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Transcript - Shattered Lives 2010

Welcome to the HSE Podcast.

In this episode we find out about the next phase of the HSE's Shattered Lives campaign.

"We care for our colleagues. We don't want them to have accidents, we don't want them to be off sick. If they're off sick we might have to pay other people to work overtime etc. It just leads to more operational problems."

And HSE Infoline's Rachael Jones tells us how much space we're entitled to have at work. But first here's a round-up of the latest health and safety news.

A major airport services company has been fined £90,000 after a man was crushed to death under a vehicle at Heathrow Airport. In March 2008 Mohammed Taj was repairing a baggage tug. He was underneath the tug when the trolley jack he was using to prop it up slipped backwards. The HSE investigation showed the maintenance van supplied by Aviance carried only the trolley jack and not the other means of support that should have been used. Aviance UK pleaded guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

A construction company in York has been fined £20,000 after a cherry picker overturned seriously injuring the driver. Nottingham Magistrates Court heard how in the summer of 2007 the cherry picker had been driven over a concealed manhole cover which then gave way leaving the driver with serious head back and leg injuries.

In Bolton a construction company has also been fined after one of its workers fell to his death from an unstable ladder. DC Kennedy Homes Limited was fined £7,500 after sixty-four year old Ian Smith was killed. Polly Tomlinson, HSE Principle Inspector for Greater Manchester, said "The ladder he was using had the rubber feet missing and it wasn't secured to the wall. More importantly" she said "if the work had been planned properly Mr Smith needn't have been using the ladder".

Students living in digs are being urged to make sure they don't fall foul of carbon monoxide by fitting alarms. HSE is launching a new campaign in the south-west to make parents, students and landlords aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide. Anyone living in rented accommodation is entitled to an annual gas safety check, but as an added measure it's good practice to fit an alarm too. As part of the campaign British Gas is giving away two hundred detectors free of charge to students via the HSE.

For links to these HSE websites and other issues covered in this episode, view the transcript at hse.gov.uk/podcasts

You can stay up-to-date with the latest news and updates from the HSE by visiting the news pages on our website, hse.gov.uk/news

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Slip, trip and fall incidents in the workplace account for over 150,000 major injuries to workers every year. HSE estimates the cost to society is around £800 million. This month HSE has launched the next phase of its Shattered Lives campaign. A new campaign website offers people advice on how they can reduce the risks of slips, trips and falls and includes online programmes for employers and employees to follow. It also highlights best practice from companies who have already signed up. We spoke to two employers putting the theory into practice.

It's a Monday morning at Sainsbury's Local next to Liverpool's Central Station. I've come to meet Sharon Rackley, the company's Safety Policy and Systems Specialist. She's explaining how the superstore is tackling the problems of slips and trips in the workplace.

"Recently we've updated our footwear policy. We've specified some new non-slip footwear for our counter colleagues amongst other individuals."

Can you sort of describe what the problem was then?

"Well, you see, you know working in this sort of environment at the store at the Central Station there aren't too many slip risks like we see on our counters you know. Some of those environments might be greasy. There may be flour on the floor in bakeries, there might be the odd piece of dropped meat on the back of a deli counter and our colleagues are free to choose up until now what footwear they wear to work. We will say 'closed in at the heel, closed toe, closed at the side', but they can go into any shop on the High Street and they come with all sorts of different tread patterns. What we've done is we've trialled footwear from a number of different manufacturers, we've settled on one and we've said "These are the shoes that you need to wear if you're working on a counters working environment", and now those are available for all colleagues working on those departments and they have to wear them."

And you pay for them?

"We do yes."

Are they nice shoes?

"Well, I wore them for four days over Christmas and they're very comfortable. I'm a fan."

A few miles further north in Bootle, Hugh Baird College is also rising to the challenge. It's training up the employees and employers of the future. Pat Farrell is Director of Estates and Resources.

We're in a big kind of industrial-looking kitchen here at the college. We've just walked through a restaurant that looks a bit too swanky for a college to me.

"Not at all. What the colleges are trying to do with all vocational areas is to provide students with as realistic a working environment as possible and its presenting them with real opportunities to engage not only with the public who will eat in the restaurant but in the kitchen to produce food of the quality that people would expect to see out in normal traditional restaurants out there."

Tell me about your involvement with the HSE.

"As Director of Estates and Resources I have primary responsibility for health and safety in the college. So any new initiatives that are out there is very important for me to look at and analyse. And obviously working with the HSE on this new Shattered Lives programme gives us an ideal opportunity to bring the information into college and allow students to look at it in more detail and far more closely. The catering industry inevitably is a very busy hustle and bustle industry where there are a lot of accidents every year mostly of a minor nature. And what we're trying to do with the help of the HSE with this new e-learning package is allow students to learn and develop more knowledge and skills so when they do go out into the industry they can not only identify hazards but hopefully work towards preventing them in the first place."

Have you worked in conjunction with the HSE or is it their package that you've taken on?

"It's their package, they've designed it and they've used us as a pilot to look at it and see what we think of it and we've actually found it to be very very good. With this e-learning package it allows the students to engage with it online and to work at their own pace and that's very important for colleges, to allow students to work at their own pace. But it also provides excellent learning materials that the tutors can use in a more formal group setting."

"We're very pleased, we've had a really good response from employers. People have picked up that we're not asking them to introduce whole loads of new techniques. We're just asking for straightforward, simple activities that they know about, that's just a strong reminder of a way of tackling these issues and a reminder of the business benefits of doing so."

Peter Brown is the HSE's head of Slips, Trips and Falls.

"The aim is to get employers to think again about slips, trips and falls. We just want to remind people of the importance of tackling this issue and how it's relatively easy to do simple, straightforward things to take away some of the risks associated with Shattered Lives."

So what kind of things are in this programme?

"We've got some new tools to help people to assess the risks and to choose the right equipment in the workplace and also just simple guidance, case studies from employers who have already made the move, and we're talking very simple things here. We're talking about housekeeping, choosing the right footwear, choosing the right tools for work at height."

You've been focusing the campaign on employees and employers. How are employers reacting to it?

"We're finding a lot of support, because we aren't asking people to reach for the moon or invest huge amounts of money in this. We're asking them to do straightforward things that will make business sense. The total cost of slips, trips and falls to the economy is about eight hundred million pounds a year. Break that down into individual companies, there's money to be saved through the straightforward approaches to looking at the problem."

Sharon Rackley from Sainsbury's agrees.

"We care for our colleagues. We don't want them to have accidents, we don't want them to be off sick. If they're off sick we might have to pay other people to work overtime etc. It just leads to more operational problems. We want our colleagues to come to work fit and healthy and return home in the same way. By providing the footwear for those colleagues working in those environments they are less likely to have an accident which will cause them pain and suffering and cause them to be off work."

You can read the transcript for this podcast episode at hse.gov.uk/podcasts and get more information about the issues discussed in this interview.

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

Now in our regular feature we put HSE Infoline's Rachael Jones to the test by asking her to answer one of your popular health and safety questions.

"Good afternoon, HSE's Infoline, manager speaking, how can I help?"

"Hello, my name's Rachael Jones, I'm here to answer all of your health and safety questions."

I'm working in an open plan office and I don't feel like I've got enough room. Am I entitled to a certain amount of space around me?

"Well, under the Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations, Regulation 10 deals with space requirements. Now the employer is, a bare minimum is actually required to give eleven cubic metres per person, that is a minimum."

Can you describe what eleven cubic metres is? That's standing in a box really, isn't it?

"Yeah, imagine a cube, so you've got say two metres by two on the floor in front and by the side and then you go up about three metres roughly in height. You can't go above the three metres, the calculations don't count then. But if you just imagine, as I said, like a box, enough room to stretch out and give yourself room for furniture."

Two metres, so that's kind of just about enough room to swing like a small cat?

"Yes just a small one not a very large one. You wouldn't fit him in with your desk."

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Updated 2011-04-08