A drastic rise in reported cases of bed bugs in Paris has caused panic to spread to the UK. Since then, cases in major cities across Britain have emerged, with London, Luton and Manchester all reporting sightings of bed bugs in recent weeks.

While they don’t spread disease, bed bugs can be notoriously hard to get rid of and can cause significant physical discomfort, as well as psychological stress. Over recent years, bed bugs have become more resistant to insecticides, making most over-the-counter treatments redundant. And with an increase in travel after the pandemic, the bed bug population has the perfect opportunity to multiply.

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The sense that little in Britain works anymore has slipped into our very buildings, with hundreds, if not thousands of public buildings at risk of collapse over the use of Raac – reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete. Raac has forced the closure of more than a hundred schools alone, with the cheap construction material used between the 1950s and 1990s also found in courts, hospitals, and other public buildings.

Similar to the issue of asbestos, Raac could be present in an unknown number of buildings given how widely it was used in construction. The Health and Safety Executive said Raac is “beyond its lifespan” and may “collapse with little or no notice.”

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With people suffering from sky-high inflation, a mortgage and rental crisis, strikes across the economy and a cost of living crisis that affects everyone’s pocket, does health and safety get forgotten about? HSE figures show people are still being killed and injured at work, but even the HSE is suffering from a 43% drop in funding and slashing staff almost in half.

For health and safety professionals, the challenge in today’s workplace is ensuring health and safety remains a top priority in a world of overlapping crises when many people are struggling to make ends meet. Health and safety has never been more important when an accident at work could leave people in an even worse position.

Watch our on-demand webinar, where we look at health and safety in the context of today’s economic challenges. We look at compliance lessons from other challenging times and understand the lessons we can learn in how to ensure health and safety remains front of mind for workers.

In this session, we discuss:

  • The impact of inflation and cost of living crisis on health and safety infrastructure
  • Recent cases and statistics of H&S challenges for businesses
  • Best practice in health and safety training and compliance
  • The risks to organisations in letting health and safety compliance slip
  • Lessons from compliance priorities in challenging times

Watch the on-demand webinar and learn to deal with H&S challenges in today’s economic climate.

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Deaths have increased since the pandemic but half of ‘mandatory investigations’ don’t happen, leaving employers and families in the dark

New data published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE – 6 July) has revealed 135 people died in 2022/23 due to work-related fatalities. There was a distinct drop in deaths at work during the pandemic at 123 the year before, but since the economy has re-opened, the figures have generally returned to their pre-coronavirus levels and remain stubbornly high. Yet the HSE doesn’t know why in at least half of all cases, and isn’t giving employers enough information to prevent these tragedies happening again.

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In the last year in the UK, there were over 78,000 reportable injuries at work in the last year. At least 2 million sick days are taken because of back pain – two thirds of which could have been avoided through the use of safe manual handling techniques. Most manual handling injuries actually do not occur as a result of intense or strenuous activities or unexpected events such as a fall, but rather are the result of cumulative strain, i.e. gradual wear and tear caused by day to day tasks.

What is manual handling in the workplace?

Manual handling in the workplace refers to any activity that involves the lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, or moving of objects or people by hand. It is a common task in many industries and workplaces, ranging from offices to construction sites, warehouses, healthcare facilities, and more.

Manual handling tasks can include activities such as lifting boxes, stacking shelves, moving equipment, transferring patients, and handling tools or machinery. While manual handling is a necessary part of many jobs, it can pose various risks to the health and safety of workers if not performed correctly.

Who is responsible for safe manual handling at work?

In the United Kingdom, the responsibility for safe manual handling at work primarily rests with employers. They have a legal obligation to ensure the health and safety of their employees under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and associated regulations.

The importance of manual handling at work

Effective manual handling practices are of paramount importance in the workplace. By prioritising safe manual handling techniques, employers can significantly reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries and promote the overall well-being of their staff. Proper manual handling not only safeguards employees from immediate harm but also helps prevent long-term health problems, such as back injuries and repetitive strain injuries. By providing appropriate training, implementing control measures, and fostering a culture of safety, employers can create a work environment that values the physical health and safety of their employees. Prioritising manual handling safety contributes to increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, and improved job satisfaction, ultimately leading to a more efficient and healthier workplace.

What are the 4 key factors of manual handling?

The four key factors with respect to manual handling are commonly referred to as “TILE.” Each letter in TILE represents an important aspect of manual handling.

  1. Task: This refers to the nature of the manual handling task being performed, such as lifting, carrying, pushing, or pulling objects. It involves considering the weight, size, and shape of the objects being handled.
  1. Individual: This factor focuses on the capabilities of the individual involved in manual handling. Considerations include their physical fitness, experience, training, and any pre-existing medical conditions or limitations.
  1. Load: The load factor involves assessing the characteristics of the object being handled. This includes its weight, stability, shape, size, and any potential hazards associated with it. It also encompasses factors such as the need for team lifting or the use of mechanical aids.
  1. Environment: The environment factor considers the surrounding conditions in which manual handling takes place. This includes factors such as the layout of the workspace, the presence of obstacles or uneven surfaces, lighting, temperature, and any other potential hazards or risks present in the environment.

Manual handling at work: a guide

VinciWorks and DeltaNet have produced a valuable, in-depth guide to manual handling. The guide provides a background to the topic and explains what the risk factors are with regard to cumulative strain caused by manual handling. The guide sets out the legal requirements on employers and goes through different types of manual handling and the risks involved in each type. Readers are taught how to identify red flags, how to conduct a risk-assessment, and how to reduce the risk of injuries. 

Any organisation whose workers engage in manual handling will benefit from this guide that sets out your legal obligations as an employer, explains the risks and how to make sure workers are able to perform their jobs safely and effectively and prevent lost productivity, increased absenteeism and reduced quality of life for affected workers.

Download the guide

Manual handling training

Training is a key factor in reducing injury and accidents from manual handling; click to learn more about our manual handling training and manual handling challenge courses.

Health and safety training

DeltaNet provide market-leading Compliance, Health and Safety, and Performance online training solutions that fit the needs of your business. Click here to learn more.

FAQs on manual handling training

What is manual handling training?

Manual handling training refers to the process of educating individuals on safe techniques and practices for handling objects manually. 

What is the purpose of manual handling training?

The purpose of manual handling training is to provide individuals with the necessary knowledge and skills to minimise the risk of injuries and promote safe working practices when lifting, carrying, pushing, or pulling objects.

Do staff need to do manual handling training?

All staff members that are involved in manual handling activities should undergo manual handling training. It’s important for organisations to provide this training to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their employees. 

How long does manual handling training take?

The duration of manual handling training can vary depending on several factors, including the specific content being covered, the training provider, and the needs of the participants. Generally, manual handling training courses range from a few hours to a full day. The specific duration of manual handling training should be determined based on the needs of the participants and the scope of the training program being implemented.

Is manual handling training a legal requirement?

Under UK health and safety regulations (Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992), employers have a legal duty to assess and manage the risks associated with manual handling activities.

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In a rapidly changing economy, companies are ever more reliant on a well-functioning supply chain to get things done. From outsourcing payroll to launching a new product, supply chain management has never been more crucial. Examining the risks posed by new suppliers is equally vital. A worrying incident can have a knock-on effect on your business, from reputational risk to fines or criminal action.

Many companies have become highly skilled in managing their own health and safety risks, particularly since the pandemic. But what about the health and safety risks of third parties? What are your legal, ethical, and ESG responsibilities to ensure the health and safety of workers in your supply chain? How do you ensure suppliers are meeting their health and safety obligations, how do you assess suppliers for risk, and what should you do if you have health and safety concerns in your third parties?

In this webinar, VinciWorks, in collaboration with our partners DeltaNet, examine the risks of third-party failures in health and safety.

We look at:

  • Legal, ethical and ESG obligations in supply chain management
  • The health and safety expectations of third parties in your value chain
  • The risks of a health and safety failure from a third party
  • How to mitigate third-party risks in health and safety
  • Undertaking health and safety-focused risk-based due diligence

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Working at height is a leading cause of workplace accidents, responsible for more fatal incidents than anything else.

The definition of “work at height” is broader than the traditional idea of someone up on a ladder or scaffolding (although this type of work is of course included). It can take place above ground, or at or below ground level. As long as it involves a risk of someone being injured by a fall, it counts as “work at height” and is covered by the appropriate legislation.

Why are Risk Assessments Important?

Risk assessments are a way of assessing what hazards there are, who might be affected by them and what needs to be done to remove or minimise the risks. They need to be updated regularly and should be relevant to the risks faced on each specific job, taking into account the different needs of the individuals working at height at every location.

They are a useful way of uncovering health and safety risks that are not immediately obvious. This is especially true if they’ve been written with the input of the workers themselves, whose perspective while undertaking the work is very valuable in terms of deciding what might count as a hazard.

In the unfortunate event of an accident happening, a risk assessment provides a written record of what the company did to avoid this beforehand, including staff training. The control measures in place can then be amended to ensure they stop future occurrences.

Since risk assessments have been a legal requirement, there has been a steady reduction in the number of workplace accidents. Although there is still a long way to go, risk assessments are there to protect workers and the public, and they have had some success in doing that so far.

The consequences for neglecting risk assessments for work at height can be severe. In one case, a pair of workers were dismantling a farm building. They didn’t perform a risk assessment or have any safety plan, and no precautions had been taken to avoid falls from height. As a result, one of the workers fell through a skylight whilst walking across a roof, suffering head injuries and multiple fractures. Many similar cases have resulted in deaths.

It is part of an employer’s duty of care towards its staff to make sure risk assessments are taken seriously and all practical steps are taken to reduce the risk of worker injury.

What does a Working at Height Risk Assessment Cover?

A risk assessment should cover the following issues:

  • What hazards are there? What risk level do each of them represent – high, low or medium?
  • Who is at risk from these hazards? Include all workers, contractors and the general public. Are some groups, individuals or job roles at particular risk?
  • What’s being done to eliminate or minimise these risks? List all the control measures in as much detail as possible and update them as necessary.
  • Dates. When were the control measures put in place? Are they ongoing or do they need upgrading at various times?

There are many generic examples online and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) publishes risk assessment guidance on its website.

Who Carries out the Working at Height Risk Assessment?

All risk assessments need to be completed by someone competent to carry out the task. Anyone who has the experience, skills and knowledge to spot the relevant hazards and devise the correct control measures to deal with them classes as “competent” in this context. Given the importance of this job, it might be useful to invest in some training to make sure the competent person has the necessary requirements and nothing is missed.

Work at height and the specific hazards involved vary from job to job. The safety plan for each job needs to reflect this – though a template can be used, the individual risks of each project must be considered. For example, a renovation job using scaffolding and an office conversion using ladders will pose different risks to the workers.

Working at height includes any task where a person could be injured by a fall – even if that’s at or below ground level. Common settings including working on scaffolding, on roofing or on tops of vehicles or trailers. There’s risk involved in all activities but work at height can be particularly dangerous, causing more fatal accidents than anything else in the workplace. By recognising the most likely hazards surrounding this kind of work, the proper steps can be taken to reduce the risks and ensure everyone gets home safely at the end of the working day.

Workers in construction, painting and decorating, window cleaning and maintenance are the most likely to be working at height on a regular basis. However, this type of work can appear in all industries – even using a stepladder to reach a high shelf in a warehouse or office requires the correct training and due diligence to ensure injuries don’t occur.

Roofing and Other Surfaces

Falls through roofs and skylights are fairly common and can lead to serious injuries. In October 2018, Devon fabricator Langaton Steel Fabrications were fined £12,000 due to an August 2017 incident in which a 19-year-old worker fell through the roof of a petrol station he was working on. Suffering serious head injuries, a broken pelvis and a broken wrist, the worker could easily have been killed by the incident. His employer pleaded guilty to breaching the Work at Height Regulations 2005, the primary piece of UK legislation handling this kind of work.

Any work where pressure will be applied to roofing (especially roofing in need of repair) should be treated as high risk and control measures should be put in place accordingly. Even sturdy roofs can cause issues. Sloping roofs, such as those often found on bungalows or houses, can be problematic – people are more likely to lose their footing on them. Due to their shape, by the time the worker has fallen from the edge there could be considerable momentum built up, causing the impact with the ground to be stronger than it would be otherwise. Roof lights are usually made of weaker materials and can be covered over, making them harder to spot and thus easier to fall through.

Badly Maintained Equipment (or the Wrong Equipment)

As with all health and safety hazards, the best way to deal with hazards is to eliminate them entirely – if this is possible. Certain types of work at height can be done from the ground level with extendable tools. For example, a window cleaner might be able to reach some of their target windows with extendable hoses and other equipment that removes the need to work at height at all.

Where work at height is unavoidable, the correct equipment must always be used. This could be access platforms, ladders, scaffolding or any other type of access equipment; the right choice will depend on the risk level, access difficulty and duration of the task at hand. For example, ladders can be a good choice for certain types of jobs (and aren’t banned by health and safety legislation, despite rumours to the contrary in the UK in recent years), but they should only be used for short duration, relatively low-risk tasks. All equipment should be inspected thoroughly before and after every use.

In once case, a farmer was injured after falling more than two metres from a defective ladder. He was carrying out maintenance work on a ladder that wasn’t secured properly and only had one rubber foot, causing it to topple during the job. Sadly, this is a common story, and 8% of non-fatal accidents in UK workplaces are caused by falls from height.

Lack of Training

Human error accounts for many workplace accidents and this is much less likely if staff have received good quality training about working at height.

Good training will equip employees to spot hazards and be mindful of which equipment is safe to use and what it looks like when properly maintained.

Weather Conditions

Working at height will almost always have added risk during times of adverse weather. During ice and snow, for example, the ground is likely to be less stable and can’t provide such a solid grounding for access equipment. In many cases, it will be the safest option to delay the work until conditions are less extreme.

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 is the primary piece of UK legislation relating to working at height and the associated risks. This legislation’s aim was to reduce the numbers of workers being injured and killed by workplace falls from height, which were – and sadly remain – quite common. It requires employers to take every practical step available to identify the hazards facing their employees when they’re working at height and to remove or minimise the risks so that accidents are less likely to take place.

Part of an employer’s legal and moral duty towards its workers is the creation of a thorough risk assessment. This identifies the relevant hazards and sets out the control measures that tackle these.

What are Control Measures?

Control measures are any actions taken that can eliminate the risk of a hazard or reduce employees’ exposure to said hazard.

The most effective control measures remove the hazard entirely. An example of this is replacing a task that typically involves working at height with one that takes place at ground level, perhaps through the use of extendable tools. Window cleaners can reach some higher level windows this way and avoid any additional risks to their safety.

Sometimes, working from height is unavoidable and the task can’t be done remotely or from ground level. In these cases, control measures can include limiting the time employees spend working at height, providing sufficient training for the job, ensuring they have the right personal protective equipment (PPE) for their work and setting up features such as safety nets. Which of these is the appropriate response will depend on the project itself, the individuals involved, and other circumstances. The most effective control measures can change over time – one of the reasons it’s so important to review risk assessments regularly and on an ongoing basis.

Choosing the Right Equipment for the Job

As a rule of thumb, collective and passive forms of safety measures are preferred over personal forms (such as PPE) or measures that rely on individuals’ behaviour to work. Safety railings, for example, require no action from workers (other than to refrain from climbing over the railings) and safety nets work regardless of how much the person falling into them is following a specific protocol.

In one case, an employee cleaning extraction fans in a poultry unit fell 3 metres from an unguarded roof, causing permanent spinal injuries. Roof edge protection or a safety harness would have likely led to a better outcome for the employee, as would a host of other health and safety preparation that was not done in this instance.

In terms of accident prevention, choosing the correct equipment for a job at height is vital. It’s very important for all access equipment to be inspected by people trained and competent to do so, both before and after each use.

When selecting access equipment, bear the following in mind:

  • What risk level is the task? This may well influence the type of equipment you choose.
  • How long will the task take? Longer duration jobs require different equipment. Generally, workers shouldn’t be expected to work up a ladder for anything longer than half an hour.

Reviewing your Control Measures

Your working at height risk assessment, like all others, should be reviewed as regularly as possible. It should also be changed whenever circumstances alter, including staff changes.

Unlike some other health and safety hazards, the risks posed by working at height are likely to be different with each project you take on, due to the fact that each site is different and has its own issues to consider. A barn renovation, a roof replacement job and routine maintenance work on a skyscraper are all going to involve different hazards and require very different control measures.

Risk assessments are generally more effective when they’re written with the input of the employees who are doing the work in question. Workers will often raise practical points that haven’t been considered and be able to suggest the control measures that would best solve the problems. Documents written in a collaborative way with workers are far more likely to be followed than if they had been imposed without any consultation.

Risk assessments are an important part of any organisation’s health and safety strategy. Far from being “just another piece of paperwork”, they are a very useful way of spotting hazards, working out the appropriate control measures for those hazards and keeping track of health and safety progress over time.

Every business with five or more employees is required to have a written risk assessment document. Many smaller businesses do so anyway, as it’s handy to keep a written record of which hazards have been tackled and which staff have received the appropriate training.

There are no hard and fast rules about who needs to conduct the risk assessment, but they must be competent to do so. Good quality training in the correct way to carry out risk assessments can be very helpful and ensure hazards are not missed.

What is a Working at Height Risk Assessment?

Falls from height are the biggest cause of fatal workplace accidents in the UK. They account for 8% of non-fatal accidents and often leave survivors with life-changing injuries, preventing the victim from working again in a significant number of cases. The Work at Height Regulations 2005 were introduced to reduce the accident rate for this kind of job and though there have been improvements in the fatality rate since, they remain stubbornly high. The good news is that most of these accidents are foreseeable and can be avoided with good preparation and training.

A good work at height risk assessment will consider the various risks posed to workers and the public from this type of work. It will record what actions have been taken to minimise these risks and will be reviewed regularly to check it is still relevant. For example, if a construction company is planning a barn renovation that will require extensive work at height, their risk assessment should take into account who will be most at risk from the work, which specific hazards they will face and ensure they have the right equipment for the job and all the protections they require. Bear in mind that “work at height” can take place at or below ground level as well as on ladders or scaffolding above ground; the legislation covers any work where a person could be hurt by falling.

The importance of proper preparation and training was highlighted by the case against LS Scaffolding Limited, after one of their workers fell and damaged his femur during a job in July 2016. They were found to have committed several breaches of health and safety legislation, including the regulation of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 that requires staff to have been appropriately trained to carry out the job. The firm was fined over £50,000 (including costs) and their director was given a separate fine and a suspended jail sentence.

Who Conducts the Risk Assessment?

All risk assessments must be carried out by someone who is competent enough to complete the task. If a company needs guidance to conduct a thorough risk assessment, there is training available.

In this context, a competent person is someone who has the necessary knowledge, skills and experience to spot all of the hazards and work out adequate control measures to prevent harm.

Creating risk assessments doesn’t have to be a one-person job. In fact, the most effective risk assessments are written with significant input from workers from all areas of the business. In the case of work at height, employees who regularly undertake such work are in the best position possible to suggest additional safety control measures and might have noticed additional health and safety concerns that need to be addressed.

Work at height often takes place on a project by project basis and the risk assessment needs to reflect that. Not all jobs will require the same control measures and the hazards will vary between projects – for example, falling through a fragile surface might be a hazard in one renovation job but not be relevant to another.