Sheila Pantry Associates Ltd

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News Archive

August 2008

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Step Change in Safety introduces new common safety standards for the oil and gas industry

The UK offshore oil and gas industry's flagship safety initiative Step Change in Safety is currently creating new, OPITO approved, minimum safety training standards for employees working on installations in the UKCS. The new standards are being developed following concerns raised by the workforce about basic safety competence, particularly for new starts in the industry. The new set of minimum standards covers nine basic safety elements, including the core topics of risk assessment and permit to work, but also introducing new key safety awareness centred on mechanical lifting and platform integrity.

John Methven, co-chair of Step Change in Safety, said: "Currently, basic safety training is carried out to different depths of understanding and covers varying safety elements. Every worker on the UKCS is required to complete basic offshore survival training; however this does not include training on risk assessment, process safety or platform integrity. These elements are normally covered through additional in-house training, but the core content can vary from company to company. The UK offshore oil and gas industry's flagship safety initiative Step Change in Safety is currently creating new, OPITO approved, minimum safety training standards for employees working on installations in the UKCS. The new standards are being developed following concerns raised by the workforce about basic safety competence, particularly for new starts in the industry. The new set of minimum standards covers nine basic safety elements, including the core topics of risk assessment and permit to work, but also introducing new key safety awareness centred on mechanical lifting and platform integrity.

"By undertaking the new additional elements of basic safety training through a registered training centre, every employee working on an installation on the UKCS will have the same starting level of safety understanding and awareness. The Vantage POB system will be updated and there will be no need for individuals to undergo similar or repetitive training every time they visit a different installation; subject to any required company or site specific induction."

Alan Chesterman, leader of the Step Change in Safety competence work group, which drew up the standards, added: "We didn't reinvent the wheel - 90% of the content is not new and people will recognise it. But although the basics are essentially the same, right now there's a lack of consistency. We recognise that adopting common standards and engaging the essential support to apply them uniformly across industry is a challenge, but there is a real prize out there. We believe that training people consistently and using Vantage tracking to ensure everyone is trained to that level will bring significant safety improvements. Now it's up to each individual company to implement the standards."

The new competence standards will be rolled out in two phases. The first phase will especially target new starts in the offshore industry and will include training in all nine modules. This training will be available from the end of 2008.

The second phase will be the introduction of a newly developed, computer-based system for experienced offshore workers. This new e-learning skills test will identify and fill gaps in training and will be subject to a refresher every four years. The new system will be available early 2009.

John Methven and Rick Cohagan, co-chairs of Step Change in Safety, will introduce the new standards to industry at the Oil & Gas UK breakfast on 20 August 2008, sponsored by The Royal Bank of Scotland.

The nine new training modules are:

Step Change in Safety is the UK based partnership with the remit to make the UK the safest oil and gas exploration and production province in the world. Step Change in Safety is made up of a Leadership Team comprising managing directors of operator and contractor companies and representatives from seven trade associations, including the UK Health and Safety Executive and the Trade Unions. It is this broad stakeholder base that makes Step Change in Safety effective across the whole industry.

More information on Step Change in Safety can be found on: http://stepchangeinsafety.net

Seafarer deaths hit new high

The number of merchant seafarer deaths recorded by the UK government's Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has hit an all-time high. Seafarers' union Nautilus UK has said the figures are 'disturbing' and have exposed 'unacceptable' complacency on the part of some maritime authorities. According to the MAIB annual report, there were 12 fatalities on merchant vessels of 100gt and above reported last year - the highest figure since the MAIB was established in 1995, and more than twice the number of deaths in any of the previous 15 years.

'Unfortunately, despite the evidence to the contrary, some authorities seem to believe that they have no need to act on this problem,' MAIB chief inspector Stephen Meyer commented in the introduction to the report. 'The MAIB considers such complacency to be unacceptable.' Nautilus UK's senior national secretary Allan Graveson said that the MAIB statistics are disturbing, and demonstrated the need for effective action to deal with the critical issues undermining the safety of ships and their crews. New figures have revealed the second consecutive annual increase in the number of substandard ships being detained in European ports. Last year saw a total of 1,250 detentions, compared with 944 in 2005 and 1,174 in 2006 - reversing a long-term period of improvement in which numbers dropped from a peak of 1,837 in 1996.

MAIB annual report 2007: www.maib.gov.uk/publications/annual_reports/annual_report_2007.cfm

Nautilus: www.nautilusint.org

New BOHS book out now: 'Controlling Skin Exposure to Chemicals and Wet-Work' by Rajadurai Sithamparanadarajah (Bob Rajan) OBE

The British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) is delighted to announce the publication of a book on controlling skin exposure, by one of its members, Bob Rajan, which aims to provide practical help for health and safety professionals, and fills a gap in the workplace knowledge base on dermal exposure risk management issues.

The consequences of a failure to adequately control dermal exposure to hazardous agents do not always become apparent until years after exposure, and because of this, many employers are either ignorant of the consequences or ignore the potential for ill-health until it is too late. In Great Britain, over 29,000 people are suffering from work-related skin disease and every year over 3,500 new cases are reported (and it is likely that these statistics suffer from significant under-reporting); in the US, Department of Labor statistics show that both the prevalence and incidence rates of skin disease exceed recorded respiratory illnesses.

Alongside this, many health and safety professionals are unaware of the ways in which skin comes into contact with chemicals, or how dermal exposure can contribute to inadvertent inhalation and ingestion exposure. Many industries and occupations are affected, including agricultural workers, beauty salons and hairdressers, bookbinders and printers, cleaning trades, cooks and caterers and barworkers, construction and various associated trades, health services (such as hospital, dental and veterinary staff and care workers), many manufacturing sectors, vehicle repair, and more.

The book provides an introduction to the structure and functions of the skin, information about the diseases caused by dermal exposure and the occupations and chemicals involved, regulatory requirements related to dermal exposure at work, exposure and risk assessment, and risk management strategies. It is both comprehensive and accessible, and clearly illustrated with photographs, figures and tables throughout, ensuring that it will be of practical use. As a result, BOHS believes that it will make an important contribution to increasing knowledge about control of dermal exposure and encourage more effective control measures to be introduced in workplaces.

'Controlling Skin Exposure to Chemicals and Wet-Work' is available for £19.99 and can be purchased on-line via RMS Publishing, www.rmspublishing.co.uk/publications/essential.aspx and Amazon, or by posting/faxing the order form which can be downloaded from the Publications section of the BOHS website.

Contact: Anthea Page, Communications Manager, BOHS, 5/6 Melbourne Court, Millennium Way, Pride Park, Derby, DE24 8LZ, UK | Tel: +44 (0 1332 250701 | Email: anthea@bohs.org | www.bohs.org

ETUC - criticises the European Union on reprotoxins

The European Trade Union Confederation has criticised a European Commission u-turn on substances that are toxic for reproduction. The union body says these reprotoxins should have been brought into the directive that protects workers from carcinogens and mutagens, which is currently up for revision. It says the Commission has instead changed tack and dropped any mention of reprotoxins from its proposals.

What particularly baffles the trade union body 'is that the Commission has previously come out expressly in favour of extending the Carcinogens Directive to reprotoxins,' notes an ETUC news briefing. In a note sent to European social affairs commissioner Vladimir Spidla on 31 July, the ETUC describes the Commission's retreat on reprotoxins as 'a purely political decision that sacrifices the health of workers and future generations to the interests of some sections of industry'.

It says it wants the forthcoming economic impact assessment of the Carcinogens Directive revision to include a scenario extending it to reprotoxins. A briefing note concludes: 'For this scenario not to be included would play into the Commission's final decision, which will no doubt be taken by a new body of Commissioners after the June 2009 European elections.'

www.etui.org

Reduction in smoking show promise for reducing home fire deaths in the USA

Home fire deaths are higher in states that have a greater percentage of smokers, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study published this month in the journal Injury Prevention. If smoking at home is reduced or stopped, fewer residential fire deaths may result, the study said.

Smoking is the leading cause of home fire deaths and accounts for approximately one quarter of the 3,000 home fire deaths in the United States each year. Quitting smoking, as well as following fire safety recommendations related to smoking, can help reduce the risk of cigarette-related home fire deaths. For free telephone-based counseling from anywhere in the United States, smokers can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW, a national number that connects people to their state-based quit line.

This study is the first to use national data to look at the percentage of current smokers and home fire deaths in the District of Columbia and all U.S. states except Hawaii. Nationally, an estimated 21 percent of adults smoked in 2004, with state averages ranging from 11 percent (Utah) to 28 percent (Kentucky). In that year, an estimated 2,804 individuals died in home fires, or nearly one death per 100,000 people in the United States.

"Our study suggests that even modest reductions in overall smoking rates may save lives. In fact, quitting smoking is the most important step smokers can take to improve their overall health and that of their loved ones. People who do smoke should smoke outside the house to help protect themselves and their families from home fires and exposure to secondhand smoke, a known human carcinogen," said Shane Diekman, Ph.D., M.P.H., a behavioral scientist at CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

People who continue to smoke can reduce the risk of indoor fires by adopting strict smoke-free home rules; using deep, sturdy ashtrays securely set on tables; dousing cigarette and cigar butts in water or extinguishing with sand before dumping in the trash; and never smoking in bed or leaving burning cigarettes unattended. And everyone can reduce their risk of being harmed in a residential fire by making sure to have a working smoke alarm at home and testing that alarm regularly to make sure it is working.

"Home fire deaths have declined during the past several decades, and this decline has paralleled reductions in smoking," said Ileana Arias, Ph.D., director of CDC's Injury Center. "We work hard to keep our homes safe, and it just makes good sense to help people understand that if they can change their smoking habits, we may continue to reduce these tragedies."

The study used CDC's Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data.

"Reductions in Smoking Show Promise for Reducing Home Fire Deaths" - see CDC Press release http://www.cdc.gov/media/pressrel/2008/r080808.htm

For more information about CDC's injury prevention efforts, please go to www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/fire.htm

For a copy of this study, please link to Injury Prevention's website at: http://injuryprevention.bmj.com/cgi/content/abstract/14/4/228

FIREINF grows and grows in quality data and size

Two databases from the US National Institute for Safety and Health - NIOSHTIC and NIOSHTIC-2 are being added to FIREINF that is arguably the world's premier collection of related validated, authoritative information on the subject aims to help all those seeking such information. Both NIOSHTIC and NIOSHTIC-2 databases contain a wealth of fire and fire related as well as a broad range of occupational safety and health information.

Emphasis in FIREINF is on all aspects of fire, emergency and preparedness management principles, fire risk assessment, practices and research. FIREINF leads the searcher to quality guidance and advice from around the world. And it is used by organisations, those teaching fire science as well as fire brigades, rescue services, forensic and fire experts.

Fireinf is the world's premier collection of validated, authoritative fire and fire related information and contains two major collections.

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The Full Text Collection has 5 databases containing thousands of pages of full text information and The Bibliographic Collection has 9 databases which together contain over 522,000 records to journal articles, guidance and advice, circulars, reports, conference proceedings, research reports, statistics and codes of practice from worldwide sources, all of which may be easily accessed. One of the databases - from the British Standards Institution - contains references to over 4000 fire and fire related standards.

This long established collection started in 1997 as Fire Worldwide and then expanded into Fire, Emergency and Preparedness Worldwide. From 2007 the collection continues to expand with the new software and host platform as Fireinf and aims to help all those seeking information on all aspects of fire, emergency and preparedness management principles, fire risk assessment, good practices and research.

Fireinf is continuously enlarged as new information is published.

In this fast moving world it is essential to have quick access to validated, authoritative and constantly updated information collections. Much time is spent these days searching the Internet for validated and authoritative information often resulting in out-of date sources. Collections brought together and maintained by information specialists are one sure way of getting good quality data.

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Finland: Union call for ban on creosote poles

A Finnish union is calling for the use of creosote-impregnated wooden electricity poles to be stopped on health grounds. The Electrical Workers' Union says safer alternatives should be used instead. The union maintains there is considerable scientific evidence that 'leaves no doubt that direct contact with creosote may cause rashes and irritation of the skin and, more damagingly, harm respiratory organs. In more serious cases creosote may damage the eyes, kidney and liver. One possible consequence is cancer.'

One of the targeted companies is Vattenfall, one of the largest electricity generators in Europe. Recently the Swedish government-owned company has expanded the use of creosote-impregnated electricity poles in Finland. The union says that although a 2001 European Directive limits the usage of creosote, it does not forbid impregnation of electricity poles.

According to a report in Trade Union News from Finland: 'During the course of daily work it is practically impossible to protect oneself from direct contact with creosote, if poles are impregnated with it, experienced electrical workers say. There is no lack of relevant protective clothing, masks, shoes etc. but they do not solve the problem, as the risk not only looms when using them but also when cleaning, storing and maintaining them.' Sauli Väntti, the bargaining secretary of the Electrical Workers' Union, said an immediate ban is the only option.

www.artto.kaapeli.fi/unions/T2008/l24

Canadian Prevention Guide: Safe handling of Hazardous drugs

Two Canadian organisations - Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST) and Association paritaire pour la santé et la sécurité du travail du secteur affaires socials (ASSTSAS) have produced a guide that sets out their Working Committee's recommendations regarding how to safely handle hazardous drugs. The committee included professionals and stakeholders from the health care network, including IRSST.

Whilst this guide is primarily intended for health care workers, some recommendations apply to users of the health care network and their families. The use of hazardous drugs, particularly antineoplastic drugs used in oncology, is increasing because there has been an increase in the number of cancer cases. On the other hand, the hazardous drugs used are more potent and are more often used in combination and at higher doses. In hospitals antineoplastic drugs are most often used in the pharmacy, oncology units, some outpatient clinics, the operating room and care units. In the United States it is estimated that during the course of their work 5.5 million workers are exposed to hazardous drugs or their wastes.

Exposure is possible throughout the medication circuit in the hospital or at home. The medication circuit includes all of the steps through which drugs travel - from receiving dock to the storage facility - as well as its preparation, administration, elimination in the excreta and in its waste. A number of individuals may be exposed throughout this circuit: the transport and receiving workers, pharmacists, physicians, nurses and patient service associates involved in patient care following the administration of hazardous drugs.

Prevention Guide: Safe Handling of Hazardous Drugs
Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST);
Association paritaire pour la santé et la sécurité du travail du secteur affaires socials (ASSTSAS)
Working Committee on the Safe Handling of Hazardous Drugs
2008, 154 pages, ISBN 9782896180172
To download, visit: www.irsst.qc.ca/files/documents/PubIRSST/CG-002.pdf

This document is included in OSH UPDATE www.oshupdate.com

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Consultation letter - European Commission proposal on dichloromethane based paint strippers

The European Commission has made a proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council to amend the Marketing and Use Directive (76/769/EEC) to restrict the sale and use of paint strippers containing dichloromethane (DCM) to consumers and professional users. This is currently under negotiation in the Parliament and in a Council Working Group.

The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) would appreciate your views on this proposal with any information on how you may be affected. HSE would particularly like any information on the likely costs of the proposal to UK consumers and professional users, and the heritage/restoration sector.

The consultation letter sets out the issues and has the Commission's proposal and a preliminary Impact Assessment attached as annexes.

Consultation letter: www.hse.gov.uk/consult/condocs/paintstrippers.pdf

Comments should be sent to: Richard Pedersen, International Chemicals Unit, Health and Safety Executive, Rose Court, 2 Southwark Bridge, London SE1 9HS | Email: richard.pedersen@hse.gsi.gov.uk | Tel: +44 (0)20 7717 6216

to arrive no later than Friday 26 September 2008