Frequently asked questions
Do you have a question that needs answering or need some help?
Here are some of our most frequently asked questions on health, safety and environmental issues. If you click on a question it will take you to a general guide containing the answer.
The easiest way to establish whether your hearing protection is sufficient is to look at the ‘single number rating’ (SNR). This information will be available on the hearing protection box. This method is suitable for general industrial and occupational noise sources. If the noise is dominated by single frequencies or the noise is very loud ‘peak’ noise, such as a gunshot, a different assessment method must be used.
The single number rating is the amount that the noise levels at the ear will be reduced by. You need to know the C-weighted noise level for this calculation. Ear plugs with an SNR of 25 will bring noise levels of 100dB down to 75dB at the ear. However, the HSE advises that you also take into account “real world factors” by adding on 4dB to your final number. This will allow for factors such as poor fit to be taken into account and give you a more realistic estimation of the suitability of your hearing protection.
Noise levels at the ear must be brought down to below 85dB. Ideally you should aim for between 75-80dB. All hearing protection should carry the CE mark which means it will satisfy the relevant part of BS EN 352 (Hearing Protectors. Safety Requirements and Testing).
Related service: Noise Risk Assessment
There is no requirement to have an asbestos survey carried out. Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) 2012 states the duty is to manage asbestos not a duty to survey. However in order to manage asbestos that may be within your building, you need to know where it is, what type of asbestos it is and importantly, what condition it is in.
If your building was built before 1999, particularly in the 1960’s and 1970’s, there is a good chance that some materials used within construction or fit-out contain asbestos. The only way that you can be totally certain of this is by carrying out a management survey which will help you assess, prioritise and manage these materials and allow you to carry out regular assessments to ensure that they remain in good condition.
You can of course, assume that all unknown or suspect items contain asbestos, but in a larger building this can quickly become unmanageable.
A management survey should be carried out by an independent organisation that is not linked to any removal or remediation company, so that you can be sure that any recommendations given are made to help you with effective management.
This depends on the nature of the water services you have throughout the building, and where the water is supplied from. As a landlord, you have a duty of care to your tenants within the building, and to provide your tenants with wholesome water in accordance with Water Supply (Water Quality) Regulations 1999. Contract agreements and relationships between tenants and landlords differ across portfolios. Some landlords prefer to take responsibility for all hot and cold water services throughout a building and therefore will be the responsible person for the maintenance of the water services regarding Legionella management. Where tenants add services (i.e. showers), these will typically fall under their responsibility to manage them unless specifically agreeed with the landlord to be incorporated into their scheme of management.
If there are cold water storage tanks, under the landlord responsibility, but the outlets are within the tenant demise, it is the landlords’ duty to inspect, maintain and temperature check the stored water. Further to this, the landlord should be carrying out monthly temperature checks of sentinel outlets (nearest and furthest from the water source), as a minimum, to demonstrate that the water is being supplied at recommended temperatures. This should also be carried out if the landlords’ central hot water systems are supplying tenanted areas.
As tenants, it is their responsibility to maintain the water services within their demise as detailed in ‘Legionnaires’ disease - The control of legionella bacteria in water system, (L8)’. Tenants should have a suitable and sufficient Legionella risk assessment for any water services they have installed in addition to the landlord systems. A written scheme should be implemented on site, detailing all necessary control measures required for effective legionella management.
It is important to note that the general maintenance and cleanliness of the tenants’ systems and outlets can impact on the entire building system, so it is extremely important to ensure that appropriate regimes are in place.
Thermostatic mixing valves (TMVs) should only be installed as a preventative to scalding to those susceptible, for example in healthcare premises or for vulnerable individuals. TMVs blend hot and cold water, so there is a potential increased risk of Legionella proliferation as temperatures typically range between 37°C and 46°C in pipework before the valve.
To help manage this risk, TMVs should be sited as closely as possible to the point of use and flushed regularly. TMVs should also be inspected on an annual basis as a functionality check, with any strainers cleaned to remove scale, debris, etc. that may be present. A drop test, if applicable, should be carried out also.
It is important to obtain temperatures of both the hot and cold water which supplies the TMVs, to confirm that water is being supplied at the correct temperature. This can be achieved by temperature testing nearby outlets (on the same hot and cold water system), installing test points on the pipework, or alternatively you can use a touch probe. It must be noted, that correct training should be given when using a touch probe, as there are numerous variables to take into account (e.g. whether the pipework has been painted).
No, unless there is evidence that control measures are not being consistently achieved, it has been recommended in your Legionella risk assessment or it forms part of a more integrated performance review/audit.
A microbiological monitoring regime should be implemented if:
The control measures for your hot and cold water services, such as temperature or chemical treatment levels, are consistently recorded out of the site-specific parameters. A thorough review of the system and treatment regimes should be carried out, and necessary action should be made. For example, increasing the frequency of testing to provide early warning of loss of control, which could then be reviewed again once control has been regained.
There is a high risk of host susceptibility of legionellosis within the building e.g. healthcare facilities or care homes.
There has been a suspected or identified outbreak of legionellosis.
It has been recommended within your Legionella risk assessment. Your Legionella risk assessment will determine the risk of your domestic water services, and depending on the findings, a recommendation to implement a sampling regime may be made.
Where microbiological monitoring for Legionella is considered appropriate in hot and cold water systems, sampling should be carried out in accordance with BS 7592 Sampling for Legionella organisms in water and related materials. The complexity of the system will need to be taken into account to determine the appropriate number of samples to take and where to take them from.
To ensure the sample is representative of each water system and not just of the water downstream of a fitting or valve, samples should be taken from separate outlets to obtain a true hot or cold water temperature and sample rather than from mixer taps, or thermostatic mixing valves (TMV). Samples should be clearly labelled with their source location and whether they were collected pre-flushing or post-flushing.
It is important to remember that, as part of an integrated performance review/audit a sampling regime for your water services demonstrates a pro-active approach to the management of Legionella risk.
If you have a member of staff with an impairment that may affect their ability to leave the building in the event of emergency, you must have procedures and methods in place to be able to evacuate. The best starting point for this is to create a Personnel Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP) with them.
During a pre-planned practice drill, if there is risk of the members of staff being put at further injury through the evacuation process then there is no requirement to evacuate them. However, you must have a means of being able to evacuate all persons from your refuge points without further assistance from the fire brigade in a true emergency. Techniques could include assistance from buddies, evacuation chairs, powered stair climbers and firefighting lifts.
Reasonable adjustments must be made for workers with disabilities under The Equality Act 2010 to remove any potential barriers or provide auxiliary aids to assist them in their job role. Reasonableness is determined by the following;
Effectiveness of measure
Cost (availability of financial or other aid)
Extent of disruption
Extent of the company resources and considering other resources available
These factors will vary dependent on the nature of the business, location and for each disabled person. Our access auditor experts are able to offer advice on what would be considered reasonable in your situation.
You are required to have a risk assessment by law if the daily ‘personal noise exposure’ of any of your employees, or people carrying out work on your behalf, is 80dB (A-weighted) or above. ‘Personal noise exposure’ is a specific calculation that is required by the regulations, and it takes into account the actual noise levels as well as the amount of time your workers are exposed to the noise each day or each week.
If your work is in an industry that is typically noisy, such as construction, engineering, transport, general manufacture, food production or music and entertainment you will normally exceed the 80dB exposure value and you will therefore require a noise risk assessment. You will also usually require a noise risk assessment if your building contains a back-up power generator that is tested regularly, or if you are responsible for grounds maintenance using noisy equipment such as chainsaws and mowers.
The HSE advises that if the noise level that your workers are exposed to is similar to the sound of a crowded restaurant, busy street or vacuum cleaner then it is likely to be around 80dB. Normal conversation will be possible but the noise will be intrusive. If the conditions are like this for 6 to 8 hours a day you will need a noise risk assessment. For noise that is any louder, or if you have to shout to hold a conversation with someone nearby, you will need a noise risk assessment even if people are exposed for only very short periods during the day.
In addition to the A-weighted noise level (which is the type of noise that applies to most industries), you will also require a risk assessment if the peak sound pressure your employees are exposed to is 135dB (C-weighted) or above. Peak exposures are common in some manufacturing industries, as well as people who work with firearms and fireworks.
If you are not sure whether you need a noise risk assessment, you should err on the side of caution, and carry one out.
Related service: Noise Risk Assessment
Compliant is not the right word to use when referring to disability in the context of the The Equality Act 2010. The requirement of the act is to not discriminate and not to treat people with disabilities less favourably.
There is guidance to help do this. However, it is difficult to determine if you comply, as the act is none specific and non-prescriptive. Your level of accessibility will also be constantly changing, as people and the surrounding environment change.
The best way to determine your current accessibility is to undertake an access audit or access management review.
Yes, unless you’ve provided all your workers with the equivalent leaflet. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advice is:
“Employers are required, by law, to either display the HSE-approved law poster or to provide each of their workers with the equivalent leaflet”
The previous 1999 poster was updated in 2009 and the approved version should be placed in a prominent position in each workplace. The poster is available for purchase in A2 and A3 size, as well as for offshore installations, Northern Ireland and in Welsh.
The “equivalent leaflet” or pocket card is free to order from the HSE.
The regulations that apply are the Health and Safety Information for Employees Regulations (HSIER) 1989.
Legionnaires' disease The control of legionella bacteria in water systems, Approved Code of Practice and guidance on regulations (L8) 2013 sets the current requirements for Legionella management including risk assessment.
L8 applies “to the control of Legionella bacteria, in any undertaking involving a work activity managed by you or on your behalf. It applies to premises controlled in connection with a trade, business or other undertaking where water is used or stored; and where there is a means of creating and transmitting water droplets (aerosols) which may be inhaled”.
We offer Legionella risk assessments, accredited through UKAS, together with award-winning management systems, written schemes, training and support. With our own in-house laboratory, our sampling and testing is also UKAS accredited, providing you with complete peace of mind.
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (Section 2(3)) states “It shall be the duty of every employer to prepare and as often as may be appropriate revise a written statement of his general policy with respect to the health and safety at work of his employees and the organisation and arrangements for the time being in force for carrying out that policy, and to bring the statement and any revision of it to the notice of all of his employees.”
However, if you have fewer than five employees, you do not need to have your health and safety policy written down.
There is no formal requirement to sign a policy, but as the purpose of the document is to demonstrate management from the top, most organisations do. The example policies on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) also have boxes for signature.
It is far more important that the policy and arrangements are shared and implemented (for which top drive is usually needed). You can have a beautifully documented and signed policy, however, if it isn’t shared and implemented it, means little legally or organisationally.
A ‘positive noise purchasing policy’ is a written policy which confirms that you will take noise levels into account when purchasing new plant or machinery. Noise levels are available for all new machinery and should be compared when you purchase new equipment.
Where it is deemed necessary to purchase machinery which increases the noise exposure to your employees the HSE advises that a record is kept of the reasoning behind this decision.
Related service: Noise Risk Assessment
Disability is one of a number of ‘protected characteristics’ covered by the Equality Act 2010. Within the Act, disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial (more than minor or trivial) and long-term (typically 12 months or more) negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.
Where a condition may be progressive or deteriorate over time, they can be classed as a disability, such as sufferers with cancer, HIV or multiple sclerosis for example, meet the disability definition from their day of diagnosis.
Some conditions, such as addiction to non-prescription drugs, are not covered by the definition of disability and other recurring or fluctuating conditions (e.g. arthritis) have special rules in place.
With qualified National Register of Access Consultants (NRAC) on our team we can help with any questions you may have about the suitability of your access provisions.
Originally, through parts II and III of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 worked to protect people with disabilities from discrimination in areas such as employment and service provision. Since then the DDA Act only applies in Northern Ireland and the Equality Act 2010 now covers the requirements in England, Scotland and Wales.
You could be considered as discriminating against a disabled person if:
You directly treat them less favorably than others
Through your policies, procedures and arrangements in place for all, you indirectly put someone with a disability at an unfair disadvantage.
Unwanted behaviour creates an offensive environment or violates the dignity of a disabled person
You treat a disabled person unfairly because they’ve complained about discrimination or harassment.
For premises accessibility and inclusivity, you need to consider and make as appropriate, “reasonable adjustments” to ensure the workplace has the right facilities and equipment for any disabled employees or anyone else that may (reasonably) enter the premises or workplace.
You are not obliged to make any alterations/adjustments, but you should:
Be aware of the barriers to access your premises/workplace has and consider what is needed.
Consult with any employees with disabilities, as to any adjustments you may need to make on their behalf.
Ensure any facilities you have provided (e.g. disabled washrooms and car parking spaces) are fit for purpose.
Consider what provisions you need to make for visitors or others who may want/need to access your premises/workplaces
Our team of qualified National Register of Access Consultants (NRAC) can help with any questions you may have about the suitability of your access provision or provide comprehensive access audits, so you know the options available to you.
Your Legionella risk assessment and management system should be designed to demonstrate your, effective ongoing compliance.
Legionnaires' disease The control of Legionella bacteria in water systems, Approved Code of Practice and guidance on regulations (L8) 2013, sets out clear guidance on when a review of your risk assessment is needed. This states:
“The record of the assessment is a living document that must be reviewed to ensure it remains up-to-date. Arrange to review the assessment regularly and specifically whenever there is reason to suspect it is no longer valid. An indication of when to review the assessment and what to consider should be recorded. This may result from for example:
(a) changes to the water system or its use;
(b) changes to the use of the building in which the water system is installed;
(c) the availability of new information about risks or control measures;
(d) the results of checks indicating that control measures are no longer effective;
(e) changes to key personnel;
(f) a case of Legionnaires’ disease/legionellosis associated with the system.”
With over 30 years award-winning experience in supporting organisation in successfully managing Legionella we can help ensure your management is both realistic and compliant to your needs.
Relevant legislation that relates to alcohol would include the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 and for example the Transport and Works Act 1992. There is also available for the HSE guidance covering alcohol related issues i.e. Don't mix it: A guide for employers on alcohol at work (INDG240). Historic research by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has "estimated that up to 40% of accidents at work involved, or are related to alcohol use" (ibe Briefing 44 December 2014). So even though work parties have come under the spotlight as a potential issue, alcohol in the workplace is a much broader issue.
While there is no formal legal requirement for a specific alcohol policy, many organisations have introduced them as part of HR and/or health and safety. These policies are often broadened to include drugs too. So whether you provide free alcohol routinely in the office for your staff or just at "special occasions" it should be this policy that identifies and directs what is acceptable - both employer and employee have a responsibility in the eyes of the law too. If you are looking to sell alcohol or provide 'licensable activities' from a particular venue then they need a Premises Licence, a Licence Holder and a Designated Premises Supervisor. Applications are made through local council, licensable activities include:
- Selling alcohol
- Serving hot food and drinks between 11pm and 5am
- Theatrical performance
- Showing a film
- Indoor sporting event
- Boxing or wrestling (indoor or outdoor)
- Live music
- Recorded music
- Facilities for making music
- Dancing facilities
You still need a license even if the activities are for charity.
With decades of collective experience, specialist teams and competent individuals, and 1,000's of risk assessments completed every year across the UK, you can be assured that we have the necessary skills and ability to ensure your assessments are both suitable and sufficient.
Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSD) are the most common cause of occupational ill health in the UK, affecting over 500,000 people in 2015/16 according to Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
“Work activities that present a risk of WRMSD range from lifting heavy loads and assembly-line work through to using display screen equipment. Back injuries are most commonly associated with lifting and handling activities, upper limb disorders with repetitive tasks and display screen use”
Display screen equipment risk assessment (also known as workstation assessments) have been a requirement since 1992 through the Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Regulations. The Regulations are designed to protect “people who habitually use DSE for the purposes of an employer’s undertaking as a significant part of their normal work.”
Covering aspects including screen, keyboard, mouse, chair, desk, environment and software, the assessment should consider the users set up. Where appropriate, simple adjustments could make them more comfortable and the equipment easier to use. Length of time working at the screen and the type of work being undertaken are other factors to consider.
Employers need to identify how they are going to comply with the regulations as well as the means with which they will assess and implement any adjustments required.
Assessments should be reviewed periodically (depending on the company policy), or where there is reason to suspect that the existing is no longer valid or there has been a significant change in the matters to which it relates; and where as a result of any such review changes to an assessment are required.
If you are the person, or employer, in overall control of a building or a project, then yes, you are responsible for making sure that the noise risks are assessed and that the information on noise is made available to all affected employers.
You have a responsibility to work with your contractor, or any other employer who is affected by the noise, to make sure that any identified noise control measures are carried out. This includes identifying areas where hearing protection must be worn, and ensuring appropriate signage and information is in place. You also have a responsibility to provide instruction and training to your contractors in relation to the specific work they are doing for you. However, health surveillance (hearing tests) need only be provided by the direct employer of the workers affected.
Similarly, if you have mobile workers that may be exposed to noise at premises outside of your control, you do still have a responsibility to assess the risks and put any necessary control measures in place.
Employers need to communicate with each other to ensure that they are all meeting their obligations to protect workers’ hearing. You should never assume that someone else has already assessed the risks.
Related services: Noise Risk Assessments
A whole science of its own, health and safety is a fundamental part of all business activities, or at least should be.
Dependent on the nature of your business, the list of activities you undertake and the impact they have will vary. Breaking down these activities is the key to understanding how they support the business.
We offer an array of solutions from strategic, high-level policy issues to specific operational controls, covering reviews, risk assessments and training, as well as documentation and policy development or support that can all help you to achieve your aims.
Floods over the past few years have highlighted the urgent need for long-term business continuity planning.
Flooding also has secondary problems as it can cause travel problems, power cuts and water supply disruption.
We can carry out a flood risk assessment to see where your biggest risks are and help you to minimise the impact to your organisation.
Ensuring that your contractors are doing a good job is not just satisfying a Service Level Agreement (SLA), but making sure what they are actually delivering is right for your organisation.
With everything from total facilities management (TFM) style contracts in place to specialist “on call” providers, it remains your responsibility from a duty holder perspective to ensure you have the right levels of compliance, understanding and roles and responsibilities in place.
We offer a range of tailored assessments, backed, where needed, with testing and examination work, to help you identify the work being undertaken and how valuable it really is.
Where you are providing food services, high standards of hygiene in the preparation and delivery of that food is of paramount importance. A food safety audit would provide the ideal grounding to challenge your current position and provide an action plan to get on track.
To effectively manage your food safety and catering, it needs to be considered from the supplier and facilities perspective, because even if your catering is contracted out, it is ultimately you who is responsible.
Yes your contract caterer is performing audits of their systems and performance, but how are you satisfying yourself of their effectiveness? When the local authority visit they are going to want to know that what is in place is safe and being well managed, shouldn’t you be auditing for that too?
We have the expertise to assess these areas. Our range of services will challenge where you are, and highlight any gaps in your management. We can also support you during visits from Environmental Health Practitioners.
Properly understanding property and building services compliance can seem impossible at times. Covering areas as diverse as statutory compliance, workplace procedures, contractors, health and safety, water, asbestos and fire, a lot can change in a short period of time.
We offer our customers a tailored suite of reviews to provide the reassurance that your property compliance in its broadest sense is being effectively managed, or if not what, needs to be done to get there. Whether you have a single building or a portfolio that spans the UK and beyond, we can provide you with the information you need to know.
The first step to reviewing your fire risk assessment is to look at your current document and think about these questions:
Is it still applicable to my organisation?
Am I doing anything different that could have changed the fire risk of my building since the document was produced?
Have the occupancy levels or building layout changed?
What are my fire management inspections, checks and maintenance works telling me?
Are there any aspects of your current arrangements you would like to change?
If any changes have occurred, you need to satisfy yourself that either they do not materially affect your current fire management, or if they do, what effect they have.
We offer our customers a full fire risk assessment review, which provides them with an independent view of what actions they need to take to comply with legislation and reduce the chance, and impact, of any fires that may occur.
It is a legal requirement to review your risk assessment regularly, as well as to review it sooner if you suspect it may no longer be valid or if there has been a significant change in the work being carried out. As with all risk assessments, your noise risk assessment should be reviewed on at least a two yearly basis, even if it appears nothing has changed in your workplace.
If circumstances change in your workplace, such as new work processes, newly introduced noise control measures or new shift patterns, or if new machinery is purchased, you should review your noise risk assessment to ensure that your employees still have suitable protection. Your risk assessment should also be reviewed if you become aware of new noise-control techniques, or if control measures that were not originally practicable become more achievable (for example due to better technologies or reduced costs).
If you carry out health surveillance (hearing tests) on your employees and the results indicate that hearing damage is occurring, the risk assessment must be reviewed as you will need to improve your control measures.
Related service: Noise Risk Assessment
Complaints around the workplace environment could be the result of a number of issues, so your initial approach must be to gather accurate and verifiable information. It could stem from something as simple as temperature control or lighting, but could also have a more deep-rooted cause (layout, occupation levels, system imbalance).
Without an accurate assessment of your building, you may be forever chasing symptoms, and not reaching a full solution. Our workplace environmental assessments will test all aspects of your workplace comfort conditions, and give you an independent overview of what could be causing the issues and what you need to do to rectify them.
Knowing exactly where you are with your asbestos management is the key to success. This means having accurate and up to date information on all of your asbestos containing materials (ACM).
The information you hold about asbestos must be kept up to date and made available to anyone who may work with on it or disturb it. Regular reviews and condition assessments should form an essential part of your strategy, alongside training for all relevant personnel.These are the key requirements and responsibilities of the duty-holder.
The likelihood is, if you are relying on a survey that is now years old, which has never been supported with the condition assessments, reviews and training, then your management may not be as robust as you think it is. As a starting point for you, you could check any areas that are “not assessed” or that have been excluded in your survey report.
Over the last decade we have seen sustainability develop from primarily an environmental topic to cover areas as diverse as health and safety, wellbeing, social value, modern slavery and the living wage. The nature of the organisation will dictate how each element interacts, the significance it has and so the profile it presents. Understanding this is fundamental to successfully implementing and delivering on your policy aims.
A strategic level management review is an ideal step in gaining that understanding. It provides a clear picture of your current position, the information you have/are reporting and so where your resources can be deployed to best effect for your department and your organisation.
The ‘SNR’, or ‘single number rating’ is one of the ways in which the effectiveness of hearing protection is measured.
The single number rating is essentially how many decibels the noise level at the ear will be reduced by. It is calculated using the measured C-weighted noise level. For example, hearing protection with an SNR rating of 30 will reduce the noise levels by 30dB.
This does not take into account “real world factors” and as such the HSE recommend that 4dB is added on to ensure that employees are given adequate protection.
Related service: Noise Risk Assessment