Call to test alcohol misuse at work

A campaign group which targets a reduction in alcohol misuse has asked for workplaces to monitor their employees’ levels of drinking. The Alcohol Health Network has called for workers to be required to take a test as standard which will determine if they are a ‘risky drinker’ or not.

Don Shenker is the founder and director of the group and he wants to see problems stamped out before they have a chance to develop. He said: “Offering staff confidential use of the ‘alcohol use disorders identification test’ and brief advice as a self-awareness initiative at work, whether through face to face interactions or leaflets, may well help prevent problems with alcohol at an earlier stage.

“In this way, staff who may be concerned about their drinking or whose level of drinking is not yet apparent to them, can assess the risks their drinking poses to their health and take appropriate action.

“Reducing hazardous drinking also reduces the risk of dependent drinking occurring.”

One of the biggest other reasons behind this suggestion is so workplaces can avoid the added cost of employee sickness through alcohol. Alcohol abuse remains a major problem in the UK as roughly 9 per cent of men and 4 per cent of women display signs they are dependent on alcohol.

Food hygiene criticism for BA Heathrow lounge

British Airways’ standards of food hygiene in their first-class Heathrow lounge have been criticised in an inspection report. BaxterStorey, who provide the catering for the airport, have been given less than favourable reviews in the past and were given a ‘poor’ rating for their lounge as well as the Concorde Room in terminal five.

The report was put together by Hillingdon Council who used the phrase ‘major non-compliance with statutory obligations’ when highlighting the aforementioned Concorde Room. The luxury surroundings were given a score of just two out of five and boiled eggs found were said to be past the use-by date.

Additionally, one kitchen employee was seen working in the area having prepared raw salmon without washing his hands or removing his gloves. Scrambled eggs and sausages were reportedly being stored 13° lower than they were supposed to be. There were also sandwiches that were not chilled and an unclean food chiller and ice machine.

The report stated: “These types of food are likely to support the growth of food poisoning bacteria or the formation of toxins.”
Heathrow can however boast high ratings for other airlines’ lounges on its premises such as the Upper Class Clubhouse from Virgin Atlantic.

Hospital could face cancer care investigation

Allegations from hospital trust staff about being forced to change cancer patients’ data could result in a police investigation.
Employees at Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust told inspectors that they had been pressured into altering data concerning patients and the treatment they were receiving. This was to make it appear as if patients were being treated in accordance with national guidelines.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) said that a number of cancer patients had to deal with ‘undue delays’ and the data related to the waiting time for treatment showed ‘inaccuracies’. The findings have since been passed on to Essex Police who have confirmed they have been informed by the CQC and are looking over the information. It will then be decided whether a criminal investigation should be launched.

During the CQC’s inspections in August and September they found that 22 of the 61 care records they looked at showed patients had been put at risk of unsafe or ineffective care thanks to appointment or treatment delays. Despite an internal investigation in 2012 which raised concerns the hospital bosses did not give thorough attention to the allegations or do a follow-up with the patients affected.

Austerity leaves hospitals the only option for constant care

The effects of austerity have led to hospitals being the only places capable of providing round-the-clock care for elderly people according to a senior NHS official.

Public spending cuts are a major concern and the NHS had a higher number of elderly patients in need of urgent care than they had expected last winter. According to the NHS Wales’ deputy chief executive Kevin Flynn the cuts have rendered the social care system unworkable.

Flynn voiced his belief that the deep-rooted problems in the set-up and the reduced spending have created a situation in which vital and thorough care for the elderly in a residential home or in their own home is difficult to ensure.

He said: “The difficulty is that with austerity across everywhere at the moment inevitably the only system that will take them, that is 24/7, is the ambulance and hospital system.

“So it’s a systematic problem of where these people end up. At any point prior to that, within various systems, we could have probably intervened to the stage where they didn’t get to hospital.

“The challenge of unscheduled care is how do we ensure that those things are happening, and it’s not just a health issue, it’s a social issue – how do we look after neighbours and so on?”

Health and safety illnesses and deaths – the facts (Part Three)

When the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) studied the facts and figures relating to work-related illnesses and deaths they also looked at the geographical details. Examining the rate per 100,000 employees in the North East, it was found that 4.6 per cent of these workers have suffered from ill-health during the last year.

This indicated that the North East was the most dangerous area of the country in which to work. Comparatively, only 2.9 per cent of workers in London have been in ill-health in the past 12 months. It wasn’t all bad news for those in the North East as this part of England had the lowest amount of fatal work-related injuries (2). The South East and Scotland had the highest number with 22.

Throughout each year it is expected to a certain extent that some members of staff will miss work through illness. However, in 2011/12 there were as many as 22.7million working days lost as a result of this and a further 4.3million due to injuries suffered in the workplace. Workplace injuries and illness are said to cost society around £13.8billion – £2.8billion to employers, £3billion to the Government and £7.9billion to individuals.

Health and safety illnesses and deaths – the facts (Part Two)

The figures may not be overly alarming when it comes to people dying while at work but there is a high number who suffer from ultimately fatal work-related diseases. There are 13,000 deaths per year that can be attributed to conditions picked up at work and occupational cancers account for a significant proportion of these fatalities.

It is common for such illnesses to build up over a number of years but the conditions of someone’s former workplace can be a major contributory factor. Among the work-related diseases cited as the most fatal are Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (from gases, dust, fumes and vapours), lung cancer (from mineral oils, diesel engine exhausts, silica and asbestos) and mesothelioma (from asbestos).

Asbestos is certainly a huge cause of deaths related to working conditions and there have been around 5000 of these in the last year and the number is expected to rise further still. Health and safety is of major importance for workplaces and the past year has seen 706 prosecutions for breaches of this. The fines for these offences amounted to £15million and 95 per cent of the cases led to a conviction.

Health and safety illnesses and deaths – the facts (Part One)

It has been revealed that 1.1million people in Britain encounter an illness related to their work and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is said to be the most fatal. There were 148 people killed at work during the past year and that works out as 0.5 deaths for every 100,000 employees.

The findings of the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) study indicated that industrial jobs were the most dangerous. There were 39 fatalities in construction, 29 in agriculture and 10 in waste and there was some interesting news for those in self-employment. For every 100,000 workers, individuals who work for themselves are at twice the risk of being killed due to an accident at work. A positive angle of the statistics showed that work-related fatalities have been halved when compared to 20 years ago.

Naturally, there is a far greater likelihood of suffering an injury at work that is not fatal and 78,222 of these instances were reported in the last year. This means that there is a 1 in 320 chance of getting injured at work and the most common causes are falls from a height, slips or trips.

Hygiene improvement called for at supermarket

A hygiene inspection at a supermarket in Burton, Staffordshire revealed a range of potentially dangerous health issues it has been revealed.

Based in the nearby village of Branston, the Morrisons store was examined at all levels by inspectors including the kitchens, bakery, salad bar and cake shop. One employee was seen leaving the raw production area having not washed their hands and food trays were stored on the floor beside bins.

Bags of rubbish were left piled up on top of sinks and members of staff were seen opening packages on the floor. Inspectors stated that employees did not know how many cleaning chemicals were being used and a box was found containing contaminated disposable gloves.

When inspectors asked to see documents regarding the food management systems in the store they could not be provided. Additionally, a handwash basin in the cake shop was blocked by a bag of rubbish and boxes and the store unsurprisingly scored worst in the hygiene aspect of the overall inspection.

Ten out of a possible 30 hazard points were awarded for the food and hygiene safety but the store was still given a ‘good’ overall rating.

Maternity hospital hygiene causes concern

Health inspectors have raised alarm at the standard of hygiene at a maternity hospital where approximately 100 babies are born each year.

A damning report was published on Tuesday 29th October highlighting a number of problems with the Aberdeen Maternity Hospital following three inspections. The inspectors first visited on 21st August before being alarmed enough to come back two weeks later. A third visit was then required and the issues were still not resolved.

The problems include high amounts of dust and contamination in parts of the hospital as well as bodily fluids found on walls and bloodstains on equipment. It was also revealed that breast milk was stored incorrectly and that equipment was damaged and consequently could not be properly cleaned.

Concern was also expressed over the standard of the laundry service and Grampian health board Chief Executive Richard Carey said: “We are absolutely determined that standards of cleanliness are maintained at all times.”

Carey also added that the opening theatre of the hospital was not fit for purpose and the hospital itself was so old that it was in need of replacing. He stated that a new facility had been commissioned but did at least commend the maternity hospital’s dress code, staff hand hygiene and low rate of infection from caesarean sections.

Bonfire party warning ahead of firefighter strike

A note of caution has been sent out in the lead-up to this weekend as people are urged only to attend organised firework events.

Firefighters in England and Wales are set to go on strike on Friday from 6.30pm to 11pm as a result of the Government and employers failing to provide guarantees on pensions or jobs in relation to the pension age changing from 55 to 60. There is also a planned strike from 6am to 8am on Monday (4th November) and with Bonfire Night and Diwali celebrations this weekend FBU (Fire Brigades Union) general secretary Matt Wrack has issued a warning.

He said: “The general advice for people around Bonfire Night is to attend organised events. We have been trying to negotiate pensions for nearly three years now and it is very frustrating for our members and firefighters across the country.
“We want a pension scheme that works, that takes account of the job that firefighters actually do, and the Government is completely ignoring the evidence and is expecting firefighters to be working on the frontline, going into burning buildings at 60 or beyond in order to get their pension. That’s simply unrealistic and dangerous.”