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Latest Safety Bulletin: July 2020

HSE releases annual workplace fatality figures for 2019/20

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has released its annual figures for the number of work-related fatalities in 2019/20, as well as the number of people known to have died from the asbestos-related cancer, mesothelioma, in 2018.

The provisional annual data for work-related fatal accidents revealed that 111 workers were fatally injured at work between April 2019 and March 2020 (a rate of 0.34 deaths per 100,000 workers), the lowest year on record. 

This represents a fall of 38 deaths from the previous year, though it is likely that this fall was accentuated by the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on the economy in the final two months of the year.

In line with previous years’ fatal injury statistics, these figures do not include deaths from occupational disease. Covid-19 infection is therefore not part of these figures and will not feature in fatal injury statistics in subsequent years.

While there has been a long-term reduction in the number of annual fatalities (the number has almost halved in the last 20 years), aside from the current fall, the number has remained broadly level in recent years.

HSE Increase COVID-19 Spot Checks

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is increasing its spot checks on businesses that have reopened since the UK went into lockdown. Inspectors are visiting workplaces across a range of sectors following up any reports or concerns about safety in the workplace, including COVID-19, ensuring compliance after receiving numerous COVID related complaints. 

Checks consist of a mixture of phone checks and site visits. Nearly 4000 spot checks have been undertaken. All but 41 of these were deemed compliant. The remaining 41 are currently subject to inspector visits and further investigation.

Focus on: On Tool Extraction Filter Classification


Regularly breathing dust created by construction and manufacturing processes can cause diseases like lung cancer, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD – which includes emphysema and other breathing difficulties) and silicosis.

Silica is the second biggest killer of construction workers after asbestos. Some of the most common construction jobs create high dust levels. These jobs often involve the use of power tools like cut-off saws, grinders, breakers and sanders.

There is a legal duty for employers to prevent or adequately control worker exposure from dust exposure. On-tool extraction is an effective control for this dust and will reduce the risk of ill health.

Types of extraction

The importance of using the correct type of dust extraction cannot be overstated, and it is vital that people understand the difference between the various classes.
There are three main classes of dust extraction on the UK market currently; L, M and H Class. The official wording of the differences are as follows:
L Class ≤ 1.0% Dusts with maximum allowable concentrations (WEL*) > 1 mg/m³             
M Class < 0.1% Dusts with maximum allowable concentrations (WEL*) ≥ 0.1 mg/m³         H Class < 0.005% Dusts with maximum allowable concentrations (WEL*) < 0.1 mg/m³  L Class extractors are regarded as ‘entry-level’ (soft woods and solid surface material such as Corian). M Class being the next step up. (hard woods, board materials, concrete and brick dust). H Class extractors would generally be specified if you are working in environments with highly carcinogenic dusts such as asbestos, lead, carbon, tar, nickel, cobalt, copper and cadmium. There are many other features that may be available on the extractors such as ‘power take-off’ which allows you to plug your power tool directly into the vacuum extractor, making the unit automatically turn-on when the power tool is started. This removes the need to turn-on the two items separately. There is also a delayed shut-off; when the power tool is stopped the extractor continues to run for around five seconds longer to clear both the tool and hose of any remaining particles. Do not just rely on an extractor being supplied with a ‘HEPA’ filter! You must ensure that the correct type of extraction is provided for each operation. Seek help where required to ensure that you are providing the correct protection. Note: * WEL = Workplace Exposure Limit. * HEPA = High-Efficiency Particulate Air.

Returning to Work After Lockdown II

Guidance on First Aid Cover During the Current Pandemic

The Health and Safety Executive, (HSE) has issued fresh advice on first aid cover during the coronavirus outbreak.

New guidance published last week includes sharing first aid cover with other businesses and extending first aid certifications.

The HSE stated ‘If first aid cover for your business is reduced because of coronavirus or you can’t get the first aid training you need, there are some things you can do so that you still comply with the law.’

It suggests sharing the first aiders of another business, but reminds duty holders to be sure that they have the knowledge, experience and availability to cover the first aid needs of their business. It also warns whoever provides the temporary cover to ensure they do not adversely affect their own first aid cover. 

The regulator is also offering first aid certificate extensions to those who hold a first aid certificate that expired on or after 16 March 2020 and cannot access requalification training because of coronavirus. It applies to Offshore Medic, Offshore First Aid, First Aid at Work and the Emergency First Aid at Work certificates.

RIDDOR Reporting of COVID-19

The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) requires a report making to the HSE when:

an unintended incident at work has led to someone’s possible or actual exposure to coronavirus. This must be reported as a dangerous occurrence

a worker has been diagnosed as having COVID 19 and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure at work. This must be reported as a case of disease.

a worker dies as a result of occupational exposure to coronavirus.

Examples of what to report:
Dangerous occurrences
If something happens at work which results in (or could result in) the release or escape of coronavirus you must report this as a dangerous occurrence. An example of a dangerous occurrence would be a lab worker accidentally smashing a glass vial containing coronavirus, leading to people being exposed. 

Cases of disease: exposure to a biological agent 

If there is reasonable evidence that someone diagnosed with COVID-19 was likely exposed because of their work you must report this as an exposure to a biological agent using the case of disease report. An example of a work-related exposure to coronavirus would be a health care professional who is diagnosed with COVID-19 after treating patients with COVID-19.

Work related fatalities

If a worker dies as a result of exposure to coronavirus from their work and this is confirmed as the likely cause of death by a registered medical practitioner, then you must report this as a death due to exposure to a biological agent using the ‘case of disease’ report form. You must report workplace fatalities to HSE by the quickest practicable means without delay and send a report of that fatality within 10 days of the incident.

HSE Spot Checks to Resume Immediately

The HSE has announced it is restarting ‘proactive’ inspections, as much of the country gets back to work after the lockdown was eased. Workplace inspections were temporarily stopped after the lockdown announcement in March.

As reported in the previous bulletin, more than 4,500 complaints were made to the HSE between the 9th March and the 3rd May. The Regulator confirmed that it has responded to around 5000 workplace concerns and is inspecting some workplaces in response.

An additional £14m has been made available by the Government to the HSE for extra call centre employees, inspectors and equipment during the easing of the lockdown.

COVID-19: Returning to Work After Lockdown

As we continue to navigate a path through these unprecedented times, the latest communication from the Government stated that some lockdown restrictions are to be relaxed. This is especially relevant with employers who are planning a staged return to business activities. We have actually been contacted by a small number of businesses who have already started this process.

Although we are in a fluctuating environment with advice changing daily, the latest advice from the Government is that people should work from home where at all possible. Where people cannot work from home, they are encouraged to go back to work with employers implementing suitable precautions and avoiding public transport where at all possible.* The construction and manufacturing industries were specifically mentioned in the latest Government bulletin, (10.05.2020).

Businesses still have a duty of care to protect the health, safety and welfare of workers and others who may be affected by their actions. This includes businesses playing their part in preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Before any staged return to work can be implemented, each employer must have undertaken a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of how they will protect workers, and others against the virus. A COVID-19 policy must also be implemented with all workers suitably informed of the protection measures implemented and their role in helping preventing the spread of the virus.

The latest Government guidance for employers and businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19) can be found at

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) are monitoring to ensure that businesses have complied with the requirements of The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations in respect of this virus.

It has recently been revealed that the HSE has received over 4,500 complaints since the first UK case of coronavirus was confirmed. The HSE issued a warning to employers that it would hand out enforcement notices to those who do not comply with the two-metre social distancing rule in workplaces that remain open during the outbreak.

The workplace safety regulator said it was now working through the reports, received since March, with a ‘range of actions’.

Contact us for further advice and help in undertaking a suitable risk assessment and implementing a practical COVID-19 policy if you are planning a return to work.

Musculoskeletal Disorders

The HSE has revised its guidance for employers on the subjects of manual handling and upper limb disorders.

The revised guidance’s are:

INDG143 Manual handling at Work: A brief guide (revision)

This leaflet is aimed at employers. It gives useful practical advice on reducing the risk of injury from manual handling. It:

explains the problem with manual handling;
includes simple risk filters for lifting and lowering, pushing and pulling and carrying operations to distinguish between low and high-risk tasks;
provides practical advice on making a risk assessment;
suggests ways of controlling the risks.

A free copy of this guidance can be found on the HSE website.

INDG171 Managing upper limb disorders in the workplace: A brief guide (revision)

This leaflet is aimed at employers. It gives practical advice on reducing the risk of upper limb disorders (ULDs) which affect the shoulders, arms, wrists, hands and fingers, as well as the neck. It explains:

what upper limb disorders are;
their symptoms and causes;
how to manage the risks around them;
what employers can do to help their workers.

A free copy of this guidance can be found here

Source: HSE website


Last year, the HSE also reminded employers of their duties to protect workers against musculoskeletal damage. Employers were reminded that they had not fulfilled their duties just by sitting workers in front of a DVD or power-point training presentation.

Although training plays an important role, employers have a duty to fully assess the risks of musculoskeletal damage. This is undertaken by carrying out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of activities including talking to workers involved.

If you require any help with manual handling or ULD assessments, or require a template for assessing risks, just get in touch.