News in brief

This month’s news in brief

TUC issues warning over disability

Workplace health and safety measures often unthinkingly discriminate against
disabled people, the TUC has warned. Wheelchair users find themselves refused jobs
because of fears they would not be able to escape during a fire; there is a
belief that having asthma or a genetic disposition to sickle-cell anaemia stops
staff from working safely; and disability-related absence is too often regarded
as sickness absence.

Prescription powers

Powers to allow pharmacists and nurses to prescribe drugs have been unveiled
by the Government. Patients with asthma, diabetes, coronary heart disease and
high blood pressure were likely to be among the first to benefit, with quicker
access to medicines, said the Department of Health. First level registered OHNs
will be able to train to prescribe, at a cost of £700, but will have to have
access to a prescribing budget.

Asbestos regulations

New regulations to protect construction workers refurbishing commercial
properties from asbestos came into force in November. The Control of Asbestos
at Work Regulations place the onus on commercial property managers to monitor
asbestos products in their buildings and ensure hazardous asbestos is replaced
by safe alternatives.

Obituary

As OH went to press we heard of the sudden death of Senga Turner, a
recruitment consultant for OH Recruitment. Turner, who began her nursing career
at 18, was a management and service developer in occupational health in the
steel and oil industries for many years, and was a warm and caring advocate of
all that is best in the profession. Our condolences go out to her family,
friends and colleagues.

Counselling helpine launched for staff

The Department for Work and Pensions has launched a hotline to help staff
cope with stress It offers the 60,000 civil servants access to professionally
qualified counsellors who can help with home and work problems.

BP wins stress reduction award

BP’s Grangemouth facility in Scotland has received an award from the
European Agency for Safety and Health at Work for its work in reducing stress
among staff. BP used a risk management strategy to identify potential stress
factors on a recent plant commissioning project.

HSE publishes hearing research

The Health and Safety Executive has published research into how employers
can encourage staff to wear hearing protection when exposed to loud noise.

Lessons from falls

Falls from height in the agricultural sector have claimed 80 lives in the
last 10 years – the second-largest cause of fatalities in the sector, according
to the Health and Safety Executive. These often occurred because risks had not
been properly assessed and little or no safety equipment was used. A booklet,
Why fall for it? has been published to help.

Offshore injuries

Provisional injury and incident figures for the offshore oil and gas
industry for 1 April 2001 to 31 March 2002, plus confirmed data for 2000-1 show
‘major’ injuries rose to 55 from 53. The HSE reports 230 off-shore injuries
reported, compared with 233 the previous year. There were also three
fatalities.

H&S fines rise 40%

Nearly 900 organisations and individuals were convicted of health and safety
offences during 2001-2002, says the HSE. Of the 1,064 cases prosecuted, more
than 84 per cent resulted in conviction. The average fine rose by 39 per cent
from 2000-2001 to £12,194.

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