This month’s news

Safety study

Occupational accident investigations need to be led by line managers rather
than safety professionals if they are to be effective, says RoSPA. A study of
practices by investigation expert Dr John Kingston found that emphasis needs to
be put on identifying underlying weaknesses in health and safety management
systems rather than on apportioning blame.

Mobiles risk alert

Mobile phones may cause kidney damage, research by the European Research
Institute for Electronic Components has found. The research indicates that
exposure to low-level radiation from the phones can cause red blood cells to
leak haemoglobin, a build-up of which can lead to heart disease and kidney
stones. The Department of Health says the study will be examined by a committee
due to report on phone safety next year.

Hospital aggro ban

Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham, is to refuse to treat violent patients
after staff said they can no longer cope with soaring levels of alcohol- and
drug-induced aggression and harassment. But legal experts have warned that the
hospital may face lawsuits if there is an error of judgement in choosing who to
treat on this basis.

Mental health alert

The Mental Health Foundation has produced a new booklet aimed at increasing
awareness of stress at work. Mental Health in the Workplace advises on reducing
the causes of stress at work. Mental health problems lead to the loss of 91
million working days a year.

Musculoskeletal aid

HSE-funded research into the risk of musculoskeletal disorders in the
workplace has resulted in a prototype assessment tool. The developers believe it
could lead to improvements in work environments and equipment.

Call centre probe

The HSE will conduct research into call centres, which it defines as "a
work environment in which the main business is conducted via the telephone while
simultaneously using DSE". The research will take the form of a
questionnaire to be discussed with managers, call handlers, union
representatives and occupational health professionals.

Hepatitis precaution

Care workers, prison officers, paediatric nurses and overseas employees are
among those most at risk from contracting hepatitis A or B, according to a
recent report. Hepatitis A and B: a Guide to the Occupational Risks recommends
these "at risk groups" should be vaccinated.

Asbestos ban is law

The Asbestos (Prohibitions) (Amendments) Regulations 1999 came into force in
Great Britain on 24 November. It is now illegal to import, supply or use
chrysotile (white asbestos.) The ban comes five years ahead of the European
directive deadline banning the marketing and use of the substance in member

Hazards directives

The HSE has announced the formation of a new Hazardous Installations
Directive (HID) which incorporates the Chemical and Hazardous Installations
Division (CHID), the Offshore Safety Division (OSD) and HM Mines Inspectorate.

Semiconductor study

The HSE is asking former and current employees of National Semiconductor
UK’s Greenock factory to take part in a study to investigate concerns over
cancer in the semiconductor industry. The study will compare the number of
cases of cancer in the workforce since 1970 with a similar-sized Scottish
workforce in a different industry. Researchers expect the investigation to be
completed in about a year.

Risks of MDFreport

The HSE has published a Hazard Assessment Document for medium density
fibreboard (MDF), following the announcement in October 1997 that it would be
investigating its effects on the health of workers. The report includes
scientific evidence on the effects of MDF exposure.

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