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Q&A

IIRSM members have free and unlimited access to three helplines as part of their membership; a technical helpline, a HR helpline and a legal helpline.   These helplines provide quick responses by phone or email to everyday queries, such as the application of health and safety legislation, staff issues and professional and person legal issues.  Every month we publish a selection of questions and answers from the technical helpline in our Member magazine, Insight.  Below are some recent examples which you may find interesting and informative.

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TECHNICAL
WHO ENFORCES WHAT?
Q. Which authority is responsible for roadworks on the public highway? Is it the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or a combination of the two?

A. 

 

The Highways Department (Local Authority) is responsible for road, highways and pavements. The ORR is the independent safety and economic regulator for Britain’s railways and monitor of Highways England. It is responsible for ensuring that railway operators comply with health and safety law. It regulates Network Rail’s activities and funding requirements, regulates access to the railway network, licenses the operators of railway assets and publishes rail statistics. ORR is also the competition authority for the railways and enforces consumer protection law in relation to the railway. As highways monitor, ORR is responsible for monitoring Highways England’s management of the strategic road network – the motorways and main ‘A’ roads in England.

The HSE’s website has a list of who enforces what and can be found at www.hse.gov.uk/contact/authority.htm.

SAFE SEPERATION
Q. What is the minimum width of walkways between industrial machines, the operator and operator loaded? I seem to remember it being between 900mm and 1100mm as a minimum. Where in legislation or Approved Codes of Practice does it state this?

A. 

There is nothing specific within health and safety legislation or guidance regarding this matter, the relevant legislation is Regulation 17 the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 simply states:

(1) Every workplace shall be organised in such a way that pedestrians and vehicles can circulate in a safe manner.   

(2) Traffic routes in a workplace shall be suitable for the persons or vehicles using them sufficient in number in suitable positions and of sufficient size.   

(3) Without prejudice to the generality of paragraph (2) traffic routes shall not satisfy the requirements of that paragraph unless suitable measures are taken to ensure that -            

(a) pedestrians or as the case may be vehicles may use a traffic route without causing danger to the health or safety of persons at work near it;           

b) there is sufficient separation of any traffic route for vehicles from doors or gates or from traffic routes for pedestrians which lead onto it; and           

(c) where vehicles and pedestrians use the same traffic route there is sufficient separation between them.   

(4) All traffic routes shall be suitably indicated where necessary for reasons of health or safety.

Regarding the width of traffic routes, the accompanying Approved Code of practice also states: There should be enough traffic routes of sufficient width and headroom to allow people on foot or in vehicles to circulate safely and without difficulty. Traffic routes used by people in wheelchairs should be wide enough to allow unimpeded access and ramps should be provided where necessary.

L24: Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare (Second edition) can be freely downloaded from www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/l24.htm

However, from a fire safety perspective, while there is also nothing specific within the legislation on this matter, the following guidance regarding the minimum width of emergency escape routes taken from the series of fire safety guides available on the UK government’s website may be useful. The suggested travel distances take this limitation into account.    

The following guide can be used to determine the general capacities of escape routes:

  • a width of at least 750mm can accommodate up to:  80 people in higher risk premises
  • 100 people in normal risk premises; or 120 people in lower risk premises
  • a width of at least 1050mm can accommodate up to: 160 people in higher risk premises; 200 people in normal risk premises; or 240 people in lower risk premises
  • an additional 75mm should be allowed for each additional 15 persons (or part of 15).   

The minimum width of an escape route should not be less than 750mm (unless it is for use by less than five people in part of your premises) and where wheelchair users are likely to use it 900mm.   

Fire Safety – Risk Assessment – Factories and Warehouses can be freely downloaded from www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/14882/...

CABLE SAFETY
Q. We have a lot of cables that are long extension leads on site that are wound on reels – is there a requirement to have the cables fully unwound at all times? All electrical cables are 110v max.

A. 

While there is nothing specific on this subject within health and safety law, manufacturers’ recommendations should be followed with regards to the use of such leads. There has been some indication that when using a cable drum extension lead, it should be completely unwound to avoid overheating and therefore reducing the risk of damage to the cable and possible fire. The HSE publication Maintaining Portable Electrical Equipment states: all extension leads that supply portable equipment are classified as portable equipment and Table 1 of the document contains suggested initial maintenance intervals. This publication can be found at www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/priced/hsg107.pdf

HARD HAT EXPIRY DATES
Q. Is there anywhere in legislation to state that a hard hat must be replaced after two years?

A. 

The guidance associated with Regulation 7 of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations, which is concerned with the maintenance and replacement of personal protective equipment, just states:

PPE will have a useable ‘shelf life’. When it exceeds its shelf life or is so badly damaged that repair is not possible or too costly it should be replaced.

 

However, the following information regarding head protection taken from Part 2 of the HSE publication Personal Protective Equipment at Work may also be useful. The key points to note for head protection are:   

(a) use an adjustable chinstrap if fitted to make sure the helmet does not fall off;   

(b) clean the inside of the helmet and clean or replace sweatbands regularly;   

(c) check regularly that any damage to the outside is no more than shallow scratches or grazes and that the internal harness is not damaged or deformed;   

(d) throw head protection away after significant impact by a fixed or falling object. Head protection is unfit for use if the outside is deeply scratched, worn or deformed; the harness is damaged or deformed; or it is beyond its usable protective life. As a general guide, industrial safety helmets should be replaced three years after manufacture but always check with the manufacturer;  

(e) wear the helmet so that the brim is level when the head is upright. Do not wear it sloping up or down as this will significantly reduce the protection it can provide;   

(f) do not wear head protection back to front – it will not protect you if you do.   

(g) do not customise head protection, for example make your own ventilation holes, paint or put stickers on it;   

(h) do not wear a baseball style bump cap where there is a risk of falling objects – wear an industrial safety helmet instead.

This publication can be found at www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/l25.htm

CDM NOTIFICATION
Q. Is any project involving more than one contractor notifiable under the CDM Regulations 2015?

A.

While the number of contractors involved with the project does determine whether certain duty holders need to be appointed and documents produced, it doesn’t affect whether the project is notifiable. A project will only be notifiable if the construction work on a construction site is scheduled to: last longer than 30 working days and have more than 20 workers working simultaneously at any point in the project; or exceed 500 person days.  

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LEGAL
REDUNDANCY
Q. I have just been informed I might be made redundant. What are my rights?

A.

Sometimes a business is not doing well or it has to reorganise to meet the needs of its customers or clients. Other times due to mergers and acquisitions it is necessary to change the profile of the workforce to meet new commercial challenges. In each of these cases it may be that the role you are currently doing is therefore redundant.

For a dismissal to be fair, it must be for a lawful reason, one of which is redundancy. Redundancy can arise in two situations:

The first is a situation in which an employer has stopped carrying on the business for the purposes of which the employees were employed, or stopped carrying on that business in the place where they were employed.

 

The second is where the requirements of the employer’s business for employees to carry out work of a particular kind, or for employees to carry out work of a particular kind in the place where they were employed by the employer, have stopped or diminished or are expected to stop or diminish.

When a business stops it is common that some of the workforce will be redundant, but redundancy can also occur when there is outsourcing, mergers or other restructuring/reorganisation of a business.

In any of these cases your employer will need to ensure the correct redundancy process is followed.

Redundancies are subject to a range of requirements, and failure to observe them could give rise to claims for unfair dismissal. The redundancy process should generally include:

  • identifying a reasonable ‘pool for selection’, for example the group of employees from which the employees selected for redundancy will be chosen;
  • adopting objective selection criteria and applying them fairly to the employees within this pool;
  • warning and consulting employees about the potential redundancy situation;
  • seeking a view from the union (if any);
  • informing and consulting employee representatives in cases of collective redundancy;
  • considering alternative employment for those employees who roles are made redundant;
  • giving reasonable paid time off to look for work;
  • training for future employment;
  • calculation of your redundancy pay.

In addition, if your employer is making individual employees redundant they must follow a fair and reasonable procedure. The following are key parts of an appropriate redundancy process.

The whole pool of employees who are at risk of redundancy should be considered. Your employer should carefully consider the role that is targeted, rather than the person in that role, and wok out which employees should be in the pool and therefore at risk of redundancy.

Consideration should be given to all those whose roles overlap or are interchangeable – for example assess the team unless the role affected is ‘standalone’. For example, if the need for developing apps has disappeared, it will be wrong to include in the pool those making sausages, though it may be right to include administrators who work with both the app developers and those making sausages! There are only very rare occasions where a role is entirely standalone. There is nearly always overlap and interdependence of roles.

There must be a consultation with all those affected by redundancy dismissals. Though it is essential to consult with those who are likely to be dismissed, consultation must also include all relevant staff in the consultation, even if some of the employees are not eligible for redundancy pay.

If your employer is proposing to dismiss 100 or more employees for redundancy from one establishment in 90 days or less, consultation must begin at least 45 days (previously 90 days) before the first dismissal takes place.

If your employer is proposing to dismiss between 20 and 99 employees for redundancy at one establishment within 90 days or less, consultation must begin at least 30 days before the first dismissal takes place.

If there are less than 20 employees being made redundant, as will frequently be the case with small employers, the process adopted needs to be reasonable. There is no statutory guidance for what is defined as ‘reasonable’ but it would be what may be reasonable taking account all of the circumstances, such as the size of the business and the reason for the redundancies. Acas has a guide for redundancies in a small business at www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/l/b/Handling-Redundancies-in-small-firms.

Consultation must be an open and clear dialogue between you and your employer so that you can be properly heard and the employer takes fully into consideration the issues, ideas and suggestions of all employees. The purpose of the consultation is to seek to avoid redundancies or mitigate the impact of them.