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Santia highlights lab safety with state of the art facility

Posted on by aregal

When considering the health and safety risks which are present in a lab, the first things which spring to mind might relate to chemicals or biological agents, but in an environment where people are hunched over microscopes or standing for prolonged periods, it is easy for ergonomics to be over-looked.

If not properly addressed, this can give rise to serious musculoskeletal disorders.

Santia’s wealth of expertise concerning health and safety in laboratory environments was recently put to use when the company established a new facility within its own head office.

The team of asbestos analysts at Santia House are benefiting from brand new, ergonomically designed equipment, but the skills which made this possible are also being used to the benefit of clients.

Our extensive experience in lab safety was demonstrated during an ergonomic assessment of laboratories in Qatar.

The work that goes on in a lab can mean that a variety of awkward postures needs to be adopted, but as a result of Santia’s assessment, the following recommendations were made:

-  Chairs should be replaced as they no longer function ergonomically.

-  Knee-spaces at bench cut out areas should be cleared of stored materials.

-  Wooden foot-rests should be replaced with ergonomic ones.

-  Anti-fatigue mats should be provided to all areas where employees are required to stand to work.

-  Gel pads should be provided to computer keyboards to prevent contact stresses with the front edge of benches.

-  Employees should be advised on the importance of taking micro breaks from repetitive activities.

-  Lighting levels should change to prevent the occurrence of eyestrain.

Ken Evans, Occupational Hygiene Consultant at Santia’s Occupational Health Division commented:

“Lab equipment is often very specialist and potentially expensive in nature, but the assessment that Santia provided, enabled the lab to make better use of what it already had and target their resources to areas of genuine priority. 

“It’s all too easy to assume that bad posture is ‘part of the job’ but this can lead to long-term ill-health and potentially, the loss of experienced staff members.  By safeguarding the health of their workers, employers are investing the future of their business.”

The same philosophy has been adopted at Santia House where our expert asbestos analysts are using state of the art equipment in an environment which is built around them.  This enables them to keep doing a great job whilst avoiding all the aches and pains which can be associated with such work.

Effective occupational health and wellbeing in the workplace ensures legal compliance and can lead to substantial cost savings through improvements in productivity and reduced absenteeism; ensuring a return on investment in relation to any direct cost of interventions.  Further details of Santia’s comprehensive occupational health and wellbeing services can be found here.

Posted in Health and wellbeing, Occupational health | Leave a comment

Santia voices concern over construction safety

Posted on by aregal

Today’s guest blog is by Santia’s Key Account Manager for Construction, Joseph Hoey:

As a 35% cut in the HSE’s budget begins to bite, there is speculation that this may lead to a rise in the number of deaths in the construction industry.  One death in any industry is one too many, but are there ever circumstances when anything above zero is “acceptable”?

The construction industry is already one of the most dangerous to work in and the expected decrease in unannounced HSE inspections due to cut backs, will surely send out the wrong message.

Construction sites are, in the main, safer where the use of large contractor organisations and skilled workers are employed on the project, however if the risk of being visited by the HSE is reduced, it is inevitable that inexperienced or even some experienced workers will cut corners and place themselves and others at risk.

Santia are witnessing this trend every day on UK construction sites – the non-compliances we have identified are up in the first quarter of this year.

Although the HSE are feared in certain sectors, there is a large amount of respect for the work they do in the construction industry which has helped promote safer sites and has quite rightly led to prosecutions for deaths and serious injuries.

To cut the funding and reduce HSE inspections at a time when the industry is on the up, could have a negative effect on the mind-set of certain individuals. We are on the right track in the direction we are going – don’t let a lack of funding derail all the good work that so many of us have put in over the years.  Let us know your thoughts!

Santia are experts in construction health and safety consultancy and management. We offer a wide range of specialist support with a strong emphasis in providing practical solutions and risk control strategies, including:

  -  Construction Design and Management (CDM) Co-ordinator services

  -  Site safety auditing

  -  Accident investigation

  -  Toolbox talks

Further details can be found here.

Posted in Construction, Health and safety | Leave a comment

Highlights of the Health & Safety Event 2014

Posted on by aregal

Welcome to the Health & Safety Event
The Health & Safety Event is a new three day exhibition and conference at the NEC, Birmingham, packed with seminars and exhibitors.

From the 11-13th March 2014 thousands of attendees travelled to Birmingham to participate in a programme of industry specific seminars and debates. This show was co-located with Maintec 2014 and Facilities Management 2014 which meant attendees actually benefited from three shows rather than just one.



View our photos of the event here.

Health & Safety Event seminar programme:

Seminar theatre
Day 1

Jane Willis


Event shoe shine

Day 2

Day 3

It wasn’t just delegates that were enjoying the conference there were also some other interesting characters in attendance:

We would love to hear what you thought of the event, what was your show highlight? Feel free to leave a comment or view our photo album.



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Why choose in-company health and safety training?

Posted on by aregal

Well-trained staff and qualified professionals are essential in making sure the business is safe. Companies that provide health and safety information and training, not only meet their legal responsibilities, but also ensure staff know how to work safely and without risks to themselves or others.

Effective training will contribute towards making your employees competent in health and safety and it can help businesses avoid the distress and costs that accidents and ill-health can cause.

Training can be on the job, online or in a classroom setting. In-company training can be useful as the course can be designed to fit the organisations exact needs.

Tailored training will take an existing course and adapt it include the organisations health and safety documentation, the policies and procedures, relevant sector specific cases studies and examples, site specific needs, and course materials with organisational branding.

This kind of training is particularly effective as it relates the training to the particular work environment which makes it more relevant and applicable. It focuses on environments and situations that the learners are familiar with which makes the training more engaging for the learner. An example of this is Risk Assessment in Practice training, by using the organisations scenarios for hazard identification and risk assessment, it makes the learning readily applicable.

It can be particularly useful for ensuring company processes are used in a consistent way across the organisation. By referring to the companies policies and procedures and using them as training aids, it makes the learning an integral part of the companies health and safety solutions.

Even accredited training, where the syllabus can be quite rigid, reference to company processes, initiatives, statistics etc. relate the subject being studied to the specific work environment. This helps with practical application and also with understanding the theory in relation to the job role.

Training doesn’t just take place in the company classroom. Blended or online learning solutions are often tailored to ensure the organisation has the flexibility to choose the most appropriate learning experience for their staff.

This type of learning solution can help to improve the knowledge and understanding of all staff. This learning experience can help to ensure the whole organisation understands their roles and responsibilities in relation to safety. By relating the learning to the specific work environment and company procedures, it creates a harmony between the theoretical and the practical aspects of the training which in turn makes the learning more effective and easier to apply to the day-to-day role.

If you are interested in-company, whether online or face-to-face please contact us.

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NEBOSH Diploma: 15 hints and tips for preparing for the course and the exams

Posted on by aregal

The NEBOSH Diploma is a degree level qualification, often completed over a 12/18 month period alongside a full-time job. This will be challenging at times. Here are some hints and tips to help you prepare for this course.

1. Get ahead of yourself. Before you start the course, familiarise yourself with the course content and structure.
The course content is set by NEBOSH and is detailed in the Guide to the NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety

2. Understand what is required: The qualification satisfies the academic requirements for graduate level entry to IOSH. As an academic course, you will be expected to demonstrate the ability to recall information that you have learned, apply learned knowledge to specific situations and scenarios described, solve problems using simple mathematical techniques and carry out independent research.

3. When you start, put together a learning plan and stick to it: Depending on the type of study you have elected to pursue, e.g. online or modular face to face, you should set out a learning plan for the duration of the course. Away from the study weeks with the tutors, you will be expected to carry out independent research to understand the complexities of technical health and safety topics and subsequently be able to apply the knowledge to demonstrate a level of understanding which satisfies the examination board. Making sure you have a learning plan will help you manage your time and meet your course deadlines.

4. Revision starts from the moment the course starts: Study is something that you do from the first day of your course. You need to continually revise and review your work. Revision should not be something you do only at the end of the course.

5. Start the countdown to the exams: Use a calendar and plan the countdown towards the examinations. Consider the best time of day for you to study both in terms of time available to you and when you are the most alert.

6. Break it down: Use the course notes contents to break down the syllabus into subject revision requirements. List your strong topics to build confidence and your weaker topics to prioritise revision. Revise your weaker subjects earlier than your favourite subjects. Tick off the subjects as you revise them.

7. Read the key ACoPS and Guidance: Make notes on these, this will supplement your revision.

8. Revise a range of subjects each week: If you decide to study more than one subject in a revision session it is best to work on different subjects from the different elements to condition yourself for the range of subjects at examination.

9. Plan some relaxation time: Make sure you include recreational and family relaxation periods into your revision timetable plan, you will need it.

10. The revision plan will say exactly what is required: Do not be lured into extended breaks or spending too much time per subject – be strict with your timekeeping.

11. Summarise the key words, facts etc. by setting out notes in paragraphs. Do not transcribe the notes etc. verbatim. Précis, legibly using abbreviations where appropriate, the general concepts and facts, not illustrative ideas, avoiding missing key information. Emphasise the key points with a highlighter pen.

12. Test yourself: After each study period spend some time testing yourself. Close your books and on a separate piece of paper summarise (list) the concepts learned, once complete check this against your summarised notes.

13. Practice, practice: As the examinations approach answer past questions in the times allowed at exam, be strict with timing.

14. Take your notes everywhere you can: Anticipate waiting or travel time so that time is not wasted. Carry reading materials (summary notes, AcoPs, Guidance or examiner reports etc.) with you during the day and refer to them during any spare time. You can also download digital versions of the course materials to be viewed on your tablet. Play tape recorded revision material whilst driving.

15. Talk the topic over with someone, even if they do not understand the subject it will assist you to understand your appreciation of the subject and to develop answers.

Need some further help? Santia will be holding additional revision sessions in June for Units A, B & C and a Unit D workshop. Contact us for more information.

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Sickness absence rate is falling – proof that management strategies work?

Posted on by aregal

According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), workplace sickness absence rates have fallen to an average of 4.4 days per employee.

This means that over the last ten years, sickness absence has fallen by nearly a third; by why has this happened?  Is it the case that businesses are less tolerant of sickness absence than they once were, or is it the effect of wellbeing initiatives that have become more popular in recent years?

Whether it’s the carrot or the stick that’s more effective at reducing absence rates is open to debate, but the fact that days off due to mental health issues such as stress, depression and anxiety have increased, could be seen as an indicator that there is much work still to do on the wellbeing front.

Employers can often find it difficult to strike the right balance between providing support to those who need it, whilst ensuring that people don’t take advantage of the system.  This is why a clear absence management policy should go hand-in-hand with targeted wellbeing programmes – to keep employees engaged, yet aware of the guidelines and procedures relating to sickness absence.

The two main causes of absence relate to musculoskeletal disorders (31million days lost) and minor coughs and colds (27million), which reflect the long-term and short-term absences that employers are keen to reduce.  A blend of support and implementation of policies is crucial in both of these cases to ensure that people can get back to  productivity as soon as they can.

Santia’s Day 1 Absence Management service provides management information to help you understand volumes of sickness, recurring patterns of sickness as well as reasons for absence at an individual and occupational group level.

As part of our Choices for Wellbeing campaign, we have designed a range of wellbeing activities to enable you to communicate the importance of staff looking after their own health and to give them a snapshot of their health as well as provide them with an opportunity to confidentially ask for advice on any health issue that may be concerning them.

Posted in Choices for Wellbeing, Health and wellbeing, Occupational health | Leave a comment

NEBOSH National Diploma Unit B exam

Posted on by aregal

Earlier I took the Unit B exam for the NEBOSH National Diploma. I knew exactly what to expect as I had already completed the Unit A exam and the format was the same; six short answer questions in section A and answer three of five essay style questions in Section B.

Just like the previous exam some of the candidates expressed how nervous they were before we went into the exam room. I asked if they had prepared and they said yes, I tried to reassure them that there was nothing else they could do except use the knowledge they had gained from the trainers and their revision to answer the questions.

The NEBOSH National Diploma is a recognised qualification and it is an important stepping stone for many in the health and safety industry. I think this is why a lot of the other candidates were nervous, because they wanted to do their best.

When we entered the exam room we signed our entry confirmation in front of the invigilator, just like last time. I knew I had prepared as much as I could with the use of the online learning material but I wore the same watch and took the same pens just in case they were lucky. You never know!

Then we had 10 minutes reading time to look through the questions. I focused this time on thoroughly understanding the questions in section B as I wanted to make sure I picked the three best questions from the five options.

The invigilator then told us we were to begin and I immediately wrote down my expected finish times next to each question. This had enabled me to keep to time before and I wanted to use the same technique again.

Just like the Unit A exam, time passed really quickly. I had a lot to say on the topics and I wanted to get it all down but I found it hard to write succinctly. I did try to stick to my answer plan but I may have said too much in parts.

I made sure I had enough time at the end to review my answers. I think this is one of the most important things to do, especially because my writing can become a bit of a scrawl and it is good to make sure everything is legible.

I was pleased to put down my pen at the end of the time, three hours goes by so quickly but writing for that long does make your hand start to ache. When we left the exam room one of my course friends asked me how I had got on. I told her I thought it went really well and that I was happy with my performance. She agreed saying she had managed to keep to time better than the Unit A exam.

Check back for the next instalment of Jo’s journey through the NEBOSH National Diploma.

Missed Jo’s instalment when she took the Unit A exam? Click here to read how she got on.

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Should employers ban e-cigarettes?

Posted on by aregal

As a relatively new but rapidly growing phenomenon, the rise of the electronic cigarette has left many employers scratching their head. But what does the law say regarding this, and what should the stance be on e-cigarettes in the workplace?

Current estimates by Action on Smoking and Health indicate that there are now 1.3 million people in the UK who use e-cigarettes.  These battery powered devices generally contain no tobacco, but convert nicotine into a vapour (which can be mixed with other chemicals or flavourings) which is then inhaled.

There is a general consensus that the legislation introduced under the Health Act 2006 to ban smoking in enclosed (or substantially enclosed) workplaces, is unlikely to apply to the new battery powered devices; it is this absence of legal clarity, coupled with a lack of conclusive research into potential health effects, which has led to confusion amongst employers.

The use of e-cigarettes in the workplace is not specifically prohibited and employers are not required to ban them, however, neither do they have to agree to their use.  Employers must decide on the policy that is appropriate for their organisation and ensure that it is fairly implemented; indeed, the British Medical Association is supportive of employers who choose to prohibit the use of e-cigarettes.

When setting a policy, employers should be aware that users of e-cigarettes may expect to be supported in their efforts to stop using conventional cigarettes.  This has to be balanced with a “duty of care” which employers have concerning the health and safety of their staff, and whether they want to project smoking as normal behaviour.  Other employees, particularly expectant mothers, may be concerned about their use or see e-cigarettes (and their vapour) as a distraction.  There may also be fire safety concerns regarding the charging of e-cigarettes, which can sometimes involve the use of USB ports (which could breach IT policies).

Where businesses decide to prevent or restrict the use of e-cigarettes, they should –

-  Introduce (or amend existing) drug and alcohol policies to clarify the approach which is being adopted, for example, a ban on the use of e-cigarettes in the workplace, on client premises and in company vehicles;

-  Clarify the application of the policy to non-employees eg. contractors;

-  Explain the circumstances where the use of e-cigarettes may be acceptable (eg. social events);

-  Explain that disciplinary action may be the result of non-compliance;

-  Decide if an area needs to be designated specifically for the use of e-cigarettes.  Employers should not direct users of e-cigarettes to designated smoking areas.

-  Provide information and support to staff who wish to give up smoking.

Devised by Santia’s occupational health team, Choices for Wellbeing takes a single issue each month and provides occupational health professionals with resources and support to assist them in communicating the importance and benefits of staff looking after their own health and wellbeing.

For more information on our Choices for Wellbeing calendar, contact us on 0845 5040 402 or complete the contact form to receive your free digital copy each month.

Posted in Choices for Wellbeing, Health and wellbeing, Occupational health | Leave a comment

Deregulation Bill – caution urged

Posted on by aregal

The principle of simplifying requirements to cut through small business “red tape” is one which has been broadly welcomed, but a warning note has been sounded concerning the Deregulation Bill which is currently progressing through Parliament.

Under the proposed legislation, self-employed workers who do not work in “prescribed sectors” will be exempted from health and safety legislation, and the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) fears that this could lead to a lowering of safety standards.

IOSH’s head of policy and public affairs Richard Jones warned -

“As we have made clear to Government, we think it would be unhelpful, unnecessary and unwise to exempt certain self-employed from health and safety law, as the Government is proposing – causing more of a hindrance than a help.

“Health and safety is often misunderstood and wrongly labelled as a barrier to business – whereas in fact, it sustains business growth and success. The Government needs to promote this message, provide health and safety support for SMEs and debunk the misperceptions.

“It’s important to remember that health and safety failures in the UK cost a staggering £13.4 billion per year, double this once you take into account the cost of occupational cancers and property damage. Good health and safety saves lives, supports business and sustains the economy.”

The proposal in the Deregulation Bill came about as a result of Lofstedt Review of Health and safety regulation published in November 2011, where he proposed ‘exempting from health and safety law those self-employed whose work activities pose no potential risk of harm to others’.  According to a press release from the Cabinet Office, the proposed change will amount to 800,000 people and save businesses £300,000 a year.

Mike Taylor, Health, Safety and Environmental Technical Director at Santia Consulting Ltd commented:

“Not all self-employed people will be affected by this change, so if it passes into law, it is essential that clear guidance is produced to unambiguously establish who will be exempt; otherwise, a great deal of confusion may arise over who has to comply and who doesn’t.

“Self-employed people often struggle to identify what they have to do to stay within the law, and communication of these changes will be vital in order to avoid costly misunderstandings.”

Santia’s erisk system enables businesses to simultaneously manage a range of risks. Delivered via the Internet, the full range of disciplines relating to health and safety, fire safety through to the management of asbestos, environmental control and occupational health are clearly presented on one screen.

Posted in Health and safety | Leave a comment

Awareness and concern for food safety in restaurants, pubs, cafes and takeaways

Posted on by aregal

To assist the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in monitoring the public’s perception of food safety issues, the agency commissions a Biannual Public Attitude Tracker. A set of 10 questions asked to consumers in a face to face survey, the latest omnibus survey took place between the 6th and 17th of November 2013 (wave 7), with findings released this month.

Using a representative sample of 5,509 adults within the UK, they asked both spontaneous and prompted questions, food hygiene when eating out (36%) and food poisoning (26%) were listed within the top three safety issues for consumers.

Over three quarters of respondents (82%) reported that they are aware of the hygiene standards in places they eat out at or buy food from and worryingly just under half of respondents (49%) reported concern about food safety in UK restaurants, pubs, cafes and takeaways.

With both awareness and concern being an issue for consumers, how can eateries put their customers at ease and give confidence in the food safety of their establishments?

1)    Implementing and managing a robust food safety system

Whatever size or type of food establishment you own, food safety regulations must be followed to ensure that customers are consuming food prepared and served under safe conditions and thoroughly cooked to prevent food poisoning.

A robust food safety management system based on the principals of HACCP with clear and practical procedures can help you plan your food preparation activities and eliminate the risk of poor food hygiene and hygiene practices, ensuring your food is safe to eat.

So what are the common mistakes food establishments make with their food safety management system?

To put it simply, having a well-documented food safety management system is not enough!

A common mistake is the failure of management to undertake regular detailed compliance audits to ensure hygiene standards are being met and procedures are being followed effectively by their employees.  Undertaking regular audits can provide comfort that your practices are safe and compliant and can also provide valuable insight into areas of improvement and most importantly send an underlying message to your employees, that food safety is important to your business and your customers.

Another common mistake often overlooked by food establishments, is the failure to undertake regular reviews of their food safety management system and as a result procedures and practices are often not kept up to date with new food safety requirements or operational changes.

2)    Create a culture of food safety with your employees

When asked during the survey about the main ways respondents become aware of hygiene standards in places they eat out or buy food from; general appearance of premises and appearance of staff where both noted by consumers.

By creating a culture within your organisation that food safety is at the heart of your business and of the utmost importance, staff will start to take pride in both the appearance of your premises and in their own personal hygiene.

How do you create a culture of food safety?

As mentioned, having a robust and up to date food safety management system along with regular compliance audits sends an underlying message to your staff on how seriously you take food safety and therefore is the foundation of your culture.

You do however need to build on those foundations get them to take food safety just as seriously as you do.

Tackling the personal hygiene of your staff as part of your food safety management system will of course play a key role in achieving this and provide consumers with the confidence they need.  Don Meredith, Technical Director for Food Safety at Santia Consulting Ltd advises, “The personal hygiene of all staff likely to come into contact with food is of the utmost importance when it comes to food safety. A key characteristic of personal hygiene is of course ensuring that staff understand they are required to wash their hands after using the rest room.  In addition, measures should also be taken to ensure staff cover hair and cuts on the body, wear clean clothes to work and cover their mouth and nose when sneezing, coughing and of course, then washing their hands again”.

The most fundamental action an employer can take in building a culture of food safety, is without doubt undertaking basic food safety training. Your employees must know not only what is expected of them from both a legal and company policy perspective, but have an understanding of the consequences of not adopting both rigours procedural and personal hygiene standards.

Training should be undertaken as part of an employee’s induction whether they are permanent, temporary, through an agency or working full or part time.  Regular refresher training should also take place especially when new legislation comes into effect.

It is of course, important to acknowledge that the time and cost of training employees can present a challenge especially for small businesses, however, you should not underestimate the value and impact that regular training can have on your food safety practices and culture.   In today’s digital world there are a number of online training courses that are cost effective from both a price and time perspective.  Undertaking tool box talks at the start of every shift is also another great inexpensive way of training your teams.

3)    Get help from professionals

Using food safety experts such as Santia Consulting can provide your business with much needed resources and expertise, allowing you and your management teams to spend less time managing risk and more time running and growing your business.

Our experienced and qualified team of food safety experts provide peace of mind when it comes to:

• Preventing cases of food poisoning
• Demonstrating due diligence
• Protecting your business reputation
• Complying with local government regulations

We can provide you with both a robust food safety management system that is site specific and ensures relevance to your business, and our second and trained pair of eyes will ensure that you are in line with the applicable regulatory requirements. At Santia we take pride in offering a consultative approach meaning you have guidance and advice on how to improve, implement and ensure compliance. We believe in offering practicable and actionable advice, at the right level, in order to build rewarding relationships based on meeting your goals and aspirations.

Whether you are new businesses looking for a food safety manual or an established food business that requires consultancy on a particular issue or a gap analysis of your current food safety management system; our experienced and qualified food safety team are on hand to help.  We also offer an extensive range of high quality and competitively priced food safety training courses available online, in house or at our state of the art training centre near Cardiff, South Wales.

To find out more on how Santia can help your food business and regain consumer confidence, click here or contact us on 029 20 859311.

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