Health and safety

Nearly 27 million working days are lost each year in the UK due to workplace ill health and injury. The CIEH believes that everyone should be protected from ill health and accidents arising from work activities and should be subject to decent standards of welfare at work.

Working to improve the health of working age people by ensuring healthier and safer workplaces and promoting healthier lifestyles is a key strand of improving public and environmental health.

The CIEH works with its members, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), central and local government, non-governmental organisations, professional bodies and businesses to secure:

  • Sensible risk management of health and safety
  • The improvement of health, safety and welfare standards
  • A higher profile for health and safety

It is one of the founder creators of the Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register (OSHCR).

Environmental health practitioners help to ensure high standards of health and safety in a range of areas. Those working for local authorities provide advice to businesses on their legal responsibilities and enforce the law when businesses don’t comply. Those working in the private sector may be independent consultants or they may work as health and safety advisors within large companies, for example. In certain sectors, the HSE is responsible for enforcing the law. To see whether a particular type of activity is controlled by the local authority or by the HSE, please visit the HSE website, where you can also find out more about the work of local authorities. You may also find the following HSE Information Note helpful - HSE51: Regulation of health and safety at work.  

Advice and information

If you are a business seeking advice the HSE website is a good place to start. It provides information on all the key areas of health and safety. You can browse individual topics such as manual handling or slips and trips or, if you are new to health and safety and want to know what you should be doing, there is a special section to take you through this.  

The HSE website can also help employees understand what their employer should be doing to protect their health and safety.

You may also find that your local council has useful health and safety information on its website with contact details for where you can get further help. You can search for your local council on the GOV.UK website.

▼ Free health and safety guidance from the Health and Safety Executive 

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has a large quantity of their written works available for free download online.

Approximately 250 publications containing health and safety advice and guidance (mainly ‘HSG’ and ‘L’ series publications), are freely available in pdf format to view and print. On each specific publication page, there is a paragraph headed ‘Downloads’ which provides you the option to view and then save the pdf.

Professionally produced hard copies are still available for purchase and the content of both printed and downloaded versions remain the same. Both hard and soft copy editions have equal status in law and any content changes will be made simultaneously to both formats.

Visit the HSE Books website for free health and safety guidance 

 
▼ The CIEH’s role 

In seeking to improve standards of health and safety, the CIEH works in partnership with a wide range of organisations including the HSE, other professional bodies, heath and safety consultants and trainers and local authorities.

Our activities include:

  • The provision of education and training. The CIEH is the UK’s leading provider of accredited qualifications in health and safety. We provide training for employers and workers at all levels in general and specific health and safety competency awareness
  • Raising awareness of health and safety through our publications
  • Input into the Health and Safety Executive's strategy 
  • Responding to health and safety consultations to ensure the environmental health profession’s experience and expertise is reflected in the development of health and safety policies

Our health and safety policy framework enshrines eight core beliefs:

  1. That the health and safety of workers and those involved in workplace activities (occupational health and safety) is a core contributor to the environmental health discipline
  2. That work related injuries and cases of work related ill-health should be regarded as preventable, through the application of readily available advice and the application of sensible risk management
  3. That people going to work or to workplaces have a right to expect to be able to leave that work or workplace as fit and healthy as when they arrived.
  4. That environmental health practitioners should continue, upon qualification, to hold an underpinning knowledge and skill set in the fundamentals of occupational health and safety.
  5. That significant reduction of occupational health and safety risks is most likely to be achieved through a combination of:
  • The ongoing education of workers, supervisors, managers and employers in all workplaces
  • Access to authoritative and professional advice, training and consultancy services
  • Firm but fair regulation and enforcement from a competent, appropriately resourced regulatory workforce
  • The education of the public, especially young people, in understanding risk and how to manage it as a life skill.
  1. That all the CIEH members should act responsibly and professionally by promoting the delivery of high standards of occupational health and safety standards as employees, supervisors, managers or employers themselves.
  2. That the CIEH members who have current occupational health and safety competence, should seek opportunities to educate others beyond their formal job role, such as through the CIEH regional structure, and in voluntary organisations.
  3. That the most effective overarching strategy for the CIEH (and its members) to be able to reduce risk in the workplace will be through active and purposeful partnership with government agencies, the private sector, and other professional bodies and organisations.
 
▼ Living and working in hot weather 

There are a number of websites offering advice on how to cope in periods of very hot weather.

For a simple guide offering practical tips on keeping cool, visit the Department of Health’s heatwave page 

For more detailed information, including advice for those running cares homes and information for healthcare professionals, visit the NHS Direct heatwave pages  

For advice on staying safe in the sun, visit the Cancer Research UK Sun Smart website

Working in hot weather  

What the law says 

Under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 employers must ensure that during working hours the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings is reasonable.

The HSE offers the following advice on how to meet this requirement:

Where the temperature in a workroom would otherwise be uncomfortably high, for example because of hot processes or the design of the building, all reasonable steps should be taken to achieve a reasonably comfortable temperature, for example by:

  • insulating hot plants or pipes;
  • providing air-cooling plant;
  • shading windows;
  • siting workstations away from places subject to radiant heat.

Where a reasonably comfortable temperature cannot be achieved throughout a workroom, local cooling should be provided. In extremely hot weather fans and increased ventilation may be used instead of local cooling.

Where, despite the provision of local cooling, workers are exposed to temperatures which do not give reasonable comfort, suitable protective clothing and rest facilities should be provided. Where practical there should be systems of work (for example, task rotation) to ensure that the length of time for which individual workers are exposed to uncomfortable temperatures is limited.

To help both employers and employees the HSE has created a special “Thermal Comfort” website.

See also: 

HSE advice for employers:  

Heat stress in the workplace. What you need to know as an employer  

TUC advice for employees: 

 
▼ Occupational asthma 

Occupational asthma is caused by workers breathing in substances that produce a hypersensitive state in the airways - the small tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs - and trigger a subsequent response in them.

Not everyone who becomes sensitised goes on to develop the clinical disease but once the lungs become hypersensitive, further exposure to the substance – even at quite low levels – may provoke an asthmatic attack.

The occupations with the highest incidence rates include bakers and vehicle paint sprayers. The most commonly cited causes of occupational asthma are isocyanates, followed by flour. Other causes include paints, wood dusts and solder. Asthma can ruin lives. Some sufferers become so disabled they cannot work again.

Almost all cases of occupational asthma can be prevented by the use of adequate controls. The CIEH recommends the following measures:

  • Employers should prevent exposure, or where this is not possible keep exposure as low as is reasonably practicable, particularly where work involves high short-term exposures
  • Health surveillance is important. Early removal from exposure can lead to a complete recovery, so employers should have systems in place to detect symptoms at an early stage
  • Employers should immediately review procedures if a case of occupational asthma is confirmed
  • Employees should discuss their symptoms with their site medical service or GP
  • Employees should follow instructions and wear any approved protective equipment

For more information on occupational asthma, please visit the HSE website.

 
▼ Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register (OSHCR) 

The Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register (OSHCR) has been set up to increase employers’ confidence that they can access good quality, proportionate advice.

Its creation addresses concerns outlined in the Government’s report on the UK health and safety system, Common Sense Common Safety, that some employers can find it difficult to know how and where to get external health and safety advice.

OSHCR has been established by a number of professional bodies representing general safety and occupational health consultants across the UK, with support from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The register, which is voluntary, is open to individuals who provide commercial advice on general health and safety management issues and who have achieved at least one of the following:-

  • Chartered status with IOSH (Institution of Occupational Safety and Health); CIEH (Chartered Institute of Environmental Health); or REHIS (Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland) with health and safety qualifications
  • Fellow status with IIRSM (International Institute of Risk and Safety Management) with degree level qualifications
  • Member or Fellow status with BOHS (British Occupational Hygiene Society) Faculty of Occupational Hygiene
  • Registered Member or Fellow status with IEHF (Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors).

In addition, all consultants wishing to join the register are required to declare that they will:

  • demonstrate adequate continuing professional development;
  • abide by their professional body’s code of conduct;
  • provide sensible and proportionate advice; and
  • have professional indemnity insurance or equivalent to cover the nature of their duties.

The application process includes a check with the relevant professional body that an individual has met all the requirements relating to their member status.

For further information on the register, please visit www.oshcr.org
 

 
▼ Slips and trips 

Slips and trips are the most common of workplace hazards and make up over a third of all major injuries.

Preventing accidents occurring is not difficult. Most slips happen in wet or contaminated conditions and many are due to poor housekeeping. The solutions to both are often simple and cost effective.

A suitable assessment of the risks should be undertaken to identify the necessary controls. These should include:

  • Prevention of contamination
  • Management of spillages and cleaning regimes
  • Effective matting systems
  • Choice of suitable footwear
  • Design of workplace and work activitie
  • Maintenance of plant and the work environmen
  • Specification of appropriate flooring
  • Housekeeping
  • Effective training and supervision

For more information on how to prevent slips and trips, please visit the slips and trips section on the HSE website.

 
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