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'DEEE Prepared'

View profile for Phil Cookson
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With the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) taking action to reduce the dangers of diesel engine exhaust emissions (DEEE), food and logistics companies need to ensure they are protecting staff from exposure. Phil Cookson of Roythornes solicitors, one of the leading advisors to the UK food industry, explains the issue and the steps companies need to take to avoid prosecution.

In May 2012 the HSE published a report called Occupational Cancer – priorities for future intervention, which identified that there were a high number of deaths in the workplace. These included lung and bladder cancer as a result of exposure to DEEEs with the latest figures from 2005 showing 652 deaths.

In addition, the HSE estimated that more than 100,000 workers are exposed to DEEEs. Professional drivers are thought to be the largest group in danger, but yard workers, garage workers and staff loading vehicles are now also thought to be at risk.

The dangers of exposure to DEEEs have been known for many years and in the UK they are covered by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

This legislation is now being applied to yard, garage and loading staff. As a result, any business in the food and logistics industry would be wise to take precautions to ensure its staff are not in danger.

Thankfully a professional approach to health and safety will ensure your organisation complies with the legislation. Firstly undertake a suitable and sufficient written risk assessment, after which it is vital to implement steps to prevent or control exposure to any risks identified. This could include making sure engines are turned off when not in use, ensuring engines are correctly maintained to reduce emissions or even considering the use of alternative power sources, such as electric vehicles if appropriate.

In confined areas such as garages, businesses will need to ensure that DEEEs are vented to the outside. Opening the windows and doors will not, in all likelihood, be enough, an effective system for capturing DEEEs from the exhaust pipe will have to be installed. The HSE has made it clear that respiratory equipment is not an alternative to a properly functioning ventilation system and there are few if any cases in which businesses will have grounds for not installing proper vents.

Any system installed will have to be shown to work effectively, to be properly maintained and staff will have to be trained to operate the equipment properly. Companies will have to keep record of their training and maintenance regime in order to satisfy the HSE.

Not only is this good practice, it can also save businesses money.

The HSE now operates a ‘Fee for Intervention’ system. If they discover a breach of any regulations during an inspection they can charge for the inspection at a rate of £124 per hour. There is no need for a prosecution to trigger the Fee being chargeable, any intervention will be sufficient, as little as a warning letter will suffice. All and any subsequent visits, interviews and statements are also charged at the hourly rate. These costs can quickly mount-up, rapidly becoming more expensive than a risk assessment and preventative action.

Organisations wanting more guidance on the rules and regulations can purchase an HSE publication: Control of diesel engine exhaust emissions in the workplace. This guidance gives practical advice to employers and self-employed people on how to control exposure to diesel engine exhaust emissions in the workplace, and protect the health of employees and others who may be exposed.

Whilst many food and logistics organisations will already have excellent protocols for avoiding exposure to DEEEs, the HSE’s increased focus on this issue means now is a good time for companies to review their systems and insure that you still comply. To paraphrase an old adage: it pays to DEEE prepared.