Red January 2020

Hello Everyone

I’m taking part in the RED January 2020 from 1/1/2020 to 31/1/2020 to raise money for Mind and I’d really appreciate your support.

Donating to my JustGiving page is easy – just follow this link and click Donate:

JustGiving sends your donation straight to Mind so it’s a quick and safe way to donate.

Thank you

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Walker Health and Safety Services Limited

Merry Christmas 2019!

Every year, Emma dresses up as an elf and volunteers for Blist Hill museum. She sees many children hoping to make a good impression with Santa!

Christmas brings its own challenges, but how many of those classic health and safety issues we all hear about every year are true? Inspired by and using the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) festive myth busters, which do you think are “festive thumbs up” (true) or Bah Humbug (false)?

1. You cannot clear snow and ice from pavements yourself – Festive thumbs up or Bah Humbug?

Bah Humbug and advice from says
You can clear snow and ice from pavements yourself. It’s unlikely that you’ll be sued or held responsible if someone is injured on a path or pavement if you’ve cleared it carefully.

2. Workers banned from putting up Christmas decorations in the office- Festive thumbs up or Bah Humbug?

Bah Humbug and the HSE say:
Each year we hear of companies banning their workers from putting up the Christmas decorations in their offices for ‘health and safety’ reasons, or requiring the work to be done by a ‘qualified’ person. Lets be sensible and provide staff with suitable step ladders to put up decorations rather than expecting staff to balance on wheelie chairs.

3. All Indoor Christmas lights don’t need a portable appliance test (PAT) every year – Festive thumbs up or Bah Humbug?

Festive thumbs up and advice from HSE says:
Lots of companies waste money in the false belief they need to test their Christmas lights annually, or even don’t put them up at all! By following a few sensible precautions, such as checks by the user for obvious signs of damage, every workplace can switch on safely and sparkle!

4. Children are banned from throwing snowballs (if it snows?) – Festive thumbs up or Bah Humbug?

Bah Humbug and the HSE say:
Every year we hear inaccurate stories about children who aren’t allowed to throw snowballs, and swimmers who can’t take their traditional winter dip in the local lake – all this in the name of health and safety. We are expected to have snow this Christmas, so lets get out there and have a snowball fight!

5. Health and safety doesn’t prevent people putting coins in Christmas puddings – Festive thumbs up or Bah Humbug?

Festive thumbs up and what the HSE say:
Finding a coin in your pudding on Christmas day – it’s a tradition that’s lasted for more than 500 years and is said to grant you a good luck wish for the coming year. However, killjoys have been stirring up trouble saying it’s too risky to put coins inside puddings for ‘health and safety’ reasons. Just be careful when taking a bite of pud!

If we had one wish, it would be to stamp out the health and safety Scrooges who try to dampen the Christmas spirit.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone!

See you in 2020!


What happens when an inspector calls?

The HSE inspect businesses that are working in high-risk industries. So, if your organisation is high risk and has not had a visit for a while, don’t be surprised if an HSE inspector wants to look around. This may be a random inspection but is more likely to be due to a previous incident, an issue raised by a worker, or a report of a serious injury on site.

What is the inspector looking for?

The inspectors want to check that employers are keeping their staff, customers and members of the public safe. They also review if work activities are being carried out in line with statutory requirements. The inspector will ask about the health and safety issues affecting the business and what is being done to reduce risk. They may want to look around the site and inspect aspects of work being done, too. If they are investigating an incident, the inspector will want you to describe what happened and what processes you had in place. They’ll look at your accident investigation report and any CCTV or photographs that may have been taken. They’ll also speak to your staff or read their witness statements.

What will happen next?

Immediately after the visit, the inspector might offer the organisation written or verbal advice on how to improve safety at work. Or they could issue a notification of contravention, which means that there has been a breach of health and safety law. The inspector may then issue an improvement notice. This gives the organisation at least 21 days to correct the issue.
For more serious offences, an inspector may issue a prohibition notice. This forces the organisation to stop any activities deemed dangerous immediately. The inspector can also seize items, substances and equipment as evidence.

Finally, the inspector can prosecute the organisation and/or its directors. This could lead to a court appearance, a fine or even a prison sentence.

How much will an inspection cost?

If the inspector issues a notice of contravention, the organisation will have to pay the HSE’s expenses for the investigation. This is called a fee for intervention (FFI). FFI is an hourly charge of £154. FFI also applies if the HSE issues a notice of improvement or prohibition.

The fines for prosecution depend on the offence committed. For example, in 2018 the average fine for breaches of the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999 was £846,250.

Of course, the total impact on a business can be much greater. An improvement notice can force an organisation to make high-cost changes in a short space of time. A prohibition notice can shut the business down or lead to disqualification of being a director for a set period of time.

Even minor breaches have lasting damage. The HSE will register an enforcement notice against the business for 10 years. This can make it hard to get work with new clients and almost impossible to bid for public sector contracts.

How can I protect my business?

As always, prevention is better than the cure. Ensure that you are aware of the legal requirements on your business and that you have procedures for improving, monitoring and reviewing your compliance status.

Contact us if you wish to discuss this topic further.


How to help someone with SAD Seasonal Affective Disorder

What is seasonal affective disorder?

It is more than the “winter blues” or a general feeling of sadness — it’s a major depressive disorder brought about by the lengthening periods of darkness.

It causes lethargy, low energy, difficulty waking up in the mornings and decreased concentration. It’s an issue that can have drastic effects on productivity in the winter months.

How common is seasonal affective disorder?

That is dependent on a variety of factors. But, in the UK and Ireland, it is thought to affect as many as one in three people. It’s likely someone you know in the workplace is beginning to struggle with it.

What are the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder?

Broadly, SAD has the same outward signs as depression:

•persistent low mood
•loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
•feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
•low self-esteem
•feeling stressed or anxious
•reduced sex drive
•becoming less sociable.

There are some SAD-specific signs, though, as follows.

•feeling less active than normal
•lethargy and sleepiness throughout the day
•difficulty concentrating
•an increased appetite, particularly for carbohydrates, which can cause weight gain.

What are the risk factors for seasonal affective disorder?

There are some common, easily recognisable risk factors for seasonal affective disorder.

•Women are more likely to suffer from SAD — in fact, they are four times more likely to suffer than men.
•It is more common in everyone the further you get from the equator; the lower hours of sunlight are a big contributor.
•People with a family history of depression are more likely to develop SAD.
•You are more likely to first develop the disorder in younger life. It has even been reported in children.

The most significant and obvious difference between depression and seasonal affective disorder is that SAD is linked to the changing seasons, whereas depression is year-round.

Luckily there are ways to help with SAD that don’t work with “ordinary” depression.

How to help with seasonal effective disorder

There are some quick and easy ways to make the workplace more manageable for people who suffer from serious winter depression.

•Provide more light: offices can become rather dark and dreary when the sun starts setting earlier. Some employees may be seated at desks or in cubicles situated far from the nearest source of natural light. Try rearranging your floor plan to maximise the natural light available and consider moving people suffering from SAD closer to windows.

•Provide even more light: a lot of people suffering from SAD benefit greatly from a SAD lamp or light box, a form of light therapy that uses fluorescent lights to simulate the natural sun.

•Encourage more outdoor time: employees should be taking lunch away from their desks in all offices — it helps clear the mind and means people are ready to attack the afternoon’s tasks afresh. Encourage your staff to go further than the kitchen. Assuming the winter weather isn’t too harsh, lunchtime can be well spent going for a quick walk around the block. It’s about getting as much sunlight and positivity into the workday as possible. Consider short outdoor meetings and coffee runs.

•Help out with health: SAD can wreak havoc on the appetite, causing weight gain, which can make the associated depression harder to deal with. Provide healthier snacking options and hot drink options, such as diet drinks and soups and herbal teas.

Contact us to discuss this further.


Winter is coming!

To prepare for inclement weather, a winter plan should be put together with an associated risk assessment. This should be carried out well in advance, and revisited and revised throughout the cold period.

To make sure everyone understands what is expected of them, and to ensure the plan is as streamlined as possible, it should be completed alongside other areas of the business — for example HR, IT and the communications team. As part of any planning process, include a review of what happened last year so that new approaches can be adopted where processes were less than ideal.

Some areas that could be addressed as part of winter planning are outlined below.

Communication with employees
Staff need to know what is expected of them when bad weather strikes, as well as what they can expect from the organisation. From an HR point of view, it is important for staff to clearly understand what the consequences are of not being able to attend work, for example due to transport disruption or emergency childcare requirements. On the other side of the coin, facilities managers also need to plan for what happens if, for any reason, staff should not come into work, for example if a building loses power or if the heating system goes down.

Communicating with staff is key in these instances, so make sure that the communication plan is clear, approved, and aligned with communication from other departments. Also ensure that managers are on board and understand what is required.

Preventive maintenance
Bad weather and high winds can expose any building flaws, especially in areas such as roofs or windows. Before winter comes, carry out a condition survey to identify any potential problems, and prioritise them for repair.

Similarly, regularly inspect heating systems and any other plant required for emergencies, such as back-up generators. Proactive maintenance and regular inspections will help reduce the chance of failure when these bits of kit are most needed.

Slips and trips
Snow and ice are two obvious winter problems that can be a hindrance to any business. Make sure that supplies of grit are fully stocked, and that weather warnings are regularly checked so that the grit is used when needed. Staff employed to spread grit need proper personal protective equipment (PPE).

Do not forget inside the building too — staff bringing snow and ice in on their shoes can create slippery surfaces, so consider adding extra mats at the front doors to help keep the building clean and to absorb any extra wetness.

Also remember that slips and trips are not just isolated to times when snow falls. Darker mornings and evenings can cause more accidents, as can autumnal leaf fall. As part of maintenance checks, ensure external lighting is adequate and that entrances and pathways are kept clear of leaf litter and debris.

Staff working outdoors
As part of the maintenance team there might be people who are regularly working outdoors. Although minimum working temperatures do not apply for these workers, there is, however, still a duty of care to ensure that people are not working in unsafe conditions. This could mean that managers need to look at rotas to avoid staff working outside in the cold for long periods of time, as well as making sure there are adequate facilities for people to warm up and take a break. Additional PPE to account for the weather can also be appropriate — for example, having extra dry items of clothing and good waterproofs to help people stay warm.

Remote working
Part of the winter preparation might include making sure that people are able to work effectively from home. This might include checking that all staff have the relevant logins and permissions to access work servers remotely. As some staff might not regularly use these systems, ask everyone to check that they can work remotely ahead of time.

Equip fleet vehicles
Make sure fleet vehicles (including grey fleet vehicles) are prepared for winter conditions. This means making a considered decision as to whether winter tyres are necessary, as well as asking staff to undertake some basic checks on weather and road conditions before deciding to drive. It is also a good idea to put together a car “winter pack”, including a blanket, in-car phone charger and snow shovel. Staff can supplement this with personal items that could include warm clothing and food in case they do break down or are stuck on a motorway.

Managing sickness
Along with bad weather comes the dreaded winter flu. Facilities managers can play an important, if not visible, role in reducing the impact of staff illness spreading, for example by stocking up on soap and alcohol gels. It is also a good time to run a check on cleaning schedules to make sure that common areas are being properly, and thoroughly, cleaned to help reduce the spread of germs.

Furthermore, don’t forget that winter doesn’t always mean catching a cold. For some, it can also bring about the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as well as a propensity for less exercise and a change in diet. Keep this in mind — perhaps renew or re-launch any wellness campaigns, or work with caterers to develop hearty, but healthy, meals for the winter menu.

Contact us if you require further information.