Health and safety laws are designed to ensure that working environments are safe for all workers. The law requires that both employers and employees take caution to ensure that they do not risk the life and health of fellow workers. The International Labour organization (ILO) states that “Occupational health should aim at: the promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, mental and social well-being of workers in all occupations; the prevention amongst workers of departures from health caused by their working conditions; the protection of workers in their employment from risks resulting from factors adverse to health; the placing and maintenance of the worker in an occupational environment adapted to his physiological and psychological capabilities; and, to summarize, the adaptation of work to man and of each man to his job.”
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This paper looks at the working practices in my organization-Ferranti Technologies Ltd (FTL) which is a manufacturing company that designs products for the defence and aerospace markets. The paper shall also look into the company’s health and safety policy and also perform a risk management assessment to find out the risks that threaten the company in terms of health and safety. Finally, I shall make recommendations as to how FTL can improve its health and safety profile to avoid certain risks.
FTL’s roots can be traced to Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti’s company called Ferranti, Thompson and Ince which was established in 1882. The initial company was popular for designing the Ferranti-Thompson alternator and providing products for alternating current supply. Ferranti formed another company named S.Z. Ferranti which helped build the first modern power distribution system in the UK. In 1903, the company went into receivership even after attempting to cut costs by moving from London to Oldham. It was later bought in 1905 and renamed Ferranti Limited while still under receivership.
Ferranti Ltd became a major supplier of power transformers and through its sales; England’s national grid was formed. Later the company ventured into the so-called ‘brown goods’ which included radios and television sets. The company later sold this part to EKCO Ltd and instead stated focusing on fuses and valves which it supplied during the Second World War. It was during the war that the company restructured to become a major defence systems manufacturer. Ferrari Ltd played a huge role in the designing of radar systems which were used in war aircraft and submarines. Its role in the war brought in good returns and the company expanded into Scotland and the USA.
After the war, the company splits its businesses into various divisions which ventured into different markets. Its defence systems business continued to be a major earner but it was overshadowed by the new computer business. The Ferranti Mark 1 was the company’s first computer and it was later followed by the Pegasus which was very popular. Meanwhile, the company had ventured into the semiconductor business and was the first company in Europe to develop a silicon diode.
The company acquired the International Signal and Control (ISC), a company based in Pennsylvania in the US. The company then restructured to become a conglomerate called Ferrranti International. The new company had six divisions under the banner of Ferranti namely; ISC, defence, dynamics, sattcom, computer and Ferranti technologies. It operated as a group until it went bankrupt in 1993. FTL was bought out of the bankrupt firm by Elbit Systems Ltd and it operates from Oldham as a leading electronics supplier in the aeronautical sector.
Currently, FTL has two divisions, power & control and avionics & missions. The former producers electronics for moving and controlling devices such as power distribution units, static inverters, motor control, converters and transformer rectifiers. These products have been used in heavy moving machines, hydraulic systems and industrial applications.
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The avionics and missions division produces products customed for the avionics market such as night vision googles, munitions guidance, computer support systems, displays with multifunctional capability, digital video recorders (DVR), tactical processors, HELIC3OM e.t.c. HELIC3OM is a popular control, communication, command and mission management system which gives feedback to bring about situational awareness. FTL is also known for offering professional management services for the engineering world.s
The Company’s Health and Safety Policy and Compliance with Legislation
The company’s manufacturing works are done in Oldham’s plants which are well designed to minimize risk. However, the nature of work is quite risky and thus the company has a health and safety policy which attempts to regulate activities that may bring about injury to others. In the policy, Ferranti Technologies commits itself to the obligations imposed on it under the Health and Safety Work Act (HSA) of 1974. Chief among these obligations is that all employers shall take all such actions that are deemed to be reasonable to guarantee employees’ health and safety. The Act further directs that all organizations that have five employees or more must have an adequate written policy detailing the organization’s plan to ensure healthy and safe working conditions are put in place.
In concordance with the Act, FTL recognizes that the reasonable acts that are stated in the Act require that it; assesses all the risks in all its workplaces; ensures that workplaces fulfill health, safety and welfare requirements on lighting, temperature, ventilation and staff facilities; have all health and safety procedures written down; checks regularly that premises have no structural defects, worn out fixtures and fittings and unsafe electrical equipment and if it does, take actions to remedy the situation; ensures that at all times there is a safe and clear access to the building and its fire exits; ensures that all the organization’s equipments are suitable for their intended use and also properly used and maintained; ensures that employees know the procedure of evacuation during fires and conduct regular fire drills; ensures that employees know the procedure to follow in case an accident occurs; ensures that all employees are aware of their duties and responsibilities regarding health and safety by setting them out clearly in their job descriptions; prohibits smoking in the workplace; provides the right working attire (protective clothing where necessary) and; prohibits any contractor form working in the workplace without consultation with the officer in charge of occupational safety as to the imminent risks and how to avoid them.
The policy states clearly that it is guided by these requirements and outlines its desire to see through their implementation. The management of FTL commits itself to ensuring that occupational health and safety is taken into serious consideration in all the company’s undertakings and it states that breach of the set procedures on health and safety shall constitute misconduct and the errant employee shall face disciplinary action.
The policy further stipulates that the company will dedicate itself towards ensuring that employees are aware of their responsibilities under the Act which are; taking reasonable care of the health and safety of other workers as well as their own, cooperating fully with the management on matters of health and safety; using equipment in the right manner and for the right purpose and ; providing guidance to other users of the workplace other than their fellow colleagues e.g. contractors and acting responsibly to ensure that they are safe. These users should also be informed of their responsibilities in the maintenance of health and safety.
The management of FTL summarizes the policy by acknowledging that it does not capture all the scenarios that may threaten occupational health and safety and so, both the management and staff should be vigilant in their day to day activities to ensure that they report new threats and also to ensure that they fulfill their part in ensuring safe working conditions.
Assessment of risks
Conducting a health and safety assessment is very important for any organization that has a workforce. Huang (2010) states that the importance of a health and safety risk assessment cannot be overemphasized. Basically, a health and safety assessment looks at the risks that may exist in the work environment that threaten the health and safety of works. Huang (2010) states that most organizations erroneously think that taking a few precautionary measures can guarantee safety but the truth is, such an assessment is complicated and professional help might be required.
Health and safety risk assessments ensure that no employee or user of the workplace is under any sort of danger while working. The first step in risk assessment is therefore an analysis of the tools, machinery, chemicals and any other thing that the employee requires to carry out his or her work. The next part to be assessed is the working environment. This mostly has to do with the health of the employee. Thirdly, the assessment looks at the health and safety policy of the company to establish emergency action plans and other relevant procedures. Lastly, the assessment looks at the possibility of consumer’s health and safety being affected.
The benefits of a health and safety assessment are many. First, these assessments usually end with the recommendation that measures be taken to avoid risks. The assessment helps to identify unnoticed hazards which might have been ignored. The assessment also ensures that insurance taken covers all risks. It saves the company future costs in compensation claims and also prevents the bad publicity that comes from unsafe working conditions.
The model that I use to assess Ferranti Technologies is borrowed from the standard health and safety assessment prescribed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE, 2011). The model states that there are five steps to be followed in conducting such an assessment. The first is the establishment of hazards. These may include; fires, noise, vibrations, temperature, hanging objects e.t.c. The second was establishing the people affected by these hazards.
These may be staff members, contractors and other users. The third step involves establishing how these risks are being managed. Where the person assessing is satisfied with the measures taken, he or she indicates on the assessment sheet that the risk has been sufficiently managed. The next step involves drafting a risk assessment report which is presented to the relevant parties and discussed to ensure that they understand what steps need to be taken. The last step involves conducting reviews to ensure that the steps have been put in place.
FTL being a manufacturing company is concerned with hazards that come with engineering. Workshops are the most risky areas and most risk assessments find that workshop related risks are the most common causes of injuries and health problems among workers. According to a recommendation report by HSE (2004) on risk assessments in manufacturing industries, most accidents are caused during lifting and moving things at 33 percent and the other major cause involves trips, slips and falls at 30 percent.
The report finds that in preparing a risk assessment, there are certain areas to be considered first. One has to look generally at the working conditions e.g. causes of workers absconding and reported ‘near misses’. Next, conditions in the workshop have to be considered. These conditions involve movement of people and goods, safeguarding of machinery, noise, vibrations and hazardous substances such as fumes from welding, painting, soldering e.t.c. or metalworking fluids.
FTL’s major activities in both the power & control and avionics & missions divisions involve making of electrical devices which often require metal works and use of certain machinery e.g. in threading circuit boards. The risk assessment showed that in general, most workers who absconded cited back pains which mean that there was a problem in lifting and handling. There had also been several cases of accidents happening during movement of goods using forklifts and in most cases, narrow paths were blamed.
The risk assessment found that the floors met the regulation standards and were clean, had waste bins and were dry. There were employees who ensured that spillages and other forms of dirt were cleaned quickly. Another area assessed was the lighting which according to the law should be sufficient. FTL’s workshops utilize natural light which is the best for most activities. However, some machine rooms use florescent lights which have been established to be a hazard when using machines with rotors due to the static effect that make users perceive the rotating part seem stationery (HSE, 2000).
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Another area assessed was temperature, ventilation and toilets. The law requires every workshop to have a thermometer and the minimum temperature is set at 16 degrees Celsius except in workshops that involve heavy work where 13 degrees is acceptable. FTL workshops were within the required levels. Ventilation was also sufficient and toilets were provided and made accessible. Most of FTL workshops do not have so much traffic in terms of movement of goods and thus there were no problems found in movement of items manually and using machines. However, there problems with lifting and back pains were a common complaint among employees.
FTL workshops usually involve working with hazardous materials such as nickel copper, nickel chrome, cadmium and lead alloys. Employees are exposed to these materials while welding, grinding and machining. These elements have been associated with lung problems, skin diseases, cancer and in extreme cases, poisoning. FTL has attempted to minimize these risks by isolating these activities and providing protective gear where possible.
Electrical systems were another major risk analyzed. Most of the injuries caused by electric systems such as shock and burns are caused by poorly maintained or loose plugs, leads or sockets. FTL has dedicated electrical engineers who constantly evaluate the electrical system and in the company’s history, there have been no reported electrical injuries. Finally, the risk assessment looked at machining and found out that most machines were automatic but still posed some form of danger through vibration and noise.
The persons under risk in the assessment were mainly setters for electrical systems, machine operators, maintenance workers, and handlers of heavy materials. Overall, the risks that were established pertained to lifting, noise, vibrations and lighting.
Employees need to be advised on proper lifting techniques. The HSE (2000) recommends that goods should be weighed and not counted when being moved. The workers also need to be shown the right lifting positions. Additionally, there is need for more lifting equipment to avoid workers having to lift the loads themselves. The narrow pathways in workshops sometimes pose risks for vehicles. These should be widened to create ample space.
For noise, the company has provided ear mufflers for its employees but the regulations provide that this is not enough and the company must seek methods to reduce noise. The issue of vibrations is also a problem. It can be solved by avoiding the use of very loud equipment except when absolutely necessary. The company can also rethink purchasing other equipment with less vibration. The issue of lighting though not so profound should be well addressed and fluorescent bulbs should be replaced with natural light where possible.
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) (2000). Workplace health, safety and welfare Approved Code of Practice and Guidance on Regulations. Richmond: The Office of Public Sector Information.
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) (2004). Health and safety in engineering workshops. Richmond: The Office of Public Sector Information.
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) (2011). Example health and safety policy. Web.
Huang, P., (2010). Why Conduct a Health and Safety Risk Assessment? Web.