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Transcript - Estates Excellence

Welcome to the HSE Podcast.

In this episode, we visit Norma's kitchen in Kent a catering company who got involved in HSE's Estates Excellence project.

It's a good idea because you know I mean like if anybody sees anything that's not right either in the kitchen or anywhere else or maybe if somebody has had an accident it needs to be addressed. Because of the staff safety at the end of the day, it's important, if staff are off sick it makes it hard work for everybody else.

And HSE Info-line's Victoria Brady talks about exposure and removal of asbestos. But first, here's the latest health and safety news:

HSE launched a 1.2 million pound campaign to warn Britain's 1.8 million tradesmen about the dangers of Asbestos this month. Asbestos the hidden killer runs throughout November and we'll see more than five hundred thousand information packs sent out. As well as targeted, press and radio adverts.

A rice manufacturing company has been fined a £140,000 pounds for health and safety breaches following the death of an employee. HSE prosecuted the company after one of its employees died when his leg got caught in a machine. The company pleaded guilty to health and safety breaches. The HSE has told companies failing to protect employees working at height that they will be held to account. The warning comes after the prosecution of Nottingham company, Pontiac Coil Europe Limited who failed to take sufficient measures. Employee Norman Cole fractured his skull and shoulder and several ribs after falling 2.4 metres from a mezzanine floor last year. The company was fined £10,000 pounds.

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HSE recently launched a project in South East England called Estates Excellence. It's a move away from our traditional enforcement led approach towards helping business communities help themselves on health and safety.

We went to the launch in Chatham, Kent.

Nick you're doing the fruit love aren't you?


Okay that's all these done, the only one we haven't done now is IBS.

Jane Peters is co-ordinating the mornings food deliveries at Norma's Catering, a company based in Chatham's historic dockyard.

This morning we preparing the buffets, we've got two buffets going out erm for two different clients. So we're just preparing all the stuff ready to send them out to our client.

Norma's catering has got involved, your employers have got involved in this project to try to encourage people to sort of spot where health and safety problems might be and get them resolved. What do you think about that?

I think it's a good idea because you know I mean like if anybody sees anything that's not right either in the kitchen or anywhere else or maybe if somebody has had an accident it needs to be addressed. Because of the staff safety at the end of the day, it's important, if staff are off sick it makes it hard work for everybody else.

So you're sort of saying it's economical really.

Yeah in a lot of ways yeah.

Whilst Jane finishes off the morning orders, there's quite a crowd gathering outside. This is where the HSE is launching its new Estates Excellence Project.

HSE regional director Heather Bryant is here with the managing director of Norma's -Andrew McNess.

Andrew we're outside your organisation Norma's Catering and it's in a pretty good spot isn't it?

That's correct, the historic dockyard was the former Royal Navel Base closed in 1984. We're privileged to be based in what was the old Guard House and the original NAFFI, which dates back to 1800, where we operate our outside catering business and our food production base.

How many people do you employ?

We currently employ between 30 and 36 people depending on the time of the year. From employing 10 people we now employ considerably more so it brings with it some interesting problems and issues.

Heather you've come here today just to see how Andrew's firm is getting on with this new project that the HSE has instigated called Estates Excellence. Can you just tell me a little bit about what that is?

Well earlier this year the Health and Safety Executive issued a challenge to the UK to join with them to improve the Health and Safety of Great Britain. And as a result stakeholders across the South East of England joined together and thought what can we do to help local businesses in the South East to improve their health and safety performance. And Estates Excellence was an idea that came from local businesses from enforcing authorities and from other stakeholders where we could all pool our resources and bring health and safety advice and information to local businesses. Help local businesses and identify what their key risks are and work together to improve health and safety standards and hopefully reduce accidents and ill health.

So, Andrew I can see why the Health and Safety Executive will want companies to do this, but why would you as a small firm be bothered with any of this? You're not a unionised firm so you've not got a workforce necessarily making demands on you so why bring it up?

We value the people that work within our business, we value our customers. We see any form of system and procedure as something important to us that adds value to our business. The reason we want to be involved and have voluntarily got involved it's a voluntary code. The voluntary code allows small businesses to identify risks and issues within their organisation. Those risks and issues can then be prioritised into a green and amber and a red. As a result of that self-diagnosis and it is self- diagnosis but there is support from the HSE to do it. The HSE then are putting together a number of training programmes, which will help businesses then move from the diagnosis into improving that area within the business. And that can be anything from improving absentee rates through to improving how we operate and produce a particular sandwich for arguments sake.

I just want to ask you Heather about the name of this project. It's called Estates Excellence now we're kind of on an Estate of sorts at the historic dockyard in Chatham but where does the name really come from?

We thought well the best way to do this was to help develop communities on geographical estates, and industrial estates and business estates was where the estates part came from. And the idea is to bring the advice and the guidance to an estate to bring occupational health caravans onto the estate to have people based on the estate or buddy-ing the estate to involve the landlords. So not only do people improve on health and safety standards but there's an opportunity to create a community and environment where they can improve on fire risks, on security and other aspects that will help business.

I think one of the interesting things out of the project and I'm involved in the Federation of Small Business as well. There are many businesses that run a mile out of fear. I just see that as a ridiculous state of affairs in the sense that if you are doing things properly, and not taking shortcuts, you have nothing to fear other than something that's going to help take your business forward and make you far more competitive. And there are far too many businesses who will sit back and not apply themselves to look at systems and procedures positively and drive the business forward, it can only help.

Visit the transcript for this Podcast episode at For more information about HSE's Estates Excellence Projects.

The HSE protecting people's health and safety at work.

Now in our regular feature we put HSE info-lines Victoria Brady to the test. By asking her to answer one of your popular health and Safety questions.

Good afternoon HSE info-line, Andrew speaking how can I help?

Hi my name is Victoria Brady I'm the training manager here at HSE Info-line and I'm going to answer all your Health and Safety questions for you.

I imagine one of the things that you hear about quite a lot is people asking questions about asbestos, people who have worked with it in the past. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

All asbestos is banned now and the last of it was banned in 1999 so prior to that erm asbestos was widely used within Great Britain, especially during the sort of the 60's and 70's. People really didn't' know it's dangers then so you know sort of worked with it, drilled into it, cut it up without sort of using any protection and working with that day in day out can cause you to ultimately contract sort of asbestos related diseases. I mean the thing is unfortunately those diseases don't show up until sort of 15-30 years after you've actually been working with the asbestos. So it's only now that we're actually seeing the sort of real effects of what happened to those people when they we're working with it.

Do you get quite a lot calls about that?

We do yeah. Asbestos is definitely one of our top ten calls that we do get here and we sort of get people asking about erm how to work with it now. What personal protective equipment they use? Do they need a licensed contractor? Erm right through to sort of home owners really who phone up to know you know what to do if they've got asbestos within their house and we'll certainly try and answer all those questions and sort of really allay people's fears. You know it is those people who are working with it for long periods of time that are seriously in danger of contracting things, like asbestosis, mesothelioma. You can sort of equate it to smoking in a way, if you suffer like a one off exposure to it it's like you're really smoking a cigarette. So if you have one cigarette it's not really going to do you that much damage in the long run, it's those people who smoke continuously that could potentially end up with sort of lung diseases and it's the same for asbestos. So I think what people need to realise is although people were working with it back then you know could be in serious danger now. If you've had a one off exposure it probably isn't going to do that much damage.

So if you're an employer and you've got a premises and you discover that there's asbestos in that premises what can you do about it?

There is legislation in place so that all sort of employers or owners of buildings do have to have a register in place of where all the asbestos is within their building.  So they should already know where it is and should have it labelled up and then a maintenance programme needs to be kept in place and they need to make sure that all the asbestos in the building is in good condition. If it's not then they either need to rectify that by encapsulating it or removing it as a last resort. So in theory in all work places now it should be suitably managed and they should possess or should be no risk to the employees.

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Updated 2018-01-29