Latest News from BPCA

06 December 2018

Health and safety knowledge is power

Health and safety can strike fear into the most competent of pest control business owners. Risk assessments, policies, and health surveillance can shrink our confidence into a puddle of uncertainty.

We want to give a little bit of history on health and safety in pest management, as well as to understanding the purpose of it. Understanding the 'why’ is the most crucial initial element when building your confidence and considering the health, safety and the welfare of your employees.

The why

This is a very straightforward question; why do organisations need to have good health and safety arrangements?

The answer is *drum roll* to protect everyone from harm - be it physical, psychological or emotional.

The other obvious answer is that it's enshrined into civil and criminal law. 

Health and safety have been around in some shape or form for a very long time. Laws and legislation have existed for some 3000 years BC - we're talking Egyptian times here.

Law is the cement of society and an essential medium for societal change. Take a moment of contemplation and imagine a world without laws or legislation, rules and regulations. If you're like me, then this thought quickly strikes fear and then a founded appreciation of the laws that govern the UK and, in some cases, the world.

Without laws, we would have nowhere to turn if burgled, no justice for physical harm or abuse caused by another, or little hope of conserving our wildlife, environment and ecosystem.

The Health and Safety at Work Act (HASWA) 1974 is no different. HASWA was described as “a bold and far-reaching piece of legislation” by HSE’s first Director General, John Locke. It indeed marked a departure from the framework of prescribed and detailed regulations which was in place at the time.

The Act introduced a new system based on less-prescriptive and more goal-based regulations, supported by guidance and codes of practice. For the first time, employers and employees were to be consulted and engaged in the process of designing a modern health and safety system.

This makes sense. Why have health and safety procedures and practises in place if you are not sharing them with everyone within the organisation?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was formed shortly after 1974 to enforce health and safety law; a duty shared with local authorities.

What you really need to know

Simply, if harm could occur, make sure it doesn’t.

This also includes that when employees are at work, they should be comfortable, safe, free of strain and have access to basic human rights such as water, clean places to eat and toilets (to mention a few). From the moment an employee steps into an office or jumps in their work van, the employee has a responsibility.

Sit back and visualise a whole days work of an employee, in this example a pest control technician, and consider all of the POSSIBLE hazards they might come across or face;

  • In to work van – driving – storage of equipment and pesticides
  • Pest control jobs – chemicals – traps – customers – the public – equipment use – competency in their work
  • Their general welfare – breaks – hours worked – access to facilities such as toilets – workload – stress
  • Loan working – weather – the environment.

All of the above items are areas in which should be considered when assessing hazards, risks and what to do to make sure no harm occurs. That is the objective, simple, yes?

The first step is to break down a day’s work to see what you need to do to keep everyone safe and healthy. Let's add some more detail to our list:

  • In to work van: Carry out pre-checks on the van (all in working order)
  • Driving:  Is the van suitable for the user? Is it comfortable for the distances they are travelling? Are enough rest stops taken?
  • Storage of equipment and pesticides: Are pesticides secure and safe from spillage? Does the vehicle have enough space for storage? Make sure it is not being overfilled? Is there waste storage? Hand cleaning products? Separate storage for PPE?
  • Using chemicals: Suitable PPE? Trained users? COSHH assessments carried out?
  • Customers and the public: Risk can arise from the interactions we have with other people. Consider any potential situations that may involve violence, harassment, and considerations for vulnerable people such as mental health disorders.
  • Equipment uses: Competency in use, maintenance checks on equipment, PAT checks, and safe storage.
  • Welfare: Breaks? Hours worked should be suitable. Access to facilities such as toilets can be tricky for field workers. Workload control to reduce stress.
  • Loan working Risk assessment should be carried out and procedures in place to reduce risks weather – the environment.

What if something goes wrong

Let's take an example of a technician falling from their ladder while trying to access an attic space and fracturing their arm.

First, this would be a reportable injury to the HSE under the RIDDOR legislation (that’s another topic for another day!). Likely, the individual would need to have hospital treatment, time off work and it may also impact their personal life.

There will be the possibility of two routes of worry for the organisation;

  1. A civil claim – If an individual suffers loss (injury/ill health or death) the victim, or their dependents, may sue for damages in the civil courts (this is common law)
  2. A criminal charge – If minimum legal standards are not met then the enforcing authority may prosecute the offender in the criminal courts (this is statute law).

The outcome of either of these will depend upon the evidence submitted to the civil or criminal courts demonstrating how and if the defendant tried to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, the incident from occurring.

For example; were ladder checks carried out? Was the ladder in good condition? Was the user (victim) competent to use the ladder? Was the ladder suitable for use in a commercial setting? Was there a risk assessment? Was the victim aware of this risk assessment?

The consequences of these outcomes will, of course, depend upon the severity of the incident and the seriousness of either negligence (civil) and the breach of law (criminal). Fines and compensation payments will be settled on (if any), and there is also a possibility of imprisonment under criminal law if the breach is of a severe nature.

The table below shows the key differences between civil and criminal law:

Civil Law Criminal Law
Negligence needs to be proven Breach of the H&SAWA
A civil wrong proven A criminal offence
Wrong to an individual Offence against society
Heard in civil court Tried in a criminal court
Determines liability Determines guilt
Loss is necessary Loss not necessary
Seeks compensation for loss (financial) Seeks to punish for breach of law (financial or imprisonment)
Balance of probabilities Guilt proven “beyond all reasonable doubt”
Organisation can be insured for this Insurance will not cover this

The moral responsibility

Finally, let's look at the implication of something going wrong and a person under the organisation's care experiencing an injury. The moral drivers.

What are the implications for that person? It is important that this is understood as understanding this will shine the light on the responsibility that we all have to protect our colleagues, employees and other associated people with the business:

  • Stress of the injury can impact the person
  • Pain caused by the injury
  • Hobbies may be affected
  • Social life can be hindered
  • Career progression can be a delay or even hindered entirely
  • Financial worries, mortgages, dependents, etc.

Summary

Although the management of health and safety in your workplace may seem daunting and a minefield of possibilities, the key thing to remember is that all you have to do is to protect everyone (so far as is reasonably practicable) against injury, loss and ill health.

Examine the work being done and the tools being used. Consider the individual and their competencies. Make sure that everything you are doing is assessed and you are happy that everything and everyone is as safe as possible.

That is the real aim of health and safety and what the authorities ultimately want.

Source: Bulletin

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