Health and Safety Executive – Safety alert!

Change in Enforcement Expectations for Mild Steel Welding Fume

Issue Date: February 2019
Target Audience: All workers, employers, self-employed, contractors’ and any others who undertake welding activities, including mild steel, in any industry.
Key Issues: There is new scientific evidence that exposure to all welding fume, including mild steel welding fume, can cause lung cancer.
There is also limited evidence linked to kidney cancer.
There is a change in HSE enforcement expectations in relation to the control of exposure of welding fume, including that from mild steel welding.

All businesses undertaking welding activities should ensure effective engineering controls are provided and correctly used to control fume arising from those welding activities.
Where engineering controls are not adequate to control all fume exposure, adequate and suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE) is also required to control risk from the residual fume.

There is new scientific evidence from the International Agency for Research on Cancer that exposure to mild steel welding fume can cause lung cancer and possibly kidney cancer in humans. The Workplace Health Expert Committee has endorsed the reclassification of mild steel welding fume as a human carcinogen.

With immediate effect, there is a strengthening of HSE’s enforcement expectation for all welding fume, including mild steel welding; because general ventilation does not achieve the necessary control.

Control of the cancer risk will require suitable engineering controls for all welding activities indoors e.g. Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV). Extraction will also control exposure to manganese, which is present in mild steel welding fume, which can cause neurological effects similar to Parkinson’s disease.
Where LEV alone does not adequately control exposure, it should be supplemented by adequate and suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE) to protect against the residual fume.
Appropriate RPE should be provided for welding outdoors. You should ensure welders are suitably instructed and trained in the use of these controls.
Regardless of duration, HSE will no longer accept any welding undertaken without any suitable exposure control measures in place, as there is no known level of safe exposure.
Risk assessments should reflect the change in the expected control measures.

Action required
Make sure exposure to any welding fume released is adequately controlled using engineering controls (typically LEV).
Make sure suitable controls are provided for all welding activities, irrelevant of duration. This includes welding outdoors.
Where engineering controls alone cannot control exposure, then adequate and suitable RPE should be provided to control risk from any residual fume.
Make sure all engineering controls are correctly used, suitably maintained and are subject to thorough examination and test where required.
Make sure any RPE is subject to an RPE programme. An RPE programme encapsulates all the elements of RPE use you need to ensure that your RPE is effective in protecting the wearer.

Relevant legal documents:
Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002

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Do you have a mentally healthy workplace?

Does your organisation promote a culture of openness and support? Are employee’s able to talk about problems?

At least one in 6 experience common mental health problems (Mind). Employees with mental health problems may have frequent short term absences from work or may be absent for long periods. Mental Health illness can also have a detrimental impact on performance and productivity.

What can impact on mental health? Some examples include:
• Postnatal depression
• Bereavement
• Debt / Money problems
• Relationship breakdown
• Post Trauma
• Illness
• Conflict at work
……to name a few.
What can you do to help?

Studies show that 25% of workers feel their job negatively affects their mental health (CIPD). Good communication is key. The ability to spot signs of mental health problems amongst employees is a crucial part of a manager’s role. It may be that an employee simply needs someone to talk to or confide in, they may need signposting to their GP, support groups that can provide additional help, or counselling.

Engage the services of Occupational Health to provide recommendations for the company when assessing what measures can be put in place.
Employee Assistance Programmes offer employee’s the opportunity to discuss problems they have confidentially which may mean they are able to deal with these before they become a more serious issue.

By making the workplace a happy one you can reduce employee absences and staff turnover. Consider ways of improving employee engagement, team building events, redecorating the offices, creating a staff canteen area.

Manage employee workload, ensure they are not struggling with demands of the role. Encourage a fair work/life balance, implement a flexible working approach if possible. Ensure staff take their annual leave entitlement and have some time away from the workplace to relax.
Look out for internal issues as act on these. If a member of staff is causing problems for others in the workplace deal with this promptly.
Make any changes possible to help the employee, this may be something as simple as adjusting the time they take their lunch break.
Remember that every employee is individual and will react differently so always tailor your approach.
If you need more advice on this topic please call our advice line on 01543 431050.

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DSE Assessment

DSE Assessments with HELPIf like many workers in the UK, your staff spend a lot of time sitting in front of display screen equipment (DSE), you need to make sure you’ve completed a DSE assessment to ensure their working environment meets UK occupational health and safety regulations.

The modern style of office work has been standard in business around the UK for decades. In the 1980s however, reports emerged that long periods of time working at badly designed workstations led to an increased risk of poor health and absence from work. The key issues being upper limb musculoskeletal disorders, including backache, fatigue, stress, temporary eye strain and headaches. This new information and the ever-growing use of display screen equipment and computers meant the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) regulations were introduced in 1992.

DSE work is defined as any work that includes the use of a display screen, including a desktop or laptop computer, mobile phone or tablet, for more than an hour at a time and the law applies no matter whether your staff have fixed workstations, hot desk or work at home or in a mobile capacity.

The employer’s responsibility under the DSE regulations can be broken down into four key parts:

  • The completion of a DSE workstation assessment
  • Risk reduction including breaks away from screens
  • The provision of eye tests for any employees who ask for one
  • The provision of relevant training and information for workers

A workstation assessment should be undertaken by a competent person who must consider the whole workstation, including the display screen equipment itself, as well as furniture and general working conditions. This assessment process must be completed within the context of the work being done as well as any special requirements of staff members. These assessments should be completed whenever a new workstation is set up, a new staff member joins your team, a major change is made to an existing workstation or a staff member complains of pain or discomfort.

There is no direct guidance on how breaks from DSE activity should be implemented as it varies on the types of work undertaken, though taking regular short breaks is preferable. In most jobs there are regular tasks that include natural breaks from screen use, however, if there are no natural changes in activity then employers should have planned rest breaks. Some companies introduce one of the many available digital break-monitoring services for this reason.

Employees should have access to health and safety information on display screen use. This should include good posture, adjusting furniture and arranging desk space, risk assessments and more.

For more information on DSE assessments and workplace health and safety, contact us today. Honest Employment Law Practice is here for you. We can take of the whole process for you, arranging workplace assessment and training for you and helping you keep your team healthy and efficient. Our 24/7 support team is on hand no matter where you are and we’re available to you without the need for long-term contracts – just simple monthly payments that you can cancel at any time. You can give us a call on 01543 431050 or contact us online using our online contact form.

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What’s in an Employment Contract?

What's in an Employment Contract? Learn more with HELP.Under the Employment Act 2002, all new employees need to be provided with a written statement of terms and conditions, a document which is more commonly known as an employment contract. If you’ve ever tried to write up an employment contract for a new employee, you may have realised that you weren’t entirely sure what to include to make sure you’re properly protected if a disagreement occurs. 

Despite this document being an essential part of the hiring process, it’s not always obvious what these contracts need to include – so if you’re a new business start-up, an established business, or just new to the hiring and recruitment process, then read on as we answer the question “what’s in an employment contract?”

There are nine core pieces of information that must be included in an employment contract; along with four other categories that should either be included in the document or in another document that is referenced within the contract. The 9 essential categories are:

  • The identity of the involved parties 
  • The employee’s start date 
  • The date at which the employee’s continuous employment begins
  • Expected duration for temporary contracts or fixed term end date 
  • The agreed job title and the employee’s responsibilities 
  • Place of work
  • The agreed hours of work
  • The employee’s agreed salary
  • Holiday entitlement

As well as the above, the following information must be contained within the contract, or within a referenced secondary document such as a staff handbook:

  • Your company’s notice requirement should the employee choose to leave the company
  • The company’s sickness policy
  • Company pension information
  • Disciplinary and dismissal procedures
  • Data protection information and policies– something which is especially important since the introduction of the GDPR legislation

The ultimate aim of a contract of employment is to outline and confirm the rights and responsibilities of the employee and the employer. It lays out the expectations of both parties, ensures that everyone understands what is required of them and acts as a legally binding agreement between the two parties once the contents of the contract are agreed. An incomplete or vague contract may cause issues for your business should any disputes emerge and so it’s vital that any documents are thorough. A lacklustre document could also invalidate any breach of contract claims and could ultimately cause a legal headache while also costing you money. Similarly, if the contents of your written contract infringe on an employee’s employment rights, then you may find yourself in front of a tribunal.

This is where the services of the Honest Employment Law Practice come in. We can help you in the creation of your contracts and staff handbook, helping you get it right first time. Our legal support team is available to you 24/7, no matter where you are. There’s no long-term contract to worry about, just one simple monthly retainer that means you get great support services, clear and useful guides and legal advice on your terms. 

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Performance Management

Performance management with HELP.As an employer, you know it’s important to keep an eye on your employees’ performance and undertake effective performance management. You may even know all too well the difficulty of managing an employee who isn’t producing the standards of work you expect from them. Poor performance however, cannot be treated with a simple dismissal. Modern employment law states that you must get to the root cause of the issue – and try and fix it – before making such a decision.

The first step is to ask yourself, or the employee’s line manager, some questions as to the nature of the worker’s role, how they’re being managed or whether there have been any personal changes in the worker’s life that could be impacting on their work. For example, if a previously high achieving employee is under-performing directly after a death in the family, then personal factors are the most likely culprit and their work will likely improve with a little support and understanding.

Even if a new worker is constantly not performing in line with your standards, it’s important to consider whether they’ve received the key skills training and resources they need to perform their task, whether their work goals are unreasonable, or what the standards of communication are between that employee and their managers. There are many reasons why an employee may be under-performing other than simply being the wrong person for the job, which is why business employment law prevents termination as the first response.

It is important, however, that your expectations of your employees and your feedback as to their recent performance are made clear. An informal chat is often enough to ascertain what issues may be preventing an employee from achieving, provide any required help, support and guidance and also put an employee performance management plan in place to assist with improvement in future.

A good performance management plan should be completely documented and include the setting of achievable and measurable objectives and allow an appropriate time frame for improvement before any further action is taken. You may also need to put the worker on training courses or change other working processes if these have been identified as barriers to performance. It’s also important to hold regular performance appraisals and one-to-one meetings to discuss any issues and provide feedback on progress.

If, after the final performance review, there has not been sufficient progress from the employee in question, despite being provided with the required support and development tools, then you may need to invoke a disciplinary or capability procedure.

Managing performance can be tricky and can involve a lot of complex issues. You may need an unlimited pool of patience and understanding and even then, you may find yourself in need of legal help. That’s why HELP is here. We will simplify the process with continuous support and advice thanks to our 24/7 support team. No long contracts to tie you in – just HELP on your terms with a simple and cost-effective monthly retainer.

For more information on the services we offer, contact the Honest Employment Law Practice team today. You can give us a call on 01543 431050 or send us an email using our online form.

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What is TUPE?

What is TUPE? Learn more with HELP.Many employers may not even be aware that TUPE exists, let alone have asked the question “What is TUPE?” Ignoring this business regulation however, may see you in breach of employment law and in front of an employment tribunal.

So what do you need to know? TUPE is short for Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006. This is a set of laws that protects your employees and their contracts of employment should you sell part or all of your business or transfer any jobs into, or out-of, house. It doesn’t matter how big or small your company is, if the business transfer will involve a change of service provider and activities carried out by the new provider will be ‘fundamentally the same’ post-transfer, then TUPE regulations apply.

When an employee finds themselves transferring to a different employer, whether they are transferring to or from your employment, they have the legal right to undertake that transfer under the same terms and conditions of their previous employment. Even if the new employer of the transferring employee would not usually provide these terms, provisions must be made to allow them to continue. Terms that generally transfer as part of these regulations include pay, hours, sick pay and company car entitlement, trade union agreements to name just a few.

It is important to note that you cannot make changes to the terms and conditions of employment either after or before the transfer – any such action will be considered void if done as the sole or principle result of the transfer. Similarly, any dismissal that can be said to have occurred as a direct result of a transfer is automatically considered an unfair dismissal.

So how do you make sure you’re meeting the regulations in practice? As an employer, it is your responsibility to inform and consult with employee representatives and employees who are impacted by any transferral of work or services. If there are any changes made to these measures following the transfer, then another consultation with the affected employees or their representatives will need to take place.

As an employer with outgoing employees, you will need to provide the incoming employer with written details of the transferring employees (including identity, age, particulars of employment, disciplinary and grievance records, employee claims and collective agreements) together with any other rights and liabilities that will transfer. This information will need to be provided at least 28 days before the transfer itself – most companies however, aim to gather this data much earlier. Failure to comply with regulations regarding informing and consultation can cost you up 13 weeks pay as compensation depending on the severity.

Not sure if TUPE applies to your upcoming business transfers? Confident you know what “continuity of employment” really is? TUPE can be complicated, but with our help, you don’t have to worry about it. HELP provide legal support and advice that’s available 24/7 on a monthly retainer – no lengthy contracts! Our friendly support team are only a phone call away, no matter where you are. Contact us today to learn more about how we can HELP your business, simply give us a call on 01543 431050 or fill out our online contact form.

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Fire Risk Assessment – are you 100% sure you are compliant?

A man and a woman who were trapped by the Christmas Day blaze jumped for their lives from a second-floor window, only to find themselves trapped again and surrounded by flames in a courtyard. Both suffered various injuries and smoke inhalation. A dog fell to its death as the burning floor of its owner’s sleeping accommodation collapsed beneath it at the premises on High Street, Deritend.

Numerous fire safety offences were uncovered by West Midlands Fire Service following the fire on 25 Dec 2013. It was suspected arson, but there is no suggestion that any of the trio started it. The three men who were guilty of various breaches under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 were: Kazim Mashedi (46) of Redfern Close, Solihull; Sulaman Rahid (30) of Linwood Road, Handsworth; Waquas Rehman (30) of Calshot Road, Great Barr. The failings included not identifying any fire hazards, failing to reduce the risk of hazards causing harm and failure to decide what physical fire precautions and management arrangements are necessary to ensure people’s safety if there’s a fire.

At Birmingham Crown Court on 7 Aug 2018, Mashedi was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment and ordered to pay nearly £15,000 in costs. Rahid and Rehman were each jailed for eight months and ordered to pay costs of £6,000. WMFS watch commander Chris Ruston, said: “A large part of the shisha premises had been built from timber, without planning permission. It was packed with sofas which became a ready source of fuel once the fire started.

“We hope this case sends a very strong message to people with any degree of control over premises. You are responsible for the safety of anyone who may be affected by a fire, and you can be fined or sent to prison if you do not ensure that people aren’t at risk.
“Fire safety is not something you can ignore. In this instance, there was an obvious risk of someone being seriously injured or killed if there was a fire.

Are you absolutely sure your risks in case of fire have been assessed correctly? Call for HELP on 01543 431050 if you need assistance.

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Mental Health awareness in the workplace.

According to HSE 526,000 workers were suffering with work-related stress, depression or anxiety (new or long-standing) in 2016/17 and a total of 12.5 million working days were lost because of these illnesses. Employers should not ignore these statistics.
In recent years more and more awareness has been raised about the effects of mental health in the workplace. To help with that awareness in July 2018 ACAS released a framework for positive mental health at work to help support managers and employers.

The framework for positive mental health at work applies to:
1. Employers – to be visibly committed to positive mental health at work
2. Managers – to be informed and open to conversations with their team members
3. Employees – to have self-awareness and ask for help from managers when needed.

Guidance for managers under the ACAS framework.

As a line manager talking to a team member who could be experiencing mental ill health may appear daunting, and it can be tempting to avoid the issue, however the earlier you become aware that a team member is experiencing mental ill health, the sooner steps can be taken to prevent it escalating and support can be provided.
A manager who believes a team member could be experiencing mental ill health should arrange a meeting without delay, to talk to the team member in private. Managers should, as part of their role, try to aim to build a rapport with all members of their teams, this should make conversations such as this more achievable. Conversations should be approached in a positive way, calmly and with patience. It is important that you remain approachable, supportive and offer reassurance.
If a team member does not wish to talk about any issues they are going through, you should not try to rush them or pressurise them to talk. Instead ensure that the team member knows you are available at any time to talk and going forward monitor the situation. If you continue to see and hear things that concern you, seek further advice and guidance from HELP.
It is also recommended that all line managers plan work with ‘people’ in mind and try to support a work-life balance for all members of their team.
Please be mindful that if a team member’s mental ill health amounts to a disability, they will be protected under the Equality Act. In this circumstance an employer must consider making ‘reasonable adjustments’ to help the employee carry out their job without being at a disadvantage.
Need help with an employee suffering with mental health? Please contact us today.

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