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Health and Safety in the Engineering Workplace
The health, safety and general welfare of people working or operating within any engineering context is of prime importance. Individuals should expect to be able to carry out their workplace engineering activities, in a safe environment, that do not compromise their general well-being or their ability to successfully complete their work. Organisations are responsible for ensuring that such an environment exists for their employees, visitors and the general public and, indeed, many pride themselves on making their own workplace superior to others and using this to their own competitive advantage, when recruiting staff. Thus, health and safety in the workplace is about the control and risk reduction measures that need to be put in place in order to best protect the health and safety of all people who carry out workplace activities and also those visitors and others who might be affected by these activities.
In this unit you will be given an introduction to some of the important legislation and regulations upon which health and safety measures in the workplace are based. Health and safety law is being continually updated with more legislation emanating directly from the European Union (EU) and it is the responsibility of organisations to keep abreast of and act on all new initiatives that affect workplace activities. You will be made aware of the latest health and safety legislation and regulations and of your individual roles and responsibilities in order to comply with them. You will learn about the hazards and significant risks associated with the layout, equipment and engineering activities that are undertaken in the workplace. You will learn about the control measures taken to minimise or eliminate risk and the process of risk assessment itself. Finally, the principles and methods we adopt to report and record workplace accidents and incidents in accordance with legal requirements will be covered.
Throughout this unit you will be asked to complete a number of activities to enhance your understanding, selected answers to which will be found on the website that accompanies the book at http://www.key2study/btecnat.
Legislation and Regulations
Introduction to health and safety legislation
Health and safety legislation comes about, like all legislation (laws) through Acts of Parliament (statutes). These 'statutes' generally give powers to ministers and/or secretaries of state to make 'statutory instruments' which provide more detailed 'regulations' for implementing the statute. One of the first modern Acts of Parliament (statute) that was directly related to health and safety was the Factories Act of 1937 and later its successor the current Factories Act of 1961. In this Act the general health and safety provision for factories were laid down, such as the requirements for cleanliness, sanitation, temperature, ventilation and lighting as well as the provision of a safe means of access and egress and the care and use of dangerous substances. In addition this Act also stipulated the requirements for welfare, such as the provision of drinking water, washing facilities and rest rooms. After the 1961 Factories Act an Act was passed by Parliament known as the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act 1963, where similar statutory requirements (laws) were passed on the health, safety and welfare provision for these premises.
The next health and safety legislation of note was the Fire Precautions Act 1971, in which law appertaining to fire certification, buildings that require certificates, premises involving excessive risk, building and other regulations about fire precautions, enforcement of these regulations and offences, penalties and legal proceedings were some of the important regulations introduced by this Act.
As a result of the Robins Report in 1972, that proposed substantial changes in the law on health and safety, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) came into being; this Act now forms the basis of British health and safety law. This Act sets out the general duties and responsibilities that employers have towards employees and members of the public, and employees have to themselves and to each other. We will look at this Act and its associated regulations in some detail, since this is the Act upon which much of health and safety in the engineering workplace is based.
One other piece of legislation that is of importance to the activities of engineers, other industries and the public at large is the introduction of integrated pollution control measures under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and its associated regulations.
Roles and responsibilities of the Health and Safety Executive
In order to ensure that the above legislation relating to health and safety in the workplace is implemented and enforced in a fair and consistent manner, the Department for Work and Pensions has two agencies responsible for health and safety in Great Britain directly related to the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA): Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Health and Safety Commission (HSC). The HSC works to ensure that relevant legislation (including EU Directives) is appropriate and understood by conducting and sponsoring research; and submitting proposals for new or revised regulations and approved codes of practice. The HSE is the operating arm of the Commission. It advises and assists the Commission in its functions and has specific responsibility, shared with local authorities, for enforcing health and safety law.
Certain areas of risk or harm directly or indirectly related to work activities are covered by legislation other than the HSWA or its related regulations and are not dealt with by the HSE. These include consumer and food safety, marine, railway and aviation safety, all having their own legislative bodies. For example, aviation safety law is enforced/overseen in this country by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and due to the international nature of the Aviation Industry, the CAA in turn work with and ensure the implementation of relevant and recent European Laws laid down and overseen by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
The combined HSC/HSE consult fully with people affected by their legislative proposals and adopt various approaches based on assessing and controlling risk, where they consider action is necessary to supplement existing arrangements; they offer three main options: Guidance, Approved Codes of Practice (ACOP) and Regulations.
HSE publishes guidance on a range of subjects that can be general or more specific to the heath and safety problems of an industry or to a particular process used in a number of industries. The main purposes of this guidance are to help people understand what the law says (including the interpretation of EC Directives), to help people comply with the law and to give technical advice. By virtue of its very name, guidance is not compulsory but if followed it will normally allow industries to comply with the law. Examples of HSE guidance include:
basic advice on first aid at work (2002)
five steps to risk assessment (1998)
a guide to the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) (1995)
a short guide to Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (1992).
The need for clarification of the regulations by offering practical examples of good practice has been recognised by HSC/HSE and as a result they have produced a series of related Approved Codes of Practice that provide the necessary guidance on what is reasonable and practical in order to comply with the law. Following Approved Codes of Practice (ACOP) is not mandatory by law but in the event of employers being prosecuted for a breach of health and safety law, the fact that they had not followed the advice given in the ACOP would find them at fault, unless they could show that they had equally good or superior practices in place that adequately demonstrated compliance. It is for this reason that ACOP are sometimes referred to as semi-legal or quasi-legal in nature. Examples of ACOP include:
Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (ACOP L22 1998)
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (ACOP L5 2002)
Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations (ACOP L56 1998).
As mentioned earlier, Regulations are laws (statutory instruments) that are made up under Health and Safety Acts approved by Parliament that follow proposals and recommendations from HSC; this applies to both British Law and EC Directives. The Health and Safety at Work Act is the primary piece of legislation upon which health and safe regulations are based. Regulations may be issued in a form that identifies what must be achieved to minimize health and safety risk, or if the risks are considered very serious the regulations will dictate the specific actions that must be taken to alleviate these risks.
The HSE has an inspection role, where under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Health and Safety (Enforcing Regulations) 1998, they share the enforcement of health and safety legislation at different premises between local authorities and/or themselves. Field operations inspectors work within different directorates and are responsible for different industries and areas of safety; these include nuclear, where inspectors are responsible for the safety of nuclear installations; construction; hazardous installations such as for petroleum, chemicals, biological agents; pipeline and road transport of hazardous substances, and mining operations and exploration activities. HSE inspectors have the power and ways to seek improvements if they are not satisfied with the level of the safety standards being achieved; these include:
verbal or written information and advice
improvement or prohibition notices
prosecution in criminal courts
implementing investigations for manslaughter (if thought appropriate) and/or for accidents/incidents in order to prepare legal action or learn lessons.
Local authorities have primary responsibility for the enforcement of health and safety legislation (in particular environmental health) in premises that include shops, offices, retail and wholesale distribution outlets, care homes and leisure facilities. Although these premises are not directly within the remit of the HSE, they may have some enforcement responsibilities over and above that of the local authority and a system of flexible warrants was introduced in 2006 to account for this fact.
The Health and Safety at Work Act
The Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) is the major piece of legislation upon which all workplace health and safety regulations are based. It differs fundamentally in principle from any previous health and safety legislation. The underlying reasoning behind the Act was the need to foster a much greater awareness of the problems that surround health and safety matters and, in particular, a much greater involvement of those who are, or who should be, concerned with improvements in occupational health and safety. Consequently, the Act seeks to promote greater personal involvement coupled with the emphasis on individual responsibility and accountability.
You need to be aware that the Health and Safety at Work Act applies to people, not to premises. The Act covers all employees in all employment situations. The precise nature of the work is not relevant from the point of view of the Act, neither is its location. However, in this unit we will be concentrating on the hazards and risks associated with some of the more specific engineering activities that take place in the engineering workplace. The Act also requires employers to take account of the fact that other persons, not just those that are directly employed, may be affected by work activities. The Act also places certain obligations on those who manufacture, design, import or supply articles or materials for use at work to ensure that these can be used in safety and do not constitute a risk to health.
Key features of the HSWA 1974
After the introduction, the main body of the HSWA consists of four major parts followed by several schedules where, for example, schedule 3 contains the subject matter of the health and safety regulations. Figure 1.1 shows the nature of these sections and the sort of subject matter they contain. Part I of the Act is concerned with the legislation relating to Health, Safety and Welfare in connection with Work as well as the Control of Dangerous Substances and Certain Atmospheric Emissions. The area connected with HSWA is of utmost importance to us and some of the topics contained within it are now covered in more detail.
Figure 1.1 summarizing the HSWA 1974 is based on information found in the 'statutory law database (SLD)', which may be viewed by going onto either www.statutelaw.gov.uk or onto the HSE website at www.hse.gov. uk, which guides you to the Government's statute law site. The SLD site is amended regularly as the statutory laws are updated; this occurs after the amended legislation has been fully approved, verified and written. Thus, there is sometimes a time lag between the latest current legislation and that shown on the database; this problem is overcome by consulting the update status warning, given at the beginning of the particular Act, which allows you to view the latest amendments.
In Part I of the Act, the preliminary subject matter explains the aims and objectives of the Act, which were summarised at the beginning of this section. In the 'general duties' section, you will find the duties of employers to their employees and to those affected by the activities of the employer's business, as well as the duties of employees at work. The duties of employers and employees are summarized in the Act, as given below.
Duties of employers
It is the duty of the employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all the employees; also that all plant and systems are maintained in a manner so that they are safe and without risk to health. The employer is also responsible for:
the absence of risks in the handling, storage and transport of articles and substances
instruction, training and supervision to ensure health and safety at work
the maintenance of the workplace and its environment to be safe and without risk to health
where appropriate, to provide a statement of general policy with respect to health and safety and to make arrangements for safety representatives and safety committees.
In addition to having responsibilities to the employee, the employer has responsibilities to other persons such as the general public. It is therefore also the duty of the employer to:
conduct his undertakings in such a way so as to ensure that members of the public (i.e. those not in his employ) are not affected or exposed to risks to their health or safety
give information about such aspects of the way in which he conducts his undertakings to persons who are not his employees as might affect their health and safety.
Figure 1.2 shows typical health and safety notices (together with relevant safety procedure documents) prominently displayed in an engineering workshop.
Duties of employees
It is the duty of every employee whilst at work to take all reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and other persons who may be affected by his Acts and omissions.
Employees are required to:
cooperate with the employer to enable the duties placed on him (the employer) to be performed
have regard of any duty or requirement imposed upon his employer or any other person under any of the statutory provisions
not interfere with or misuse anything provided in the interests of health, safety or welfare in the pursuance of any of the relevant statutory provisions.
It is the duty of each person who has control of premises, or access to or from any plant or substance in such premises (i.e. employer and employees), to take all reasonable measures to ensure they are safe and without risk.
The important aspects of the roles and responsibilities of the Health and Safety Commission (HSC) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) were briefly covered in the introduction, as were their powers of enforcement. To ensure that you are fully conversant with these and other important areas of Part I, there follow two activities that require you to investigate the Act further.
Excerpted from BTEC National Engineering by Mike Tooley Lloyd Dingle Copyright © 2010 by Mike Tooley and Lloyd Dingle. Excerpted by permission of Newnes. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Unit 1 - Health and Safety in the Workplace Unit 2 - Communications for Engineering Technicians Unit 3 - Engineering Project Unit 4 - Mathematics for Engineering Technicians Unit 5 - Mechanical Principles and Applications Unit 6 - Electrical and Electronic Principles Unit 7 - Business Operations in Engineering Unit 8 - Engineering design