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Sheila Pantry Associates Ltd

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News Archive

November 2007

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Asbestos exposures from large scale fires

The UK Health Protection Agency has published a report about the potential health impact and levels of asbestos exposures from large scale fires.

Asbestos causes a number of diseases and, in particular, is linked to the development of mesothelioma and lung cancer. In the UK the import, supply and use of asbestos was banned in 1999, but due to its extensive use in the building industry it is still found in many locations. Large scale fires involving materials containing asbestos are relatively common in the UK and can cause significant public concern. This report explores the potential public health consequences of such incidents by reviewing the available evidence.

Professor Gary Coleman, Head of the Agency's Chemical Hazards and Poisons Division said "The available evidence was reviewed and this indicates that the levels of exposure to asbestos experienced by members of the public, following fires involving materials containing asbestos, will be very small. There is no direct evidence of long-term health risks, such as development of mesothelioma and lung cancer, from fires involving materials containing asbestos, and this risk is thought to be minimal provided that appropriate clean-up operations are undertaken."

The report found that a number of factors help to reduce exposure of the general public to asbestos following a fire involving materials containing asbestos. For example, not all the materials containing asbestos in a building may be involved in a fire; fibres may become trapped in larger pieces of material stopping them from being released into the environment; asbestos fibres which can be breathed in only make-up a part of the total released; some fibres may disintegrate due to the high temperatures in the fire; the weather, such as wind and rain, will affect local air concentrations; and the duration of exposure to asbestos during a fire will usually be short.

  1. Public Health Significance of Asbestos Exposures from large Scale Fires. ISBN 978-0-85951-607-5. Hard copies (priced at £20 plus 10% postage and packing) are available from: Information Office, CRCE, HPA Chilton, Didcot, Oxon, OX11 0RQ, Tel 01235 822742 or 01235 822603 or email:
  2. The Agency's Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards (CRCE) comprises the Radiation Protection Division (formerly the National Radiological Protection Board) and the Chemical Hazards and Poisons Division. The Headquarters for the Centre is based at Chilton in Oxfordshire.
  3. The Chemical Hazards and Poisons Division (ChaPD) provides advice to UK Government Departments and other Agencies on human health effects from chemicals in water, soil and waste. The Division also provides information and support to the NHS and health professionals on toxicology.
  4. Asbestos is the name given to a small group of naturally occurring silicate minerals that can be readily separated into thin, strong fibres. These are divided into two sub-groups: serpentine (chrysotile), which is the most commonly used form of asbestos, and the amphiboles (amosite, tremolite, actinolite, anthophylite, and crocidolite), of which crocidolite is the most commonly used.
  5. Former use of materials containing asbestos in the building industry included sprayed coatings/lagging, insulating boards, ropes, cloth, millboard, asbestos-cement sheets, coated metal, textured paints and reinforced plastics.
  6. Further general information on asbestos can be found at the following link:

Launch of the revised NEBOSH Construction Certificate

NEBOSH, the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health has launched an updated version of the National Certificate in Construction Health and Safety. To celebrate the launch a reception at the House of Lords was hosted by The Lord Brougham & Vaux CBE. The qualification is intended for supervisors and managers within the construction industry who are required to ensure that activities under their control are undertaken safely.

Teresa Budworth, NEBOSH's Chief Executive commented: "Construction workers are nearly five times more likely to be killed in an accident at work than other employees*; NEBOSH's construction certificate provides all professionals employed in construction with the skills and knowledge to make the industry safer." She continued "We were very pleased that the NEBOSH Construction Certificate is cited within the Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) for the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, as a key knowledge indicator when assessing Stage 1 competence for CDM co-ordinators".

At the launch reception, Lawrence Waterman, Head of Health & Safety for the Olympic Delivery Authority made a presentation on the steps they are taking to ensure safety of construction workers in the preparation for the 2012 games in London to an invited audience of around 100 people from major construction companies and construction training providers.

The syllabus is now available to course providers with the first examination to the new syllabus scheduled for December 2007. Further details are available via the NEBOSH website

*Summary of the fatal injury statistics for 2006/7

Don't miss the Health and Safety Agenda 2008 conference on 5 December 2007, central London

Now in its third year, this highly successful practical one-day conference organised by Sheila Pantry OBE, long-time health, safety and fire information expert, will help you move ahead with health and safety challenges in your organisation and enable you to understand what needs to be addressed to achieve success.

Speakers are: Dr Jukka Takala, Director of the European Agency for Health and Safety at Work, Bilbao, Spain; Roger Bibbings, Senior Occupational Health and Safety Advisor, RoSPA; Teresa Budworth NEBOSH Chief Executive; Dr Tim Marsh co-founder and Managing Director of Ryder-Marsh (Safety) Ltd and is Europe's leading expert in behavioural safety; Chris Rowe manages the Health and Safety Executive's Psychosocial Policy Unit and is responsible for delivery of HSC's Priority Programme on tackling stress at work; Bob Warner is an ex-UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) specialist who now works as consultant on the safe management of chemicals, and has expert knowledge of the REACH programme: Mike Welham, director of Total Control (Anglia) Ltd where he is a health, safety and risk management plus corporate manslaughter consultant.

Contact: Customer Services, Croner Training, 4th Floor, North West Wing Bush House, Aldwych, London WC28 4PJ, UK | Tel: 0845 120 9602 | Fax: 0845 120 9612 | Email:

Original exploratory study from IRSST in Canada

Canada's Quebec workers are less likely to lose their lives following an occupational accident than those in Ontario and British Columbia. At least this is what is indicated in an original exploratory study carried out by the Occupational Health and Safety Research Institute (IRSST) on the three Canadian provinces with the most workers. The researchers successfully compared the data from eight economic activity sectors, despite the fact that it was always difficult to produce indicators comparing the risks of work-related injuries and illness for Canadian provinces due to the differences in the provincial compensation plans.

Work-related deaths

With the data on compensated deaths from 1997 to 2003 from the Association of Workers' Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC) and workforce data from Statistics Canada, the researchers were able to compare the situations in the three provinces.

Here are some results from this report that can be consulted on the IRSST Web site:

A few highlights

Source: Communications Division, IRSST | Tel: + 1 (514) 288-1551 | Fax: + 1 (514) 288-0998 | Email:

Filling the Gap, Data on Contract Worker Safety and Health in the USA

The US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has partnered with the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and ORC Worldwide supported by the Duke Energy Foundation to fill a critical data gap - data related to occupational safety and health of contract workers.

Reliance on contract workers to perform a wide array of functions and tasks appears to be a long-term trend. But national, state, and industry-level data bases for assessing safety and health for this population are either absent or extremely limited.

A Task Force of representatives from each partner will review existing data, identify the types of data that need to be collected, and the effectiveness of enhancing data systems. Learn more about this effort by contacting Elyce Biddle at

Following research highlighting stress as the second greatest cause of occupational ill health in Great Britain, the Health and Safety Commission asked the Health and Safety Executive ("HSE") to formulate a pragmatic approach to tackling stress at work. The aim was to bring about a reduction in the number of employees taking sick leave or underperforming at work because of stress.

After a year-long pilot and repeated consultation, the HSE launched the Management Standards for Work-Related Stress in November 2004. In doing so, the HSE identified six main areas of work that, if not properly managed, are associated with poor health and wellbeing: demands, control, support, relationships, role and change.

The Standards themselves represent a set of conditions that reflect high levels of health, wellbeing and organisational performance in each of these areas. Following the Management Standards process helps employers to identify the gap between their current performance and these conditions and to develop their own solutions to close this gap.

This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.

World Diabetes Day, 14 November 2007: Diabetes in the Workplace

Diabetes is a disease that currently affects more than 180 million people in the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this number is likely to more than double by 2030.

Increasing absenteeism and safety of workers are among the greatest concerns about diabetes and related chronic conditions in the workplace.

To find out more go to:

US NIOSH web resource on MRSA and the workplace recommends ways to prevent risks of infections

A new US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) web Topic Page,, offers recommendations for preventing the spread of MRSA, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in the workplace.

The Topic Page provides practical information on good, basic health practices which workplaces can tailor for their individual needs.

NIOSH has also posted new Safety and Health Topic Pages for:

Workplace stress costs Great Britain in excess of £530 million

Statistics released last week by the Health and Safety Commission (HSC) show a dramatic increase in the number of workers suffering from work related stress in Great Britain and the Chair of HSC had a stark reminder for employers on National Stress Awareness Day,

"We need to make a conscious effort to tackle workplace stress as we have lost nearly 14 million working days due to stress last year. Workplace stress cannot be eliminated but must be managed with our workforces' wellbeing in mind.

There are a number of tools available to employers and employees such as the 'Stress Management Standards' produced by the Health and Safety Executive. These standards provide practical guidance to identify stress in the workplace at an early stage and tackle it effectively."

In 2005/6 work related stress, depression and anxiety cost Great Britain in excess of £530 million.

The number of workers who had sought medical advice for what they believed to be work related stress increased by 110,000 to an estimated 530,000. But there are organisations such as Bradford and Bingley who are working with the HSE to embed good working practices to tackle stress. Bradford and Bingley have adopted and embedded the 'Stress Management Standards' in their management culture and have seen a significant reduction in stress-related absence.

Bradford and Bingley Head of Group for Health and Safety, John Hamilton, commented: "Good management practice is the key to the successful management of stress. Many managers prior to us implementing the standards didn't realise the benefits it has on helping their staff cope with workplace pressure."

The Management Standards cover six key areas of work design that, if not properly managed, are associated with poor health and well-being, lower productivity and increased sickness absence. The six areas are:

The Standards and advice on how to use them are available at The Standards, informed by the expert research linking job design to ill health, consist of six main factors that contribute to work-related stress: demands, control, support, relationships, role, change.

The Health and Safety Statistics were released on 1 November 2007 for the press releases and for the full statistics.

Government mustn't forget work death toll

Europe's leading health and safety body The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has welcomed some of the measures announced in the recent UK Queen's speech, but has warned the UK government it still has more to do tackle the toll of death and injury in the UK's workplaces.

IOSH said that it welcomes the government's intentions to require employers to release young people for the equivalent of one day's training a week and also its plans to review flexible working for parents.

Lisa Fowlie, IOSH President, said: "We urge the government, educators and employers to ensure that new opportunities for young people to develop employment skills, including apprenticeships and specialist diplomas, will cover the necessary health and safety elements. We believe by doing this that we can help ensure that tomorrow's workforce is better equipped for a safer and healthier working life.

"We also welcome the government's plans to review flexible working arrangements for parents. It's particularly important as more and more parents enter employment that recognition is given to their needs as carers of children and to helping them achieve a good work-life balance. We believe that less stressed workers are likely to be healthier, happier and also more productive."

But Lisa reminded the government that 241 people were killed in the UK's workplaces last year: "That's a dreadful toll, and we hope that the government will do all it can to ensure we reduce that figure. We're also concerned about the proposed house-building programme. Construction industry deaths reached a five-year high last year and house building and refurbishment activities have been a contributing factor to that*. We call on the government and the industry to ensure safety is a priority during the drive to provide the nation with sufficient housing."

* Accidents in construction HSC/07/71 Annex 1 (September 2007)

Banish the office bullies says TUC

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is urging employers to protect their staff from victimisation and harassment. To coincide with National Ban Bullying at Work Day, 7 November 2007, the TUC has produced a guide to help union safety reps work with employers to create a new workplace culture where bullying, intimidation and harassment is a thing of the past.

The new guide cites research from the University of Manchester which suggests that 1 in 10 workers was bullied in the last six months, one in four has fallen victim in the last five years, and 47 per cent of employees have witnessed bullying at work. TUC says the worst workplaces are those where a culture has developed that condones bullying. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: 'People on the receiving end of cutting remarks or verbal outbursts from the workplace bully are the ones paying a heavy price for employers' failure to deal with the problem. The stress and anxiety felt by the victims can make them physically ill, lose all their self-confidence and mean that they dread coming into work.' He added that employers pay a price through sickness absence, low morale and damaged productivity.

'But bullying is not hard to tackle and employers who ignore the problem and fail to protect their staff are breaking the law,' Mr Barber said. 'Every workplace should have a policy which makes clear that intimidating behaviour towards colleagues will not be tolerated and that those who persist in undermining their fellow members of staff will be dealt with severely.' Lisa Fowlie, president of safety professionals' organisation IOSH, said: 'Research indicates that victims of bullying take seven extra days each year off work compared to those who are not bullied, contributing to the loss of 18 million working days nationally. That's a lot of unnecessary suffering for the victims, and a huge waste of resources for business.'

New book: Managing stress and conflict

Stress and conflict in the workplace undermine performance and can make people mentally and physically ill, and research indicates that ever-increasing numbers of people are experiencing excessive pressure of this kind - including aggression and abuse - in our rapidly changing world of work.

This applies to libraries and information organizations as much as anywhere; indeed they can be particular targets for verbal and non-verbal violent behaviour through their accessibility to the public, and there are also employees of such organizations who are suffering, often in silence, from aggression, bullying and harassment from a work colleague.

There are many lessons to be learned by all who work and manage people by reading this book - see the reviews

Managing Stress and Conflict in Libraries
Sheila Pantry OBE Facet Publishing, June 2007
ISBN-10: 1856046133. ISBN-13: 978-1856046138.

Sweden: Warning on 'large risks with tiny particles'

Firms developing nanotechnologies must take a precautionary approach to the sector to prevent environment and health risks, the Swedish chemicals inspectorate said in a report released on 31 October 2007

'Companies should apply special precautions in the development and use of nanomaterials,' Kemi said, because of the 'rapid development in this area and the great lack of knowledge about risks.' Though the sector is covered by legislation, Kemi said in many cases nanomaterials used in finished products will fall through the chemical safety assessment net being introduced in the EU's new Reach chemical policy.

Governments will need to 'complement the EU regulatory framework for nanomaterials,' including on the way companies must test for health and environmental effects, it said. Kemi proposes to hold a conference during Sweden's EU presidency in 2009 on how nanotechnology should be dealt with by legislation. Ethel Forsberg, director-general of Kemi, said: 'The combination of the rapid development in the area of nanotechnology and the lack of knowledge concerning the risks to humans and the environment is worrying. A strategy for nanotechnology, which includes research on health and environmental risks, needs to be devised without delay.'