Categories Health & Safety

Every Day’s a School Day – Health & Safety

Every day is a learning day, training, re-confirming, sharing. And there is no discipline more important to keep abreast of than that of Health & Safety.

Today, we look at 5 key items of PPE crucial to the industry and to the safety of our engineers.

It’s true that there has been a significant reduction in reported workplace injuries in recent years, much of the improvements resulting from regulations in PPE standards and application and general workplace standards. There were still 123 deaths caused by work related accidents in 2021/2022 according to the HSE.

Appropriate Risk Assessment, correct and functioning PPE, training and re-training are all essential provisions to protect our engineers at work.

DID YOU KNOW

Hierarchy of Conrols:

PPE should be regarded as the last resort to protect against risks to health and safety. Engineering controls and safe systems of work should be considered first.

Consider controls in the following order, with elimination being the most effective and PPE being the least effective:

  • Elimination – physically remove the hazard
  • Substitution – replace the hazard
  • Engineering controls – isolate people from the hazard
  • Administrative controls – change the way people work
  • PPE – protect the worker with personal protective equipment

Day 1 – Safety Harnesses

As electrical contractors often working in large commercial spaces and distribution hubs, working at height is an almost daily occurence. Beyond the reach of steps come the MEWPs. The most significant MEWP dangers arise from the operation and use of the machine, rather than from their movement as a site vehicle. The law says that these hazards must be properly managed and addressed in Risk Assessment.

One of the main hazards is falling from height. Not surprisingly, one of the main objectives is arresting falls – this is where the harness comes in.

A safety harness is a pretty simple piece of equipment. In its simplest form, a safety harness is a system of restraints designed to prevent the user from falling from a height. Safety harnesses also greatly reduce the risk of injury if they were to fall from height.

Once the user is wearing the harness they attach it to a solid, stationary object. Should they fall for whatever reason, the harness and the fall protection system will prevent ground impact.

But, you can’t just take a harness off the shelf and think that’s it, job done. Safety harnesses, when combined with sufficient working at height practice, reduce the likelihood of an incident occurring. Inspection, maintenance, training and reminders through Toolbox Talks are essential contributions to protect employers from the risk of injury and death.

A key question you should / must consider: Can a brand new harness be used straight away?

  • Only is there is a current harness assessment in place, which often there isn’t.
  • And once you have checked it is the right harness for the user(s)’ – size, weight etc
  • And only after the engineers have been trained on how to wear it / fit it / use it.
  • And ongoing? Check, inspect, re-train, toolbox talks etc etc. Be safe

See the article The Safety Harness for more information.

Day 2 – Hi Visibility Clothing.

Employers are required to provide hi-vis clothing to their employees and their employees are required to wear it.

High visibility clothing is designed to make the wearer more visible and more noticeable in their work environment. High visibility clothing is considered personal protective equipment (PPE) in the work environment and will carry an ANSI/ISEA label explaining garment characteristics.

As with any PPE, inspection, maintenance and training to ensure proper use and safety are ongoing requirements of JGF personnel.

Hi-vis clothing should be comfortable and fit the wearer properly, without restricting their movement.

Employer responsibility:

  • To provide HV clothing FOC
  • To check its cleanliness and suitability.
  • Provide adequate instruction, information and training so that it is worn correctly.
  • Supervise to check that it is being worn correctly.

The vest can be a mesh, solid material, or some combination of the two, helping workers stay cool on a hot day. We give all our engineers Class 1 mesh zip fastening hi-vis jackets and insist they are zipped at all times.

DID YOU KNOW

Employer responsibilities regarding the supply, training and maintenance of PPE were amended (extended) under the PPE at Work (Amended) Regulations 2022 (PPER 2022). This extended the ’92 regs (PPER 1992) to include responsibilities for Limb (b) workers as well as the regulations provided for Limb (a) workers.

  • Limb (a) are those directly employed under a full contract of employment.
  • Limb (b) are casual or temporary workers. These were not covered under PPER 1992 but are under PPER 2022.

In short, you are responsible for the supply and training of appropriate PPE for your casual workers too.

For full guidance from the HSE, read more HERE.

Day 3 – Hard Hats

Hard hats are required when working in areas where there is a potential for injury to the head from falling objects, bumps against fixed objects, and technically, contact with live electrical conductors.

Such head protection is regulated to EN 397, designed to ptotect the wearer from falling objects. JGF workers are most at risk when working on the ground below colleagues working at height. Banksmen providint ground assistance to a colleague in the MEWP are particularly at risk.

We are trialling Bump Caps at the moment for situations where stationary structures pose a risk to the head, such as working around low ceilings, pipework, caging etc. As they are intended to protect against bumps and scrapes from static objects, bump caps are tested with an impact energy of only 12J.

Hard hats used as part of JGF’s PPE are selected for regulation standards. They must all have chin straps. While in an assessed hard hat environment, those straps must be correctly fastened at all times.

Wearing a hat or hoodie underneath a hard hat may seem a logical comfort or warmth factor but, a cap or hood can affect the effectiveness of the helmet’s protection strapping and chin strap.

Don’t do it guys.

Day 4 – Gloves

Our hands are amazingly tools. We use them every day, so much so we can take their value and fragility for granted. They can be exposed to a multitude of hazards in the workplace which, in worst case scenarios, result in serious injuries.

There is a very real cost to the employee, and also to the employer. In 2019 – 2020, there were over 16,000 non-fatal workplace injuries affecting the hand and wrist; 25% of all non-fatal injuries in fact. Of those, over 11,000 instances resulted in the worker needing over seven days’ absence. Injuries end up costing employers in terms of lost productivity, repairs and remedial work and incidence investigation, amounting to an estimated £1.3 billion per year.

According to studies, gloves can reduce hand injuries by up to 60%.

Specifying gloves that provide workers with the appropriate protection can be crucial in helping to keep their hands safe, but often wearing gloves makes tasks easier and more efficient too.

The general requirement for safety gloves is EN420, which functions as a symbol of authentication for high-quality safety gloves. It’s the basic standard for all types of safety gloves, covering everything from a disposable medical glove to a fully heat-resistant glove for soldering.

The protection level is indicated by a number between 1 and 5, where 5 indicates the highest level of cut protection.

We have standardised the gloves provided as part of our engineers’ PPE. Again, training and inspection are a crucial part of ensuring all PPE is fit for purpose and being used appropriately.

Day 5 – Lock Off Kit

We were discussing Health & Safety last week (it’s a regular discussion point in our fortnightly Leadership Team meetings) and reviewed our LOTO policies. Even around the table, although the purpose of the acronym was universally confirmed, the actual ‘O’ and ‘O’ had mixed results.

LOTO – Lock Out / Tag Out

An efficient, well-practiced Lockout Tagout (LOTO) procedure is the most effective preventative solution.

The difference between lock out and tag out is the device used. The lockout device stops employees from operating the equipment while the tagout device informs them that the equipment should not be operated. Essentially, a tagout device is the second layer of protection against unsafe equipment operation while a lockout device is the first layer.

The LOTO Rules of Isolation are:

  • Obtain permission to start work (a Permit may be required in some situations)
  • Identify the source(s) of supply using an approved voltage indicator or test lamp
  • Prove that the approved voltage indicator or test lamp is functioning correctly
  • Isolate the supply(s)
  • Secure the isolation
  • Prove the system/equipment is DEAD using an approved voltage indicator or test lamp
  • Prove that the approved voltage indicator or test lamp is functioning correctly
  • Put up warning signs to tell other people that the electrical installation has been isolated
  • Once the system/equipment is proved DEAD, work can begin.

For more information, see our article – It’s LOTO, not a LOTTO.

STAY SAFE – KEEP LEARNING

Categories Health & Safety

H&S – The Safety Harness

Not to be glib, but remember, what goes up must come down. We just want you all to come down safely.”

Well, what a way to start a Toolbox Talk re-appraisal of Safety Harnesses on last week’s Apprentice Day. But at least it got everybody’s attention.

As electrical contractors often working in large distribution hubs, working at height is an almost daily occurrence. Beyond the reach of the steps come the MEWPs. The most significant MEWP dangers arise from operation and use of the machine, rather than from their movement as a site vehicle. The law says that these hazards must be properly controlled.

We’ll just address one of these points – there are dangers related to moving MEWPs on site just as there are dangers simply walking around a site. So, take nothing for granted, check corporate regs and site regs as part of PPE and Toolbox Talks at the start of each day and adhere to the rules.

Working at height has its own problems.

Operators have died when trapped in the MEWP basket or when the machine has overturned. Great care must be taken to select the most appropriate MEWP, and ensure that deployment of the machine is properly planned and managed.

MEWP Hazards

Most fatal and serious injuries involving MEWPs arise from:

  • Entrapment: operator trapped between part of the basket and a fixed structure, eg when manoeuvring in confined overhead areas of steelwork. Operators may become trapped against the platform controls, unable to stop the machine running.
  • Overturning: the machine may overturn throwing the operator from the basket.
  • Falling: an operator may fall from the basket during work activities; and
  • Collision: the vehicle may collide with pedestrians, overhead cables or nearby vehicles.

These hazards should be identified within a risk assessment and suitable control measures put in place to avoid them.

Controlling the Risk

It is important to select the right MEWP for the job and site. There are a number of precautions that can reduce the risk from MEWP hazards. These are:

  • Confined overhead working should be identified, added to the risk assessment and fully briefed to the operators.
  • Keeping the platform tidy will reduce the risk of the operator tripping or losing balance while in the basket.
  • Outriggers must be extended and chocked before raising the platform. Spreader plates may be necessary – check the equipment manual.
  • Guardrails and effective toe boards should be fitted.
  • Arresting falls – this is where the harness and line come in – back to our patient Apprentices in a minute.
  • Falling objects are a hazard that a tidy deck will reduce and appropriately positioned and PPE’d ground staff will avoid.
  • Nearby hazards: do not operate a MEWP close to overhead cables or other dangerous machinery, or allow any part of the arm to protrude into a traffic route.

Arresting Falls

A safety harness is a pretty simple piece of equipment. In its simplest form, a safety harness is a system of restraints designed to prevent the user from falling from a height. Safety harnesses also greatly reduce the risk of injury if they were to fall from height.

Once the user is wearing the harness they attach it to a solid, stationary object. Should they fall for whatever reason, the harness and the fall protection system will prevent ground impact.

But, you can’t just take a harness off the shelf and think that’s it, job done. Safety harnesses, when combined with sufficient working at height practice, reduce the likelihood of an incident occurring.

Using a Safety Harness

The very first thing you need to know is how to inspect the harness to make sure that it’s suitable for industrial use – fit for purpose.

And this is the first thing Michelle did when a whole new set of harnesses arrived at JGF. She rejected three that were damaged, these being replaced by a rather embarrassed PPE supplier. Her eagle eyes and no-nonsense approach to safety are essential assets for an H&S Officer.

As with all Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), you should inspect your safety harness for suitability every 6 months and complete the detailed periodic inspection regularly. That’s on top of checking the safety harness before each use.

A quick checklist that might help:

The webbing must be free of tears, cuts, fraying or excessive abrasion; loose seams or fading may also mean that the fiber structure is compromised. Check the straps for any damage or distortion, especially UV, chemical damage or if the harness appears brittle.

We recently threw a perfectly good looking harness away because a previous employer had written his name on it. That’s a no no.

Don’t be precious, be safe.

Using Your Safety Harness

If you fail to assemble your harness correctly, then you’ll end up doing more harm than good” said Michelle on handing the gear out. “Just hang on (no pun intended) and I will fit and check each of you to make sure you know exactly what to do. Then, you’ll check each other, working ‘buddy buddy’ as you would on site.”

Your legs come first – pull the thigh straps up and around your legs and tighten them to suit. Next, make sure that your arms are through the arm straps, and connect the chest strap so that the fabric is tight on the shoulders. The chest strap and shoulder straps should be central and comfortable.”

Try to move your arms and shoulders – if there are any restrictions, adjust the buckles as necessary.”

Once you’ve assembled your safety harness correctly, you can attach it to whatever device has been identified as safe and reliable in your working at height instructions.

WARNING

If someone does have a fall, bring them safely to the ground BUT, DO NOT REMOVE THE HARNESS.

Because of the compression it will have put on the body, raspatory system and arterial flow, releasing the harness may cause a sudden rush of toxins into the body that could kill the faller.

Sit them in the ‘W’ position until paramedics attend, assess and release the harness if safe to do so.

Our thanks to Michelle Riley and the knowledge gained and so well shared from Kentec’s Harness Essentials and Harness Inspection courses.

Categories Health & Safety

It’s LOTO, not ‘a LOTTO’

Don’t make a LOTTO (lottery) of your critical Health & Safety regime.

LOTO – Lockout, Tagout.

We were discussing Health & Safety last week (it’s a regular discussion point in our fortnightly Leadership Team meetings) and reviewed our LOTO policies. Even around the table, although the purpose of the acronym was universally confirmed, the actual ‘O’ and ‘O’ had mixed results.

Joe (MD) then put the question out to a wider audience (our 3,000+ LinkedIn followers) with the following results:

56% got it right – is that good, bad or concerning?

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 – HSR25 (Forth edition) Published 2018

This new edition of HSR25 will help dutyholders meet the requirements of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989. It will be of interest and practical help to all dutyholders, particularly engineers (including those involved in the design, construction, operation or maintenance of electrical systems), technicians and their managers.

It sets out the Regulations and gives technical and legal guidance on them. The purpose of this guidance is to highlight the nature of the precautions in general terms to help dutyholders achieve high standards of electrical safety in compliance with the duties imposed.

One of the most common workplace hazards is the release of hazardous energy during maintenance or repair work on machinery or equipment. Resultant injuries can be life changing and even fatal.

LOTO Procedures

An efficient, well-practiced Lockout Tagout (LOTO) procedure is the most effective preventative solution.

The difference between lock out and tag out is the device used. The lockout device stops employees from operating the equipment while the tagout device informs them that the equipment should not be operated. Essentially, a tagout device is the second layer of protection against unsafe equipment operation while a lockout device is the first layer.

The LOTO Rules of Isolation are:

  • Obtain permission to start work (a Permit may be required in some situations)
  • Identify the source(s) of supply using an approved voltage indicator or test lamp
  • Prove that the approved voltage indicator or test lamp is functioning correctly
  • Isolate the supply(s)
  • Secure the isolation
  • Prove the system/equipment is DEAD using an approved voltage indicator or test lamp
  • Prove that the approved voltage indicator or test lamp is functioning correctly
  • Put up warning signs to tell other people that the electrical installation has been isolated
  • Once the system/equipment is proved DEAD, work can begin.

LOTO Stay Safe