for the month of September, 2013

Wirral remodels environmental health

3rd of September 2013

Wirral Council is considering different models for delivering its environmental health service as part of efforts to save between £30m and £40m by 2014.

The council’s cabinet agreed last month to explore ‘alternative service delivery models’ and ‘shared service models’ for technical functions including environmental health, trading standards and building control in order to cut costs over the next year.

Wirral currently spends just over £2m on environmental health and employs 42 environmental health staff.

The business case for the project, which aims to ‘replace the traditional model where council’s deliver most services directly’, claims environmental health is operating in an ‘increasingly competitive market and ‘service provision is duplicated’.

Wirral council leader, Phil Davies, told the Liverpool Echo that the council had to change.

‘We cannot continue to operate in the way we have, we need radically new ways of delivering services, with the proviso that quality is maintained. We can’t rule out any delivery models,’ he said. ‘So we will be looking at keeping services in-house, but also outsourcing to the private sector, or the voluntary or third sectors, to co-operatives, mutuals, or social enterprises.’

He added there would need to be job cuts.

“I think it’s inevitable that we will have to lose a number of posts, but I can’t say at this stage how many.”

Only North Tyneside council has outsourced environmental health service. Barnet council is in the process of outsourcing its environment health service to Capita.


Bolton recycling firm sentenced after worker crushed

4th of September 2013

A Bolton company has been ordered to pay almost £130,000 in fines and costs after a worker suffered serious injuries when he was crushed between two trucks at a recycling plant.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted DS Smith Paper Ltd after the firm failed to observe correct safety procedures around the tipping area at its Severnside site on Turton Street. The company was sentenced at Manchester Crown Court today (11 June 2013).

The 61-year-old worker from Towyn, North Wales, who has asked not to be named, suffered fractured ribs, a fractured right collar bone, a punctured right lung and multiple bruising after being crushed between his own HGV and another vehicle on 26 February 2010.

During a four-day trial at Manchester Crown Court last month, the jury heard the worker had emptied his load of paper and had got out his truck to close its rear doors, using two buttons on the side of the vehicle.

As he did this, another truck reversed into the warehouse through a separate doorway and trapped him between both vehicles.

The court was told that, at the time of the incident, there were no barriers in the tipping shed to separate vehicles entering through different doors, and that a supervisor wasn’t present to indicate whether it was safe for drivers to enter the site.

A HSE investigation found it was common practice for two vehicles to be in the warehouse at any one time, putting drivers at risk when they had to leave their trucks.

DS Smith Paper Ltd also failed to enforce its own system for controlling entry into the tipping shed as there was not always a supervisor present.

It has since introduced new safety procedures, which mean only one HGV is allowed in the warehouse. A new safety area has also been introduced for pedestrians.

DS Smith Paper Ltd, of Turton Street, Bolton, was found guilty of breaching the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 by failing to make sure the site was safe for vehicles and pedestrians. The company was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay £49,822 in prosecution costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector David Norton said:

"A worker suffered serious injuries while working at the Severnside recycling site because DS Smith Paper Ltd failed to safely organise the vehicles in and around the tipping area.

"The risks caused by large vehicles reversing are well known, yet the company regularly allowed two vehicles into the warehouse at once, without any safety barriers in place.

"The driver suffered horrific injuries as a result of this negligence, and this case should serve as a lesson to other companies working with large vehicles to ensure that the correct safety procedures are in place."


FSA e-News June 2013

4th of September 2013

The latest issue of FSA e-News has been published and is available online. The newsletter includes news and updates on some of the Agency’s activities over the past month.

Concrete manufacturer fined after worker's arm pulled into machine

4th of September 2013

An Ayrshire concrete manufacturer has been fined for safety failings after a worker suffered serious injuries to his arm when it became entangled in a machine.

Christopher Fay was using a rolling machine to flatten concrete in a mould when his glove became caught in a metal D-ring connecting the roller to the handle. His arm was drawn into the roller as it turned, breaking it in two places.

Mr Fay needed two plates surgically inserted in his arm and physiotherapy treatment. He no longer has full strength in his right arm leaving him unable to lift heavy loads and has been left with scarring. He has since returned to work with a different company.

Kilmarnock Sheriff Court was told, that around a month before the incident took place at Hillhouse Precast Concrete Ltd in Mains Road, Beith, on 18 January 2010, the machine’s handle was leaking hydraulic fluid and was replaced.

The original handle had a ‘hold to run’ mechanism fitted which prevented workers being exposed to the risk of the machine starting automatically, and therefore unexpectedly, if it was turned on remotely. However, the new switch did not have this safety feature and so was capable of being left in the ‘on’ position. No one had noticed the difference.

On the day of the incident the machine was restarted remotely by an employee who was unable to see Mr Fay and other staff working at the roller. Mr Fay was standing close to the machine and his glove was caught in the machinery.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that Hillhouse Precast Concrete Ltd had failed to recognise that the ‘hold to run’ control switch was a safety feature of the device and failed to maintain it appropriately or replace it with an identical switch.

Hillhouse Precast Concrete Ltd, of Hillhouse Quarry, Troon, Ayrshire, was fined £10,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 5 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.


Council prosecuted after worker falls from cherry picker

4th of September 2013

Bradford Council has admitted serious safety breaches after one of its parks' employees narrowly escaped death when he plunged eleven metres from the cradle of a cherry picker.

He suffered multiple injuries including fractures to his spine, collar bone, pelvis and right leg, plus internal injuries that required surgery. The council employee, just 22 when the incident happened on 27 July 2012, was off work for more than five months. Although he has since returned, he is no longer able to carry out tree work at height.Bradford Magistrates heard the 23-year-old arboricultural worker from Bingley was working at a height of some 35 feet pruning dead branches in Bierley Hall Woods when the cherry picker overturned, sending him crashing to the ground.

The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted Bradford Council after identifying a series of failings involving the planning and preparation of the tree work and the use of the cherry picker.

The court was told two tree workers set up the cherry picker correctly on a compacted path in the woods and one of them was working in the extended cradle among the tree tops. As he rotated the boom arm and cradle anti-clockwise to move from tree to tree, the weight distribution of the machine changed and the cherry picker overturned.

The investigation identified that the council had failed to properly plan and organise the safety aspects of the tree pruning work. No one had realised that the distance between the stabiliser feet was greater than the width of the path. In addition all the council workers who did tree work in off-road locations had never been trained to do the work in soft, sloping or uneven ground. All the training had been done in a depot yard.HSE found that when the weight shifted, one of the vehicle's stabiliser feet had slid off a ground mat and then sunk into the soft ground at the side of the compacted path. The wrong type of ground mats had been provided to the team to put underneath the machine's feet. The unbalanced machine then toppled without warning.

Bradford Council was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £9,623 in costs after admitting breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by failing to ensure the safety of one of its employees while working at height.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector David Welsh said:

"A young man has suffered life-changing injuries as a result of a number of failures by Bradford Council but we could easily have been dealing with a fatal injury considering the distance of this worker's fall.

"The use of a vehicle-mounted cherry picker for work at height needs to be properly planned and organised. The Council failed to assess the risks of the tree pruning work and provided unsuitable mats for the stabiliser feet, which led to an unsafe system of work being in operation.

"A cherry picker is specialist lifting equipment for work at height and the council did not have a lifting plan in place for its general use for tree pruning, despite the dangers of using such lifting equipment being well known.

"Work at height remains one of the most significant causes of death and major injuries among workers. All such work must be carefully planned and workers need the correct equipment for each task and adequate supervision."


Unhealthy workspaces costing firms billions

5th of September 2013

The research by ergonomics specialist Fellowes found that badly set up or poorly equipped workstations result in one in five office workers missing almost three weeks of work a year from health problems such as backache (40%), tense shoulders (37%), eye problems (30%) and depression (17%).

The research revealed that half of the office workers surveyed said they had not had a workstation risk assessment in the last 12 months, despite it being a legal requirement.

It also revealed that half of those surveyed believe their workplace has made them ill and affected their home life, while nearly three-quarters claim they suffer ill-health as a direct result of poorly equipped desks.

In addition to damaging home life, the research found that employees’ well-being is compromised further with a quarter of people stating that their personal interests and activities suffer, while 14% have taken time off sporting activities. 

Louise Shipley of Fellowes said: "Most of us spend a great deal of time at our desks so we need to think harder about the conditions we’re working in – and invest in protecting our health and ultimately, our quality of life.

"Employers have a responsibility to their employees and that includes making sure they can work safely and productively.”

She added: "Investing in the right kind of supportive, ergonomic accessories and workspace assessments should be a part of that process to ensure they have a more engaged and healthy workforce.”

General practitioner and health broadcaster Dr Sarah Jarvis commented: "The impact of the working environment on office workers’ health is all too often overlooked by businesses.

"What is very clear from the research is that the way you work and the equipment you use has a major impact, not just on your workplace health, but on your wider health too.”

Dr Jarvis added: "On a daily basis I see many patients suffering particularly from back pain, and I ask routinely about workplace set-up because I know the consequences of poor posture and spending long periods sitting in the wrong position.”



Protective Gloves Get Used and Abused

5th of September 2013

To William S Halsted we owe a great deal, anesthesia, hospital charts, the hospital resident and last but not least, the rubber glove as we know it today.   While it is said he developed the first gloves to protect the hands of fair Caroline, his wife to be, he was no doubt the first to see some of gloves many challenges.  In both food and healthcare environments gloves can be a double edged sword, both protecting and contaminating, reducing exposures and producing exposures. This blog post will explore the glove risk paradigm in food and healthcare settings.


False Claims and Not


Protective GlovesGloves are personal protective equipment meant to protect workers from exposures to hazardous chemicals or harmful microorganisms associated with patient or raw food.  At the same time they perform the function of  protecting patient or ready-to-eat food from potential pathogens residing on the hands of the wearer.  Whether it be food safety manager or infection control practitioner, neither will object to the  claim that gloves can too easily provide a false sense of security to the wearer. Failure to change gloves at proper frequency in both environments is recognized to be at least as common a problem as lack of hand hygiene (HH).  The two are inexplicably linked and often times considered partners in crime. When worn correctly in healthcare environments gloves have consistently helped reduce hospital associated infection rates.  This despite the fact that in food and healthcare the most commonly used gloves are not sterile but protected for the most part by the reality or claim of  “…only biological contaminates being harmless microbial species”.  Yet to have any benefit they must be worn, and it is amazing how many foodborne illness outbreaks that have occurred where a sick food worker will have claimed to have worn their gloves when we know they probably didn’t even wash their hands. Here as in many other instances, either one of which (HH or glove use) would have prevented the outbreak from occuring. Public health experts have debated claims of glove superiority verses hand hygiene since Halstead's time, but fortunately we have reached a more evolved mental construct that places the two as interdependent components that can together effectively deal with the continuum of microbial exposure and chemical insult.


Cheerful Colors


When gloves are chosen and worn properly they come in handy at significantly reducing the risk of pathogen transmission.  When misused or abused and finger sized fragments end up in food, it is fortunate and planned that they come in so many cheerful colors.  And indeed color coding is a strategy used for food operations to delineate raw food handling from cooked food handling processes and used similarly in healthcare to denote protection against different threats or exposures.  Further in healthcare, color change gloves provide indication of puncture not to protect patient but the wearer.   And lest we think puncture and break is rare, gloves are now made where pieces can be detected by automatic food detection systems that are in all respects colorblind. 


Like soap or sanitizer usage, compliance can be monitored by glove usage figures that will indicate how long workers are wearing gloves and how frequently they are being changed.  This is an important management function as many have observed food workers who are preparing food, pick up debris off the floor, handle money or scratch their head with nary a thought of changing their gloves. The equivalent actions also occur in healthcare, although on a less frequent basis.  And what about washing or sanitizing hands before gloves are put on or after they are taken off.  This is compliance of a different nature where food and healthcare worker (HCW) often miss the mark. With respect to hand hygiene compliance, if it were only so easy in healthcare as in food safety where health department inspectors can tell immediately upon walking into a facility if food workers are in compliance by the gloves they wear.  Talk about a false sense of security, fortunately a good inspector knows also to look in the trash can to see if glove changes are taking place.  Some have estimated that in these food settings when glove use is implemented, hand washing decreases by 50 %.  What about double gloving as done by surgeons, still no substitute for hand washing as most puncture go unnoticed.  Double gloving is rarely used by food workers where dexterity suffers and hands can cramp.  To get the most from a glove whether adorned in cheerful colors or not, fingernails need to be trimmed and rings should be removed to reduce the chance of glove puncture. Ring removal in both food and healthcare environments is always a good idea anyway as increased hand counts are associated with these bangles. They cause difficulties in adequately washing or sanitizing hands and it is always a bad day when you loose rings in food or patient procedure.


Proof of the Pudding


Protective Gloves and Food SafetyEach glove type has its own profile with respect to use range, chemical exposure profile, puncture frequency prior to and during use, comfort level and dermal compatibility.  Reusable gloves of many types are used in food processing plants where fortunately foods are cooked and workers hands need protection from sharp objects or the food handled. These gloves like hands need to be clean, food ready and able to be sanitized.  The negatives regarding glove potential for abuse and innate shortcomings in food environments has been debated for the last 15 years. In studies where workers wore gloves or went bare handed for the same tasks, hands were found to be cleaner.  Likewise it appears that gloves  not only have higher levels of contamination than bare hands but transfer more of this contamination than do hands.  That said, outbreaks attributed to contaminated hands far out numbers outbreaks attributed to contaminated gloves.  The same could be said in healthcare environments where glove use and abuse go hand-in-hand.  Contaminated gloves have been identified as causing a significant number of healthcare associated infection outbreaks yet they are effectively used to the tune of billions of pairs a year protecting patient and HCW alike.  They are especially important in fighting C. difficile associated disease (CDAD). Part of the risk paradigm is that hands are hands and we really care about how dirty they get just as monkeys in the wild wipe their hands off on leaves and tree bark.  But put gloves on workers and expose them to soil insults than all caution is thrown to the wind and contamination limits are pushed.


Glove Juice


And what goes on inside that priestly glove as the hand moves around with its newly minted surrogate skin?  While our palms and finger pads lack sebaceous glands and hair (a good thing), they contain 400 to 500 sweat glands per square centimeter.  Thanks to our gloves, all the moisture created by thousands of sweat glands  is trapped where oxygen levels plumet and skin maceration creates high microbial counts.  The richest microbial flora on the hand is the nail region. Glove occlusion decreases the generation time and increases contamination from what ever was on the hand or under the fingernails before the gloves were donned. Removal of gloves at this stage without effective hand hygiene presents several hazards; 1) moist hands transfer more microbial contamination to surfaces than dry hands, 2) skin fissures can occur as a result of hyperhydration 3) that can be aggravated by allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) instigated by potential food, facility or glove allergen and 4) now that the skin barrier integrity is damaged, ACD triggered, colonization becomes increasingly more probable. 


Breach of Integrity and Re-establishment


Glove changing frequency is important to reduce the risk of  puncture leading to a gusher, where a liquid bridge of microbial contamination can flow from the hands to contact surfaces, food or patient.  Change frequency is going to be determined by contamination build-up, strength limitations of glove type and how they are used.  Factors favoring puncture such as touching sharp surfaces or extended use often cause damage to glove thumb and forefinger tips that can result in measurements of 20,000 bacteria escaping within seconds in what can only be described as a true potpourri.


In leading up to the 2002 introduction of hand sanitizer use in healthcare facilities and less reliance on hand washing, international advisory groups noted skin irritation from prolonged glove use as another factor requiring a paradigm shift.  Just as with over washing, harsh chemical exposure or using water too hot for hands, it was recognized that skin lipid barrier can be completely lost with long bouts of glove use.  Hand washing with mild soap and use of hand lotion or hand sanitizer containing a good emollient package will begin to repair or restore barrier function loss.  When it comes to mitigating contamination risks in food or healthcare venues, gloves can be part of the problem or play a major role in the solution.  Ultimately it is up to management to wisely select the best combination of glove and hand hygiene products or procedures to match the specific challenges encountered.


About Barry Michaels

Barry MichaelsBarry Michaels has over 40 years experience in the field of infectious disease investigation, control and prevention. His research work has involved a wide variety of viral, bacterial and fungal pathogens focused on antimicrobial intervention strategies.


Previously having worked as staff microbiologist for Georgia-Pacific Corp for over 14 years, he is now founder and director of B. Michaels Group Inc. a consultant group active in areas of product safety, product development, regulatory affairs and microbiology related to personal hygiene, surface sanitation and glove use in food, healthcare and various other occupational fields.


Considered the "Guru of Hand Washing" he has been cited widely in the popular press as well as published or participated in hundreds articles, abstracts, book chapters, presentations and forums on the subjects of skin care and infection control. When not working he can be found sailing, fishing or kayaking. Learn more about Barry and connect via Email or on Linkedin.


Ministers to end work experience health & safety confusion

6th of September 2013

t is felt that employers have been hampered in the past by thinking that they have to do special risk assessments for young people, and even having to repeat the same assessment for every young person they give a chance of work experience, even though the circumstances were exactly the same.

The new guidance is said to reduce the burdens placed on schools and local businesses. ‘Sensible questions’ will replace the mountains of paperwork which has resulted in many businesses refusing to offer work experience to young people. It makes clear that it is not the responsibility of schools to check health and safety on work placements, and that companies need do no more than they would do for one of their own employees.

In an open letter to employers, Mark Hoban, Vince Cable, Matthew Hancock, Oliver Letwin and Michael Fallon voiced their commitment to putting an end to this kind of health & safety bureaucracy - building on progress already made by the Red Tape Challenge.

The Health and Safety Executive has also issued revised guidance to employers and the Department for Education have worked with Ofsted to publish guidance on how Ofsted will inspect Health and Safety. In addition the Association of British Insurers is reassuring them that they don’t have to take out special insurance policies to cover students on work experience.

Minister for Employment Mark Hoban said: "We know that work experience gives young people vital insights into the world of work, encourages them to aspire to great things, and helps them to prepare for their future.

Too often in the past, the crazy cornucopia of confusing rules discouraged employers from taking young people on. That’s why we have been working across Government to make sure the rules are clear and easy to understand."

As a result of cross-government action:

The insurance industry has committed to treat work experience students as employees for the purposes of insurance against bodily injury, and confirmed that simply giving work experience opportunities to students will not in itself impact on insurance premiums.

  • HSE has issued guidance providing clarity on employers’ obligations with regard
    • to risk assessments - making it clear that if workplace risk has already been assessed with young people in mind, a business does not need to repeat this for each new student.
    • DfE and Ofsted have published a guide to clarify the health and safety responsibilities for educational establishments organising work experience opportunities.

    Otto Thoresen, director general at the Association of British Insurers, said: "There has been too much confusion for too long in relation to whether work experience students are covered by employers’ liability insurance. As part of the insurance industry’s on-going commitment to help business, we are pleased to provide reassurance to them that they need not buy additional insurance policies when taking on work experience students.

    Judith Hackitt, chair of the Health and Safety Executive, said: "Work experience is an important step in preparing young people for the world of work. Our revised guidance makes it clear - and easy - for employers and work experience organisers to understand what they need to do.

    There is no need for lots of paperwork or an over-cautious approach. Employers who are already managing the risks in their business effectively for employees are unlikely to need to do anything in addition for work experience. Schools and colleges just need to ask a few questions to ascertain that appropriate measures are in place. There is no need to conduct their own risk assessments.

    However, the safety campaigning network Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK), has described the Government press release and HSE's accompanying statement as "inaccurate, misleading and dangerous". -FACK points out that both the DWP Press Release, and the HSE’s statement fail to mention the requirement in Regulation 10 of The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, that employers must provide the young person and the parents of children - those under the normal school leaving age- with comprehensible and relevant information on the risks identified by an assessment, and the preventative and protective measures to be followed.

    Linda Whelan a founder FACK ,member says : "Alongside the open letter to employers, we feel there is a need for an open Ministerial letter to parents and to young people themselves on their health and safety rights, the legal requirements on employers, and where they can go for further information and advice. The DWP Press Release and the HSE statement seem intended to let employers off the hook and may lull parents into a false sense of security they may later regret. Parents need to know that their children are going to be safe at work, that employers are carrying out the legal checks that all parents would assume are being done."