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Who doesn’t love a good snowball fight? It’s one of the more widely accepted positives of the usually maligned snowfalls that hit our shores each winter, especially for children. However, one school has taken steps to put an end to this fun pastime, by banning students from even touching snow for “health and safety reasons”.

Jo Richardson Community School in east London has introduced the new rule, citing health and safety reasons and the decision has hit the headlines nationally.

Headteacher Ges Smith appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain and defended the introduction of the rule.

Mr Smith said: “The problem is it only takes one student, one piece of grit, one stone in a snowball in an eye with an injury and we change our view.”

“The rules are don’t touch the snow. If you don’t touch the snow you’re not going to throw it.”

He went on to claim it also makes the children wet and cold: “If the last thing you do before you go into school and into the classroom is have a snowball in your face, you’re not ready to learn.”

Presenter Piers Morgan, questioned the decision as well as the claims that it is a health and safety issue and asked whether the headteacher thought students at the school would be “prepared for a normal life if they were being wrapped in cotton wool.”

Mr Smith finished by claiming: “We’ve got a duty of care and that duty of care has got to extend.”

Snow has been covering parts of the country since the beginning of the week and the Met Office has upgraded its weather warnings for snow for later this week, putting more parts of the country under a ‘danger to life’ warning.

While Jo Richardson Community School has decided to use health and safety as a reason to ban snow related fun, the first annual HCS Safety snowball fight will commence the second the snowfall reaches 3-4 inches.

1. British health and safety law is written to be reasonable. Most laws use a risk based approach with proportionality, founded on risk assessment, as its key principal.

2. The focus on health, the long-term illness and disease caused by work, is growing. Whilst the effects may be gradual, they are often irreversible. Management of health risks is a significant focus for the HSE and should be for businesses too. Businesses who get ahead of health risk management now will save their staff and themselves significant problems in the future.

3. Often the best resource a company has in health and safety is its own employees. The people who work for you know their job intimately, they do it every single day. Their involvement and knowledge of the work and the hazards it presents is vital when trying to protect them and you.

Feel free to have a look at the variety of Health & Safety services HCS has to offer businesses of all shapes and sizes https://www.hcssafety.co.uk/member-services/

by Andy Bishop, Health and Safety Consultant

It’s time’, I announce after dinner, the mutterings have gone on long enough, the constant question now gets an answer.   I prepare the equipment in silent anticipation.  The rest of the gang start pacing, the air of nervous excitement lies heavy in the air, ‘It’s time’ they say to each other with big grins across their faces.

As I clambered through the hatch and located the treasure, I allowed a smile to break across my face.  I blew the dust from the top and prepare to heave the weighty chest from its resting place. It’s been a while since this treasure has seen the light of day, its long-forgotten value has been discussed over every meal recently.  Everyone start to get impatient and the mutterings get louder and more frequent as the days march on and the evenings draw in until I can stand it no longer.

With a final effort the treasure breaks free from its hide and is passed eagerly to the hands stretched above the beaming faces below.  They run off with it ready to open the dusty container and get their hands and eyes on the treasure as colourful bounty spills freely, released at last from its restraints.

I suspect most families go through a similar ritual around this time of year as they retrieve their winter garments from their summer storage in order to ensure that we are all as warm as we can be as the mercury starts to dip. But do we change the way our business operates?

As a business we not only have a moral duty to keep our employees, contractors and visitors warm we also have a legal duty to do what is reasonably practicable to protect the health of our employees whilst at work. It seems strange that whilst we have a minimum temperature of at least 16°Celcius indoors (which can drop to 13°C if the work is arduous) that we don’t have one for outdoor work.  In general, an employer is obliged to give access to adequate warm clothing, suitable for the work activities, regular hot drinks and frequent rest breaks to allow workers to warm up.

It’s no coincidence that as the temperature drops, the incidence of heart attacks increases as our blood is concentrated on the core resulting in an increase in blood pressure and more strain on the heart. If a person’s normal core body temperature of 37°c drops by a mere 2°c hypothermia can set in which prevents the bodies vital organs from working correctly and can ultimately lead to death.

The spread of viral infections like colds and flu increases as does ‘the winter vomiting bug’ norovirus, of course these all exist all year round, but the combination of closed windows and the heating being increased added to us spending more time indoors in close proximity to each other lead to rapid spread.  Viral infections can run laps around the workforce as immune systems are overwhelmed and can’t produce enough of the all-important white blood cells as the blood flow is concentrated around the core.

Control measures for one worker may not fit another, so it is vitally important that health surveillance is completed regularly in order to identify the potential hazards mentioned above.

So, what is the link between brass monkeys and this blog? A ‘brass monkey’ was the name given to a triangular or square tray formed from brass on which to stack one’s cannonballs. As the mercury plummets, the soft metal contracts and the cannon balls are spilled across the decks, therefore, ‘freezing the balls of a brass monkey’.

For information on how we can help you combat the cold with effective control measures from the top, take a look at our IOSH Managing Safely course.

If you run your own business you will know that it is a world of many ups and downs. The hard parts are when the work starts to take up the weekends and evenings and emails come on holiday with us, causing us to miss time with our family or friends. Or when we might be awake into the small hours worrying about just how we are going to solve that latest problem, and never quite switching off.

But the good times do make up for it. There is such a feeling of satisfaction when things go well. When your company pulls off a great project that you can be truly proud of, when an employee realises their full potential and when we reach those oh so important financial milestones. The thrill of this is deeply addictive. How many of us would ever want to say good bye to that?

A story has appeared just this week about an individual who has been banned from being a company director. Why? Because he put people at risk and tried to get around the consequences. Michael Allen liquidated his company (Allen and Hunt Construction Engineers) and set up a new business to avoid paying a fine after one of his workers was seriously injured. He has been banned from promoting, forming or managing a company for six years without the permission of the court.

This reckless disregard for others is fortunately rare, but there is, on a far larger scale, a worrying lack of knowledge and understanding out there. Regularly, we meet Directors who don’t really know what their duty of care entails, may not understand what negligence actually means and are largely in the dark about how to go about solving their problems in a structured way. We like the ones who are brave enough to admit it!

The positive side of this issue is that it is relatively simple to fix. Short, straightforward training is available to help – and it’s aimed at a level that will suit those who are approaching this area for the first time. Its heart-warming to see Directors face up to the gaps in their knowledge and enjoy the understanding that comes with attending either IOSH Leading Safely or the CITB Director’s Role course just for one day. Ignorance is no defence, so it’s better to face the gaps in our knowledge and start filling them as soon as possible.

The CITB have recently changed their rules regarding their levy scheme- and users are being caught out.

Those who have signed up for, and are part of CITB’s grant scheme, can now only claim money back from training courses held at a training centre that has been awarded an ATO (CITB Approved Training Organisation).

HCS Safety is pleased to announce that we are now an ATO, proving that our teaching reaches an industry recognised standard, as well maintaining our ability to help you claim back as part of the CITB Grant Scheme.

The CITB grants scheme provides grants for employers in the construction industry to train their workers.

You can claim grants if you are an employer registered with CITB and you send a Levy Return by 31 December each year. Small employers that don’t need to pay the levy can still claim grants.

CITB grants are for training and qualifications completed in the grant scheme year (1 April of this year to 31 March of the next year).

You claim grants after your employee finishes their training or gains their qualification. If a course runs over more than one grant scheme year, you make separate claims for each year.

CITB has recently changed the way it supports training for the construction industry, including the introduction of ATOs.

CITB describes an ATO as ‘an organisation which provides construction training courses and qualifications to a defined and industry agreed training standard.’

If you book and complete a CITB course through a company that is not a registered ATO, you will not be able to claim anything back.

For more information or to ensure your places on any of our CITB courses, please contact our training team on 02380 894695.

Andy Bishop, Health and Safety Consultant

For those of you that know me, you will understand that I suffer with a degrading and sometimes embarrassing condition – I am a Southampton FC fan. I follow the team passionately and attend as many games as I can (I didn’t renew my season ticket, this was a shrewd investment on my part), I was there when we scored two goals in the same game at West Brom last season. I am an eternal optimist and every week I put my money where my mouth is and place a bet on the mighty reds to win (gamble responsibly, when the fun stops, Stop! etc). When the odds are around 10/1 I see that as a worthy bet with a good chance of getting back ten times as much money as I outlay.

Now, if I were to tell you of simple change to make in your business that would result in a similar return of £9.98 return for every £1 invested, I reckon I’d have your attention. Its all to do with the mental health and wellbeing of our staff.
Currently in the UK we spend approx. £33 – 42Billion per annum with half of this cost as a result of ‘presenteeism’ – when an individual is less productive due to poor mental health and the additional costs that sickness absence and staff turnover create.

The Government spend between £24-£27Billion in providing benefits, costs to the NHS and the subsequent drop in tax revenue as a result of a shrinking workforce and we all know how crucial that kind of money is when it comes to the UK!

More than both those combined is the cost to the economy which is placed at between £74-£99Billion a year!
In my opinion, the cost in terms of the personal impact on the lives of all those involved, family, friends, colleagues, supervisors and managers is far more worrying than the financial losses.

As employers, there is a legal and a moral duty to look after the mental health of our workforce. As we all know the Health and Safety at Work Act places duties on employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare of our workforce.

The HSE have developed a set of six Management Standards and a toolkit to be used in assessing how well stress is managed within your workforce. The management standards focus on those areas which cause the most stress, they are:
• Demands
• Relationships
• Role
• Control
• Management of Change
• Support

By completing an assessment of these areas within your workforce you will be better placed to reap the benefits. By having a happy workforce, we will have a more productive work force and will be better placed to reap the rewards of the £9.98 return per £1 invested in training.

For information and guidance on applying the management standards to your workforce book onto the Mental Health Awareness – Managing Occupational Stress course run at our training centre in Southampton.

For further information on the facts and figures in this blog please see ‘Thriving at Work – The Stevenson/Farmer Review of Mental Health and Employers’.

by Andy Bishop, Health and Safety Consultant

I had a long day yesterday; roadworks and traffic jams meant my schedule slipped a little.  I was reminded by my smart phone every time I was nearly late with an annoying little ‘ping’ and a notification on the dashboard but thanks to the wonders of the satnav and its route planning ability I made each appointment!  Every hour or so my watch vibrated violently against my wrist to tell me to move as I was starting to resemble a three toed sloth (in case you didn’t know a three toed sloth is a large hairy ape like creature that hangs upside down in trees and takes about three months to do anything!)  I typed a few emails and sent a few messages, each time my laptop or my phone guessed the correct recipient after just a few letters, it even stopped me from sending one email as I’d mentioned an attachment and subsequently forgot to attach it.

I listened to Chris Evans on Radio 2 discussing how the administrators and programmers behind Siri, the apple voice activated system, had starting programming it to only respond to a request that ‘asked politely’ as parents were blaming Siri for their children’s lack of manners! I mean, just what is the correct etiquette when conversing with a computer!

I eventually got in from work and after my car had parked itself, I wandered into the house and as I walked through the hall, a soothing electronic voice asked me if I would like to listen to some music as she/he  (I’m not sure how computers fit into the whole gender thing)  had prepared a play list for me based on my preferences and my recent listening history.

As the very well-chosen play list sparked in to action, I spoke to the lights and set the ‘ambience’ to my preferred level commensurate with my mood as identified by an app on my phone.  She who must be obeyed was running late so to while away the time I started to prepare some food. I took some meat from the freezer and chucked it into the microwave, which enquired as to my intentions then set about defrosting the meaty goodness as I busied myself asking a computerised voice for recipe suggestions (the multitude of recipe books were just too far away – and if I’m honest I’ve forgotten how they work!).  I began preparing the meal, receiving voice prompts and reminders at the key stages throughout the project (yes – cooking is a project that must be suitably managed throughout).

In case you hadn’t noticed, I really take advantage of the ‘internet of things.’  I do love a good gadget, I have literally got one for every application in my life, I talk to the lights in my house, my car virtually drives itself, I generally just have to be there.

It seems that I’m not the only one though. I watch the news regularly and every couple of weeks there seems to be a new robot that is threatening to take the place of people. I read through trade journals and publications to keep abreast of new innovations and the latest safety related invention.

It worries me slightly that so called ‘wearable technology’ and ‘AI systems’ are being introduced to protect people.  I have seen hard hats with sensors and haptic alarms that start buzzing when you enter a ‘danger zone’. I have seen Hi Visibility clothing that does the same but adds strips of highly visible LED lights when you wander too close to the edge of the giant hole in the ground.  I have even seen a system that you can attach to a high-speed circular saw that will sense when anything ‘fleshy’ gets near it and stop it in a very abrupt fashion. The video demonstration makes good use of a sausage to replicate the operator’s errant appendage.  It works, however, the catastrophic damage to the machine means that a whole new machine is required, still easier than replacing a severed hand though.

I spent some time working in the high hazard industry of explosives manufacture where we used robots to handle the highly volatile pellets as they moved around the production from process to process.  Every now and again, there would be a glitch and a hiccup in the system and the robot would go rogue and start dropping highly sensitive explosives around the place.  Part of my role when this occurred was to go into the room and make it safe for the engineers to come in and calm the robot down and show it the error of its ways by giving it a new programme to work with.

These robots were introduced to remove people from the danger areas and to increase efficiency and productivity, great results all around, especially for the extra six ‘robot babysitters’ that were employed as a result.

The reason I am worried about the onset of artificial intelligence and replacing humans with robots are twofold.  The first issue I can see is the growth in reliance on this technology to keep the work force safe. It’s all very well equipping all workers on site with a sensor or an alarm which warns them of the hole in the ground, or the heavy machinery in close proximity – but aside from buzzing like an angry bee – they don’t physically stop or prevent you from exposure to the danger. The second worry is the likely adoption of more and more absurd inventions like the ‘hi vis coat’ that lights up when its dark.  By the increasing use of these technologies we run the risk of forgetting the basics of harm prevention.

If you want some proof of this, observe anyone who normally drives an automatic when they jump into a car equipped with a manual gearbox, I guarantee that they will stall the engine at some point in the journey!

For advice on choosing robots or hi vis jackets with haptic alarms and LED strip lighting, I’m afraid you will have to look somewhere else.

If you want friendly, practical advice or training from a real flesh and blood experienced Health and Safety professional then come and see what HCS Safety have to offer.

Deciding the training requirements for your staff can be a tricky proposition. The best way is usually to get organised at the start of the process. This will allow you to make smart decisions on training levels, courses required, when they will need to be done by and how to plan for the future.

For this reason most companies will run a version of a ‘training matrix’. This permits directors and managers to sit down, look at what the business needs, the skills it already has and what more may need to be done to bridge the gap.

The law requires that all staff are competent to carry out their work safely. So by identifying the tasks that staff are required to carry out, and the risks they are likely to face you will be able to work through the most important to both give them the practical skills to prevent harm to themselves and others and discharge the companies duty to ensure competence. Once you have your matrix in place why don’t you visit us and see how we can help: https://www.hcssafety.co.uk/training/

A ban stopping an 83-year-old lollipop man from high-fiving schoolchildren over safety concerns has been lifted.

Stockport Council hit the headlines when it ordered Colin Spencer to stop high-fiving the kids as they crossed the road to “concentrate on ensuring highway safety”.

Spencer has worked as the lollipop man at St George’s Primary School in Stockport for 14 years.

However, after making the national news and generating widespread interest, the council has now apologised and admitted it was “clearly wrong” to impose the ban.

Parents had described how they received a text message from the school asking them to tell their children not to high-five Mr Spencer on the road. A text the following morning said children could in fact high-five their Lollipop man, but only on the pavement.

In interviews since the story broke, Mr Spencer said the decision had left some pupils in tears and unable to understand why he could no longer high-five them in the road.

The council’s latest statement said: “Following the recent reports surrounding Stockport Council’s lollipop man, Colin Spencer, we want to apologise for the unnecessary concern caused by the issuing of an instruction that was clearly wrong.”

Sheila Bailey, the council’s executive member for communities and housing, added: “Colin has been an outstanding public servant and a popular member of his community for many years.

“It’s fantastic that he works with a smile on his face and brightens up the day for so many children.”

Ms Bailey added: “We try to make the service as safe as possible as well as maintaining the unique personalities that each member of the team brings to their school. We are sorry, that on this occasion, the council got it wrong.”

Dawn St Clare, whose children go to the school, told the BBC last week she thought the ruling was “ridiculous” and had annoyed parents and upset pupils.

by Zoe Drew, Director HCS Safety

As we get into this new year, we’ve had a smashing start by completing one each of all the CITB Site Safety Plus courses (SMSTS / SMSTS Refresher / SSSTS / SSSTS Refresher / Health & Safety Awareness and Director’s Role for H & S). It is a real honour that these 103 people put their trust in us to get them through these challenging qualifications, and a testament to the hard work of our delegates and the tutors (in this case Mr Leon Maidment GradIOSH and Mr David Hilton Tech IOSH) for supporting them all the way.

Last year at HCS Safety we saw 6000 delegates leave our premises with an enhanced knowledge base in this vital subject of Health and Safety, at all levels from basic to degree level. That’s a lot of people who are better equipped and better informed about the hazards they and their colleagues face, not to mention better qualified to move forwards in their careers. Our training calendar for 2019 includes increased capacity for many of our most popular courses, including IOSH Working Safely, IOSH Managing Safely and IOSH Leading Safely, as well as the CITB Site Safety Plus favourites. Alongside these we are proud to provide some new additions in the vital field of Mental Health and Occupational Stress.

We recognise our duty as the South’s favourite safety training provider and consultancy to be there when you need us; so not only can you rely on us to run the courses we advertise, but to offer the best facilities possible in which to run them. If you’ve noticed the scaffolding up on our building, recently, you can see that we are investing in our premises, and despite the uncertainty of the times, we promise we will be here for you come what may.

Take care out there, everyone – and if you need us, you know where we are.