Assessing Hazards at Work [HSE Reg & Case Studies]

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Hazards and risks in the workplace can be effectively managed, if identified correctly. Having appropriate first aid provisions as well as adequate training helps reduce the risks of accidents & illnesses, but only if employers and employees do the homework. Identifying and assessing your workplace means including these 5 factors in your assessment:

  • Hazards – with the help of a general risk assessment and list of different workplace activities
  • Employees – number of employees, level of experience and existing health issues
  • Accidents & ill-health records – monitor past accidents and note how & where they occurred
  • Working arrangements – day shifts & night shifts, workplace layouts, leaves & absences
  • Non-employees – you are not legally required to cover visitors & public but it is strongly advised

Gathering this information is essential so that as an employer you may foresee likely accidents or injuries if preventive or control measures fail. This foresight will allow you to assess your first aid needs, such as type, quantity & location of first equipment, as well as resources, such as facilities, personnel & training required. This blog post focuses on the first factor, which is the many risks and hazards present in the workplace.

Chemical Hazards

Chemical HazardsCauses of chemical accidents

exposure while handling, spillages, splashing, leaks

Examples of chemical injuries

poisoning, loss of consciousness, burns, eye injuries, respiratory problems

Case study

A chemical plant in Lincolnshire was heavily fined after a worker was killed and another was gravely injured in an accident on 5 March 2010. Another incident in 2011 showed a repeat of the incident, which led to a more severe prosecution. The plant manufactured titanium dioxide, a whitening agent used in FMCGs. A fault occurred before the accident, where aqueous hydrochloric acid and liquid titanium tetrachloride separated into separate reservoirs, rather than reacted. A worker attempted to re-establish the circulation but the resulting chemical reaction ruptured the vessel. The corrosive substance fell onto the worker, who died from his injuries. The toxic vapour cloud created by the reaction reached another worker, who suffered irreversible lung damage. The plant failed to recognise the serious risks and hazards that originated from higher than expected temperatures and pressures. [Source – 11 November 2016]

Electrical Hazards

Electrical HazardsCauses of electrical accidents

poor isolation, poor maintenance, contact with power lines, unsuitable equipment

Examples of electrical injuries

electric shock, burns, heart attack

Case study

A stonemasonry company in Scotland was fined after its apprentice was severely injured from contact with an overhead power line. An initial risk assessment mistakenly concluded that the single wire was a phone line. The wind caused the wire to brush against the worker’s back, who then instinctively reached back and grabbed it. He received an electric shock and suffered burns to both hands. He required surgery as well as a possible amputation. An HSE investigation found that the firm should have developed a safe system of work. [Source – 20 June 2016]

Machinery Risks & Hazards

Machinery Risks & HazardsCauses of accidents involving machinery

loose objects caught, malfunctions, sharp edges

Examples of injuries involving machinery

crush injuries, amputations, fractures, lacerations, eye injuries

Case study

A Coventry-based catering firm was fined after a worker fell while operating a meat separating machine. The man’s crushed hand required surgery. The firm had failed to implement a safe work system and did not provide appropriate guarding to protect workers. Another accident on 17 December 2017 involved a worker in a noodle factory who has had his fingered severed while trying to clear a blockage. The firm did not provide the right level of protection for its workers. A third accident involving the injury of a worker led to the prosecution of a poultry products company. An engineer checking the blades on a cutting line was unable to remove his hands before the machine restarted. An investigation led by the HSE revealed that the company failed to implement a safe working procedure to isolate procedures during machine maintenance. [Source – 21 April 2017]

Manual Handling Risks

Manual Handling RisksCauses of manual handling accidents

repetitive movements, heavy lifting, bulky or unstable loads, uncomfortable working position

Examples of manual handling injuries

fractures, lacerations, sprains & strains

Case study

An industrial equipment supplier was fined after an inexperienced worker suffered fractures of his pelvis and a head injury on 15 December 2014. The incident happened because the worker was trying to steady a heavy electrical panel from the back of a truck. The panel weighing 500kg fell and trapped the man on the ground. The HSE investigation found that the company did not carry out suitable risk assessment, training, supervision and communication. An HSE inspector also said: “This case highlights the need for companies to have in place safe systems of work for all deliveries at their premises.” [Source – 5 December 2016]

Slip & Trip Hazards

Slips & Trips HazardsCauses of slips & trips

uneven floors, stairs, slippery surfaces, worn carpets or mats, broken tiles

Examples of slips & trips injuries

fractures, lacerations, sprains & strains

Case study

A prison officer received compensation after he slipped on a wet floor that had no warning sign put on display. The officer was responding to an alarm when he was walking down the staircase, and slipped on a recently polished floor. He suffered several injuries to his left hand, shoulder and some bruising. [Source – 17 January 2014]

Work at Height Risks

Work at Height HazardsCauses of falling accidents

overreaching or overbalancing, falling off or through roofs

Examples of fall injuries

head or spinal injuries, loss of consciousness, sprains & strains, lacerations

Case study

A construction firm was fined after a worker fell 4m through a building opening. The employee was installing plywood boards across the opening to prevent others from falling but unfortunately fell through the same opening. He has sustained a fractured pelvis and arm. The HSE said the accident was due to the firm’s inability to plan the work correctly. An HSE inspector said: “The risks of working at height are widely recognised throughout the construction industry. This case highlights the importance of ensuring that all work at height is properly planned and carried out safely.” [Source – 15 March 2017]

Workplace Transport Hazards

Vehicles Hazards & RisksCauses of transport accidents

hit by vehicle or falling off vehicle, hit by falling load from vehicle, vehicle collapse or overturned

Examples of injuries involving vehicles

head or crush injuries, fractures, sprains & strains

Case study

A cargo handling company based in Aberdeen was fined after it failed to separate pedestrian and vehicle traffic. The accident occurred on 13 June 2013 when forklifts were transporting containers of loose pipes from the harbour to a crane. A container struck an employee on the lower back while making his way to the ship. The firm did not exclude pedestrians from the work area and moreover did not provide a safe system of work. An HSE inspector said: “The law states that dutyholders must ensure the workplace is organised in such a way that pedestrians and vehicles can circulate in a safe manner.” [Source – 4 July 2016]

Workplace Risk Categories

After identifying which activity-related hazards exist in the workplace, the assessment will then help you to determine the provisions you need. Discussed in our post about BSI Compliant First Aid Kits, there are two categories of risk in the workplace:

Low Risk workplaces such as offices, shops, libraries, etc. have low-level hazards. […] High Risk workplaces deal with light engineering, food processing, warehousing, machinery, the manufacture of chemicals, etc.

Firms and organisations with low levels of risks such as offices or shops might only need to provide an appointed person and a stocked first aid box. However, employers may opt to employ a qualified first-aider in the event of illnesses or possible accidents.

Workplaces with higher levels of risks and hazards such as those dealing with chemicals, dangerous machinery or confined places, assessments and requirements will be greater. For example, you may need to have enough qualified first-aiders on site so there is always one present. Your personnel may need additional training to deal with accidents around special hazards, and emergency services may have to be notified where hazardous liquids or substances are in use. Additionally, you may need to provide a first aid room with more first aid equipment.

In case your workplace has offices (areas with low-level risks) as well as factories or production areas (areas with high-level risks), you may have to have a separate risk assessment for all areas and appropriate first aid supplies in each department.

This blog post aimed to illustrate the many hazards that could be present in a workplace. Should you need to refer to the original HSE Regulations, you can access it here.

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