Uncategorized | Wessex Health and Safety :: Wessex Health and Safety

Safe use of ladders and stepladders

May 11, 2022


Ladders and stepladders are not banned under health and safety law.

The law calls for a sensible, proportionate approach to managing risk, and ladders can be a sensible and practical option for low-risk, short-duration tasks, although they should not automatically be your first choice.

There are simple, sensible precautions you should take to stay safe when using portable leaning ladders and stepladders in the workplace.

Make sure that you use the right type of ladder and that you know how to use it safely.

How and when to use a ladder at work

When to use a ladder at work

Ladders can be used for work at height when an assessment of the risk for carrying out a task has shown that using equipment that offers a higher level of fall protection is not justified.

This is because of the low risk and short duration of use, or there are existing workplace features which cannot be altered.

Short duration is not the deciding factor in establishing whether use of a ladder is acceptable – you must have first considered risk.

As a guide, if your task would require staying up a leaning ladder or stepladder for more than 30 minutes at a time, it is recommended you use alternative equipment.

You should only use ladders in situations where they can be used safely, eg where the ladder will be level and stable, and can be secured (where it is reasonably practicable to do so).

Know how to use a ladder safely

To use a ladder, you must be competent or, if you are being trained, you should be working under the supervision of a competent person.

Competence can be demonstrated through a combination of training, practical and theoretical knowledge, and experience.

Training should be appropriate for the task, and this includes knowing:

  • how to assess the risks of using a ladder for a particular task
  • when it is right to use a ladder (and when it is not)
  • which type of ladder to use and how to use it

Before using a ladder, you should have access to user instructions from the manufacturer in case you need to refer to them.

You should always carry out a ‘pre-use’ check to spot any obvious visual defects to make sure the ladder is safe to use.

A pre-use check should be carried out:

  • by the person using the ladder
  • at the beginning of the working day
  • after something has changed, eg a ladder has been dropped or moved from a dirty area to a clean area (check the state or condition of the feet)

The check should include:

  • the stiles – make sure they are not bent or damaged, as the ladder could buckle or collapse
  • the feet – if they are missing, worn or damaged the ladder could slip. Also check the ladder feet when moving from soft/dirty ground (eg dug soil, loose sand/stone, a dirty workshop) to a smooth, solid surface (eg paving slabs), to make sure the actual feet and not the dirt (eg soil, chippings or embedded stones) are making contact with the ground
  • the rungs – if they are bent, worn, missing or loose, the ladder could fail
  • any locking mechanism – does the mechanism work properly? Are components or fixings bent, worn or damaged? If so, the ladder could collapse. Ensure any locking bars are fully engaged
  • the stepladder platform – if it is split or buckled, the ladder could become unstable or collapse
  • the steps or treads on stepladders – if they are contaminated, they could be slippery; if the fixings are loose on the steps, they could collapse

If you spot any of the above defects, do not use the ladder and tell the person in charge of the work.

Types of ladder and using them safely

Once you have done your pre-use check, the following simple precautions can minimise the risk of a fall.

Leaning ladders

When using a leaning ladder to carry out a task:

  • Only carry light materials and tools – read the manufacturer’s labels on the ladder and assess the risks
  • Don’t overreach – make sure your belt buckle (or navel) stays within the stiles
  • Make sure the ladder is long enough or high enough for the task
  • Don’t overload the ladder – consider your weight and the equipment or materials you are carrying before working at height
  • Check the pictogram or label on the ladder for any advisory information
  • To help make sure the ladder angle is at the safest position to work from- you should use the 1-in-4 rule. This is where the ladder should be one space or unit of measurement out for every four spaces or units up (a 75° angle)
  • Always grip the ladder and face the ladder rungs while climbing or descending – don’t slide down the stiles
  • Don’t try to move or extend the ladder while standing on the rungs
  • Don’t work off the top three rungs. Try to make sure that the ladder extends at least 1 metre or three rungs above where you are working
  • Don’t stand ladders on movable objects, such as pallets, bricks, lift trucks, tower scaffolds, excavator buckets, vans or mobile elevating work platforms
  • Avoid holding items when climbing (consider using a tool belt)
  • Don’t work within 6 m horizontally of any overhead power line, unless it has been made dead or it is protected with insulation. Use a non-conductive ladder (eg fibreglass or timber) for any electrical work
  • Maintain three points of contact when climbing and wherever possible at the work position.
  • Where you cannot maintain a handhold, other than for a brief period (eg to hold a nail while starting to knock it in, start a screw etc), you will need to take other measures to prevent a fall or mitigate the consequences if one happened
  • Secure the ladder (eg by tying the ladder to prevent it from slipping either outwards or sideways) and have a strong upper resting point (ie do not rest it against weak upper surfaces such as glazing or plastic gutters)
  • Consider using an effective stability device (a device which, if used correctly, prevents the ladder from slipping, some types of ladders come with these)

Telescopic ladders

Telescopic ladders are a variation of leaning ladders but remember that they don’t all work in the same way.

They should always be used, stored and transported with care and kept clean. In addition to following this guidance, it’s important you read and follow the user instructions provided by the manufacturer.

Before every use – in addition to the normal ladder checks – make sure they are operating correctly and that the mechanisms that lock each section are working properly.

Always follow the user instructions regarding the opening and closing procedure. Be aware of the potential for trapping fingers between the closing sections. Remember some of the important parts are inside where they cannot be seen. If you are in any doubt, do not use them.


When using a stepladder to carry out a task:

  • Check all four stepladder feet are in contact with the ground and the steps are level
  • Only carry light materials and tools
  • Don’t overreach
  • Don’t stand and work on the top three steps (including a step forming the very top of the stepladder) unless there is a suitable handhold
  • Ensure any locking devices are engaged
  • Try to position the stepladder to face the work activity and not side on. However, there are occasions when a risk assessment may show it is safer to work side on, eg in a retail stock room when you can’t engage the stepladder locks to work face on because of space restraints in narrow aisles, but you can fully lock it to work side on
  • Try to avoid work that imposes a side loading, such as side-on drilling through solid materials (eg bricks or concrete)
  • Where side loadings cannot be avoided, you should prevent the steps from tipping over, eg by tying the steps. Otherwise, use a more suitable type of access equipment
  • Maintain three points of contact at the working position. This means two feet and one hand, or when both hands need to be free for a brief period, two feet and the body supported by the stepladder

When deciding whether it is safe to carry out a particular task on a stepladder where you cannot maintain a handhold (eg to put a box on a shelf, hang wallpaper, or install a smoke detector on a ceiling), the decision needs to be justified, taking into account:

  • the height of the task
  • whether a handhold is still available to steady yourself before and after the task
  • whether it is light work
  • whether it avoids side loading
  • whether it avoids overreaching
  • whether the stepladder can be tied (eg when side-on working)

Combination and multi-purpose ladders

Combination and multi-purpose ladders can be used as stepladders, a variation of stepladders or leaning ladders. Combination ladders are sometimes referred to as ‘A’ frame ladders.

These types of ladders can be used in a variety of different configurations. You should:

  • check to ensure that any locking mechanism is properly engaged before use
  • always recheck the locking mechanism if the setup of the ladder is changed
  • on three-part combination ladders, never extend the top section (the section extending above the A frame) beyond the limit marked on the ladder and specified in the user manual

Where ladders should be used

As a guide, only use a ladder:

  • on firm ground
  • on level ground – refer to the manufacturer’s pictograms on the side of the ladder. Use proprietary levelling devices, not ad-hoc packing such as bricks, blocks, timbers etc
  • on clean, solid surfaces (paving slabs, floors etc). These need to be clean (no oil, moss or leaf litter) and free of loose material (sand, packaging materials etc) so the feet can grip. Shiny floor surfaces can be slippery even without contamination
  • where it will not be struck by vehicles (protect the area using suitable barriers or cones)
  • where it will not be pushed over by other hazards such as doors or windows, ie secure the doors (not fire exits) and windows where possible
  • where the general public are prevented from using it, walking underneath it or being at risk because they are too near (use barriers, cones or, as a last resort, a person standing guard at the base)
  • where it has been secured

Securing ladders and ladders used for access

Options for securing ladders

The options are as follows:

  • Tie the ladder to a suitable point, making sure both stiles are tied
  • Where this is not practical, secure the ladder with an effective ladder stability device
  • If this is not possible, securely wedge the ladder (eg wedge the stiles against a wall)
  • If you cannot achieve any of these options, foot the ladder. Footing is the last resort

Ladders used for access

In general:

  • Ladders used to access another level should be tied and extend at least 1 m above the landing point to provide a secure handhold
  • At ladder access points, a self-closing gate is recommended
  • Stepladders should not be used to access another level, unless they have been specifically designed for this

Inspecting the condition of ladders

Employers need to make sure that any ladder or stepladder is both suitable for the work task and in a safe condition before use. As a guide, only use ladders or stepladders that:

  • have no visible defects. They should have a pre-use check each working day
  • have an up-to-date record of the detailed visual inspections carried out regularly by a competent person. These should be done in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions Ladders that are part of a scaffold system still have to be inspected every seven days as part of the scaffold inspection requirements
  • are suitable for the intended use, ie are strong and robust enough for the job
  • have been maintained and stored in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions

A detailed visual inspection is similar to pre-use checks, in that it is used to spot defects and can be done on site by a competent employee.

Pre-use checks make sure that a ladder is safe to use and are for the immediate benefit of the ladder user.

These checks do not need to be recorded. Any problems or issues should be reported to a manager.

Detailed visual inspections are the responsibility of the employer. They should be carried out at fixed intervals and recorded. Records of these inspections provide a snapshot of the state of the ladders over time.

When doing an inspection, look for:

  • damaged or worn ladder feet
  • twisted, bent or dented stiles
  • cracked, worn, bent or loose rungs
  • missing or damaged tie rods
  • cracked or damaged welded joints, loose rivets or damaged stays

Pre-use checks and inspections of ladder stability devices and other accessories should be performed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Product standards

EN131 standard for portable steps and ladders.

While BS2037 and BS1129 have been withdrawn, ladders originally made to these standards prior to their withdrawal may still be used (subject to following user instructions and guidance on safe use).

Hazardous Waste

October 13, 2021

A guide to disposing of hazardous waste in the workplace

Hazardous waste is a concern in many industries, particularly businesses working in the construction, manufacturing, utilities or healthcare sectors. There are many items and products that can be considered hazardous, from Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) such as phones and laptops, to materials such as paint, oil or chemical cleaners. In order to adhere to the necessary guidelines, here’s a guide to disposing of hazardous waste in a safe and environmentally friendly way. 

What’s considered hazardous waste?

Virtually all businesses will, at some point, produce hazardous waste. Even items as seemingly insignificant as batteries or printer toner can be classified as hazardous and need to be disposed of in the right way. 

If your organisation deals with chemical or medical waste, painting or decorating materials, electronic items such as laptops and computer towers, or industrial cleaners, these need to be disposed of in a way that protects workers, the general public and the environment. Employers have a duty of care to ensure waste is treated properly and safely and must carry out risk assessments for all hazardous materials on-site. 

As WEEE solution and Asset Management firm, Priority Weee, explains: “All companies in the UK are required by law to make sure that hazardous waste materials are disposed of in accordance with their duty of care responsibilities in a manner that poses no harm to humans or the environment. Many companies are increasingly concerned about their corporate social responsibility profiles and wish to be proactive on compliance in this regard”. 

What steps do businesses need to take to dispose of hazardous waste?

The first step to tackling hazardous waste is to determine if it is indeed hazardous. Any waste your business produces needs to be categorised with the waste classification code: whether or not it’s deemed hazardous, the type of environment or business sector the waste was produced in, the name of the substance and the process that caused the waste. If there are any specific requirements or knowledge related to the type of waste you’re disposing of, this also needs to be included, along with a chemical and physical analysis of the waste. 

The waste then needs to be separated and stored safely in a secure location, using suitable containers to stop it from being mixed up with other types of waste. Make sure that the containers are labelled clearly, and use waterproof covers to stop the waste from blowing away or leaking, as well as from being contaminated by the rain. 

Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH), all employees need to be trained to deal with any hazardous materials they come into contact with. Where it’s essential that they have contact with hazardous substances, they need to be provided with the necessary PPE to keep them and those around them safe. 

The waste carrier you choose needs to be authorised to collect, recycle or dispose of hazardous waste. Even once the waste has left your premises, your business is still responsible for where it winds up, so using a reputable firm is essential for legal compliance. You will need to use consignment notes to move the waste and it needs to stay with it until it reaches the final destination. The Government has clear guidelines on how to fill out these notes for clear and concise information to accompany the waste you dispose of. 

Businesses need to keep these records for three years at the premises where the waste was produced and stored. The consequences of not dealing with hazardous waste properly can pose serious health concerns depending on the waste being disposed of, as well as cause issues for the environment and animal habitats if it leaches into the ground without being treated properly. There’s also a risk of hefty fines if businesses are found to be disposing of hazardous waste without following the correct guidelines. 

By following just a few simple steps, businesses can ensure that any hazardous materials produced in the workplace will be disposed of or recycled in a safe, responsible, and relatively quick way, all while keeping to the current legislation.

Click here for Guidance on the classification and assessment of waste (1st Edition v1.2.GB).

DSEAR Regulations

September 9, 2021

Quick guide to DSEAR

What is DSEAR?

DSEAR stands for the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002.

Dangerous substances can put peoples’ safety at risk from fire, explosion and corrosion of metal. DSEAR puts duties on employers and the self-employed to protect people from these risks to their safety in the workplace, and to members of the public who may be put at risk by work activity.

What are dangerous substances?

Dangerous substances are any substances used or present at work that could, if not properly controlled, cause harm to people as a result of a fire or explosion or corrosion of metal. They can be found in nearly all workplaces and include such things as solvents, paints, varnishes, flammable gases, such as liquid petroleum gas (LPG), dusts from machining and sanding operations, dusts from foodstuffs, pressurised gases and substances corrosive to metal.

What does DSEAR require?

Employers must:

  • find out what dangerous substances are in their workplace and what the risks are
  • put control measures in place to either remove those risks or, where this is not possible, control them
  • put controls in place to reduce the effects of any incidents involving dangerous substances
  • prepare plans and procedures to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies involving dangerous substances
  • make sure employees are properly informed about and trained to control or deal with the risks from the dangerous substances
  • identify and classify areas of the workplace where explosive atmospheres may occur and avoid ignition sources (from unprotected equipment, for example) in those areas

When does DSEAR apply?

Apart from certain activities involving ships, DSEAR applies whenever:

  • there is work being carried out by an employer (or self employed person)
  • a dangerous substance is present (or is liable to be present) at the workplace
  • the dangerous substance could be a risk to the safety of people as a result of fires, explosions or similar energetic events or through corrosion to metal

Fires and explosions create harmful physical effects – thermal radiation, overpressure effects and oxygen depletion. These effects can also be caused by other energetic events such as runaway exothermic reactions involving chemicals or decomposition of unstable substances such as peroxides. These events are also covered by DSEAR.  Gases under pressure can also cause explosions creating harmful effects. Substances that are corrosive to metal may cause damage to metal/metal containing structures which  could result in reduced structural integrity.

The following examples illustrate the type of activities covered by DSEAR:

  • storage of petrol as a fuel for cars, boats or horticultural machinery
  • use of flammable gases, such as acetylene, for welding
  • handling and storage of waste dusts in a range of manufacturing industries
  • handling and storage of flammable wastes such as fuel oils
  • welding or other ‘hot work’ on tanks and drums that have contained flammable material
  • work that could release naturally occurring flammable substances such as methane in coalmines or at landfill sites
  • use of flammable solvents in laboratories
  • storage and display of flammable goods, such as paints, in shops
  • filling, storing and handling aerosols with flammable propellants such as LPG
  • transporting flammable substances in containers around a workplace
  • deliveries from road tankers, such as petrol and bulk powders
  • chemical manufacturing, processing and warehousing
  • the petrochemical industry, both onshore and offshore
  • handling, storage and use of gases under pressure
  • handling, storage and use of substances corrosive to metal.

Where does DSEAR apply?

DSEAR applies to workplaces where dangerous substances are present, used, or produced.

Workplaces are any premises or parts of premises used for work. This includes places such as industrial and commercial premises, land-based and offshore installations, mines and quarries, construction sites, vehicles and vessels, etc. Places such as the common parts of shared buildings, private roads and paths on industrial estates and road works on public roads are also premises – as are houses and other domestic premises, if people are at work there.

Some requirements of DSEAR which deal specifically with explosive atmospheres, do not apply to industries such as offshore oil and gas production. See the ‘Explosive atmospheres and ATEX’ section for more information.


What are dangerous substances?

Dangerous substances are substances or mixtures of substances (called ‘preparations’ in DSEAR) that could create risks to people’s safety from fires and explosions or similar events, such as ‘thermal runaway’ from chemical reactions or are corrosive to metal. Liquids, gases, vapours and dusts that may be found in a workplace can all be dangerous substances.

Dangerous substances include:

  • a substance or mixture which meets the criteria for classification as hazardous within any physical hazard class laid down in the CLP Regulation whether or not the substance is classified under that regulation. Many dangerous substances have classifications which are agreed at EU level. These are given in Table 3.2 in part 3 of Annex VI to the EU Regulation on classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures, or ‘CLP’ Regulation.
  • any kind of dust that when spread in air to form a cloud (ie form an explosive atmosphere), can explode.
  • any other substances, or mixtures of substances, which because of their physical properties and the way in which they are present in the workplace create a risk to safety from fires and explosions, but which may not be covered by CLPR. For example high flashpoint liquids present in the workplace at elevated temperatures.

Under the EU CLP Regulation there are a number of substances that now meet the criteria for classification as flammable which did not do so in the past. This is partly because the upper flashpoint for classification as a flammable liquid has been increased from 55 °C to 60 °C. The changes mean that for example, diesel, gas oil and light heating oils are now classified as flammable liquids. However, many substances so classified may in fact not normally present a significant risk of fire as stored. Employers should adopt a proportionate approach in considering whether there are any justifiable further measures needed in addition to those widely used before this change, given that the risk itself has not changed.

Many of these substances can also create health risks, for example, they may be toxic or an irritant. These kinds of risks are covered under separate health law such as the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH). It is important to consider both safety and health issues when looking at risks from substances in the workplace.

What does DSEAR require?

DSEAR places duties on employers (and the self-employed, who are considered employers for the purposes of the Regulations) to assess and eliminate or reduce risks from dangerous substances. Complying with DSEAR involves:

Assessing risks

Before work is carried out, employers must assess the risks that may be caused by dangerous substances. This should be an identification and careful examination of:

  • the dangerous substances in the workplace
  • the work activities involving those substances
  • the ways in which those substances and work activities could harm people

The purpose is to help employers to decide what they need to do to eliminate or reduce the risks from dangerous substances.

If there is no risk to safety, or the risk is trivial, no further action is needed. If there are risks then employers must consider what else needs to be done to comply fully with the requirements of DSEAR.

If an employer has five or more employees, the employer must record the significant findings of the risk assessment.

Preventing or controlling risks

Employers must put control measures in place to eliminate risks from dangerous substances, or reduce them as far as is reasonably practicable. Where it is not possible to eliminate the risk completely employers must take measures to control risks and reduce the severity (mitigate) the effects of any harmful event.

The best solution is to eliminate the risk completely by replacing the dangerous substance with another substance, or using a different work process. This is called substitution in the Regulations.

In practice this may be difficult to achieve – but it may be possible to reduce the risk by using a less dangerous substance. For example, replacing a low flashpoint liquid with a high flashpoint one. In other situations it may not be possible to replace the dangerous substance at all. For example, it would not be practical to replace petrol with another substance at a filling station.

Control measures

Where the risk cannot be eliminated, DSEAR requires control measures to be applied in the following priority order:

  • reduce the quantity of dangerous substances to a minimum
  • avoid or minimise releases of dangerous substances
  • control releases of dangerous substances at source
  • prevent the formation of a dangerous atmosphere
  • collect, contain and remove any releases to a safe place (for example, through ventilation)
  • avoid ignition sources;
  • avoid adverse conditions (for example, exceeding the limits of temperature or control settings) that could lead to danger
  • keep incompatible substances apart

These control measures should be consistent with the risk assessment and appropriate to the nature of the activity or operation.


In addition to control measures DSEAR requires employers to put mitigation measures in place. These measures should be consistent with the risk assessment and appropriate to the nature of the activity or operation and include:

  • reducing the number of employees exposed to the risk
  • providing plant that is explosion resistant
  • providing plant that is corrosion resistant
  • providing explosion suppression or explosion relief equipment
  • taking measures to control or minimise the spread of fires or explosions
  • providing suitable personal protective equipment

Preparing emergency plans and procedures

Arrangements must be made to deal with emergencies. These plans and procedures should cover safety drills and suitable communication and warning systems and should be in proportion to the risks. If an emergency occurs, workers tasked with carrying out repairs or other necessary work must be provided with the appropriate equipment to allow them to carry out this work safely.

The information in the emergency plans and procedures must be made available to the emergency services to allow them to develop their own plans if necessary.

Providing information, instruction and training for employees

Employees must be provided with relevant information, instructions and training. This includes:

  • the dangerous substances present in the workplace and the risks they present including access to any relevant safety data sheets and information on any other legislation that applies to the dangerous substance
  • the findings of the risk assessment and the control measures put in place as a result (including their purpose and how to follow and use them)
  • emergency procedures

Information, instruction and training need only be provided to other people (non-employees) where it is required to ensure their safety. It should be in proportion to the level and type of risk.

The contents of pipes, containers, etc must be identifiable to alert employees and others to the presence of dangerous substances. If the contents have already been identified in order to meet the requirements of other law, this does not need to be done again under DSEAR.

Ventilation and Air Conditioning

July 21, 2021

1. Overview

The law says employers must make sure there’s an adequate supply of fresh air (ventilation) in enclosed areas of a workplace. This has not changed during the pandemic.

You should make sure there is as much fresh air as possible in any workspace. You can do this by using:

  • natural ventilation Fresh air comes in through open windows, doors or air vents. This is also known as ‘passive airflow’
  • mechanical ventilation Fans and ducts bring in fresh air from outside
  • a combination of natural and mechanical ventilation. This could be where mechanical ventilation relies on natural ventilation to maximise fresh air

Ventilation isn’t the only way of making sure you’re working safely. You should also make sure workers are keeping the workplace clean and washing their hands frequently.

This guidance will apply in most workplaces. It will help you and your workers:

  • identify poorly ventilated areas
  • decide how to improve ventilation
  • assess the risk from breathing in small particles of the virus (aerosol transmission) in enclosed areas

Why ventilation is important

Adequate ventilation reduces how much virus is in the air. It helps reduce the risk from aerosol transmission. Aerosol transmission can happen when someone breathes in small particles in the air (aerosols) after a person with the virus has been in the same enclosed area.

The risk from aerosols is greater in areas that are poorly ventilated

Although ventilation reduces the risk from aerosols, it has minimal impact on:

  • droplet transmission (where people are within 2 metres of each other)
  • contact transmission (touching surfaces)

Assessing the risk of aerosol transmission

Adequate ventilation can look different depending on the workplace or setting.

You can reduce the risk of aerosol transmission by:

  • making sure infected workers (or anyone with COVID-19 symptoms) do not come into the workplace
  • providing adequate ventilation with fresh air
  • limiting the number of people in an area

The following video provides basic advice on how ventilation can help reduce levels of COVID transmission in your workplace.

You can also find other videos at.

Deciding what adequate ventilation looks like in your workplace should be part of a risk assessment.

2. Identifying poorly ventilated areas and using CO2 monitors

The priority for your risk assessment is to identify areas of your workplace that are usually
occupied, and poorly ventilated.

You should prioritise these areas for improvement to reduce the risk of aerosol transmission.

There are some simple ways to identify poorly ventilated areas:

  • Look for areas where people work and where there is no mechanical ventilation or natural ventilation such as open windows, doors, or vents
  • Check that mechanical systems provide outdoor air, temperature control, or both. If a system only recirculates air and has no outdoor air supply, the area is likely to be poorly ventilated 
  • Identify areas that feel stuffy or smell bad 

Using carbon dioxide (CO2) monitors

People exhale carbon dioxide (CO2) when they breathe out. If there is a build-up of CO2 in an area it can indicate that ventilation needs improving.

Although CO2 levels are not a direct measure of possible exposure to COVID-19, checking levels using a monitor can help you identify poorly ventilated areas.

Types of CO2 monitor to use

There are many different types of CO2 monitors available. The most appropriate portable devices to use in the workplace are non-dispersive infrared (NDIR) CO2 monitors.

How to use a CO2 monitor

CO2 levels vary within an indoor space. It’s best to place CO2 monitors at head height and away from windows, doors, or air supply openings.

Monitors should also be positioned at least 50cm away from people as their exhaled breath contains CO2. If your monitors are too close they may give a misleadingly high reading.

Measurements within a space can vary during the day due to changes in numbers of occupants, activities, or ventilation rates. Doors and windows being open or closed can also have an effect.

The amount of CO2 in the air is measured in parts per million (ppm). If your measurements in an occupied space seem very low (far below 400ppm) or very high (over 1500ppm), it’s possible your monitor is in the wrong location and you should move it to another location in the space to get a more accurate reading.

Instantaneous or ‘snapshot’ CO2 readings can be misleading, so you should take several measurements throughout the day frequently enough to represent changes in use of the room or space. Then calculate an average value for the occupied period.

You may need to repeat monitoring at different times of the year as outdoor temperatures change and this will affect worker behaviour relating to opening windows and doors when your space relies on natural ventilation.

Your readings will help you decide if a space is adequately ventilated.

How to get the most accurate readings

  • Check your monitor is calibrated before making CO2 measurements. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, including the appropriate warm-up time for the device to stabilise
  • Know how to use your portable monitor correctly, including the time needed to provide a reading
  • Take multiple measurements in occupied areas to identify a suitable sampling location to give a representative measurement for the space. In larger spaces it is likely that more than one sampling location will be required
  • Take measurements at key times throughout the working day and for a minimum of one full working day to ensure your readings represent normal use and occupancy
  • Record CO2 readings, number of occupants, the type of ventilation you’re using at the time and the date. These numbers will help you use the CO2 records to decide if an area is poorly ventilated

How the measurements can help you take action

CO2 measurements should be used as a broad guide to ventilation within a space rather than treating them as ‘safe thresholds.

Outdoor levels are around 400ppm and indoors a consistent CO2 value less than 800ppm is likely to indicate that a space is well ventilated.

An average of 1500ppm CO2 concentration over the occupied period in a space is an indicator of poor ventilation. You should take action to improve ventilation where CO2 readings are consistently higher than 1500ppm.

However, where there is continuous talking or singing, or high levels of physical activity (such as dancing, playing sport or exercising), providing ventilation sufficient to keep CO2 levels below 800ppm is recommended.

Where CO2 monitors will be less effective

CO2 monitors are not suitable for use in areas that rely on air cleaning units because these remove contaminants (such as coronavirus) from the air but do not remove CO2.

In large, open spaces and spaces with higher ceilings, such as food production halls or warehouses, you can’t be sure the air is fully mixed and CO2 monitors may be less representative.

Monitors are of limited use in less populated areas. These include fitting rooms or large offices with one or two occupants.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) published a paper on the use of CO2 monitoring. The table below gives examples of spaces where monitors may be useful.

Although this table gives some examples, every space is different, and you need to consider whether a CO2 monitor will be appropriate for you.

Suitability of CO2 monitoring in different types of space
Characteristics of space Examples Suitability of CO2 monitor
Small spaces up to 50 square metres floor area.
Occupied by a consistent number of people for more than an hour
Small offices and meeting rooms Can be used, but results should be treated carefully as concentrations can be affected by the differences between individual breathing rates.
Small spaces up to 50 square metres.
Occupancy varies over short periods
Changing rooms and small retail premises Unlikely to give reliable measurements
Mid-sized spaces of 50-320 square metres.
Occupied by a consistent number of people for more than an hour
Larger office and meeting rooms, classrooms, restaurants/bars, and some indoor sports (low aerobic activity) Often well suited to monitoring as the higher number of occupants provides more reliable values
Mid-sized spaces of 50-320 square metres.
Occupancy varies over short periods
Larger office and meeting rooms, classrooms, restaurants/bars, and some indoor sports (low aerobic activity) Often well suited to monitoring as the higher numbers of occupants provides more reliable values
Mid-sized spaces of 50-320 square metres.
Occupancy varies over short periods
Some retail spaces Can be used, but results should be treated carefully as concentrations may be affected by variations in occupancy levels
Large spaces over 320 square metres.
Occupied by a consistent number of people for a longer period of time
Indoor concert venues, large places of worship and airport concourses Can be appropriate for monitoring in occupied areas, but might require multiple sensors to provide meaningful measurements
Large spaces over 320 square metres.
Occupancy varies over short periods
Rail concourses and shopping malls Unlikely to give reliable measurements

3. Assessment of fresh air (ventilation) in the workplace

There are a number of factors to consider when deciding on the ventilation needed in your work areas.

Consider the following questions to help you build up a picture of the risk and decide if you need to take action to reduce it.

How do you provide fresh air (ventilation) to your workplace?

Adequate ventilation reduces how much virus is in the air and therefore reduces the risk from aerosol transmission for workers in that area.

You should maximise the fresh air in an area and this can be done by:

  • natural ventilation which relies on passive air flow through windows, doors and vents that can be fully or partially opened
  • mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts to bring in fresh air from outside, or
  • a combination of natural and mechanical ventilation, eg where mechanical ventilation relies on natural ventilation to maximise fresh air

Your workplace may have different means of providing ventilation for different areas. It may be helpful when doing your assessment to make a list of areas in your workplace and how they are ventilated. Floor or design plans may help with this.

Alternatively, you could walk around the building and make a note of each area and how it is ventilated.

Remember to include changing rooms and areas used for breaks, such as canteens. If you are not able to easily tell how an area is ventilated, it may be because it is poorly ventilated.

How many people use or occupy the area?

The more people who use or occupy an area the greater the risk that an infected person is there, increasing possible exposure to aerosol transmission. Reducing the number of people who use or occupy an area reduces this risk.

This risk increases if an area is poorly ventilated and occupied by more than one person.

Consider how many people use or occupy an area at any one time. Is there a set number of people each day or do numbers fluctuate?

How much time do people spend in the area?

The longer people use or occupy an area, the greater the risk. Consider how many people use or occupy an area for a sustained period (for example a full shift), and how many come and go throughout the day. Can you reduce this in any way? 

How large is the area?

The larger the area, the lower the risk. This is because larger areas:

  • have more air to help dilute the virus
  • tend to be designed with higher ventilation rates
  • mean it takes longer for aerosols to build up

What tasks or activities take place in the area?

Activities that make you breathe deeper, for example physical exertion or shouting, will increase generation of aerosols and increase the risk of transmission.

These activities increase transmission risk even in areas with adequate ventilation. If possible, avoid or redesign these activities to reduce the risk, for example moving activities outside or working alone where possible. 

Are there any features in the workplace that affect ventilation? 

You may have large machinery, equipment or other features that would prevent air circulating. This could create stagnant parts of the area so consider how to improve the flow of air in that area.

Do you use desk or ceiling fans?

Desk or ceiling fans should not be used in poorly ventilated areas.

Does your workplace use local exhaust ventilation?

Your business may use local exhaust ventilation (LEV) to control risks from other workplace hazards such as dust or welding fumes. If these discharge the air outside, they will increase ventilation in the area.

Is there a complex ventilation system?

Workplaces that may have complex ventilation systems include:

  • some old buildings
  • buildings with multiple floors and rooms, with different ventilation systems
  • systems designed for product manufacturing reasons, which may include additional recirculation

If your workplace has a complex ventilation system, there is guidance from the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE), or you may need to get a ventilation engineer to provide expert advice on what system you need to reduce any potential transmission risks.

How will you tell your employees about the outcome of your assessment?

You should tell your workers about the outcome of the risk assessment. This will help them understand how they can play their part to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus.

4. How to improve natural ventilation

You can improve natural ventilation by fully or partially opening windows, air vents and doors. Don’t prop fire doors open. 

Buildings are designed to provide an adequate amount of ventilation and, where this is through windows and air vents, you should be able to open them. If they cannot be opened, the ventilation in that area will be affected. 

If you identify an area that requires improvement, you should decide if that area should continue to be used until improvements are made.

It is important not to close windows or doors completely when people are using or occupying a naturally ventilated area. This can result in very low levels of ventilation. 

Lower temperatures and windy weather conditions in the winter months will increase natural ventilation through openings. This means you don’t need to open windows and doors as wide. Look to see if trickle vents can be opened. There is more advice on balancing ventilation with keeping warm.

Purging (airing rooms)

Airing rooms as frequently as you can improves ventilation. Open all the doors and windows fully to maximise the ventilation in a room. It may be better to do this when the room is unoccupied.

Talking to your workers about improving ventilation

Making sure an area has enough fresh air through natural ventilation relies on people doing what is expected of them. You should explain the reason for adequate ventilation to workers so they can play their part in reducing the risk.

5. How to improve mechanical ventilation (including air conditioning)

Mechanical ventilation brings fresh air from outside into a building.

You should speak to the people who manage the day-to-day operations of your workplace ventilation systems to:

  • understand how they operate
  • make sure they’re supplying fresh air into an area and how much
  • make sure they’re maintained in line with manufacturers’ instructions

You shouldn’t lower mechanical ventilation rates if the number of people reduces in an area temporarily. 

You should base ventilation rates on the maximum ‘normal’ occupancy of an area.

Maximising fresh air

These systems will provide adequate ventilation if they are set to maximise fresh air and minimise recirculation. 

If your system draws in fresh air, it can continue to operate. You need to know how much fresh air it draws in and if this provides adequate ventilation. You may need to increase the rate or supplement with natural ventilation (opening doors, windows and air vents) where possible. 

You can also consider extending the operating times of mechanical ventilation systems to before and after people use work areas.

Recirculating air

It is preferable not to recirculate air from one space to another.

Recirculation units for heating and cooling that do not draw in a supply of fresh air can remain in operation provided there is a supply of outdoor air, for example windows and doors left open.

Recirculation units (including air conditioning) can mask poor ventilation as they only make an area feel more comfortable.

Find out more

More information about different ventilation systems is provided by the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE).

6. Balancing ventilation with keeping warm

Providing adequate ventilation does not mean you have to make your workplace feel cold.

There are simple steps you can take to make sure your workplace is adequately ventilated without being too cold:

  • opening windows and doors partially can still provide acceptable ventilation while keeping the workplace comfortable. Opening higher-level windows will probably create fewer draughts.
  • if the area is cold you could relax dress codes so people can wear extra layers and warmer clothing
  • you can only use fan convector heaters if the area is well ventilated

In this sway natural ventilation can be used alongside heating systems to maintain a reasonable temperature in the workplace.

7. Air cleaning and filtration units

You can use local air cleaning and filtration units to reduce airborne transmission of aerosols where it is not possible to maintain adequate ventilation.

These units are not a substitute for ventilation. You should prioritise any areas identified as poorly ventilated for improvement in other ways before you think about using an air cleaning device.

If you decide to use an air cleaning unit, the most suitable types to use are:

  • high-efficiency filters
  • ultraviolet-based devices.

Any unit should be appropriate for the size of the area they’re used in to ensure they work in the way they are intended to.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) detectors are not suitable for use in areas that rely on air cleaning units. This is because filtration units remove contaminants (such as coronavirus) from the air but do not remove CO2.

Air cleaning devices are also used to disinfect workplaces and there is HSE guidance on disinfecting using fog, mist and other systems during the pandemic.

8. Ventilation in vehicles

Make sure workers switch on ventilation systems while they’re using work vehicles. They should be set to draw in fresh air and not to recirculate it.

Encourage your employees to keep vehicle windows open. If it’s cold they can leave the heating on to keep the vehicle comfortable.

If it’s safe to do so, opening doors of vehicles between different passengers will help to change air quickly. Opening vehicle windows fully for a few minutes can also help clear the air before anyone else gets in.

Health Surveillance

May 12, 2021

1. Overview

An important part of occupational health is how work and the work environment can impact on workers’ health. As an employer, you must make sure workers’ health is not impacted by their work.

Health surveillance is a scheme of repeated health checks which are used to identify ill health caused by work. Health and safety law requires health surveillance when your workers remain exposed to health risks after you have put controls in place. Health risks which require health surveillance include noisevibration and substances hazardous to health.

Health surveillance schemes should usually be set up with input from a competent occupational health professional.

The law requires that health surveillance includes medical surveillance for certain hazards such as asbestoslead, and ionising radiation.

Where medical surveillance is required, you must use a competent occupational health doctor appointed by HSE, called an appointed doctor. The one exception is for some lower risk asbestos work.

Health surveillance is not the same as health monitoring, health promotion or health screening. It:

  • should only be used for workers who need it
  • provides feedback about actions you may need to take to prevent further harm and protect workers
  • allows workers to raise concerns about how work affects their health
  • provides the opportunity to reinforce workers’ training and education

2. Manage the risk

Your risk assessment will help you decide if you need health surveillance. You should:

  • look around your workplace and decide what may harm your worker’s health
  • decide if you are taking reasonable steps to reduce risk and prevent harm
  • think about reasonably practicable improvements you can make or controls you can put in place to reduce risk

Your findings from health surveillance must contribute to your risk assessment and implementation of effective controls. Health surveillance can detect ill health effects early and show whether you need to review and revise your risk assessment and control measures. Control measures may not always be reliable, despite checking and maintenance.

Other issues that can indicate whether health surveillance might be appropriate include:

  • previous cases of work-related ill health in your workplace
  • reliance on personal protective equipment as an exposure control measure – experience shows its use isn’t always managed properly
  • evidence of ill health in jobs in your industry
  • information from insurance claims, manufacturer’s data and industry guidance

3. Consult workers about health surveillance

You must consult your workers and their representatives. Health surveillance only works with their co-operation. Consultation can help increase worker’s commitment to health surveillance and compliance with control measures.

Ask workers what they think the health hazards are in your workplace. They can:

  • help you identify workplace risks
  • make sure your controls are practical

Make sure workers understand:

  • the systems you have put in place to control identified risks and your health surveillance scheme
  • why health surveillance is important and what it is for
  • what will happen if ill health is identified
  • they can attend health surveillance appointments during work time, and you as the employer must pay for the surveillance
  • their own duties in law (for example they must attend appointments)
  • what action you may take if they refuse to attend appointments

4. Understand your business needs

Health surveillance

As an employer, you should have an ongoing health surveillance scheme if:

  • an identifiable disease or health effect may be linked to the exposure at work
  • it is likely that the disease or health effect may occur under the particular conditions of the work
  • there are valid techniques for detecting signs of the disease or effect
  • the technique is low risk to workers

Valid techniques are those that are precise enough to detect something wrong that could be caused by exposure to a health risk; and which are safe and practicable to conduct.

Health surveillance is a legal requirement in specific circumstances when there is still some residual risk to worker’s health despite the control measures you may have put in place, and they are likely to be exposed to:

Health surveillance is used to identify occupational diseases, such as:

Medical surveillance

As defined in certain regulations, you must use medical surveillance where there could be exposure to certain high hazard substances or agents. A doctor appointed by HSE must do the medical surveillance, except for some lower risk asbestos work.

This includes work with:

5. Setting up a health surveillance scheme

As an employer, you should put an ongoing health surveillance scheme in place where your risk assessment shows it is necessary. When setting this up, you should:

  • consider all the health hazards for which health surveillance may be required
  • know which workers could be exposed to each health hazard and ensure they receive the appropriate range of health surveillance

You may also need to:

  • take advice from an occupational health professional
  • identify who will lead and manage your health surveillance scheme
  • agree roles, responsibilities and communication arrangements
  • consider the practical details of performing health surveillance, for example shift workers and remote workers

6. Act on the results of health surveillance

When your health surveillance is concluded, you must get feedback from the occupational health professional who carried it out. Until you have received this feedback your health surveillance is not complete.

Feedback should include advice on fitness for task with the relevant exposure(s) and when further health surveillance is required for each worker undergoing health surveillance. You should enter this information into the individual health records that you must keep.

You must act on the results to protect workers where health surveillance shows they have work-related ill health. If further investigation is required, this should be done in a timely manner in discussion with the occupational health professional.

For example, if an occupational health professional advises you that a worker is not fit for a task, consider assigning the worker to alternative work where there is either restricted or no risk from further exposure.

You must also review your risk assessment and control measures to prevent other workers developing work-related ill health.

Where possible, review your feedback from health surveillance for groups of similarly exposed workers, or those involved in similar tasks. This can help provide a clearer view of how effective your controls are for each source of health risk. When doing this, groups of workers should be big enough to protect individual worker’s anonymity and prevent disclosure of confidential medical information.

7. Record keeping

There are different records employers must maintain as a result of undertaking health surveillance; health records and medical records. It is important to understand the difference.

Health records

A health record is a legal record of the outcome of health surveillance. Employers must keep them for all workers under health surveillance. They must be kept for at least the period specified in the relevant regulations, for example 40 years under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH). Where regulations do not specify how long they should be kept for, the health record should be kept at least while you employ the worker.

Health records must contain information about the worker’s details, where they work, the hazards they have been exposed to and their fitness to continue to be exposed to those hazards. They should not contain confidential medical information unless you have the worker’s written consent.

It is good practice to offer workers a copy of their health record when they leave your employment or if you cease trading.

Medical records

Medical records must be kept in medical confidence by the occupational health professional responsible for the health surveillance scheme. They may include confidential clinical notes, test results and more general information about workers’ health.

You can only access medical records with the written consent of the worker.

If you change your occupational health provider, you should ensure that medical records (paper and electronic) are transferred to your new provider.

8. Health monitoring, biological monitoring and biological effect monitoring

Health monitoring

Monitoring the health of workers where the effects from an activity or exposure at work are suspected of causing ill health effects, but the association has yet to be fully established.  This would follow the same principles as health surveillance but is not a legal requirement. Where relevant refer to industry guidance. You should consult with your occupational health professional for advice on the approach to implement in your workplace.

Biological monitoring and biological effect monitoring

Biological monitoring (PDFis the measurement of a chemical or its breakdown products in a biological sample (usually urine or blood) to indicate how much chemical has entered the body by all routes of exposure. For example, measurement of lead in blood of workers exposed to lead dust.

Biological effect monitoring is the measurement of biological effects resulting from absorption of chemicals. For example, measurement of protein in urine of workers exposed to cadmium to check their kidney function.

Biological monitoring and biological effect monitoring can play a role in exposure assessment and health surveillance, helping you evaluate your control measures and manage risks to workers’ health. In setting up a biological monitoring programme, you should seek advice from an occupational health professional, and you may need to involve an occupational health physician.



March 10, 2020

For daily global updates on the coronavirus, please visit the World Health Organization’s website. UK-specific updates are available on the Government website.

What is coronavirus? 

COVID-19 is an illness that can affect the lungs and airways. It’s caused by a virus called coronavirus. In January 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared coronavirus a global health emergency. Respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

Whilst the UK Chief Medical Officers have raised the risk to the public to moderate, the risk of catching COVID-19 depends on where you live or where you have travelled recently.

Preventative measures

Employers have a vital role to play in preventing the spread of this disease by taking sensible action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 such as ensuring that workers have access to appropriate hygiene facilities such hot water, soap and bins to get rid of used tissues.  

The risk of catching it within the workplace is low, although an increasing number of employers are encouraging their employees to work from home in order to help to prevent further spread of the virus.

Workers are advised to maintain good hygiene standards around the workplace by following the latest advice from the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) website which includes the following basic protective measures: 

  • Wash your hands frequently with alcohol-based hand wash or wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Maintain social distancing- maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet distance) between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing
  • Avoid touching eyes, mouth and nose
  • Practice respiratory hygiene – Using the nearest waste receptacle to dispose of the tissue after use
  • Stay informed and follow the advice given by health care providers

In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) has advised that most people can continue to go to work, school and other public places, and that self-isolation is only to be undertaken if the individual is advised to do so by the 111 online coronavirus service or a medical professional. Read the full NHS advice here.

Emergency planning advice:

IOSH advises that businesses follow good practice in emergency planning, preparedness and response. This can be achieved by adopting the following steps:

  • Develop a response plan for if someone in the workplace becomes ill with suspected COVID-19. This should include the immediate response e.g. isolate the individual and contact the local health authority
  • Plan to identify persons who may be at risk without stigma or discrimination
  • Explore ways of remote working (teleworking) that will allow workers to continue their work from home
  • Develop a business continuity plan for an outbreak, which covers:
    • How your organisation will continue to function if workers, contractors and suppliers cannot come to your place of business
    • Visitors and vendors who have access to the building
    • Communicate to workers and contractors about the plan and their role in it
    • Ensure the plan addresses mental health and social consequences of a case of COVID-19 in the workplace

For further information on emergency planning read the World Health Organization (WHO) document Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19 or UK Government Guidance Preparing for emergencies.

IOSH guidance when travelling for work:

IOSH recommends the following key actions organisations can take to manage traveller health, safety and wellbeing:

  • To effectively manage travel risk, you need to ensure you have proportionate and robust policies, procedures and controls in place. Communicate them to all relevant parts of your organisation, providing information, instruction and training as appropriate.
  • Consider whether the travel is absolutely necessary: can you achieve the same result with video conferencing and spare the organisation and traveller the risk, time, cost and environmental impact? Situations such as the coronavirus outbreak in China as well as geopolitical conflicts, terrorism and natural disasters can change rapidly, potentially leaving travellers stranded or quarantined. It is therefore important to make ‘fly/no fly’ decisions based on best available guidance such as government travel advice.
  • If travel is deemed necessary then you need to effectively but proportionately manage the risk, with controls identified and implemented which reflect the nature and severity of the risk. Such controls should be identified through a travel risk assessment incorporating not only the travel, accommodation and work itself but also the traveller’s physical and mental capabilities. The travellers themselves should be involved in this process.
  • You will always need to know where your workers are and where they are going. Some travel management systems provide tracking and alert functions, and there are also products utilising GPS in either discrete equipment or smartphone apps which can provide live location tracking.
  • Should your travellers become involved in an incident or emergency situation, you need to have a means by which to provide support for them. Considering issues such as number of travellers, international time differences and weekend travel it is potentially cost and resource-effective to implement a travel assistance scheme such as those provided by business insurers or commercial organisations such as International SOS. Additionally, business should source local emergency phone numbers in country, giving employees quick access to assistance. Most schemes and business travel insurance packages offer a 24/7 helpline which triggers support services for the traveller, providing assistance with medical treatment and repatriation due to injuries and illness as well as helping with lost documents, stolen money and other common travel-related problems.
  • You should also provide relevant information, instruction and training to travellers, the nature and extent of which should be identified during the risk assessment process.
  • Finally, don’t forget your travellers’ wellbeing. Frequent international travel has been shown to have negative effects on both physical and mental health, with situations such as a disease outbreak providing further sources of concern.

Managing the safety, health and security of workers:

IOSH’s research report Managing the safety, health and security of mobile workers sets out the aspects of safety, health and security for which organisations should take responsibility when dealing with workers travelling for work or on international assignment.

Advances in information technology mean that more people are working away from the office. Home office, mobile office- Managing remote working can offer guidance on how employers can develop a remote working policy that encompasses the relevant health and safety management issues.

Developed jointly by the International SOS Foundation, this occupational safety and health guide emphasises the need for dynamic risk assessment and planning for critical situations.

IOSH in the media:

IOSH has provided expertise and guidance in the media around the coronavirus and how to protect employees in the workplace.

Media appearances include:

  • BBC Worklife and BBC World News – 20/02/20
  • BBC Radio Oxford – 26/02/20
  • BBC Radio 5 Live – 03/03/20

Useful resources:

For the latest information and advice for you and your business, WHO have put together an important guide for OSH and healthcare professionals: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak: rights, roles and responsibilities of health workers, including key considerations for occupational safety and health

Risk at Work – Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

February 20, 2020

Employers have duties concerning the provision and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) at work.

PPE is equipment that will protect the user against health or safety risks at work. It can include items such as safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses. It also includes respiratory protective equipment (RPE).

Why is PPE important?

Making the workplace safe includes providing instructions, procedures, training and supervision to encourage people to work safely and responsibly.

Even where engineering controls and safe systems of work have been applied, some hazards might remain. These include injuries to:

  • the lungs, eg from breathing in contaminated air
  • the head and feet, eg from falling materials
  • the eyes, eg from flying particles or splashes of corrosive liquids
  • the skin, eg from contact with corrosive materials
  • the body, eg from extremes of heat or cold

PPE is needed in these cases to reduce the risk.

What do I have to do?

  • Only use PPE as a last resort
  • If PPE is still needed after implementing other controls (and there will be circumstances when it is, eg head protection on most construction sites), you must provide this for your employees free of charge
  • You must choose the equipment carefully (see selection details below) and ensure employees are trained to use it properly, and know how to detect and report any faults

Selection and use

You should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is exposed and to what?
  • How long are they exposed for?
  • How much are they exposed to?

When selecting and using PPE:

  • Choose products which are CE marked in accordance with the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002 – suppliers can advise you
  • Choose equipment that suits the user – consider the size, fit and weight of the PPE. If the users help choose it, they will be more likely to use it
  • If more than one item of PPE is worn at the same time, make sure they can be used together, eg wearing safety glasses may disturb the seal of a respirator, causing air leaks
  • Instruct and train people how to use it, eg train people to remove gloves without contaminating their skin. Tell them why it is needed, when to use it and what its limitations are

Other advice on PPE

  • Never allow exemptions from wearing PPE for those jobs that ‘only take a few minutes’
  • Check with your supplier on what PPE is appropriate – explain the job to them
  • If in doubt, seek further advice from a specialist adviser


PPE must be properly looked after and stored when not in use, eg in a dry, clean cupboard. If it is reusable it must be cleaned and kept in good condition.

Think about:

  • using the right replacement parts which match the original, eg respirator filters
  • keeping replacement PPE available
  • who is responsible for maintenance and how it is to be done
  • having a supply of appropriate disposable suits which are useful for dirty jobs where laundry costs are high, eg for visitors who need protective clothing

Employees must make proper use of PPE and report its loss or destruction or any fault in it.

Monitor and review

  • Check regularly that PPE is used. If it isn’t, find out why not
  • Safety signs can be a useful reminder that PPE should be worn
  • Take note of any changes in equipment, materials and methods – you may need to update what you provide

Types of PPE you can use



Chemical or metal splash, dust, projectiles, gas and vapour, radiation


Safety spectacles, goggles, face screens, faceshields, visors


Make sure the eye protection chosen has the right combination of impact/dust/splash/molten metal eye protection for the task and fits the user properly

Head and neck


Impact from falling or flying objects, risk of head bumping, hair getting tangled in machinery, chemical drips or splash, climate or temperature


Industrial safety helmets, bump caps, hairnets and firefighters’ helmets


  • Some safety helmets incorporate or can be fitted with specially-designed eye or hearing protection
  • Don’t forget neck protection, eg scarves for use during welding
  • Replace head protection if it is damaged



Noise – a combination of sound level and duration of exposure, very high-level sounds are a hazard even with short duration


Earplugs, earmuffs, semi-insert/canal caps


  • Provide the right hearing protectors for the type of work, and make sure workers know how to fit them
  • Choose protectors that reduce noise to an acceptable level, while allowing for safety and communication

Hands and arms


Abrasion, temperature extremes, cuts and punctures, impact, chemicals, electric shock, radiation, vibration, biological agents and prolonged immersion in water


Gloves, gloves with a cuff, gauntlets and sleeving that covers part or all of the arm


  • Avoid gloves when operating machines such as bench drills where the gloves might get caught
  • Some materials are quickly penetrated by chemicals – take care in selection, see HSE’s skin at work website
  • Barrier creams are unreliable and are no substitute for proper PPE
  • Wearing gloves for long periods can make the skin hot and sweaty, leading to skin problems. Using separate cotton inner gloves can help prevent this

Feet and legs


Wet, hot and cold conditions, electrostatic build-up, slipping, cuts and punctures, falling objects, heavy loads, metal and chemical splash, vehicles


Safety boots and shoes with protective toecaps and penetration-resistant, mid-sole wellington boots and specific footwear, eg foundry boots and chainsaw boots


  • Footwear can have a variety of sole patterns and materials to help prevent slips in different conditions, including oil – or chemical-resistant soles. It can also be anti-static, electrically conductive or thermally insulating
  • Appropriate footwear should be selected for the risks identified



  • Oxygen-deficient atmospheres, dusts, gases and vapours

Options – respiratory protective equipment (RPE)

  • Some respirators rely on filtering contaminants from workplace air. These include simple filtering facepieces and respirators and power-assisted respirators
  • Make sure it fits properly, eg for tight-fitting respirators (filtering facepieces, half and full masks)
  • There are also types of breathing apparatus which give an independent supply of breathable air, eg fresh-air hose, compressed airline and self-contained breathing apparatus


  • The right type of respirator filter must be used as each is effective for only a limited range of substances
  • Filters have only a limited life. Where there is a shortage of oxygen or any danger of losing consciousness due to exposure to high levels of harmful fumes, only use breathing apparatus – never use a filtering cartridge
  • You will need to use breathing apparatus in a confined space or if there is a chance of an oxygen deficiency in the work area
  • If you are using respiratory protective equipment, look at HSE’s publication Respiratory protective equipment at work: A practical guide

Whole body


Heat, chemical or metal splash, spray from pressure leaks or spray guns, contaminated dust, impact or penetration, excessive wear or entanglement of own clothing


Conventional or disposable overalls, boiler suits, aprons, chemical suits


  • The choice of materials includes flame-retardant, anti-static, chain mail, chemically impermeable, and high-visibility
  • Don’t forget other protection, like safety harnesses or life jackets

Emergency equipment

Careful selection, maintenance and regular and realistic operator training is needed for equipment for use in emergencies, like compressed-air escape breathing apparatus, respirators and safety ropes or harnesses.

Find out more:-

A short guide to the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 Leaflet INDG174 (PDF)


January 23, 2020

What is COSHH?

COSHH is the law that requires employers to control substances that are hazardous to health. You can prevent or reduce workers exposure to hazardous substances by:

  • finding out what the health hazards are;
  • deciding how to prevent harm to health (risk assessment);
  • providing control measures to reduce harm to health;
  • making sure they are used ;
  • keeping all control measures in good working order;
  • providing information, instruction and training for employees and others;
  • providing monitoring and health surveillance in appropriate cases;
  • planning for emergencies.

Most businesses use substances, or products that are mixtures of substances. Some processes create substances. These could cause harm to employees, contractors and other people.

Sometimes substances are easily recognised as harmful. Common substances such as paint, bleach or dust from natural materials may also be harmful.

COSHH covers

COSHH covers substances that are hazardous to health. Substances can take many forms and include:

  • chemicals
  • products containing chemicals
  • fumes
  • dusts
  • vapours
  • mists
  • nanotechnology
  • gases and asphyxiating gases and
  • biological agents (germs). If the packaging has any of the hazard symbols then it is classed as a hazardous substance.
  • germs that cause diseases such as leptospirosis or legionnaires disease and germs used in laboratories.

Read more about COSHH and what you need to do and COSHH assessments.

COSHH does not cover

because these have their own specific regulations.

What you need to do

Before you start your COSHH assessment, you need to:

Think about

  • What do you do that involves hazardous substances?
  • How can these cause harm?
  • How can you reduce the risk of harm occurring?

Always try to prevent exposure at source. For example:

  • Can you avoid using a hazardous substance or use a safer process – preventing exposure, eg using water-based rather than solvent-based products, applying by brush rather than spraying?
  • Can you substitute it for something safer – eg swap an irritant cleaning product for something milder, or using a vacuum cleaner rather than a brush?
  • Can you use a safer form, eg can you use a solid rather than liquid to avoid splashes or a waxy solid instead of a dry powder to avoid dust?

Check your trade press and talk to employees. At trade meetings, ask others in your industry for ideas.

If you can’t prevent exposure, you need to control it adequately by applying the principles of good control practice.

Control is adequate when the risk of harm is ‘as low as is reasonably practicable’. 

This means:

  • All control measures are in good working order.
  • Exposures are below the Workplace Exposure Limit, where one exists.
  • Exposure to substances that cause cancer, asthma or genetic damage is reduced to as low a level as possible.

COSHH assessment: Identifying hazard and assessing risk

You are probably already aware of many risks in your trade or industry. A COSHH assessment concentrates on the hazards and risks from substances in your workplace.

Remember that hazards and risks are not limited to substances labelled as ‘hazardous’.

Steps to making a COSHH assessment:

  • Walk around your workplace. Where is there potential for exposure to substances that might be hazardous to health?

    Examples include processes that emit dust, fume, vapour, mist or gas; and skin contact with liquids, pastes and dusts. Substances with workplace exposure limits (WELs) are hazardous to health.

  • In what way are the substances harmful to health?

    Get safety data sheets, and read your trade magazines. Some substances arise from processes and have no safety data sheet. Examples include fume from welding or soldering, mist from metalworking, dust from quarrying, gases from silage. Look at the HSE web pages for your trade or industry – Your Industry.

  • What jobs or tasks lead to exposure?

    Note these down. Note down what control measures you already use. For these jobs, how likely is any harm to workers’ health?

  • Are there any areas of concern, eg from the Accident Book?

    Examples include burns from splashes, nausea or lightheadedness from solvents, etc

HSE has provided specific guidance on COSHH assessment called A step by step guide to COSHH assessment. You can apply this to substances hazardous to health. More detailed guidance is in the free booklet on working with substances hazardous to health. Working with substances hazardous to health: What you need to know about COSHH. INDG136

Safety data sheets provide information on substances that are ‘dangerous for supply’. Other substances should have instructions for safe use.

By law, your supplier must give you an up to date safety data sheet for a substance that is ‘dangerous for supply’. Safety Data Sheets are often hard to understand, though this explanation might help.

Keeping a copy of the safety data sheet is not a COSHH assessment.

Control measures to prevent or limit exposure to hazardous substances

What is COSHH for?

The objective of COSHH is to prevent, or to adequately control, exposure to substances hazardous to health, so as to prevent ill health.

You can do this by:

  • using control equipment, eg total enclosure, partial enclosure, LEV;
  • controlling procedures, eg ways of working, supervision and training to reduce exposure, maintenance, examination and testing of control measures;
  • worker behaviour, making sure employees follow the control measures.

Changing how often a task is undertaken, or when, or reducing the number of employees nearby, can make an improvement to exposure control.

See Working with substances hazardous to health: A brief guide to COSHH.

You should also look at the HSE REACH web pages for information about what the Regulations mean for users of chemicals.

Control equipment

Control equipment can be general ventilation, extraction systems such as local exhaust ventilation, enclosure, or where the air cannot be cleaned, refuges and respiratory protective equipment (RPE).

Other control equipment includes spillage capture, decontamination, clean-up procedures and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Ways of working

Control through ways of working includes operating procedures, supervision and training.

It includes emergency procedures, decontamination and ‘permits to work‘ for tasks such as maintenance. 

It also means testing all control measures regularly – equipment, ways of working and behaviour, to make sure that they work properly.

You should keep records of examinations, tests and repairs to equipment for at least five years. This helps to identify any trends or variations in equipment deterioration.

Worker behaviour

Where control measures are in place it is important to use them properly.

This includes:

  • wearing any PPE necessary;
  • using control equipment;
  • following hygiene procedures;
  • warning supervisors if anything appears to be wrong.

Coshh Basics- Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Employers are responsible for providing, replacing and paying for personal protective equipment.

PPE should be used when all other measures are inadequate to control exposure. It protects only the wearer, while being worn.

If it fails, PPE offers no protection at all.

Types of PPE

When deciding about PPE ask the supplier, your trade association or the manufacturer.

  • Is it suitable for the conditions of the job?
  • Does it offer the right level of protection?
  • What sort of training or maintenance is required?
  • How do I know when it needs replacing?

It is important that employees know why they need PPE and are trained to use it correctly. Otherwise it is unlikely to protect as required.

  • Does it fit correctly?
  • How does the wearer feel? Is it comfortable?
  • Are all items of PPE compatible?
  • Does PPE interfere with the job being done?
  • Does PPE introduce another health risk, eg overheating, entanglement with machinery?
  • If PPE needs maintenance or cleaning, how is it done?

When employees find PPE comfortable they are far more likely to wear it.

COSHH health surveillance

What is health surveillance?

Health surveillance is any activity which involves obtaining information about employees’ health and which helps protect employees from health risks at work.

The objectives for health surveillance are:

  • Protecting the health of employees by early detection of adverse changes or disease;
  • Collecting data for detecting or evaluating health hazards;
  • Evaluating control measures.

It should not be confused with general health screening or health promotion.

Health surveillance is necessary when:

  • there is a disease associated with the substance in use (eg AsthmaDermatitis, Cancers);
  • it is possible to detect the disease or adverse change and reduce the risk of further harm;
  • the conditions in the workplace make it likely that the disease will appear.

Health surveillance is a process; it may be a regular planned assessment of one or more aspects of a worker’s health, for example: lung function or skin condition.

However, it is not enough to simply carry out suitable tests, questionnaires or examinations. Employers must then have the results interpreted and take action to eliminate or further control exposure. It may be necessary to redeploy affected workers if necessary.

Health surveillance may need to be completed by an occupational health service physician (doctor or nurse). If a GP offers the service, you need to be sure that they are competent in occupational medicine. 

The clinical outcomes from health surveillance are personal. The service provider must interpret the results of health surveillance for each individual. The service provider must supply general information for you to keep up-to-date health records. They may also be able to anonymise and group the information to highlight trends.

Training for employees working with substances hazardous to health

Provide information, training and instruction for employees who work with substances hazardous to health. This includes cleaning and maintenance staff.

Employees need to understand the outcome of your risk assessment and what this means for them. Tell them:

  • what the hazards and risks are;
  • about any workplace exposure limit;
  • the results of any monitoring of exposure;
  • the general results of health surveillance;
  • what to do if there is an accident (eg spillage) or emergency.

Employees should have access to safety data sheets.

Keep employees informed about planned future changes in processes or substances used.

When a contractor comes on site, they need to know what the risks are and how you are controlling them. And you need to know if they are bringing hazardous substances onto your premises, and how they will prevent harm to your employees.

Keep basic training records.

Hand Arm Vibration

November 19, 2019

Worried about your hands?

  • You could be risking damage to nerves, blood vessels and joints of the hand, wrist and arm if you work regularly with hand-held or hand-guided power tools for more than a few hours each day.
  • Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) caused by exposure to vibration at work is preventable, but once the damage is done it is permanent.
  • The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 were introduced to better protect workers from vibration at work and came into force in July 2005.

Am I at risk?

You are at risk if you regularly use hand-held or handguided power tools and machines such as:

  • Concrete breakers, concrete pokers;
  • Sanders, grinders, disc cutters;
  • Hammer drills;
  • Chipping hammers;
  • Chainsaws, brush cutters, hedge trimmers,
  • Powered mowers;
  • Scabblers or needle guns.

You are also at risk if you hold workpieces, which vibrate while being processed by powered machinery such as pedestal grinders.

You are particularly at risk if you regularly operate:

  • Hammer action tools for more than about 15 minutes per day; or
  • Some rotary and other action tools for more than about one hour per day.

As you are likely to be above the exposure action value set out in the regulations.

What are the early signs and symptoms to look out for?

  • Tingling and numbness in the fingers (which can cause sleep disturbance).
  • Not being able to feel things with your fingers.
  • Loss of strength in your hands (you may be less able to pick up or hold heavy objects).
  • In the cold and wet, the tips of your fingers going white then red and being painful on recovery (vibration white finger).

If you continue to use high-vibration tools these symptoms will probably get worse, for example:

  • The numbness in your hands could become permanent and you won’t be able to feel things at all;
  • You will have difficulty picking up small objects such as screws or nails;
  • The vibration white finger could happen more frequently and affect more of your fingers

People’s own stories

Mechanical repair

A former mechanic technician hopes that by sharing his experiences with others, this may help save them some of the pain and financial worries that he is experiencing. He used and repaired a wide range of hand-held power tools, including chainsaws, but was signed off work in his 50s with vibration white finger:

‘HAVS has affected my day-to-day living. I have a loss of manual dexterity and find it very difficult to use my fingers, in particular my thumbs, coupled with loss of feeling and sensations in various sections of my hands. Gripping with my thumbs is very difficult and painful, for example when using a brush. I dread the cold winter months and even during at rest periods I experience coldness and painfulness. I can no longer do some of the hobbies I used to enjoy, like swimming and angling.’

Heavy fabrication

A former technician (56) who worked with pneumatic tools describes his experiences.

“I suffer from very cold hands, they’re worse in winter than in summer but they’re still cold at this present day even though it’s a warm day. When I used the tools, sometimes there’s a frost on the tools, the pneumatic tools, when you’ve used them and that accentuates the feeling and they’re dead very dead, numb all the while. I have difficulties picking up things, small things, pushing buttons. I drop things more and don’t know the amount of pressure I’m putting on finger and thumb”


Another worker (35) describes the effects HAVS has had on his life and leisure.

“I play darts, can’t do that any more, I can’t do freshwater fishing, can’t feel the lines, fine lines between the fingers, can’t feel them at all. Can’t pick up small screws, DIY, quite a few things I can’t do a lot of now. I can’t turn over the pages in a paper, you have to wet your fingers all the time because you can’t feel the paper between the fingers”

Want to help?

Please contact the Noise and Vibration Programme Unit via our Feedback page if you wish to tell us your story, so that a short summary can appear here for the benefit of others. We are particularly interested in stories that turn out well in the end e.g. vibration problems picked up at an early stage and simple steps taken to prevent further damage for similar workers.

Tasks and industries

Which jobs and industries are most likely to involve hand-arm vibration?

Jobs requiring regular and frequent use of vibrating tools and equipment and handling of vibrating materials are found in a wide range of industries, for example:

  • Building and maintenance of roads and railways;
  • Construction;
  • Estate management (eg maintenance of grounds, parks, water courses, road and railside verges);
  • Forestry;
  • Foundries;
  • Heavy engineering;
  • Manufacturing concrete products;
  • Mines and quarries;
  • Motor vehicle manufacture and repair;
  • Public utilities (eg water, gas, electricity, telecommunications);
  • Shipbuilding and repair.


What kinds of tools and equipment can cause ill health from vibration?

There are hundreds of different types of hand-held power tools and equipment, which can cause ill health from vibration. Some of the more common ones are:

  • Chainsaws;
  • Concrete breakers/road breakers;
  • Cut-off saws (for stone etc);
  • Hammer drills;
  • Hand-held grinders;
  • Impact wrenches;
  • Jigsaws;
  • Needle scalers;
  • Pedestal grinders;
  • Polishers;
  • Power hammers and chisels;
  • Powered lawn mowers;
  • Powered sanders;
  • Scabblers;
  • Strimmers/brush cutters.

How do I protect myself?

It is your employer’s responsibility to protect you against HAVS and carpal tunnel syndrome, but you should help by asking your employer if your job could be done in a different way without using vibrating tools and machines. If this cannot happen:

  • Ask to use suitable low-vibration tools.
  • Always use the right tool for each job (to do the job more quickly and expose you to less hand-arm vibration).
  • Check tools before using them to make sure they have been properly maintained and repaired to avoid increased vibration caused by faults or general wear.
  • Make sure cutting tools are kept sharp so that they remain efficient.
  • Reduce the amount of time you use a tool in one go, by doing other jobs in between.
  • Avoid gripping or forcing a tool or workpiece more than you have to.
  • Store tools so that they do not have very cold handles when next used.
  • Encourage good blood circulation by:
    • Keeping warm and dry (when necessary, wear gloves, a hat, waterproofs and use heating pads if available);
    • Giving up or cutting down on smoking because smoking reduces blood flow; and
    • Massaging and exercising your fingers during work breaks.

What else can I do?

  • Learn to recognise the early signs and symptoms of HAVS.
  • Report any symptoms promptly to your employer or the person who does your health checks.
  • Use any control measures your employer has put in place to reduce the risk of HAVS.
  • Ask your trade union safety representative or employee representative for advice.

Help your employer to stop HAVS and carpal tunnel syndrome before they become a problem for you.

Where can I find out more?

For more information on vibration,

HSE’s free leaflet Hand-arm vibration – Advice for employees (INDG296) (pocket card contains notes on good practice which you may find helpful)

Download HSE’s free leaflet Control the risks from hand-arm vibration – Advice for employers on the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 (INDG175 – rev2) (leaflet for employers on good practice and considering what they need to do)

You can also order a copy of these publications through HSE Books.

Who can help?

Your employer has a duty to protect you and should be working on measures to reduce the risk. The law says your employer has to find out what levels of vibration you are exposed to and assess the risk to your health from vibration at work. See Advice for employers

Safety Representative/ Employee representative. Trade-union-appointed safety reps or other employee representatives can be very useful in communicating problems, inspecting documents and consulting employers over measures to meet these regulations.

Your Company Doctor or your GP. This may be an occupational health professional where you have a company occupational health scheme or your general practitioner through the NHS.

Advice for employers

The information on these web pages will help you understand:

  • What you may need to do as an employer under the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 which came into force in July 2005;
  • How you can protect your employees from hand-arm vibration.

These pages will be of interest to you if you are an employer whose business involves the use of hand-guided powered equipment and powered machines which process hand-held materials and of particular interest if your business involves the regular and frequent use of hand-held power tools.

You may also find these pages helpful if you are:

  • An employee, or self-employed person, who uses vibrating equipment;
  • A trade union safety representative or an employee representative;
  • An adviser on occupational vibration risks.

If your workers use vibrating equipment you may also have to consider risks from exposure to noise.


By law, as an employer, you must assess and identify measures to eliminate or reduce risks from exposure to hand-arm vibration so that you can protect your employees from risks to their health.

Where the risks are low, the actions you take may be simple and inexpensive, but where the risks are high, you should manage them using a prioritised action plan to control exposure to hand-arm vibration.

Where required, ensure that:

  • Control measures to reduce vibration are properly applied; and
  • You provide information, training and health surveillance.

Review what you are doing if anything changes that may affect exposures to vibration where you work.

The Health effects of hand-arm vibration at work

What is hand-arm vibration?

Hand-arm vibration is vibration transmitted from work processes into workers’ hands and arms. It can be caused by operating hand-held power tools, such as road breakers, and hand-guided equipment, such as powered lawnmowers, or by holding materials being processed by machines, such as pedestal grinders.

When is it hazardous?

Regular and frequent exposure to hand-arm vibration can lead to permanent health effects. This is most likely when contact with a vibrating tool or work process is a regular part of a person’s job. Occasional exposure is unlikely to cause ill health.

What health effects can it cause?

Hand-arm vibration can cause a range of conditions collectively known as hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), as well as specific diseases such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

What are the early symptoms?

Identifying signs and symptoms at an early stage is important. It will allow you, as the employer, to take action to prevent the health effects from becoming serious for your employee. The symptoms include any combination of:

  • Tingling and numbness in the fingers;
  • Not being able to feel things properly;
  • Loss of strength in the hands;
  • Fingers going white (blanching) and becoming red and painful on recovery (particularly in the cold and wet, and probably only in the tips at first).

For some people, symptoms may appear after only a few months of exposure, but for others they may take a few years. They are likely to get worse with continued exposure to vibration and may become permanent.

What effects do these symptoms have?

The effects on people include:

  • Pain, distress and sleep disturbance;
  • Inability to do fine work (eg assembling small components) or everyday tasks (eg fastening buttons);
  • Reduced ability to work in cold or damp conditions (ie most outdoor work) which would trigger painful finger blanching attacks;
  • Reduced grip strength, which might affect the ability to do work safely.

These effects can severely limit the jobs an affected person is able to do, as well as many family and social activities.

Do you have a hand-arm vibration problem at work?

This will depend on whether your employees regularly and frequently work with vibrating tools and equipment and/or handle vibrating materials. It will also depend on how long your employees are exposed to vibration and at what level. As a simple guide you will probably need to do something about vibration exposures if any of the following apply:

  • Do your employees complain of tingling and numbness in their hands or fingers after using vibrating tools?
  • Do your employees hold work pieces, which vibrate while being processed by powered machinery such as pedestal grinders?
  • Do your employees regularly use hand-held or hand guided power tools and machines such as:
    • concrete breakers, concrete pokers
    • sanders, grinders, disc cutters
    • hammer drills
    • chipping hammers
    • chainsaws, brush cutters, hedge trimmers
    • powered mowers
    • scabblers or needle guns
  • Do your employees regularly operate:
    • Hammer action tools for more than about 15 minutes per day; or
    • Some rotary and other action tools for more than about one hour per day.
  • Do you work in an industry where exposures to vibration are particularly high, such as construction, foundries, or heavy steel fabrication/shipyards?

Which jobs and industries are most likely to involve hand-arm vibration?

Jobs requiring regular and frequent use of vibrating tools and equipment and handling of vibrating materials are found in a wide range of industries, for example:

  • building and maintenance of roads and railways
  • construction
  • estate management (eg maintenance of grounds, parks, water courses, road and rail side verges)
  • forestry
  • foundries
  • heavy engineering
  • manufacturing concrete products
  • mines and quarries
  • motor vehicle manufacture and repair
  • public utilities (eg water, gas, electricity, telecommunications)
  • shipbuilding and repair

What kinds of tools and equipment can cause ill health from vibration?

There are hundreds of different types of hand-held power tools and equipment which can cause ill health from vibration. Some of the more common ones are:

  • chainsaws
  • concrete breakers/road breakers
  • cut-off saws (for stone etc)
  • hammer drills
  • hand-held grinders
  • impact wrenches
  • jJigsaws
  • needle scalers
  • pedestal grinders
  • polishers
  • power hammers and chisels
  • powered lawn mowers
  • powered sanders
  • scabblers
  • strimmers/brush cutters

Do you engage in routine continual monitoring or logging of workers’ vibration exposure?

Have the right workplace facilities

October 9, 2019

Employers must provide welfare facilities and a working environment that’s healthy and safe for everyone in the workplace, including those with disabilities.

You must have:

  • welfare facilities – the right number of toilets and washbasins, drinking water and having somewhere to rest and eat meals
  • a healthy working environment – a clean workplace with a reasonable working temperature, good ventilation, suitable lighting and the right amount of space and seating
  • a safe workplace – well-maintained equipment, with no obstructions in floors and traffic routes, and windows that can be easily opened and cleaned

What you must provide for a safe and healthy workplace

Welfare facilities

Workers must have access to:

  • toilets and hand basins, with soap and towels or a hand-dryer
  • drinking water
  • a place to store clothing (and somewhere to change if special clothing is worn for work)
  • somewhere to rest and eat meals

A healthy working environment

To have a healthy working environment, make sure there is:

  • good ventilation – a supply of fresh, clean air drawn from outside or a ventilation system
  • reasonable working temperature so it’s comfortable to work (usually at least 16°C, or 13°C for strenuous work, unless other laws require lower temperatures)
  • lighting suitable for the work being carried out
  • enough room space and suitable workstations and seating
  • a clean workplace with appropriate waste containers

A safe workplace

To keep your workplace safe, you must:

  • maintain your premises and work equipment
  • keep floors and traffic routes free of obstructions
  • have windows that can be opened and cleaned safely
  • make sure that any transparent (eg glass) doors or walls are protected or made of safety material

There are specific laws relating to some higher-risk workplaces, such as construction sites. For more information, select your workplace from HSE’s industries page.

Toilets and washing facilities

Employers have to provide:

  • enough toilets and washbasins for those expected to use them – find out how many
  • where possible, separate facilities for men and women – failing that, rooms with lockable doors
  • clean facilities – preferably with walls and floors tiled (or covered in suitable waterproof material) to make them easier to clean
  • a supply of toilet paper and, for female employees, somewhere to dispose of sanitary dressings
  • facilities that are well lit and ventilated
  • hot and cold running water
  • enough soap or other washing agents
  • a basin large enough to wash hands and forearms if necessary
  • a way of drying hands, such as paper towels or a hot-air dryer
  • showers where necessary, for particularly dirty work

You must always consider the needs of those with disabilities.

How many toilets and washbasins?

The following tables show the minimum number of toilets and washbasins that you should provide.

Number of toilets and washbasins for mixed use (or women only)

Number of people at work Number of toilets Number of washbasins
1-5 1 1
6-25 2 2
26-50 3 3
51-75 4 4
76-100 5 5

Toilets used by men only

Number of people at work Number of toilets Number of urinals
1-15 1 1
16-30 2 1
31-45 2 2
46-60 3 2
61-75 3 3
76-90 4 3
91-100 4 4

Temporary worksites

You must provide flushing toilets and running water, for example with portaloos. If this is not possible, use alternatives such as chemical toilets and water containers.

Using public toilets and washing facilities should be a last resort and not because they are a cheaper option. This would not be acceptable if it is possible to provide facilities on-site.

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