas constantly in the shade or wet.

2. Monitor the temperature, as prevention is key.

3. Put a procedure in place to prevent an icy surface forming and/or keep pedestrians off the slippery surface

a. Use grit or similar, on areas prone to be slippery in frosty, icy conditions.
b. Consider covering walkways e.g. by an arbour high enough for people to walk through, or use an insulating material on smaller areas overnight.
c. Divert pedestrians to less slippery walkways and barrier off existing ones

Vehicles at Work

Workplace transport continues to be a high profile for the HSE due to it being one of the main causation factors accounting for the number of people killed or serious injured at work. The HSE have published a range of very useful and free information sheets covering a range of topics such as barriers, parking, height restrictions, reversing etc. that give some useful tips on working practices that can be adopted. The leaflets are not just relevant to those organisations that are involved in transportation. Even if you provide a car park for your employees and you have some people who are required to drive for work then it is worth looking at the relevant leaflets.

The website link is: http://www.hse.gov.uk/workplacetransport/publications.htm?ebul=hsegen/14-dec-2009&cr=23

First Aid Risk Assessment

The HSE have provided a useful risk assessment tool to help employers to determine the number and type of first-aid personnel for their workplace. They are designed to employers greater flexibility. The legislation remains the same but there are changes to the supporting guidance.

For further details follow the website link, which is:
http://www.hse.gov.uk/firstaid/assessmenttool.htm?ebul=hsegen/14-dec-2009&cr=9

adapted from the HSE website on Vehicles at Work

Recruitment of Drivers

It is worth reminding clients that drivers are not just the typical commercial lorry, van, forklift truck or delivery drivers, that are employed to drive for their living. The following applies to all workers who are employed by you that need to drive in order to carry out job duties. This can therefore typically include sales people, field based engineers, agricultural labourers who work on different fields everyday, managers, or indeed anyone who fairly regularly drives to other locations to attend meetings, exhibitions or even training courses. You do not, however, have to be concerned about driving activities from a worker’s home to their normal work place as this is not classed as working time. When you recruit someone that will need to drive as part of their regular duties, a driver, or, an operator of vehicles such as a lorry or fork lift truck you must make sure that they are:

• are physically and mentally fit to drive or operate machinery;
• are competent to do the work; and
• understand that they have a legal duty in to be fit to drive.

Assessing fitness

You may want to ask an occupational health practitioner for help in assessing an applicant’s physical and mental fitness to drive if most of their work will involve driving and operating vehicles. At A Glance, published by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, gives more detailed guidance on assessing medical fitness to drive and is a very useful resource guide on the subject of driving at work.

Assessing competence: questions to ask

A competent worker is one who has the skills and knowledge to do their job safely. When you are recruiting new drivers and operators, ask yourself:

• What skills and knowledge does the person need?
• How will we assess their competence before they start work?
• What certificates and qualifications do they need for the vehicle they are operating?
• How will we check that these are valid and up-to-date?
• Will the person need additional training?
• What safety signs and signals do they need to know?
• Can they understand and follow instructions for safe working?

Think how you will assess and check these criteria, and do not take shortcuts.

Induction of Drivers

You need to make sure that all of your drivers and operators understand Company Policy and Procedures particularly on:

• use of drugs and alcohol; and
• the penalties for failing to follow instructions and safe working practices.

Health and safety standards

Think about what you need to tell new employees about the job, for example:

• How are the workplace routes laid out?
• Who is authorised to drive, and where?
• How and where should the worker report faults or hazards?
• How should they report accidents and near misses?
• What daily, weekly and monthly checks should they make?
• What particular risks are there in your workplace?
• What can they do to reduce or eliminate these risks?
• Do drivers and operators need personal protective equipment, such as high-visibility clothing, head protection, driver restraints, safety boots and equipment to prevent falls?
• Do they know where protective, safety and first aid equipment is kept, and when and how to use it?
• If English is not their first language, how will you make sure they understand the instructions you give them?
• No one will be knowingly allowed to drive if they are unfit through drink or drugs (prescription, over-the-counter or illegal), and if this happens this will be classed as gross misconduct liable to summary dismissal.

All of this can be clearly stated either within your Employment Handbook as well as in your Safety Policy or in an additional Drivers Policy/Handbook. Make sure your managers are enforcing these requirements, with no exceptions

Initial Training

• Every driver, particularly younger or less experienced drivers, should be instructed to drive and to carry out other work responsibly and carefully.

• By law, employers must give employees adequate training to ensure health and safety:
 when they join the company; and
 when they are exposed to new or increased risks in the workplace.

• Where possible, employers should tailor training to the worker’s individual needs.

Many Employers assume, wrongly, that if a person has a valid driving license this is sufficient. Incorrectly operating a vehicle can and regularly does have fatal consequences and should this happen whilst at work the Employer can be vicariously liable for the actions of the employee, unless it can be demonstrated that every thing possible was done to ensure that the employee drove safely. The most effective way is to offer additional driver training, either run by a competent in-house trainer or an outside external driver assessor/training organisation.

Questions to ask

When you plan training for new drivers and operators, ask yourself:

• What experience do they have of the vehicles they will use?
• What work will they be doing?
• What are the recognised standards and qualifications for driving or operating the vehicle they will use?
• How much training do they need?
• At what level?

The answers can help you decide how much training each worker needs, and at what level.

Drivers often need many more skills than simply controlling a vehicle when it is moving. Some vehicles that you may use in the workplace have specialised attachments, and there are other skills to learn about, for example, loading, unloading, reversing trailers.

Training in safe working practice should also highlight the risks of unsafe working, such as:

• driving too fast;
• turning too sharply; and
• driving on unsuitable ground or slopes.

Training records

Keep training records for each driver. These records should include:

• name;
• training history;
• training needs;
• planned training; and
• details of the vehicles that the person is competent to operate

Refer to these details regularly, and especially when you change any vehicles or ways of working.

You could use or adapt an example provided by the HSE of a driver or operator employee training record.

Refresher Training

Even if drivers operate vehicles every day, the HSE recommends regular refresher training to make sure that your drivers:

• maintain good driving habits;
• learn new skills where appropriate; and
• reassess their abilities.

Let’s face it we all develop bad driving habits, more so if we drive regularly’

Certainly workers may need refresher training if:

• you change the vehicles they use;
• you move sites;
• you change the way they work; or
• they become disabled

When to train

You should consider a gap between training and refresher training of between three to five years, depending on the risks. Some of our clients provide refresher training more often than this, often they are annually assessed as part of the refresher training.

ALL YOU EVER NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT TACKLING WORK RELATED STRESS IN ONE EMAIL!

Stress is still a major cause of sickness absence so we have put together a useful summary of the key issues to be aware of on the subject based on HSE guidance. Can we also remind you that we are here to help with a range of our own attendance management and stress management tools and training courses. Definition

1. HSE defines stress as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’. It arises when they perceive that they can’t cope with those demands.

2. The stress response is natural and not in itself an illness. Its effects are often short-lived and cause no lasting harm. However, it is well established that stress can result in physical and psychological illness when exposure is excessive and prolonged. Work-related stress is not reportable under RIDDOR.

Scale and nature of the problem

3. The increased incidence and prevalence of work-related stress (WRS) over recent years is a real concern. Data given in a HSE report estimated that WRS costs British employers about £410 million to £530million – based on 2001/2002 prices, and society about £3.75 billion per annum – based on 1995-6 prices.

4. WRS, depression or anxiety are the leading causes of working days lost through work-related injury or ill health, with an estimated 12.8 million days a year lost in 2004/05. Figures from the 2004/05 Survey of Self-reported Work-related Illness (SWI04/05), indicate that each case of stress leads to an average of 30.9 days lost.

5. The findings of HSE sponsored research projects have provided important information about the sources of WRS demonstrates the links between psychosocial risk factors and subsequent ill health. The findings that have the most significance are that:

• Factors concerned with work organisation are capable of inducing both psychological and physical ill health in members of the work force.
• Management style has the potential to affect the health of employees. In particular there was clear evidence that social support, particularly from managers to their employees, has a protective effect on the development of future psychiatric disorder, health functioning and spells of sickness absence.
• Interventions are only likely to be effective if applied to management systems and work organisation, rather than at the individual level.
• Many groups of workers, but most often teachers, nurses and managers reported being highly stressed.

Management standards for work-related stress

6. Stress has been designated as an HSE Priority.

7. A key element of the HSE has been the development of the Management Standards for work-related stress (Management Standards / Standards) to provide duty holders with a framework to tackle WRS. The Standards were developed with input from a range of stakeholders including businesses, professional bodies and Trades Unions. They were launched on 3 November 2004 and are designed to help employers and employees work together to gauge stress levels in an organisation and identify locally relevant solutions to manage the risks from WRS.

8. The Standards are based on a risk assessment methodology with three core components:

• An indicator tool (based on a short questionnaire) to give a broad overview of potential organisational issues . This has been designed and validated to specifically measure the six elements of work design which comprise the Management Standards ;
• Consultation with employees to provide a mechanism to check back on the results of the tool and to develop locally relevant interventions to improve working conditions; and,
• Implementation of interventions and subsequent review to evaluate their success.

9. The Management Standards look at six key areas of work design/organisation which if not correctly managed can lead to WRS. These are:-
• Demands [work load (quantity, pace and content), work scheduling (shifts, breaks, uncertain hours), physical environment (violence, noise, thermal comfort, etc)].
• Control [lack of control over work, low autonomy, little decision-making].
• Support [skill shortfall, lack of support from organisation / management / colleagues].
• Role [role conflict, role ambiguity, low perceived status, inappropriate levels of responsibility].
• Relationship [interpersonal conflict and harassment].
• Change [poor or absent strategies for involving staff and for minimising adverse effects of implementation].

10. There is a Standard for each of these six areas. Each Standard comprises of three elements:

• The Stressor (e.g. Demands, Control, Support, Role, Relationship, Change);
• The Standard e.g. for Demands is that ‘employees indicate that they are able to cope with the demands of their jobs; and systems are in place locally to respond to individual concerns’; and,
• What should be happening / states to be achieved which define a desirable set of conditions to work towards, typical of characteristics of an organisation where this stressor is likely to be managed effectively.

The Standards provide a yardstick against which employers can measure their performance and encourage them to strive for continuous improvement.

11. It is important to recognise that organisational culture is likely to be a very significant contributor to the stress profile of an organisation but it pervades all aspects of management and cannot be considered in isolation. Poor culture is characterised by a lack of support for employees, poor communication, lack of commitment to employee well being, and employees not being valued etc.

12. The Standards and supporting guidance material are web-based products and can be accessed at www.hse.gov.uk/stress/standards/index.htm. Reference to further information on the Management Standards and the supporting evidence base can be found at http://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/index.htm. Further Guidance material is listed at Appendix 1.

13. The Standards, indicator tool and guidance, are known collectively as the Management Standards Approach. The Approach helps large organisations meet their legal duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSW Act), and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR).

14. The Management Standards approach is one way that organisations can conduct their risk assessment this but it is not the only way and organisations are free to choose alternative approaches. Such alternative risk assessment approaches should include the following core features:

• Employee consultation and involvement throughout;
• Focus interventions at the organisational, not the individual level; and,
• Based on gap analysis and strive for continuous improvement.

Intervention strategies available to employers

15. Stress researchers have found it convenient to categorise the types of intervention that employers can take to manage WRS as follows:

• Primary interventions – proactive organisational strategies aimed at reducing or eliminating exposure to stressors.
• Secondary interventions – provision of training for employees to enable them to cope more effectively (normally described as ‘stress management’ training).
• Tertiary interventions – employee assistance programmes (EAPs) aimed at helping employees recover from illness (typically by provision of counselling).

These categories align conveniently with familiar health and safety concepts of prevention, control and mitigation.

16. HSE’s policy for tackling WRS is to do so at an organisational level. This is in line with research findings that suggest that where workplace conditions are not managed correctly then this can give rise to perceived WRS across an organisation. Tackling individual experiences of WRS or seeking to increase the resilience of individuals will not tackle the underlying causes. HSE therefore encourages employers to concentrate their efforts on primary interventions that are more likely to have a significant effect in reducing the incidence and prevalence of WRS.

17. However it is accepted that secondary and tertiary interventions have an important part to play in situations where there is little scope to apply further primary interventions and to help identify and manage employees who report that they are having problems before they become ill.

Managing sickness absence and return to work (MSARTW)

18. The majority of long-term sickness absence is due to common health problems such as stress, depression, anxiety and musculoskeletal injuries. Common health problems are best addressed through an approach that considers not only the biological or health issues but also personal, social and work-related barriers that are preventing return to work. HSE has published HSG 249, a generic organisational approach to MSARTW that employers and managers can adapt for their use. Information on this can be found in Appendix 1 or at www.hse.go.uk/sicknessabsence].

19. MSARTW is largely an issue that cannot be enforced under the HSWA (there are legal duties for employers under Employment Rights and Disability Discrimination Acts). HSE’s approach is very much a voluntary one to develop an overarching policy on what constitutes good return to work practices for people suffering from WRS.

20. Making sure organisations record and monitor sickness absence and keep in contact with people off sick are essential actions in managing any instance of sickness absence. Managers may not be confident in keeping in contact with employees off sick and can be helped by training and having access to professional advice as necessary.

21. Once somebody who has been off work due to WRS is ready to return, the Management Standards provide a framework around which to structure return to work interviews to discuss which obstacles could continue to have an adverse effect on the person’s condition and to identify solutions to overcome them. After instances of long-term sickness absence, the Standards can play an important role in return to work plans by ensuring that employees are not subjected to excessive demands and pressures during their planned return.

22. Individual cases of ill health or WRS
Individual cases of ill health or WRS should not be investigated by the HSE or the Local Authority Environmental Health Officers unless the evidence for a breach of health and safety legislation is very clear-cut. A blanket policy of non-investigation would not be appropriate as there will inevitably be a few cases where the circumstances would indicate that further investigation might be appropriate. After considering the circumstances of the complaint, it may be appropriate for inspectors to advise complainants that they may have more success in achieving individual redress if they pursue the issue via other routes, e.g. using industrial relations procedures. Where the substantive issue is pay, pensions, disciplinary matters, racial or sexual matters and other conditions of employment, then other routes are particularly likely to represent the most effective option.

23. The types of issue for which Officers may offer support may be available include:

• Judging the adequacy of risk assessments and risk assessment processes.
• Help overcoming any problems in using and implementing the Management Standards.
• Advice on determining the reasonable practicability of implementing particular control measures.
• Equivalence or adequacy of alternative approaches.
• Confirmation of diagnosis of ill health.

Legal and enforcement

24. Employers have duties under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR) in particular, to assess the risks to health and safety from work activities, and this should include risks of stress-related ill health arising from work activities. Under MHSWR and HSW Act, employers should make appropriate arrangements to address these risks and should take measures to control that risk so far as is reasonably practicable.

25. Enforcement action should only be considered if:

• There is indication of a pattern of stress-related ill health affecting a number of staff in an organization; or,
• There is an indication that a number of staff are experiencing WRS and that this is intense and likely to be prolonged.

and, following advice from HSE;

• the organisation fails to complete a risk assessment; or,
• the risk assessment is inadequate; or,
• the organisation is failing to take reasonable steps to address any issues that are identified in the risk assessment.

Guidance Materials on stress and managing sickness absence

1. HSE has produced some supporting guidance for the Management Standards. It was launched on the HSE website on 3 November 2004 and complements and supplements HSE’s existing guidance. It explains in more detail how organisations might go about using the Management Standards to undertake a risk assessment for WRS.

2. HSG 218 Tackling work related stress: a managers guide to improving and maintaining employee health and well being, is no longer available as a stand alone priced publication but it is still available as part of Real Solutions Real People.

3. Real Solutions, Real People; a managers guide to tackling work related stress ISBN 0 7176 2767 5 is a priced support pack based on a series of case studies of effective interventions. It gives more detailed information on how organisations can develop locally relevant solutions to the stress issues identified by their risk assessment.

4. HSE is currently revising its printed guidance on WRS. The new guidance will not contain any radically different recommendations. It is intended to consolidate the various pieces of guidance issued since 2001 into one user-friendly document. We aim to publish the new guidance in Autumn 2006. Our web-based guidance will also be enhanced to reflect any changes.

Available from HSE books

1. Managing sickness absence and return to work. An employers’ and managers’ guide. HSG 249. ISBN 0 7176 2882 5. Priced.

2. Managing sickness absence and return to work in small businesses. INDG399. ISBN 0 7176 2914 7. Free download.

3. Off work sick and worried about your job? Steps you can take to help your return to work. INDG397. ISBN 0 7176 2915 5. Free download

4. Real Solutions, real people. A managers’ guide to tackling work-related stress. ISBN 0 7176 2767 5. Priced.

5. Tackling stress. The Management Standards approach. INDG 406. ISBN 0 7176 6140 7. Free download

6. Working together to reduce stress at work. A guide for employees. MISC 686. ISBN 0 7176 6122 9 This has been superseded by Working together to reduce stress at work – INDG424 [PDF 107KB]

7. Making the stress Management Standards work. How to apply the Standards in your workplace. MISC 714. ISBN 0 7176 6157 1. Free download ]

There are many myths about the status of new starters by which we are referring to staff with less than 12 months service and therefore much that can go wrong in terms of training, motivation and retention apart from the legal issues we shall be focusing on. Documentation

If you write a letter offering an appointment it is best to keep it brief, welcoming and compatible with other documentation particularly the written statement of particulars of employment (commonly but mistakenly called the contract). It is best to give new starters all their documentation as soon as they start or even earlier. Some employers will forget all about issuing the written statement once the person is on board or will hang on to the end of a probationary period. Apart from saving paper this approach has little to commend it. Not many probationary periods are for less than two months and the law says people must be given their written statement of main terms & conditions of employment within 2 months of starting work. It should be remembered that it is automatically unfair to dismiss an employee regardless of length of service, because they have asked for this statement.

Induction

There is little employment law basis for saying that employers should organise and implement a good induction programme but it does mean that people are likely to be productive sooner and less likely to leave or become otherwise disengaged if they are properly trained and looked after. On the other hand in health & safety legislation there is a real and serious requirement to properly induct people including covering subjects as varied as fire and emergency evacuation, work station ergonomics, manually handling techniques, and how to undertake their jobs safely, often referred to as safe systems of work. It is advisable to make sure that having inducted each new worker you have a record of what training you provided and when.

Probation

Probationary periods have virtually no legal basis whatsoever, other than in contract law. They give an employer a fig leaf to hide behind when they are terminating someone’s employment during or at the end of their probationary period.

One advantage of using a probationary period clause is that the length of notice during that time can be reduced. If you typically have employees on one month’s notice then you may wish to have a probationary term of only one week’s notice. Senior management may usually be on three months notice but during the first six months of probationary service it could be reduced to one month. The advantage of this is that if the person is not working out it is not so expensive to let them go as their notice is shorter during their probation.

There are three good arguments for reviewing employee’s progress on a monthly basis with them. If they are struggling then the issue(s) may be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction if the employee is given guidance and support. It is always a good idea to record brief notes about these reviews and if there are on-going concerns make sure the employee is given a copy of the notes so they fully understand what they need to do to improve. If they are not working out as expected it may be better to end the relationship sooner rather than later. Finally the result should not come as a surprise. If they are doing well then they may need that reassurance; if not then they are much less likely to get emotional or look for some ulterior motive to explain your decision to terminate the contract.

There is another aspect to probationary periods which is often overlooked. It can be argued that proper monitoring and records will reduce legal exposure if the individual tries to claim that their dismissal is really due to discrimination or something other than poor performance. If probation periods are managed well then this is a powerful proposition. Sadly may people do not formally review as they go along, forget about the end of it and then try to catch up or just assume that the employee will know they are ‘permanent’ because they only really invoke the probationary clause when they want to get rid of someone. If you are not going to do it properly it is best not to do it at all. The other counter-argument is that there is at least one court case where an employee won a breach of contract claim because the contractual provision implied they were going to do it properly but did not!

if you do decide to retain probationary periods then make sure that you write in a probationary period of ‘up to’ x months or make very clear provision for termination during the period to avoid a claim that the probationary period of X months is actually a fixed term contract for that time and cannot be broken without compensation for the remainder if terminated earlier.

Finally probationary periods can be extended but you would need to write to the employee prior to the probationary period ending confirming that this is the employer’s intent and the reasons for it. Again using the term ‘up to’ a further 3 months is advisable.

Discipline

Probably the most contentious issue relating to new employees is the extent to which they are to be given the ‘benefit’ of the full disciplinary procedure.

We advise out clients to retain the flexibility to follow the spirit if not the letter of the disciplinary procedure during the first year of employment. This is to avoid getting bogged down in lengthy procedures when employers have the right to dismiss without any risk of an unfair dismissal claim. If the contract allows this flexibility then the risk of a breach of contract claim is substantially reduced.

Dismissal

The 3 step statutory procedure i.e. invite to a meeting giving reasons, hold a meeting to consider and give the right to appeal have conflicting legal status during the first year of employment has been repealed. Nevertheless. we advise our clients to follow this procedure for dismissal with all employees including those with less than a year’s service. Why?

The first reason for doing so is that if the employees often make a claim of discrimination or other prescribed reason for dismissal which has no limits to the compensation payable. The risk of a discrimination claim may appear remote but it is amazing how creative people can be when advised that they cannot bring an unfair dismissal claim. People may try to argue that the real reason for their dismissal is due to Issues of discrimination, having raised a health & safety concern or in some way they attempted to assert their statutory rights. In this way they can now submit a claim as the one year service rule does not apply in these situations.

The second reason is that there is the issue of fairness and natural justice but equally it is possible that holding a meeting/appeal may bring out a good explanation for their performance/conduct and lead to a fairer result. Another way of looking at it is that if a discrimination is being alleged then it is better dealt with or at least better understood at an early stage rather than through the Tribunal process.

It is advisable not to prejudge the outcome of a meeting. Go in with an open mind and present to the employee your concerns and allow them the opportunity to address what you have had to say. Once matters have been exhausted adjourn the meeting to reflect on what was said. If with hindsight what they had to say was fair e.g. they had not been given sufficient training and support then you may decide to extend the probationary period or advise them that they have one or two months to improve. If you are not convinced then inform them of that fact and terminate their employment.

Remember you should always confirm your decision in writing and offer them the right of appeal (see below).

Grievances and Accompaniment

Employees can raise grievances at any time and this right cannot be restricted to employees over one year’s service. It is important to deal with all grievances properly and this will include the right of appeal against the decision to dismiss someone with less that a year’s service.

It is often forgotten that the right to be accompanied at disciplinary or grievance meeting is not dependent on service so make sure that employees are aware of their right to be accompanied at a grievance or disciplinary meeting and never deny then the right to be accompanied by a colleague or accredited Trade Unions official. This is a free standing right.

Close to the edge

Finally a year is 51 weeks in unfair dismissal terms! There is only one thing worse than getting a call about dismissing someone at 53 weeks because the client forgot or miscalculated, and that is a call asking if it is okay to dismiss in the final few days of the year. If an employee is dismissed in the 11th month then employers have to be very careful to ensure that nothing they do could be construed as giving sufficient service to achieve 12 months service. With more senior people on say 3 months notice then care need to be exercised after 9 months. The way to avoid much of this worry is to have robust system for monitoring performance and not letting sub-standard employee get to anywhere near the 12 month mark. A formal review at 9 months should address most issues. If people are not really much good at 9 months then it is unlikely that any extra time will help.

To make sure that the employee does not come close to the year’s service once they have already stacked up nine months service if you decide to terminate then it would be best to do with immediate effect and give them pay in lieu of notice. Please bear in mind that what matters is not when you write the letter of dismissal but when they read it so either tell them in time and confirm or write with sufficient leeway to be sure they get it in time.

Clients are always advised to speak to your HR consultant first should you be considering dispensing with the services of someone with less than 12 months employment for the very reasons we have stated in this newsletter.

Health and Safety Statistics 2008/09

The latest national statistics on work-related illness and injury in Great Britain, produced by the Health and Safety Executive, have just been released.
 Key facts for 2008/09 are:

Ill Health

1.2 million people who worked during the last year were suffering from an illness (long-standing as well as new cases) they believed was caused or made worse by their current or past work.

551,000 of these were new cases.

2,156 people died of Mesothelioma (2007), and thousands more from other occupational cancers and lung diseases.

Injuries

180 workers were killed at work.

104,301 other injuries to employees were reported under RIDDOR.

246,000 reportable injuries occurred, according to the Labour Force Survey (LFS).

Working Days Lost

29.3 million days were lost overall (1.4 days per worker), 24.6 million due to work-related ill health and 4.7 million due to workplace injury.

Health and Safety Targets: progress to 2008/09

Ill health: probably not on track to meet Revitalising target.

Fatal and major injuries: on track to meet Revitalising target.

Days lost per worker: probably on track to meet Revitalising target.

Enforcement

1,245 offences were prosecuted by HSE and ORR.

329 offences were prosecuted by local authorities.

Slips, Trips and Falls

A total of 61 people died and more than 14,000 suffered serious injury as a result of a slip, trip or fall from height in British workplaces last year. As a result the HSE launched the Shattered Lives (an awareness raising) campaign from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to highlight the devastating consequences of slips, trips and falls in the workplace and to encourage employers, in consultation with their employees, to ‘take action’. Marcia Davies, HSE Head of the Injury Reduction Programme said “People often view slips, trips and falls as trivial incidents, even comical but they are no joke to those who suffer major injuries, a lifetime of disability, time off work and in the worst cases death. We want to raise awareness of how these incidents can happen and how they can be easily avoided by taking common sense actions and precautions at no or little cost. If you spot a hazard in your workplace deal with it, don’t assume that somebody else will. Simple measures introduced by businesses can make a positive difference to safety in the workplace.”

Fatalities and serious injuries arising from slips, trips and fall incidents cost British society an estimated £700 million last year.

The campaign is targeted at seven sectors where there is a prevalence of such injuries: food retail, catering and hospitality, food and drink manufacturing, building and plant maintenance, construction, healthcare and education, although the risks can occur in any workplace.

To help businesses take preventive action the HSE launched STEP – an interactive learning package that provides practical guidance to help users tackle slips, trips and falls in their workplace. The tool is free and can be accessed online at www.hse.gov.uk/slips/step/index.htm.

In the ten year period April 1998 to March 2008 nearly 89,000 workers in the food and drink industries suffered an injury reportable to HSE and there were 37 fatal injuries (excluding contractors). The combined injury rate for food and drink industries is among the highest of manufacturing injury rates.. Indeed the overall injury rate is 1.6 times the average for manufacturing industries generally and also 1.6 times that of the construction industry. However injury rates vary considerably between the different food and drink sectors.

Psychosocial Working Conditions in Britain, 2009 Report

This recently published report shows that the survey results from 2004 to 2009 indicate that psychosocial working conditions have not generally changed over this period to any great extent, although Managerial Support and Change show an improvement.

In the 2007 report it appeared that an improvement in population level working conditions may be emerging, however the 2008 and 2009 results do not show a continuation of that trend.

There is no longer a downward trend in the number of employees reporting that their job is very or extremely stressful and little change in the number of employees aware of stress initiatives in their workplace or reporting discussions about stress with their line managers.

The predicted improvement in working conditions as a result of HSE’s roll-out of the Management Standards for work-related stress has not materialised as yet, and the number of workers reporting that their job is highly stressful is no longer steadily decreasing. The lack of impact to date of the Management Standards could reflect the long latency between organisations first implementing the process and benefits being realised. Equally, with so many other economic and social factors affecting worker perceptions of their working conditions, any effect may be masked.

Risk Assessment Information

The HSE website address below will take you to a useful section on risk assessment.

I would particularly recommend looking at the free downloadable example risk assessments to see how risk assessments can be completed. The level of detail now required is not as onerous as previously although the HSE still stress that the higher the risk the more information should be recorded on the risk assessment.

http://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/index.htm?ebul=hsegen/26-oct-2009&cr=7

First Aid at Work Requirements

Attached to this newsletter is a useful question and answer produced by the HSE.

From October 2009 an Appointed Person no longer has to be formally trained although it is recommended that they can attend the newly renamed Emergency First Aid at Work, EFAW, course. The EFAW course is shorter then the full First Aid at Work, FAW course. Anyone attending this EFAW course can be called a First Aider but they are only taught basic emergency first aid techniques so it is not intended that this certificate replaces the fully qualified FAW course. Both training are statutory courses and the requalification requirements remain as before. The other change is that it is recommended that First Aiders attend annual refresher courses run by local training providers.

I would also draw your attention particularly to the checklist for the assessment of first aid needs which is very helpful in determining your first aid requirements.