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2nd January 2018

What HSE inspectors are looking for, and how to stay one step ahead in 2018?

In order to improve associated death and injury statistics Local Authority and HSE inspectors have been tasked with focusing on the following priority areas within businesses in 2018:

1. Falls from height – work on/adjacent to fragile roofs/materials
2. Health risks – respirable silica dust exposure
3. Duty to manage asbestos
4. Construction

What does this mean in practice?

A health and safety inspector may visit a business if its work activities fall within any the above mentioned topics. This visit may focus solely on these topic areas or form part of a more routine inspection where all areas of risk are looked at within the business.

Warning…..Businesses may think that if their primary activities are not listed above, that they are safe from an inspector’s visit, but this is unfortunately not the case. This makes it even more paramount that businesses stay on top of their health and safety management.

What HSE inspectors are looking for

  1. Falls from height – work on/adjacent to fragile roofs/materials – Fragile roofs/skylights etc. are common place in workplaces. Inspectors will be looking at and questioning business owners on how repair and maintenance work (e.g. gutter cleaning) is performed. If your business undertakes any works at height be prepared to have training records, risk assessments and equipment scrutinised.
  2. Health risks – respirable silica dust containing harmful respirable crystalline silica (RCS) remains a hot topic this year. This can be generated during common operations such as block cutting, chasing brickwork and cutting concrete floors. Inspectors will be looking at whether there is any minor construction work going on at a business that could generate this dust and whether this is effectively controlled in accordance with the guidance. This also applies to routine business operations that create this dust, such as granite cutting. Again, be prepared to have face fit testing certificates, certificates of extraction systems, risk assessments and health surveillance records scrutinised.
  3. Duty to manage asbestos – Asbestos is still responsible for around 5000 deaths per year – which is more than road traffic accidents! Any buildings built before the year 2000 may contain asbestos. Inspectors will therefore be checking to see whether the risk of asbestos in the building has been assessed, whether an asbestos survey has been conducted and a management plan with necessary monitoring put in place. They will also look for any construction works going on that breaches the fabric of the building without a proper asbestos survey and effective controls in place including relevant training.
  4. Construction – Unsurprisingly, whilst improvements have been made to reduce the injury statistics in this sector, construction related fatal and major injury statistics remain high. The key risk areas inspectors will focus on in this sector are exposure to asbestos, silica dust, and paint and diesel exhaust fumes. Furthermore, exposure to dust, fume, vapour or gas, and dermatitis risk, along with manual handling, noise and vibration are all focus areas in this sector.

What can HSE Inspectors do?

The purpose of inspection is to assess how well businesses are managing these health and safety risks and, where they are not, to bring about improvements to achieve this.

Inspectors have a range of enforcement tools they can use to achieve improvement and this can range from verbal and written advice, through to Improvement Notices, Prohibition Notices and/or prosecution.

Be warned though… Under the Fees for Intervention (FFI) cost recovery scheme, the HSE can charge you for their time for inspection, investigation and enforcement action. The hourly rate charged is £129, and the average cost of an invoice issued under the HSE’s FFI scheme is now topping the £700 mark!

Tips to stay one step ahead

  1. Be prepared by making sure you have considered the risk of asbestos in your building if it was built before the year 2000. Building owners or landlords may need to invest commissioning an asbestos survey and acting upon the results.
  2. Prior to employment of contractors for work at height or minor building works, make sure you check their risk assessments, method statements, insurance, professional membership and references. It is your responsibility to engage a suitable contractor.
  3. For those involved in processes generating respirable crystalline silica (RCS), ensure you effectively follow the HSE guidance for controlling this dust.
  4. If you have any queries or concerns on a H&S topic call the Lighthouse advice line and speak to a consultant today on 0845 459 1724.


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