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Our latest technical questions and answers

August 2022

Hundreds of people contact our health and safety helpline, seeking advice on topics ranging from working at height to hazardous substances, public safety to PPE, risk assessments to regulations.

These queries are answered by our friendly team of experts.

Here are edited versions of some of the latest questions and answers.

Carbon monoxide detector requirements

Question Is it a requirement to have carbon monoxide detectors fitted in non-domestic buildings, for example in a school that has just had new gas heaters installed in classrooms?

Answer This is what the guidance accompanying Regulation 7 of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 (as amended) has to say.

“Fixed heating systems should be installed and maintained so that the products of combustion do not enter the workplace. Any heater which produces heat by combustion should have a sufficient air supply to ensure complete combustion. Ensure that portable paraffin and liquefied petroleum gas heaters do not produce fumes which will be harmful or offensive.

“The Regulations do not prevent the use of proprietary unflued heating systems designed and installed to be used without a conventional flue.”

As there is no specific requirement to install carbon monoxide detectors in places other than domestic dwellings, the decision will depend on the risk assessment for the area and whether carbon monoxide is being released in a concentration that could be deemed harmful to health.

It may be worth speaking with a gas safe engineer.

First aid cover

Question My company is looking to start an overtime weekend shift in our factory. The operatives are skilled and experienced but will be working with air-powered and battery hand tools, etc.

While we have first aiders during normal days, the operatives who do the overtime do so on a volunteer basis and are not first aid trained nor willing to undertake the training.

What level of first aid cover do we need for a shift? If we have two to four operatives working on a Saturday morning, for example, would it be acceptable to have an appointed person who is given clear instructions on what to do in an emergency as opposed to a full first aider?

Answer The relevant legislation is the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981, which requires employers to provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and personnel to ensure their employees receive immediate attention if they are injured or taken ill at work. However, as what is ‘adequate and appropriate’ will depend on the circumstances in the workplace, the findings of the employer’s first aid needs assessment should help them determine what they would need to provide. So, if the employer’s original assessment identified first aiders are necessary due to the hazards/risks associated with the work etc, this wouldn’t change as the nature of the work is the same, just with fewer people.

Regulation 3 states the duty of an employer to make provision for first aid and the accompanying guidance covers needs assessment, work patterns, how many first aiders are needed and appointed persons.

The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE’s) first-aid section states: “In the event of injury or sudden illness, failure to provide first aid could result in a casualty’s death. The employer should ensure that an employee who is injured or taken ill at work receives immediate attention.

“HSE will prosecute in cases where there is a significant risk, a disregard for established standards or persistent poor compliance with the law.”

The above information should help but you will need to contact the HSE’s advisory team for a definitive answer.

Fit to drive a forklift?

Question I’ve been told that forklift truck drivers must be medically fit to drive; is this required by law?

Some of our drivers drive on the road for short periods of time, so I would like to know if the DVLA suggestion of medicals for certain age groups applies.

Answer As the ‘medical considerations’ section of the HSE publication Rider-operated lift trucks explains, although there is no specific legal requirement for forklift truck drivers to undergo medicals, it is recommended that they do. This is because an employer would need to ensure those selected are able to safely control and operate lift trucks. Drivers should be reasonably fit, both physically and mentally, and possess the learning ability and potential to become competent operators.

Workers should be free from disabilities, either physical or psychological, that might pose a threat to their own health and safety or the safety of others who might be affected by them operating lift trucks. Fitness for operating should always be judged on a case-by-case basis. You will need to do a risk assessment to identify any hazards associated with the job and working environment and to identify areas of concern. Never allow anyone who is unfit because of alcohol or drugs (prescription or recreational) to drive a lift truck.

People with disabilities do not need to be excluded and may have developed skills which compensate for their disability. You should obtain medical advice about their suitability for the particular work they will be required to do. Reasonable adjustments may be required to enable some disabled people to work as lift-truck operators. The Equality Act 2010 is likely to apply.

The Drivers’ Medical Unit at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) publishes guidance aimed at health professionals regarding lift trucks on the road, but this can be applied to all work with lift trucks.

For most work with lift trucks, a standard of fitness equivalent to that for the Group 1 entitlement (ordinary driving licence holders) would be appropriate. Activities such as working in a particularly demanding environment, working at night, or moving highly toxic or explosive materials would probably be more appropriate to the Group 2 entitlement (heavy goods vehicle licence holders).

You may choose to screen potential operators before placement and then follow the guidelines for Group 2 licences, which require medical examination every five years from age 45, and every year from age 65 (in line with licence renewal periods). Always seek medical advice where there is any doubt about a person’s fitness to operate a lift truck.

It may be useful to apply a selection test to avoid wasteful attempts to instruct unsuitable trainees. Read more about medical fitness and FAQs.

Chemical assessments

Question Do I need to carry out COSHH assessments on tins of paint that will be stored, or do the regulations only apply to opened tins?

Answer You are required to carry out a Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) risk assessment on any chemicals used in the workplace that are identified as being hazardous.

Normally these products are identified by hazard markings on the container or in the accompanying literature, eg a safety data sheet. As such CoSHH assessments would need to be carried out on both unopened and opened tins, covering what to do if there was a spillage and how to store them correctly. When you purchase the paint, you should request the material safety data sheet (MSDS), as this will assist you.

Got a technical question?

The above questions and responses mostly relate to UK law, so please contact the helpline or your own regulatory body for information relevant to your country.

Call the IOSH health and safety helpline on +44 (0)116 257 3199 or send an email.

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For any queries relating to your IOSH membership, please call +44 (0)116 350 0800 or email our Customer Service Centre.

 

Read our previous Q&A article

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Ali Barlow
Website Content Lead
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