Initially, think of what’s most important

Brevity created by shortening formal names into shorthand versions using their initials holds a danger that the purpose behind them can be lost. Pausing to think about what lies behind the initials, and why it’s there, is a useful way to remind yourself of their importance. We use the COSHH Regulations to illustrate the point.

BBC, PPE, MOT, and BLT; the verbal shorthand of our language is everywhere. By and large we know what it means. Take the four sets of initials we started with. You don’t even have to think about them, since the abbreviated form has become the accepted norm.

But there can be a danger with these verbal short cuts that the reality gets lost through over-familiarity, which as we all know, breeds contempt.

Take COSHH, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (2002), to give them their full title.

The role of COSHH

The purpose of COSHH legislation is to allow the use of hazardous substances in the workplace, but to spell out rules for the way they are used and stored in order to protect employees and the environment from the harm they could potentially cause.

And with that in mind, we’d like to offer an alternative set of words to attach to the COSHH acronym: Come and See me Here in Hospital. Thinking of that provides a reminder of what might be necessary in the event of too casual an attitude being adopted to materials covered by the legislation. With that in mind, we’d like to sharpen the focus on the regulations, and the implication for your employees – in order to avoid you having to exercise the hospital option…

Who’s covered by COSHH regulations

It would be a mistake to think of this legislation as being about ‘industry’ in the traditional sense. The Regulations are plain: the people being protected are ‘workers’, and in this case that means all employees, no matter what their job role, as well as university students and schoolchildren. Equally, everyone is covered, including visitors and people on placements, for example. In short, there’s a requirement to protect everyone close to a hazardous substance.

What substances come under the scope of COSHH regulations?

Oddly, no specific substances are mentioned in the legislation, though some are specifically excluded*. This is an indication of just how broad-reaching the legislation is, since it applies to types of substances: Chemicals, or products they’re found in, along with fumes, dust, vapours, gases, and even bacteria, are all covered. Consequently, the actual substances people must be protected from are extremely numerous.

* Radioactive materials, asbestos, and lead are sufficiently noxious to have their own specific legislation, so aren’t covered by COSHH rules.

How to assess my workplace risks

You’ll need to do a formal COSHH assessment. Things to look out for vary between locations as well as by processes. The Health and Safety Executive offers a very helpful selection of sample assessments to guide you through the assessment relating to your own situation – or one very much like it. Advice is offered about how to remove things you can do without, or control access to things that must stay.

Be thorough. There’s no doubt a list of substances that need to stay will be highlighted as hazardous in your COSHH assessment, and that means that the range of available protection, in the form of COSHH cabinets, comes in all shapes and sizes.

Always Seek Knowledge

Tell me about COSHH cabinets

The substances covered by the COSHH Regulations will usually dictate the most appropriate storage solution. A range of COSHH Cabinets offered by the Safety Storage Centre is designed specifically with COSHH compliance in mind, but the web site also offers one of the largest range of haz-chem cabinets on the web, and one of those might serve your COSHH needs equally well.

Wherever you buy your COSHH cabinet from, you’ll need to look and ask yourself these questions, and factor the answers into your buying decision:

• Is it the right size for what I need to store?
• Does it comply with COSHH and DSEAR regulations?
• Does is have a sump to catch spills?
• Is it made from strong material, using robust construction methods?
• Can the contents be segregated?
• Should I have a keyed or combination lock?
• Does it need to be fixed, or mobile?
• Does it have a smoke detector? Do I need one?

There’s much more to the COSHH regulations than can be covered in this blog, including a wealth of industry-specific information and guidance, available on the HSE web site. If you’re unsure, then ask. Safety Storage Centre staff are knowledgeable and helpful.

The knowledge dimension

Earlier I spoke about familiarity breeding contempt. This is arguably more true anywhere else than in dealing with hazardous chemicals. Because people using them have done so safely for long periods of time there is a danger that they can become immune to the hazards they are handling. And yet the dangers inherent in the substances are never diminished. It is therefore vital for everyone to be trained not only to understand what those hazards are, but also that they have a responsibility to use and store the materials correctly.

Keep workers safe

And finally remember that time spent in making sure you comply with the letter as well as the spirit of the COSHH Regulations will keep workers safe, and there will be no need to spend time hospital visiting or dealing with HSE inquiries into accidents.

A gram of prevention is equal to a kilo of cure.

Why you should never relax about security when you travel

I was once the victim of pickpockets – almost. Only the intervention of my wife, who had been standing a little way away, was able to stop the thieves in their tracks. She’d seen the situation developing. We were in busy Barcelona, and I was in a bustling shop, when three men, one with a partly-open umbrella, got a little too close. She shouted, and they moved away.

The incident came to mind when we were watching a stage show by Swedish ‘Pickpocket King’ Bob Arno, who makes his living as an entertainer. One piece of his advice that stuck in my mind (amongst many, I might add) was to carry a decoy wallet in an obvious pocket. It should contain, he said, an expired credit card and a few scraps of blank paper, so that if it were stolen nothing was lost because most of your valuables were stashed away safely in a more secure pocket.

A lot of Arno’s advice involves leaving valuables in a hotel safe, but it’s worth remembering that safes aren’t necessarily thief-proof. It’s not impossible to open one with a little technical effort and a small amount of equipment. Better to strip down what you take away to the barest minimum.

Before going on holiday, or on a business trip, we suggest running through this mental checklist.

SafeDo I really need all this jewellery? Probably not. Don’t expose it to risk by carrying it around the world.

Will my credit card be safe if I leave it in the room safe in my hotel? Not necessarily. The data on it could be read. Better to carry it with you in a secure pocket or a pouch, for preference inside your clothing, and as tight as possible. When my daughter spent spend a year backpacking, her papers were with her round the clock, inside her clothing. It took several weeks in the UK for the habit to wear off, so ingrained had it become – but she was never robbed.

What would I do if my valuables were stolen? Make a note of the numbers you’d need to alert banks and credit card companies as well as how to lock your mobile phone. Scan your passport and other ID documents, as well as flight tickets. List the numbers on your travellers’ cheques, if you’re using them. Email it all to yourself, then, if the worst comes to the worst, all that information is as close as the nearest place you can get on line. Also, keep your laptop back ups somewhere safe (It is all backed up regularly, isn’t it?). And finally, find out where the consulate is, and note its phone number. Depending on the circumstances, you may need their help.

And finally, a couple of thoughts about security in your hotel. Don’t keep the electronic room key in the little card wallet reception will invariable give it to you in. That’s more than likely to have the room number written on it. Lose them both, and an opportunist thief will know which room to ransack. If the electronic key has a
room number printed on it, complain and ask for one without, for the same reason.

Moving a safe ends with teenager’s death

The tragic death of a teenage removal worker has highlighted just how important it is to have experts with the right equipment move very heavy objects like large safes.

The 19-year-old was crushed by a safe he and colleagues were attempting to move. They were working together to maneuver the safe up a ramp into the removal van when the ramp slipped, allowing the safe to fall. The other workers were able to get out of the way, but the teenager was trapped beneath the falling safe, and although he was taken to hospital, he died there a short while later.

SafeSome safes weigh more than 500kg, and are perfectly capable of causing severe crush injuries if they are not moved with care and the right equipment. They are best moved to their final location by specialists. Great care must be taken to get all the details right when planning the delivery of a safe even something as apparently inconsequential as two or three steps might change the way delivery is made. Other considerations are parking restrictions, restricted-weight bridges, gravel drives and limited turning circles too.

Taking pains to do a job correctly is the way to make sure it is done safely, with each one requiring its own risk assessment. After all, we all want everyone to go home as fit and as healthy as when they arrived at work.

Safe Insurance Explained

When buying safes you cannot base your choice on looks or price alone, at least not if you want your insurance company to cover you for losses due to theft, fire or flood damage to the safe and or its contents.

The manufacturers of quality cash safes will give Insurance or Cash Rating for each safe expressed in terms of the amount of cash an insurance underwriter considers you can safely store in the safe. The general rule is that the higher the cash rating the more secure the safe is from burglars and safecrackers. The Cash rating also usually defines the Valuables rating of the safe i.e. the equivalent value of non-cash valuables such as jewellery the safe can hold. This is almost universally agreed by insurers as 10 times the cash rating.

A safe certified to EN14450 is suitable for low risk applications up to a maximum of £4000 in cash and £40,000 in valuables and are a popular choice for home security. The European standard EN1143-1 covers everything above this security level and safes to this standard are often termed Euro or Eurograde cash safes. The “Grade” is expressed as a number from Grade 0 to Grade13 in ascending order of greater security. A grade 13 safe is effectively equivalent to a bank vault with a cash rating of £3.5 million.

Assigning cash ratings is usually based upon testing to the European Attack Test Standards and drop tests that are now widely recognised by the insurance industry and provide independent third party confirmation of the security level and durability of a safe. You do sometimes see equivalent American test standards quoted usually prefixed by UL and independent laboratory certifications such as NT or NordTest more often for fire and water resistance.

Certification to international standards is the starting point for choosing the right safe for your circumstances but be aware that different insurers may apply different risk assessment criteria due to other factors such as the location of the property and the presence of other security measures. It is always best to check with your insurer that your cover is adequate particularly if you are storing lots of cash or valuables.

Key boxes ensure secure access to your home.

I was driving into the village where I live on yet another miserable rainy summer’s day when I passed a schoolboy walking the mile and a half road from the last bus stop into the village. Ordinarily I would not stop unless I was very well acquainted with the individual as sad to say these days such acts of altruism can and often are misinterpreted.

However as I looked back in the mirror I could see the lad was battling the elements so I pulled up and reversed back to offer a lift. It turned out his family had arrived in the village only recently and as he could not remember the house name he gave directions that led me to it. There were no cars on the drive or any signs of activity so I asked if his parents were around. They were both at work but he said he had a key. He thanked me for the lift and headed off but having had kids of my own I held back from driving off whilst I saw him safely inside.

Key Cabinet

The heavens chose that moment to unleash a torrential downpour while the poor lad was searching first his pockets then his schoolbag looking frantically for his key. Nothing I could do but watch and wonder what I would do next if he has lost the key. After what seemed an age he triumphantly held the key aloft and waved by which time he and the contents of his bag were clearly soaked.

For working parents it must be a logistical nightmare to arrange daytime care and supervision of the children and so called latchkey kids are all too common. To provide security and eliminate the risk of children or even parents losing the house key the security industry has developed some excellent weather proof home key boxes that you can mount outside the door to ensure a key is always to hand. They have combination or digital locks to control access and are also useful if you need to admit carers or workmen whilst you are away from home.

 

Storing Up Trouble

During the recent cold spell many businesses and domestic consumers, I amongst them, were left without heating oil supplies. In desperation people were forced to find whatever containers they could and trawl the local suppliers for emergency supplies. This was not easy and I for one was forced to introduce some expensive diesel to the tank to get me through. As a consequence domestic and business users were transporting and storing extra quantities of fuel many without knowledge of current safety legislation for flammable substances.

For reference the good news is that for Heating Oils and Diesel, under the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR) there are no specific legal requirements on the quantity allowed either in workplaces or domestic premises. They are not, from a health and safety point of view, classed as particularly hazardous substances within the context of DSEAR – as their higher flash point means that their vapours will not ignite anywhere near normal room temperatures.

Kerosene and diesel do however constitute an environmental hazard, incurring high clean-up costs if they should leak into a drain, watercourse or the soil. Also if they are caught up in a fire they will contribute to fire intensity and spread so safe containment is essential.

When not in use, containers of flammable liquids needed for current work activities should be kept in sealed containers and stored in suitable fire-resisting cabinets or bins which are also designed to retain spills (110% volume of the largest container stored in it).

The recommended maximum quantity of highly flammable liquids, i.e. with a flash point below the maximum ambient temperature of the workroom, that may be stored in DSEAR type flammable storage cabinets and bins should be no more than 50 litres. For other flammable liquids with a higher flashpoint of up to 55°C no more than 250 litres is recommended.

The amount of petrol that can be kept in a domestic garage or within six metres of a building is a maximum of two ten litre capacity metal containers or two suitable plastic containers with a maximum capacity of five litres each. Under no circumstances should the petrol containers be stored in the home itself.

The design of our standard flammable storage cupboards is intended to provide a physical barrier to delay the involvement of the stored materials in a fire and limit exposure to the flames and hot gases for sufficient time to allow safe evacuation.

If your working practices require internal storage of quantities of highly flammable liquids above the recommended maximums then you are well advised to consider fire proof storage cabinets conforming to the BS EN 14470-1:2004 Standard. Unlike single skin cabinets that segregate from flames but not heat the EN14470 cabinets have stringent design specifications covering the fire resistance of the complete cabinet that prevent the internal temperature from rising above preset limits protecting the contents from fire damage or destruction for up to 90 minutes. Although their use in the UK is not yet a legal requirement under DSEAR legislation for excess storage quantities employers may find installing BS EN14470 cabinets with enhanced fire performance helps in justifying the integrity of their risk assessment as well as protecting valuable assets.

 

Welcome

After 10 weeks of frenzied behind the scenes activity I am delighted to introduce you to our brand new website The Safety Storage Centre.

No prizes for guessing the raison d’être behind the launch of a website that has a mission statement that reads “The Safety Storage Centre specialise in providing storage solutions to ensure our customers compliance with workplace safety legislation and to protect personnel and secure property and valuable assets from workplace hazards, fire and theft.”

Why now? Well as a company we have been supplying and distributing fire protection and personal safety products for over a decade and The Safety Storage Centre now  joins its sister website The Fire and Safety Centre as an integral branch of The Supply Centre network and thereby expanding our internet e-commerce product portfolio.

The popularity of the specialist range of fire safety storage products available through The Fire and Safety Centre convinced us that we offered Private and Public organisations the right mix of product, price and quality to expand our range to include all types of Safety Storage Solutions. Given the thousands of safety products we currently supply and the thousands of safety storage cabinets, cupboards, chests, boxes, safes, lockers etc, etc, etc, that are required for compliance with the myriad of safety legislation the only solution was a brand new dedicated site that does exactly what it says on the box or in this case the URL!

This blog will keep you in the loop with industry insight, news and independent commentary on what’s happening in the safety storage arena and updates on any changes in legislation that may impact your organisation.

I hope you find the website relevant, accessible and informative and of course you are cordially invited to add comments and raise issues relevant to the cause for the benefit of all our customers.

Barrie