When were your workplace fire alarms last tested?

Fire alarms and smoke detectors in workplaces must be tested on a regular basis, to make sure that they’re working and importantly, that they will work if a fire breaks out. If you’ve been an employee, manager or even the owner of a company for a long time and you have never heard the fire alarm sound, it might be time for a test to be carried out.

Testing during fire drills

A good way to test the fire alarm system is to carry out a fire drill. This involves setting the fire alarm off and evacuating the building, with all occupants being led and guided by a designated person who has undergone fire marshal training. Everyone will assemble outside, and the business can assess how quick the evacuation was and whether further measures to improve fire escape routes or other measures are needed.

However, a fire drill may only take place once a year or every few months. Your workplace fire alarms should be tested more frequently. Many companies have a designated day of the week or month, recurring every week or month, when fire alarms are tested. This allows staff to be prepared for the sudden noise, and the alarm system to be properly tested without disrupting everyone.

Poorly guarded machines most common cause of food industry accidents

According to FoodManufacture.co.uk, poorly guarded machinery and equipment is one of the most common causes of injuries and accidents within the UK food and drink manufacturing industry.

The website has created its own health and safety timeline for this particular sector, which documents the number of incidents and injuries related to machinery without the proper safety guards within the last year.

Employees within the food and drink manufacturing industry require the right health and safety training in order to use potentially dangerous machinery safely, but they also need proper supervision, as well as guards, emergency stop functions and other safety features to protect them.

The research revealed by FoodManufacture.co.uk also shows that one of the most common outcomes of accidents involving poorly guarded machinery in the last 12 months is the loss of fingers. As well as causing a lot of pain and distress, the loss of even one finger can greatly affect a person’s life, and can even prevent them from being able to work and earn a living.

The head of campaigns and engagement at the British Safety Council (BSC), Matthew Holder, said that many businesses are not learning from past mistakes, explaining:

“We see year in, year out the same causes of injuries and fatalities – the same mistakes again and again.”

£60,000 health and safety fine for Rolls-Royce

The auto manufacturer Rolls-Royce has reportedly been fined £60,000 for breaching health and safety regulations which led to a worker developing Carpal tunnel syndrome.

Rolls-Royce employee Allan Thornewill, 55, who worked at the car company’s plant in the Derby suburb of Sinfin, was responsible for cleaning turbine blades. After prolonged exposure to the vibrations produced by these blades, Mr Thornewill developed Carpal tunnel syndrome. This condition affects many people who work with vibrating tools and machinery and causes a lot of pain, numbness and tingling in the hand and fingers.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), looking into the case, said that Rolls-Royce could have prevented Mr Thornewill developing the syndrome by checking for early signs of damage, carrying out a risk assessment, investing in better health and safety training and limiting the amount of time workers spent using vibrating machinery.

At a hearing, the company was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay £18,168 in court costs for breaching health and safety regulations. Following the hearing, HSE inspector Noelle Walker said:

“Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome and carpal tunnel syndrome linked to vibration exposure are preventable.

“However, once the damage is done, it’s permanent with no cure.

“Proper health surveillance is vital to detect and respond to early signs of damage.”

Call to put first aid on Welsh school curriculum

A leading charity has called for first aid training to be included on the curriculum in Welsh schools, in order to give children the skills and knowledge they may need in later years to save lives.

The Red Cross in Wales has a youth strategy which it first launched three years ago, which aims to promote humanitarian values, respond to young people and children in crisis and encourage more young people to train in first aid. Another key area of the strategy aims to provide young people with volunteering opportunities, which can give them confidence and help them in later life.

At present, the charity is focusing its attentions on getting first aid training onto the school curriculum in Wales. Commenting on the latest campaign, the Red Cross’ senior services manager for youth and schools in Wales, Wayne Morgan, said:

“We believe very strongly in first-aid education in trying to get young people to learn those skills for the community,”

“It is a help for young people to have first-aid skills.

“It can develop their confidence – there are young people who have had to save somebody’s life and had the confidence to put someone in the recovery position and been able to act and do something.”

Edinburgh nursing home criticised over care standards

A care home in Edinburgh has been criticised by the Care Inspectorate, Scotland’s equivalent of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), over poor standards of care.

The Pentland Hill nursing home, which is in Cortorphine, was put under the spotlight after a number of complaints were made. The death of a 67-year-old resident at the home last month is also being investigated.

The Care Inspectorate has now issued the Pentland Hill home with an Improvement Noticed, requiring it to improve standards of care training, policies and practices to the required level. New admissions to the Bupa-run home have also been suspended until the required improvements can be made.

Commenting on the case, a spokesperson for the social care watchdog said:

“We have serious concerns about the quality of care and management in this home and have issued a formal improvement notice.

“This requires urgent changes to be made to bring the home up to scratch, and we are working closely with the provider to make that happen.

“Everyone using a care home has the right to care that reflects their needs and promotes their rights and if that does not happen, we will not hesitate to take enforcement action.”

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.”