A safety inspection was completed
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The workplace is an “A” listed building with historical significance and covers three storeys and a basement. It is made up primarily of offices; however the Museum of Fire forms a large part of the ground floor, with the basement area used for exhibit archiving and storage.
47 staff are employed in the building, 1 of which is registered disabled. They work various patterns throughout the day between 8am – 6pm performing general administration duties, whilst a small number of staff also provide museum guided tours to members of the public. On occasion there are visitors who attend meetings in the building both in ground floor conference rooms and throughout the three storey premises. There are 4 cleaning staff who work in the building between 6 am-730 am. Cleaning staff vacuum, dust and clean the toilets within the building.
Most staff have dedicated work stations, however some staff are required to “hot desk”. There are four photocopiers within the building which are used throughout the work day.
During my safety inspection a number of safety issues were noted and have been compiled in this report. I recommend you dissect this report carefully and take note of the issues that I have raised and take swift action to make amends. Financial costs to implement these requirements are explained in my recommendations.
Breaches were found with regard to the following health and safety issues:
1.Fire (Scotland) Act 2005: blocked fire exits, combustible substances found in protected escape routes, inadequate evacuation procedure for the evacuation of disabled employees. 2.Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992: trip hazards were identified throughout, insufficient lighting in basement area may lead to injury and employees using vehicular access routes as shortcuts into building present collision hazard. 3.Manual Handling Operations regulations 1992: Lifting equipment has not been provided to assist employees and incorrect manual handling techniques displayed by staff. 4.Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992: DSE assessment findings not actioned and procedures not followed for new employees. 5.Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (as amended): Employee safety potentially compromised through inadequate disposal of printer ink cartridges and inadequate ventilation in first floor photocopier room.
MAIN FINDINGS OF THE INSPECTION
Fire (Scotland) Act 2005
The majority of health and safety law breaches were found under this piece of legislation. Two fire doors were found to be blocked during the inspection with one being locked entirely. Discarded combustible substances were identified within protected escape routes and adjacent to potential ignition sources. Fire doors were discovered to be wedged open throughout the building with the justification offered by some staff that “we operate an open door policy”. A major concern identified was the lack of provision for the safe evacuation of disabled employees or visitors to the building. Disabled employees and visitors can gain access to the building by using the lift provided within the central stairwell. This will not be accessible in the event of a fire and some other means of evacuation will be required. The organisation has purchased an evac-chair however at the time of the inspection this was locked away and staff had not been trained in its use. There are serious flaws in the personal evacuation plan for the employee located on the first floor. A defective fire extinguisher was also identified.
Flagrant disregard for Fire Safety is putting your employees at risk, which may result in your organisation facing financial penalties, with senior management facing the potential for custodial sentences. This may affect your company’s reputation resulting in lost business. Most of the issues I have identified in this report can be dealt with immediately. Management can ensure that procedures are being followed by the initiation of a quarterly safety inspection programme.
Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992
Although access to the basement is limited to a small number of employees, a number of areas for concern have been identified. Freedom of movement in the basement corridors is virtually impossible due to stored museum artefacts and general clutter presenting trip hazards. Access to the basement is via a steep stone staircase, there is no handrail provided presenting the potential for slips, trips and falls. The lighting within the basement is inadequate and there is the potential for injury by coming into contact with low pipework at head height throughout this area.
The disabled employee located on the first floor shares an office with two other able bodied employees. The disabled employee has limited mobility and uses a walking stick. Free movement around this office was found to be difficult due to the presence of boxes and general clutter. There is the danger of trips within this area with subsequent injury.
At the time of the inspection unseasonal snow showers had led to slippery conditions at the main entrance. There was no provision for clearing this area and gritting icy surfaces, no employee had been detailed with this responsibility.
At the time of the inspection employees were observed taking shortcuts through the vehicular access routes to the car parking area. This accompanied with the weather conditions presented a hazard where a pedestrian may come into contact with vehicular traffic sustaining serious injury.
Manual Handling Operations regulations 1992
Two main issues were identified during the inspection, which raised concerns over manual handling. The first is that employees appeared to be unaware of safe lifting and handling techniques, poor lifting techniques may lead to injury. Additionally, management has not provided suitable equipment to allow boxes to be safely stored on top of cabinets, the provision of a suitable step ladder or suitable lifting equipment should be considered. Back injuries can potentially be serious and may affect the individual for the rest of their lives. The cost of suitable manual handling training is minimal compared to the cost of compensation claims by employees following injury. This can be considered part of your moral duty to your employees.
Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992
Initial inspections were carried out by your organisation, this could have been considered to be good practice, however the findings of the inspections have not been actioned. There was evidence of employees improvising to mitigate the effects of issues which were identified during DSE inspections. There has also been a failure to carry out DSE inspections with new employees.
Introducing a DSE inspection procedure will cost the organisation very little as adequate training has already been provided to managers. It was intimated that excessive workloads were preventing managers from finding time to carry out adequate DSE inspections.
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health regulations 2002 (as amended)
In general your workplace can be deemed to be low hazard, however two breaches of the COSHH regulations were observed. A used printer cartridge was left discarded next to the printer in the first floor main office area. This contained residue ink and had the potential to expose staff to hazardous chemicals. The photocopier on the first floor is located in a confined space. This presents the hazard to exposing employees to ozone as the area did not have suitable working ventilation. Exposure to ozone will result in employees becoming ill.
These issues can be rectified at reasonably small cost. You have a duty under the COSHH regulations to not make your employees ill, and breaches of this regulation, if taken to court, could lead to fines and custodial sentences.
This report has shown that there are a number of serious health and safety breaches within LBFRS headquarters. The Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 has been dangerously ignored through fire exits being blocked, combustible materials being discarded in protected escape routes and serious concerns over the evacuation procedure for disabled employees and visitors. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations have been disregarded with corridors being blocked in the basement, unguarded obstructions at head height and the potential for falls down access stairs due to the absence of a suitable handrail. Trip hazards located in areas frequented by your disabled and other employees are also a concern. Employees taking shortcuts through vehicular traffic routes also have the potential for serious injury. Incorrect manual handling techniques can lead to permanent injuries, currently management is not meeting its obligations by providing suitable training and lifting equipment to negate this hazard. Although initially carried out the findings of DSE assessments have not been actioned and new staff have not been included in the procedure. These findings can impact negatively on employees and hold the potential to affect productivity as well as resulting in injury through long term exposures. There were also breaches under the COSHH regulations which have the potential to lead to illness and injury of employees. First aid equipment was found to be out of date.
If the recommendations detailed within this report are not actioned then your organisation may be at risk of negative publicity, with breaches of health and safety law leading to a poor reputation which can have a direct effect on existing business relationships affecting your company’s financial stability. Employee absence will also have financial implications for your organisation as retraining, recruitment and litigation costs may prove to be substantial. Management must make an effort to improve health and safety in the workplace, failure to do so is likely to impact of employee morale and may have a direct effect on productivity.
The recommendations following my inspection of your organisation are detailed in the table below. I strongly recommend that these findings are actioned and that all suitable changes are introduced to your workplace.
RecommendationLikely resource implicationsPriorityTarget date
Unblock fire exits and ensure they can be opened in an emergency evacuation. 1 hour for two employees. Financial cost of purchasing secure break glass point to house basement fire door key and time costs of organisations joiner to fit box securely onto wall adjacent to door.