Health and safety has recently been high on the political agenda, generating some interesting debate along with the usual negative comments about ‘elf and safety’. In March 2011, the government appointed Professor Ragnar Löfstedt to chair an independent review of health and safety legislation to make proposals for simplifying it. The review was to consider the opportunities there may be for reducing the regulatory burden on UK businesses while maintaining the progress made in improving health and safety outcomes. The review and the government’s response to it were delivered on 28th November 2011. As the UK’s leading safety company, Arco welcomed the opportunity to raise the debate about perceptions of risk in the workplace and to encourage individuals to consider their actions and how they may affect others. We hope too that the lifting of the perceived ‘burden’ of health and safety legislation may put an end to the negative headlines and silly stories.
The key recommendations of the report call for the consolidation and simplification of the regulatory framework, enabling small businesses and the self-employed in low risk sectors in particular, to be free of unnecessary regulation. Enforcement activity will be redirected towards businesses where there is the greatest risk of injury or ill health and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will be asked to make information about the duties imposed on businesses clearer and more accessible in order to help business owners and health and safety managers understand their duties with respect to current regulations. The review also recommends the streamlining and simplifying of regulations and Approved Codes of Practice in order to bring ease and clarity to the regulatory landscape, rather than to cut costs or weaken the protection for workers.
What we mustn’t forget is that the latest statistics show that in the UK last year 171 people were killed at work, with over 115,000 reported injuries in the same period (1). In the Utilities and Other Extractives sector alone there were three deaths and 244 major injuries reported (2). As well as the significant cost to businesses in lost working days, these statistics also represent families bereaved through the loss of a loved one or put in difficult circumstances through loss of income. Whilst these statistics are the lowest rate of fatal injury in all the Eurostat countries, we must remain vigilant. Health and safety management needs to remain at the top of the agenda and be at the forefront of our minds.
At Arco we will continue to help guide our customers through any regulatory changes as well as provide them with the most innovative products in order to keep them safe at work. As the nature of our customers’ jobs change, we strive to be at the leading edge of design and technology in order to provide safety solutions for these changing environments. In the utility sector in particular, advances in energy sources and supply have given rise to changes in working practices. Take wind renewable energy as an example, we’ve introduced a series of new products aimed at protecting workers engaged in the installation and maintenance of offshore wind farms with waterproof, cut resistant gloves, specialist fall-arrest harnesses, head protection and SOLAS approved life jackets with GPS signalling.
Working closely with our vendors, who are among the world’s leading brands, we are in the process of developing some new products specifically for the utility sector and user trials are currently underway with a new IDRA helmet providing electric arc head protection and a range of linesmans boots that provide ultimate protection as well as comfort for the wearer. We also supply a number of leading energy companies with flame retardant, anti-static clothing from coveralls to jackets and boilersuits for use in the offshore oil and gas industry, one of the most demanding industrial sectors. These garments provide not only high levels of protection but are also comfortable for the wearer, improving wearer acceptance.
One of the most deadly and least understood hazards of electricity in our age is the risk of electric arc flash or electrical flashover with around 1000 electrical accidents at work each year and as many as 25 (2) people dying from their injuries. The outcome of an arc flash can be disastrous and whilst legislation requires businesses to perform risk assessments for all work activities, this is often overlooked because most people are unsure how to assess and manage this hazard effectively. By wearing the correct protective clothing, the wearer can potentially dramatically reduce the risk of serious injury. Arco has introduced a single and two-layer range of garments to protect workers from arc flash. Again, these garments provide excellent levels of protection without compromising on comfort.
All businesses whatever the size or the nature of their work should be striving to achieve a positive health and safety culture, where safe and healthy working becomes second nature to everyone. One of the ways to achieve this is through the development of an appropriate training programme. In the first instance, any organisation needs to identify the skills and knowledge needed for people to do their job in a safe and healthy way, comparing these against people’s current skills and knowledge and identifying the gaps.
Through ARC Safety Services, Arco offers a suite of highly regarded training products including IOSH and NEBOSH accredited courses delivered by a team of highly qualified consultants, most registered on the HSE’s Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register (OSHCR). The offering includes health and environmental support services using a mix of online interactive resources, face to face interventions, telephone and online support, as well as software solutions for risk assessment, accident / incident reporting and investigation, CoSHH assessment, auditing and delegate management that will enable businesses to provide first class health and safety management programmes within their own businesses.
The government will not be carrying forward all of the recommendations of the Löfstedt review to their full extent. However in some areas, such as the simplification of the regulatory architecture, it has vowed to go beyond Löfstedt’s recommendations. Arco recognises that with commercial pressures on businesses of all sizes to do more with less, there is an even greater need for a more proactive approach to health and safety in the workplace – one which offers simple, practical guidance on safe working practices and conformity to legislation and the company is perfectly positioned to help its customers achieve this.
2 HSE Electrical Safety at Work http://www.hse.gov.uk/electricity/index.htm
Bryan Lawrie is Arco’s sales director. Arco is the UK’s leading safety company, distributing quality products and training and providing expert advice helping to shape the safety world and make work a safer place. Founded in 1884 and with a heritage spanning four generations, Arco integrates traditional family values with pioneering innovation to offer a world-class range of over 22,000 quality assured, branded and own brand products.
For more information, visit www.arco.co.uk