Health & Safety Update – October 2011

This is the first in what we hope will become a regular update regarding Health & Safety in the Branch. Health & Safety affects all of us, and we all have a part to play in improving safety in the workplace. Our aim is to improve communications to members in the branch of H&S not only to let you know what we’re doing but also how you can get involved and feed into this process.

Fire alarm

Members will be aware of a number of issues surrounding the fire alarm and fire evacuations in the Triad. PCS has been pursuing these concerns since they first came to light, and have made some progress in raising Official Side’s awareness of the problems and the measures needed to address them.

Our negotiations in this regard are ongoing and will update members more fully in due course. In the meantime, where fire alarm panels are not working for any floor there should be a fire watch present both on that floor and the floors above and below as long as there are staff in the building. Members should also follow the normal procedures and evacuate the building in the event of the fire alarm sounding for anything other than a pre-announced test.

Safety Committee

In order to improve communications and negotiation with management on Health & Safety issues, we have issued a formal request to Alison Walsh to establish a Safety Committee in the Triad. This will comprise of one representative from HMRC and from every contractor operating the Triad (Mapeleys, Carillion, etc) and an equivalent number of PCS Safety Reps. This will be the main forum to discuss issues that affect the whole building, so members in the Triad are advised to feed issues to be taken to this committee to their nearest Safety Rep. Members will be updated regularly on these meetings.

Workplace inspections

PCS Safety Reps in the Triad are currently carrying out workplace inspections alongside management. These inspections are to identify any potential hazards and risks so that they can be addressed before they become a serious issue. Safety Reps will be providing consistent advice and guidance to managers whilst these inspections are completed. If you see an inspection taking place in your wing and there are any issues that need drawing to their attention – from frayed carpets and window drafts to trailing wires – don’t hesitate to let them know.

DSE Breaks

As long as members continue to do Work Management, we would continue to stress to members the importance of DSE breaks. No one must use DSE continuously for more than one hour without a break from screen work of at least five minutes. Health and Safety Legislation recommends 5-10 minutes every hour, however HMRC’s own guidance states that intensive jobs (such as work management) may require more frequent, shorter breaks, for example, five minutes in every 20 or 30.

Members should take breaks before they start to tire. This is more beneficial than taking a break to recover from fatigue. The appropriate timing of breaks is more important than the length. Also, these breaks must provide an opportunity to move, stretch and change position. So for example turning to look out the window for a minute does not constitute a DSE break! Members who manage staff should note that the employer and managers also have a duty of care to make sure their staff take these breaks.

PEP’S (Personal Evacuation Plans)

If you would have difficulty leaving the building under your own steam in the event of emergency, please speak to your FLM/Team Leader with a view to putting PEP in place. This may be for a permanent issue or a temporary one such as pregnancy or a broken limb.


If you regularly move or share desks as part of your job, please make sure that you set up your workstation to ensure that it meets your needs. Adjust any chair you are using, if required, in line with HMRC guidance – with the exception of OHN recommended chairs, clearly identified with orange tags; adjust the monitor – contrast / brightness / distance from you / correct height; check the position or the mouse and keyboard. If you are unable to adjust the workstation so that it meets your needs, please speak to your FLM/Team Leader.

Also, when somebody else has sat at your desk, make sure that you adjust it back again so that the layout is suitable for you as advised in the DSE online training package or by a DSE risk assessor.

Fire & Bomb Instructions

Please ensure that you have read the fire and bomb instructions – there is a difference in procedure between the two. Make sure that you know what to do in the event of an emergency to avoid exposing yourself and your colleagues to unnecessary risk. If there is anything that you do not understand please see your Team Leader/FLM or a health and safety rep.

Accident and near miss reporting

All accidents and near misses should be reported using an accident form HRACC1.

A near miss means that while there was no injury caused, there could have been. It is important that any such incident be reported, so that it can be investigated and measures put into place to avoid an accident. For example, issues such as continuous headaches & eyestrain should be reported as this will highlight any problems caused by poor work practices which can be reviewed to avoid injury. PCS Safety Reps actively monitor all reports of accident and near miss, and we undertake our own investigations independent of those of HMRC.

Please get in touch with a rep if you encounter problems associated with the issues in this update, or any other matter affecting you or your work.


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