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1.1.1. Introduction
Occupational health and safety is relevant to all branches of industry, business and commerce
including traditional industries, information technology companies, the National Health Service, care
homes, schools, universities, leisure facilities and offices. The purpose of this chapter is to introduce
the foundations on which appropriate health and safety systems may be built. Occupational health and
safety affects all aspects of work. In a low hazard organization, health and safety may be supervised by
a single competent manager. In a high hazard manufacturing plant, many different specialists, such as
engineers (electrical, mechanical and civil), lawyers, medical doctors and nurses, trainers, work
planners and supervisors, may be required to assist the professional health and safety practitioner in
ensuring that there are satisfactory health and safety standards within the organization. There are many
obstacles to the achievement of good standards. The pressure of production or performance targets,
financial constraints and the complexity of the organization are typical examples of such obstacles.
However, there are some powerful incentives for organizations to strive for high health and safety
standards. These incentives are moral, legal and economic. Corporate responsibility, a term used
extensively in the 21st Century world of work, covers a wide range of issues. It includes the effects that
an organization’s business has on the environment, human rights and third world poverty. Health and
safety in the workplace is an important corporate responsibility issue. Corporate responsibility has
various definitions. However, broadly speaking it covers the ways in which organizations manage their
core business to add social, environmental and economic value in order to produce a positive,
sustainable impact on both society and the business itself. Terms such as ‘corporate social
responsibility’, ‘socially responsible business’, and ‘corporate citizenship’ all refer to this concept. The
UK Health and Safety Executive believe that its mission is to ensure that the risks to health and safety
of workers are properly controlled. In terms of corporate responsibility, they are working to encourage
organizations to:
‫ ݹ‬Improve management systems to reduce injuries and ill health
‫ ݹ‬Demonstrate the importance of health and safety issues at board level
‫ݹ‬Report publicly on health and safety issues within their organization, including their performance
against targets.
The HSE believe that effective management of health and safety:
‫ ݹ‬Is vital to employee well-being
‫ݹ‬Has a role to play in enhancing the reputation of businesses and helping them achieve high-
performance teams
‫ ݹ‬Is financially beneficial to business.

1.1.2 Some basic definitions
Before a detailed discussion of health and safety issues can take place, some basic
occupational health and safety definitions are required:

Health – The protection of the bodies and minds of people from illness resulting from the materials,
processes or procedures used in the workplace.

Safety – The protection of people from physical injury. The borderline between health and safety is ill-
defined and the two words are normally used together to indicate concern for the physical and mental
well-being of the individual at the place of work.

Welfare – The provision of facilities to maintain the health and well-being of individuals at the
workplace. Welfare facilities include washing and sanitation arrangements, the provision of drinking
water, heating, lighting, and accommodation for clothing, seating (when required by the work activity),
eating and rest rooms. First aid arrangements are also considered as welfare facilities.

Occupational or work-related ill-health – Is concerned with those illnesses or physical and mental
disorders that are either caused or triggered by workplace activities. Such conditions may be induced
by the particular work activity of the individual or by activities of others in the workplace. The time
interval between exposure and the onset of the illness may be short (e.g. asthma attacks) or long (e.g.
deafness or cancer).

Environmental protection – Arrangements to cover those activities in the workplace which affect the
environment (in the form of flora, fauna, water, air and soil) and, possibly, the health and safety of
employees and others. Such activities include waste and effluent disposal and atmospheric pollution.

Accident – Defined by the Health and Safety Executive as ‘any unplanned event that results in injury or
ill health of people, or damage or loss to property, plant, materials or the environment or a loss of a
business opportunity’. Other authorities define an accident more narrowly by excluding events that do
not involve injury or ill health. This book will always use the Health and Safety executive definition.

Near miss – Is any incident that could have resulted in an accident. Knowledge of near misses is very
important since research has shown that, approximately, for every 10 ‘near miss’ events at a particular
location in the workplace, a minor accident will occur.

Dangerous occurrence – Is a ‘near miss’ which could have led to serious injury or loss of life.
Dangerous occurrences are defined in the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences
Regulations 1995 (often known as RIDDOR) and are always reportable to the Enforcement Authorities.
Examples include the collapse of a scaffold or a crane or the failure of any passenger carrying

Hazard and risk – A hazard is the potential of a substance, activity or process to cause harm. Hazards
take many forms including, for example, chemicals, electricity and working from a ladder. A hazard can
be ranked relative to other hazards or to a possible level of danger. A risk is the likelihood of a
substance, activity or process to cause harm. A risk can be reduced and the hazard controlled by good
management. It is very important to distinguish between a hazard and a risk – the two terms are often
confused and activities such as construction work are called high risk when they are high hazard.
Although the hazard will continue to be high, the risks will be reduced as controls are implemented. The
level of risk remaining when controls have been adopted is known as the residual risk. There should
only be high residual risk where there is poor health and safety management and inadequate control

1.1.3 Levels of statutory duty

There are three levels of statutory duty which form a hierarchy of duties. These levels are used
extensively in health and safety statutory (criminal) law but have been defined by judges under
common law. The three levels of duty are absolute, practicable and reasonably practicable.

Absolute duty
This is the highest level of duty and, often, occurs when the risk of injury is so high that injury is
inevitable unless safety precautions are taken. It is a rare requirement regarding physical safeguards,
although it was more common before 1992 when certain sections of the Factories Act 1961 were still in
force. No assessment of risk is required but the duty is absolute and the employer has no choice but to
undertake the duty. The verbs used in the Regulations are ‘must’ and ‘shall’. An example of this is
Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations concerning contact with a
rotating stock bar which projects beyond a headstock of a lathe. Although this duty is absolute, it may
still be defended using, for example, the argument that ‘all reasonable precautions and all due
diligence’ were taken. This particular defence is limited to certain health and safety regulations such as
The Electricity at Work Regulations and The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations.
Many of the health and safety management requirements contained in health and safety law place an

absolute duty on the employer. The need for written safety policies and risk assessments when
employee numbers rise above a basic threshold are examples of this.

This level of duty is more often used than the absolute duty as far as the provision of safeguards
is concerned and, in many ways, has the same effect. A duty that ‘the employer ensure, so far as is
practicable, that any control measure is maintained in an efficient state’ means that if the duty is
technically possible or feasible then it must be done irrespective of any difficulty, inconvenience or cost.
Examples of this duty may be found in the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations
(Regulation 11(2) (a and b)) and the Control of Lead at Work Regulations where Regulation 8 states,
‘Every employer who provides any control measure … shall ensure, so far as is practicable, that it is
maintained in an efficient state … in good repair …’.

Reasonably practicable
This is the most common level of duty in health and safety law and was defined by Judge
Asquith in Edwards v. the National Coal Board (1949) as follows: ‘Reasonably practicable’ is a narrower
term than ‘physically possible’, and seems to me to imply that computation must be made by the owner
in which the quantum of risk is placed on one scale and the sacrifice involved in the measures
necessary for averting the risk (whether in time, money or trouble) is placed in the other, and that, if it
be shown that there is a gross disproportion between them – the risk being insignificant in relation to
the sacrifice – the defendants discharge the onus on them. In other words, if the risk of injury is very
small compared to the cost, time and effort required to reduce the risk, then no action is necessary. It is
important to note that money, time and trouble must ‘grossly outweigh’ not balance the risk. This duty
requires judgment on the part of the employer (or his adviser) and clearly needs a risk assessment to
be undertaken with conclusions noted. Continual monitoring is also required to ensure that risks do not
increase. There are numerous examples of this level of duty, including the Manual Handling Operations
Regulations and The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations. If organizations follow
‘good practice’, defined by the HSE as ‘those standards which satisfy the law’, then they are likely to
satisfy the ‘reasonably practicable’ test. Approved codes of practice and guidance published by the
HSE describe and define many of these standards. The term ‘suitable and sufficient’ is used to define
the scope and extent required for health and safety risk assessment and may be interpreted in a similar
way to reasonably practicable.

1.1.4 The influence of the European Union (EU) on health and safety
As Britain is part of the European Union, much of the health and safety law originates in Europe.
Proposals from the European Commission may be agreed by member states. The member states are
then responsible for making them part of their domestic law. In Britain itself and in much of Europe,
health and safety law is based on the principle of risk assessment described above. The main role of
the EU in health and safety is to harmonize workplace and legal standards and remove barriers to trade
across member states. A directive from the EU is legally binding on each member state and must be
incorporated into the national law of each member state. Directives set out specific minimum aims
which must be covered within the national law. Some states incorporate Directives more speedily than
others. Directives are proposed by the European Commission, comprising 25 commissioners, who are
citizens of each of the member states. The proposed Directives are sent to the European Parliament
which is directly elected from the member states. The European parliament may accept, amend or
reject the proposed Directives. The proposed Directives are then passed to the Council of Ministers
who may accept the proposals on a qualified majority vote, unless the European Parliament has
rejected them, in which case, they can only be accepted on a unanimous vote of the Council.
The Council of Ministers consists of one senior Government minister from each of the member
states. The powers of the EU in health and safety law are derived from the Treaty of Rome 1957 and
the Single European Act 1986. For health and safety, the Single European Act added two additional
Articles – 100A and 118A. The 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam renumbered them as 95A and 138A
respectively. Article 95A is concerned with health and safety standards of equipment and plant and its
Directives are implemented in the UK by the Department of Trade and Industry. Article 138A is
concerned with minimum standards of health and safety in employment and its Directives are
implemented by the Health and Safety Commission/Executive. The objective of the Single European
Act 1986 is to produce a ‘level playing field’ for all member states so that goods and services can move
freely around the EU without any one state having an unfair advantage over another.
The harmonization of health and safety requirements across the EU is one example of the
‘level playing field’. The first introduction of an EU Directive into UK Health and Safety law occurred on
1 January 1993 when a Framework Directive on Health and Safety management and five daughter
directives were introduced using powers contained in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (Figure ).
These directives, known as the European Six Pack, covered the following areas:
‫ ݹ‬Management of Health and Safety at Work
‫ ݹ‬Workplace
‫ ݹ‬Provision and Use of Work Equipment
‫ ݹ‬Manual Handling
‫ ݹ‬Personal Protective Equipment

‫ ݹ‬Display Screen Equipment.

British Standard

European Style

1.1: Health and Safety Law Poster – must be displayed or brochure given to employees

1.1.5 The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

As mentioned earlier, on 1 January 1993, following an EC Directive, the Management of Health
and Safety at Work Regulations became law in the United Kingdom.In many ways the regulations were
not introducing concepts or replacing the 1974 Act – they simply reinforced or amended the
requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act. Some of the duties of employers and employees
were re-defined.

Employers’ duties
Employers must:
‫ ݹ‬Undertake suitable and sufficient written risk assessments when there are 5 or more employees
‫ ݹ‬Put in place effective arrangements for the planning, organization, control, monitoring and review of
health and safety measures in the workplace (including health surveillance). Such arrangements
should be recorded if there are more than four employees
‫ ݹ‬Employ (to be preferred) or contract competent persons to help them comply with health and safety

‫ ݹ‬Develop suitable emergency procedures. Ensure that employees and others are aware of these
procedures and can apply them
‫ ݹ‬Provide health and safety information to employees and others, such as other employers, the self
employed and their employees who are sharing the same workplace and parents of child
employees or those on work experience
‫ ݹ‬Co-operate in health and safety matters with other employers who share the same workplace
‫ ݹ‬Provide employees with adequate and relevant health and safety training
‫ ݹ‬Provide temporary workers and their contract agency with appropriate health and safety information
‫ ݹ‬Protect new and expectant mothers and young persons from particular risks
‫ ݹ‬Under certain circumstances, as outlined in Regulation 6, provide health surveillance for employees.
The information that should be supplied by employers under the regulations is:
‫ ݹ‬Risks identified by any risk assessments including those notified to him by other employers sharing
the same workplace
‫ ݹ‬The preventative and protective measures that are in place
‫ ݹ‬The emergency arrangements and procedures and the names of those responsible for the
implementation of the procedures. Finally, it is important to note that the regulations outline the
principles of prevention which employers and the self-employed need to apply so that health and
safety risks are addressed and controlled.

Employee’s duties
Employees must:
‫ ݹ‬Use any equipment or substance in accordance with any training or instruction given by the
‫ ݹ‬Report to the employer any serious or imminent danger
‫ ݹ‬Report any shortcomings in the employer’s protective health and safety arrangements.

1.1.6 Role and function of external agencies

The Health and Safety Commission, Health and Safety Executive and the Local Authorities (a
term used to cover County, District and Unitary Councils) are all external agencies which have a direct
role in the monitoring and enforcement of health and safety standards. There are, however, three other
external agencies which have a regulatory influence on health and safety standards in the workplace

Fire and Rescue Authority
The Fire and Rescue Authority is situated within a single or group of local authorities and is
normally associated with rescue, fire fighting and the offering of general advice. It has also been given
powers to enforce fire precautions within places of work under fire safety law. The powers of the
Authority are very similar to those of the HSE on health and safety matters. The Authority issues
alteration Notices to work places and conducts routine and random fire inspections (often to examine
fire risk assessments). It should be consulted during the planning stage of proposed building alterations
when such alterations may affect the fire safety of the building (e.g. means of escape). The Fire and
Rescue Authority can issue both Enforcement and Prohibition Notices. The Authority can prosecute for
offences against fire safety law.

Fig 1.2: The main external agencies that impact on the workspace.

The Environment Agency (Scottish Environmental Protection Agency)

The Environment Agency was established in 1995 and was given the duty to protect and
improve the environment. It is the regulatory body for environmental matters and has an influence on
health and safety issues. It is responsible for authorizing and regulating emissions from industry. Other
duties and functions of the agency include:
‫ ݹ‬Ensuring effective controls of the most polluting industries
‫ ݹ‬Monitoring radioactive releases from nuclear sites
‫ ݹ‬Ensuring that discharges to controlled waters are at acceptable levels

‫ ݹ‬Setting standards and issuing permits for the collection, transportation, processing and disposal of
waste (including radioactive waste)
‫ ݹ‬Enforcement of the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 1997.
These result from an EC Directive which seeks to minimize packaging and re-cycle at least 50% of it
‫ ݹ‬Enforcement of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive and its associated
directives. The Agency may prosecute in the criminal courts for the infringement of environmental
law – in one case a fine of £4 m was imposed.

Insurance companies
Insurance companies play an important role in the improvement of health and safety standards.
Since 1969, it has been a legal requirement for employers to insure against liability for injury or disease
to their employees arising out of their employment. This is called employers’ liability insurance ‘.Certain
public sector organizations are exempted from this requirement because any compensation is paid
from public funds. Other forms of insurance include fire insurance and public liability insurance (to
protect members of the public).
Premiums for all these types of insurance are related to levels of risk which is related to
standards of health and safety. In recent years, there has been a considerable increase in the number
and size of compensation claims and this has placed further pressure on insurance companies.
Insurance companies are becoming effective health and safety regulators by weighing the
premium offered to an organization according to its safety and/or fire precaution record.

1.1.7 The framework for health and safety management

Most of the key elements required for effective health and safety management are very similar
to those required for good quality, finance and general business management. Commercially
successful organizations usually have good health and safety management systems in place. The
principles of good and effective management provide a sound basis for the improvement of health and
safety performance.
HSE, in HSG 65, have identified five key elements involved in a successful health and safety
management system. The following Chapters will describe and discuss this framework in detail. The
five elements are:

1. Policy – A clear health and safety policy contributes to business efficiency and continuous
improvement throughout the operation. The demonstration of senior management involvement provides

evidence to all stakeholders that responsibilities to people and the environment are taken seriously.
The policy should state the intentions of the organization in terms of clear aims, objectives and targets.

2. Organizing – A well defined health and safety organization offering a shared understanding of the
organization’s values and beliefs, at all levels of the organization is an essential component of a
positive health and safety culture. An effective organization will be noted for good staff involvement and
participation; high quality communications; the promotion of competency; and the empowerment and
commitment of all employees to make informed contributions.

3. Planning and implementing – A clear health and safety plan involves the setting and
implementation of performance standards, targets and procedures through an effective health and
safety management system. The plan is based on risk assessment methods to decide on priorities and
set objectives for the effective control or elimination hazards and the reduction of risks. Measuring
success requires the establishment of practical plans and performance targets against which
achievements can be identified.

Fig1.3: Key elements of successful health and safety management.

4. Measuring performance – This includes both active (sometimes called proactive) and reactive
monitoring to see how effectively the health and safety management system is working. Active
monitoring involves looking at the premises, plant and substances plus the people, procedures and

systems. Reactive monitoring discovers through investigation of accidents and incidents why controls
have failed. It is also important to measure the organization against its own long term goals and

5. Reviewing performance – The results of monitoring and independent audits should be

systematically reviewed to evaluate the performance of the management system against the objectives
and targets established by the health and safety policy. It is at the review stage that the objectives and
targets set in the health and safety policy may be changed. Changes in the health and safety
environment in the organization, such as an accident, should also trigger a performance review.
Performance reviews are not only required by the HSW Act but are part of any organization’s
commitment to continuous improvement. Comparisons should be made with internal performance
indicators and the external performance indicators of similar organizations with exemplary practices
and high standards.

6. Auditing – An independent and structured audit of all parts of the health and safety management
system reinforces the review process. Such audits may be internal and external The audit assesses
compliance with the health and safety management arrangements and procedures. If the audit is to be
really effective, it must assess both the compliance with stated procedures and the performance in the
workplace. It will identify weaknesses in the health and safety policy and procedures and identify
unrealistic or inadequate standards and targets. The conclusions from an audit of an organization’s
health and safety performance should be included in the annual report for discussion at Board
meetings. This is considered best corporate practice.


Every branch of science, every profession, and every engineering process has its own language for
communication. Safety engineering is no different. To work even at the edge of safety engineering, you
must acquire a fundamental vocabulary of the components that make up the process of administering
safety engineering.
Administering safety engineering? Absolutely. Remember the safety engineer is—and must be—a
practitioner of safety—a specialized field.

1.2.1 Introduction
As Voltaire said: “If you wish to converse with me, define your terms.” In this chapter, we define the
terms or “tools” (concepts and ideas) used by safety engineers in applying their skills to make our
technological world safer. We present these concepts early in the text rather than later (as is

traditionally done in an end-of-book glossary), so you can become familiar with the terms early, before
the text approaches the issues those terms describe. The practicing safety engineer or student of
safety engineering should know these concepts—without them it is difficult (if not impossible) to
practice safety engineering. Several other chapters contain vocabulary specific to those more
specialized fields.
Safety engineering has extensive and unique terminology, most with well-defined meanings, but a few
terms [especially safety, accident, injuries, and engineering (as used in the safety context)] often are
not only poorly defined, but are defined from different and conflicting points of view. For our purpose,
we present the definitions of key terms, highlighting and explaining those poorly defined terms (showing
different views from different sides) where necessary.
We do not define every safety term—only those terms and concepts necessary to understand the
technical jargon presented in this text. For those practicing safety engineers and students of safety
engineering who want a complete, up-to-date, and accurate dictionary of terms, we recommend the
American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) text, The Dictionary of Terms Used in the Safety
Profession. This concise, informative, and valuable safety asset can be obtained from the ASSE at
1800 East Oakton Street, Des Plaines, IL 60018 (1-312-692-4121).

1.2.2 Safety Terminology

abatement period: The amount of time given to an employer to correct a hazardous condition that has
been cited.

absorption: The taking up of one substance by another, such as a liquid by a solid or a gas by a liquid.

accident: This term is often misunderstood and is often mistakenly used interchangeably with injury.
The meanings of the two terms are different, of course. Let’s look at the confusion caused by the
different definitions supplied to the term accident. A standard definition of accident is “a happening or
event that is not expected, foreseen, or intended.” Defined another way: “an accident is an event or
condition occurring by chance or arising from an unknown or remote cause.” The legal definition is: “an
unexpected happening causing loss or injury which is not due to any fault or misconduct on the part of
the person injured, yet entitles some kind of legal relief.” Are you confused? Stand by. This definition
will help clear your heads.
With rare exception, an accident is defined, explicitly or implicitly, by the unexpected occurrence of
physical or chemical change to an animate or inanimate structure. It is important to note that the term
covers only damage of certain types. Thus, if a person is injured by inadvertently ingesting poison, an
accident is said to have taken place; but if the same individual is injured by inadvertently ingesting

poliovirus, the result is but rarely considered accidental. This illustrates a curious inconsistency in the
approach to accidents as opposed to other sources of morbidity, one which continues to delay progress
in the field. In addition, although accidents are defined by the
unexpected occurrence of damage, it is the unexpectedness, rather than the production and prevention
of that damage per se, that has been emphasized by much of accident research. The approach is not
justified by present knowledge and is in sharp contrast to the approach to the causation and prevention
of other forms of damage, such as those produced by infectious organisms, where little, if any, attention
is paid to the unexpectedness of the insults
involved, and only their physical and biological nature is emphasized—with notable success.
Now you should have a better feel for what an accident really is; however, another definition, perhaps
one more applicable to our needs is provided by safety experts—the authors of the ASSE Dictionary of
Safety Terms, 1989. Let’s see how they define accident.
An accident is an unplanned and sometimes injurious or damaging event which interrupts the normal
progress of an activity and is invariably preceded by an unsafe act or unsafe condition thereof. An
accident may be seen as resulting from a failure to identify a hazard or from some inadequacy in an
existing system of hazard controls.
Based on applications in casualty insurance, an event that is definite in point of time and place but
unexpected as to either its occurrence or its results”
In this text we use the ASSE’s definition of accident.

accident analysis: (see accident investigation) A comprehensive, detailed review of the data and
information compiled from an accident investigation. An accident analysis should be used to determine
causal factors only, and not to point the finger of blame at anyone. Once the causal factors have been
determined, corrective measures should be prescribed to prevent recurrence.

accident prevention: The act of averting a circumstance that could cause loss or injury to a person.

accommodation: The ability of the eye to quickly and easily readjust to other focal points after viewing
a VDT so as to be able to focus on other objects, particularly objects at a distance.

acoustics: In general, the experimental and theoretical science of sound and its transmission; in
particular, that branch of science that has to do with the phenomena of sound in a particular space such
as a room or theater. Safety engineering is concerned with the technical control of sound, and involves
architecture and construction, studying control of vibration, soundproofing, and the elimination of
noise—to engineer out the noise hazard.

action level: Term used by OSHA and NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health —
a federal agency that conducts research on safety and health concerns) and defined in the Code of
Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 40, Protection of Environment. Under OSHA, “action level” is the level
of toxicant that requires medical surveillance, usually 50% of the PEL (Personal Exposure Level).

acute: Health effects that show up a short length of time after exposure. An acute exposure runs a
comparatively short course and its effects are easier to reverse than those of a chronic exposure.

acute toxicity: The discernible adverse effects induced in an organism within a short period of time
(days) of exposure to an agent.

adsorption: The taking up of a gas or liquid at the surface of another substance, usually a solid (e.g.,
activated charcoal adsorbs gases).

aerosols: Liquid or solid particles so small they can remain suspended in air long enough to be
transported over a distance.

air contamination: The result of introducing foreign substances into the air so as to make the air

air pollution: Contamination of the atmosphere (indoor or outdoor) caused by the discharge
(accidental or deliberate) of a wide range of toxic airborne substances.

air sampling: Safety engineers are interested in knowing what contaminants workers are exposed to,
and the contaminant concentrations. Determining the quantities and types of atmospheric contaminants
is accomplished by measuring and evaluating a representative sample of air. The types of air
contaminants that occur in the workplace depend upon the raw materials used and the processes
employed. Air contaminants can be divided into two broad groups, depending upon physical
characteristics: (1) gases and vapors and (2) particulates.

allergens: Because of the presence of allergens on spores, all molds studied to date have the potential
to cause allergic reaction in susceptible people. Allergic reactions are believed to be the most common
exposure reaction to molds (Rose, 1999).

ambient: Descriptive of any condition of the environment surrounding a given point. For example,
ambient air means that portion of the atmosphere, external to buildings, to which the general public has
access. Ambient sound is the sound generated by the environment.

asphyxiation: Suffocation from lack of oxygen. A substance (e.g., carbon monoxide), that combines
with hemoglobin to reduce the blood’s capacity to transport oxygen produces chemical asphyxiation.
Simple asphyxiation is the result of exposure to a substance (such as methane) that displaces oxygen.

atmosphere: In physics, a unit of pressure whereby 1 atmosphere (atm) equals 14.7 pounds per
square inch (psi).

attenuation: The reduction of the intensity at a designated first location as compared with intensity at a
second location, which is farther from the source (reducing the level of noise by increasing distance
from the source is a good example).

audible range: The frequency range over which normal hearing occurs—approximately 20 Hz through
20,000 Hz. Above the range of 20,000 Hz, the term “ultrasonic” is used. Below 20 Hz, the term
“subsonic” is used.

audiogram: A record of hearing loss or hearing level measured at several different frequencies—
usually 500 to 6000 Hz. The audiogram may be presented graphically or numerically. Hearing level is
shown as a function of frequency.

audiometric testing: Objective measuring of a person’s hearing sensitivity. By recording the response
to a measured signal, a person’s level of hearing sensitivity can be expressed in decibels, as related to
an audiometric zero, or no-sound base.

authorized person: (see competent or qualified person) A person designated or assigned by an

employer or supervisor to perform a specific type of duty or duties, to use specified equipment, and/or
to be present in a given location at specified times (for example, an authorized or qualified person is
used in confined space entry, discussed in detail in.

auto-ignition temperature: The lowest temperature at which a vapor-producing substance or a

flammable gas will ignite even without the presence of a spark or flame.

baghouse: Term commonly used for the housing containing bag filters for recovery of fumes from
arsenic, lead, sulfa, etc. There are many different trade meanings, however.

baseline data: Data collected prior to a project for later use in describing conditions before the project
began. Also commonly used to describe the first audiogram given (within six months) to a worker after
he or she has been exposed to the action level (85 dBA)—to establish his or her baseline for
comparison to subsequent audiograms.

bel: A unit equal to 10 decibels (see decibel).

benchmarking: A process for rigorously measuring company performance vs. “best-in-class”

companies, and using analysis to meet and exceed the best in class.

behavior-based management models: A management theory based on the work of B.F. Skinner, it
explains behavior in terms of stimulus, response, and consequences.

biological aerosols: Naturally occurring biologically generated and active particles, small enough to
become suspended in air. These include mold spores, pollen, viruses, bacteria, insect parts, animal
dander, etc.

biohazard: (biological hazard) Organisms or products of organisms that present a risk to humans.

boiler code: ANSI/ASME Pressure Vessel Code whereby a set of standards prescribing requirements
for the design, construction, testing, and installation of boilers and unfired pressure vessels.

Boyle’s Law: The product of a given pressure and volume is constant with a constant temperature.

carcinogen: A cancer-producing agent.

carpal tunnel syndrome: An injury to the median nerve inside the wrist, frequently caused by
ergonomically incorrect repetitive motion.

catalyst: A substance that alters the speed of, or makes possible, a chemical or biochemical reaction,
but remains unchanged at the end of the reaction.

catastrophe: A loss of extraordinarily large dimensions in terms of injury, death, damage, and

causal factor: (accident cause) A person, thing, or condition that contributes significantly to an
accident or to a project outcome.

Charles’s Law: The volume of a given mass of gas at constant pressure is directly proportional to its
absolute temperature (temperature in kelvin).

chemical change: Change that occurs when two or more substances (reactants) interact with each
other, resulting in the production of different substances (products) with different chemical
compositions. A simple example of chemical change is the burning of carbon in oxygen to produce
carbon dioxide.

chemical hazards: Includes hazardous chemicals conveyed in various forms: mists, vapors, gases,
dusts, and fumes.

chemical spill: An accidental dumping, leakage, or splashing of a harmful or potentially harmful


chronic: Persistent, prolonged, repeated. Chronic exposure occurs when repeated exposure to or
contact with a toxic substance occurs over a period of time, the effects of which become evident only
after multiple exposures.

coefficient of friction: A numerical correlation of the resistance of one surface against another

combustible gas indicator: An instrument that samples air and indicates whether an explosive
mixture is present, and the percentage of the lower explosive limit (LEL) of the air-gas mixture that has
been reached.

combustible liquid: Liquids having a flash point at or above 37.8°C (100°F).

combustion: Burning, defined in chemical terms as the rapid combination of a substance with oxygen,
accompanied by the evolution of heat and usually light.

competent person: As defined by OSHA, one who is capable of recognizing and evaluating employee
exposure to hazardous substances or to unsafe conditions, and who is capable of specifying protective
and precautionary measures to be taken to ensure the safety of employees as required by particular
OSHA regulations under the conditions to which such regulations apply.

confined space: A vessel, compartment, or any area having limited access and (usually) no alternate
escape route, having severely limited natural ventilation or an atmosphere containing less that 19.5
percent oxygen, and having the capability of accumulating a toxic, flammable, or explosive atmosphere,
or of being flooded (engulfing a victim).

containment: In fire terminology, restricting the spread of fire. For chemicals, restricting chemicals to
an area that is diked or walled off to protect personnel and the environment.

contingency plan: (commonly called the emergency response plan) Under CFR 40 §260.10, a
document that sets forth an organized, planned, and coordinated course of action to be followed in the
event of an emergency that could threaten human health or the environment.

convection: The transfer of heat from one location to another by way of a moving medium, including
air and water.

corrosive material: Any material that dissolves metals or other materials, or that burns the skin.

cumulative injury: Any physical or psychological disability that results from the combined effects of
related injuries or illnesses in the workplace.

cumulative trauma disorder: A disorder caused by the highly repetitive motion required of one or
more parts of a worker’s body which, in some cases, can result in moderate to total disability.

Dalton’s Law of Partial Pressures: In a mixture of theoretically ideal gases, the pressure exerted by
the mixture is the sum of the pressures exerted by each component gas of the mixture.

Decibel (dB): A unit of measure used originally to compare sound intensities and subsequently
electrical or electronic power outputs; now also used to compare voltages. In hearing conservation, a
logarithmic unit used to express the magnitude of a change in level of sound intensity.

Decontamination: The process of reducing or eliminating the presence of harmful substances such as
infectious agents, to reduce the likelihood of disease transmission from those substances.

Density: A measure of the compactness of a substance; it is equal to its mass per unit volume and is
measure in kg per cubic meter/LB per cubic foot (D = mass/Volume).

Dermatitis: Inflammation or irritation of the skin from any cause. Industrial dermatitis is an occupational
skin disease.

Design load: The weight that can be safely supported by a floor, equipment, or structure, as defined by
its design characteristics.

Dike: An embankment or ridge of either natural or man-made materials used to prevent the movement
of liquids, sludges, solids, or other materials.

Dilute: Adding material to a chemical by the user or manufacturer to reduce the concentration of active
ingredient in the mixture.

Dose: An exposure level. Exposure is expressed as weight or volume of test substance per volume of
air (mg/l), or as parts per million (ppm).

Dosimeter: Measuring tool that provides a time-weighted average over a period of time such as one
complete work shift.

Dusts: Various types of solid particles produced when a given type of organic or inorganic material is
scraped, sawed, ground, drilled, heated, crushed, or otherwise deformed.

Electrical grounding: Precautionary measures designed into an electrical installation to eliminate

dangerous voltages in and around the installation, and to operate protective devices in case of current
leakage from energized conductors to their enclosures.

Emergency Plan: See contingency plan.

Emergency Response: The response made by firefighters, police, health care personnel, and/or other
emergency service workers upon notification of a fire, chemical spill, explosion, or other incident in
which human life and/or property may be in jeopardy.

Energized (“live”): The conductors of an electrical circuit. Having voltage applied to such conductors
and to surfaces that a person might touch; having voltage between such surfaces and other surfaces
that might complete a circuit and allow current to flow.

Energy: The capacity for doing work. Potential energy (PE) is energy deriving from position; thus a
stretched spring has elastic PE, and an object raised to a height above the earth’s surface, or the water
in an elevated reservoir, has gravitational PE. A lump of coal and a tank of oil, together with oxygen
needed for their combustion, have chemical energy. Other sorts of energy include electrical and nuclear
energy, light, and sound. Moving bodies possess kinetic energy (KE). Energy can be converted from
one form to another, but the total quantity stays the same (in accordance with the conservation of
energy principle). For example, as an orange falls, it loses gravitational PE, but gains KE.

Engineering: The application of scientific principles to the design and construction of structures,
machines, apparatuses, manufacturing processes, and power generation and utilization, for the
purpose of satisfying human needs. Safety engineering is concerned with control of environment and
humankind’s interface with it, especially safety interaction with machines, hazardous materials, and

Engineering Controls: Methods of controlling employee exposures by modifying the source or

reducing the quantity of contaminants released into the workplace environment.

Epidemiological Theory: This theory holds that the models used for studying and determining
epidemiological relationships can also be used to study causal relationships between environmental
factors and accidents or diseases.

Ergonomics: A multidisciplinary activity dealing with interactions between man and his total working
environment, plus stresses related to such environmental elements as atmosphere, heat, light, and
sound, as well as all tools and equipment of the workplace.

Etiology: The study or knowledge of the causes of disease.

Exposure: Contact with a chemical, biological, or physical hazard.

Exposure ceiling: The concentration level of a given substance that should not be exceeded at any
point during an exposure period.

Fall arresting system: A system consisting of a body harness, a lanyard or lifeline, and an arresting
mechanism with built-in shock absorber, designed for use by workers performing tasks in locations from
which falls would be injurious or fatal, or where other kinds of protection are not practical.

Fire: A chemical reaction between oxygen and a combustible fuel.

Flammable liquid: Any liquid having a flash point below 37.8°C (100°F).

Flammable solid: A non-explosive solid liable to cause fire through friction, absorption of moisture,
spontaneous chemical change, or heat retained from a manufacturing process, or that can be ignited
readily and when ignited, burns so vigorously and persistently as to create a serious hazard.

Flash point: The lowest temperature at which a liquid gives off enough vapor to form an ignitable
moisture with air, and produce a flame when a source of ignition is present. Two tests are used—
open cup and closed cup.

Foot-candle: A unit of illumination. The illumination at a point on a surface one foot from, and
perpendicular to, a uniform point source of one candle.

Fume: Airborne particulate matter formed by the evaporation of solid materials, e.g., metal fume
emitted during welding. Usually less than one micron in diameter.

Gas: A state of matter in which the material has very low density and viscosity, can expand and
contract greatly in response to changes in temperature and pressure, easily diffuses into other gases,
and readily and uniformly distributes itself throughout any container.

Grounded system: A system of conductors in which at least one conductor or point is intentionally
grounded, either solidly or through a current-limiting (current transformer) device.

Ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI): A sensitive device intended for shock protection, which
functions to de-energize an electrical circuit or portion thereof within a fraction of a second, incase of
leakage to ground of current sufficient to be dangerous to persons but less than that required to operate
the overcurrent protective device of the circuit.

Hazard: The potential for an activity, condition, circumstance, or changing conditions or circumstances
to produce harmful effects. Also, an unsafe condition.

Hazard Analysis: A systematic process for identifying hazards and recommending corrective action.

Hazard Assessment: A qualitative evaluation of potential hazards in the interrelationships between

and among the elements of a system, upon the basis of which the occurrence probability of each
identified hazard is rated.

Hazard Communication Standard (HazCom): An OSHA workplace standard found in 29 CFR

1910.1200 that requires all employers to become aware of the chemical hazards in their workplace
and relay that information to their employees. In addition, a contractor conducting work at a client’s site
must provide chemical information to the client regarding the chemicals that are brought onto the work

Hazard and Operability (HAZOP) Analysis: A systematic method in which process hazards and
potential operating problems are identified, using a series of guide words to investigate process

Hazard Identification: The pinpointing of material, system, process, and plant characteristics that can
produce undesirable consequences through the occurrence of an accident.

Hazard Control: A means of reducing the risk from exposure to a hazard.

Hazardous Material: Any material possessing a relatively high potential for harmful effects upon

Hazardous Substance: Any substance which has the potential for causing injury by reason of its being
explosive, flammable, toxic, corrosive, oxidizing, irritating, or otherwise harmful to personnel.

Hazardous Waste: A solid, liquid, or gaseous waste that may cause or significantly contribute to
serious illness or death, or that poses a substantial threat to human health or the environment when the
waste is improperly managed.

Hearing Conservation: The prevention of, or minimizing of noise-induced deafness through the use of
hearing protection devices, the control of noise through engineering controls, annual audiometric tests,
and employee training.

Heat Cramps: A type of heat stress (a possible side-effect of dehydration) that occurs as a result of
salt and potassium depletion.

Heat Exhaustion: A condition usually caused by loss of body water from exposure to excess heat.
Symptoms include headache, tiredness, nausea, and sometimes fainting.

Heatstroke: A serious disorder resulting from exposure to excess heat. It results from sweat
suppression and increased storage of body heat, characterized by high fever, collapse, and sometimes
convulsions or coma.

Homeland Security: Federal cabinet level department created to protect the United States of America
and its citizens as a result of September 11. The new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has
three primary missions: Prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, reduce America’s vulnerability
to terrorism, and minimize the damage from potential attacks and natural disasters.

Hot Work: Work involving electric or gas welding, cutting, brazing, or similar flame or spark producing

Human Factor Engineering: (used in the United States) ergonomics: (used in Europe)-for practical
purposes, the terms are synonymous, and focus on human beings and their interaction with products,
equipment, facilities, procedures, and environments used in work and everyday living. The emphasis is
on human beings (as opposed to engineering, where the emphasis is more strictly on technical
engineering considerations) and how the design of things influences people. Human factors, then, seek
to change the things people use and the environments in which they use these things to better match
the capabilities, limitations, and needs of people (Sanders and McCormick, 1993).

Ignition Temperature: The temperature at which a given fuel bursts into flame.

Illumination: The amount of light flux a surface receives per unit area. May be expressed in lumens
per square foot or in foot-candles.

Impulse Noise: A noise characterized by rapid rise time, high peak value, and rapid decay.

Incident: An undesired event that, under slightly different circumstances, could have resulted in
personal harm or property damage; any undesired loss of resources.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ): The effect, good or bad, of the contents of the air inside a structure on its
occupants. While usually temperature (too hot and cold), humidity (too dry or too damp), and air
velocity (draftiness or motionless) are considered “comfort” rather than indoor air quality issues, IAQ
refers to such problems as asbestosis, sick building syndrome, biological aerosols, ventilation issues
concerning dusts, fumes, and so forth.

Industrial Hygiene: The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) defines industrial hygiene as
“that science and art devoted to the anticipation, recognition, evaluation, and control of those
environmental factors or stresses—arising in the workplace—which may cause sickness, impaired
health and well-being, or significant discomfort and inefficiency among workers or among citizens of the

Ingestion: Entry of a foreign substance into the body through the mouth.

Injury: A wound or other specific damage.

Interlock: A device that interacts with another device or mechanism to govern succeeding operations.
For example: an interlock on an elevator door prevents the car from moving unless the door is properly

Ionizing Radiation: Radiation that becomes electrically charged (i.e., changed into ions).

Irritant: A substance that produces an irritating effect when it contacts skin, eyes, nose, or respiratory

Job Hazard Analysis: (also called job safety analysis) The breaking down into its component parts of
any method or procedure to determine the hazards connected therewith and the requirements for
performing it safely.

Kinetic Energy: The energy resulting from a moving object.

Laboratory Safety Standard: A specific hazard communication program for laboratories, found in 29
CFR 1910.1450. These regulations are essentially a blend of hazard communication and emergency
response for laboratories. The cornerstone of the Lab Safety Standard is the requirement for a written
Chemical Hygiene Plan.

Lockout/Tagout Procedure: An OSHA procedure found in 29 CFR 1910.147. A tag or lock is used to
“tag out” or “lock out” a device, so that no one can inadvertently actuate the circuit, system, or
equipment that is temporarily out of service.

Log and Summary of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA-200 Log, OSHA-300 Log): A
cumulative record that employers (generally of more than 10 employees) are required to maintain,
showing essential facts of all reportable occupational injuries and illnesses.

Loss: The degradation of a system or component. Loss is best understood when related to dollars lost.
Examples include death or injury to a worker, destruction or impairment of facilities or machines,
destruction or spoiling of raw materials, and creation of delay. In the insurance business, loss connotes
dollar loss, and we have seen underwriters who write it as LO$$ to make that point.

Lower Explosive Limit (LEL): The minimum concentration of a flammable gas in air required for
ignition in the presence of an ignition source. Listed as a percent by volume in air.

Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS): Chemical information sheets provided by the chemical
manufacturer that include information such as: chemical and physical characteristics; long and short
term health hazards; spill control procedures; personal protective equipment (PPE) to be used when
handling the chemical; reactivity with other chemicals; incompatibility with other chemicals; and
manufacturer’s name, address, and phone number. Employee access to and understanding of MSDS
are important parts of the HazCom Program.

Medical Monitoring: The initial medical exam of a worker, followed by periodic exams. The purpose of
medical monitoring is to assess workers’ health, determine their fitness to wear personal protective
equipment, and maintain records of their health.

Metabolic Heat: Produced within a body as a result of activity that burns energy.

Mists: Minute liquid droplets suspended in air.

Molds: The most typical forms of fungus found on earth, comprising approximately 25 percent of the
earth’s biomass (McNeel and Kreutzer, 1996).

Monitoring: Periodic or continuous surveillance or testing to determine the level of compliance with
statutory requirements and/or pollutant levels, in various media, or in humans, animals, or other living

Mycotoxins: Some molds are able to produce mycotoxins, natural organic compounds that are
capable of initiating a toxic response in vertebrates (McNeel and Kreutzer, 1996).

Nonionizing Radiation: That radiation on the electromagnet spectrum that has a frequency of 1015 or
less and a wavelength in meters of 3 × 10-7.

Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act): A federal law passed in 1970 to assure, so far as
possible, every working man and woman in the nation safe and healthful working conditions. To
achieve this goal, the act authorizes several functions, such as encouraging safety and health
programs in the workplace and encouraging labor-management cooperation in health and safety

Oxidation: When a substance either gains oxygen, or loses hydrogen or electrons in a chemical
reaction. One of the chemical treatment methods.

Oxidizer: Also know as an oxidizing agent, a substance that oxidizes another substance. Oxidizers are
a category of hazardous materials that may assist in the production of fire by readily yielding oxygen.

Oxygen deficient atmospheres: The legal definition of an atmosphere where the oxygen
concentration is less than 19.5% by volume of air.

Particulate matter: Substances (such as diesel soot and combustion products resulting from the
burning of wood) released directly into the air; any minute, separate particle of liquid or solid material.

Performance Standards: A form of OSHA regulation standards that lists the ultimate goal of
compliance, but does not explain exactly how compliance is to be accomplished. Compliance is usually
based on accomplishing the act or process in the safest manner possible, based on experience (past

Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL): The time-weighted average concentration of an airborne
contaminant that a healthy worker may be exposed to 8-hours per day or 40-hours per week without
suffering any adverse health effects. Established by legal means and enforceable by OSHA.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Any material or device worn to protect a worker from
exposure to or contact with any harmful substance or force.

Preliminary Assessment: A quick analysis to determine how serious the situation is, and to identify
all potentially responsible parties. The preliminary assessment uses readily available information; for
instance, forms, records, aerial photographs, and personnel interviews.

Pressure: The force exerted against an opposing fluid or thrust, distributed over a surface.

Radiant Heat: The result of electromagnetic nonionizing energy that is transmitted through space
without the movement of matter within that space.

Radiation: Energetic nuclear particles, including alpha rays, beta rays, gamma rays, e-rays, neutrons,
high-speed electrons, and high-speed protons.

Reactive: A substance that reacts violently by catching on fire, exploding, or giving off fumes when
exposed to water, air, or low heat.

Reactivity Hazard: The ability of a material to release energy when in contact with water. Also, the
tendency of a material, when in its pure state or as a commercially produced product, to vigorously
polymerize, decompose, condense, or otherwise self-react and undergo violent chemical change.

Reportable Quantity (RQ): The minimum amount of a hazardous material that, if spilled while in
transport, must be reported immediately to the National Response Center. Minimum reportable
quantities range from 1 pound to 5,000 pounds per 24 hour day.

Risk: The combination of the expected frequency (event/year) and consequence (effects/event) of a
single accident or a group of accidents; the result of a loss-probability occurrence and the acceptability
of that loss.

Risk Assessment: A process that uses scientific principles to determine the level of risk that actually
exists in a contaminated area.

Risk Characterization: The final step in the risk assessment process, it involves determining a
numerical risk factor. This step ensures that exposed populations are not at significant risk.

Risk Management: The professional assessment of all loss potentials in an organization’s structure
and operations, leading to the establishment and administration of a comprehensive loss control

Safety: A general term denoting an acceptable level of risk of, relative freedom from, and low
probability of harm.

Safety Factor: Based on experimental data, the amount added (e.g., 1000-fold) to ensure worker
health and safety.

Safety Standard: A set of criteria specifically designed to define a safe product, practice, mechanism,
arrangement, process, or environment, produced by a body representative of all concerned interests,
and based upon currently available scientific and empirical knowledge concerning the subject or scope
of the standard.

Secondary Containment: A method using two containment systems so that if the first is breached, the
second will contain all of the fluid in the first. For USTs, secondary containment consists of either a
double-walled tank or a liner system.

Security Assessment: A security test intensified in scope and effort, the purpose of which is to obtain
an advanced and very accurate idea of how well the organization has implemented security
mechanisms, and to some degree, policy.

Sensitizers: Chemicals that in very low dose trigger an allergic response.

Short Term Exposure Limit (STEL): The time-weighted average concentration to which workers can
be exposed continuously for a short period of time (typically 15 minutes) without suffering irritation,
chronic or irreversible tissue damage, or impairment for self-rescue.

Silica: Crystalline silica (SiO2) is a major component of the earth’s crust and the cause of silicosis.

Specific Gravity: The ratio of the densities of a substance to water.

Threshold Limit Value (TLV): The same concept as PEL, except that TLVs do not have the force of
governmental regulations behind them, but are based on recommended limits established and
promoted by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists.

Time-Weighted Average (TWA): A mathematical average [(exposure in ppm × time in hours) ¼ time
in hrs. = time weighted average in ppm] of exposure concentration over a specific time.

Total Quality Management (TQM): A way of managing a company that entails a total and willing
commitment of all personnel at all levels to quality.

Toxicity: The relative property of a chemical agent with reference to a harmful effect on some biologic
mechanism and the condition under which this effect occurs. The quality of being poisonous.

Toxicology: The study of poisons, which are substances that can cause harmful effects to living things.

Unsafe Condition: Any physical state that deviates from that which is acceptable, normal, or correct
in terms of past production or potential future production of personal injury and/or damage to property;
any physical state that results in a reduction in the degree of safety normally present.

Upper Explosive Limit (UEL): The maximum concentration of a flammable gas in air required for
ignition in the presence of an ignition source.

Vulnerability Assessment: A very regulated, controlled, cooperative, and documented evaluation of

an organization’s security posture from outside-in and inside-out, for the purpose of defining or greatly
enhancing security policy.

Workers’ Compensation: A system of insurance required by state law and financed by employers that
provides payments to employees and their families for occupational illnesses, injuries, or fatalities
incurred while at work and resulting in loss of wage income, usually regardless of the employer’s or
employee’s negligence.

Zero Energy State: The state of equipment in which every power source that can produce movement
of a part of the equipment, or the release of energy, has been rendered inactive.

Although the preceding definitions are in no way “all inclusive,” they do provide the student of safety
with some fundamental concepts important for understanding the material to follow, and should help
when talking with others in the field and in solving safety problems.


Even though life has improved and been extended, citizens of the United States pay a high price for
their high-technology life-style. Each year there are over 100,000 accidental deaths and nearly 11
million disabling injuries. The cost of all accidents in the United States is about $100 billion annually,
excluding some indirect costs and the value resulting from pain and suffering. Accidents are the leading
cause of death for people aged 1 through 44. For those aged 45 or older the accidental death rate
increases rapidly with age. Only heart disease, cancer and stroke exceed it. For the total population,
the two leading causes of accidental death are motor vehicles and falls. Although the accidental death
rate in the United States has declined from about 85-90 per 100,000 population in 1910 to below 50
today, the actual number of accidental deaths has increased over the same period.-Brauer

1.3.1 Introduction
That working conditions, occupations, some diseases, and shortened life expectancy are connected
has long been known. Lead poisoning, for example, was recognized as early as the fourth century BC.
In the first century AD, Pliny the Elder, in his Historica Naturalis, pointed out that dust from mercury ore
grinding and fumes from lead are hazardous. In more recent times, exposure to a myriad of job hazards
has increased in many occupations. The connection between job-type, disease, and life expectancy is
made clear by Cohen (1984), who pointed out that the difference in average life expectancy in United
States industries varies dramatically based on occupation. For example, workers employed in clothing
manufacturing and communication typically outlive (up to five years longer on average) firemen,
policemen, truckers, and coal miners.

Few would dispute that technological advancements have created many changes in society from the
fourth century to the present. Disputing the fact that technological advances have improved society
would be equally difficult. In the workplace, the introduction of robotics in manufacturing, for example,
has increased productivity and quality of products produced. For most of us, automation and industrial
safety improvements have made our lives easier. Medical advances made possible through micro-
miniaturization sometimes seem miraculous, allowing doctors to save the lives of people who, only a
few years before, would have died of the same ailments.

These advances are not without cost, though. Technological advances have incited many changes that
have created new economic, social, political, environmental, and safety and health problems. The old
saying goes: Every problem has a solution. Today we might add: Every solution creates new problems.

Probably the easiest way to understand the benefit and the “cost” of technological advancement (in
terms of creating hazards) is to illustrate by example. Widespread use of electricity has occurred in the
U. S. within the 20th century. Few people today (especially those who remember what living without it
was like) would argue against its merits. Electricity has been amazingly beneficial, touching every
aspect of our lives, from modern refrigeration to thousands of products that we now take for granted—
lighting, heating, cooling, machine operation, a source of power to operate most of our household
appliances, to computers. Few would want to do away with electricity. If you had to list all the benefits
to human kind derived from the use of electricity, you’d have a long list—and you could never be sure
you’d gotten everything. Explaining how our lives would be different without electricity would also be
close to impossible, because we simply have lived with it too long—we have gotten used to electricity,
and are dependent on it. We accept electricity as a fact of life, and take for it granted, ignoring the fact
that millions of people in the world still live without it.

However, as a technological advance, electricity has a cost. While the introduction of electricity solved
many problems for us and improved quality of life in the U.S., it also created certain problems. Before
the introduction of electricity, very few people (excepting those struck by lightning) died by accidental
electrocution. Fires ignited by electricity from lightning storms were not uncommon, but not as common
as fires from other ignition sources—now, electricity causes more fires than any other single source.

Electricity has been a boon to civilization as we know it today—no question about that. The point?
While technological advancements can improve society, they can also be detrimental. We tend not to
pay attention to the detrimental aspects when the benefits outweigh the costs.

As safety engineers, when we think about the monetary, physical, and environmental costs of
technology, it seems rather ironic that the myriad of technological advancements that we have
developed over the years were primarily developed via engineering, by engineers. We now call upon
engineering and engineers to design and construct innovative technology that is not only safe to use,
but also safe to be around (e.g., nuclear power plants). In particular, we are concerned about safety
and health in the workplace, since many of the technological advances made are designed for the
workplace—designed to make work easier, faster, more productive, more economical, and hopefully
safer. As Grimaldi (1980) points out, “if two certainties in life are death and taxes, surely a third is daily
exposure to hazards.” True—but were workplaces any safer before?

1.3.2 Industrial Safety
During the 1800s and through the early stages of the Industrial Revolution, industrial safety was often
ignored in the United States. The exception to this practice was in fire protection. Fire was a common
problem (with devastating results) in factories of that day, and with a healthy push from the factory
insurance companies, the National Board of Fire Underwriters was formed in 1866. Insurance
companies understood the need for factory fire prevention inspections, and employed their own teams
of inspectors to ensure that factories were inspected periodically to improve protection—and reduce
financial losses.
Massachusetts was the first state to recognize the need for pursuing safety and health guidelines for
the workplace. Based on the British model, the Commonwealth passed factory acts covering the
general provisions of the British laws. Included in these laws was the provision for the inspection of
factories and public buildings. Also included was an important provision related to providing guards on
dangerous machinery—specifically on shafting, gearing, belting, and drums.
Interestingly, cleanliness and air quality was also addressed. Other provisions were provided for
ensuring the safe operation of elevators and hoistways. All establishments of three or more stories in
height were required to have fire escapes. Certain doors in manufacturing establishments (and in other
places people congregate as well) were directed to open outward. Currently, regulatory provisions
intended to protect workers and the public from safety and hazards have been enacted in every state
(Grimaldi and Simonds, 1989).

Actually, the fear of regulatory intervention by the government on business owners spurred on the early
workplace safety and health movement. The last thing the business owners wanted was for the
government to burden them with regulations.

Other groups worked to push safety and health issues for workers to the forefront. Along with the
government, these included organized labor (e.g., in 1890, the United Mine Workers organized to
demand shorter hours, increased pay, and improved safety conditions). Industry itself made a move
toward safety and health in the workplace (they came to the realization that money could be saved if
lives and limbs were protected). Voluntary safety organizations (such as the American Public Health
Association) advanced the safety movement. Some of these reforms were successful, others were less
so (see Case Study 2.1), but worker health and safety issues became important industrial

One of the most influential early books on industrial safety was written by H. W. Heinrich, published in
1931. Heinrich (the father of safety theory) maintained that accidents result from unsafe actions and
unsafe conditions. Heinrich postulated that people cause far more accidents than unsafe conditions do,
and that accidents result from a sequence of events:
1. Social environment
2. Fault of a person
3. Unsafe condition or act
4. Accident
5. Injury
Though many modern safety professionals question some of Heinrich’s ideas, he began the effort to
develop the conceptual, theoretical framework that was required in making society view safety as a true


The working conditions of the seamstress in 19th century England received a great deal of concern and
attention in the media of the day, but actual reform came very slowly. Victorian women had little choice
of career—nanny or governess positions, shop positions, servant occupations, certain kinds of factory
work, and dressmaking were often the only legitimate jobs a woman might be qualified (or allowed) to
do. Of these, dressmaking was frequently the only choice possible, because while educational effort
was seldom spent on girls until mandatory educational requirements went into effect around the turn of
the century, virtually every girl learned how to sew.

Because most women could sew, the potential labor force was huge. In London in 1851, there were
between 15,000 and 20,000 seamstresses working. Since competition for jobs was steep, and because
people wanted to buy their goods as cheaply as possible, wages were often inadequate. Working
conditions were generally dreadful (only the first-rate houses cared to treat their employees well—they
hired top quality workers and expected to keep them), and by the nature of the profession, many
women gained little more than life-long ill health from their labor.
Comfortable hand sewing requires only a few necessities: good lighting and ventilation, comfortable
straight furniture, and frequent chances for movement. But 19th century custom houses frequently
ignored these considerations. The custom houses fed, housed, and worked their apprenticed help as
they pleased, in conditions that ranged from reasonable in first class establishments, to places with
living quarters where the women slept five to a bed. At the height of the social season, when the
houses were at their busiest, women would commonly work 18 to 20 hours per day for weeks on end,
to finish overbooked orders. To finish special projects, they might work around the clock and into the

next day. With bad lighting, stuffy quarters, no chance for exercise, and little food, the health of these
women suffered.
High fashion also created problems for seamstresses. When the sewing machine came into general
use in the mid-1860s, a logical expectation was that more could be accomplished faster. Soon the
sewing machine was used to create clothing with more fine detail—such as pleats, ruffles, lace, braid
and trimmings—as a display of caste and wealth. Production time actually increased.
Their work caused many of the health problems prevalent within the group. Lack of fresh air (the
gaslights used for illumination consumed as much of the available air as five adults—for each light), no
exercise, the bent-over posture, as well as breathing lint and fiber particles, caused many women to
develop respiratory problems, sometimes compounded by organic poisoning from inhaled toxins.

TB was quite common, and internal distresses caused by bad posture, tight corseting, and bad food
gradually took their toll on the workers’ health. Blindness, headaches, nervous exhaustion, anemia,
faintness, and chronic fatigue were other side effects. In The Ghost in the Looking Glass, Christina
Walkley quotes 19th century medical experts, who agree that “no life style was better calculated to
destroy health and induce early death” (p. 32).

The upbringing that most Victorian women shared also created part of their problems. Brought up to
depend on men, these women were terribly unsophisticated when dealing with money and for their
rights. They had no organized lobby behind them. Factories employed larger numbers of people, and
had a formal internal structure, with a recognizable chain of command. Custom houses were generally
run by a single owner with only a few employees on site. Many seamstresses relied on piecework
employment, and often the only way to find piecework would involve a middleman, who could easily
skim his portion of already meager wages. Since often this was a woman’s only possible source of
income, and the job market was full, she had little recourse. She could work at the wages offered—or

In 1843, Punch published Thomas Hood’s “Song of the Shirt,” a poem that inspired much pity, but little
reform. Between the private homes that housed the custom houses, the amount of untraceable
piecework farmed out to individuals, and the fear of job-loss for those who were working, concrete proof
significant enough to pass legislation was difficult to obtain. Conditions did not become easier until long
after the turn of the century, when World War I changed clothing styles radically enough to allow
factory-made clothing to become the norm. By 1918, the Trade Boards Acts established hour and wage
regulations. But even today, immigrant workers in the U.S. suffer many of the same sweatshop
conditions as those Victorian seamstresses, with as little recourse. Sweatshop factories exist in most
third world countries, often using children to produce fashionable clothing inexpensively for companies

in industrialized nations. Nike, and Kathy Lee (Crosby) Gifford’s clothing line have been tied to
sweatshops and third world children’s labor, and stories about the plight of deaf Mexican immigrants in
U.S. sweatshops have all made national news.

Much progress has been made in the last 50 years to protect the safety, health, and well-being of
workers. The changes have been significant. No doubt, laws, regulations, and the provisions for their
enforcement have significantly eased the occurrence of on-the-job injuries and illnesses. However, the
jury is still out on ruling whether the results have been satisfactory or not.
Much of the success of any company’s safety program rests squarely on the shoulders of the safety
engineer. Remember, many out there in the working world misunderstand the scope, import, and
significance of the safety engineer’s task. When we say that the safety engineer must be—and is—a
Jack or Jill of all trades, we include in this succinct definition the qualities required of a peace negotiator
as well. Rules and regulations are easy to enact. Convincing those responsible to comply is much more

2.1.1 Introduction
Every organization should have a clear policy for the management of health and safety so that
everybody associated with the organization is aware of its health and safety aims and objectives. For a
policy to be effective, it must be honored in the spirit as well as the letter. A good health and safety
policy will also enhance the performance of the organization in areas other than health and safety, help
with the personal development of the workforce and reduce financial losses.

2.1.2 Legal requirements

Section 2(3) of the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Employers’ Health and Safety Policy
Statements (Exception) Regulations 1975 require employers, with five or more employees, to prepare
and revise on a regular basis a written health and safety policy together with the necessary
organization and arrangements to carry it out and to bring the statement and any revision of it to the
notice of their employees. This does not mean that organizations with four or less employees do not
need to have a safety policy – it simply means that it does not have to be written down. The number of
employees is the maximum number at any one time whether they are full time, part time or seasonal.
This obligation on employers was introduced for the first time by the HSW Act and is related to the
reliance in the Act on self-regulation by employers to improve health and safety standards rather than
on enforcement alone. A good health and safety policy involves the development, monitoring and
review of the standards needed to address and reduce the risks to health and safety produced by the
organization. The law requires that the written health and safety policy should include the following
three sections:
‫ ݹ‬A health and safety policy statement of intent which includes the health and safety aims and
objectives of the organization
‫ ݹ‬The health and safety organization detailing the people with health and safety responsibilities and
their duties
‫ ݹ‬The health and safety arrangements in place in terms of systems and procedures.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations also requires the employer to
‘make and give effect to such arrangements as are appropriate, having regard to the nature of his
activities and the size of his undertaking, for the effective planning, organization, control, monitoring
and review of the preventative and protective measures.’ It further requires that these arrangements
must be recorded when there are five or more employees. When an inspector from the HSE or Local

Authority visits an establishment, it is very likely that they will wish to see the health and safety policy as
an initial indication of the management attitude to health and safety. There have been instances of
prosecutions being made due to the absence of a written health and safety policy. (Such cases are,
however, usually brought before the courts because of additional concerns.)

2.1.3 Key elements of a health and safety policy

Policy statement of intent
The health and safety policy statement of intent is often referred to as the health and safety
policy statement or simply (and incorrectly) as the health and safety policy. It should contain the aims
(which are not measurable) and objectives (which are measurable) of the organization or company.
Aims will probably remain unchanged during policy revisions whereas objectives will be reviewed and
modified or changed each year. The statement should be written in clear and simple language so that it
is easily understandable. It should also be fairly brief and broken down into a series of smaller
statements or bullet points. The statement should be signed and dated by the most senior person in the
organization. This will demonstrate management commitment to health and safety and give authority to
the policy. It will indicate where ultimate responsibility lies and the frequency with which the policy
statement is reviewed.
The policy statement should be written by the organization and not by external consultants since
it needs to address the specific health and safety issues and hazards within the organization. In large
organizations, it may be necessary to have health and safety policies for each department and/or site
with an overarching general policy incorporating the individual policies. Such an approach is often used
by local authorities and multinational companies.
The following points should be included or considered when a health and safety policy statement is
being drafted:
‫ ݹ‬The aims should cover health and safety, welfare and relevant environmental issues
‫ ݹ‬The position of the senior person in the organization or company who is responsible for health and
safety (normally the chief executive)
‫ ݹ‬The names of the Health and Safety Adviser and any safety representatives
‫ ݹ‬A commitment to the basic requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act (access, egress, risk
assessments, safe plant and systems of work, use, handling, transport and handling of articles and
substances, information, training and supervision)
‫ ݹ‬A commitment to the additional requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work
Regulations (risk assessment, emergency procedures, health surveillance and employment of
competent persons)
‫ ݹ‬Duties towards the wider general public and others (contractors, customers, students, etc.)

‫ ݹ‬The principal hazards in the organization
‫ ݹ‬Specific policies of the organization (e.g. smoking policy, violence to staff, etc.)
‫ ݹ‬A commitment to employee consultation possibly using a safety committee or plant council
‫ ݹ‬Duties of employees (particularly those defined in the Management of Health and Safety at Work
‫ ݹ‬Specific performance targets for the immediate and long term future.
Health and safety performance targets are an important part of the statement of intent because:
‫ ݹ‬They indicate that there is management commitment to improve health and safety performance
‫ ݹ‬They motivate the workforce with tangible goals resulting, perhaps, in individual or collective
‫ ݹ‬They offer evidence during the monitoring, review and audit phases of the management system.
The type of target chosen depends very much on the areas which need the greatest improvement in
the organization. The following list, which is not exhaustive, shows common health and safety
performance targets:
‫ ݹ‬A specific reduction in the number of accidents, incidents and cases of work-related ill-health
(perhaps to zero)
‫ ݹ‬A reduction in the level of sickness absence
‫ ݹ‬A specific increase in the number of employees trained in health and safety
‫ ݹ‬An increase in the reporting of minor accidents and ‘near miss’ incidents
‫ ݹ‬A reduction in the number of civil claims
‫ ݹ‬No enforcement notices from the HSE or Local Authority
‫ ݹ‬A specific improvement in health and safety audit scores
‫ ݹ‬The achievement of a nationally recognized health and safety management standard, such as
OHSAS 18001.
The policy statement of intent should be posted on prominent notice boards throughout the
workplace and brought to the attention of all employees at induction and refresher training sessions. It
can also be communicated to the workforce during team briefing sessions, at ‘toolbox’ talks which are
conducted at the workplace or directly by email, intranet, newsletters or booklets. It should be a
permanent item on the agenda for health and safety committee meetings where it should be reviewed
at each meeting.

Fig 2.1: Part of a policy commitment.

Organization of health and safety

This section of the policy defines the names, positions and duties of those within the
organization or company who have a responsibility for health and safety. Therefore, it identifies those
health and safety responsibilities and the reporting lines through the management structure. This
section will include the following groups together with their associated responsibilities:
‫ ݹ‬Directors and senior managers (responsible for setting policy, objectives and targets)
‫ ݹ‬Supervisors (responsible for checking day-to-day compliance with the policy)
‫ݹ‬Safety advisers (responsible for giving advice during accident investigations and on compliance
‫ݹ‬Other specialist, such as an occupational nurse, chemical analyst and an electrician (responsible for
giving specialist advice on particular health and safety issues)
‫ ݹ‬Safety representatives (responsible for representing employees during consultation meetings on
health and safety issues with the employer)
‫ ݹ‬Employees (responsible for taking reasonable care of the health and safety of themselves and
others who may be affected by their acts or omissions)
‫ ݹ‬Fire marshals (responsible for the safe evacuation of the building in an emergency)
‫ ݹ‬First aiders (responsible for administering first aid to injured persons)

Fig 2.2: Good information, training and working with employees is essential.

For smaller organizations, some of the specialists mentioned above may well be employed on a
consultancy basis. For the health and safety organization to work successfully it must be supported
from the top (preferably at Board level) and some financial resource made available. It is also important
that certain key functions are included in the organization structure. These include:
‫ ݹ‬Accident investigation and reporting
‫ ݹ‬Health and safety training and information
‫ ݹ‬Health and safety monitoring and audit

‫ ݹ‬Health surveillance
‫ ݹ‬Monitoring of plant and equipment and its maintenance
‫ ݹ‬Liaison with external agencies
‫ݹ‬Management and/or employee safety committees the management committee will monitor day to day
problems and any concerns of the employee health and safety committee.
The role of the health and safety adviser is to provide specialist information to managers in the
organization and to monitor the effectiveness of health and safety procedures. The adviser is not
‘responsible’ for health and safety or its implementation; that is the role of the line managers.
Finally the job descriptions, which define the duties of each person in the health and safety
organizational structure, must not contain responsibility overlaps or blur chains of command. Each
individual must be clear about his/her responsibilities and the limits of those responsibilities.

Arrangements for Health and Safety

The arrangements section of the health and safety policy gives details of the specific systems
and procedures used to assist in the implementation of the policy statement. This will include health
and safety rules and procedures and the provision of facilities such as a first aid room and wash rooms.
It is common for risk assessments (including COSHH, manual handling and PPE assessments) to be
included in the arrangements section particularly for those hazards referred to in the policy statement. It
is important that arrangements for fire and other emergencies and for information, instruction, training
and supervision are also covered. Local codes of practice (e.g. for fork lift drivers) should be included.
The following list covers the more common items normally included in the arrangements section
of the health and safety policy:
‫ ݹ‬Employee health and safety code of practice
‫ ݹ‬Accident and illness reporting and investigation procedures
‫ ݹ‬Emergency procedures, first aid
‫ ݹ‬Procedures for undertaking risk assessments
‫ ݹ‬Control of exposure to specific hazards (noise, vibration, radiation, manual handling, hazardous
substances etc.)
‫ ݹ‬Machinery safety (including safe systems of work, lifting and pressure equipment)
‫ ݹ‬Electrical equipment (maintenance and testing)
‫ ݹ‬Maintenance procedures
‫ ݹ‬Permits to work procedures
‫ ݹ‬Use of personal protective equipment
‫ ݹ‬Monitoring procedures including health and safety inspections and audits
‫ ݹ‬Procedures for the control and safety of contractors and visitors

‫ ݹ‬Provision of welfare facilities
‫ݹ‬Training procedures and arrangements
‫ ݹ‬Catering and food hygiene procedures
‫ ݹ‬Arrangements for consultation with employees
‫ݹ‬Terms of reference and constitution of the safety committee
‫ ݹ‬Procedures and arrangements for waste disposal.
The three sections of the health and safety policy are usually kept together in a health and
safety manual and copies distributed around the organization.

Review of health and safety policy

It is important that the health and safety policy is monitored and reviewed on a regular basis.
For this to be successful, a series of benchmarks need to be established. Such benchmarks, or
examples of good practice, are defined by comparison with the health and safety performance of other
parts of the organization or the national performance of the occupational group of the organization. The
Health and Safety Executive publish an annual report, statistics and a bulletins all of which may be
used for this purpose. Typical benchmarks include accident rates per employee and accident or
disease causation. There are several reasons to review the health and safety policy. The more
important reasons are:
‫ ݹ‬Significant organizational changes have taken place
‫ݹ‬There have been changes in personnel
‫ݹ‬There have been changes in legislation
‫ ݹ‬The monitoring of risk assessments or accident/ incident investigations indicate that the health and
safety policy is no longer totally effective
‫ ݹ‬Enforcement action has been taken by the HSE or Local Authority
‫ ݹ‬A sufficient period of time has elapsed since the previous review.

Fig 2.3: Sound policy but not put into practice–blocked fire exit.

A positive promotion of health and safety performance will achieve far more than simply prevent
accidents and ill-health. It will:
‫ ݹ‬Support the overall development of personnel
‫ ݹ‬Improve communication and consultation throughout the organization
‫ ݹ‬Minimize financial losses due to accidents and illhealth and other incidents
‫ ݹ‬Directly involve senior managers in all levels of the organization
‫ ݹ‬Improve supervision, particularly for young persons and those on occupational training courses
‫ ݹ‬Improve production processes
‫ ݹ‬Improve the public image of the organization or company.
It is apparent, however, that some health and safety policies appear to be less than successful.
There are many reasons for this. The most common are:
‫ ݹ‬The statements in the policy and the health and safety priorities are not understood by or properly
communicated to the workforce
‫ ݹ‬Minimal resources are made available for the implementation of the policy
‫ݹ‬Too much emphasis on rules for employees and too little on management policy
‫ ݹ‬A lack of parity with other activities of the organization (such as finance and quality control) due to
mistaken concerns about the costs of health and safety and the effect of those costs on overall
performance. This attitude produces a poor health and safety culture.
‫ ݹ‬Lack of senior management involvement in health and safety, particularly at board level

‫ ݹ‬Employee concerns that their health and safety issues not being addressed or that they are not
receiving adequate health and safety information. This can lead to low morale amongst the workforce
and, possibly, high absenteeism
‫ ݹ‬High labor turnover
‫ ݹ‬Inadequate personal protective equipment
‫ ݹ‬Unsafe and poorly maintained machinery and equipment
‫ ݹ‬A lack of health and safety monitoring procedures.
In summary, a successful health and safety policy is likely to lead to a successful organization or

UNIT - 3
3.1.1 Introduction
Risk assessment is an essential part of the planning stage of any health and safety
management system. HSE, in the publication HSG 65 Successful Health and Safety Management,
states that the aim of the planning process is to minimize risks. Risk assessment methods are used to
decide on priorities and to set objectives for eliminating hazards and reducing risks. Wherever possible,
risks are eliminated through selection and design of facilities, equipment and processes. If risks cannot
be eliminated, they are minimized by the use of physical controls or, as a last resort, through systems
of work and personal protective equipment.

3.1.2 Legal aspects of risk assessment

The general duties of employers to their employees in section 2 of the Health and Safety at
Work Act 1974 imply the need for risk assessment. This duty was also extended by section 3 of the Act
to anybody else affected by activities of the employer – contractors, visitors, customers or members of
the public. However, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations are much more
specific concerning the need for risk assessment. The following requirements are laid down in those
regulations: the risk assessment shall be ‘suitable and sufficient’ and cover both employees and non-
employees affected by the employer’s undertaking (e.g. contractors, members of the public, students,
patients, customers, etc.); every self-employed person shall make a ‘suitable and sufficient’
assessment of the risks to which they or those affected by the undertaking may be exposed; any risk
assessment shall be reviewed if there is reason to suspect that it is no longer valid or if a significant
change has taken place; where there are more than four employees, the significant findings of the
assessment shall be recorded and any specially at risk group of employees identified. (This does not
mean that employers with four or less employees need not undertake risk assessments.) The term
‘suitable and sufficient’ is important since it defines the limits to the risk assessment process. A suitable
and sufficient risk assessment should:
‫ ݹ‬Identify the significant risks and ignore the trivial ones;
‫ ݹ‬Identify and prioritize the measures required to comply with any relevant statutory provisions;
‫ ݹ‬Remain appropriate to the nature of the work and valid over a reasonable period of time.
When assessing risks under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations,
reference to other regulations may be necessary even if there is no specific requirement for a risk
assessment in those regulations. For example, reference to the legal requirements of the Provision and
Use of Work Equipment Regulations will be necessary when risks from the operation of machinery are

being considered. However, there is no need to repeat a risk assessment if it is already covered by
other regulations (e.g. a risk assessment involving personal protective equipment is required under the
COSHH Regulations so there is no need to undertake a separate risk assessment under the Personal
Protective Equipment Regulations). Apart from the duty under the Management of Health and Safety at
Work Regulations to undertake a health and safety risk assessment of any person (employees,
contractors or members of the public), who may be affected by the activities of the organization, the
following regulations require a specific risk assessment to be made:
‫ ݹ‬Ionising Radiation Regulations
‫ ݹ‬Control of Asbestos Regulations
‫ݹ‬The Control of Noise at Work Regulations
‫ ݹ‬Manual Handling Operations Regulations
‫ ݹ‬Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations
‫ݹ‬The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations
‫ݹ‬The Confined Spaces Regulations
‫ݹ‬Work at Height Regulations
‫ݹ‬The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order
‫ݹ‬The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations
‫ ݹ‬Control of Lead at Work Regulations
‫ ݹ‬Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regula tions.
A detailed comparison of the risk assessments required for most of these and more specialist
regulations is given in the HSE Guide to Risk Assessment Requirements, INDG218.

3.1.3 Forms of risk assessment

There are two basic forms of risk assessment. A quantitative risk assessment attempts to
measure the risk by relating the probability of the risk occurring to the possible severity of the outcome
and then giving the risk a numerical value. This method of risk assessment is used in situations where
a malfunction could be very serious (e.g. aircraft design and maintenance or the petrochemical
industry). The more common form of risk assessment is the qualitative assessment, which is based
purely on personal judgment and is normally defined as high, medium or low. Qualitative risk
assessments are usually satisfactory since the definition (high, medium or low) is normally used to
determine the time frame in which further action is to be taken. The term ‘generic’ risk assessment is
sometimes used and describes a risk assessment which covers similar activities or work equipment in
different departments, sites or companies. Such assessments are often produced by specialist bodies,
such as trade associations. If used, they must be appropriate to the particular job and they will need to
be extended to cover additional hazards or risks.

3.1.4 Some definitions
Some basic definitions were introduced in Element 1 and those relevant to risk assessment are
reproduced here. Electricity is an example of a high hazard since it has the potential to kill a person.
The risk associated with electricity – the likelihood of being killed on coming into contact with an
electrical device is, hopefully, low.

Hazard and risk

A hazard is the potential of a substance, activity or process to cause harm. Hazards take many
forms including, for example, chemicals, electricity and the use of a ladder. A hazard can be ranked
relative to other hazards or to a possible level of danger. A risk is the likelihood of a substance, activity
or process to cause harm. Risk (or strictly the level of risk) is also linked to the severity of its
consequences. A risk can be reduced and the hazard controlled by good management. It is very
important to distinguish between a hazard and a risk the two terms are often confused and activities
often called high risk are in fact high hazard. There should only be high residual risk where there is poor
health and safety management and inadequate control measures.

Occupational or work-related ill-health

This is concerned with those illnesses or physical and mental disorders that are either caused or
triggered by workplace activities. Such conditions may be induced by the particular work activity of the
individual or by activities of others in the workplace. The time interval between exposure and the onset
of the illness may be short (e.g. asthma attacks) or long (e.g. deafness or cancer).

This is defined by the Health and Safety Executive as ‘any unplanned event that results in injury
or ill-health of people, or damage or loss to property, plant, mater ials or the environment or a loss of a
business opportunity’. Other authorities define an accident more narrowly by excluding events that do
not involve injury or illhealth. This book will always use the Health and Safety Executive definition.

Near miss
This is any incident that could have resulted in an accident. Knowledge of near misses is very
important since research has shown that, approximately, for every 10 ‘near miss’ events at a particular
location in the workplace, a minor accident will occur.

Fig 1.1: Accident at work
Dangerous occurrence
This is a ‘near miss’ which could have led to serious injury or loss of life. Dangerous
occurrences are defined in the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences
Regulations 1995 (often known as RIDDOR) and are always reportable to the Enforcement Authorities.
Examples include the collapse of a scaffold or a crane or the failure of any passenger carrying
equipment. In 1969, F E Bird collected a large quantity of accident data and produced a well-known
triangle (Figure below).

Fig 1.2: F E Bird’s well-known accident triangle.

It can be seen that damage and near miss accidents occur much more frequently than injury
accidents and are, therefore, a good indicator of hazards. The study also shows that most accidents
are predictable and avoidable.

3.1.5 The objectives of risk assessment

The main objective of risk assessment is to determine the measures required by the
organization to comply with relevant health and safety legislation and, thereby, reduce the level of
occupational injuries and ill-health. The purpose is to help the employer or self-employed person to
determine the measures required to comply with their legal statutory duty under the Health and Safety
at Work Act 1974 or its associated Regulations. The risk assessment will need to cover all those who
may be at risk, such as customers, contractors and members of the public. In the case of shared
workplaces, an overall risk assessment may be needed in partnership with other employers. In Element
1, the moral, legal and financial arguments for health and safety management were discussed in detail.
The important distinction between the direct and indirect costs of accidents is reiterated here. Any
accident or incidence of ill-health will cause both direct and indirect costs and incur an insured and an
uninsured cost. It is important that all of these costs are taken into account when the full cost of an
accident is calculated. In a study undertaken by the HSE, it was shown that indirect costs or hidden
costs could be 36 times greater than direct costs of an accident. In other words, the direct costs of an
accident or disease represent the tip of the iceberg when compared to the overall costs (The Cost of
Accidents at Work HSG 96).
Direct costs are costs that are directly related to the accident. They may be insured (claims on
employers’ and public liability insurance, damage to buildings, equipment or vehicles) or uninsured
(fines, sick pay, damage to product, equipment or process).
Indirect costs may be insured (business loss, product or process liability) or uninsured (loss of
goodwill, extra overtime payments, accident investigation time, production delays). There are many
reasons for the seriousness of a hazard not to be obvious to the person exposed to it. It may be that the
hazard is not visible (radiation, certain gases and biological agents) or have no short-term effect (work
related upper limb disorders). The common reasons include lack of attention, lack of experience, the
wearing of personal protective equipment, sensory impairment and inadequate information, instruction
and training.

Accident categories
There are several categories of accident, all of which will be dealt with in more detail in later
chapters. The principal categories are as follows:
‫ ݹ‬Contact with moving machinery or material being machined
‫ ݹ‬Struck by moving, flying or falling object
‫ ݹ‬Hit by a moving vehicle
‫ ݹ‬Struck against something fixed or stationary
‫ ݹ‬Injured while handling, lifting or carrying
‫ ݹ‬Slips, trips and falls on the same level

‫ ݹ‬Falls from a height
‫ݹ‬Trapped by something collapsing
‫ ݹ‬Drowned or asphyxiated
‫ ݹ‬Exposed to, or in contact, with a harmful substance
‫ ݹ‬Exposed to fire
‫ ݹ‬Exposed to an explosion
‫ ݹ‬Contact with electricity or an electrical discharge
‫ ݹ‬Injured by an animal
‫ ݹ‬Physically assaulted by a person
‫ ݹ‬Other kind of accident.

Health risks
Risk assessment is not only concerned with injuries in the workplace but also needs to consider
the possibility of occupational ill-health. Health risks fall into the following four categories:
‫ ݹ‬Chemical (e.g. paint solvents, exhaust fumes)
‫ ݹ‬Biological (e.g. bacteria, pathogens)
‫ ݹ‬Physical (e.g. noise, vibrations)
‫ ݹ‬psychological (e.g. occupational stress).
There are two possible health effects of occupational ill-health. They may be acute which
means that they occur soon after the exposure and are often of short duration, although in some cases
emergency admission to hospital may be required. They may be chronic which means that the health
effects develop with time. It may take several years for the associated disease to develop and the
effects may be slight (mild asthma) or severe (cancer).

3.1.6 The management of risk assessment

Risk assessment is part of the planning and implementation stage of the health and safety
management system recommended by the HSE in its publication HSG 65. All aspects of the
organization, including health and safety management, need to be covered by the risk assessment
process. This will involve the assessment of risk in areas such as maintenance procedures, training
programmes and supervisory arrangements. A general risk assessment of the organization should
reveal the significant hazards present and the general control measures that are in place. Such a risk
assessment should be completed first and then followed by more specific risk assessments that
examine individual work activities. HSE has produced a free leaflet entitled Five steps to risk
assessment. It gives practical advice on assessing risks and recording the findings and is aimed at
small and medium-sized companies in the service and manufacturing sectors.

The five steps are:
‫ ݹ‬Look for the hazards
‫ ݹ‬Decide who might be harmed, and how
‫ ݹ‬Evaluate the risks and decide whether existing precautions are adequate or more should be done
‫ ݹ‬Record the significant findings
‫ ݹ‬Review the assessment and revise it if necessary.
Each of these steps will be examined in turn in the next section.
Finally, it is important that the risk assessment team is selected on the basis of its competence
to assess risks in the particular areas under examination in the organization. The team leader or
manager should have health and safety experience and relevant training in risk assessment. It is
sensible to involve the appropriate line manager, who has responsibility for the area or activity being
assessed, as a team member. Other members of the team will be selected on the basis of their
experience, their technical and/or design knowledge and any relevant standards or regulations relating
to the activity or process. At least one team member must have communication and report writing skills.
It is likely that team members will require some basic training in risk assessment.

3.1.7 The risk assessment process

The HSE approach to risk assessment (5 steps) will be used to discuss the process of risk
assessment. It is, however, easier to divide the process into six elements:
‫ ݹ‬Hazard identification
‫ ݹ‬Persons at risk
‫ ݹ‬Evaluation of risk level
‫ ݹ‬Risk controls (existing and additional)
‫ ݹ‬Record of risk assessment findings
‫ ݹ‬Monitoring and review.
Each element will be discussed in turn.

Hazard identification
Hazard identification is the crucial first step of risk assessment. Only significant hazards, which
could result in serious harm to people, should be identified. Trivial hazards should be ignored.
A tour of the area under consideration by the risk assessment team is an essential part of
hazard identification as is consultation with the relevant section of the workforce. A review of accident,
incident and ill-health records will also help with the identification. Other sources of information include
safety inspection, survey and audit reports, job or task analysis reports, manufacturers’ handbooks or
data sheets and approved codes of practice and other forms of guidance. Hazards will vary from

workplace to workplace but the checklist in Appendix 5.1 shows the common hazards that are
significant in many workplaces. Many questions in the NEBOSH examinations involve several common
hazards found in most workplaces. It is important that unsafe conditions are not confused with hazards,
during hazard identification. Unsafe conditions should be rectified as soon as possible after
observation. Examples of unsafe conditions include missing machine guards, faulty warning systems
and oil spillage on the workplace floor.

Persons at risk
Employees and contractors who work full time at the workplace are the most obvious groups at
risk and it will be necessary check that they are competent to perform their particular tasks. However,
there may be other groups who spend time in or around the workplace. These include young workers,
trainees, new and expectant mothers, cleaners, contractor and maintenance workers and members of
the public. Members of the public will include visitors, patients, students or customers as well as
passersby. The risk assessment must include any additional controls required due to the vulnerability of
any of these groups, perhaps caused by inexperience or disability. It must also give an indication of the
numbers of people from the different groups who come into contact with the hazard and the frequency
of these contacts.

Evaluation of risk level

During most risk assessment it will be noted that some of the risks posed by the hazard have
already been addressed or controlled. The purpose of the risk assessment, therefore, is to reduce the
remaining risk. This is called the residual risk. The goal of risk assessment is to reduce all residual
risks to as low a level as reasonably practicable. In a relatively complex workplace, this will take time so
that a system of ranking risk is required – the higher the risk level the sooner it must be addressed and
For most situations, a qualitative risk assessment will be perfectly adequate. (This is certainly the case
for NEBOSH Certificate candidates and is suitable for use during the practical assessment.) During the
risk assessment, a judgment is made as to whether the risk level is high, medium or low in terms of the
risk of somebody being injured. This designation defines a timetable for remedial actions to be taken
thereby reducing the risk. High-risk activities should normally be addressed in days, medium risks in
weeks and low risks in months or in some cases no action will be required. It will usually be necessary
for risk assessors to receive some training in risk level designation.
A quantitative risk assessment attempts to quantify the risk level in terms of the likelihood of an
incident and its subsequent severity. Clearly the higher the likelihood and severity, the higher the risk
will be. The likelihood depends on such factors as the control measures in place, the frequency of

exposure to the hazard and the category of person exposed to the hazard. The severity will depend on
the magnitude of the hazard (e.g. voltage, toxicity, etc.). HSE suggest in HSG 65 a simple 3X3 matrix to
determine risk levels.

6–9 High risk
3–4 Medium risk
1–2 Low risk
It is possible to apply such methods to organizational risk or to the risk that the management
system for health and safety will not deliver in the way in which it was expected or required. Such risks
will add to the activity or occupational risk level. In simple terms, poor supervision of an activity will
increase its overall level of risk.
A risk management matrix has been developed which combines these two risk levels as shown

Whichever type of risk evaluation method is used, the level of risk simply enables a timetable of
risk reduction to be formulated. The legal duty requires that all risks should be reduced to as low as is
reasonably practicable.

Risk control measures
The next stage in the risk assessment is the control of the risk. In established workplaces, some
control of risk will already be in place. The effectiveness of these controls needs to be assessed so that
an estimate of the residual risk may be made. Many hazards have had specific acts, regulations or
other recognized standards developed to reduce associated risks. Examples of such hazards are fire,
electricity, lead and asbestos. The relevant legislation and any accompanying approved codes of
practice or guidance should be consulted first and any recommendations implemented. Advice on
control measures may also be available from trade associations, trade unions or employers’
organizations. Where there are existing preventative measures in place, it is important to check that
they are working properly and that everybody affected has a clear understanding of the measures. It
may be necessary to strengthen existing procedures, for example, by the introduction of a permit to
work system.

Hierarchy of risk control

When assessing the adequacy of existing controls or introducing new controls, a hierarchy of
risk controls should be considered. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
Schedule 1 specifies the general principles of prevention which are set out in the European Council
Directive. These principles are:
1. Avoiding risks
2. Evaluating the risks which cannot be avoided
3. Combating the risks at source
4. Adapting the work to the individual, especially as regards the design of the workplace, the choice of
work equipment and the choice of working and production methods, with a view, in particular, to
alleviating monotonous work and work at a predetermined work-rate and to reducing their effects on
5. Adapting to technical progress
6. Replacing the dangerous by the non-dangerous or the less dangerous
7. Developing a coherent overall prevention policy which covers technology, organization of work,
working conditions, social relationships and the influence of factors relating to the working environment
8. Giving collective protective measures priority over individual protective measures and
9. Giving appropriate instruction to employees.
These principles are not exactly a hierarchy but must be considered alongside the usual
hierarchy of risk control which is as follows:
‫ ݹ‬Elimination
‫ ݹ‬Substitution

‫ ݹ‬Changing work methods/patterns
‫ ݹ‬Reduced or limited time exposure
‫ ݹ‬Engineering controls (e.g. isolation, insulation and ventilation)
‫ ݹ‬Good housekeeping
‫ ݹ‬Safe systems of work
‫ݹ‬Training and information
‫ ݹ‬Personal protective equipment
‫ ݹ‬Monitoring and supervision
‫ ݹ‬Review.

Prioritization of risk control

The prioritization of the implementation of risk control measures will depend on the risk rating
(high, medium and low) but the time scale in which the measures are introduced will not always follow
the ratings. It may be convenient to deal with a low level risk at the same time as a high level risk or
before a medium level risk. It may also be that work on a high risk control system is delayed due to a
late delivery of an essential component – this should not halt the overall risk reduction work. It is
important to maintain a continuous programme of risk improvement rather than slavishly following a
predetermined priority list.

Record of risk assessment findings

It is very useful to keep a written record of the risk assessment even if there are less than five
employees in the organization. For an assessment to be ‘suitable and sufficient’ only the significant
hazards and conclusions need be recorded. The record should also include details of the groups of
people affected by the hazards and the existing control measures and their effectiveness. The
conclusions should identify any new controls required and a review date. The HSE booklet Five steps
to risk assessment provides a very useful guide and examples of the detail required for most risk
assessments. There are many other possible layouts which can be used for the risk assessment
record. The written record provides excellent evidence to a health and safety inspector of compliance
with the law. It is also useful evidence if the organization should become involved in a civil action. The
record should be accessible to employees and a copy kept with the safety manual containing the safety
policy and arrangements.

Monitoring and review
As mentioned earlier, the risk controls should be reviewed periodically. This is equally true for
the risk assessment as a whole. Review and revision may be necessary when conditions change as a
result of the introduction of new machinery, processes or hazards. There may be new information on
hazardous substances or new legislation. There could also be changes in the workforce, for example,
the introduction of trainees. The risk assessment only needs to be revised if significant changes have
taken place since the last assessment was done. An accident or incident or a series of minor ones
provides a good reason for a review of the risk assessment. This is known as the post-accident risk

3.1.8 Special cases

There are several groups of persons who require an additional risk assessment due to their
being more ‘at risk’ than other groups. Three such groups will be considered – young persons,
expectant and nursing mothers and disabled workers.

Young persons
There were 21 fatalities of young people at work in 2002/03 and more recent figures have not
shown much of an improvement. A risk assessment involving young people needs to consider the
particular vulnerability of young persons in the workplace. Young workers clearly have a lack of
experience and awareness of risks in the workplace, a tendency to be subject to peer pressure and
willingness to work hard. Many young workers will be trainees or on unpaid work experience. Young
people are not fully developed and are more vulnerable to physical, biological and chemical hazards
than adults. An amendment to the Health and Safety at Work Act enables trainees on Government
sponsored training schemes to be treated as employees as far as health and safety is concerned. The
Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations defines a young person as anybody under the
age of 18 years and stipulates that a special risk assessment must be completed, which takes into
account their immaturity and inexperience. The assessment must be completed before the young
person starts work. If the young person is of school age (16 years or less), the parents or guardian of
the child should be notified of the outcome of the risk assessment and details of any safeguards which
will be used to protect the health and safety of the child. The following key elements should be covered
by the risk assessment:
‫ ݹ‬Details of the work activity, including any equipment or hazardous substances
‫ ݹ‬Details of any prohibited equipment or processes
‫ ݹ‬Details of health and safety training to be provided
‫ ݹ‬Details of supervision arrangements.

The extent of the risks identified in the risk assessment will determine whether employers
should restrict the work of the people they employ. Except in special circumstances, young people
should not be employed to do work which:
‫ ݹ‬Is beyond their physical or psychological capacity
‫ ݹ‬Exposes them to substances chronically harmful to human health, e.g. toxic or carcinogenic
substances, or effects likely to be passed on genetically or likely to harm the unborn child
‫ ݹ‬Exposes them to radiation
‫ ݹ‬Involves a risk of accidents which they are unlikely to recognize because of e.g. their lack of
experience, training or attention to safety
‫ ݹ‬Involves a risk to their health from extreme heat, noise or vibration.
These restrictions will not apply in ’special circumstances’ where young people over the
minimum school leaving age are doing work necessary for their training, under proper supervision by a
competent person, and providing the risks are reduced to the lowest level, so far as is reasonably
practicable. Under no circumstances can children of compulsory school age do work involving these
risks, whether they are employed or under training such as work experience Induction training is
important for young workers and such training should include site rules, restricted areas, prohibited
machines and processes, fire precautions and details of any further training related to their particular
job. At induction, they should be introduced to their mentor and given close supervision, particularly
during the first few weeks of their employment. A guide is available to employers who organize site
visits for young people. The guide (www.safevisits.org.uk) gives practical advice and a checklist that
can be used during the organization of the visit. More detailed guidance is available from HSE Books –
HSG 165 ‘Young people at work’ and HSG 199 ‘Managing health and safety on work experience’.

Expectant and nursing mothers

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 incorporates the Pregnant
Workers Directive from the EU. If any type of work could present a particular risk to expectant or
nursing mothers, the risk assessment must include an assessment of such risks. Should these risks be
unavoidable, then the woman’s working conditions or hours must be altered to avoid the risks. The
alternatives are for her to be offered other work or be suspended from work on full pay. The woman
must notify the employer in writing that she is pregnant, or has given birth within the previous six
months and/or is breastfeeding.
Pregnant workers should not be exposed to chemicals such as pesticides and lead or to
biological hazards, such as hepatitis. Female agricultural workers, veterinaries or farmer’s wives who
are pregnant, should not assist with lambing so that any possible contact with ovine Chlamydia is

Typical factors which might affect such women are:
‫ ݹ‬Manual handling
‫ ݹ‬Chemical or biological agents
‫ ݹ‬Ionizing radiation
‫ ݹ‬Passive smoking
‫ ݹ‬Lack of rest room facilities
‫ݹ‬Temperature variations
‫ ݹ‬Ergonomic issues related to prolonged standing, sitting or the need for awkward body movement
‫ ݹ‬Issues associated with the use and wearing of personal protective equipment
‫ݹ‬Working excessive hours
‫ ݹ‬Stress and violence to staff.
Detailed guidance is available in New and expectant mothers at work, HSG 122, HSE Books.

Workers with a disability

Organizations have been encouraged for many years to employ workers with disabilities and to
ensure that their premises provide suitable access for such people. From a health and safety point of
view, it is important that workers with a disability are covered by special risk assessments so that
appropriate controls are in place to protect them. For example, employees with a hearing problem will
need to be warned when the fire alarm sounds or a fork lift truck approaches. Special vibrating signals
or flashing lights may be used. Similarly workers in wheelchairs will require a clear, wheelchair friendly,
route to a fire exit and onwards to the assembly point. Safe systems of work and welfare facilities need
to be suitable for any workers with disabilities.
The final stage of the goods and services provisions in Part III of the Disability Discrimination
Act came into force on 1 October 2004. The new duties apply to service providers where physical
features make access to their services impossible or unreasonable for people with a disability. The Act
requires equal opportunities for employment and access to workplaces to be extended to all people
with disabilities.

Lone workers
People who work alone, like those in small workshops, remote areas of a large site, social
workers, sales personnel or mobile maintenance staff, should not be at more risk than other
employees. It is important to consider whether the risks of the job can be properly controlled by one

Fig 1.3: A lone worker – special arrangements are required.
Other considerations in the risk assessment include:
‫ݹ‬Whether the particular workplace presents a special risk to someone working alone
‫ ݹ‬Is there safe egress and exit from the workplace?
‫ ݹ‬Can all the equipment and substances be safely handled by one person?
‫ ݹ‬Is violence from others a risk?
‫ݹ‬Would women and young persons be specially at risk?
‫ ݹ‬Is the worker medically fit and suitable for working alone?
‫ ݹ‬Are special training and supervision required?

UNIT - 4

Most safety professionals are already involved in some aspects of industrial hygiene. They study work
operations, look for potential hazards, and make recommendations to minimize these hazards. The
industrial hygienist, through specialized study and training, has the expertise to deal with these complex
problems. If the safety professional carries on the day-to-day safety functions involving immediate
decisions, he or she must know when and where to get help on industrial hygiene problems.

After the industrial hygienist surveys the plant, makes recommendations, and suggests certain control
measures, it may become the safety professional’s responsibility to see that the control measures are
being applied and followed. Or such responsibility may be vested in an individual whose education and
training is in the combined disciplines of safety and health.
—Olishifski and Plog

4.1.1 Introduction
What is industrial hygiene? The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) defines industrial
hygiene as “that science and art devoted to the anticipation, recognition, evaluation, and control of
those environmental factors or stresses—arising in or from the workplace—which may cause sickness,
impaired health and well-being, or significant discomfort and inefficiency among workers or among
citizens of the community.” What is an industrial hygienist? “A well-trained, well-prepared industrial
hygienist (IH) is equipped to deal with virtually any situation that arises (Ogle, 2003). Is the industrial
hygienist also a safety engineer? Maybe. It depends. Safety engineering and industrial hygiene have
commonly been thought to be separate entities (especially by safety professionals and industrial
hygienists). In fact, over the years, a considerable amount of debate and argument has arisen between
those in the safety and industrial hygiene professions on many areas concerning safety and health
issues in the workplace—and on exactly who is best qualified to administer a workplace safety

Historically, the safety professional had the upper hand in this argument—that is, prior to the enactment
of the OSH Act. Until the OSH Act went into effect, industrial hygiene was not a topic that many thought
about, cared about, or had any understanding of. Safety was safety—and job safety included health—
and that was that.

After the OSH Act, however, things changed. In particular, people began to look at work injuries and
work diseases differently. In the past, they were regarded as separate problems. Why? The primary
reason for this view was obvious—and not so obvious. The obvious was work-related injury. Work
injuries occurred suddenly and their agent (i.e., the electrical source, chemical, machine, tool, work or
walking surface, or whatever unsafe element caused the injury) usually was obvious. Not so readily
obvious were the workplace agents that caused illnesses (occupational diseases). Why? Because most
occupational diseases develop rather slowly, over time. In asbestos exposure, for example, workers
who abate (remove) asbestos-containing materials without the proper training (awareness) and
personal protective equipment are subject to exposure. Typically, asbestos exposure may be a one-
time exposure event (the silver bullet syndrome), or the exposure may go on for years.

No matter the length of exposure, one thing is certain; with asbestos contamination, pathological
change occurs slowly—some time will pass before the worker notices a difference in pulmonary
function. Disease from asbestos exposure has a latency period that may be as long as 20 to 30 years
before the effects are realized. The point? Any exposure to asbestos, short or long term, may
eventually lead to a chronic disease (in this case, restrictive lung disease) that is irreversible (e.g.,
asbestosis). Of course, many other types of workplace toxic exposures can affect workers’ health. The
prevention, evaluation, and control of such occurrences is the role of the industrial hygienist. Thus,
because of the OSH Act, and also because of increasing public awareness and involvement by unions
in industrial health matters, the role of the industrial hygienist has continued to grow over the years.
Certain colleges and universities have incorporated industrial hygiene majors into environmental health

The other offshoot of the OSH Act has been, in effect (though many practitioners in the field will
disagree with this point of view), a continuing tendency toward uniting safety and industrial hygiene into
one entity.

This presents a problem with definition. When we combine the two entities, do we combine them into a
“safety” or an “industrial hygiene” title or profession? The debate on this issue continues. What is the
solution to this problem—how do we end the debate? To attempt an answer we need to look at a
couple of factors, and at the actual experience gained from practice in the real world of safety and
industrial hygiene.

We have stated throughout this text that the safety engineer must be a generalist—a Jack or Jill of all
trades. You should already have a pretty good feel for what the safety professional is required to do,
and what he or she is required to know to be effective in the workplace. How about the industrial

hygienist? What are industrial hygienists required to do and know to be effective in the workplace? Let’s
take a look at what a typical industrial hygienist does. The primary mission of the industrial hygienist is
to examine the workplace environment and its environs by studying work operations and processes.
From these studies, he or she is able to obtain details related to the nature of the work, materials and
equipment used, products and by-products, number of employees, hours of work, and so on. At the
same time, appropriate measurements are made to determine the magnitude of exposure or nuisance
(if any) to workers and the public. The hygienist’s next step is to interpret the results of the examination
of the workplace environment and environs, in terms of ability to impair worker health (i.e., is there a
health hazard in the workplace that must be mitigated?). With examination results in hand, the industrial
hygienist then presents specific conclusions to the appropriate managerial authorities.

Is the process described above completed? Yes and no. In many organizations, the industrial
hygienist’s involvement stops there. But remember, discovering a problem is only half the safety battle.
Knowing that a problem exists, but not taking any steps to mitigate it is leaving the job halfdone. In this
light, the industrial hygienist normally will make specific recommendations for control measures—an
important part of industrial hygiene’s anticipate-recognize-evaluate-control paradigm.

Any further involvement in working toward permanently changing the hazard depends on the industrial
hygienist’s role in a particular organization. Organization size is one of the two most important factors
that determines the industrial hygienist’s role within an organization. Obviously, an organization that
consists of several hundred (or thousand) workers will increase the work requirements for the industrial

The second factor has to do with what the organization produces. Does it produce computerized
accounting records? Does it perform a sales or telemarketing function? Does it provide office supplies
to those businesses requiring such service? If the organization accomplishes any of these functions
(and many similar functions) the organization probably does not require the services of a full-time staff
industrial hygienist. On the other hand, if the organization handles, stores, or produces hazardous
materials, if the organization is a petroleum refinery, or if the organization is a large environmental
laboratory, then there might be a real need for the services performed by a full-time staff industrial

Let’s look at these factors in combination, and assume the organization employs 5,000 fulltime workers
in the production of chemical products. In this situation, not only are the services normally performed by
an industrial hygienist required, but the company probably needs more than just one full-time industrial
hygienist—perhaps several. In this case, each industrial hygienist might be assigned duties that are

narrow in scope, with limited responsibility—in short, each hygienist would specialize. What this all
means, of course, is that the size of the organization and the type of work performed dictates the need
for an industrial hygienist, and each organization’s needs set the extent of their work requirements.

An important area of responsibility for the industrial hygienist that we have not mentioned here (one
often overlooked in the real work world) is the industrial hygienist’s responsibility to conduct training. If
the industrial hygienist examines a workplace environment and environs for occupational hazards and
discovers one (or more), he or she will perform the anticipate-recognize-evaluate control actions.
However, an important part of the “control” area of the industrial hygiene paradigm is informing those
exposed to the hazards about the hazards—to train them. In the field of industrial hygiene in general,
preparation in this area and emphasis on its importance on-the-job has been weak.

What does all this mean? Safety engineers are (or should be) generalists. Industrial hygienists are
specialists. This sums up the main difference between the two professions—one is a generalist and the
other a specialist.

Which one is best? Another good question. Actually, which one is “best” is not the issue—rather, which
one is better suited to perform the functions of the safety engineer? Based on our own personal
experience, we profess the need for generalization (as we have stated this throughout the text and
continue to do so to the end). The safety engineer needs to be well versed in all aspects of industrial
hygiene—no question about this. We also hold no doubt about the industrial hygienist being efficacious
to safety.

The problem is with present perception and use. The safety engineer views his role as allencompassing
(as he or she rightly should), and the industrial hygienist views him or herself as a step above, as a
“specialist.” Which one is right and which one is wrong? Neither. Again, it is a matter of perception. On
the use side of the issue, the safety professional is usually employed to run or manage an
organization’s safety program (as safety manager, safety engineer, safety professional, safety director,
safety coordinator, or another similar title), while the industrial hygienist is usually hired to fill only a
position of organizational industrial hygienist.

Can you see the difference? Believe us when we say that practicing safety professionals and industrial
hygienists not only see the difference, they feel the difference—and learn to live and work with the
difference—sometimes as colleagues and sometimes as competitors.

So what is the solution to this dilemma? In our experience, the solution is merging the two disciplines
into one—as safety professionals. We recommend the training curriculum for safety engineering we
pointed out in section 1.4.4. We feel that the safety professional must be well grounded in industrial
hygiene, but must also have knowledge of many other fields; again, he or she must be a generalist.

Will this scenario work? To a degree, it already has. Of course, pundits out there still argue against
such recommendations, but in the working world the argument really comes down to one thing and one
thing only: personal economics. In some cases in the past, safety professionals have had the
opportunity to earn a better living than industrial hygienists. Why? Because safety professionals seem
to be better suited to become managers. In the working world, management is where the money is.

Why is this the case? Simply put, a specialist has little exposure to managing, while the safety
generalist is often involved in and with management. The bottom line: if you owned a company that
employed generalists and specialists, who would you most likely promote to managerial positions?
Notwithstanding the tendency to promote the “best person” (based on ability and performance) for the
job, consider that the organization’s safety coordinator (and not the organization’s industrial hygienist)
is more likely to be promoted to the safety director’s position.

What do we base this on? First we refer you back to the chapter opening and the statement by
Olishifski and Plog: “. . . most safety professionals are already involved in some aspects of industrial
hygiene . . . after the industrial hygienist surveys the plant, makes recommendations, and suggests
certain control measures, it may become the safety professional’s responsibility to see that the control
measures are being applied and followed.” Secondly, we also base our opinion on one simple fact that
for management, a well-rounded generalist accustomed to authority is more useful in management than
a narrowly focused specialist. How do we know? We’ve been there.

4.1.2 Industrial Hygiene: Stressors

The industrial hygienist focuses on evaluating the healthfulness of the workplace environment, either
for short periods or for a work-life of exposure. When required, the industrial hygienist recommends
corrective procedures to protect health, based on solid quantitative data, experience, and knowledge.

The control measures he or she often recommends include: isolation of a work process, substitution of
a less harmful chemical or material, and/or other measures designed solely to increase the
healthfulness of the work environment.

To ensure a healthy workplace environment and environs, the industrial hygienist focuses on the
recognition, evaluation, and control of chemical, physical, or biological and ergonomic stressors that
can cause sickness, impaired health, or significant discomfort to workers. The key word was stressors,
or simply, stress—the stress caused by the workplace external environmental demands placed upon a
worker. Increases in external stressors beyond a worker’s tolerance level affect his or her on-the-job

The industrial hygienist must not only understand that workplace stressors exist, but also that they are
sometimes cumulative (additive). For example, studies have shown that some assembly line processes
are little affected by either low illumination or vibration; however, when these two
stressors are combined, assembly-line performance deteriorates.

Other cases have shown just the opposite effect. For example, the worker who has had little sleep and
then is exposed to a work area where noise levels are high actually benefits (to a degree, depending on
the intensity of the noise level and the worker’s exhaustion level) from increased arousal level; a lack of
sleep combined with a high noise level is compensatory (Ferry, 1990). To recognize environmental
stressors and other factors that influence worker health, the industrial hygienist must be familiar with
work operations and processes. An essential part of the new industrial hygienist’s employee orientation
process should include orientation on all pertinent company work operations and processes. Obviously,
the newly hired industrial hygienist who has not been fully indoctrinated on company work operations
and processes not only is not qualified to study the environmental effects of such processes, but also
suffers from another disability—lack of credibility with supervisors and workers. This point cannot be
emphasized strongly enough.

Note: Woe be it to the rookie industrial hygienist or safety engineer who has the audacity (and
downright stupidity) to walk up to any supervisor (or any worker with experience at task) and announce
that he or she is going to find out everything that is unhealthy (and thus injurious to workers) about the
work process—without having any idea how the process operates, what it does, or what it is all about.
We do not recommend this scenario—as an industrial hygienist (or as a safety engineer), you must
understand the work operations and processes to the point that you could almost operate the system
efficiently and safely yourself.
What are the workplace stressors the industrial hygienist should be concerned with? According to
Pierce (1984), the industrial hygienist should be concerned with those workplace stressors that are
likely to accelerate the aging process, cause significant discomfort and inefficiency, or may be
immediately dangerous to life and health. Several stressors fall into these categories; the most
important ones include:

x Chemical stressors—gases, dusts, fumes, mists, liquids, or vapors.
x Physical stressors—noise, vibration, extremes of pressure and temperature, and
electromagnetic and ionizing radiation.
x Biological stressors—bacteria, fungi, molds, yeasts, insects, mites, and viruses.
x Ergonomic stressors—repetitive motion, work pressure, fatigue, body position in relation to work
activity, monotony/boredom, and worry.
4.1.3 Industrial Hygiene: Areas of Concern
From the list of stressors above, you can see that the industrial hygienist has many areas of concern
related to protecting the health of workers on the job. In this section, we focus on the major areas that
the industrial hygienist is typically concerned with in the workplace. We also discuss the important
areas of industrial toxicology, industrial health hazards, industrial noise, vibration, and environmental
control. All of these areas are important to the industrial hygienist (and to the worker, of course), but
they are not all-inclusive; the industrial hygienist also is concerned with other areas—ionizing and non-
ionizing radiation, for example, and many others.

4.1.4 Industrial Toxicology

Normally, we give little thought to the materials (chemical substances, for example) we are exposed to
on a daily, almost constant, basis unless they interfere with our lifestyles, irritate us, or noticeably
physically affect us. Most of these chemical substances do not present a hazard—under ordinary
conditions. However, keep in mind that all chemical substances have the potential for being injurious at
some sufficiently high concentration and level of exposure. The industrial hygienist understands this,
and to prevent the lethal effects of over-exposure for workers, must have an adequate understanding
and knowledge of general toxicology.

What is toxicology? Toxicology is a very broad science, which studies the adverse effects of chemicals
on living organisms. It deals with chemicals used in industry, drugs, food, and cosmetics, as well as
those occurring naturally in the environment. Toxicology is the science that deals with the poisonous or
toxic properties of substances. The primary objective of industrial toxicology is the prevention of
adverse health effects in workers exposed to chemicals in the workplace. The industrial hygienist’s
responsibility is to consider all types of exposure and the subsequent effects on living organisms.
Following the prescribed precautionary measures and limitations placed on exposure to certain
chemical substances by the industrial toxicologist is the worker’s responsibility. The industrial hygienist
uses toxicity information to prescribe safety measures for protecting workers.
To gain a better appreciation for what industrial toxicology is all about, you must understand some
basic terms and factors—many of which contribute to determining the degree of hazard particular

chemicals present. You must also differentiate between toxicity and hazard. Toxicity is the intrinsic
ability of a substance to produce an unwanted effect on humans and other living organisms when the
chemical has reached a sufficient concentration at a certain site in the body. Hazard is the probability
that a substance will produce harm under specific conditions. The industrial hygienist and other safety
professionals employ the opposite of hazard—safety—that is, the probability that harm will not occur
under specific conditions. A toxic chemical—used under safe conditions—may not be hazardous.
Basically, all toxicological considerations are based on the dose-response relationship, another
toxicological concept important to the industrial hygienist. In its simplest terms, the dose of a chemical
to the body resulting from exposure is directly related to the degree of harm. This relationship means
that the toxicologist is able to determine a threshold level of exposure for a given chemical—the highest
amount of a chemical substance to which one can be exposed with no resulting adverse health effect.
Stated another way, chemicals present a threshold of effect, or a no-effect level.
Threshold levels are critically important parameters. For instance, under the OSH Act, threshold limits
have been established for the air contaminants most frequently found in the workplace. The
contaminants are listed in three tables in 29 CFR 1910 subpart Z—Toxic and Hazardous Substances.
The threshold limit values listed in these tables are drawn from values published by the American
Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) and from the “Standards of Acceptable
Concentrations of Toxic Dusts and Gases,” issued by the American National Standards Institute
An important and necessary consideration when determining levels of safety for exposure to
contaminants is their effect over a period of time. For example, during an 8-hour work shift, a worker
may be exposed to a concentration of Substance A [with a 10 ppm (parts per million—analogous to a
full shot glass in a swimming pool) TWA (time-weighted average), 25 ppm ceiling and 50 ppm peak]
above 25 ppm (but never above 50 ppm) only for a maximum period of 10 minutes. Such exposure
must be compensated by exposures to concentrations less than 10 ppm, so that the cumulative
exposure for the entire 8-hour work shift does not exceed a weighted average of 10 ppm. Formulas are
provided in the regulations for computing the cumulative effects of exposures in such instances.
The computed cumulative exposure to a contaminant may not exceed the limit value specified for it.
Although air contaminant values are useful as a guide for determining conditions that may be
hazardous and may demand improved control measures, the industrial hygienist must recognize that
the susceptibility of workers varies.
Even though it is essential to ensure that exposures do not exceed the stated values for substances,
even careful adherence to the suggested values for any substance will not assure an absolutely
harmless exposure. Thus, the air contaminant concentration values should only serve as a tool for
indicating harmful exposures, rather than the absolute reference on which to base control measures.
For a chemical substance to cause or produce a harmful effect, it must reach the appropriate site in the

body (usually via the bloodstream) at a concentration (and for a length of time) sufficient to produce an
adverse effect. Toxic injury can occur at the first point of contact between the toxicant and the body, or
in later, systemic injuries to various organs deep in the body (Hammer, 1989). Common routes of entry
are ingestion, injection, skin absorption, and inhalation. However, entry into the body can occur by more
than one route (e.g., inhalation of a substance that can be absorbed through the skin).
Ingestion of toxic substances is not a common problem in industry—most workers do not deliberately
swallow hazardous or toxic substances they handle on the job. However, ingestion does sometimes
occur either directly or indirectly. Industrial exposure to harmful substances through ingestion may
occur when workers eat lunch, drink coffee, chew tobacco, apply cosmetics, or smoke in a
contaminated work area. The substances may exert their toxic effect on the intestinal tract or at specific
organ sites.
Injection of toxic substances may occur just about anywhere in the body where a needle can be
inserted, but is a rare event in the industrial workplace.
Skin absorption or contact is an important route of entry in terms of occupational exposure. While the
skin may act as a barrier to some harmful agents, other materials may irritate or sensitize the skin and
eyes, or travel through the skin into the bloodstream, thereby impacting on specific organs.
Inhalation is the most common route of entry for harmful substances in industrial exposures. Nearly all
airborne substances can be inhaled. Dusts, fumes, mists, gases, vapors, and other airborne
substances may enter the body via the lungs and may produce local effects on the lungs, or may be
transported by the blood to specific organs in the body.
Upon finding a route of entry into the body, chemicals and other substances may exert their harmful
effects on specific organs of the body, such as the lungs, liver, kidneys, central nervous system, and
skin. These specific organs are termed target organs and will vary with the chemical of concern.
The toxic action of a substance can be divided into short-term (acute) and long-term (chronic) effects.
Acute adverse effects are usually related to an accident where exposure symptoms (effects) may occur
within a short time period following either a single exposure or multiple exposures to a chemical.
Chronic adverse effects usually occur slowly after a long period of time, following exposures to small
quantities of a substance (as lung disease may follow cigarette smoking). Chronic effects may
sometimes occur following short-term exposures to certain substances.
Table 5.1 shows the harmful effects that can result from overexposure to some chemical agents.

4.1.5 Industrial Health Hazards

NIOSH and OSHA’s Occupational Health Guidelines for Chemical Hazards, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication
No. 81-123 (Washington, DC: Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, current
edition) illustrates quite clearly that the number of known industrial poisons is quite large, and also that

their effects and means of control are generally understood. Generally, determining if a substance is
hazardous or not is simple, if the following are known: (1) what the agent is and what form it is in; (2)
the concentration; and (3) the duration and form of exposure.

Table 5.1. Comparison of Selected Chemical Agents and Their Harmful Effects Resulting
from Overexposure

However, practicing safety engineers and industrial hygienists come face to face with one problem
rather quickly. Many new compounds of somewhat uncertain toxicity are introduced into the workplace
each year. Another related problem occurs when manufacturers develop chemical products with
unfamiliar trade names, and do not properly label them to indicate the chemical constituents of the
compounds (of course, under OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard this practice is illegal).
One of the primary categories of industrial health hazards that the safety engineer must deal with is
airborne contaminants. Two main forms of airborne contaminants are of chief concern: particulates, and
gases or vapors. Particulates include dusts, fumes, smoke, aerosols, and mists, classified additionally
by size and chemical makeup, and sometimes by shape. Dusts are solid particles of matter produced
by grinding, crushing, handling, detonation, rapid impact, etc. Size may range from 0.5 to 100 mm
(micron: 1 mm = 1/25000 inch), with most (over 90%) airborne dust in the 0.5–5-mm range. Dusts do
not tend to flocculate except under electrostatic forces.
Fumes are solid particles of matter formed by condensation of vapors. Heating or volatilizing metals
(welding) or other solids usually produces them. Sizes usually range from 0.01 to 0.5 microns. Fumes
flocculate and sometimes coalesce.
Gases are normally formless fluids (a state of matter separate from solids and liquids) that occupy the
space of an enclosure and that can change to liquid or solid states only by the combined effects of
increased pressure and decreased temperatures. Gases diffuse. Mists are fine liquid droplets

suspended in or falling through air. Mist is generated by condensation from the gaseous to liquid state,
or by breaking up liquid into fine particles through atomizing, spraying, mechanized agitation, splashing,
or foaming. Smoke is the visible carbon or soot particles (generally less than 0.1 micron in size)
resulting from the incomplete combustion of carbonaceous materials such as oil, tobacco, coal, and tar.
Vapor is the gaseous phase of a substance that is liquid or solid at normal temperature and pressure.
Vapors diffuse. Aerosols are a suspension of solid particles or liquid droplets in a gaseous medium,
distributed in a finely divided state through the gas, usually air. Particles within aerosols are usually less
than 1 micron (0.001 mm) in diameter, and are more uniformly distributed than in a spray. Industrial
atmospheric contaminants exist in virtually every workplace. Sometimes they are readily apparent to
workers, because of their odor or because they can actually be seen. Safety engineers, however,
cannot rely on odor or vision to detect or measure airborne contaminants. They must rely on
measurements taken by detection and sampling devices. Many different commercially available
instruments permit the detection and concentration evaluation of many different contaminants. Some of
these instruments are so simple that nearly any worker can learn to properly operate them. A note of
caution, however; the untrained worker may receive an instrument reading that seems to indicate a
higher degree of safety than may actually exist. Thus, the qualitative and quantitative measurement of
atmospheric contaminants generally is the job of the safety engineer. Any samples taken should also
be representative—samples should be taken of the actual air the workers breathe, at the point they
breathe them, in their breathing zone (between the top of the head and the shoulders).

4.2.1 Environmental Control

Workplace exposure to toxic materials can be reduced or controlled by a variety of individual control
methods, or by a combination of methods. Various control methods available to safety engineers are
broken down into three categories: engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal
protective equipment.

4.2.2 Engineering Controls

Engineering controls are methods of environmental control whereby the hazard is “engineered out,”
either by initial design specifications, or by applying methods of substitution (e.g., replacing toxic
chlorine used in disinfection processes with relatively non-toxic sodium hypochlorite). Engineering
controls may entail isolation methods. For example, a diesel generator that, when operating, produces
noise levels in excess of 120 decibels (dBA) could be controlled by placing it inside a soundproofed
enclosure—effectively isolating the noise hazard. Another example of hazard isolation can be seen in
the use of tightly sealed enclosures that isolate an abrasive blasting operation. This method of isolation

is typically used in conjunction with local exhaust ventilation. Ventilation is one of the most widely used
and effective engineering controls—crucial in controlling workplace atmospheric hazards.

4.2.3 Ventilation
Simply put, ventilation is “the” classic method, and the most powerful tool of control used in safety
engineering to control airborne environmental hazards. Experience has shown that the proper use of
ventilation as a control mechanism can ensure that workplace air remains free of potentially hazardous
levels of airborne contaminants. In accomplishing this, ventilation works in two ways: (1) by physically
removing the contaminated air from the workplace, or (2) by diluting the workplace atmospheric
environment to a safe level by the addition of fresh air.
A ventilation system is all very well and good (virtually essential, actually), but an improperly designed
ventilation system can make the hazard worse. This is an essential point. At the heart of a proper
ventilation system are proper design, proper maintenance, and proper monitoring. The safety engineer
plays a critical role in ensuring that installed ventilation systems operate at their optimum level.
Because of the importance of ventilation in the workplace, the safety engineer must be well versed in
the general concepts of ventilation, the principles of air movement, and monitoring practices. The safety
engineer must be properly prepared (through training and experience) to evaluate existing systems and
design new systems for control of the workplace environment. In the next few sections, we present the
general principles and concepts of ventilation system design and evaluation. This material should
provide the basic concepts and principles necessary for the proper application of industrial ventilation
systems. This material also serves to refresh the knowledge of the practitioner in the field. Probably the
best source of information on ventilation is the ACGIH’s
Industrial Ventilation: A Manual of Recommended Practice (current edition)—this text is a musthave
reference for every safety engineer.

4.2.4 Concepts of Ventilation

The purpose of industrial ventilation is essentially to recreate what occurs in natural ventilation in a
more controlled way. Natural ventilation results from differences in pressure. Air moves from
highpressure areas to low pressure areas. This difference in pressure is the result of thermal
We know that hot air rises, which (for example) allows smoke to escape from the smokestack in an
industrial process, rather than disperse into areas where workers operate the process. Hot air rises
because air expands as it is heated, becoming lighter. The same principle is in effect when air in the
atmosphere becomes heated. The air rises and is replaced by air from a higher-pressure area. Thus,
convection currents cause a natural ventilation effect through the resulting winds.

What does all of this have to do with industrial ventilation? Simply put, industrial ventilation is installed
in a workplace to circulate the air within, to provide a supply of fresh air to replace air that has
undesirable characteristics.

Could this be accomplished simply by natural workplace ventilation? That is, couldn’t we just heat the
air in the workplace so that it will rise and escape through natural ports—windows, doors, cracks in
walls, or mechanical ventilators in the roof (installed wind-powered turbines, for example)? Yes, we
could design a natural system like this, but in such a system, air does not circulate fast enough to
remove contaminants before a hazardous level is reached, which defeats our purpose in providing a
ventilation system in the first place. Thus, we use fans to provide an artificial, mechanical means of
moving the air.
Along with controlling or removing toxic airborne contaminants from the air, installed ventilation systems
perform several other functions within the workplace. These functions include:

- Maintaining an adequate oxygen supply in an area. In most workplaces, this is not a problem because
natural ventilation usually provides an adequate volume of oxygen; however, in some work
environments (deep mining and thermal processes that use copious amounts of oxygen for
combustion), the need for oxygen is the major reason for an installed ventilation system.

- Removing odors from a given area. This type of system (as you might guess) has applications in such
places as athletic locker rooms, rest rooms, and kitchens. In performing this function, the noxious air
may be replaced with fresh air, or odors may be masked with a chemical-masking agent.
- Providing heat, cooling, and humidity control.
- Removing undesirable contaminants at their source, before they enter the workplace air (e.g., from a
chemical dipping or stripping tank). Obviously, this technique is an effective way to ensure that certain
contaminants never enter the breathing zone of the worker—exactly the kind of function safety
engineering is intended to accomplish.
Earlier we stated that installed ventilation is able to perform its designed function via the use of a
mechanical fan. A mechanical fan is the heart of any ventilation system, but like the human heart,
certain ancillaries are required to make it function as a system. Ventilation is no different. Four major
components make up a ventilation system: (1) the fan forces the air to move; (2) an inlet or some type
of opening allows air to enter the system; (3) an outlet must be provided for air to leave the system; and
(4) a conduit or pathway (ducting) not only directs the air in the right direction, but also limits the
amount of flow to a predetermined level.
An important concept regarding ventilation systems is the difference between exhaust and supply
ventilation. An exhaust ventilation system removes air and airborne contaminants from the workplace.

Such a system may be designed to exhaust an entire work area, or it may be placed at the source to
remove the contaminant prior to its release into the workplace air. The second type of ventilation
system is the supply system, which (as the name implies) adds air to the work area, usually to dilute
work area contaminants to lower the concentration of these contaminants. However, a supplied-air
system does much more; it also provides movement to air within the space (especially when an area is
equipped with both an exhaust and supply system—a usual practice, because it allows movement of air
from inlet to outlet and is important in replenishing exhausted air with fresh air).
Air movement in a ventilation system is a result of differences in pressure. Note that pressures in a
ventilation system are measured in relation to atmospheric pressure. In the workplace, the existing
atmospheric pressure is assumed to be the zero point. In the supply system, the pressure created by
the system is in addition to the atmospheric pressure that exists in the workplace (i.e., a positive
pressure). In an exhaust system, the objective is to lower the pressure in the system below the
atmospheric pressure (i.e., a negative pressure).
When we speak of increasing and decreasing pressure levels within a ventilation system, what we are
really talking about is creating small differences in pressure—small when compared to the atmospheric
pressure of the work area. For this reason, these differences are measured in terms of inches of water
or water gauge, which results in the desired sensitivity of measurement. Air can be assumed to be
incompressible, because of the small-scale differences in pressure. Let’s get back to the water gauge
or inches of water. Since one pound per square inch of pressure is equal to 27 inches of water, one
inch of water is equal to 0.036 pounds pressure, or 0.24% of standard atmospheric pressure.
Remember the potential for error introduced by considering air to be incompressible is very small at the
pressure that exists with a ventilation system. The safety engineer must be familiar with the three
pressures important in ventilation: velocity pressure, static pressure, and total pressure. To understand
these three pressures and their function in ventilation systems, you must first be familiar with pressure
itself. In fluid mechanics, the energy of a fluid (air) that is flowing is termed head. Head is measured in
terms of unit weight of the fluid or in foot-pounds/pound of fluid flowing.
Note: The usual convention is to describe head in terms of feet of fluid that is flowing.
So what is pressure? Pressure is the force per unit area exerted by the fluid. In the English system of
measurement, this force is measured in lbs./ft2. Since we have stated that the fluid in a ventilation
system is incompressible, the pressure of the fluid is equal to the head.
Velocity pressure (VP) is created as air travels at a given velocity through a ventilation system. Velocity
pressure is only exerted in the direction of airflow and is always positive (i.e., above atmospheric
pressure). When you think about it, velocity pressure has to be positive, and obviously the force or
pressure that causes it also must be positive. The velocity of the air moving within a ventilation system
is directly related to the velocity pressure of the system. This relationship can be derived into the

standard equation for determining velocity (and clearly demonstrates the relationship between velocity
of moving air and the velocity pressure):

Static pressure (SP) is the pressure that is exerted in all directions by the air within the system, which
tends to burst or collapse the duct. It is expressed in inches of water gauge (wg). A simple example
may help you grasp the concept of static pressure. Consider a balloon that is inflated at a given
pressure. The pressure within the balloon is exerted equally on all sides of the balloon. No air velocity
exists within the balloon itself. The pressure in the balloon is totally the result of static pressure. Note
that static pressure can be both negative and positive with respect to the local atmospheric pressure.

Total pressure (TP) is defined as the algebraic sum of the static and velocity pressures or

TP = SP + VP (8.2) (8.2)

The total pressure of a ventilation system can be either positive or negative (i.e., above or below
atmospheric pressure). Generally, the total pressure is positive for a supply system, and negative for an
exhaust system. For the safety engineer to evaluate the performance of any installed ventilation
system, he or she must make measurements of pressures in the ventilation system. Measurements are
normally made using instruments such as a manometer or a Pitot tube. The manometer is often used to
measure the static pressure in the ventilation system. The manometer is a simple, U-shaped tube, open
at both ends, and usually constructed of clear glass or plastic so that the fluid level within can be
observed (see Figure 5.1). To facilitate measurement, a graduated scale is usually present on the
surface of the manometer. The manometer is filled with a liquid (water, oil, or mercury). When pressure
is exerted on the liquid within the manometer, the pressure causes the level of liquid to change as it
relates to the atmospheric pressure external to the ventilation system. The pressure measured,
therefore, is relative to atmospheric pressure as the zero point.

Figure 5.1 A U-tube manometer used to measure static pressure in a ventilation system.

Figure 5.2 Pitot Tube. When manometer measurements are used to obtain positive pressure readings
in a ventilation system, the leg of the manometer that opens to the atmosphere will contain the higher
level of fluid. When a negative pressure is being read, the leg of the tube open to the atmosphere will
be lower, thus indicating the difference between the atmospheric pressure and the pressure within the
system. The Pitot tube is another device used to measure static pressure in ventilation systems (see
Figure 5.2). The Pitot tube is constructed of two concentric tubes. The inner tube forms the impact
portion, while the outer tube is closed at the end and has static pressure holes normal to the surface of
the tube. When the inner and outer tubes are connected to opposite legs of a single manometer, the
velocity pressure is obtained directly. If the engineer wishes to measure static pressure separately, two
manometers can be used. Positive and negative pressure measurements are indicated on the
manometer as above.

4.2.5 Local Exhaust Ventilation

Local exhaust ventilation (the most predominant method of controlling workplace air) is used to control
air contaminants by trapping and removing them near the source. In contrast to dilution ventilation
(which lets the contamination spread throughout the workplace, later to be diluted by exhausting
quantities of air from the workspace), local exhaust ventilation surrounds the point of emission with an
enclosure, and attempts to capture and remove the emissions before they are released into the
worker’s breathing zone. The contaminated air is usually drawn through a system of ducting to a
collector, where it is cleaned and delivered to the outside through the discharge end of the exhauster.
Figure 5.3 shows a typical local exhaust system, which consists of a hood, ducting, an air-cleaning
device, fan, and a stack. Hazard (1988) points out that a local exhaust system is usually the proper
method of contaminant control if:
x The contaminant in the workplace atmosphere constitutes a health, fire, or explosion hazard.
x National or local codes require local exhaust ventilation at a particular process.
x Maintenance of production machinery would otherwise be difficult.

x Housekeeping or employee comfort will be improved.
x Emission sources are large, few, fixed and/or widely dispersed.
x Emission rates vary widely by time.
x Emission sources are near the worker-breathing zone.

Figure 5.4 shows a type of local ventilation, and the importance of proper installation and use. The
safety engineer must remember that determining beforehand precisely the effectiveness of a particular
system is often difficult. Thus, measuring exposures and evaluating how much control has been
achieved after a system is installed is essential. A good system may collect 80 to 90+ percent, but a
poor system may capture only 50 percent or less. Without total enclosure of the contaminant sources
(where capture is obviously very much greater), the safety engineer must be familiar with handling
problems like these.

Figure 5.3 Local Exhaust System Components.

Once the system is installed, and has demonstrated that it is suitable for the task at hand, the system
must be well maintained. In dealing with ventilation problems, the safety engineer soon finds out that
his or her worst headache in maintaining the system is poor—or lack of—maintenance.

Figure 5.4 The proper use of a canopy hood, which will not draw the air contaminants through the
worker’s breathing zone. The worker’s location is crucial. Source: NIOSH, The Industrial Environment:
Its Evalution and Control., p. 599.
A phenomenon that many practitioners in the safety field forget (or never knew in the first place) is that
ventilation, when properly designed, installed, and maintained, can go a long way to ensure a healthy
working environment. However, ventilation does have limitations. For example, the effects of blowing
air from a supply system and removing air through an exhaust system are different. To better
understand the difference and its significance, let’s take an example of air supplied through a standard
exhaust duct.
When air is exhausted through an opening, it is gathered equally from all directions around the opening.
This includes the area behind the opening itself. Thus, the cross-sectional area of airflow approximates
a spherical form, rather than the conical form that is typical when air is blown out of a supply system. To
correct this problem, a flange is usually placed around the exhaust opening, which reduces the air
contour from the large spherical contour to that of a hemisphere. As a result, this increases the velocity
of air at a given distance from the opening. This basic principle is used in designing exhaust hoods.
Remember that the closer the exhaust hood is to the source, and the less uncontaminated air it
gathers, the more efficient the hood’s percentage of capture will be. Simply put, it is easier for a
ventilation system to blow air than it is for one to exhaust it. Keep this in mind whenever you are dealing
with ventilation systems and/or problems.

Along with local exhaust ventilation are two other major categories of ventilation systems: general and
dilution ventilation. Each of these systems has a specific purpose, and finding all three types of systems
present in a given workplace location is not uncommon. General ventilation systems (sometimes
referred to as heat control ventilation systems) are used to control indoor atmospheric conditions
associated with hot industrial environments (such as those found in foundries, laundries, bakeries, and
other workplaces that generate excess heat) for the purpose of preventing acute discomfort or injury.
General ventilation also functions to control the comfort level of the worker in just about any indoor
working environment. Along with the removal of air that has become process-heated beyond a desired
temperature level, a general ventilation system supplies air to the work area to condition (by heating or
cooling) the air, or to make up for the air that has been exhausted by dilution ventilation in a local
exhaust ventilation system.
A dilution ventilation system dilutes contaminated air with uncontaminated air, to reduce the
concentration below a given level (usually the threshold limit value of the contaminant) to control
potential airborne health hazards, fire and explosive conditions, odors, and nuisance type
contaminants. This is accomplished by removing or supplying air to cause the air in the workplace to
move, and as a result, mix the contaminated with incoming uncontaminated air.
This mixing operation is essential. To mix the air there must be air movement. Air movement can be
accomplished by natural drafts caused by prevailing winds moving through open doors and windows of
the work area.
Thermal drafts can also move air. Whether the thermal draft is the result of natural causes or is
generated from process heat, the heated air rises, carrying any contaminant present upward with it.
Vents in the roof allow this air to escape into the atmosphere. Makeup air is supplied to the work area
through doors and windows.
A mechanical air-moving device provides the most reliable source for air movement in a dilution
ventilation system. Such a system is rather simple (see Figure 5.5). It requires a source of exhaust for
contaminated air, a source of air supply to replace the air mixture that has been removed with
uncontaminated air, and a duct system to supply or remove air throughout the workplace (see Figure
5.6). Dilution ventilation systems often are equipped with filtering systems to clean and temper the
incoming air.

4.2.7 Industrial Noise Control

Only recently has noise been recognized as a significant industrial health problem. In fact, now workers’
compensation laws in all states recognize hearing losses caused by industrial noise as an occupational

Figure 5.5 Dilution of Contaminants.


The obvious question is “What is noise?” Simply put, noise is any unwanted sound. The safety engineer
is concerned about noise (or any workplace sound) that exceeds OSHA regulated levels and may be
injurious to workers—that could cause hearing damage.
Hearing damage risk criteria for exposure to noise are found in OSHA’s 29 CFR 1910.95
(Hearing Conservation Standard) and are stated in Table 5.2.


The safety engineer’s primary concern when starting a noise reduction or control program is to
determine if any “noise-makers” in the facility exceed the OSHA limits for worker exposure—exactly
which machines or processes produce noise at unacceptable levels. Making this determination is
accomplished by conducting a noise level survey of the plant or facility.
When conducting the noise level survey, the safety engineer should use an ANSI-approved sound level
meter (a device used most commonly to measure sound pressure). Sound is measured in decibels.
One decibel is one-tenth of a bel (a unit of measure in electrical-communication engineering) and is the
minimum difference in loudness that is usually perceptible.

Figure 5.6 Ventilation Exhaust Systems.
Table 5.2. Permissible Noise Exposures

Duration per day, hours Sound level dBA* (slow response)

8 90
6 92
4 95
3 97
2 100
1.5 102
1 105
0.5 110
0.25 115

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Part 1910. Occupational Safety and Health Standards, Subpart G.,
Section 1910.95. Washington, D.C.: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 1995.

Note: When the daily noise exposure is composed of two or more periods of noise exposure of different
levels, their combined effect should be considered, rather than the individual effect of each. If the sum
of the following fractions C1/T1 + C2/T2 + Cn/Tn exceeds
unity, then the mixed exposure should be considered to exceed the limit value. Cn indicates the total
time of exposure at a specified noise level, and Tn indicates the total time of exposure permitted at that

Exposure to impulsive or impact noise should not exceed 140 dB peak sound pressure level.
*Measured on the A weighting scale of a standard sound level meter is slow response mode.
The sound level meter consists of a microphone, an amplifier, and an indicating meter that responds to
noise in the audible frequency range of about 20 to 20,000 Hz. Sound level meters usually contain
“weighting” networks designated “A,” “B,” or “C.” Some meters have only one weighting network; others
are equipped with all three. The A-network approximates the equal loudness curves at low sound
pressure levels, the B-network is used for medium sound pressure levels, and the Cnetwork is used for
high levels.
In conducting a routine workplace sound level survey, using the A-weighted network (referenced dBA)
in the assessment of the overall noise hazard has become common practice. The A-weighted network
is the preferred choice because it is thought to provide a rating of industrial noises that indicates the
injurious effects such noise has on the human ear (gives a frequency response similar to that of the
human ear at relatively low sound pressure levels).
With an approved and freshly calibrated sound level meter in hand, the safety engineer is ready to
begin the sound level survey. In doing so, the safety engineer is primarily interested in answering the
following questions: (1) What is the noise level in each work area? (2) What equipment or process is
generating the noise? (3) Which employees are exposed to the noise? and (4) How long are they
exposed to the noise?
Safety engineers record their findings as they move from workstation to workstation, following a logical
step-by-step procedure. The first step involves using the sound level meter set for A-scale slow
response mode to measure an entire work area. When making such measurements, the safety
engineer should restrict the size of the space being measured to under 1,000 square feet. If the
maximum sound level does not exceed 80 dBA, it can be assumed that all workers in this work area are
working in an environment with a satisfactory noise level.
Note: The key words in the preceding statement are “maximum sound level.” To ensure an accurate
measurement, the safety engineer must ensure that all “noise-makers” are actually in operation when
measurements are taken.
Measuring an entire work area does little good when only a small percentage of the noisemakers are
actually inoperation.
The next step depends on the readings recorded when the entire work area is measured. For example,
if the measurements indicate sound levels greater than 80 dBA, another set of measurements needs to
be taken at each employee’s workstation. The purpose here, of course, is to determine two things:
which machine or process is making noise above acceptable levels (i.e., > 80 dBA), and which workers
are exposed to these levels. Remember that the worker who operates the machine or process might
not be the only worker exposed to the noisemaker. You need to inquire about other workers who might,
from time to time, work in or around the machine or process. Our experience in conducting workstation

measurements has shown us noise levels usually fluctuate. If this is the case, you must record the
minimum and maximum noise levels. If you discover that the noise level is above the legal limit of 90
dBA (and it remains above this level), you have found a noisemaker that exceeds the legal limit.
However, if your measurements indicate that the noise level is never greater than 85 dBA (OSHA’s
action level), the noise exposure can be regarded as satisfactory.
If workstation measurements indicate readings that exceed the 85 dBA level (the level at which OSHA’s
Hearing Conservation Requirements kick in. See ), you must perform another step. This step involves
determining the length of time of exposure for workers. The easiest, most practical way to make this
determination is to have the worker wear a noise dosimeter, which records the noise energy to which
the worker was exposed during the work shift.
What happens next? You must then determine if the worker is exposed to noise levels that exceed the
permissible noise exposure levels listed in Table 8.1. The key point to remember is that your findings
must be based on a time-weighted average (TWA). For example, from Table 8.1 you will notice that a
noise level of 95 dBA is allowed up to four hours per day.
Note: This parameter assumes that the worker has good hearing acuity with no loss. If the worker has
documented hearing loss, then exposure to 95 dBA or higher may be unacceptable under any
circumstances without proper hearing protection.
So exactly what does four-hour maximum exposure per day mean? It means that, cumulatively, a
worker cannot be exposed for more than four hours to noise at the 95 dBA level. Cumulative maximum
exposures are used because all noisemakers are not necessarily continuous; instead, they may be
intermittent or impact-type noisemakers. Consider this—a worker who runs a machine operates the
machine eight hours each day. When the machine is running, it continuously produces 95 dBA.
Obviously, this worker must be protected from the 95-dBA noisemaker, because his or her exposure
will be over an eight-hour period—which is not allowed under OSHA. Another worker operates a
machine that produces 95-dBA noise, but the operator only operates it for a few minutes at a time, with
several minutes without the machine running in between operations. The worker is exposed to noise
from other workstations, at varying levels. This is considered intermittent operation, with intermittent
noise generation—and possibly intermittent exposure (depending upon the level of noise).
Is this worker exposed to noise levels above the Permissible Exposure Limit of four hours maximum
(i.e., without hearing protection)? It depends. To make this determination we must calculate the daily
noise dose. We can accomplish by using equation 8.3.
Em = C1/T1 + C2/T2 + C3/T3 + . . . Cn/Tn (8.3)
where Em = mixed exposure
C = total time of exposure at a specified noise level
T = total time of exposure permitted at that level
For purposes of illustration let’s assume that the worker’s intermittent noise levels expose him or

her to the following noise levels during the workday:
85 dBA for 2.75 hours
90 dBA for 1 hour
95 dBA for 2.25 hours
100 dBA for 2 hours
Has the worker received an excessive exposure during the workday? To answer this question we use
equation 8.2 and plug in the parameters. From our calculation, if we find that the sum of the fractions
equals or exceeds 1, then the mixed exposure is considered to exceed the limit value. Daily noise dose
(D) is expressed as a percentage of Em = 1, the mixed exposure is equivalent to a noise dose of 100
percent. Keep in mind that noise levels below 90 dBA are not considered in the calculation of daily
So, again, has our worker received an excessive exposure during her workday? Let’s find out:

The sum exceeds 1, therefore, obviously, the results indicate that the employee has received an
excessive exposure during her workday.
Note: A final word on noise exposure. From Table 5.2, you can see that the highest sound level listed is
115 dBA.
Any exposure above this level is not permissible for any length of time.


When the safety engineer investigates the possibility of using engineering controls to control noise, the
first thing he or she recognizes is that reducing and/or eliminating all noise is virtually impossible. And
this should not be the focus in the first place . . . eliminating or reducing the “hazard” is the goal. While
the primary hazard may be the possibility of hearing loss, the distractive effect (or its interference with
communication) must also be considered. The distractive effect of excessive noise can certainly be
classified as hazardous whenever the distraction might affect the attention of the worker. The obvious
implication of noise levels that interfere with communications is emergency response. If ambient noise
is at such a high level that workers can’t hear fire or other emergency alarms, this is obviously a
hazardous situation.
So what does all this mean? The safety engineer must determine the “acceptable” level of noise. Then
he or she can look into applying the various noise control measures. These include making alterations
in engineering design (obviously this can only be accomplished in the design phase) or making
modifications after installation. Unfortunately, this latter method is the one the safety engineer is usually
forced to apply—and also the most difficult, depending upon circumstances.

Let’s assume that the safety engineer is trying to reduce noise levels generated by an installed air
compressor to a safe level. Obviously, the first place to start is at the source: the air compressor.
Several options are available for the safety engineer to employ at the source. First, the safety engineer
would look at the possibility of modifying the air compressor to reduce its noise output. One option
might be to install resilient vibration mounting devices. Another might be to change the coupling
between the motor and the compressor.
If the options described for use at the source of the noise are not feasible or are only partially effective,
the next component the safety engineer would look at is the path along which the sound energy travels.
Increasing the distance between the air compressor and the workers could be a possibility. Another
option might be to install acoustical treatments on ceilings, floors, and walls. The best option available
(in this case) is to enclose the air compressor so that the dangerous noise levels are contained within
the enclosure, and the sound leaving the space is attenuated to a lower, safer level. If total enclosure of
the air compressor is not practicable, then erecting a barrier or baffle system between the compressor
and the open work area might be an option.
The final engineering control component the safety engineer might incorporate to reduce the air
compressor’s noise problem is to consider the receiver (the worker). An attempt could be made to
isolate the operator by providing a noise reduction or soundproof enclosure or booth for the operator.

4.3.3 Industrial Vibration Control

Vibration is often closely associated with noise, but is frequently overlooked as a potential occupational
health hazard. Vibration is defined as the oscillatory motion of a system around an equilibrium position.
The system can be in a solid, liquid, or gaseous state, and the oscillation of the system can be periodic
or random, steady state or transient, continuous or intermittent (NIOSH, 1973). Vibrations of the human
body (or parts of the human body) are not only annoying, they also affect worker performance, and
sometimes cause blurred vision and loss of motor control. Excessive vibration can cause trauma, which
results when external vibrating forces accelerate the body or some part so that amplitudes and
restraining capacities by tissues are exceeded.
Vibration results in the mechanical shaking of the body or parts of the body. These two types of
vibration are called whole-body vibration (affects vehicle operators) and segmental vibration (occurs in
foundry operations, mining, stonecutting, and a variety of assembly operations, for example). Vibration
originates from mechanical motion, generally occurring at some machine or series of machines. This
mechanical vibration can be transmitted directly to the body or body part or it may be transmitted
through solid objects to a worker located at some distance away from the actual vibration.
The effect of vibration on the human body is not totally understood; however, we do know that vibration
of the chest may create breathing difficulties, and that an inhibition of tendon reflexes is a result of

vibration. Excessive vibration can cause reduced ability on the part of the worker to perform complex
tasks, and indications of potential damage to other systems of the body also exist. More is known about
the results of segmental vibration (typically transmitted through hand to arm), and a common example
is the vibration received when using a pneumatic hammer—a jackhammer. One recognized indication
of the effect of segmental vibration is impaired circulation to the appendage, a condition known as
Raynaud’s Syndrome, also known as “dead fingers” or “white fingers.” Segmental vibration can also
result in the loss of the sense of touch in the affected area.
Some indications that decalcification of the bones in the hand can result from vibration transmitted to
that part of the body exist. In addition, muscle atrophy has been identified as a result of segmental
As with noise, the human body can withstand short-term vibration, even though this vibration might be
extreme. The dangers of vibration are related to certain frequencies that are resonant with various parts
of the body. Vibration outside these frequencies is not nearly so dangerous as vibration that results in
Control measures for vibration include substituting some other device (one that does not cause
vibration) for the mechanical device that causes the vibration. An important corrective measure (often
overlooked) that helps in reducing vibration is proper maintenance of tools, or support mechanisms for
tools, including coating the tools with materials that attenuate vibrations. Another engineering control
often employed to reduce vibration is the application of balancers, isolators, and damping
devices/materials that help to reduce vibration.


After the design, construction, and installation are completed, installing engineering controls to control a
workplace hazard or hazards often becomes difficult. Some exceptions were mentioned in the previous
section. A question safety engineers face on almost a continuous basis is “If I can’t engineer out the
hazard, what can I do?”
This question would not arise, of course, if the safety engineer had been allowed to participate in the
design, construction, and installation phases. However, in our experience, more often than not the
safety engineer is excluded from such preliminary construction phases, and this certainly is not “good
engineering practice”—but it happens. Many safety engineers, too, are working in long-established
facilities. For these and other reasons, questions arise on how best to reduce or remove hazards after
they have been installed. The safety engineer is tasked with finding the answers.
As a second line of defense, after engineering controls are determined to be impossible, not
practicable, not feasible, or cannot be accomplished for technological reasons—or for any reasons—
administrative controls might be an alternative.

What are administrative controls? Administrative controls attempt to limit the worker’s exposure to the
hazard. Normally accomplished by arranging work schedules and related duration of exposures so that
employees are minimally exposed to health hazards, another procedure transfers workers who have
reached their upper permissible limits of exposure to an environment where no additional exposure will
be experienced. Both control procedures are often used to limit worker exposure to air contaminants or
noise. For example, a worker who is required to work in an extremely high noise area where
engineering controls are not possible would be rotated from the high noise area to a quiet area when
the daily permissible noise exposure is reached.
Reducing exposures by limiting the duration of exposure (basically by modifying the work schedule)
must be carefully managed (most managers soon find that attempting to properly manage this
procedure takes a considerable amount of time, effort, and “imagination”). When practiced, reducing
worker exposure is based on limiting the amount of time a worker is exposed, ensuring that OSHA
Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) are not exceeded.
Let’s pause right here and talk about Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) and Threshold Limit Values
(TLVs). You should know what they are and what significance they play in the safety engineer’s daily
activities. Let’s begin with TLVs.
Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) are published by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial
Hygienists (ACGIH) (an organization made up of physicians, toxicologists, chemists, epidemiologists,
and industrial hygienists) in its Threshold Limit Values for Chemical Substances and Physical Agents in
the Work Environment . These values are useful in assessing the risk of a worker exposed to a
hazardous chemical vapor; concentrations in the workplace can often be maintained below these levels
with proper controls. The substances listed by ACGIH are evaluated annually, limits are revised as
needed, and new substances are added to the list as information becomes available. The values are
established from the experience of many groups in industry, academia, medicine, and from laboratory
The chemical substance exposure limits listed under both ACGIH and OSHA are based strictly on
airborne concentrations of chemical substances in terms of milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m3), parts
per million (ppm), and fibers per cubic centimeter (fibers/cm3). Allowable limits are based on three
different time periods of average exposure: (1) eight-hour work shifts known as TWA (time weighted
average), (2) short terms of 15 minutes or STEL (short-term exposure limit), and (3) instantaneous
exposure of “C” (ceiling). Unlike OSHA’s PELs, TLVs are recommended levels only, and do not have
the force of regulation to back them up.
OSHA has promulgated limits for personnel exposure in workplace air for approximately 400 chemicals
listed in Tables Z1, Z2, and Z3 in Part 1910.1000 of the Federal Occupational Safety and Health
Standard. These limits are defined as permissible exposure limits (PEL), and like TLVs are based on
eight-hour time-weighted averages (or ceiling limits when preceded by a “C”). Keeping within the limits

in the Z Tables is the only requirement specified by OSHA for these chemicals. The significance of
OSHA’s PELs is that they have the force of regulatory law behind them to back them up—compliance
with OSHA’s PELs is the law.
Evaluation of personnel exposure to physical and chemical stresses in the industrial workplace requires
the use of the guidelines provided by TLVs and the regulatory guidelines of PELs. For the safety
engineer to carry out the goals of recognizing, measuring and effecting controls (of any type) of
workplace stresses, such limits are a necessity, and have become the ultimate guidelines in the
science of safety engineering. A word of caution is advised, however. These values are set only as
guides for best practice, and are not to be considered absolute values. What are we saying here?
These values provide reasonable assurance that occupational disease will not occur if exposures are
kept below these levels. On the other hand, occupational disease is likely to develop in some people —
if the recommended levels are exceeded on a consistent basis.
Let’s get back to administrative controls. We stated that one option available to the safety engineer in
controlling workplace hazards is the use of an administrative control that involves modifying workers’
work schedules to limit the time of their exposure so that the PEL/TLV is not exceeded. We also implied
that this procedure is a manager’s nightmare to implement and manage.
Practicing safety engineers don’t particularly like it, either; they feel that such a strategy merely spreads
the exposure out, and does nothing to control the source. Experience has shown that in many
instances this statement is correct. Nevertheless, work schedule modification is commonly used for
exposures to such stressors as noise and lead.
Another method of reducing worker exposure to hazards is by ensuring good housekeeping practices.
Housekeeping practices? Absolutely. Think about it. If dust and spilled chemicals are allowed to
accumulate in the work area, workers will be exposed to these substances. This is of particular
importance for flammable and toxic materials. Ensuring that housekeeping practices do not allow toxic
or hazardous materials to disperse into the air is also an important concern.
Administrative controls can also reach beyond the workplace. For example, if workers abate asbestos
eight hours a day, they should always wear approved tyvek protective suits and other required personal
protective equipment (PPE) on the job. After the work assignment is completed, these workers must
decontaminate, following standard protocol. The last thing these workers should be allowed to do is to
wear their personal clothing for such work to avoid decontamination procedures, then take their
contaminated clothing with them when they leave for home. The idea is to leave any contaminated
clothing at work (safely stored or properly disposed of).
Implementation of standardized materials handling or transferring procedures are other administrative
controls often used to protect workers. In handling chemicals, any transfer operations taken should be
closed-system, or should have adequate exhaust systems to prevent worker exposure or contamination

of the workplace air. This practice should also include the use of spill trays to collect overfill spills or
leaking materials between transfer points.
Programs that involve visual inspection and automatic sensor devices (leak detection programs) allow
not only for quick detection, but also for quick repair and minimal exposure. When automatic system
sensors and alarms are deployed as administrative controls, tying the alarm system into an automatic
shutdown system (close a valve, open a circuit, etc.), allows the sensor to detect a leak, sound the
alarm, and initiate corrective action (for example, immediate shutdown of the system).
Finally, two other administrative control practices that go hand-in-hand are training and personal
hygiene. For workers to best protect themselves from workplace hazards, they must be made aware of
the hazards. OSHA puts great emphasis on the worker-training requirement. No worker can be
expected to know the entire workplace, process, or equipment hazards unless he or she has been
properly trained on the hazards. Chapter 40 covers training and OSHA’s requirements in this vital area.
An important part of the training process is worker awareness. Legally (and morally), workers have the
right to know what they are working with and what they are exposed to while on the job.
They must be made aware of the hazards. They must also be trained on what actions to take when
they are exposed to specific hazards. Personal hygiene practices are an important part of worker
protection. The safety engineer must ensure that appropriate cleaning agents and facilities such
asemergency eyewashes, showers, and changing rooms are available and conveniently located for
worker use.


As a hazard control method, personal protective equipment (PPE) should only be used when
othermethods fail to reduce or eliminate the hazard; PPE is the safety engineer’s last line of defense
against hazard exposure in the workplace. Briefly, the types commonly used to control materials-related
hazards include:
Respiratory protection: When engineering controls are not feasible or are in the process of being
instituted, appropriate respirators should be used to control exposures to airborne hazardous materials.
Note that under OSHA regulations (specifically 29 CFR 1910.134), the employer is required to provide
such equipment whenever it is necessary. Use of such equipment automatically requires you to
implement a Respiratory Protection Program
Protective clothing: Includes chemical, thermal, and/or electrical clothing such as gloves, aprons,
coveralls, suits, etc. Many materials and types are available, to suit different applications and needs.
Head, eye, hand, foot protection: This type of PPE is required in any situation that presents a
reasonable probability of injury. These items are worn for protection from physical injury and include
hard hats, safety glasses, goggles, leather gloves, laboratory gloves, and steel-toed safety shoes.

A final word on PPE as a method of environmental control: PPE has one serious drawback—it does
nothing to reduce or eliminate the hazard. This critical point is often ignored or overlooked. What PPE
really does is afford the wearer a barrier between him/herself and the hazard—and that is all.
Sometimes workers gain a false sense of security when they don PPE, thinking that somehow the PPE
is the element that makes them safe, not working safely. An electrician wears the proper type of
electrical insulating gloves and stands on a rubber mat while she services a high voltage electrical
switchgear. If she performs her work in a haphazard manner, will she be safe? Will the gloves and
rubber mat protect her from electrocution? Maybe. Maybe not. PPE provides some personal protection,
but does not substitute for safe work practices.
Another problem with PPE is that often PPE offers the temptation to employ its use without first
attempting to investigate thoroughly the possible methods of correcting the unsafe physical conditions.
This results in substituting PPE in place of safety engineering methods to correct the hazardous
environment (Grimaldi and Simonds, 1989).
The safety engineer also learns (rather quickly) that employees often resist using it. We see a constant
struggle between the safety professional and the worker about ensuring that the worker wears his or
her PPE. We hear their excuses. “Those safety glasses get in my way.” “That hardhat is too heavy for
my head.” “I can’t do my work properly with those clumsy gloves on my hands.” “Gee, I forgot my safety
shoes. I think I left them at my girlfriend/boyfriend’s house.” Like homework assignment excuses, these
statements are common, frequent, often irritating, and never-ending. But one thing is certain—workers
who do not wear PPE when required are leaving themselves wide open to injury or death. For the
novice safety practitioner, we can only say: “Welcome to the challenging field of safety engineering.”

A statement given by Ted Ferry (1990) succinctly sums up the difference between safety engineering
and industrial hygiene:
Generally, the professional training and experience of most industrial hygienists has not prepared them
to participate effectively as members of the management team. As a result, hygienists are competing
for limited resources and do not fully understand the techniques required for integrating their goals with
those of the organization. Hygienists must acquire knowledge in areas outside of industrial hygiene and
develop the skills necessary to becoming effective members of the management team.”
Ferry’s point is well taken. While true that the practicing safety engineer must be well-founded in all
aspects of industrial hygiene, that the industrial hygienist should take a broader view may be even more
important—to encompass knowledge and understanding of all the disciplines that make up the broader
field of safety engineering.

5.1 Principles of prevention
The MHSW Regulations Schedule 1 specifies the general principles of prevention which are set
out in article 6(2) of the European Council Directive 89/391/EEC. For the first time the principles have
been enshrined directly in regulations which state, at Regulation 4, that where an employer implements
any preventative measures he shall do so on the basis of the principles specified in Schedule 1. These
principles are:
1. Avoiding risks, this means, for example, trying to stop doing the task or using different processes or
doing the work in a different safer way.
2. Evaluating the risks which cannot be avoided, this requires a risk assessment to be carried out.
3. Combating the risks at source, this means that risks, such as a dusty work atmosphere, are
controlled by removing the cause of the dust rather than providing special protection; or that slippery
floors are treated or replaced rather than putting up a sign.
4. Adapting the work to the individual, especially as regards the design of the workplace, the choice
of work equipment and the choice of working and production methods, with a view, in particular, to
alleviating monotonous work and work at a predetermined work-rate and to reducing their effect on
health This will involve consulting those who will be affected when workplaces, methods of work and
safety procedures are designed. The control individuals have over their work should be increased, and
time spent working at predetermined speeds and in monotonous work should be reduced where it is
reasonable to do so.
5. Adapting to technical progress, it is important to take advantage of technological and technical
progress, which often gives designers and employers the chance to improve both safety and working
methods. With the Internet and other international information sources available a very wide
knowledge, going beyond what is happening in the UK or Europe, will be expected by the enforcing
authorities and the courts.
6. Replacing the dangerous by the non-dangerous or the less dangerous, this involves
substituting, for example, equipment or substances with non-hazardous or less hazardous substances.
7. Developing a coherent overall prevention policy, which covers technology, organization of work,
working conditions, social relationships and the influence of factors relating to the working
Environment Health and safety policies should be prepared and applied by reference to these
8. Giving collective protective measures priority over individual protective measures,
This means giving priority to control measures which make the workplace safe for everyone working
there so giving the greatest benefit, for example, removing hazardous dust by exhaust ventilation rather

than providing a filtering respirator to an individual worker. This is sometimes known as a ‘Safe Place’
approach to controlling risks.
9. Giving appropriate instruction to employees, this involves making sure that employee are fully
aware of company policy, safety procedures, good practice, official guidance, any test results and legal
requirements. This is sometimes known as a ‘Safe Person’ approach to controlling risks where the
focus is on individuals. A properly set up health and safety management system should cover and
balance both a Safe Place and Safe Person approach.

5.2 Hierarchy of risk control

When assessing the adequacy of existing controls or introducing new controls, a hierarchy of
risk controls should be considered. The principles of prevention in the MHSW Regulations are not
exactly a hierarchy, but must be considered alongside the usual hierarchy of risk controls, which is as
‫ ݹ‬Elimination
‫ ݹ‬Substitution
‫ ݹ‬Changing work methods/patterns
‫ ݹ‬Reduced or limited time exposure
‫ ݹ‬Engineering controls (e.g. isolation, insulation and ventilation)
‫ ݹ‬Good housekeeping
‫ ݹ‬Safe systems of work
‫ݹ‬Training and information
‫ ݹ‬Personal protective equipment
‫ ݹ‬Monitoring and supervision
‫ ݹ‬Review.

Elimination or substitution
This is the best and most effective way of avoiding a severe hazard and its associated risks.
Elimination occurs when a process or activity is totally abandoned because the associated risk is too
high. Substitution describes the use of a less hazardous form of the substance. There are many
examples of substitution, such as the use of water based rather than oil-based paints, the use of
asbestos substitutes and the use of compressed air as a power source rather than electricity. Care
must be taken not to introduce additional hazards and risks as a result of a substitution.

Changing work methods/patterns
In some cases it is possible to change the method of working so that exposures are reduced.
For example use rods to clear drains instead of strong chemicals; use disposable hooks for holding
articles being sprayed instead of exposing people during the cleaning of reusable hooks. Sometimes
the pattern of work can be changed so that people can do things in a more natural way, for example
when removing components and packing them consider whether people are right or left handed;
encourage people in offices to take breaks from computer screens by getting up to photocopy, fetch
files or printed documents.

Reduced time exposure

This involves reducing the time during the working day that the employee is exposed to the
hazard, either by giving the employee other work or rest periods. It is only suitable for the control of
health hazards associated with, for example, noise, display screens and hazardous substances.
However, it is important to note that for many hazards there are short-term exposure limits as well as
normal working workplace exposure limits (WELS) over an 8-hour period Short term limits must not be
exceeded during the reduced time exposure intervals.

Fig 2.1: Proper control of gases and vapours in a laboratory.

Engineering controls
This describes the control of risks by means of engineering design rather than a reliance on
preventative actions by the employee. There are several ways of achieving such controls:
1. Control the risks at the source (e.g. the use of more efficient dust filters or the purchase of less noisy
2. Control the risk of exposure by:
– Isolating the equipment by the use of an enclosure, a barrier or guard
– Insulating any electrical or temperature hazard
– Ventilate away any hazardous fumes or gases, either naturally or by the use of extractor fans and

Housekeeping is a very cheap and effective means of controlling risks. It involves keeping the
workplace clean and tidy at all times and maintaining good storage systems for hazardous substances
and other potentially dangerous items. The risks most likely to be influenced by good housekeeping are
fire and slips, trips and falls.

Safe systems of work

A safe system of work is a requirement of the HSW Act and is dealt with in detail later. The
system of work describes the safe method of performing the job activity. If the risks involved are high or
medium, the details of the system should be in writing and should be communicated to the employee
formally in a training session. Systems for low risk activities may be conveyed verbally. There should
be records that the employee (or contractor) has been trained or instructed in the safe system of work
and that he or she understands it and will abide by it.

Training and information

Both these topics are important but should not be used in isolation. Information includes such
items as signs, posters, systems of work and general health and safety arrangements.

Personal protective equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) should only be used as a last resort. There are many
reasons for this. The most important limitations are that PPE:
‫ ݹ‬Only protects the person wearing the equipment not others nearby
‫ ݹ‬Relies on people wearing the equipment at all times
‫ ݹ‬Must be used properly

‫ ݹ‬Must be replaced when it no longer offers the correct level of protection. This last point is particularly
relevant when respiratory protection is used.
The benefits of PPE are:
‫ ݹ‬It gives immediate protection to allow a job to continue while engineering controls are put in place
‫ ݹ‬In an emergency it can be the only practicable way of effecting rescue or shutting down plant in
hazardous atmospheres
‫ ݹ‬It can be used to carry out work in confined spaces where alternatives are impracticable. But it
should never be used to allow people to work in dangerous atmospheres, which are, for example,
enriched with oxygen or explosive.

Fig 2.2: PPE used for loading a textile dye vessel.

Welfare facilities include general workplace ventilation, lighting and heating and the provision of
drinking water, sanitation and washing facilities. There is also a requirement to provide eating and rest
rooms. Risk control may be enhanced by the provision of eye washing and shower facilities for use
after certain accidents. Within this area of welfare, first aid and health surveillance are important
services that should be available.

Fig 2.3: Welfare – washing facilities.

Monitoring and supervision

All risk control measures, whether they rely on engineered or human behavioural controls, must
be monitored for their effectiveness and supervised to ensure that they have been applied correctly.
Competent people, who have a sound knowledge of the equipment or process, should undertake
monitoring. Checklists are useful to ensure that no significant factor is forgotten.
Any statutory inspection or insurance company reports should be checked to see whether any
areas of concern were highlighted and if any recommendations were implemented. Details of any
accidents, illnesses or other incidents will give an indication of the effectiveness of the risk control
measures. Any emergency arrangements should be tested during the monitoring phase, including first
aid provision. It is crucial that the operator should be monitored to ascertain that all relevant procedures
have been understood and followed. The operator may also be able to suggest improvements to the
equipment or system of work. The supervisor is an important source of information during the
monitoring process. Where the organization is involved with shift work, it is essential that the risk
controls are monitored on all shifts to ensure the uniformity of application. The effectiveness and
relevance of any training or instruction given should be monitored.

Periodically the risk control measures should be reviewed. Monitoring and other reports are
crucial for the review to be useful. Reviews often take place at safety committee and/or at management
meetings. A serious accident or incident should lead to an immediate review of the risk control
measures in place.

2.3 Controlling health risks

Types of health risk
The principles of control for health risks are the same as those for safety. However, the nature
of health risks can make the link between work activities and employee ill-health less obvious than in
the case of injury from an accident. The COSHH Amendment Regulations 2005 sets out the principles
of control. Figure shows a route map for achieving adequate control. Unlike safety risks, which can lead
to immediate injury, the results of daily exposure to health risks may not manifest itself for months,
years and, in some cases, decades. Irreversible health damage may occur before any symptoms are
apparent. It is, therefore, essential to develop a preventive strategy to identify and control risks before
anyone is exposed to them.

Fig 2.4: Health risk – checking on the contents.

Risks to health from work activities include:

‫ ݹ‬Skin contact with irritant substances, leading to dermatitis etc.
‫ ݹ‬Inhalation of respiratory sensitizers, triggering immune responses such as asthma

‫ ݹ‬Badly designed workstations requiring awkward body postures or repetitive movements, resulting in
upper limb disorders, repetitive strain injury and other musculoskeletal conditions
‫ ݹ‬Noise levels which are too high, causing deafness and conditions, such as tinnitus
‫ ݹ‬Too much vibration, for example, from hand-held tools leading to hand – arm vibration syndrome and
circulatory problems

Principles of good practice for the control of exposure to substances hazardous to health
(a) Design and operate processes and activities to minimize emission, release and spread of
substances hazardous to health.
(b) Take into account all relevant routes of exposure – inhalation, skin absorption and ingestion – when
developing control measures.
(c) Control exposure by measures that are proportionate to the health risk.
(d) Choose the most effective and reliable control options which minimize the escape and spread of
substances hazardous to health.
(e) Where adequate control of exposure cannot be achieved by other means, provide, in combination
with other control measures, suitable personal protective equipment.
(f) Check and review regularly all elements of control measures for their continuing effectiveness.
(g) Inform and train all employees on the hazards and risks from the substances with which they work
and the use of control measures developed to minimize the risks.
(h) Ensure that the introduction of control measures does not increase the overall risk to health and

Fig 2.5: Route map for adequate control for SMEs/non-experts.

‫ ݹ‬Exposure to ionizing and non-ionising radiation including ultraviolet in the sun’s rays, causing burns,
sickness and skin cancer
‫ ݹ‬Infections ranging from minor sickness to life threatening conditions, caused by inhaling or being
contaminated by microbiological organisms
‫ ݹ‬Stress causing mental and physical disorders. Some illnesses or conditions, such as asthma and
back pain, have both occupational and non-occupational causes and it may be difficult to establish a
definite causal link with a person’s work activity or their exposure to particular agents or substances.
But, if there is evidence that shows the illness or condition is prevalent among the type of workers to
which the person belongs or among workers exposed to similar agents or substances, it is likely that
their work and exposure has contributed in some way.

Control hierarchy for exposure to substances hazardous to health

The following shows how the general principles and hierarchy can be applied to substances
hazardous to health, which come under the COSHH Regulations:
‫ ݹ‬Change the process or task so that there is no need for the hazardous substance
‫ ݹ‬Replace the substance with a safer material
‫ ݹ‬Use the substance in a safer form, for example, in liquid or pellets to prevent dust from powders. The
HSE has produced a useful booklet on 7 steps to successful substitution of hazardous substances HSG
110, HSE Books, which should be consulted
‫ ݹ‬Totally enclose the process
‫ ݹ‬Partially enclose the process and use local exhaust ventilation to extract the harmful substance
‫ ݹ‬Provide high quality general ventilation, if individual exposures do not breach the exposure limits
‫ ݹ‬Use safe systems of work and procedures to minimize exposures, spillage or leaks
‫ ݹ‬Reduce the number of people exposed or the duration of their exposure.
If none of the above control measures prove to be adequate on their own, PPE should be
provided. This is a last resort and is only permitted by the COSHH Regulations in conjunction with other
means of control if they prove inadequate. Special control requirements are needed for carcinogens,
which are set out in the Carcinogen Approved Code of Practice.

Assessing exposure and health surveillance

Some aspects of health exposure will need input from specialist or professional advisers, such
as occupational health hygienists, nurses and doctors. However, considerable progress can be made
by taking straightforward measures such as:
‫ ݹ‬Consulting the workforce on the design of workplaces

‫ ݹ‬Talking to manufacturers and suppliers of substances and work equipment about minimizing
‫ ݹ‬Enclosing machinery to cut down dust, fume and noise
‫ ݹ‬Researching the use of less hazardous substances
‫ ݹ‬Ensuring that employees are given appropriate information and are trained in the safe handling of all
the substances and materials to which they may be exposed.

2.4 Safe systems of work

What is a safe system of work?
A safe system of work has been defined as: The integration of personnel, articles and
substances in a laid out and considered method of working which takes proper account of the risks to
employees and others who may be affected, such as visitors and contractors, and provides a formal
framework to ensure that all of the steps necessary for safe working have been anticipated and
In simple terms, a safe system of work is a defined method for doing a job in a safe way. It takes
account of all foreseeable hazards to health and safety and seeks to eliminate or minimize these. Safe
systems of work are normally formal and documented, for example, in written operating procedures but,
in some cases, they may be verbal.
The particular importance of safe systems of work stems from the recognition that most
accidents are caused by a combination of factors (plant, substances, lack of training, supervision, etc.).
Hence prevention must be based on an integral approach and not one which only deals with each
factor in isolation. The adoption of a safe system of work provides this integral approach because an
effective safe system:
‫ ݹ‬Is based on looking at the job as a whole
‫ ݹ‬Starts from an analysis of all foreseeable hazards, e.g. physical, chemical, health

Fig 2.6: Multi-padlocked hasp for locking off an isolation valve

‫ ݹ‬Brings together all the necessary precautions, including design, physical precautions, training,
monitoring, procedures and personal protective equipment. The operations covered may be simple or
complex, routine or unusual.
Whether the system is verbal or written, and whether the operation it covers is simple or
complex, routine or unusual, the essential features are forethought and planning – to ensure that all
foreseeable hazards are identified and controlled. In particular, this will involve scrutiny of:
‫ ݹ‬The sequence of operations to be carried out
‫ ݹ‬The equipment, plant, machinery and tools involved
‫ ݹ‬Chemicals and other substances to which people might be exposed in the course of the work
‫ ݹ‬The people doing the work – their skill and experience
‫ ݹ‬Foreseeable hazards (health, safety, environment), whether to the people doing the work or to
others who might be affected by it
‫ ݹ‬Practical precautions which, when adopted, will eliminate or minimize these hazards
‫ ݹ‬The training needs of those who will manage and operate under the procedure
‫ ݹ‬Monitoring systems to ensure that the defined precautions are implemented effectively.

Legal requirements
The HSW Act Section 2 requires employers to provide safe plant and systems of work. In
addition, many regulations made under the Act, such as the Provision and Use of Equipment
Regulations 1998, require information and instruction to be provided to employees and others.
In effect, this is also a more specific requirement to provide safe systems of work. Many of these
safe systems, information and instructions will need to be in writing.

Assessment of what safe systems of work are required

It is the responsibility of the management in each organization to ensure that its operations are
assessed to determine where safe systems of work need to be developed. This assessment must, at
the same time, decide the most appropriate form for the safe system that is:
‫ ݹ‬Is a written procedure required?
‫ݹ‬Should the operation only be carried out under permit to work?
‫ ݹ‬Is an informal system sufficient?

Factors to be considered
It is recognized that each organization must have the freedom to devise systems that match the
risk potential of their operations and which are practicable in their situation.
However, they should take account of the following factors in making their decision:
‫ ݹ‬Types of risk involved in the operation
‫ ݹ‬Magnitude of the risk, including consideration of the worst foreseeable loss
‫ ݹ‬Complexity of the operation
‫ ݹ‬Past accident and loss experience
‫ ݹ‬Requirements and recommendations of the relevant health and safety authorities
‫ ݹ‬The type of documentation needed
‫ ݹ‬Resources required to implement the safe system of work (including training and monitoring).

Development of safe systems

Role of competent person
Primarily management is responsible to provide safe systems of work. Managers and
employees know the detailed way in which the task should be carried out. The competent person
appointed under the MHSW Regulations should assist managers to draw up guidelines for safe
systems of work with suitable forms and should advise management on the adequacy of the safe
systems produced.

The safe system of work should be based on a thorough analysis of the job or operation to be
covered by the system. The way this analysis is done will depend on the nature of the job/operation. If
the operation being considered is a new one involving high loss potential, the use of formal hazard
analysis techniques such as HAZOP (Hazard and Operability study), FTA (Fault Tree Analysis) or
Failure Modes and Effects Analysis should be considered. However, where the potential for loss is
lower, a more simple approach, such as JSA (Job Safety Analysis), will be sufficient. This will involve
three key stages:
‫ ݹ‬Identification of the key steps in the job/operation – what activities will the work involves?
‫ ݹ‬Analysis and assessment of the risks associated with each stage – what could go wrong?
‫ ݹ‬Definition of the precautions or controls to be taken – what steps need to be taken to ensure the
operation proceeds without danger, either to the people doing the work, or to anyone else?
The results of this analysis are then used to draw up the safe operating procedure.

Many people operating a piece of equipment or process are in the best position to help with the
preparation of safe systems of work. Consultation with those employees who will be exposed to the
risks, either directly or through their representatives, is also a legal requirement. The importance of
discussing the proposed system with those who will have to work under it, and those who will have to
supervise its operation, cannot be emphasized enough.

Preparation of safe systems

A checklist for use in the preparation of safe systems of work is set out as follows:
‫ ݹ‬What is the work to be done?
‫ ݹ‬What are the potential hazards?
‫ ݹ‬Is the work covered by any existing instructions or procedures? If so, to what extent (if any) do these
need to be modified?
‫ ݹ‬Who is to do the work?
‫ ݹ‬What are their skills and abilities – is any special training needed?
‫ ݹ‬Under whose control and supervision will the work be done?
‫ ݹ‬Will any special tools, protective clothing or equipment (e.g. breathing apparatus) be needed? Are
they ready and available for use?
‫ ݹ‬Are the people who are to do the work adequately trained to use the above?
‫ ݹ‬What isolations and locking-off will be needed for the work to be done safely?
‫ ݹ‬Is a permit to work required for any aspect of the work?
‫ ݹ‬Will the work interfere with other activities? Will other activities create a hazard to the people doing
the work?
‫ ݹ‬Have other departments been informed about the work to be done, where appropriate?
‫ ݹ‬How will the people doing the work communicate with each other?
‫ ݹ‬Have possible emergencies and the action to be taken been considered?
‫ ݹ‬Should the emergency services be notified?
‫ ݹ‬What are the arrangements for handover of the plant/ equipment at the end of the work? (For
maintenance/ project work etc.)
‫ ݹ‬Do the planned precautions take account of all foreseeable hazards?
‫ ݹ‬Who needs to be informed about or receive copies of the safe system of work?
‫ ݹ‬What arrangements will there be to see that the agreed system is followed and that it works in

‫ ݹ‬What mechanism is there to ensure that the safe system of work stays relevant and up-to-date?

Safe systems of work should be properly documented. Wherever possible, they should be
incorporated into normal process operating procedures. This is so that:
‫ ݹ‬Health and safety are seen as an integral part of, and not add-on to, normal production procedures
‫ ݹ‬The need for operators and supervisors to refer to separate manuals is minimized.
Whatever method is used, all written systems of work should be signed by the relevant
managers to indicate approval or authorization. Version numbers should be included so that it can
quickly be verified that the most up-to-date version is in use. Records should be kept of copies of the
documentation, so that all sets are amended when updates and other revisions are issued. As far as
possible, systems should be written in a non-technical style and should specifically be designed to be
as intelligible and user-friendly as possible. It may be necessary to produce simple summary sheets,
which contain all the key points in an easy-to-read format.

Communication and training

People doing work or supervising work must be made fully aware of the laid-down safe systems
that apply. The preparation of safe systems will often identify a training need that must be met before
the system can be implemented effectively. In addition, people should receive training in how the
system is to operate. This applies not only to those directly involved in doing the work but also to
supervisors/ managers who are to oversee it. In particular, the training might include:
‫ ݹ‬Why a safe system is needed
‫ ݹ‬What is involved in the work
‫ ݹ‬The hazards which have been identified
‫ ݹ‬The precautions which have been decided and, in particular
‫ ݹ‬The isolations and locking-off required, and how this is to be done
‫ ݹ‬Details of the permit to work system, if applicable
‫ ݹ‬any monitoring (e.g. air testing) which is to be done during the work, or before it starts
‫ ݹ‬How to use any necessary personal protective equipment
‫ ݹ‬Emergency procedures.

Monitoring safe systems

Safe systems of work should be monitored to ensure that they are effective in practice. This will

‫ ݹ‬Reviewing and revising the systems themselves, to ensure they stay up-to-date
‫ ݹ‬Inspection to identify how fully they are being implemented.
In practice, these two things go together, since it is likely that a system that is out of date will not
be fully implemented by the people who are intended to operate it. All organizations are responsible for
ensuring that their safe systems of work are reviewed and revised as appropriate. Monitoring of
implementation is part of all line managers’ normal operating responsibilities, and should also take
place during health and safety audits.

Lone workers
People who work by themselves without close or direct supervision are found in many work situations.
In some cases they are the sole occupant of small workshops or warehouses; they may work in remote
sections of a large site, they may work out of normal hours, like cleaners or security personnel; they
may be working away from their main base as installers, or maintenance people; they could be people
giving a service, like social workers, home helps, drivers and estate agents. There is no general legal
reason why people should not work alone but there may be special risks which require two or more
people to be present, for example, during entry into a confined space in order to affect a rescue. It is
important to ensure that a lone worker is not put at any higher risk than other workers. This is achieved
by carrying out a specific risk assessment and introducing special protection arrangements for their
safety. People particularly at risk, like young people or women, should also be considered. People’s
overall health and suitability to work alone should be taken into account. Procedures may include:
‫ ݹ‬Periodic visits from the supervisor to observe what is happening
‫ ݹ‬Regular voice contact between the lone worker and the supervisor
‫ ݹ‬Automatic warning devices to alert others if a specific signal is not received from the lone worker
‫ ݹ‬Other devices to raise the alarm, which are activated by the absence of some specific action
‫ ݹ‬Checks that the lone worker has returned safely home or to their base
‫ ݹ‬Special arrangements for first aid to deal with minor injuries, this may include mobile first aid kits
‫ ݹ‬Arrangements for emergencies should be established and employees trained.

2.5 Permits to work

Safe systems of work are crucial in work such as the maintenance of chemical plant where the
potential risks are high and the careful coordination of activities and precautions is essential to safe
working. In this situation and others of similar risk potential, the safe system of work is likely to take the
form of a permit to work procedure.

Permit to work procedures
The permit to work procedure is a specialized type of safe system of work under which certain
categories of high risk-potential work may only be done with the specific permission of an authorized
manager. This permission (in the form of the permit to work) will only be given if the laid-down
precautions are in force and have been checked.
The permit document will typically specify:
‫ ݹ‬What work is to be done
‫ ݹ‬The plant/equipment involved, and how they are identified
‫ ݹ‬Who is authorized to do the work
‫ ݹ‬The steps which have already been taken to make the plant safe
‫ ݹ‬Potential hazards which remain, or which may arise as the work proceeds
‫ ݹ‬The precautions to be taken against these hazards
‫ ݹ‬For how long the permit is valid
‫ ݹ‬That the equipment is released to those who are to carry out the work.
In accepting the permit, the person in charge of doing the authorized work normally undertakes
to take/maintain whatever precautions are outlined in the permit. The permit will also include spaces
‫ ݹ‬Signature certifying that the work is complete
‫ ݹ‬Signature confirming re-acceptance of the plant/equipment.

Permit systems must adhere to the following eight principles:
1. Wherever possible, and especially with routine jobs, hazards should be eliminated so that the
work can be done safely without requiring a permit to work
2 .Although the Site Manager may delegate the responsibility for the operation of the permit system, the
overall responsibility for ensuring safe operation rests with him/her.
3. The permit must be recognized as the master instruction which, until it is cancelled, overrides all
other instructions
4. The permit applies to everyone on site, including contractors
5. Information given in a permit must be detailed and accurate. It must state:
(a) Which plant/equipment has been made safe and the steps by which this has been achieved (b)
what work may be done(c) the time at which the permit comes into effect

6. The permit remains in force until the work has been completed and the permit is cancelled by the
person who issued it, or by the person nominated by management to take over the responsibility (e.g.
at the end of a shift or during absence)
7. No work other than that specified is authorized. If it is found that the planned work has to be
changed, the existing permit should be cancelled and a new one issued
8. Responsibility for the plant must be clearly defined at all stages.

Work requiring a permit

The main types of permit and the work to be covered by each are identified below.

General permit
The general permit should be used for work such as:
‫ ݹ‬Alterations to or overhaul of plant or machinery where mechanical, toxic or electrical hazards may
‫ ݹ‬Work on or near overhead crane tracks
‫ ݹ‬Work on pipelines with hazardous contents
‫ ݹ‬Repairs to railway tracks, tippers, conveyors
‫ ݹ‬Work with asbestos-based materials
‫ ݹ‬Work involving ionizing radiation
‫ ݹ‬Roof work
‫ ݹ‬Excavations to avoid underground services.

Fig 2.7: Permit to work.

Confined space permit
Confined spaces include chambers, tanks (sealed and open-top), vessels, furnaces, ducts,
sewers, manholes, pits, flues, excavations, boilers, reactors and ovens. Many fatal accidents have
occurred where inadequate precautions were taken before and during work involving entry into
confined spaces. The two main hazards are the potential presence of toxic or other dangerous
substances and the absence of adequate oxygen. In addition, there may be mechanical hazards
(entanglement on agitators) ingress of fluids, risk of engulfment in a free flowing solid like grain or
sugar, and raised temperatures. The work to be carried out may itself be especially hazardous when
done in a confined space, for example, cleaning using solvents, cutting/welding work. Should the
person working in a confined space get into difficulties for whatever reason, getting help in and getting
the individual out may prove difficult and dangerous. Stringent preparation, isolation, air testing and
other precautions are therefore essential and experience shows that the use of a confined space entry
permit is essential to confirm that all the appropriate precautions have been taken.

Work on high voltage apparatus (including testing)

Work on high voltage apparatus (over about 600 volts) is potentially high risk. Hazards include:
‫ ݹ‬Possibly fatal electric shock/burns to the people doing the work
‫ ݹ‬Electrical fires/explosions
‫ ݹ‬Consequential danger from disruption of power supply to safety-critical plant and equipment. In view
of the risk, this work must only be done by suitably trained and competent people acting under the
terms of a high voltage permit.

Fig 2.8: Entering a confined space.

Hot work

Fig 2.9: Hot work permit is usually essential except in designated areas.
Hot work is potentially hazardous as:
‫ ݹ‬A source of ignition in any plant in which flammable materials are handled
‫ ݹ‬A cause of fires in all processes, regardless of whether flammable materials are present.
Hot work includes cutting, welding, brazing, soldering and any process involving the application
of a naked flame. Drilling and grinding should also be included where a flammable atmosphere is
potentially present. Hot work should therefore be done under the terms of a hot work permit, the only
exception being where hot work is done in a designated maintenance area suitable for the purpose.

The effective operation of the permit system requires the involvement of many people. The
following specific responsibilities can be identified:
(Note: all appointments, definitions of work requiring a permit etc. must be in writing. All the categories
of people identified below should receive training in the operation of the permit system as it affects

Site manager
‫ ݹ‬Has overall responsibility for the operation and management of the permit system
‫ ݹ‬Appoints a senior manager (normally the chief engineer) to act as senior authorized person.

Senior authorized person
‫ ݹ‬Is responsible to the site manager for the operation of the permit system
‫ ݹ‬Defines the work on the site which requires a permit
‫ ݹ‬Ensures that people responsible for this work are aware that it must only be done under the terms of
a valid permit
‫ ݹ‬Appoints all necessary authorized persons
‫ ݹ‬Appoints a deputy to act in his/her absence.

Authorized persons
‫ ݹ‬Issue permits to competent persons and retain copies
‫ ݹ‬Personally inspect the site to ensure that the conditions and proposed precautions are adequate and
that it is safe for the work to proceed
‫ ݹ‬Accompany the competent person to the site to ensure that the plant/equipment is correctly identify
ed and that the competent person understands the permit
‫ ݹ‬Cancel the permit on satisfactory completion of the work.

Competent persons
‫ ݹ‬Receive permits from authorized persons
‫ ݹ‬Read the permit and make sure they fully understand the work to be done and the precautions to be
‫ ݹ‬Signify their acceptance of the permit by signing both copies
‫ ݹ‬Comply with the permit and make sure those under their supervision similarly understand and
implement the required precautions
‫ ݹ‬On completion of the work, return the permit to the authorized person who issued it.

‫ ݹ‬Read the permit and comply with its requirements, under the supervision of the competent person.

A number of permits require the advice/skills of specialists in order to operate effectively. Such
specialists may include chemists, electrical engineers, health and safety advisers and fire officers. Their
role may involve:
‫ ݹ‬Isolations within his/her discipline – e.g. electrical work

‫ ݹ‬Using suitable techniques and equipment to monitor the working environment for toxic or flammable
materials, or for lack of oxygen
‫ ݹ‬Giving advice to managers on safe methods of working.
Specialists must not assume responsibility for the permit system. This lies with the site manager
and the senior authorized person.

Engineers (and others responsible for work covered by permits)

‫ ݹ‬Ensure that permits are raised as required.

The permit system should be applied to contractors in the same way as to direct employees.
The contractor must be given adequate information and training on the permit system, the restrictions it
imposes and the precautions it requires.

Emergency procedures
Most of this chapter is about the principles of control to prevent accidents and ill-health.
Emergency procedures, however, are about control procedures and equipment to limit the damage to
people and property caused by an incident. Local fire authorities will often be involved and are normally
prepared to give advice to employers. Particularly with regard to first aid, emergency medical care and
rescue work.

Fig 2.10: Emergency services at work.

Although fire is the most common emergency likely to be faced, there are many other
possibilities, which should be considered including:
‫ ݹ‬Gas explosion
‫ ݹ‬Electrical burn or electrocution
‫ ݹ‬Escape of toxic gases or fumes
‫ ݹ‬Discovery of dangerous dusts like asbestos in the atmosphere
‫ ݹ‬Bomb warning
‫ ݹ‬Large vehicle crashing into the premises
‫ ݹ‬Aircraft crash if near a flight path
‫ ݹ‬Spread of highly infectious disease
‫ ݹ‬Severe weather with high winds and flooding.

2.6 Fire routines and fire notices

Site managers must make sure that all employees are familiar with the means of escape in case
of fire and their use, and with the routine to be followed in the event of fire.
To achieve this, routine procedures must be set up and made known to all employees, generally
outlining the action to be taken in case of fire and specifically laying down the duties of certain
nominated persons. Notices should be posted throughout the premises.
While the need in individual premises may vary, there are a number of basic components which
should be considered when designing any fire routine procedures:
‫ ݹ‬The action to be taken on discovering a fire
‫ ݹ‬The method of operating the fire alarm
‫ ݹ‬The arrangements for calling the fire brigade
‫ ݹ‬The stopping of machinery and plant
‫ ݹ‬First-stage fire fighting by employees
‫ ݹ‬Evacuation of the premises
‫ ݹ‬Assembly of staff, customers and visitors and, carrying out a roll call to account for everyone on the
The procedures must take account of those people who may have difficulty in escaping quickly
from a building because of their location or a disability. Insurance companies and other responsible
people may need to be consulted where special procedures are necessary to protect buildings and

plant during or after people have evacuated. For example, there may be some special procedures
necessary to ensure that a sprinkler system is operating in the event of fire.

Supervisory duties
A member of the staff should be nominated to supervise all fire and emergency arrangements.
This person should be in a senior position or at least have direct access to a senior manager. Senior
members of the staff should be appointed as departmental fire wardens, with deputies for every
occasion of absence, however brief. In the event of fire or other emergency, their duties would be, while
it remains safe to do so, to ensure that:
‫ ݹ‬The alarm has been raised
‫ ݹ‬The whole department, including toilets and small rooms, has been evacuated
‫ ݹ‬The fire brigade has been called
‫ ݹ‬Fire doors are closed to prevent fire spread to adjoining compartments and to protect escape routes
‫ ݹ‬Plant and machinery are shut down wherever possible and any other actions required to safeguard
the premises are taken where they do not expose people to undue risks
‫ ݹ‬A roll call is carried out at the assembly point and the result reported to whoever is in control of the
Under normal conditions fire wardens should check that good standards of housekeeping and
preventive maintenance exist in their department, that exits and escape routes are kept free from
obstruction, that all fire-fighting appliances are available for use and fire points are not obstructed, that
smoking is rigidly controlled, and that all members of staff under their control are familiar with the
emergency procedure and know how to use the fire alarm and firefighting equipment.

Assembly and roll call

Assembly points should be established for use in the event of evacuation. It should be in a
position, preferably under cover, which is unlikely to be affected at the time of fire. In some cases it may
be necessary to make mutual arrangements with the occupiers of nearby premises. In the case of small
premises, a complete list of the names of all staff should be maintained so that a roll call can be made if
evacuation becomes necessary. In those premises where the number of staff would make a single roll
call difficult, each departmental fire warden should maintain a list of the names of staff in their area. Roll
call lists must be updated regularly.

Fire notices
Printed instructions for the action to be taken in the event of fire should be displayed throughout
the premises. The information contained in the instructions should be stated briefly and clearly. The
staff and their deputies to whom specific duties are allocated should be identified.

The alarm system should be tested every week, while the premises are in normal use. The test
should be carried out by activating a different call point each week, at a fixed time.

Fire drills
Once a fire routine has been established it must be tested at regular intervals in order to ensure
that all staff are familiar with the action to be taken in an emergency. The most effective way of
achieving this is by carrying out fire drills at prescribed intervals. Drills should be held at least twice a
year other than in areas dealing with hazardous processes where they should be more frequent. A
programme of fire drills should be planned to ensure that all employees, including shift workers and
part-time employees, are covered.

2.7 First aid at work

People at work can suffer injuries or fall ill. It does not matter whether the injury or the illness is
caused by the work they do. What is important is that they receive immediate attention and that an
ambulance is called in serious cases. First aid at work covers the arrangements employers must make
to ensure this happens. It can save lives and prevent minor injuries becoming major ones. The Health
and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 requires employers to provide adequate and appropriate
equipment, facilities and personnel to enable first aid to be given to employees if they are injured or
become ill at work.
What is adequate and appropriate will depend on the circumstances in a particular workplace.
The minimum first-aid provision on any worksite is:
‫ ݹ‬A suitably stocked first-aid box
‫ ݹ‬An appointed person to take charge of first-aid arrangements.
It is also important to remember that accidents can happen at any time. First-aid provision
needs to be available at all times people are at work.

Aspects to consider
The risk assessments carried out under the MHSW and COSHH regulations should show
whether there any specific risks in the workplace. The following should be considered:

‫ ݹ‬are there hazardous substances, dangerous tools and equipment; dangerous manual handling
tasks, electrical shock risks, dangers from neighbours or animals?
‫ ݹ‬are there different levels of risk in parts of the premises or site?
‫ ݹ‬What is the accident and ill-health record, type and location of incidents?
‫ ݹ‬What is the total number of persons likely to be on site?

Fig 2.11: (a) First aid and stretcher sign: (b) first aid sign.

‫ ݹ‬Are there young people, pregnant or nursing mothers on site, employees with disabilities or special
health problems?
‫ ݹ‬Are the facilities widely dispersed with several buildings or compact in a multi-storey building?
‫ ݹ‬What is the pattern of working hours, does it involve night work?
‫ ݹ‬Is the site remote from emergency medical services?
‫ ݹ‬Do employees travel a lot or work alone?
‫ ݹ‬Do any employees work at sites occupied by other employers?
‫ ݹ‬Are members of the public regularly on site?

Impact on first-aid provision if risks are significant

First aiders may need to be appointed if risks are significant. This will involve a number of
factors which must be considered, including:
‫ ݹ‬Training for first aiders
‫ ݹ‬Additional first-aid equipment and the contents of the first-aid box
‫ ݹ‬Sitting of first-aid equipment to meet the various demands in the premises. For example, provision of
equipment in each building or on several floors. There needs to be first-aid provision at all times during
working hours
‫ ݹ‬Informing local medical services of the site and its risks
‫ ݹ‬Any special arrangements that may be needed with the local emergency services.

If employees travel away from the site the employer needs to consider:
‫ ݹ‬Issuing personal first-aid kits and providing training
‫ ݹ‬Issuing mobile phones to employees
‫ ݹ‬Making arrangements with employers on other sites
Although there are no legal responsibilities for non employees, the HSE strongly recommends
that they are included in any first-aid provision.

Contents of the first-aid box

There is no standard list of items to put in a first-aid box. It depends on what the employer
assesses the needs to be. Where there is no special risk in the workplace, a minimum stock of first-aid
items is listed,
Stock for up to 50 persons:
A leaflet giving general guidance on first aid, e.g. HSE leaflet Basic advice on first aid at work.
• Medical adhesive plasters
• Sterile eye pads
• Individually wrapped triangular bandages
• Safety pins
• Individually wrapped: medium sterile unmedicated wound dressings
• Individually wrapped: large sterile unmedicated wound dressings
• Individually wrapped wipes
• Paramedic shears
• Pairs of latex gloves
• Sterile eyewash if no clean running water
An appointed person is someone that is appointed by management to:
‫ ݹ‬Take charge when someone is injured or falls ill. This includes calling an ambulance if required
‫ ݹ‬Look after the first-aid equipment, for example, keeping the first-aid box replenished
‫ ݹ‬Keeping records of treatment given.
A first aider is someone who has undergone an HSE approved training course in administering
first aid at work and holds a current first aid at work certificate. Lists of local training organizations are
available from the local environmental officer or HSE Offices. The training should be repeated every
three years to maintain a valid certificate and keep the first aider up to date
It is not possible to give hard and fast rules on when or how many first aiders or appointed
persons might be needed. This will depend on the circumstances of each particular organization or
worksite. Table offers suggestions on how many first aiders or appointed persons might be needed in

relation to categories of risk and number of employees. The details in the table are suggestions only,
they are not definitive, nor are they a legal requirement.

Source: HSE
Table: Number of first-aid personnel

Summary of the HSE’s review is that:

‫ ݹ‬HSE recognizes the FWC as the lead industry body with representation from all sectors for the FAW
training provider industry
‫ ݹ‬HSE will not transfer FAAMS to the FWC and will retain it in-house
‫ ݹ‬HSE has made some modifications to the structure of FAW training courses since its Position
Statement was published
‫ ݹ‬HSE needs to resolve a number of issues before a date for the introduction of the new courses is
announced and an adequate lead-in period will be given for FAW training providers.

5.1. Introduction
Incidents and accidents, whether they cause damage to property or more seriously injury and/or
ill-health to people, should be properly and thoroughly investigated to allow an organization to take the
appropriate action to prevent a recurrence. Good investigation is a key element to making
improvements in health and safety performance. Incident investigation is considered to be part of a
reactive monitoring system because it is triggered after an event.

Fig 4.1: A dangerous occurrence – fire.

The range of events includes:

‫ ݹ‬Injuries and ill-health, including sickness absence
‫ ݹ‬Damage to property, personal effects, work in progress, etc.
‫ ݹ‬Incidents which have the potential to cause injury, ill-health or damage.
Each type of event gives the opportunity to:
‫ ݹ‬Check performance
‫ ݹ‬Identify underlying deficiencies in management systems and procedures
‫ ݹ‬Learn from mistakes and add to the corporate memory
‫ ݹ‬Reinforce key health and safety messages
‫ ݹ‬Identify trends and priorities for prevention

‫ ݹ‬Provide valuable information if there is a claim for compensation
‫ ݹ‬Helps to meet legal requirements for reporting certain incidents to the authorities.

5.2 Reasons for incident/accident investigation

The legal reasons for conducting an investigation are:
‫ ݹ‬To ensure that the organization is operating in compliance with legal requirements
‫ ݹ‬That it forms an essential part of the MHSW Regulation 5 requirements to plan, organize, control,
monitor and review health and safety arrangements
‫ ݹ‬To comply with the Woolfe Report on civil action which changed the way cases are run. Full
disclosure of the circumstances of an accident has to be made to the injured parties considering legal
The fact that a thorough investigation was carried out and remedial action taken would
demonstrate to a court that a company has a positive attitude to health and safety. The investigation
will also provide essential information for insurers in the event of an employer’s liability or other claim.

There are many benefits from investigating accidents/incidents. These include:
‫ ݹ‬The prevention of similar events occurring again. Where the outcomes are serious injuries the
enforcing authorities are likely to take a tough stance if previous warnings have been ignored
‫ ݹ‬The prevention of business losses due to disruption immediately after the event, loss of production,
loss of business through a lowering of reputation or inability to deliver, and the costs of criminal and
legal actions
‫ ݹ‬Improvement in employee morale and general attitudes to health and safety particularly if they have
been involved in the investigations
‫ ݹ‬Improving management skills to improve health and safety performance throughout the organization.
The case for investigating near misses and undesired circumstances may not be so obvious but
it is just as useful and much easier as there are no injured people to deal with. There are no
demoralized people at work or distressed families and seldom a legal action to answer. Witnesses will
be more willing to speak the truth and help with the investigation.

What managers need to do

Managers need to:
‫ ݹ‬Communicate the type of accident and incident that needs to be reported
‫ ݹ‬Provide a system for reporting and recording

‫ ݹ‬Check that the proper reports are being made
‫ ݹ‬Make appropriate records of accidents and incidents
‫ ݹ‬Investigate all incidents and accidents reported
‫ ݹ‬Analyze the events routinely to check for trends in performance and the prevalence of types of
incident or injury
‫ ݹ‬Monitor the system to make sure that it is working satisfactorily.

Which incidents/accidents should be investigated?

Injury accident
Should every accident be investigated or only those that lead to serious injury? In fact the main
determinant is the potential of the accident to cause harm rather than the actual harm resulting.
The following table has been developed by the HSE to help to determine the level of
investigation which is appropriate. The worst case scenario for the consequences should be considered
in using the table. A particular incident like a scaffold collapse may not have caused an injury but had
the potential to cause major or fatal injuries.

‫ ݹ‬In a minimal level investigation, the relevant supervisor will look into the circumstances of the
accident/ incident and try to learn any lessons which will prevent future incidents

‫ ݹ‬A low level investigation will involve a short investigation by the relevant supervisor or line manager
into the circumstances and immediate underlying and root causes of the accident/incident, to try to
prevent a recurrence and to learn any general lessons
‫ ݹ‬A medium level investigation will involve a more detailed investigation by the relevant supervisor or
line manager, the health and safety adviser and employee representatives and will look for the
immediate, underlying and root causes
‫ ݹ‬A high level investigation will involve a team-based investigation, involving supervisors or line
managers, health and safety advisers and employee representatives. It will be carried out under the
supervision of senior management or directors and will look for the immediate, underlying and root

Investigations and causes of incidents

Investigations should be led by supervisors, line managers or other people with sufficient status
and knowledge to make recommendations that will be respected by the organization. The person will
be the department manager or supervisor of the person/ area involved because they:
‫ ݹ‬Know about the situation
‫ ݹ‬Know most about the employees
‫ ݹ‬Have a personal interest in preventing further incidents/ accidents affecting ‘their’ people, equipment,
area, materials
‫ ݹ‬Can take immediate action to prevent a similar incident
‫ ݹ‬Can communicate most effectively with the other employees concerned
‫ ݹ‬Can demonstrate practical concern for employees and control over the immediate work situation.

When should the investigation be conducted?

The investigation should be carried out as soon as possible after the incident to allow the
maximum amount of information to be obtained. There may be difficulties which should be considered
in setting up the investigation quickly – if, for example, the victim is removed from the site of the
accident, or if there is a lack of a particular expert. An immediate investigation is advantageous.

Investigation method
There are four basic elements to a sound investigation:
1. Collect facts about what has occurred
2. Assemble, and analyze the information obtained

3. Compare the information with acceptable industry and company standards and legal requirements to
draw conclusions
4. Implement the findings and monitor progress. Information should be gathered from all available
sources, for example, witnesses, supervisors, physical conditions, hazard data sheets, written systems
of work, training records, etc. The amount of time spent should not, however, be disproportionate to the
risk. The aim of the investigation should be to explore the situation for possible underlying factors, in
addition to the immediately obvious causes of the accident. For example, in a machinery accident it
would not be sufficient to conclude that an accident occurred because a machine was inadequately
guarded. It is necessary to look into the possible underlying system failure that may have occurred.
Investigations have three facets, which are particularly valuable and can be used to check against each
‫ ݹ‬Direct observation of the scene, premises, workplace, relationship of components, materials and
substances being used, possible reconstruction of events, and injuries or condition of the person
‫ݹ‬Documents including written instructions, training records, procedures, safe operating systems, risk
assessments, policies, records of inspections or test and examinations carried out
‫ݹ‬Interviews (including written statements) with persons injured, witnesses, people who have carried
out similar functions or examinations and tests on the equipment involved and people with specialist

Fig 4.2: Near miss event likely – accident waiting to happen.

5.3 Immediate causes
A detailed investigation should look at the following factors as they can provide useful
information about immediate causes that have been manifested in the incident/accident.
Personal factors:
‫ ݹ‬Behaviour of the people involved
‫ ݹ‬Suitability of people doing the work
‫ ݹ‬Training and competence
Task factors:
‫ ݹ‬Workplace conditions and precautions or controls
‫ ݹ‬Actual method of work adopted at the time
‫ ݹ‬Ergonomic factors
‫ ݹ‬Normal working practice either written or customary.

5.4 Underlying and root causes

A thorough investigation should also look at the following factors as they can provide useful
information about
Underlying and root causes that have been manifested in the incident/accident:
Underlying causes are the less obvious system or organizational reasons for an accident or
incident such as:
‫ ݹ‬Pre-start-up machinery checks were not made by supervisors
‫ ݹ‬The hazard had not been considered in the risk assessment
‫ ݹ‬There was no suitable method statement
‫ ݹ‬Pressures of production had been more important
‫ ݹ‬The employee was under a lot of personal pressure at the time
‫ ݹ‬Have there been previous similar incidents?
‫ ݹ‬Was there adequate supervision, control and coordination of the work involved?
Root causes involve an initiating event or failing from which all other causes or failings arise.
Root causes are generally management, planning or organizational failings including:
‫ ݹ‬Quality of the health and safety policy and procedures
‫ ݹ‬Quality of consultation and cooperation of employees
‫ ݹ‬The adequacy and quality of communications and information
‫ ݹ‬Deficiencies in risk assessments, plans and control systems
‫ ݹ‬Deficiencies in monitoring and measurement of work activities

‫ ݹ‬Quality and frequency of reviews and audits.

5.5 Investigation interview techniques

It must be made clear at the outset and during the course of the interview that the aim is not to
apportion blame but to discover the facts and use them to prevent similar accidents in the future.
A witness should be given the opportunity to explain what happened in their own way without
too much interruption and suggestion. Questions should then be asked to elicit more information. These
should be of the open type, which do not suggest the answer. Questions starting with the words in
Figure below are useful.

Fig 4.3: Questions to be asked in an investigation.

‘Why’ should not be used at this stage. The facts should be gathered first, with notes being
taken at the end of the explanation. The investigator should then read them or give a summary back to
the witness, indicating clearly that they are prepared to alter the notes, if the witness is not content with
them. If possible, indication should be given to the witness about immediate actions that will be taken to
prevent a similar occurrence and that there could be further improvements depending on the outcome
of the investigation. Accidents can often be very upsetting for witnesses, which should be borne in
mind. This does not mean they will not be prepared to talk about what has happened. They may in fact
wish to help, but questions should be sensitive; upsetting the witness further should be avoided.

Comparison with relevant standards

There are usually suitable and relevant standards which may come from the HSE, industry or
the organization itself. These should be carefully considered to see if:
‫ ݹ‬Suitable standards are available to cover legal standards and the controls required by the risk
‫ ݹ‬The standards are sufficient and available to the organization

‫ ݹ‬The standards were implemented in practice
‫ ݹ‬The standards were implemented, why was there a failure?
‫ ݹ‬Changes should be made to the standards.

The investigation should have highlighted both immediate causes and underlying causes.
Recommendations, both for immediate action and for longer-term improvements, should come out of
this, but it may be necessary to ensure that the report goes further up the management chain if the
improvements recommended require authorization, which cannot be given by the investigating team.

It is essential that a follow-up is made to check on the implementation of the recommendations.
It is also necessary to review the effect of the recommendations to check whether they have achieved
the desired result and whether they have had unforeseen ‘knock-on’ effects, creating additional risks
and problems.

Use of information
The accident investigation should be used to generate recommendations but should also be
used to generate safety awareness. The investigation report or a summary should therefore be
circulated locally to relevant people and, when appropriate, summaries circulated throughout the
organization. The accident does not need to have resulted in a three-day lost time injury for this system
to be used.

A number of people will potentially be involved in accident investigation. For most of these
people it will only be necessary on very few occasions. Training guidance and help will therefore be
required. Training can be provided in accident investigation in courses run on site and also in numerous
off-site venues. Computer -based training courses are also available. These are intended to provide
refresher training on an individual basis or complete training at office sites, for example, where it may
not be feasible to provide practical training.

Investigation form
Headings which could be used to compile an accident/ incident investigation form are given below:
‫ ݹ‬Date and location of accident

‫ ݹ‬Circumstances of accident
‫ ݹ‬Immediate cause of accident
‫ ݹ‬Underlying cause of accident
‫ ݹ‬Immediate action taken
‫ ݹ‬Recommendation for further improvement
‫ ݹ‬Report circulation list
‫ ݹ‬Date of investigation
‫ ݹ‬Signature of investigation team leader
‫ ݹ‬names of investigating team.

‫ ݹ‬Were the recommendations implemented?
‫ ݹ‬Were the recommendations effective?

5.6 Legal recording and reporting requirements

Accident book
Under the Social Security (Claims and Payments) Regulations 1979, regulation 25, employers
must keep a record of accidents at premises where more than ten people are employed. Anyone
injured at work is required to inform the employer and record information on the accident in an accident
book, including a statement on how the accident happened. The employer is required to investigate the
cause and enter this in the accident book if they discover anything that differs from the entry made by
the employee. The purpose of this record is to ensure that information is available if a claim is made for
compensation. The HSE has produced a new Accident Book BI 510 in May 2003 with notes on these
Regulations, and the Reporting of Injuries Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995
(RIDDOR) (see Figure ) and now complies with the Data Protection Act 1998.

RIDDOR requires employers, the self-employed and those in control of premises, to report
certain more serious accidents and incidents to the HSE or other enforcing authority and to keep a
record. There are no exemptions for small organizations.

Fig 4.4: The Accident Book BI 510 ISBN 0-7176-2603-2

Death or major injury

If an accident occurs at work and:
‫ ݹ‬An employee, or self-employed person working on the premise is killed or suffers a major injury
(including the effects of physical violence)
‫ ݹ‬A member of the public is killed or taken to hospital. The responsible person must notify the
enforcing authority without delay by the quickest practicable means, for example, telephone. They will
need to give brief details about the organization, the injured person(s) and the circumstances of the
accident and, within ten days, the responsible person must also send a completed accident report form,

Over three-day lost time injury

If there is an accident connected with work (including physical violence) and an employee, or
self-employed person working on the premises, suffers an injury and is away from work or not doing
their normal duties for more than three days (including weekends, rest days or holidays) but not
counting the day of the accident, the responsible person must send a completed accident report form,
F2508, to the enforcing authority within ten days.

If a doctor notifies the responsible person that an employee suffers from a reportable work-
related disease a completed disease report form, F2508A, must be sent to the enforcing authority.The
HSE InfoLine or the Incident Contact Centre can be contacted to check whether a particular disease is

Dangerous occurrence
If an incident happens which does not result in a reportable injury, but obviously could have
done, it could be a Dangerous Occurrence as defined by a list in the regulations All Dangerous
Occurrences must be reported immediately by, for example, telephone, to the enforcing authorities. The
HSE InfoLine or the Incident Contact Centre can be contacted to check whether a dangerous
occurrence is reportable. A completed accident report form, F2508, must be sent to the enforcing
authorities within ten days.

Whom to report to
Until 2001 all reports had to be made to the local HSE office or local authority. This can still be
done, but there is a centralized national system, called the Incident Contact Centre (ICC), which is a
joint venture between the HSE and local authorities. All reports sent locally are now passed on to the
ICC. This means that employers no longer need be concerned about which authority to report to, as all
incidents can be reported to the ICC directly. Reports can be sent by telephone, fax, the Internet, or by
post. If reporting by the Internet or telephone a copy of the report is sent to the responsible person for
correction, if necessary, and for their records.
‫ ݹ‬Postal reports should be sent to:
Incident Contact Centre
Caerphilly Business Park
CF83 3GG
‫ ݹ‬For Internet reports go to:
or link through
‫ ݹ‬By telephone (charged at local rates)
0845 300 9923
‫ ݹ‬By fax (charged at local rates)
0845 300 9924
‫ ݹ‬By email: riddor@natbrit.com

5.7 Internal systems for collecting and analyzing incident data
Type of incident
Most organizations will want to collect:
‫ ݹ‬All injury accidents
‫ ݹ‬Cases of ill-health
‫ ݹ‬Sickness absence
‫ ݹ‬Damage to property, personal effects and work in progress
‫ ݹ‬Incidents with the potential to cause serious injury, ill-health or damage.
Not all of these are required by law, but this should not deter the organization that wishes to
control hazards effectively.

All the information, whether in accident books or report forms, will need to be analyzed so that
useful management data can be prepared. Many organizations look at analysis each month and
annually. However, where there are very few incidents, quarterly may be sufficient. The health and
safety information should be used alongside other business measures and should receive equal status.
There are several ways in which data can be analysed and presented. The most common ways are:
‫ ݹ‬By causation using the classification used on the RIDDOR form F2508. This has been used on the
example accident report form
‫ ݹ‬By nature of the injury, such as cuts, abrasions, asphyxiation, amputations
‫ ݹ‬By the part of the body affected, such as hands, arms, feet, lower leg, upper leg, head, eyes, back
and so on. Sub-divisions of these categories could be useful if there were sufficient incidents
‫ ݹ‬By age and experience at the job
‫ ݹ‬By time of day
‫ ݹ‬By occupation or location of the job
‫ ݹ‬By type of equipment used.
There are a number of up-to-date computer recording programs which can be used to
manipulate the data if significant numbers are involved. The trends can be shown against monthly,
quarterly and annual past performance of, preferably, the same organization. If indices are calculated,
such as Incident Rate, comparisons can be made nationally with HSE figures and with other similar
organizations or businesses in the same industrial group. This is really only of major value to larger
organizations with significant numbers of events.

Compensation and insurance issues
Accidents arising out of the organization’s activities resulting in injuries to people and incidents
resulting in damage to property can lead to compensation claims. The second objective of an
investigation should be to collect and record relevant information for the purposes of dealing with any
claim. It must be remembered that, in the longer term, prevention is the best way to reduce claims and
must be the first objective in the investigation. An overzealous approach to gathering information
concentrating on the compensation aspect can, in fact, prompt a claim from the injured party where
there was no particular intention to take this route before the investigation. Nevertheless, relevant
information should be collected. Sticking to the collection of facts is usually the best approach.
As mentioned earlier the legal system in England and Wales changed dramatically with the
introduction of the Woolf reforms in 1999. These reforms apply to injury claims. This date was feared by
many because of the uncertainty and the fact that the pre-action protocols were very demanding. The
essence of the pre-legal action protocols is as follows:
1. ‘Letter of claim’ to be acknowledged within 21 days
2. 90 days from date of acknowledgement to either accept liability or deny. If liability is denied then full
reasons must be given
3. Agreement to be reached on using a single expert. The overriding message is that to comply with the
protocols quick action is necessary. It is also vitally important that records are accurately kept and
accessible. Lord Woolf made it clear in his instructions to the judiciary that there should be very little
leeway given to claimants and defendants who did not comply.
What has been the effect of these reforms on day to day activity?
At the present time there has been a dramatic drop in the number of cases moving to litigation.
Whilst this was the primary objective of the reforms, the actual drop is far more significant than anyone
anticipated. In large part this may simply be due to general unfamiliarity with the new rules and we can
expect an increase in litigation as time goes by.

However some of the positive effects have been

‫ ݹ‬The elimination of speculative actions due to the requirement to fully outline the claimant’s case in
the letter of claim
‫ ݹ‬Earlier and more comprehensive details of the claim allow a more focused investigation and
‫‘ ݹ‬Part 36 offers’ (payments into court) seem to be having greater effect in deterring claimants from
pursuing litigation
‫ ݹ‬Overall faster settlement.

The negative effects have principally arisen from failure to comply with the timescales
particularly relating to the gathering of evidence and records and having no time therefore to construct
a proper defence. Whilst it is still too early to make a full assessment of the impact of Woolf there are
reasons to be cautiously optimistic.
All accident report forms should include the names of all witnesses as a minimum. Where the injury is
likely to give rise to lost time, a photograph(s) of the situation should be taken.