– 90 percent of office workers eat lunch at their desks
– 22 percent of us do not wash our hands before preparing food at the office
– 65 percent of office workers go on to share PCs and telephones
– 72 percent of us pick our noses at work – Yuk!
– 90 percent of offices claim to have cleaners in every day and yet 65 percent of those who responded actually wished they had cleaned their equipment themselves
– 75 percent of us have a dirty PC screen – and yet do nothing about it!
– 60 percent of us have had a cold in the past three months – no surprise there then!
Action Your Company needs to take
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations apply to biological agents and there is a Biological Agents Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) in addition to the general COSHH requirements. Biological agents are classified into Groups 1-4 with Group 1 being the least and Group 4 the most dangerous. A suitable and sufficient risk assessment must be carried out for any work activity involving the deliberate use of biological agents (e.g. research, medical care) or any exposure where exposure is incidental to the activity (e.g. farm work, sewage work, social work, office work). The assessment should cover the agents, their form, effects and hazard groups, the likelihood of exposure and disease, the possibility of substitution by a less hazardous agent, the control measures, monitoring and health surveillance. Detailed guidance is available on appropriate control measures, especially for intentional work with biological agents. The HSE must be notified of the use, storage or consignment of biological agents. Protective clothing and equipment should not itself become a means of transmitting agents. Monitoring of exposure should be carried out if a suitable technique is available He surveillance can involve testing for immunity after vaccination. Information should be provided to employees in writing, particularly when dealing with highly infective agents.
Employers are required to report to the HSE any case of an employee suffering a notifiable, occupational disease. Report should be made on Form F2508A, available from HSE Books. Self-employed people should also make a report. The infectious diseases which should be reported are listed but there is a catch-all clause requiring a report in virtually all circumstances.
Action for safety representatives
1.Ensure that members are fully informed about the risks of their job and appropriate prevention and control measures including vaccination.
2. Demand the employer provides suitable information and training in the avoidance of risk, including work methods, use of equipment and hygiene.
3. Demand the employer carries out a comprehensive risk assessment which covers prevention, control and protection and monitoring and health surveillance.
4. Where biological agents are being used, stored or transported ensure that the correct procedures are in force, according to the Hazard Group of the agent.
5. Where there is a serious and imminent risk of infection, advise members that they are entitled to withdraw their labour in order to protect themselves. If circumstances allow, seek advice from your union officials before taking this step. 6.
If any disease symptoms occur, ensure that members report these immediately and that a report goes to the HSE if required. Any other people who might be affected should be immediately tested for signs of illness.
6. COSHH regulations: LHC factsheet, available from LHC and on www.lhc.org.uk.