Police

Police and HSE involvement following a serious workplace accident is now the norm. With the number of corporate manslaughter prosecutions rising, and six-figure fines for breaches of health and safety legislation involving a death now commonplace, the ramifications of a serious incident are becoming ever more acute. The haulage industry is no exception. For example, in January 2013, a company was fined £300,000 after one of its drivers was killed by a runaway truck at its depot in Northamptonshire.

The increasing trend for regulators to prosecute companies (and their directors) places employers in a particularly stressful situation following a serious incident or fatality at work. Time spent planning in advance can make that situation easier to manage. Below are six top tips for managing such a crisis.

1. Make the site safe

One of the first things that must be considered is whether the accident site is safe and whether any remedial action needs to be undertaken to ensure the safety of employees and others.

It is a good idea to record as much detail as you can about the accident before any remedial action is taken. Taking photographs at this point is essential. It is possible that the authorities investigating the incident will direct you to leave the area undisturbed. If this is the case then you should not change a thing and ensure that the area is cordoned off.

Make sure the relevant facts such as witnesses to the incident, measurements, condition of plant, work area, lighting etc. are recorded.

2. Support your employees

It is essential to ensure that any employees involved in or affected by the incident are offered immediate support and advice.

This may include counselling, line management support or legal advice depending upon the individual and their connection with the incident. Even the presence of a director or health and safety advisor can provide an invaluable amount of support to employees.

3. Report the death/incident

As the immediate employer, or the company in control of premises, you have a legal duty to report the death or serious incident. You must make a RIDDOR report to the HSE. This must be done as soon as practicable, which in most circumstances means on the day of the incident. Failure to do so is a breach of health and safety legislation and therefore it is important that you keep a record of the report you make.

4. Control the flow of information

It will help everyone, including the authorities, if clear lines of communication are established with only one senior individual having authority to speak on behalf of your organisation.

Inform all concerned who the appointed person is and explain that all requests from the authorities or other parties must be channelled through that person.

Ensure the relevant contact details of the appointed person are disseminated to all employees on site. Either this person, or another senior person, should also handle any queries received from the press. Dealing with the media can be a minefield and it is important that the correct information or statement is provided to them in a timely manner.

5. Communicate

Communication with the media must be an element of your crisis plan in the face of social media in particular. Having a plan of action for dealing with the media is as important as the operational side of things.

Ensure that you have an external adviser or person within the business who can advise regarding media relations. The first rule is never EVER say “no comment”. To a lay person, no comment means “we are guilty”. Being unavailable to comment means the same thing.

6. Take legal advice

It is more than likely that as a result of a fatality or serious incident, your organisation, and potentially its directors and employees, are now the subject of a criminal investigation. Check your insurance policy as insurers will often pay for you to take legal advice at an early stage.

It is often sensible to conduct an internal investigation into the incident to try to learn lessons for the future. However, you must do so with caution. Any report that you draft following an accident can be seized by the HSE unless the report carries legal professional privilege. Legal professional privilege is a concept which can be used to effectively protect documentation, statements and reports prepared in the aftermath of an incident from disclosure to the Police and the HSE. Do not leave yourself vulnerable by drafting a self-critical report without legal privilege.

F GasRecently, the European Commission published its long-awaited proposal for a full revision of the EU F-Gas regulation (842/2006). As indicated in our earlier communications Harp will keep you posted on the developments in this area. The proposal is very extensive, and it will take some time to conduct a full assessment, but we believe it useful to send you a quick summary of the key changes compared to the existing F-Gas Regulation.

 

Key Elements

The proposal consists of Seven Chapters and Seven annexes

Chapter I – General Provisions (definitions)

Please note that HFOs are not classified as HFCs and only not subject to chapter V (reporting).

Chapter II – Containment – extension to refrigerated transport and tightening of some other provisions

Chapter III – Placing on the Market and Use Control (discussed below)

Chapter IV – Reduction of HFC Consumption (discussed below)

Chapter V – Reporting

Chapter VI – Final Provisions, including penalties

7 Annexes

Use Restrictions

The proposal introduces two GWP ceilings, one of 2500 and one of 150.

  • The use of fluids with GWP > 2500 prohibited for servicing Refrigeration equipment with a charge size > 5 t CO2-eq, starting 2020
  • Pre-charging of Refrigeration, A/C and Heat Pumps prohibited from 1/1/2017 (3 years after entry into force)
  • Hermetically sealed systems exempted

The table below summarises the new use restrictions:

Reduction of HFC Consumption

Products and Equipment 

Date of prohibition

Use of HFC-23 in fire protection systems and fire extinguishers 

     1 January 2015

Domestic refrigerators and freezers with HFCs with GWP of 150 or more 

1 January 2015

Refrigerators and freezers for commercial use (hermetically sealed systems)

1 January 2017 for HFC’s with GWP of 2500 or more; and, 1 January 2020 for HFCs with GWP of 150 or more

Moveable room air-conditioning appliances (hermetically sealed)
with HFCs with GWP of 150 or more 

1 January 2020

As expected, the Commission proposes to reduce the quantity of HFCs that can be placed on the market between 2015 and 2030 by 79%. This will be achieved through systems in which producers and importers who have been reporting the quantities sold in the EU to the Commission under the F-Gas regulation reporting requirement will receive quotas. They will receive a quota equal to 95% of their average sales (in tonnes CO2-eq.) in 2008 – 2011.

The reduction schedule is as follows:

Years 

%

2015 

100%

2016-17 

93%

2018-20 

63%

2021-23 

45%

2024-26 

31%

2027-29 

24%

2030 

21%

 

Other provisions

Products containing F-gas must be properly labelled, indicating the compounds and the quantity (except for insulation foam). At present, no new restrictions are proposed for aerosols and insulation foam. The Commission, however, is empowered to include other products in the use controls list prohibiting the use of fluids with a GWP greater than 150 if it has been established that alternatives to the use of fluorinated greenhouse gases or to the use of specific types of fluorinated greenhouse gases are available, and their use would result in lower overall greenhouse gas emissions.

Next Steps

The Proposal will now be discussed by the European Parliament and the Council (Member States) who must reach agreement on the final version. We expect that both will wish to introduce changes to the proposal, and the legislative process will take a minimum of one year, although we believe that two years is more likely. The formal deliberations will not start until early in 2013, and we intend to follow up on this communication in greater detail before that time. We would also make recommendations for an outreach programme with national authorities and your MEPs.

Legionella

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has revised the Legionnaires’ disease Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) (L8), removing the technical guidance which has previously been published separately online.

 

Highlighting the benefits of the change, Lorraine Medcalf, HSE’s Legionella policy lead, said: “The revised ACOP provides greater clarity for dutyholders on what constitutes legal requirements and what is guidance. Where possible we have simplified terminology.

“The review also enabled us to update technical guidance to incorporate technological advancements and separate it from general guidance on the regulations, making it available on our website”.

The ACOP, which is aimed at dutyholders including employers; those in control of premises; and people with health and safety responsibilities for others, was one of several identified for review and revision; consolidation; or withdrawal, in line with a recommendation by Professor Ragnar Löfstedt in his report ‘Reclaiming health and safety for all’.

The revised publication was subject to consultation and received HSE Board and ministerial approval. It includes information on identifying and assessing sources of risk; preparing a scheme to prevent or control risk; implementing, managing and monitoring precautions; keeping records of precautions; and appointing a competent person with sufficient authority and knowledge of an installation to help take measures needed to comply with the law.

The revised ACOP is available on the HSE website at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/l8.htm

Legal responsibilities to protect workers’ health and safety are not altered by any changes to ACOPs.

DSEAR_100x80 PixelsFor those companies who are still using R22 and have not completed their re-investment plans for alternative plant, a timely reminder that the exemption which allows the use of recycled and reclaimed product for service and maintenance expires on 31st December 2014.  According to the Food Storage and Distribution Federation in 2011, around 75 R22 locations were still registered under their Climate Change Agreement.

Those companies who have continued to use their HCFC plant, using top up reclaimed R22, will have already seen the price of reclaimed R22 double over the last year or so, and it is clear that availability will also diminish over the next twelve months, as more and more refrigeration plants are taken out of use and scrapped. So it is decision time as demand for reclaimed R22 is likely to grow towards the end of 2014..!

At the same time, planning for the future will also need to take account of the F – Gas Regulation review currently progressing through the European Parliament.  The latest news, hot from the Press in Brussels, indicates that there have been a number of compromises achieved in the discussions and negotiations between EU Members of Parliament on the ENVI environment committee, the European Commission, and the wider European Legislature.  Details of the phase down/out programme will be circulated as soon as details of the new Legislation have been confirmed. Even so, it would be very unwise to replace older R22 based equipment with high GWP refrigerants such as R404a.

On top of this, the FSDF says that most refrigeration suppliers already have full order books for the next twelve months, and already insurers are considering the removal of cover from January 2015 for loss of product or service, which might result from losing coolant from an R22 system. So you might check with your insurer now to make sure you remain insured..!

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Warehouse Safety

HB_01_FLT

All things being equal, comparatively few accidents happen in warehouses. Far more problems occur in manufacturing and transporting goods than in their storage – perhaps because the purpose of storage is simply to keep things in one place until they are needed. Nevertheless, every year thousands of warehouse accidents are recorded, ranging from relatively minor through to serious injury.

Where there are risks there are legislation and guidelines, and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published a booklet laying out the major areas to watch. Some of these are technical, and to do with the physical properties and limitations of your warehouse space. There are the checks you might expect: that floors are level and robust, that PPE is used, and fire safety is observed, loading tolerances for using racking systems are met, and so on.

More broadly, there is attention to specific detail around handling – whether manually or mechanically – and best practice when working at height. However, the bulk of the booklet consists of general material around responsible practice and the prevention of avoidable accidents. Full guidelines from the Health and Safety Executive can be downloaded here.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999) require that employers instigate appropriate health and safety arrangements. These do not require that you eliminate all risk – only that you should make every effort to protect your employees, as far as can reasonably be expected.

Common problems

The most common warehouse safety incidents fall into three categories:

1)      Slips, trips and falls

2)      Musculo-skeletal problems related to lifting, pulling, reaching and so on

3)      Handling accidents like falling products and forklift incidents.

Roughly a quarter of serious injuries – including broken bones and other accidents involving overnight hospitalisation – are caused by trips or falls. Falls from a height account for around one in seven major injuries, as does being hit by falling objects. Forklift accidents account for one in ten injuries.

Avoiding injury

The nature of serious incidents means that there are two things that warehouse managers must do:

  • Conduct a risk assessment
  • Carry out training, where required

A large proportion of injuries are completely avoidable and many of the insights you will gain are just common sense – storing heavier containers at lower levels, for example, and ensuring that pallets are stacked appropriately.

What you may not have appreciated is that the worst accidents tend not to involve such obvious examples as trips, falling containers or collisions. For worse injuries (leading to seven-day or more absences from work), the most common cause is problems deriving from manual handling practices.

Almost half of longer absences are caused by these issues. Injuries of the upper body (back, neck, shoulders and arms) are often caused by overexertion, poor posture and lifting technique. Other injuries to the feet, knees and ankles are caused by squatting and kneeling awkwardly.

These comprise a significant proportion of the incidents that require time off work and compensation – demonstrating the need for, and value of, proper training