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Occupational health and safety news and guidance

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Stay safe when working from home

Working from home was becoming increasingly common, even before the Covid-19 outbreak. With improvements in technology, it has become easier for many office-based workers to work from home for more of their working week. The attractions are easy to see: the lack of a commute; working in a relaxed environment and; being able to call the shots for a while, are some of the appeals of homeworking to workers. But the fact is, that working from home is not without risks, and you need to know what to spot and avoid.

Is it suitable for you?

In most UK workplaces, working from home is a voluntary decision which needs to be agreed between both employer and employee. It may seem like a simple choice but, working from home is not as easy as it might appear. Not all of us are equipped with the required level of self-motivation to work effectively away from our more familiar office based environment. Time management skills, flexibility, and being able to balance home and work life effectively, are all part of what makes this decision far from straightforward. Some people thrive on the autonomy they have when working at home whilst others can feel extremely isolated when they can’t see their colleagues face to face.

Home Working Requirements

For someone who is usually office based, it may seem that all that is required for a stable homeworking office setup is a laptop, a decent internet connection and a smartphone, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. All of your equipment needs to be suitable for the work you will be doing and maintained to the highest standards. For those who work in a more ‘hands on’ industry sector, there are all sorts of issues that may arise with regards to health & safety regulations.

Other jobs where homeworking may be possible inc…

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Safety alert for KN95 facemasks

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has warned against the use of KN95 facemasks as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). A safety alert has been issued, urging all employers and suppliers not to purchase or use KN95 facemasks as PPE.

The alert stated that "KN95 is a performance rating that is broadly equivalent to the EU standard for FFP2 facemasks. Products manufactured to KN95 requirements rely on a self-declaration of compliance by the manufacturer. There is no independent certification or assurance of their quality.

This respirator has been identified as suspect by HSE experts and locally arranged testing has confirmed they would not meet requirements, including to protect against the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. About 90% of the PPE concerns and queries currently being received by HSE involve KN95 masks which are often accompanied by fake or fraudulent paperwork."

The required action within the alert is that "masks that are not CE marked and cannot be shown to be compliant must be removed from supply immediately."

Where masks are CE marked, "suppliers must be able to demonstrate how they know the documentation and CE marking is genuine, supported by Notified Body documentation showing compliance with the essential health and safety requirements as required by the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations (EU) 2016/425."

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Face fit testing - what you need to know

photo shows respiratory protective equipmentIll-fitting clothing is unflattering. Ill-fitting shoes are uncomfortable and ill-fitting protective equipment is unfit for purpose and therefore unsafe. This fact is recognized in law.

For example, the law requires that almost all protective masks be face-fit tested to ensure that they provide effective protection. The sole exception is powered hoods (also known as air-fed hoods).

(You should only use Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) after you have taken all other reasonably practicable measures to prevent or control exposure. By going through the risk assessment process, you can determine whether the use of RPE is necessary in your workplace. If you write your justification for using RPE on your risk assessment record you should remember the reasons behind your chosen control regime and be able to adapt it in the future as necessary.)

With that in mind, here is a quick guide to what you need to know about RPE.

All staff must be individually face-fit tested

You wouldn’t expect all your staff to wear a standard-size pair of shoes so you shouldn’t expect them to wear a standard-size face mask.

Each member of staff has to be individually face-fit tested and they need to be clean-shaven for the test. They also need to be clean-shaven at any time they work using the mask.

The reason for this is that any facial hair, even stubble, will prevent the mask from forming a tight seal with the face and, basically, render it useless.

If a member of staff has to wear a beard for religious reasons (or any other acceptable reason) then the only compliant option is to issue them with a powered hood.

For completeness, if a member of staff has to wear more than one type of face mask, then they need to be face fit tested for each of the face masks that…

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Health and safety & security threats in retail businesses and how to remedy them

photo shows a shutter being closed over a shop windowHealth and safety and security threats are often either the same or very closely related. This means that by practicing good health and safety, you will often improve your security - and vice versa. Here are some tips to help.

Conduct regular assessments of your premises

Risk assessments are mandatory and since you’re going to have to assess your premises anyway, you might as well make full use of your time and look for security risks while you’re looking for health and safety risks.

The reason for committing to doing this regularly is because risks can change over time and you may miss this (until something happens) unless you commit to undertaking regular checks.

Make sure your premises are always well lit

In the context of health and safety and security, well-lit means lit so people can actually see their way around. If you want to use artistic lighting for displays, that’s fine, just as long as it doesn’t impact general visibility.

Try to have at least two members of staff on your premises at all times

This one could be a bit of a challenge for smaller businesses as there are usually times when you know a store is going to be quiet (in fact you may be counting on it) and in practical terms, you can only really justify one member of staff. In fact, one member of staff may be all you can afford.

If this sounds familiar then you could try splitting the difference by using technology to help. As a minimum, you want a “shop” mobile, i.e. one which belongs to the shop and hence is guaranteed to be there, charged (and with a charger) and with credit.

The reason you want a mobile is so staff can keep it on them as they move so if they have a medical emergency, they can call for help.

Ideally, you want to back this up with CCTV. Whil…

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