Now that the government has finally given HS2 Ltd notice to proceed, construction work on the project is expected to begin by early spring 2021.

In another boost to the industry HS2 Ltd, the body overseeing construction of the new London to Birmingham rail line, has launched a recruitment drive for several hundred extra staff, with at least 300 of those roles being in Birmingham.  This follows last weeks announcement that HS2 has already started the search for contractors for the second phase of the project, seeking ground investigation contractors to work across the northern section of the railway in deals worth up to £250m and lasting up to eight years.

Mark Thurston, chief executive of HS2 Ltd stated: “With many people facing uncertain job security and worried about future prospects in the current crisis, I hope this will be welcome news for anyone seeking a long-term and rewarding career with a company that places health, safety, equality and diversity at the very top of its priority list.  As part of the HS2 team you’ll be shaping British history; transforming our Victorian railways and supporting the regeneration and economic prosperity of towns and cities right along the route.”

This was followed up by Andrew Stephenson, the HS2 minister, stating: “These jobs are a welcome boost for workers across the country at this challenging time, providing the opportunity to play a crucial part in delivering HS2, an integral part of improving connectivity and levelling up our country” and in line with the prime ministers current comments he went on to say “We continue to work with the transport and construction industry to accelerate projects, where safely possible, to kickstart our economy, provide more employment opportunities and drive our recovery as we build out of Covid-19.”

It doesn’t end there as previously reported by ‘theconstructionindex‘:- “an estimated 400,000 supply chain contract opportunities for UK businesses will be created during phase one of HS2, supporting thousands of jobs on site and many more around the country. It is estimated that around 95% of those contract opportunities will be won by UK based businesses and around two thirds of those will be small and medium sized businesses.”

This latest recruitment drive is set to last three months with a range of vacancies being advertised from: from engineering and project management to land, property and procurement. Further details can be found here:

The construction sector clearly seems to be facing a turnaround at this time and may well become the focal point in seeing the country through the forecast economic downturn  – make sure that your training is up to date and that you are in a position to benefit, check our course schedule now!

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is warning against the use of KN95 facemasks as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

A safety alert has been issued today, Thursday 11 June 2020, urging all employers and suppliers not to purchase or use KN95 facemasks as PPE.

KN95 is a performance rating that is broadly equivalent to the EU standard for FFP2 facemasks. Products manufactured to KN95 requirements rely on a self-declaration of compliance by the manufacturer. There is no independent certification or assurance of their quality.

This respirator has been identified as suspect by HSE experts and locally arranged testing has confirmed they would not meet requirements, including to protect against the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. About 90% of the PPE concerns and queries currently being received by HSE involve KN95 masks which are often accompanied by fake or fraudulent paperwork.

HSE has quarantined around 1.5 million KN95 masks, prevented 25 million items claiming to be FFP3 respirators entering the supply chain and prevented a further four lines consisting of many millions of items entering the supply chain.

Rick Brunt, HSE’s director of operational strategy said: “The KN95 facemask should not be purchased or used.

“KN95 has not been a principal source of PPE for the NHS, who has already made the decision not to supply this respirator to frontline clinicians fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have found that the lack of independent testing has contributed to there being a substantial quantity of inadequate and poor-quality masks on the market, claiming to comply with the KN95 standard.

“We understand a lot of people, mainly in sectors outside of healthcare, have bought these facemasks without realising they are non-compliant. We are concerned that people wearing them are not being protected from breathing in harmful substances in the way they expect. Protective equipment must protect.”

Domestic, European and international organisations continue to raise concerns regarding KN95 masks, including details of counterfeit and illegal products. HSE is working to remove them from the supply chain with colleagues in the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS), Border Force, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and Trading Standards to identify manufacturers and suppliers of these masks and prevent them entering the UK.

The safety alert does not relate to N95 masks which are manufactured to a US Standard and have been given permission for use specifically in UK healthcare settings.

Full details of the alert can be found here.

Full Copyright: HSE Press Release, 11/06/2020

Major changes are now taking place with the NEBOSH General Certificate, one of the organisations most recognisable and trusted qualifications.  NEBOSH say these changes have been made to make the qualification more ‘learner friendly’ by utilising language that is easier to understand and to make sure it provides immediate benefits to employers.

Both the National and International versions have been revamped with a fresh new syllabus created with the assistance of over 3,000 leading experts, organisations, learners and learning partners in an effort to ensure that it provides for health and safety in the modern workplace.

The Reasons Behind the Change?



How has the Course Changed?

NEBOSH have clearly listened to what businesses have said they need and have designed and streamlined a new syllabus with content that represents the role of a real-life health and safety professional in the modern workplace.  Importantly they have also paid particular attention to their learners and have updated the language to make it easier for people to understand and changed the structure so that there is a greater focus on practical application rather than exams.

The new specification now consists of 2 units, the:

  • NG1 – a taught unit with a written exam to assess what you know
  • NG2 – a practical unit with an assignment to assess what you can do 

A quick comparison highlights that the following changes have taken place:

Current Version New Version
  1.  Management of Health and Safety
  2.  Controlling Workplace Hazards
  3.  A practical workplace inspection and report.
  1.  Management of Health and Safety
  2.  Risk Assessment
Study Time NEBOSH recommend 80 hours of tuition time and 53 hours of private study time. Suggesting a minimum requirement of 133 hours across the whole course. NEBOSH recommends 68 hours of tuition time and 40 hours of private study time.  Suggesting a minimum of 108 hours across the whole course. This is 25 hours less for the new version.
Examinations Unit 1 & 2 both have examinations of a two hour duration. Their will now be one examination of two hours in length covering the unit one content (Management of Health and Safety).

The unit two (Controlling Workplace Hazards) will now be assessed via a practical post-course risk assessment project that the learner carries out at their own workplace (see below).

Practical Assessment A workplace inspection and the production of a written report to management. A risk assessment at your place of work, consisting of four parts:

  1. Description of organisation and risk assessment methodology:
  2. The risk assessment itself:
  3. Prioritisation of the three most serious hazards:
  4. Reviewing, communicating and checking the risk assessment.

Click here to view the new NEBOSH guidance on the requirement.

Command Words The exam questions make use of what NEBOSH call ‘command words’:

  • Identify
  • Outline
  • Describe
  • Explain
  • Give

Requiring individuals to learn what each command word means, as well as many aspects of health and safety!

NEBOSH considers that the new exams use a less formal language that is easier to understand and they have produced an example in the new format.

An example of the new exam paper can be downloaded here.


Is My Current Qualification Still Valid?

If you have previously been awarded the NEBOSH General Certificate it is still valid and can still be used to apply for membership of organisations such as IOSH and the IIRSM.  More importantly however, is your CPD up to date?  If not it wouldn’t hurt to consider undertaking the new syllabus to bring you up to date.

If you are considering undertaking your NEBOSH General Certificate why not give us a call on: 0203 633 5505, email us at: or book directly at:



As companies and individuals return to work this is a subject area that most will have to grapple with.  But let’s be clear this is a common process (at least it should be?) , one that most companies and their employees will have followed on many occasions – after all it is a legal requirement.

Like all ‘hazards’ the impact of Covid-19 will vary from company to company, dependent on; the work requirements/activities being undertaken and the manner in which individuals are exposed to it.  Additionally, as is the norm, companies and organisations will also have their own particular methodology to follow in completing a risk assessment.

Assessors should not lose sight of the basics i.e. who is doing what and how, where they are doing it, why are they doing it and what equipment are they are using – as with all risk assessments a thorough understanding of the tasks or activities is vital to assess exposure and to qualify any subsequent control requirements, hence individuals involved in the task should be involved in the assessment.

The risk assessment should clearly recognise the virus as a hazard and should reflect that it is spread in minute water droplets expelled from the body through; sneezing, coughing, talking and breathing.  It should also be recognised that the virus:

  • can be transferred to the hands and to surfaces.
  • it can survive on surfaces for a period of time after transfer (depending on such things as the surface type, its moisture content and temperature).

The risk assessment should also conclude that if it is passed from one person to another, whilst the vast majority of invividuals survive infection, some individuals may die and hence it should be regarded as a high hazard.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect here will be determining how exposed individuals will be and hence there are many questions you may wish to consider:-

  • While at work how might employees meet people with the disease, how frequently and for how long?
  • How do employees travel to work and does this expose them to public crowds?
  • Do you know which employees have vulnerable medical conditions that make them more susceptible to the disease? Which of your employees are from a BAME background? What is the age of your employees?
  • How do you capture this information?
  • Do you know which employees have people in their households who may have increased exposure to the disease?
  • If someone in an employee’s household must isolate, what will you require your employee to do?
  • Where are employees meeting people who may have the disease and does this increase exposure (e.g. in a confined space, in a well-ventilated environment or outside)?

The above list is not exhaustive and you may well need to consider additional aspects dependant upon the activities/tasks being considered.

Once you have assessed the ‘likelihood’ as is normal you can begin to consider how appropriate controls can be used to provide mitigation and how they might be implemented, as always the ‘safety hierarchy of Control’ is a useful tool in determining what can actually be achieved.


Image Courtesy of: IOSH, 2020

In this particular instance ‘Administrative controls’ will almost certainly provide the best options for the majority of organisations although some Engineering controls such as the implementation of ‘physical barriers’ may be achievable for some organisations.  The selected controls should be ‘suitable and sufficient’ and give consideration to how you will keep the workplace and equipment clean, adjust your working practices to avoid congregation/maintain social distancing and ensure people are kept safe.

Importantly you should not lose sight of the regular safety and health risks posed by your operations and activities – it is vital that you maintain effective control of exposure to these risks too.

The Institution of Occupational Health and Safety (IOSH) has produced a very useful free guide to assist organisations and their assessors in undertaking a Covid-19 risk assessment which is available here.

Research suggests that in Britain nearly 800 people die a year from lung cancer caused by breathing in silica dust at work.  In the European Union, around 7,000 cases of lung cancer are caused by this carcinogen annually.  Worldwide, it’s estimated that millions of employees are exposed to silica dust.

Silica dust is created when the ‘crystalline silica’ in materials such as stone, mortar or tiles is broken down and released.  It happens when you drill, saw, cut, grind or sand the products – or work on them in any way that disturbs the natural silica content.

Through ‘No Time to Lose’, a new cross-industry commitment to tackle silica dust in the workplace has been agreed. Industry leaders, academics and safety and health experts have committed to a 12-month drive to tackle the issue and you can read about their committment here.

Silica dust is only harmful when it is inhaled deep into your lungs, where oxygen is taken up into the blood, hence sitting on a sandy beach won’t cause any respiratory harm because any sand particles breathed in will generally be much too big to go beyond your nose or upper airways.  But as a very fine airborne dust, silica can be very dangerous and it is the respirable fraction that is hazardous.

Respirable particles are typically less than around 5 micrometers in size, you can compare this to the ‘full stop’ at the end of this sentence, which is around 200–300 micrometers in diameter, and the finest sand on the beach, which is about 50–70 micrometers.  In fact individual silica dust particles are so small that they are invisible to the naked eye in normal light – so you can have relatively high airborne concentrations without even being aware that the dust is being inhaled.

In 1996, the International Agency for Research on Cancer reviewed the scientific evidence and concluded that crystalline silica in the form of quartz or cristobalite dust is carcinogenic to humans – it is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen, meaning it is a definite cause of cancer in humans.

Exposure to silica dust occurs in many industries and common scenarios where people may be exposed include:- breaking, crushing, grinding or milling silica-containing material such as concrete, aggregate or mortar- drilling, cutting, chiselling or sanding silica-containing material- dealing with cement- moving earth, eg excavating, mining, quarrying or tunnelling- abrasive blasting or sandblasting- laying, maintaining or replacing ballast- handling, mixing or shovelling dry materials that include silica- using silica, sand or silica-containing products in the manufacturing process of glass and other non-metallic mineral products- using sand as a moulding medium in foundries- using silica flour (a finely ground form of crystalline silica)- dry sweeping up after a task where silica dust has been created.

Despite the level of exposure however only 16% of UK Construction Professionals believe that construction workers are aware of the risks they face in breathing in dust!

Stay Safe & Get the full factsheet here:  RESPIRABLE CRYSTALLINE SILICA: THE FACTS (IOSH)

Well we may be a little late to the party but nevertheless we thought that the latest IOSH ‘no time to lose’ campaign deserved highlighting.

The campaign encourages people to regularly self-examine for signs of skin cancer and teaches everyone about the dangers of sunburn and excessive tanning – a particular problem with construction workers who tend to work outdoors.

During the Covid-19 lockdown, the campaign will share advice on sun protection and vitamin D to help people enjoy the sun safely throughout these difficult times.

Sun Awareness Week is organised by supporter of IOSH’s award-winning No Time to Lose (NTTL) campaign the British Association of Dermatologists, a charity that practices teaching, training and research of dermatology.

Worldwide, non-melanoma skin cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer, with an estimated 2-3 million cases registered every year.

Outdoor workers are at an increased risk of skin cancer caused by exposure to the sun (solar ultraviolet radiation) with cancer mortality and incidence data for Great Britain suggesting that construction workers account for around 58 per cent of occupational cancer deaths and 55 per cent of occupational cancer registrations attributed to sun exposure. Skin cancer accounts for 7 per cent of diagnosed work-related disease among construction workers in the UK (1996–2000), and national surveillance data (2002–2008) indicate that exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation was the suspected cause in all but one reported case of skin cancer among skilled tradespeople (IOSH, 2018).

Protect yourself and your employees from harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun when outdoors, whether at work or play. Follow these steps:

  • Check the UV index from the weather forecast. If the index is at three or above, then inform relevant workers and ensure protective measures are in place to minimise exposure.
  • Avoid or minimise exposure to direct sunlight in the middle part of the day – 60 per cent of daily UV radiation occurs between 10:00 and 14:00.
  • Regularly swap job tasks between workers to make sure everyone on the team can spend some time in the shade.
  • Use heavy-duty cover or shade when working outdoors in the sun – shade can cut UV exposure by 50 per cent or more. Check protection levels with your supplier, and make sure rest breaks are taken in shaded areas or indoors.
  • Add UV protective films or tints to plain-glass vehicle windows if employees are regularly driving during high UV months.
  • Raise awareness of solar radiation issues with workers by using the free NTTL resources. You’ll find everything from toolbox talks, real-life stories and films.
  • Wear long-sleeved, loose-fitting tops and trousers when working outdoors during months with high UV levels – you’ll need to check the ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating and make sure the design of the clothing fits the job and doesn’t introduce other hazards. ‘High wicking’ fabrics are designed to draw moisture away from the skin.
  • Wear wide-brimmed hats that shade the face, head, ears and neck or if safety helmets are worn, use those fitted with Legionnaire-style neck flaps.
  • Wear sunglasses with 100 per cent UV protection or use UV-filtering safety goggles if the work means eye protection is needed. Look for the ‘UV 400’ marking.
  • Use high-factor sunscreen on skin that can’t be protected by other measures, for example, on the hands, face and lips. Sunscreen should be water-resistant and have ‘broad spectrum’ protection, with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 and a UVA rating of four or five stars. Sunscreen should only be used alongside other protective measures – it’s best not to rely on sunscreen alone.
  • Sunscreen should be applied half an hour before exposure and reapplied at least every couple of hours. If skin has been exposed to dusts, it should be washed before sunscreen is reapplied, to avoid causing dermatitis.
  • Encourage workers to check their skin for changes to moles or other changes. Detecting the early signs of skin cancer and undergoing early treatment can save lives.
  • You should also check whether any workers could be suffering from photosensitivity, where eyes and skin become abnormally sensitive to UV radiation. Photosensitivity can be caused by a range of substances including some industrial chemicals, plants and medication.

Mary Ogungbeje, OSH Research Manager at IOSH, said:

“To get your body to create vitamin D, you need to be out safely in the sun daily, and how long for will depend on a few factors, such as your skin colour.”

“As many of us are staying at home more during the Covid-19 lockdown, it’s important to look at what you eat and consider vitamin D rich foods such as mushrooms, oily fish, and fortified cereals and dairy products. Taking vitamin D dietary supplement can be another source of intake.”