Health and safety budget cuts could be putting manufacturing sector at risk

According to a specialist in health and safety and personal protective equipment (PPE), the government’s cuts to health and safety budgets could be putting workers in the manufacturing sector at risk.

Arco, which supplies advice and consultancy services along with health and safety equipment, has expressed its concerns about safety budget cuts to the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP). The company claims that government cuts to the budget of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the department which ensures firms are investing in health and safety training and putting the right procedures and policies in place to keep workers safe, could be endangering lives.

In a submission of evidence to the DWP – which launched a review of the HSE in April with the aim of challenging the need for it as a public body and assessing whether it is fit for purpose – Arco said:

“Arco shares concerns with other industry players that ongoing cuts to the HSE budget will continue to impact on its long-term effectiveness and have a negative impact on enforcement and inspections.”

The findings of the DWP review are expected to be published at some time in autumn 2013.

Food hygiene myths busted

There are lots of myths and misconceptions around about food safety, and unless you’ve been on a food hygiene training course, you may end up believing them. Here are a couple of the most commonly believed busted:

The ‘5 second rule’ 
Many homes have different versions of this rule, which follows that an item of food is still ok to consume if dropped on the floor but picked up within a certain number of seconds. Worryingly, some businesses may use this rule too. People believe that harmful bacteria cannot possibly get onto the food in as short a time as five seconds, but this just isn’t true. Research has shown that E.coli and other bacteria can transfer from floor to food in under five seconds. So, if something falls on the floor – throw it away!

The ‘sniff test’ 
Whilst touch and smell can help you to work out whether an item of food has gone off, it really isn’t a rule that individuals, and definitely not professional kitchens, should be using to check whether food is safe to consume. Food that is dangerous to eat can sometimes look and smell fine, so the only way to tell is using ‘use by’ dates or labelling systems.

Fire safety advice for businesses – choosing the best fire escape routes

All businesses must have plans in place for emergencies, such as the outbreak of fire. A key part of this preparation is coming up with fire escape plans, with the aim of getting everyone safely out of the building as quickly as possible.

In your workplace fire escape plan, you will need to choose not one but several possible escape routes. This is just in case one route is blocked, either by fire or another obstruction. Here are a few tips to help you plan your workplace fire escape routes:

• Remember that in the event of a fire, you will not be able to use the lifts, so you can’t include these in your escape plan
• Signage is crucial in ensuring that everyone knows where the fire escape routes are, especially if one is blocked and another route is needed in a hurry
• Plans will need to be made for people with disabilities and other special needs. A designated person who has had fire marshal training may be given the responsibility for looking after these staff members in an emergency
• The routes you choose should be the quickest and the easiest ways out of the building
• Practice the routes with all staff members in regular fire drills to ensure everyone knows where to go and what to do if a fire breaks out – you can also time these drills to improve the speed of the evacuation.

Food hygiene ratings in Bolton restaurants improve

According to the latest figures, food hygiene ratings in Bolton restaurants have improved over the last year, suggesting that more businesses are improving in areas such as kitchen cleanliness and food safety training.

So far this year, more than 1,250 food-serving premises in the Greater Manchester town have achieved either a level four or a level five food hygiene rating, which means that they are either ‘good’ or ‘very good’. This is an increase of more than 10 per cent compared to last year’s figures, in which only 1,150 premises scored the same.

Commenting on the good news for Bolton restaurants and their customers, the local council’s executive cabinet member for environment Councillor Nick Peel said:

“We are delighted that the number of category four and five businesses has continued to rise in Bolton, meaning that our residents have an increased number of high quality food establishments to choose from.”

There is also evidence in Bolton that the National Food Hygiene Rating Scheme, run by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), has made a big difference to food business owner’s attitudes towards food hygiene. Since Bolton Council adopted the scheme in 2011, around 88 per cent of businesses now comply with food safety standards.

New dental health resource created for care homes

A new resource aimed at improving dental health amongst care home residents has been made available for care home managers.

Entitled ‘Caring for Smiles – A Guide for Care Homes’, the guidance has been put together and published by the National Oral Health Improvement Group (NOPOHIG) in Scotland. The organisation has been working alongside NHS Scotland in order to provide care training and support for care homes with older residents who want to improve mouth care.

The resource champions person-centred care, which is at the heart of most care training courses and practices as it is, as well as the importance of regular risk assessments. The guide also highlights the risks and impacts of neglecting oral health and explains ways care homes can react to resistance from residents to dental care, which does happen occasionally.

Commenting on the guide and its aims, NOPOHIG’s chair and a consultant in Dental Public Health, Maura Edwards, said:

“Older people living in care homes are at a significantly higher risk of oral health problems and related conditions than the rest of the population because of higher levels of dependency and dementia-related conditions.”

Nearly 20pc of construction sites fail latest HSE checks

According to the results of a month-long inspection drive by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), around one fifth (20 per cent) of construction sites are not adhering to health and safety regulations, potentially putting workers in danger.

As part of the checks, HSE officers visited a total of 2,363 construction sites around the UK on which repairs or refurbishments were being carried out. The results of the spot checks were surprising and not a little worrying, as the officers had to hand out 631 enforcement notices to 433 sites for urgent improvements to poor practices to be made. Furthermore, 451 notices stipulated that work should stop immediately until standards could be improved.

Commenting on the findings of the inspections, which clearly demonstrate the need for better practices, more regular risk assessments and more in-depth health and safety training, the HSE’s chief inspector of construction Philip White said:

“This initiative has once again shown us that the majority of construction employers do take their responsibilities to their workers seriously.

“However, our inspectors also encountered numerous examples of poor practice, from lack of edge protection on stairwells and scaffolding to unsafe storage of flammable materials and inadequate personal protective equipment. None of these are acceptable on a modern construction site.

“HSE will not hesitate to use its enforcement powers against reckless employers. It is they who continue to make construction one of the most dangerous industries in which to work.”

First aid tips – treating hyperventilation

To ensure that you are fully prepared for any medical emergency, whether it happens at home, at work or out in public, it is a good idea to take a first aid training course. However, there are some first aid basics it can be useful to know even if you haven’t had first aid training, such as how to recognise and treat hyperventilation, for example.

Spotting the signs of hyperventilation

Hyperventilation basically means excessive breathing, usually following acute anxiety or emotional/psychological shock. It may also be accompanied, or develop into a panic attack. You can spot hyperventilation by looking for the following symptoms:

• Unusually fast breathing
• Trembling
• Tingling in the hands and cramps in hands and feet
• Faintness and dizziness

Treating hyperventilation

Your main aim when treating a person who is hyperventilating is to calm them down and provide reassurance. Speak firmly but reassuringly to the person and escort them somewhere quiet and calm, away from other people. If you have no success calming the person down, or symptoms seem to be worsening, you will need to call the emergency services. After the incident, you may also want to recommend to the person that they see their GP about preventing panic attacks in the future.

Could technology be the key to food safety compliance in food businesses?

Food businesses have a lot of responsibilities in relation to food hygiene. By law, they must have a food safety management system in place, which covers everything from temperature control and safe food storage to hand-washing practices and food hygiene training for staff.

All of the different parts of a food safety management system can be tricky to track, as well as generating a lot of paperwork. This is why some food businesses, such as restaurants for example, as switching to more advanced, modern solutions.

There are now food safety monitoring systems available, such as the wireless Checkit system from Elektron Technology, which allow managers to keep track of temperatures in food preparation and storage areas wirelessly from smartphone and tablet devices. If normal food safety policies are breached, the system will sound an alert. These systems also generate compliance reports in addition to round-the-clock monitoring.

Of course, advanced technology can only do so much to ensure that food safety laws are being followed. Food businesses still need to ensure that they make thorough food hygiene training a priority, along with regular revisions and reassessments of practices and procedures.

HSE launches new health and safety guidance for large businesses

In an effort to help large UK businesses and organisations understand their responsibilities in relation to health and safety, and to abide by the law, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has launched brand new, user-friendly guidance.

The ‘Managing for Health and Safety’ guidance, or HSG65, is designed to help business owners, company directors, trustees and line managers understand how to manage health and safety in their workplace.

The guidance, which is available online at the HSE website free of charge, has four main sections, which are:

1. The core elements of managing health and safety
2. Are you doing what you need to?
3. How to deliver effective arrangements
4. Resources

Workers and their union representatives can also benefit from the improved information from the HSE, whether they have undergone health and safety training or not.

Commenting on the HSG65 guidance, lead author Andrew Cottam said:

“Each level of guidance on our website offers appropriately targeted information, focussed on making compliance as straightforward as possible.

“Following the guidance is not compulsory, unless specifically stated, and businesses are free to take other action, but if they do follow the guidance they will normally be doing enough to comply with the law. Health and safety inspectors seek to secure compliance with the law and may refer to this guidance.”

Improvements needed at Hemel Hempstead care home

A care home in Hemel Hempstead has been told that it must make urgent improvements to its care training, standards and practices after a damning report following a recent inspection.

Officers from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) visited the Mountbatten Lodge in June 2013 on an unannounced inspection. They found a number of worrying problems with standards of care at the home, including:

• A person who had been without food or drink for over 17 hours
• Two residents displaying signs of dehydration
• One resident who had not had medication for three days, after supplies had run out
• Dirty bathrooms and bedrooms
• Bad odours in different parts of the home
• Some bins, including those containing clinical waste, left overflowing

Following the inspection, a report concluded that the Mountbatten Lodge care home was failing on seven national standards, including infection control, cleanliness, care and welfare, medication management and meeting nutritional needs.

The home has now been ordered to make urgent improvements. The management team have agreed to draw up a step-by-step plan showing how they will make the required improvements to standards at the home, which may include more advanced care training for staff.