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Electrical Flashover

Case Summary

Employees at BAS Castings Ltd. used a screwdriver to bypass the interlock mechanism on a fuse panel door and suffered serious skin burns due to an electrical flashover.

What is an ‘Electrical Flashover’?

Electrical arcing (sometimes called a ‘flashover’ or ‘arc flash’), perhaps as a result of a short circuit caused by unsafe working practices, can generate intense heat leading to deep-seated and slow-healing burns, even if it persists for a short time. The intense ultraviolet radiation from an electric arc can also cause damage to the eyes. Often those working with or near electricity do not appreciate the risk of serious injury and consequential damage to equipment that can arise from arcing.

Electricity at work: Safe working practices HSG85


  • No rules for electrical safety
  • No safe systems of work
  • No permit to work system
  • No risk assessment
  • No work instructions

Legislative Breaches

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, Reg. 14

Stockwell Safety Comment

Flashovers are a very common factor in electrical incidents. A significant cause is workers failing to follow the correct procedures. Underlying this is the failure of management to have a robust management system infrastructure in place.

Click here to see how we can help.

Posted 14 weeks ago

What is 'health' and what is 'safety'?


‘Health and Safety’ has become such a common phrase that people often use it without having much understanding of its meaning.

Generally, 'health’ means a state of physical, mental and social well-being.

It also means an absence of an impairment, illness, infection or disease.

Generally, 'safety’ is the state of being free from the risk of harm and/or injury.

There are health hazards and there are safety hazards and it’s important to remember that they are different in key ways:

Safety Hazards

These cause physical injuries. Some examples:

  • moving parts of machinery could cause cuts, abrasions, crush/trap injuries
  • electricity could give someone an electric shock
  • fire can cause burn injuries

Safety hazards cause acute harm (as opposed to chronic harm). This means the harm is apparent within a relatively short time frame, ie, if you come into contact with the moving parts of machinery - you’ll suffer the consequences immediately.

Health Hazards

These cause illnesses. Some examples:

  • asbestos fibres causing mesothelioma
  • noise could lead to hearing loss
  • stress could lead to a number of conditions (including heart disease)

Health hazards cause chronic harm (as opposed to acute harm). This means that there is a delay between the harm becoming apparent. Sometimes, this delay can be many years, eg, it can take decades for the symptoms of disease caused by asbestos fibres to develop.

The health and safety sector has long-suffered from an under-emphasis on health hazards, which have tended to play second-fiddle to health hazards. This is due, at least in part, to the fact that health hazards are not usually as obvious as safety hazards.

This makes it especially important to take a systematic approach when completing your risk assessments, to help ensure that you don’t miss the various health hazards present on most (if not all) workplaces. 

Systematic Risk Assessment

Once you’ve identified the health hazards and evaluated the level of risk, you will of course need to put in place some controls for those that present an unacceptably high risk.

Failure to do this could lead to costly compensation claims and/or prosecution by the relevant enforcing authority.

A recent case involved an engineer who was diagnosed with Hand and Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), which was connected to the use of vibrating tools used to sand components.

The company had failed to conduct a proper risk assessment, which led to not having effective controls in place, such as:

  • Equipment with lower vibration energy 
  • Training for workers
  • Health surveillance (which could have picked up on the early indications of a problem).

The company were fined £20,000 and it may end up costing them much more if the injured party decides to make a civil claim for compensation.

Posted 44 weeks ago

How to draw a pool schematic

Part of the assessment requirement for PWTAG-accredited Swimming Pool Technical Operator Courses is to sketch a schematic of the pool and associated treatment system.

In order to help courses delegates complete this exercise, we have provided an example below of a schematic that meets the required standards and have included a few comments for you consideration.


Course delegates are advised to take note of the level of detail and ensure that their submissions are of around the same standard.

  1.  Inlets clearly indicated, showing the distribution of water within the pool.
  2. Type of surface water draw-off system clearly indicated (deck-level).
  3. Sump drains included.
  4. Arrows showing direction of water flow.
  5. Balance tank correctly drawn.
  6. Inclusion of main valves.
  7. Strainer basket and pump set clearly drawn and labelled.
  8. Coagulant dosing system, includes chemical tank and injection point.
  9. Monitoring equipment correctly drawn, showing the sample line.
  10. Disinfection and pH correction correctly drawn and showing injection points and connections from the monitoring equipment.
  11. Heat exchanger in the correct place.
  12. Details such as the sample return and chemical injection locations.
  13. Filter, with main valves shown.
  14. Sample line origin and coagulant injection points clearly shown.

Overall, this is a good schematic of a pool and associated plant and, importantly, it demonstrates to us that this candidate is familiar with their system.

Posted 44 weeks ago

Are You Leading or Managing?

Are you clear on the difference between the two?

Managing is about doing things right. 

The emphasis: efficiency. Whatever it is that needs to be done, the utilisation of management techniques will get it done faster. It’s tactical. It asks “how can we achieve xyz?”

Leadership is about doing the right things. 

The emphasis: effectiveness. If the things that are getting done are not the things that should be getting done, then progress in the completely wrong direction will be the result. It’s strategical. It asks “why do we want to achieve xyz?”

Good management without good leadership compounds the problem.

Get it wrong with matters concerning health and safety, and you could drop the ball, with disastrous consequences.

To get it right, here are a few things that the top leaders within an organisation could/should be doing:

  • Not allowing health and safety to play second fiddle to other organisational objectives (like turning a profit).
  • Providing adequate resources for health and safety (management infrastructure, training, equipment, adequate time to do work safely).
  • Not tolerating sub-par health and safety performance from anyone, in any area of the business (including the wider supply chain).
  • Ensuring that there is an appropriate system in place to manage health and safety and keep it under review.
  • Instilling a positive health and safety culture throughout the organisation (“people like us treat health and safety with the respect it deserves.”)
  • Leading by example at all times in all matters.
  • Having the wisdom to realise that this stuff is often not urgent, but is always important, every minute, every day, every year (procrastination on the important is not the trait of an exceptional leader).
Posted 46 weeks ago

Hotel Prosecuted - No Lifeguards

A hotel swimming pool in Leigh has recently been prosecuted for (amongst other things) failing to provide trained staff to provide an emergency rescue response.

Swimming pools operating in the hospitality sector should take note.

The Health and Safety Executive provide guidance on whether constant poolside supervision is necessary in their publication HSG179 Managing Health and Safety in Swimming Pools.

Stockwell Safety have produced an interactive tool, based on the HSE guidance, that will allow a swimming pool operator to complete a pool supervision risk assessment in less than 60 seconds.

Hope you find it useful. Feel free to share.

Posted 46 weeks ago

Overcoming 'writers block' during NEBOSH exams


When sitting a NEBOSH exam, it’s quite likely that sooner or later you’re going to hit a mental wall!

Either you’ll be sat there contemplating a blank white space, or you might have managed to scratch a few words out onto the page, but you’re painfully aware that it will not reap many marks once under the examiners scrutiny.

Well, fear not. There is a very simple way to get more point-scoring ink on that page!

First, have a quick read of the first few lines of a famous poem by Rudyard Kipling:

I have six honest serving men
They taught me all I knew
There names are What, and Where and When;
and Why and How and Who.

– Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936).

This short passage serves very well as a reminder to ask questions when exploring a concept or topic. The ‘how’ and 'why’ questions in particular can be very helpful when attempting to flesh out an exam answer.

Let’s take a look at a NEBOSH exam question and apply the technique.

Outline information that should be included in the 'arrangements’ section of a health and safety policy.

This question is worth 8 marks and uses the 'outline’ action word. This means that the answer needs to go beyond a simple list of information. However, starting off with a list would be a good way to ensure that the answer has enough breadth. Think breadth, then depth is something I often repeat when teaching during NEBOSH courses.

A list might look like this:

- Safe systems of work
- Risk assessments
- Monitoring procedures
- Specific hazards
- Training
- Equipment
- Welfare
- Incident reporting procedures
- Emergency procedures
- Communication/consultation

Notice that there are ten items on that list. An old adage for NEBOSH exam questions is 'make a point to gain a point’, ie, if there are 8 points up for grabs, make sure your answer covers at least 8 points. A good habit to get into is always provide a couple of extra points. That way, even if a couple of your points don’t score marks, you still have a chance of reaping the maximum number of marks for the question.

So, at this point, we’ve gone for breath first and have ensured our list covers a good range of information to be included in the arrangements section.

As it stands now though, I can tell you that we will only score a maximum of three points with our list, and that’s with the assumption that our list is 100% technically accurate!

This is because the question calls for an outline, not just a list. NEBOSH examiners are under instruction to ensure that a list answer never gains even half the number of points available (when the action word is outline, describe or explain - obviously, if the action word is list, then you’re expected to leave it as a list).

What we now need to do is flesh out our list with additional information and this is where many candidates can really struggle when it comes to answering NEBOSH exam questions properly.

This is where the who, what, why,  when, where how line of questioning can be useful. Let’s go ahead and turn our list into a proper answer by 'outlining’ each of the items, by using these questions:

- Safe systems of work - procedures (often documented) for ensuring that work is conducted safely and without risks to health.


- Risk assessments - recording the hazards and consequences for the full range of work activities so that suitable controls can be selected.


- Monitoring procedures - such as workplace inspections to identify unsafe acts and/or conditions.


- Specific hazards - such as stress at work and how the organisation sets out to manage it.


- Training - records of training provided along with information about competencies required for each job role or work activity to enable a gap analysis.


- Equipment - a register of hazardous equipment within the workplace so that inspection and maintenance processes can be put in place for them.


- Welfare - facilities required for the general welfare of employees such as toilets, sinks etc. which help to minimise the spread of germs.


- Incident reporting procedures - to help identify patterns and trends, which could be caused by uncontrolled hazards.


- Emergency procedures - detailing everyone’s responsibilities and actions in emergency situations such as fire, structural failure etc.


- Communication/consultation - such as communication channels used by the company and how access and use them effectively.


So, now we have provided a sufficient level of detail in response to the 'outline’ action word by using what or why questions.

It might take a bit of practice until this process starts to come naturally. And it can sometimes lead you your feel as though you are stating the obvious.

But, many a mark can be gained by using this simple technique.

Posted 46 weeks ago

It's never happened before!


I’ve encountered a worrying amount of supposedly intelligent managers who choose to ignore certain hazards based on that (il)logic! 

The fact that it’s never happened before is no guarantee that it’s never going to happen, is it?

You may never previously have had a fire on the premises, but I would certainly hope that there are fire prevention and protection measures in place nonetheless.

Because even though a fire might never have happened before, it is reasonable to expect that virtually anyone should be able to foresee that a fire could occur under certain circumstances.

Fire is a reasonably foreseeable hazard and organisations are required to control the risk.

Fire is an obvious example. There are undoubtedly many less-obvious hazards within any normal workplace that may never have actually caused harm to anyone before, but might still be regarded by the courts as being reasonably foreseeable.

Best way to deal with those: an appropriate health and safety management system that includes suitable and sufficient risk assessments.

Oh, and people in leadership positions who don’t hand-wave dismissively whilst uttering:- “it’ll be fine - it’s never happened before!”

Posted 47 weeks ago

Legionnaires' deaths: The JTF Hot Tub Case (<1 min read)


If you operate a commercial hot tub or spa pool, stop what you’re doing and take a couple of minutes to read this article.

Back in 2012 there was an outbreak of  Legionnaires disease in Fenton, Stoke on Trent. The point source was a hot tub at a discount warehouse operated by a company called JTF.

21 people became ill and three people (Richard Griffin, Harry Cadman, 71, from Stoke-on-Trent and William Hammersley, 79, from Chesterton) died.
There were major failings in the way that JTF were operating that hot tub (which we assume was operating for retail display purposes, rather than actual use by bathers).

JTF were recently found guilty of a breach of section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act, which places a duty on employers to ensure the health and safety of those people not in their direct employment, but who could nevertheless be affected by the activities of the organisations. This covers people like visitors, contractors and members of the public.

Hot tubs/spa pools etc. that are poorly managed are dangerous. And there’s a lot more to managing them properly than people think. Don’t be fooled by the relatively small scale of the associated water treatment system. It might not be as large and extensive as that for larger swimming pool installations, but the requirement for competent pool plant operators is no less vital.

If you operate a commercial hot tub/spa pool, please do yourself (and your customers) a massive favour and get several of your team trained to the required standard.

Posted 47 weeks ago

Health & Safety Sentencing


The Health and Safety Sentencing Guidelines came into force in February 2016. Since then, there has been a sharp increase in the size of fines and other penalties handed to those organisations and individuals found guilty of causing harm and/or breaching health and safety legislation.

The courts will take a number of factors into account when deciding on an appropriate sentence, but the main factors are:

  1. The culpability of the guilty party, rated from low (minor failings etc.) to very high (flagrant disregard for health and safety etc.).
  2. The level of harm risked. This considers not only the actual harm, but also the risk of harm that could have occurred (even if there was no actual harm). This is rated at level A (death, lifelong disabling injury/illness, reduced life expectancy etc.). B (long-term disabling injury/illness. C (anything not falling into categories A or B).
  3. The likelihood of harm, rated low, medium or high.

So, the courts will go through a process when deciding on a sentence that is pretty much the same as a standard health and safety risk assessment.

Full sentencing guidelines here.

Posted 47 weeks ago

Which Pool Plant Course?


This is a question we often get asked, so we thought it might be useful to provide some definitive guidance from the Pool Water Advisory Groups Code of Practice.

All pools should have an appropriate level of technical operation and supervision. The details depends on the type and use of pool.

Full-time cover: in order to comply with Health and Safety responsibilities and comply with this CoP, a qualified, trained and competent technical operator (Pool Plant Operator Certificate) should be available on-site/on call during all hours of operation at any of the following:

  1. public pool with more than 120 squared metres of water area
  2. pool with more than 120 cubic metres of water
  3. pool with a throughput of an average of more than 200 bathers daily
  4. hydrotherapy pool not in a hospital
  5. pool used to provide swimming lessons and swimming training
  6. permanent school pool facilities used by the general public and children that include interactive water features.

Visiting technical operator: all other pools or treated water facilities should have an on-site qualified, trained competent technical operator or a contract with a qualified, trained, competent technical operator for a minimum of weekly visits and assistance whenever needed. Written documentation of these visits should be available at the facility. As a minimum the written reports should indicate that: the circulation, filtration and disinfection systems were checked and working satisfactorily; the safety equipment was noted available on site and in working condition the pool and its infrastructure were in good condition water chemistry and bacteriology were tested and their resulting values recorded on the report and were found to be in compliance with this code any corrective actions were taken by the operator.

Supervisory requirements – visiting technical operator: additionally, all swimming pool water facilities without a full time, on-site qualified, trained and competent technical operator should have an on-site designated supervisor (Pool Plant Foundation). This supervisor should be capable of testing the water quality as required by this CoP and know how to make adjustments as needed to maintain water quality as specified in this CoP, and should be knowledgeable and competent regarding the operation of the facility as required in the pool’s PSOP for both normal and emergency action plans

Technical operator qualifications and certificate: a qualified technical operator should have completed a technical operator training course that is in line with this CoP. These should always be supplemented by on-site, specific training, monitoring and assessment of competence. All operator training courses should include as a minimum the learning elements detailed in the PWTAG CoP Model Syllabus (available from www.pwtag.org). A qualified technical operator should have a current certificate or written documentation showing satisfactory completion of a technical operator training course. Originals or copies of such certificate or documentation should be available on site for inspection by the Environmental Health Officers/ Health and Safety Inspector for each qualified operator employed at or contracted by the site, as specified in this CoP. Originals should be made available upon request by the relevant authority.

We hope this article help you to select the appropriate pool plant course for your needs, but if you need any further assistance, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and we’ll do our best to help.

Posted 48 weeks ago