IOSH health and safety helpline - FAQs

Affiliate member questions

If someone is working on a site and a contractor has drilled a hole in a wall and released asbestos, is this a RIDDOR?

If you believe the release or escape of fibres into the air were of a sufficient quantity to cause damage to health, then this would be reportable under RIDDOR 2013. If it is unclear then I would suggest erring on the side of caution and report.

The following information from the HSE website will help clarify your decision. When does inadvertent exposure to asbestos constitute a reportable incident under RIDDOR? The Reporting of Injuries Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) places duties on employers, the self-employed and people in control of work premises (the responsible person) to report certain serious workplace accidents occupational diseases and specified dangerous occurrences (near misses). Exposure to asbestos is reportable under RIDDOR when a work activity causes the accidental release or escape of asbestos fibres into the air in a quantity sufficient to cause damage to the health of any person. Such situations are likely to arise when work is carried out without suitable controls or where those controls fail - they often involve:

  • use of power tools (to drill, cut, etc) on most ACMs.
  • work that leads to physical disturbance (knocking, breaking, smashing) of an ACM that should only be handled by a licensed contractor eg sprayed coating, lagging, asbestos insulating board (AIB), manually cutting or drilling AIB.
  • work involving aggressive physical disturbance of asbestos cement eg breaking or smashing.
  • If these activities are carried out without suitable controls or the precautions fail to control exposure, these would be classed as a dangerous occurrence under RIDDOR and should be reported.

What are the requirements on maintenance for roller shutter doors with both electrical and mechanical controls? Frequency of checks? Is it different if they are mechanical only?

There is nothing specific within health and safety legislation regarding how often roller shutter doors should be maintained. Regulation 5 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998 simply requires work equipment to be maintained in an efficient state in efficient working order and in good repair.

Therefore as the legal requirement is so general it would not matter whether the controls were electrical, mechanical or a combination of both. However, the following information regarding the frequency of maintenance in general taken from the accompanying guidance may be useful. Equipment may need to be checked frequently to ensure that safety-related features are functioning correctly. A fault which affects production is normally apparent within a short time. However, a fault in a safety-critical system could remain undetected unless appropriate safety checks are included in maintenance activities.

The frequency at which maintenance activities are carried out should also take into account the:

(a) intensity of use - frequency and maximum working limits

(b) operating environment for example marine outdoors

(c) variety of operations - is the equipment performing the same task all the time or does this change?

(d) risk to health and safety from malfunction or failure.

Reference: L 22 Safe use of work equipment (Fourth edition) This document can be viewed in full and freely downloaded via the relevant link available here.

Technical member questions

If a person, who allegedly has a muscular injury in work, then self certificates for seven days - is this RIDDOR reportable?

It would only be reportable if the injury was ‘work related’ and reports must be made of an over-seven-day injury within 15 days of the accident. However, where the incapacitation does not immediately follow the day of the accident, e.g. because the condition does not become apparent until sometime after the accident, the report should be made as soon as the injury or condition has incapacitated the worker for more than seven consecutive days.

The following is from the HSE website’s key definitions.

RIDDOR requires deaths and injuries to be reported only when:

  • there has been an accident which caused the injury
  • the accident was work-related
  • the injury is of a type which is reportable

An accident is a separate, identifiable, unintended incident which causes physical injury.

RIDDOR only requires you to report accidents if they happen ‘out of or in connection with work’. The fact that there is an accident at work premises does not in itself mean that the accident is work-related - the work activity itself must contribute to the accident.

An accident is ‘work related’ if any of the following played a significant role:

  • the way the work was carried out
  • any machinery, plant, substances or equipment used for the work or
  • the condition of the site or premises where the accident happened.

The following injuries are reportable under RIDDOR when they result from a work-related accident:

  • The death of any person (Regulation 6)
  • Specified Injuries to workers (Regulation 4)
  • Injuries to workers which result in their incapacitation for more than seven days (Regulation 4)
  • Injuries to non-workers which result in them being taken directly to hospital for treatment or specified injuries to non-workers which occur on hospital premises (Regulation 5).

I know what the law states on fire training and that all staff should undergo it. However, what I am not sure about is: Do volunteers in charity shops have to go through this training as well ie Should they learn how to use fire extinguishers and what they are to be used on? Any help you can give me would greatly be appreciated.

Health and safety legislation doesn’t generally apply to someone who is not an employer self-employed or an employee.

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSW Act) and the regulations made under it apply if any organisation (including a voluntary organisation) has at least one employee. The HSW Act sets out the general duties that employers have towards employees. It also requires employers and the self-employed to protect people other than those at work (eg members of the public, volunteers, clients and customers) from risks to their health and safety arising out of or in connection with their work activities.

Therefore the risk assessment would identify the need to ensure their employees and volunteers are appropriately protected.

Volunteers would need to have appropriate levels of information, training and protective equipment so activities can be carried out safely and without harming health.

The preventive and protective measures should reflect the actual risks that employees and volunteers face in their respective roles. So a volunteer might reasonably expect similar protection to a paid colleague who does the same type of activity.

Graduate member questions

Are children/young persons on work experience and apprenticeships treated as employees in terms of health and safety?

Under health and safety law every employer must ensure so far as reasonably practicable the health and safety of all their employees, irrespective of age. As part of this there are certain considerations that need to be made for young people. Definitions of young people and children by age: ‘A young person is anyone under 18’ and ‘A child is anyone who has not yet reached the official minimum school leaving age (MSLA). Pupils will reach the MSLA in the school year in which they turn 16’.

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 an employer has a responsibility to ensure that young people employed by them are not exposed to risk due to:

  • lack of experience
  • being unaware of existing or potential risks and/or
  • lack of maturity.

An employer must consider:

  • the layout of the workplace
  • the physical biological and chemical agents they will be exposed to
  • how they will handle work equipment
  • how the work and processes are organised
  • the extent of health and safety training needed
  • risks from particular agents processes and work.

These considerations should be straightforward in a low-risk workplace - for example an office.

In higher-risk workplaces the risks are likely to be greater and will need more attention to ensure they’re properly controlled.

Employers need to consider whether the work the young person will do:

  • is beyond their physical or psychological capacity. This doesn’t have to be complicated: it could be as simple as checking a young person is capable of safely lifting weights and of remembering and following instructions.
  • involves harmful exposure to substances that are toxic, can cause cancer, can damage or harm an unborn child, or can chronically affect human health in any other way. Be aware of substances a young person might come into contact with in their work. Consider exposure levels and ensure legal limits are met.
  • involves harmful exposure to radiation. Ensure a young person’s exposure to radiation is restricted and does not exceed the allowed dose limit.
  • involves risk of accidents that cannot reasonably be recognised or avoided by young people due to their insufficient attention to safety or lack of experience or training. A young person might be unfamiliar with ‘obvious’ risks. An employer should consider the need for tailored training/closer supervision.
  • has a risk to health from extreme cold, heat noise or vibration. In most cases young people will not be at any greater risk than adults and for workplaces that include these hazards it is likely there will already be control measures in place.

A child must never carry out such work involving these risks whether they are permanently employed or under training, such as work experience.

Further references

INDG364 Young people and work experience

Young people at work experience

For information on child employment hours of work

If an employer has to obtain a piece of vibrating equipment at short notice, should they also carry out the risk assessment relating to the vibration limits? What do EAV and ELV mean? Also with regard to the use of equipment for rescue at height, should someone have formal training in carrying this out?

If the equipment is required at short notice the assessment should be carried out. The information on the vibration levels could be obtained from the supplier through the operator’s manual. Discuss what exposure action value (EAV) and an exposure limit value (ELV) a daily EAV of 2.5 m/s2 A(8) that represents a clear risk, requiring management and a daily ELV of 5 m/s2 A(8) that represents a high risk, above which employees should not be exposed.

Your duties are to reduce the risks from vibration to the lowest level reasonably practicable and to reduce exposure to as low as is reasonably practicable if it is above the EAV. You must not allow exposures to exceed the ELV.

With regard to rescue, the person working at height and rescue must be competent also discussed and sent the following via email regarding rescue from height. As discussed, please find attached TGN02 Guidance on the selection, use, maintenance and inspection of retractable type fall arresters, TGN5 Guidance on rescue during work at height and TGN11 Guidance on basic casualty handling from the Work at Height Association.

Chartered member questions

What qualifications does a tree surgeon require?

There is no minimum qualification needed for this job so long as the person doing it is competent for the role.

The following information regarding the meaning of competence, taken from the HSE website, may be useful:

Competence can be described as the combination of training, skills, experience and knowledge that a person has and their ability to apply them to perform a task safely. Other factors such as attitude and physical ability can also affect someone’s competence.

View this information.

The following information may be useful to you from the National Careers Service Job profile:

‘There are a variety of qualifications and training courses available at local colleges that can help you to find work or improve your current skills.

Examples of qualifications available are:

  • Level 2 Certificate in Countryside and Environment
  • Level 2 Diploma in Arboriculture
  • Level 2 Diploma in Forestry and Arboriculture.

Once you are working you will train on the job. There are also courses available which can give you the essential skills to progress in the industry. Many of these courses will lead to a certificate of competence in specific skills such as chainsaw operation, use of work platforms, working at heights and manual handling.

With experience you could take further training in arboriculture which would be useful if you want to move into a more senior position such as a supervisor or head surgeon.’

There is a list of relevant qualifications on the Arboriculture Association website.

The Royal Forestry Society has a list of course providers for distance learning and college courses related to arboriculture.

The above information and more can be found using this link.

Should traffic signs in a private workplace be the same standard as traffic signs on the public highway?

In relation to signs, signals and road markings the vehicles at work section of the HSE website states:

Key messages

By law traffic routes must also be suitably indicated where necessary for reasons of health or safety.

Install clear signs to tell drivers and pedestrians about the routes they should use.

Where signposts are used they should be constructed to Highway Code standards

Make sure the signs are kept clean and visible.


Traffic signs help you to:

tell drivers and pedestrians in good time about the routes they should and should not use

instruct people how to behave safely (for example whether they must use protective equipment and how)

prevent drivers moving their vehicles to areas where pedestrians or other drivers might not expect them.

By law road signs used to warn or inform drivers and pedestrians in private workplaces must be the same as those used on public roads wherever a suitable sign exists. Road signs are set out in the Highway Code. Drivers and pedestrians should be able to expect that the layout, signs, road furniture and markings on site will be similar to those on public roads.

You should place signs so people have time to see and understand them and take any action to reduce risks before they reach the hazard.

Make sure that signs are:

  • clear and easy to understand
  • obvious enough to be noticed
  • clean and well maintained so that they are always visible
  • reflective and lit if they need to be visible in darkness.

Similar information can also be found within the safe site design section of the HSE publication A guide to workplace transport (Third edition) and this document can be freely downloaded via the link available on the HSE website.

If you are interested, the section of the Highway Code relating to traffic signs can be freely downloaded via the relevant link available on the Gov UK website

More detailed guidance can be found within the Traffic signs manual and the various parts of this document can be freely downloaded via the relevant links available on the Gov UK website.

Fellow member questions

If someone sneezes at work and it results in a bad back and a subsequent period of over seven days’ absence, is this reportable via RIDDOR? I am unclear as its not strictly an accident?

I can confirm that the incident described is not reportable under RIDDOR as an over-even-day injury. It would not meet the reporting criteria ie,

  • there has been an accident which caused the injury
  • the accident was work-related
  • the injury is of a type which is reportable

If there are two contractors on site, does a principal contractor have to provide first aid facilities for the other contractor?

Carried out extensive research but could only find reference to the Principal Contractor considering first aid arrangements within the site induction. Located a CITB publication which stated:

Industry guidance for Contractors Check whether any first aid provision is available to you and whether it will be sufficient for the work you are undertaking, the workers you are using and the location in which you are working. If not you must make additional arrangements.

CITB have also published a number of guides.

Non-member questions

Community Nurse was kneeling, attending a patient when she felt her knee pop. She had two days off, returned to work for one day then then went to the doctors and subsequently has more than seven days off work. Is this RIDDOR-reportable?

No, due to the break in reporting. Not immediately being off sick for more than seven days after the injury occurring.

Is there anything I can do in relation to employees who are refusing to take their breaks?

If they have identified a certain level of breaks as necessary for safety reasons ie in their risk assessments then the employees would have to do so, as they have a duty under health and safety law to cooperate with their employer and if they continue to fail to do so they could take disciplinary action against them.