News & Updates

Broadcast May 2021

Welcome to this month’s Broadcast.

It’s packed full of great advice about Right to Work changes, encouraging employee engagement to create a safer workplace, and how to ensure your workplace is compliant in case of an HSE Workplace Exposure inspection.

Need training? There’s also details about our upcoming Emergency First Aid in the Workplace course, as well as advice on how to keep learning even if everyone’s not back in the workplace.

Right to work in the UK – important changes

Employers have a legal duty to ensure that their employees have the Right to Work in the UK. If you fail to carry out these checks correctly and are found to be employing someone illegally, you could face a civil penalty of up to £20,000 for each illegal worker, plus criminal charges, and reputational damage.

As we know, the UK has now left the EU and as a result, from 30 June 2021, the way an employer should check an employee Right to Work in the UK will change. 

First of all, lets recap the new systems brought in so far… 

The EU Settlement Scheme 

This allows EU citizens currently living in the UK to apply for either a pre-settled or a settled status, both of which enable that individual to continue living and working in the UK. To be eligible to apply, the applicant must have been living in the UK before 31 December 2020. 

The deadline to apply for the EU settlement scheme is 30 June 2021. 

The points-based immigration system 

For anyone arriving and seeking work in the UK on or after the 1 January 2021, certain criteria must be met. The new system gives top priority to highly skilled workers, students, and a range of other specialist work routes and the system treats EU and non-EU citizens equally. 

Therefore, anyone you want to hire from outside the UK (excluding Irish citizens) will need to apply for permission in advance. Visas are then awarded to those who gain enough points.

A Sponsorship Licence 

From 1 January 2021, employers will require a sponsor license should they wish to hire skilled people from EEA countries. 

Before applying to be a sponsor you should check that the people you want to hire will meet the requirements for coming to the UK for work. The application process is online via the Government website. 

So, with all of these changes and new systems, how do we actually check an employee’s legal Right to Work in the UK? 

Until the 30th of June 2021:

  • As long as the individual was in the UK before the 31 December 2020, you can continue to accept their EU/EEA/Swiss issued passport/ID card and indefinite leave to remain as proof of right to work. 
  • If they have already applied to the EU settlement scheme, they can choose provide an online share code that can be accessed by following instructions stated in their EU scheme status confirmation. 
  • EU/EEA and Swiss citizens who arrived in the UK after the 31 December 2020 will be required to hold a visa. Also, if you are intending to hire someone to come to the UK, you will require a sponsorship licence. 

What is interesting is that Government guidance specifically states that you are not expected to differentiate between EEA nationals who arrived before 31 December 2020 and those who arrived after!

Therefore, up to 30 June 2021, candidates do not have to agree to share their status using the online checking service and they can provide their passport or national identity card as an alternative. 

The Government guidance also suggests that up to 30 June, an employer that insists on seeing evidence of settled or pre-settled status risks a complaint of race discrimination – therefore, proceed with caution. 

From the 1st of July 2021:

  • From this date, you will not be able to employ an individual until you have completed the required right to work checks.
  • Individuals who applied to the EU settlement scheme will be required to prove their right to work via an online share code. This can be accessed by following instructions stated in their EU scheme status confirmation. Those with indefinite leave to remain are not affected.
  • EU/EEA and Swiss citizens who arrived in the UK after the 31st of December 2020 will be required to hold a visa to live and work in the UK. Also, if you are intending to hire someone to come to the UK, you will need to hold a valid sponsor licence. 

The final point to note is that if an employer has conducted a compliant right to work check for an EEA or Swiss national before 30 June 2021, it does not need to repeat this. This means that you will not need to make retrospective checks for existing employees.

If you need more information on anything covered in this article, contact your designated HR Advisor or call 01427 420 403 or email hr@skaltd.co.uk and one of the team will be happy to help.

Employee engagement – the key to your health and safety success?

Do your employees just do the jobs they’re employed to do, or do you unlock their potential? Employee engagement is the most valuable resource within the workplace, yet one that remains untapped by many businesses. There can be so much valuable hidden information and talent simply waiting to be unlocked…

Imagine a world of no accidents, no defects, cost savings, efficient processes, no waste and happy employees.

Ok, so it’s not going to happen overnight but beginning the journey is a great start.

We all know how valuable our employees are, and without them we would not have a business. We need to encourage all employees to make a difference, to take responsibility and be engaged, to maximise their potential and ensure the safety of themselves and their colleagues.

All employees have something valuable to contribute – the quiet ones and the more vociferous – there is no set criteria, so it is just important for us to listen. Some employees can have a lot to say, sometimes in the form of what seems to be complaining, and some… well, they never really say much at all, but they are thinking; it is our job to sort the wheat from the chaff as they say.

Employees are the font of all knowledge; they do the job we only see a snapshot of when we carry out our workplace walk rounds – have you tried to do that task for eight hours? No, and you don’t need to – your employees do – so let’s listen to what they have to say.

Overall, we humans have an amazing self-preservation already inbuilt into us, admittedly this is more refined in some than others, but overall, employees do not come to work to have an accident. 

So, as employers, we need to find out what our employees know and are thinking – and a great starting point is an Employee Survey. It would be natural to want to shy away from something like this as it could be a seen as an opportunity to raise issues (mainly about pay), BUT if the survey questions are well balanced then this is a very useful tool to cover all aspects – a happy workforce is a productive workforce and a safe workforce (never mind the benefits of improved efficiencies and less defective products, and ultimately, if pay or welfare is an issue, then it is our job to help the employees realise that no company is a bottomless pot of gold, and if we all wok together then we can ensure the company is successful and profitable, which can, in time, lead to improved pay and welfare – it’s all about give and take).

What has this got to do with safety, you ask yourself?

Well, here’s the thing; within the survey there is a Health & Safety section in which employees can express their views.  The survey is usually completed in an anonymous response manner, so employees can complete it with total honesty and without fear of recrimination – some employees are afraid of speaking out, even peer pressure from colleagues can silence people, so anonymity is a fantastic way to get employees to reveal their true thoughts.

Questions could include:

  • Do you feel valued?
  • Do we communicate well with you?
  • Do you understand the Safe Systems of Work in place?
  • Have you been involved in the creation of risk assessments?
  • Do you feel free to voice concerns or make suggestions about workplace health and safety at your job? 
  • Do you report workplace hazards?
  • Do you feel you can stop work if you think something is unsafe, and that management will not give you a hard time? 
  • Do you have enough time to complete your work tasks safely?

How would you feel if the answers to the questions were NO? 

These are just some examples and there are many online resources and examples so you can ask the most relevant questions to your operations (see footnote for some suggestions).

How would you feel if the answers to the questions were NO? We would all hope for everyone to say yes, but from experience, we know that all the answers will not be a straightforward utopian yes, and that is where you can start your improvement journey.

Following the assessment of the survey you will find key areas with a poor score and this is where you start; create a work team including employees to assist with the creation of an action plan – not all things will be able to be addressed immediately, so timings are important. Do not over promise – this survey is for you to communicate too!

Once a plan is in place, communicate it to all employees and update them on a regular basis – this can be done by noticeboards or whatever other medium you use to communicate with employees (you do already communicate don’t you…?). 

So now your employees are realising they are responsible and can take ownership of safety – there is only one way now – the only way is UP!

If you need more information on anything covered in this article, contact your designated Health and Safety Advisor or call 01427 420 402 or email healthandsafety@skaltd.co.uk and one of the team will be happy to help.

HSE Safety Opinion Survey Tool: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwjJuon1gefwAhUGrRQKHcO3BgQQFjAAegQIBxAD&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.hse.gov.uk%2Fpaper%2Fsafetyopinionsurvey.xls&usg=AOvVaw2r7BW7i6uHfJtaSRjPw3p-

Sample Employee Workplace health and Safety Survey: https://www.jotform.com/form-templates/workplace-health-safety-survey

Create your own survey with Survey Monkey: https://www.surveymonkey.com

HSE Workplace Exposure Checks are happening – now’s the time to check you’re compliant

With the recent announcement from the HSE that they are focusing efforts on inspecting fabricated metal businesses to check they are managing the respiratory risks of welding fumes and metalworking fluids, we are already seeing clients receive planned and unannounced visits, which unfortunately is leading to notifications of contravention. 

So, what is going on and how can we help? 

The HSE are looking at welding fumes and exposure to metalworking fluids because these are recognised as carcinogenic, and at the very least are a factor contributing to the risk of occupational lung disease.

In 2019/20, 12,000 people died from lung diseases estimated to be linked to workplace exposure and the HSE have a plan to check that since the updates in legislation through 2019 and 2020 in these areas, companies are doing what is expected. 

Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV)

To comply with the law, adequate Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) should be provided for all welding activities (as well as other activities which release harmful particles into the air, such as metalworking fluid mist). In basic terms, these hazardous substances and fumes are being drawn away from the user using forced air circulation or more commonly LEV. 

Also, this LEV must be subject to thorough examination by a competent person every 14 months, to ensure the effectiveness of the plant as a control measure. Please contact us for a quote.

But how might you know if your LEV is adequate? And what do you do if you have not got LEV? In short, start with an exposure monitoring exercise – sometimes called air sampling. This will involve a quick check to see how much of the hazard is in the breathing space as well as checking that all controls are in good shape. 

The HSE expect to see controls such as good LEV systems that work and are used effectively. The HSE will ask the user to show them how to operate the LEV and change the filters. The HSE will also ask about the air fed hoods or face shields.

Finally, the HSE will want to know a good risk assessment is in place as well as an effective sample testing programme. They will want to see that Occupational Health Screening is in place and that employees are trained and confident on the hazards and symptoms, as well as how to escalate any concerns to line management.

There are many types of exposure risk to be mindful of in every workplace. The impact of noise, vibration, dusts, and chemical use also warrant a similar approach. Our specialist consultants can carry out the full scope of workplace exposure monitoring, building a bespoke package tailored to your environment and offering Occupational Health Screening.

Next steps

As with most workplace exposure risks, the following steps are the key parts of your management plan:

  • Risk Assessment 
  • Sampling
  • Training and staff awareness
  • Occupational Health Surveillance 

As experts in these areas, we have learned and understood exactly what is required, as well as how to help companies get everything in place to the standard expected by the HSE.

We offer a bespoke service for each workplace and, because our consultants specialise in many of these areas, we can incorporate many services in one package, meaning it takes less time, causes less disruption to your workplace, and saves costs. We aim to fully understand your business so that we can offer a full solution covering all areas.

Not only do we offer this support to ensure your business and workplace is legally compliant, but we work with you and the staff to provide as much or as little support as needed – giving you the advice you need, but helping you get things done too.

Noisy Workplace?

If your employees are exposed to noisy environments, have you carried out effective noise sampling?

We offer a full noise assessment and can provide support with all identified concerns and actions, from assessing the correct hearing protection, specifying when hearing protection is or is not needed, and the provision of Occupational Health Screening ion the form of Hearing tests.

Dust or Fumes in the workplace?

If you are working in a dusty environment, do you need to consider environmental dust compliance as part of your sampling assessments?

Dust limits play a part in permits that need to be considered on top of employee exposure. Our experienced consultants will determine, on your behalf, what hazardous substances are in the air by looking through MSDS information, supplier information, visiting site if needed and planning meetings with staff.

When we know what to test for, we will visit the workplace and adopt the appropriate testing techniques and methodologies in the most appropriate areas to sample typical employee exposure – it’s important to note we are not looking for worst case or highest concentration, ONLY what employees are exposed to.

Do you need Face Fit Testing? Our Training team can help – contact them on 01427 420 405 or email training@skaltd.co.uk

The testing results are then interpreted alongside site investigation details, such as extraction, ventilation, Respiratory Protection (RPE) and Occupational Health arrangements, to help you demonstrate compliance, or if needed, provide a risk assessment and action plan for next steps if needed.

Vibration exposure when using power tools or plant?

Staff using power tools or operating vibratory plant may be at risk of vibration exposure.

We have a detailed system that does all the investigation and risk assessment work, be it using tool or plant specification or using vibration monitoring equipment.

From there we record, and risk assess the exposure levels, providing a detailed plan of next steps. We include considerations such as job rotation, PPE, exposure times, tool tagging (RAG) and training needs to provide a full and compliant process with as little disruption to your business as practicable.

We are often faced with issues where staff use power tools and can be close to exposure limits. We will always find a solution where your business can be compliant without having to make huge overhauls.

We wrap this up nicely by including it in the Occupational Health screening for employees to offer employee health confidence and support for claims defensibility. After all, when we use power tools, it usually also includes dusts and noise hazards which are covered all in one process.

How it works

We can offer what very few other compliance organisations can – we cover all bases.

To demonstrate compliance to the HSE or any other enforcement or external body, we must demonstrate that we have collected suitable information to make good decisions, implemented appropriate arrangements to manage safety and compliance, as well as check that everything is working efficiently. This is sometimes referred to as the Plan, Do, Check, Act management model.

We have expert consultants that can cover these bases including:

  • Site investigation and Risk Assessment
  • Develop documented procedures and other management arrangements
  • Identify the most appropriate, and deliver, specific training, including creating new training plans where needed
  • Provide line management guidance for day-to-day supervision, including checklists and inspection details
  • Wrap things up neatly with Occupational Health Screening ONLY if your business needs it – including management support for claims defensibility
  • Complete periodic audits and other assessments
  • Investigate where things do not go to plan, such as incident investigations or reviewing negative feedback such as insurance visit action plans
  • Offer detailed feedback, and just as importantly, offer a detailed handover of information to be sure you have complete confidence in what needs to be done

By Ryan Lloyd-Davies

To discuss any Compliance requirements call one of the team on 01427 420 404 or email compliance@skaltd.co.uk and one of the team will be happy to help.

As we gradually return to work, it’s important to ensure your training is up to date. Any government extensions to training certificates (e.g. First Aid) have now expired, so it’s worth taking the time to see when any of yours expire, as well as checking you still have sufficient First Aiders and Fire Wardens, for example, on site at all times, especially if people have left the business or are on furlough.

We have added some open courses to our calendar, which are great for businesses who only have one or two individuals who need training, or can’t have training delivered at their premises. All training is carried out in a Covid-secure manner.

Visit Emergency First Aid at Work to find out more or to book, or contact our Training team.

We can still help with your training, even during a pandemic – check out our Learning During a Pandemic page to find out the list of courses we have available.

To discuss any training requirements, call 01427 420 405 or email training@skaltd.co.uk and one of the team will be happy to help