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Stuart O'Brien

British Safety Council calls for Government COVID health campaign for employers

The necessity for suitably robust COVID-19 workplace management arrangements has intensified since the highly transmissible new variant was identified last month, with the British Safety Council now urging the government to launch a campaign to raise awareness of the risks in the workplace.

While making a workplace COVID secure as far as is reasonably practicable is the legal responsibility of employers, the BSC says some have struggled to implement appropriate measures to restrict the potential for occupational exposure to the virus.

The evidence that workplaces are a major venue within which people have the potential to mix, and so increase the potential to catch and transmit the virus, has become ever more prominent in the mitigation process against the effects of the pandemic.

However, the BSC says whilst many organisations have embraced this increased responsibility, others have struggled with the changing nature of the situation, together with the government guidelines, and the added expectations this brings.

Therefore, the British Safety Council is calling for a coherent Government health campaign that urges employers to improve workplace protection and engage their workers more effectively to achieve better control in limiting the spread of the virus. For example, it says there is a significant vulnerability within buildings, as the virus can be passed between people breathing out asymptomatically and others breathing in the aerosol.

The Home Secretary this week urged people to ‘play your part’ and follow COVID rules to help reduce transmission of the COVID virus. However, the BSC says Government appears to be focusing primarily on enforcing the lockdown rules in general outdoor spaces like parks and is not doing enough around workplaces and the second variant.

It’s calling for a greater focus on having well prepared and effectively implemented COVID-19 management protocols within the workplace, which is about making work environments as safe as possible for people, is far more likely to reduce the spread of infection than concentrating on individuals who break lockdown rules.

The BSC says effective consultation with staff, good wellbeing and mental health support mechanisms, remote working wherever possible together with premises controls such as one-way movement flow around the building, wearing of face-masks in common areas, suitably positioned desks, protective screens, good information and warning signage, staggered operating hours are all considerations for business within any sector which can make a significant impact on reducing the likelihood of exposure to the risk of virus transmission.

Lawrence Waterman, Chairman of the British Safety Council, said: “We are being told by experts that we are in the eye of the storm, and workplaces seem to be at the centre of that eye.  We should be discussing this much more openly rather than taking our lead from the Government’s short termism, and then taking more and better action.  It requires more public health messaging to restrict work to where it is really required, so that more people can remain in relative isolation, and better funding to help employers and employees to do this.

“It may also mean that collectively we should consider much wider shift working, even half day, morning and afternoon, and improving community protection in every workplace, such as requiring the wearing of face masks in indoor workplaces.”

Employee relations during Covid-19: paused cases now on the rise

Richard Saundry, Professor of HRM and Employment Relations at the University of Sheffield and Andy Shettle, Chief Product Officer of ER Tracker at Selenity discuss how Covid-19 has impacted NHS employee relations teams and what HR leaders can learn from these insights.

The impact of the Covid-19 on employment relations has been felt across all organisations up and down the country. Many employees have adapted their working patterns and roles to quickly respond to rising challenges and demands.

New research carried out by Professor Richard Saundry of Sheffield University in collaboration with HPMA, Selenity and CMP Resolutions, shows evidence that conflict suppressed in the NHS during the pandemic response is now beginning to resurface. 

“While we saw a pause in cases between March and April this year, disagreements are beginning to once again come to the surface. As employees realise their issues with one another haven’t just gone away,” explains Selenity’s Andy Shettle.

Speaking to HR leaders, senior practitioners and trade union representatives, it was revealed that a quarter of respondents reporting increased numbers of disciplinary and grievance cases.

Professor Richard Saundry explains: “As the first wave of the pandemic began to recede, there was evidence of an uptick in conflict. This was partly due to disciplinary and grievance cases being reactivated but there was also a suggestion that interpersonal issues that had been put to one side as staff came together to fight Covid-19 were beginning to resurface.”

One in five pointed to increased numbers of bullying and harassment complaints, while others also reported lower levels of tolerance and a rise in grievances from BAME employees. While the legal requirement to report on protected characteristics only applies to some organisations, for HR leaders collecting and monitoring this information can prove to be invaluable. 

Andy explains: “Not only can it help them work towards the prevention of unlawful discrimination claims, but it also provides the opportunity to assess policies based on how they affect protected groups and promote an inclusive culture.’ 

Equipping line managers with the right tools and skills

With tension bubbling, the need to develop managerial skills and capabilities emerged as a dominant priority. To some extent the pandemic had exposed a shortage of ‘softer’ people skills. With 60 per cent of respondents unsure if their line managers are well equipped to identify and resolve difficult issues. 

However, an increased demand from managers themselves for support and coaching was also reported. “It was argued by some, that leadership development programmes often neglect the tools and techniques that managers needed to identify, address and resolve challenging people issues,” said Richard.

For HR leaders, it’s important to ensure managers and teams are well equipped to resolve workplace issues. This means making it easy for them to manage misconduct, from the time a complaint is made, all the way through to the follow up stage of the investigation. The key to resolving conflict, is often down to having sufficient documentation, collaborative processes and the right support mechanisms in place. 

Harnessing case management tools that give an increased level of visibility can help people teams to identify the most common employee relations cases such as grievance, disciplinary or bullying and harassment. Having this overview enables the HR function to become proactive in its approach, identifying trends and patterns of behaviour that can help to prevent or mitigate issues before they arise.

Andy concludes: “There is no escaping conflict, not everyone gets along all the time. This is especially true in times of high stress and pressure such as we’ve seen during the pandemic. HR leaders should look to prioritise managerial capabilities and support managers, ensuring that policies and conflict resolution processes are clearly communicated and understood.” 

Ultimately, HR leaders should look to resolve current issues and help guard against the same problem happening in the future. The best way to do this is by incorporating fairness into every aspect, from HR strategies and policies to processes and technology all these factors contribute to providing employees with a comfortable workplace environment.

Veolia introduces new COVID-19 test kit treatment services

With new regulations now meaning any organisation that is currently COVID-19 mass testing of employees, students or the public needs to make new waste handling arrangements to meet the legal compliance, Veolia has introduced a fully compliant way of safely managing and treating this potentially contaminated  waste. 

Under the regulations the waste produced from testing kits is now classified as offensive waste (EWC 180104) and non- hazardous chemical waste (EWC 180107) and needs to be stored separately from all other waste, and can only be treated at facilities permitted to take these types of waste.

The new service effectively manages all the necessary operations to ensure compliance, including provision of suitable storage containers, collection, and treatment, and accurate reporting of waste volumes. Backed by Veolia’s hazardous waste team this includes repeat collection, tipping and return/ exchange service, supply of containers for safe on-site storage, and dual coding of waste to allow test kits and PPE to be stored in the same bags. Disposal of materials is carried out using Veolia’s nationwide network of specialised facilities.

This new service works alongside the other specialist COVID-19  services introduced by the company over the last 9 months covering PPE collection and disposal, building and vehicle disinfection, the social distancing ambassador scheme, and HWRC management.

Donald Macphail, Chief Operating Officer – Treatment, Veolia, said: “The challenges caused by the pandemic need innovation to help organisations meet the fast-changing regulations. By adapting our services and controlling waste operations, we can ensure a safe and compliant way of dealing with this new waste stream and the unprecedented amount of test kits. In this way our teams of key workers are providing complete support and reacting to the ever changing conditions imposed by COVID-19, and helping other organisations ensure the safety of their employees and customers.”

Do you specialise in First Aid Supplies? We want to hear from you!

Each month on Health & Safety Briefing we’re shining the spotlight on a different part of the security market – and in January we’ll be focussing on First Aid Supplies.

It’s all part of our ‘Recommended’ editorial feature, designed to help health & safety buyers find the best products and services available today.

So, if you’re a supplier of First Aid Supplies and would like to be included as part of this exciting new shop window, we’d love to hear from you – for more info, contact Charlotte Humphreys on c.humphreys@forumevents.co.uk.

Here’s our full features list:

January – First Aid Supplies

February – Behavioural Safety

March – Training Courses

April – Incident Reporting

May – Contractor Management

June – Site Safety

July – Lone Worker Safety & Equipment

August – Fire Safety Management

Learn new skills in 2021 with our Health & Safety courses

Our selection of online courses tailored specifically for the health & safety sector will enable you to both learn new skills and improve existing ones – sign up today!

These are specially-curated online courses designed to help you and your team improve expertise and learn new things.

The Health & Safety online learning bundle provides you with over 50 courses, that cover all areas of both professional and personal development:

  • Asbestos Awareness Certification
  • Basic Fire Safety Awareness Certification
  • Health and Safety for Events Certification
  • Infection Control Certification
  • Lone Working Certification
  • Personal Safety Certification
  • PPE Awareness Certification
  • Preventing Slips and Trips in the Workplace Certification
  • RIDDOR Certification
  • Workplace Hygiene Certification
  • Boost Your Work Efficiency Certification

And many more.

Find out more and purchase your courses online here.

For just £99 (usually £149), you can share the courses with your colleagues over a 12-month period.

Additionally, there are a variety of bundles available on all spectrums;

  • Personal & Professional Development
  • Healthcare
  • Sports & Personal Development
  • Management, Leadership & Business Operations
  • Customer Services
  • Education & Social Care Skills
  • Human Resources
  • Sales & Marketing
  • IT & Personal Development

Book your courses today or contact us to find out more and come out of this stronger and more skilled!

Final call for Occupational Safety & Health Forum

There are only three complimentary places left to attend next month’s virtual Occupational Safety & Health Forum on 3rd & 4th February.

Spread over two mornings (9.00 – 13.05), the Forum allows you to connect with innovative and budget-saving suppliers, as well as learn about the latest insights within the health and safety industry.

Your pass is entirely free and includes flexible attendance options to suit your schedule.

Confirm your place here via our online booking form or contact us today for more information.

HSE to Ensure transport services are COVID-Secure in Xmas run up

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says it’s working with local authorities to inspect businesses in the transport and logistics industry to ensure they are managing the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19).

With the current lockdown restrictions, the demand for online shopping is already high and this is expected to increase over the next few weeks. This will also increase demand in the supply chain for the sector.

HSE inspectors and local authority officers will be visiting warehouses and distribution centres across the country to make sure workplaces are COVID-secure and following the relevant guidance.

Being COVID-secure means that businesses need to put in place workplace controls such as social distancing and cleaning arrangements to manage the risk and protect workers and others from coronavirus.

They will be making sure that businesses have suitable toilet and handwashing facilities for all workers, including visiting drivers. They will also check other health and safety matters if required.

HSE provides a range of advice and guidance to support businesses, including:

  • Making your workplace COVID-secure
  • Driver welfare
  • Social distancing – a step-by-step guide
  • Risk assessment
  • Vehicles at work

Information from the visits will be shared to promote good practice and assist the industry in meeting the combined challenges of COVID and the seasonal surge in demand.

Harvey Wild, Head of HSE’s Transport and Public Services Unit, said: “The logistics and distribution industry overall has seen a significant increase in business activity over the past few months and, with shops and retail centres closed, there will be a surge in online shopping in the run up to the festive period.

“As a result of this, we will see an increase in the number of agency and temporary workers in the transport and logistics sector to meet the demand. It’s important that all workers and also customers feel confident that measures are being taken to protect them from Covid-19.

“Employers have a legal duty to protect workers and others from harm and this includes taking reasonable steps to control the risk and protect people from coronavirus. We encourage businesses to consult with their workers on the changes they put in place to become COVID-secure. This is to provide reassurance for workers and to also increase confidence in customers and the local community.

“Becoming COVID-secure not only benefits the health of our communities and vital businesses, it also good for the health of the UK economy.”

Further guidance is also available for EnglandWales and Scotland.

Occupational Safety & Health Forum: Claim your complimentary place!

We have a complimentary guest pass reserved for you to the Occupational Safety & Health Forum, which takes place on 3rd & 4th February as a virtual event.

Your place is entirely free and you will receive;

– An itinerary of pre-arranged, online meetings with suppliers based on your requirements and upcoming projects
– 1-2-1 access to innovative, budget-saving solution providers
– An option to attend live insightful seminar sessions led by industry thought leaders
– A wealth of pre-recorded webinars

This innovative digital concept is the most time effective way to meet solution providers whilst working from your home or office and is completely flexible too – we create your bespoke itinerary around your diary!


HSE welcomes introduction of Covid-19 research programme

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has been asked to lead one of seven studies as part of a national COVID-19 research programme funded by the UK government and fronted by the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance.

Britain’s regulator for workplace health and safety has been asked to lead a study addressing the transmission of COVID-19 in the environment, including in workplaces, transport and other public settings.

The study is structured around five themes, each led by a leading scientist in the field: Professor Cath Noakes (Leeds University), Allan Bennett (Public Health England), Prof Wendy Barclay (Imperial College), Prof Martie van Tongeren (University of Manchester) and Dr Yiqun Chen (HSE).

Reacting to the news, HSE’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Andrew Curran said: “HSE is privileged to lead this programme and use our experience in workplace risk management to improve our understanding of how the virus is transmitted. We employ some of the leading scientists in workplace health and safety who are skilled in addressing complex issues such as this. We will also harness the knowledge and expertise of our counterparts in other organisations to coordinate the most effective response to answer these important questions.

“As findings emerge, they will be shared. We hope they will feed directly into effective approaches and guidance that will help improve practices in workplaces. This work will yield information on an ongoing basis, improving our understanding of what a COVID-Secure workplace looks like. When infection rates will allow sustained re-opening of the economy, working safely will be even more crucial than it is now.”

The National Core Studies are a small group of key research projects and infrastructure programmes designed to answer essential policy and operational questions as the UK enters the first winter period of the coronavirus pandemic.

The seven studies will examine fundamental questions such as: the levels of infection in the general population and in specific settings such as schools and nursing homes, the role of different environments in enhancing spread, and whether antibodies confer protection and for how long.

The programme will be a multi-agency response with each study lead drawing upon the best scientific knowledge and expertise available in the UK from within government and academia to help ensure these and other critical questions are answered quickly and well.

5 Minutes With… Louise Perryman, Mirashare

In the latest instalment of our health & safety industry executive interview series, we spoke to Mirashare Director Louise Perryman (pictured) about her company, the ongoing challenges of COVID-19, the opportunity for technology & software and the importance of data…

Tell us about your company, products and services.

The early years were mainly spent developing health & safety software for the Manufacturing and Research divisions of Pfizer Pharmaceuticals in Sandwich, Kent, who continue to be a major client.  Over time we grew our customer base and redesigned the Mirashare EHS system as a cloud-based product, ideally suited to larger organisations in hazardous industries. 

Twenty one years on we have Mirashare customers in sectors including life sciences, food, facilities services, construction and energy. In addition, our online learning platform Learnbubble offers a complementary product for building H&S and related induction courses and provides online training for users of Mirashare to facilitate implementation. 

Our customers tell us that the main drivers for choosing and staying long term with Mirashare are that it is easy to use at operational and management level, is reliable and has great real-time reporting and charting options across the board. By analysing and acting quickly upon the data gathered (using the Mobile App for hazard reporting for example), accidents can potentially be avoided, lost time reduced and an organisation’s good reputation maintained.  The Mirashare service currently offers a choice of 14 different modules, the most popular being Incident Management, Action Tracking, Risk Assessment and Audit/Inspection.

What have been the biggest challenges the Health & Safety industry has faced over the past 12 months?

Covid-19 has presented a tremendous challenge, putting H&S right in the front line. Practitioners know that their instructions to implement appropriate measures in the various work environments will help save lives on a scale they are unlikely to have encountered before. This is quite a heavy load to bear. If everyone can be set up with systems to work safely from home that helps.  However, many sectors need their employees to be at their normal place of work, particularly higher risk industries such as manufacturing, construction and waste management. 

And what have been the biggest opportunities?

Ironically Covid-19 has also presented opportunities in that it has raised the profile of H&S. From a software provider’s point of view I would say that some organisations that have managed with a few forms and an excel spreadsheet are now looking to adopt affordable software designed to help them do their jobs more effectively through  things like mobile data capture, instant trend analysis  and tracking  of actions to make sure issues are fixed fast. 

What is the biggest priority for the Health & Safety industry in 2021?

Same as always – keep people as safe as you can. Continuous improvement is a term that’s been around for a long time but it’s one I believe in. Covid-19 will continue to dominate as everyone struggles to keep up with legislation changes, meaning that online systems which facilitate speedy Risk Assessment version release and dissemination are valuable assets. 

What are the main trends you are expecting to see in the market in 2021?

More lone working with emphasis on the individual. More use of internet enabled mobile systems to handle updates ‘in the field’. 

Then at the other extreme, for the large organisations ever greater integration of data across the piece, including increased links to HR and issues around mental health. 

What technology is going to have the biggest impact on the market this coming year?

Probably still Mobile tech.

In 2022 we’ll all be talking about…?

More robotics in high risk situations and to assist with rescue.

More use of AI for monitoring and to assist with decision making. 

Increasing use of virtual 3D learning. 

Which person in, or associated with, the Health & Safety industry would you most like to meet?

Dr Andrew Sharman, President of IOSH until a few days ago.

I attended a Health and Safety seminar in Amsterdam a few years ago, with which he was closely involved.  

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learnt about the Health & Safety sector?

That it’s not boring, it’s about saving lives and the environment.  Its serious stuff that needs to be done right. 

You go to the bar at the Occupational Safety & Health Forum – what’s your tipple of choice?

Depends on my mood, but if cocktails are on offer, definitely a mojito.

What’s the most rewarding thing about your job?

Reading thank you emails and comments sent to the staff who have helped customers implement and support our systems. 

AND the fact that every day is different.  

And what’s the most challenging?

Choosing the right priorities

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

‘A stitch in time saves nine’, from my grandmother. Catch it early   – that’s why I’m so keen on our mobile hazard reporting App.