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BOHS Simple Ventilation Self-Help Guide for Workplaces During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Why are we still talking about ventilation and coronavirus?

  • Workplaces still have a duty to reduce exposure of the workers to COVID-19.
  • The most effective measure against the spread of coronavirus and its variants is social distancing.
  • Vaccination is having a huge positive effect on health outcomes but should not be relied upon instead of proper controls for coronavirus prevention. Read more about why here.
  • However, while social distancing measures are being relaxed in public places, good ventilation remains a really powerful tool to limit the risk of coronavirus spreading amongst your workforces. Good ventilation is also really important to dilute any contaminants in the air and provide clean air to protect the health of the people in the space.

Why has BOHS developed a non-technical ventilation check tool?

  • Ventilation in buildings is complex, that’s why, in addition to the excellent technical guidance available here, we produced some simple frequently asked questions (FAQs). However, a really frequently asked question happens to be: Is my ventilation good enough?
  • The answer will depend on a lot of different things. This is why we have created a very simple tool that you can use to help you. It aims to give some guidance to employers, building users and building owners about whether their ventilation is going to have any effect on reducing coronavirus transmission.
  • However, if you have any doubts, you should refer to a ventilation specialist, or an occupational hygienist to assess the risk in your workplace, such as those listed on the BOHS consultant’s directory.

What does the tool do?

  • The tool enables you to put in basic information about a workspace, the number of people who use it and the types of ventilation you have.
  • It uses a very basic scoring system to give you an indication as to whether your ventilation is likely to have no effect, some effect, or a strong effect on reducing the risk of coronavirus transmission.
  • It works for spaces that people spend time in (not stairwells and corridors where people are in for short periods) and where the building meets current building regulations requirements in terms of ventilation.
  • This should give you an idea whether your ventilation can be used to have an impact on reducing coronavirus transmission.

What doesn’t the tool do?

  • This tool does not assess all forms/methods of ventilation of a room, it only provides an indication of ventilation performance for the most common methods of ventilation. There are lots of other things that can affect ventilation effectiveness (look at the BOHS ventilation FAQs for further guidance).
  • The tool does not cover the other coronavirus transmission routes. Ventilation alone won’t prevent transmission. You still need to think about other control measures in COVID-19 risk assessment (Look at the BOHS control risk matrix for further help).
  • The tool looks at one space at a time. You should not try and use it for complex spaces with walls, partitions or a whole building. You will need to take one ventilated workspace at a time.

Making time to save lives

This year’s Fire Door Safety Week ran from 20-26 September with the aim of raising awareness of the critical role that fire doors play in saving lives and protecting property in the unfortunate event of a fire.

During this important week, Housing H&S Compliance UK Ltd made a very timely visit to ClwydAlyn Housing Association on the 23 and 24 September to deliver the two day IFSM Accredited Fire Doors in Residential Buildings Diploma to a number of the team.

This two-day course, which is split in to six ‘bite-size’ modules, provided delegates with the theory behind the requirements, including legislation and guidance as well as practical assessment to ensure that delegates knew how to put into practice what they had learned.

Our course is crammed full of useful information, which not only includes a look at fire door specifications, individual standards and inspection but includes the background knowledge to ensure that fire doors are not looked at in isolation, including fire dynamics and passive compartmentation

The course was carefully created by fire safety specialist, Tony Bolder FRACS, MIFSM, GIFireE, TechIOSH, DipNEBOSH, DipFD, CertFDI alongside Housing H&S Compliance UK Ltd Director and Social Housing Safety Specialist, Vicki Cutler CFIOSH, MIIRSM, MIFSM, CMgr MCMI.

The course is expertly delivered by Tony who has over 27 years’ experience (operational and safety roles) within the Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) and over 30 in the fire sector. A real expert in his field, Tony is a UKAS third-party accredited life safety fire risk assessor and also a third-party accredited fire door inspector, through both FDIS and NAFDI. He is also proud to have been selected to serve as a co-opted member of the IFSM Council.

We were delighted to let all delegates know at the end of the two days that they had all successfully passed the course; confirming that they found the training extremely valuable and crucial to their roles.

Here’s some of the feedback received from the ClwydAlyn team:

‘A very in depth course with lots of practical information delivered by a very knowledgeable trainer.’

‘Excellent course! I knew the basics of fire doors previously, but the course has opened my eyes on what’s involved to fully inspect fire doors and their importance within a building.’

‘Good visuals and handouts. Practical and good advice.’

If you’d like to know more about the course you can visit our website and download the flyer and information here: https://www.housingcompliance.co.uk/fire-training-courses/ or get in touch for further information.

News: Safety case principles for high-rise residential buildings

The Building Safety Bill has now entered Parliament. It proposes changes to building safety law that will place new duties on those who are responsible for the safety of high-rise residential buildings.

Fires and serious structural incidents in high-rise residential buildings are thankfully rare. Nevertheless, when they happen their consequences for people in or around the building can be catastrophic, and a single incident can affect a number of people and their homes. The Bill therefore proposes a proportionate and systematic regulatory approach to prevent and reduce the severity of a serious fire or structural failure.

It includes more stringent requirements for residential buildings that are seven storeys or more, or 18 metres and above, in height. This document aims to give early insights into some of these potential changes to help those who may have new roles to prepare for the reforms. As you read this material, you must keep in mind that the law has not yet been settled, so the points covered may be subject to change.

This document outlines the new approach proposed in England for the management and control of fire and structural hazards in buildings and the first steps towards understanding and preparing a safety case under the new regime. Residents, developers, other stakeholders such as property insurers, and building users may also have an interest in the potential role of safety cases in ensuring building safety. The document is the outcome of ongoing collaboration between Government, HSE and partner regulators, and industry.

(The above is an extract from the foreword by Peter Baker, Chief Inspector of Buildings)

You can read the full document here; you can also email any views and comments to the Building Safety Programme at BSP@hse.gov.uk by 22 October 2021.

News: Protecting lone workers

Lone workers can be at greater risk of harm as they may not have anyone to help or support them if things go wrong.

Employers should provide training, supervision, monitoring and support for those working alone.

HSE’s free to download leaflet ‘Protecting lone workers: How to manage the risks of working alone‘ is for anyone who employs lone workers, or engages them as contractors etc, including self-employed people or those who work alone.

The leaflet is supported by lone working webpages which include advice aimed at lone workers themselves.

Digital tools from Electrical Safety First helping to keep consumers safe

In the UK, the response rate to an electrical product recall or safety notice is less than 20%. With low levels of product registration, manufacturers can find it very challenging to trace affected products, leaving consumers unaware that they have a potentially dangerous appliance in their home.

The leading consumer charity Electrical Safety First has developed some free digital tools that will help people check for electrical product recalls and register their appliances.

This useful document contains more information.

News: Ventilation in the workplace and COVID-19

Adequate ventilation (including air conditioning) can help reduce risk of spreading coronavirus in workplaces.

HSE’s updated guidance will help you identify poor ventilation in work areas and take practical steps to improve it. This can help reduce the risk of COVID19 spreading in your workplace.

HSE’s updated guidance includes a new video setting out the key advice, and there is information on:

  • Identifying poorly ventilated areas and using CO2 monitors
  • Improving natural ventilation
  • How to improve mechanical ventilation
  • Air cleaning and filtration units
  • Ventilation in work vehicles.

HSE also have some examples of how businesses have improved ventilation to reduce COVID-19 transmission in the workplace.

News: PPE Consultation 2021

HSE is consulting on changes to the PPER 1992 and encourage you to draw the attention of your stakeholders and other interested parties to this consultation launching on Monday 19 July 2021 and running for 4 weeks.

The consultation can be accessed via HSE Consultation Hub from this date.

The aim of the consultation is to understand the impact on stakeholders and businesses of extending the scope of the employers’ duties under the PPER to workers and not only employees.

Why is the HSE making changes to the regulations?

In November 2020, a judgment was handed down in the judicial review action in the High Court brought by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) against the Secretaries of State for Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Department for Work and Pension (DWP), which decided that the government had failed to properly transpose Article 8(4) and 8(5) of EU Directive 89/391/EEC  (“the Framework Directive”) and Article 3 of EU Directive 89/656/EEC  of 30 November 1989 (“the Personal Protective Equipment Directive”) into UK law.

The Framework Directive sets out the minimum standards for health and safety through a series of general principles, and the Personal Protective Equipment Directive (“PPE Directive”) sets out the minimum health and safety requirements for the use of personal protective equipment in the workplace for workers.

The UK implemented the PPE Directive through the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992  (“PPER”) which places duties on employers to their ‘employees’ in regard to PPE. The High Court found that the PPE Directive required these duties to be extended to ‘limb (b) workers’ and not only ‘employees’. Therefore, HSE is making amendments to the PPER in order to align with the court’s judgment.

What does this mean?

Employers will have a duty to provide limb (b) workers with the same health and safety protections in respect of PPE as they do currently for employees.

Options on how to achieve the extension of the provisions to workers in the legislation will not be presented during the consultation as the key legislative changes are being made to align with the court decision.

For any enquiries, please contact HSE directly on ppeconsultation2021@hse.gov.uk

News: Fire Safety Act 2021

On the 19th March 2020, the Home Office introduced a new fire safety bill to improve fire safety in certain residential premises. This bill received Royal Assent on the 29th

April 2021 and is known as the Fire Safety Act 2021 (FSA 2021).

The FSA 2021 makes amendment to article 6 of the RRFSO 2005 and focuses mainly on ensuring that apartment entrance doors and external wall systems (including balconies and windows) are a part of the common areas and therefore come under the RRFSO.  The FSA has received Royal Assent but is being held back until the Government produce guidance on how to apply the FSO to the prescribed features mentioned in the FSA plus how they will be enforced.

You can download a copy of the act here.

News: HSE releases annual workplace fatality figures for 2020/21

The HSE revealed provisional data last week which shows that a total of 142 were killed at work in Great Britain in 2020/21; this is an increase of 29 from the year before (though the number of deaths that year was lower than in other recent years).

Over the past 20 years there has been a long-term reduction in the number of workplace fatalities; the average annual number of workers killed at work over the five years 2016/17-2020/21 is 136.

The three most common causes of fatal injuries continue to be:

  • Workers falling from height (35)
  • Being struck by a moving vehicle (25)
  • Being struck by a moving object (17).

The data also continues to highlight the risks to older workers with around 30 per cent of fatal injuries in 2020/21 involving workers aged 60 or over, even though such workers only make up around 11 per cent of the workforce.

The figures relate to workplace incidents. They do not include deaths arising from occupational exposure to disease, including COVID-19.

A fuller assessment of work-related ill-health and injuries, drawing on HSE’s full range of data sources, will be provided as part of the annual Health and Safety Statistics release on 16 December 2021.

Read more on the HSE website or download the full report here.

News: Building Safety Bill published

This week saw the long-awaited publication of the Building Safety Bill, the next step in reforms to give residents and homeowners more rights, powers and protections, with the aim of making homes safer.

The wide range of changes being introduced in the bill will overhaul regulations and have a big impact on the construction, maintenance and management of residential buildings.

The bill also sets out the framework to improve compliance, with tougher penalties for those who break the rules and mandates developers to belong to a New Homes Ombudsman scheme.

It is estimated that be it will be 9 – 12 months before the bill gains Royal Assent. It could then take another 18 months for secondary legislation and transition to the main regime; therefore even if all goes to plan, the bill may not come into force until 2023 – 2024.

A handy one page document summarising the bill can be found here.

All the information relating to the bill can be found here.