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Fee for Intervention breaches and how to avoid them Part 1

Updated: Feb 16

Last month, we talked about the changes in the FFI (Fee for Intervention) system used by the HSE to recover costs from companies that have breached health and safety legislation. This month, we’re taking a look at common areas where companies (particularly construction and agriculture) find themselves getting into trouble. We’ll also recommend some handy tips for avoiding the attention of the HSE in the first place.

In the 12 months after the FFI system was introduced, a total of £5.5m in fines was imposed. Over a third of that figure applied to firms in the construction industry, a sector targeted by the majority of HSE inspections.


Machinery guards

This most often happens in factory environments but is also a feature of safety issues on construction sites where hand-held and portable machinery is being used. If the appropriate guards aren’t fitted correctly – or at all – operators can be exposed to moving parts and the risk of serious physical injury, including amputations.

What to do

Make sure that the guard fittings are installed correctly so that operators are protected from moving parts. Instituting a training system for all machine operators, including a visual check and inspection regime can help to reduce the risk of incidents and injuries.


Ladder misuse

Many HSE inspections highlight problems with the misuse of ladders and one of the most common is unsecured ladder use.

A well-maintained and secured ladder can be used for access and for work that will be of short duration and low risk. Short duration is usually defined as anything less than 20-30 minutes. If the job is going to take longer than that, other access options should be considered.

What to do

A faulty ladder will increase the chance of falls, slips and wobbles happening. A risk assessment should be carried out to determine if a ladder is the right means of access for the job. If it’s decided that a ladder should be used, check that it’s in good condition, is properly secured and ensure that the worker using it maintains three points of contact at all times.


Missing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Although PPE is the final stage on the hierarchy of risk reduction, an HSE inspector will immediately identify where suitable PPE is not being worn and used, or where it is being used but is not in a suitable condition.

What to do

A system of daily PPE checks should be put in place so that every worker should only be allowed to start work when they have demonstrated they have, and are using, the correct PPE. The check system can also include risk assessments of the activities that will be involved in the project. A system of sanctions against workers who don’t observe the PPE requirements will ensure that compliance is achieved and maintained.


Vibration exposure

Long-term use of vibrating tools can have detrimental effects on construction workers and others using such equipment. This is known as hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) and can lead to irreversible damage to fingers, hands and arms.

The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 require employers to assess the vibration risk to employees and take action to reduce the risks, thus ensuring the legal limits of vibration exposure aren’t exceeded.

What to do

Risk assessments and job planning can eliminate the need for vibrating equipment where possible. If elimination isn’t possible, equipment that has a low vibration rating should be selected and a rotation system put in place that reduces excessive exposure to below legal limits.


Poor transport management

From the moment that an HSE inspector arrives on site, they will be assessing all aspects of health and safety and one of the most obvious is the way that the site is laid out – whether it has walkways and access routes that are safe to use and free from obstructions which could force pedestrians into the path of vehicles. Large vehicles are commonplace on construction sites and there is obviously the potential for serious injury or death to occur. About fifty people are killed and nearly 1,500 are seriously injured in vehicle-related incidents each year.

As the layout of sites will change as the job progresses, the traffic management plan needs to be updated regularly to take these changes into account. If this isn’t done, the risk of serious accidents increases dramatically.

What to do

Ensure the site is planned and laid out to take into account pedestrian and vehicle segregation. Check that all walkways and traffic routes are kept clear at all times.

Next time, we’ll look at the final five areas where a little attention can save a lot of grief.

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