News
for the month of October, 2012

Finger found in fish from Wash wakeboarder

1st of October 2012

I thought that this was very strange?

CBS News reports a human finger found inside a fish at Idaho’s Priest Lake has been traced to a wakeboarder who lost four fingers in an accident more than two months earlier.
Fisherman Nolan Calvin found the finger while he was cleaning the trout he caught Sept. 11. He put it on ice and called the Bonner County, Idaho, sheriff’s office, the Spokesman-Review newspaper reported.
Detectives were able to get a fingerprint off the severed digit. They matched it to a fingerprint card for Haans Galassi, 31, of Colbert, Washington, and called him Tuesday morning.
The finger was in remarkably good condition at the time of recovery, according to CBS affiliate KREM in Spokane.
Investigators learned that Galassi lost four fingers from his left hand in a June 21 accident on the same lake where the fish was caught.
“The sheriff called me and told me he had a strange story to tell me,” Galassi said Tuesday. “He said that a fisherman was out on Priest Lake, and I pretty much knew exactly what he was going to say at that point.
“I was like: Let me guess, they found my fingers in a fish.”
The fish was caught about eight miles from where Galassi had lost his fingers, the sheriff’s office said.
Galassi had been on a camping trip at the scenic lake when he decided to go wakeboarding. He told the newspaper his hand got caught in a loop in the towline, and he couldn’t pull it out before the line tightened behind the boat that was going to pull him.
When he finally broke free, he didn’t feel much pain. But then he looked at his hand.
“I pulled my hand out of the water and it had pretty much lopped off all four fingers,” he said. “It was a lot of flesh and bone, not a lot of blood.”
He was taken by helicopter to a Spokane hospital.

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UK: National Relays cancelled

3rd of October 2012

E.coli outbreak in Sutton Park forces the English Road Running Association to cancel the National Road Relays
The ERRA National Road Relays on October 13-14 has been cancelled because the intended venue at Sutton Park is at the centre of an E.coli outbreak.
Last weekend’s Midlands Road Relays, which were also set to be hosted at the West Midlands park, were cancelled three days beforehand because organisers did not have time to relocate it after the local council put in place restrictions.
On Tuesday, the English Road Running Association was forced to call off the national event after attempts to secure alternative venues, including Aldershot and Milton Keynes, failed.
Sutton Park has been the venue for the national men’s six-stage and women’s four-stage autumn relays since 1995. Last weekend, it was also due to host the regional event for all age groups as usual.

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E. coli outbreak blamed on cattle

4th of October 2012

EHOs are helping to deal with an outbreak of E. coli O157 at a public park that has left seven people ill, including five children.

Birmingham City Council issued warnings to visitors at Sutton Park after a number of cases emerged over ‘recent weeks’. Of the children made ill, all of whom were under the age of eight, one was hospitalised before being discharged soon after.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) said the outbreak was likely to have originated from cattle faeces after confirming it had identified a common bacteria type.

The council and the HPA have set up warning notices and issued leaflets outlining the risks of E. coli. It has also highlighted the importance of hand washing and increased the number of hand washing facilities.

Birmingham’s head of parks Darren Share said: ‘We are working closely with the HPA to control this outbreak and we have already taken a number of measures.

‘But as the infection can be particularly serious for young children we feel it is appropriate at this stage to warn parents and families of the potential risks. There are signs throughout the park informing visitors of the outbreak and the steps they can take to protect themselves.’

HPA consultant Dr Roger Gajraj said parents with very young children ‘may want to consider’ not visiting the park.

He added: ‘The best protection against E. coli is to always wash your hands, especially after contact with animals, after going to the toilet and immediately before eating. I would also advise cyclists and walkers to wash their tyres, footwear and their hands after visiting Sutton Park as an extra precaution’

Sutton Park is one of the largest urban parks in England and grazing animals are free to roam around along with visitors.

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Occupational health monitoring 'removed'

6th of October 2012

Plans to scrap the requirement for firms to report most cases of occupational illness will leave employees at greater risk, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) occupational health experts have warned.

The HSE is consulting on plans to remove the reporting requirement for cases of occupational disease including certain strain injuries, poisonings, vibration diseases, dermatitis and occupational cancers, dust diseases and asthma.

Under the proposals firms will only have to notify the HSE if there is a case of occupation illness resulting from exposure to a biological agent.

Currently the HSE receives around 1,600 reports of occupational diseases and local authorities in the UK receive around 200 every year through the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR).

The HSE claims RIDDOR occupational disease reporting levels are ‘extremely low’ and says other survey such as Labour Force Survey enjoy ‘greater confidence’.

Mike McDonald from the Prospect union said HSE occupational health inspectors had told him they rely ‘very heavily’ on RIDDOR reports to identify poor performers to target their inspections.

‘Around 90 per cent of the work they do is generated by RIDDOR reports,’ he said. ‘Their ability to maintain standards in occupation health is being removed.’

He said other surveys had an even worse response rate than RIDDOR.

‘If you get caught not recording something under RIDDOR than you are in breach of the law,’ he said. ‘The other mechanisms have no legal weight behind them.’

He added that the HSE should look at more creative ways of improving the response rate such as working with insurance firms who receive detailed health information from businesses.

The HSE was notified of 850 cases of hand arm vibration syndrome, 240 of occupational dermatitis and 60 cases of occupational asthma.

Prospect says HSE now employs only three occupational physicians and 18 occupational health inspectors, down from 60 of each in the early 1990s.

The HSE has five specialist radiation inspectors, falling to four later this year.

The HSE has been subjected to a 25 per cent spending cut, and has been told to reduce proactive inspections by a third.

The number of HSE staff has dropped from 3,702 in April 2010 to 2,889 in June 2012.

The latest HSE statistics show 1.2m people are suffering from a work related illness and over 12,000 deaths are caused by past exposure to chemicals and dusts at work.

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FSA hails Wales food hygiene

6th of October 2012

Statistics released by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) have revealed a rise in the number of food businesses receiving top scores under the Food Hygiene Rating System (FHRS), which was rolled out across all Welsh local authorities two years ago.

More than 83 per cent of businesses had a rating of 3, 4 or 5, compared with around 77 per cent this time last year.

The number of businesses receiving a low rating – 0, 1 or 2 – also fell from 23 per cent in September 2011 to around 17 per cent.

Since October 2010, local authorities have inspected and rated around 20,000 food businesses across Wales and it is anticipated that by the end the year more than 90 per cent of food businesses will have a rating.

Steve Wearne, director of the FSA in Wales, said the findings were ‘encouraging’ and that the FHRS scheme was driving up standards of food hygiene in businesses across Wales.

He added: ‘There is still room for improvement as every business is capable of achieving a rating of 5. Food safety officers will follow up with 0, 1 and 2 rated businesses to help them improve their rating. Importantly as well, consumers now have information to help them make informed choices about where they eat or buy food.

The Welsh Government’s Food Hygiene Rating (Wales) Bill proposes introduction of a mandatory requirement for food business operators to display their rating stickers from late 2013.

Steve Naldrett, Director of Ardan Training Consultancy, says of the proposal to make displaying the grades compulsory, ” It will be a very good incentive for those businesses that are less inclined to have good food safety standards to improve standards. Displaying a poor score is most certainly a disincentive to potential customers.”

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HSE begins Fee for Intervention

10th of October 2012

The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) cost recovery scheme, Fee for Intervention (FFI), has come into force.

As of Monday 1st October, under the Health and Safety (Fees) Regulations 2012, the HSE has a duty to charge employers who break the law for the costs associated with the regulator’s related inspection, investigation and enforcement activities.

FFI will apply if an inspector discovers a material breach of health and safety law that is serious enough to require them to notify the relevant person in writing. Fees will be based on the amount of time the inspector spends identifying the breach, helping the dutyholder to put it right, and investigating and taking enforcement action. Cost recovery will stop at the point HSE’s intervention ends or prosecution proceedings begin (if warranted), and will be charged at £124 per hour.

According to HSE, the businesses that comply with their legal obligations will continue to pay nothing. The regulator also believes that FFI will provide a further incentive for businesses to manage health and safety effectively and to operate within the law, helping to level the playing field between those who comply and those who don’t.

Geoffrey Podger, HSE’s chief executive, said: “The most basic safety mistakes in the workplace can devastate lives and result in real costs to industry. It is right that those who fail to meet their legal obligations should pay HSE’s costs rather than the public purse having to do so.”

However, concerns have been raised since the FFI scheme was first proposed by the government in March 2011.

David Young, head of the health and safety team at law firm Eversheds, said that the health and safety prosecution regime in Scotland – where HSE legal costs cannot be recovered through the courts – could have an impact on investigations of businesses based in Scotland.

He said: “This may cause concern to those companies with interests north of the border, which could find themselves in the position of being investigated but not prosecuted on the basis that fees can be recovered up to the point of commencement of prosecution, but not after.”

Young also echoed widespread concerns that the scheme may damage existing positive relationships between the HSE and dutyholders, especially given the charges that could be involved.

He explained: “From my experience, most recent cases include average HSE inspector rates of around £66 per hour, so this will be a significant increase, particularly as it will be payable without a prosecution.

“For any business to effectively double its charge-out rate to absorb minor sundry items would be impossible, yet that is the very real case that UK business face from 1 October. I imagine that relationships between businesses and some inspectors will become uneasy for a while until the practical application of FFI is clearer.”

A full guide to the Fee for Intervention scheme is available on HSE’s website at: www.hse.gov.uk/fee-for-intervention/index.htm

HSE has also produced information on the most basic of safety mistakes in the workplace, which is available to view at: www.hse.gov.uk/fee-for-intervention/basic-safety-mistakes/index.htm

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E. coli hits petting farm

10th of October 2012

EHOs at Powys County Council are investigating an E. coli O157 outbreak at a Wales petting farm, in collaboration with Public Health Wales and the Health Protection Agency (HPA).

Two children were made ill following a visit to the Cantref Adventure Farm in Brecon. Tests revealed they were infected with the same type of bacteria. Two family members of one of the children have also been infected.

Environmental health departments in Kent and Ceredigion, where the affected families live, are also helping with the investigation.

Dr Mac Walapu, consultant in communicable disease control for Public Health Wales, said: ‘Both children had visited Cantref Adventure Farm in the days before their illness and we are focusing our investigations on the farm, whose owners have co-operated fully.’

A statement on the farm’s website read: ‘The local environmental health department are investigating the source of an E. coli case back in August.

‘As a precautionary measure we have been asked to suspend all animal contact at the farm until further notice.’

Last year an independent investigation led by Professor George Griffin made a number of recommendations to minimise the risk at petting farms after 94 people contracted E. coli at the Godstone petting farm in 2009.

An HPA report also warned cuts to government department budgets would ‘inevitably impact’ on the ability of agencies to implement these recommendations.

The Wales investigation comes hot on the heels of an E. coli outbreak at a Birmingham public park in which cattle are free to roam. Eight people are known to have become ill.

The HPA and Birmingham City Council have issued warnings and advice notices.

Dr Roger Gajraj, a consultant with the Health Protection Unit, said: ‘We cannot ban children from the park but for the time being to minimise the risk of infection we are asking parents to take them to other parks in the local area.’

Suki Chhokar, a partner and expert in illness outbreaks at lawyers Irwin Mitchell, said: ‘The developments at Sutton Park are hugely worrying and the immediate priority must be to ensure that no one else suffers as a result of these problems.

‘The steps taken by both the HPA and council are a positive step forward and it is vital, once the area is declared safe, that a full investigation is carried out to determine what happened in this outbreak and how lessons can be learned to prevent further problems in the future.’

In July Rossendale Borough Council prosecuted owner of the Animal Quackers petting farm for ignoring the risks from E. coli. According to the council he had ‘made no attempts to either assess or reduce the risk of infection; This was in spite of advice and support from the local authority’.

The owner pleaded guilty to four offences of breaching health legislation at Reedley magistrates court. He was given five-month custodial sentence suspended for two years, along with a supervision order and 240 hours community service.

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Warning on liquid nitrogen in cocktails

14th of October 2012

Liquid nitrogen is a chemical that can be used to chill and freeze food. Although it is not a toxic substance, its extreme cold temperature makes it unsafe for people to drink and eat because the human body is unable to cope with such a cold internal temperature.

The FSA’s Head of Incident Management, Colin Houston, said: ‘There are safety and handling guidelines around the use of liquid nitrogen, especially in relation to food. It is the business owner’s responsibility to make sure that their staff have been trained and are aware of the potential risks of using liquid nitrogen. They also have to have appropriate safety measures in place to protect both their staff and consumers.

‘The FSA will be making local enforcement officers aware of the practice of using liquid nitrogen in the use of cocktails and it will be something officers can incorporate as part of their inspection regime.

‘We’re also working with other departments and agencies to investigate the issue and whether we need to take any further action.’

Food manufacturers, retailers and businesses in the UK have a legal obligation to make sure that any and all food they are serving to the public is fit for human consumption.

Source

EHOs back more safety inspections

16th of October 2012

An EHN poll has revealed the overwhelming majority of online readers are in favour of councils carrying out more health and safety inspections.

Around 79 per cent agreed there should be more inspections compared with just 12 per cent who disagreed. Eight per cent said they were unsure.

The coalition government has dramatically cut back on inspections since coming into power two years ago. This has led to concerns among many EHPs that both employees and the wider general public will be put at greater risk of ill-health and disease.

CIEH head of policy David Kidney said: ‘These poll findings demonstrate the depth of concern that genuine risks to public health will be missed because of the virtual death of proactive inspections.

‘We will re-double our efforts to convince ministers that far from being a burden on businesses, risk-based and proportionate regulation is good for public protection and good for all businesses who want to be law-abiding, productive and caring about their good name and reputation.’

Hilda Palmer, co-ordinator of the Greater Manchester Hazards Centre, told EHN proactive inspections were essential to check that employers are complying with the law.

‘As the experience of EHOs and much evidence shows, we cannot just trust employers to do the right thing,’ she added. ‘Workplace health and safety is also public health and safety, as the devastating legionella outbreaks this summer showed.

‘They have been linked to the ban on proactive inspections and employers failing to control the risks as required by law, in those falsely classified “low-risk”.

‘Proactive inspections are necessary to maintain a credible threat of enforcement, to keep employers legal and workers and the public safer. But also, contrary to the government’s lie that they are a “burden on business”, studies have shown they also are good for business.’

In response to a recent EHN story that the government was to introduce a statutory code preventing councils from carrying out pro-active inspections of ‘low-risk’ businesses, one reader commented: ‘I knew well in advance of it happening that inspections would fall dramatically, but never dreamed they would go so far (and so visibly too) as to completely strangle the only protection most workers have.’

Figures collated by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy show that the total number of general health and safety visits to premises made by councils fell by 15 per cent between 2010 and 2011. In Scotland visits fell by 22 per cent.

An EHN investigation also revealed 50 per cent of councils had reduced the number of pro-active legionella risk inspections for cooling towers and other potentially hazardous water systems within the past five years.

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has been lobbying at the recent Labour Party conference.

IOSH said it was worried that government ministers were ‘going too far, too fast’ with cuts to health and safety regulations.

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Illness outbreak closes West Yorkshire primary school

16th of October 2012

A primary school in West Yorkshire has been closed following an outbreak of a stomach bug.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) said pupils and staff at Cross Lane Primary School in Elland had been affected by the Shigella bacteria, which can cause diarrhoea and vomiting.
The HPA said that nine cases had been confirmed and more than 50 people had displayed symptoms over the last three weeks.

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Slight fall in workplace injuries and ill-health

20th of October 2012

Workplace ill-health and injury fell slightly in a number of key areas last year, according to new figures published by the Heath and Safety Executive (HSE).

The statistics show that in Britain between April 2011 and March 2012, 22,433 major injuries such as amputations, fractures and burns to employees were reported compared with 24,944 in 2010/11. The average for the past five years is 27,170.

88,731 other injuries serious enough to keep people off work for four or more days were also reported – a rate of 355.5 injuries per 100,000 employees – down from 91,742 the previous year. The average for the past five years is 103,627.

An estimated 1.1 million people said they were suffering from an illness caused or made worse by their work, down from 1.2 million in 2010/11. Of these, 452,000 were new illnesses occurring during 2011/12, compared with an average 554,000 new cases each year for the past five years.

A total of 173 workers were fatally injured in 2011/12 – slightly down from 175 the previous year. The average for the past five years is 196 worker deaths per year.

Last year also saw a significant fall in the number of enforcement notices issued. The total of 14,525 notices issued by HSE and local authorities in 2011/12 represents a 21-per-cent fall on the total of 18,308 issued the previous year.

Chair of HSE Judith Hackitt said: “Any reduction in the number of people being injured or made unwell by their jobs should be welcomed. Given the challenging economic conditions which many sectors have faced in recent years it is particularly encouraging to see continued reductions in levels of injury and ill health.

“Britain has earned the reputation of being one of the safest places in Europe to work, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. We need to ensure that we all focus on managing the real risks which lead to serious workplace harm.”

There has also been little change in the industries in which workers are most likely to be injured or made unwell by their jobs – with construction (171.8 major injuries per 100,000 employees), agriculture (241.0 major injuries per 100,000 employees) and waste and recycling (397.6 major injuries per 100,000 employees) among the higher risk sectors.

The toll of injury and ill-health resulted in 27 million working days being lost, an average of 16.8 days per case, with 22.7 million days lost to ill-health and 4.3 million days lost to injuries. These figures are up slightly on 2010/11 when 26.4million working days were lost. Workplace injuries and ill-health (excluding work related cancer) cost society an estimated £13.4billion in 2010/11.

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