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I know that workplace health and safety practices have improved greatly in recent years but there is still much to do, especially when making risk assessments.

Firstly, let me tell you what risk assessments are not: they are not a mass of paperwork. A risk assessment involves identifying possible situations that may arise in the workplace that could cause harm to people. Once identified, a formal documented procedure should be put in place.

A risk assessment is all about hazards and risks.

A hazard is anything that might cause harm in the workplace. This could be electricity, trailing wires, dangerous chemicals or working at height.
A risk is the possibility that someone could be harmed by these hazards and an assessment of how harmful that might be.

No doubt you have heard about the BBC’s announcement that they intend to reduce the salaries of some of their male presenters by up to 30% to try and eradicate the gender pay gap. This is an extremely unusual step for an employer to take and may prove to be full of risks.

The legal position is that an employer cannot impose a wage cut on their employees if they have an employment contract setting out details of their salary. Any such decision will have to be with the agreement of the employees concerned. They are not obliged to give their consent and may take legal action to prevent the change.

You may be aware that working at height is one of the biggest factors in the fatalities and injuries that take place in the workplace.  Common accidents are falling from height or falling through fragile surfaces.

Here are some sensible dos and don’ts to combat the potential hazards.

The biggest don’t is, of course, to avoid working at height entirely wherever possible.  This is not always practical or possible, of course, so you need to take sensible precautions and plan properly.  


•    as much work as possible at ground level
•    make sure there is a safe route to and from the area where the work at height will take place
•    ensure there is adequate protection from possible falling objects

I know it is the season for jollity and japes at the office party and I don’t want to get all ‘bah, humbug’ on you, but as an employer you should be aware of your responsibilities to avoid a serious hangover come the New Year.

Any wrongdoing by an employee must take place during the course of their employment but seasonal celebrations, even if held outside normal working hours and away from the workplace, can mean an employer is liable.  They would have to show they took reasonable steps to prevent any unlawful acts.

Here’s a list of 6 simple do’s and don’ts:

1.    Give the staff some ground rules so they know what is acceptable.  A light email message reminding them that the usual workplace rules apply with regard to harassment etc should do the trick.
2.    Consider the needs of your employees.  Is childcare a problem for some?  Is the venue suitable for any disabled staff?  Can people get to and from the venue easily and safely?

Connor, our Health & Safety Coordinator, has been hard at work with his studies in recent months and is seeing the rewards for his efforts.

Firstly he has completed the citb Site Management Safety Training Scheme (SMSTS).  The Construction Industry Training Board was first established in July 1964 and has been providing training for the construction and civil engineering industries ever since.

The SMSTS is run over 5 days and provides an understanding of health, safety, welfare and environmental issues on construction sites.

Connor has also received his BTEC Level 2 Diploma in Business Administration from Gloucestershire College.  The Diploma covers a number of learning outcomes vital for management in business including analysing and presenting business data, developing working relationships with colleagues, managing personal performance and development and understanding employees’ rights and responsibilities.

I see we have reached October so the firework season is almost upon us.

The NHS announced in 2015 that there had been around 4,500 reported cases of people attending hospitals with firework related injuries, many of whom were children.

Here are ten tips for enjoying a safe firework display:

1.    Rather than arranging one yourself, think about attending an organised display.  Far fewer people are injured at these.
2.    Buy your fireworks from reputable dealers and ensure they carry the British standard number BS7114.
3.    Always keep your fireworks in a closed box and use just one at a time.
4.    Avoid any naked flames near the fireworks, including cigarettes.

A recent case of unfair dismissal was upheld and caught my eye because of comments concerning the lack of knowledge of employment law and good practice of the company directors involved.

Leicester Employment Tribunal heard that Lancaster & Duke is an employment agency but a relatively small business with two directors.  Vicky Wileman was a recruitment manager at the firm but had been dismissed in September 2016 for ‘gross misconduct’.  Her behaviour was described as that of a ‘playground bully’.

Nevertheless, she had her claim for unfair dismissal upheld and was awarded £7,684.34 in damages.

Employment judge Clark oversaw the case and said the directors did not have any “meaningful past experience of managing employees and particularly so in respect of managing performance or disciplinary matters.”

I recently came across a study by Capita Resourcing that found that, despite the over 50s now making up a third of the UK workforce, 74% of older workers felt employers don’t do enough to recruit them.

The researchers received contributions from 1,000 workers over 55 together with 100 senior HR professionals.  

Over one third of the workers (39%) said that they had experienced bias towards younger members of staff in the workplace and 73% felt employers are not doing enough to tap into their knowledge and skill sets.

Sadly the majority of older workers do not feel they are respected in the workplace, while around a third (32%) feel they have been side lined with 17% believing they have been passed over for promotion simply because of their age.

During the election and since I have noticed a lot of talk in the media and by politicians asking what working people actually want.  A question that isn’t asked so often, but is interesting and relevant, is what is it that working people actually do.

When politicians want to be seen to be concerned about the working population, they tend to put on a hard hat and head to a factory or construction site.  This may make for a wonderful photo opportunity but it bears little relation to real jobs in the UK today.

The BBC recently reported that less than one in ten people work in manufacturing and the figure is even less for the construction industry.  Compared to that, four out of five people work in the service industries.

Congratulations are in order for Connor, our new Health & Safety Coordinator, who has been busy in the classroom.  He has recently passed a Health, Safety and Environment Test for Managers and Professionals.

The test is organised by the Construction and Industry Training Board (CITB) and provides employees with the minimum level of health, safety and environmental knowledge and awareness necessary for working on construction sites.

The Managers and Professionals Test includes behavioural case studies, five core knowledge sections and relevant specialist knowledge of key areas: Construction (Design and Management) Regulations, Demolition and Highway Works.

There have been a number of significant changes recently to statutory rates and compensation payments.  Here is a roundup of some of the most important.

Family Friendly Payments:

New rates from 2nd April 2017:

•    Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) - for the first six weeks, 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings.  For the remaining weeks £140.98 or 90 per cent of employee’s weekly earnings if this is lower.

You’d be surprised how often I get asked this question so I thought I’d write up a Case Study of one job I was heavily involved with.

Walmer Yard is a unique development of four spectacular new three storey houses with additional basements in West London, designed by Peter Salter for property developer Crispin Kelly.   The project took some thirteen years to come to fruition and the resulting properties are expected to fetch a cool £22 million.

I was involved for nearly four years dealing with a host of Health & Safety issues that arose from this fascinating development.   

The construction took place in a courtyard, a tight space between two existing houses, so one of the first things I needed to do was establish the party wall documentation.  It was essential that none of our properties abutted the existing ones.

I was interested to see that recent figures show sickness absence in the UK to be at its lowest rate since records began in 1993.  A total of 137.3 million days were lost to sickness absence, equivalent to 4.3 days per worker.

However, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which carries out the survey suggested that an ageing workforce and increase in the number of part-time employees may lead to changes in the future.

Here is how some of the figures break down:

•    Companies with 500 or more employees saw more sickness days (2.5%) than companies with fewer than 25 people (1.6%)
•    Self-employed people recorded a lower absence rate (1.1%) than employees (2.1%)
•    Public sector workers experienced more absence (2.9%) than those in the private sector (1.7%)
•    The sickness absence rate for part-time workers is greater (2.6%) than those in full-time employment (1.9%)
•    Minor illnesses such as coughs and colds accounted for 25% of the absences, musculoskeletal issues for 22% and mental health problems 12%

I have something to offer that other HR consultants don’t have – extensive knowledge of the Not-For-Profit sector.

For ten years I was the HR manager of a major housing association, Two Rivers Housing, who had close links and involvement with the local community, not just in their capacity as a landlord.

Where a general HR consultant will expect you to be looking to make your business more profitable, I understand that success the Not-For-Profit sector is judged more by results and customer satisfaction.

I understand that an organisation like yours relies on its staff to generate the best possible customer satisfaction that it can.  To do that, you need a workforce that is fully engaged with the project in hand and keen to promote the organisation’s values.

I was interested to see the outcome of a recent case where a cycle courier firm was found to be liable to pay one of their workers, who they described as a freelancer, holiday pay.

There has been a boom in the so-called gig economy in recent years as people find part-time work with more than one employer.  In this particular case, the courier company, City Sprint, considered the employee a self-employed freelancer.

The judge, however, described the contractual arrangements as “contorted”, “indecipherable” and “window dressing”.  In addition, City Sprint required their self-employed workers to undergo induction training and issued them with uniforms, all of which led the judge to conclude that they were employed on what was effectively a zero hours basis and thus entitled to some rights.

Although it was emphasised that this case was one pertaining to a specific individual, I believe it will open up a can of worms and there are likely to be consequences for people employing what they consider to be self-employed staff in roles such as chambermaids, construction workers and delivery drivers.

I can’t believe it was just twelve months ago that I wrote about some of the false Health & Safety issues that make their way into the public domain.  Here we are again, though, and I’ve come across some more myths that need sleighing.  See what I did there?

•    Xmas Tree Banned in Shopping Centre!  I often spot stories about shopping malls and High Streets cutting back on their traditional Xmas decorations, sometimes for unspecified Health & Safety reasons.  I think the real reason is usually that they can’t afford the lavish decorations of past years and are looking for someone to take the blame.

•    No Sweets to be Thrown at Panto!  One year Health & Safety was blamed for the Dame not showering the kids at a pantomime audience with sweets.  In reality, the production was worried about being sued if anyone was injured by a flying sweet.  Providing you take the sweets out of the tin first, the chances of hurting anyone are remote.  It is not an H&S issue.

Although it can sometimes be overlooked, maintaining safe transport procedures on building sites is an important Health & Safety issue.  I’m afraid this was highlighted by a case recently reported by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

David Cole was site foreman on a large housing development in Wokingham.  In December 2014 he was walking along a site road when he was hit by a bulk powder (mortar) carrier and dragged under it.

Mr Cole received life threatening injuries.  He fractured his left hip, requiring a pin insertion, broke fingers on his left hand and his left leg has become permanently shorter than the right by some 20mm.

I am pleased to be able to do a lot of Health & Safety consultancy work with Tithegrove Ltd, a major civil engineering and groundwork contractor throughout Gloucestershire and the South West.

Recently they asked me to take part in a video they were having made.  Tithegrove specialise in the preparation of building sites, creating and connecting the infrastructure and laying the foundations up to ground floor level.

My role as Health and Safety consultant led to me to being involved in the filming of their new video.  My scene deals with the Health and Safety induction when a new employee first arrives at the site.  He will be greeted by his Supervisor and introduced to the Site Manager who conducts the induction.  

I never cease to be amazed at the utter rubbish that gets printed in some newspapers. 

It stems from the assumption that ‘the world has gone politically correct mad’ and it really must be a copywriter’s dream to be paid to make up some of the stories that get published.

Here are three of my favourites that crop up regularly.

I was interested to see a recent front page headline in The Daily Mirror.  It featured a dramatic picture of a crashed airliner from which all 300 passengers and crew escaped safely.

“How did they all get out alive?” asks its bold headline.  I think the answer is obvious – excellent Health and Safety training.

At the time of writing, reports are sketchy but it appears that Emirates Flight 521 was forced to land at Dubai airport without using its landing gear.  The Boeing 777 caught fire but the crew evacuated everyone on board safely.  A firefighter unfortunately lost his life tackling the blaze.

There is a long standing method in the field of training and development known as the 70:20:10 principle. These are percentages that can be used to gauge how people learn on average.

• 10% is learnt in the classroom, on training courses or workshops.
• 20% comes from social learning with colleagues which includes mentoring, coaching, blogs, social media and the like.
• 70% is self-learning – getting stuck in, experimenting and learning by doing.

june 16 blogWith the rate of change in legislation affecting the workplace seemingly increasing every week, it can be hard to keep up to date. It is also vital that your employees are aware of some of the important changes, especially with regard to health and safety matters.

It is just one more thing that you as an employer have to take care of. However, Auxil can take some of that strain away from you.

Let our experts handle all your staff training and induction requirements. Our friendly and professional staff have plenty of experience working with new employees, running small workshops and holding one to one meetings with individuals on any number of Health & Safety, Human Resources and Construction Safety topics.