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Short-Term Seasonal Demand Spikes Can Increase Risk to Safety


Introduction

There are very few commercial businesses in the world which to not experience fluctuations in the demand for their products or services at different times of the year. Energy companies enjoy increased demand during the cold and dark winter months when more heaters and lights are used, retailers experience a surge in sales in the run up to Christmas, attractions get more visitors during the school holidays etc. Companies need to plan and prepare for these fluctuations in order to take advantage of the increases, and avoid significant financial losses during the times when demand is lower.

Not only do plans need to be created and preparations undertaken to deal with the strains of increased demand, but dealing with the increased demand also has a bearing upon health, safety and wellbeing of everyone in and associated with the company.



The Danger Posed by Greater Numbers of People on the Site

Organisations will typically have staffing levels which can deal with "normal" levels of demand. When demand increases and more needs to be produced (if a manufacturing company) or customer numbers increase (if a retailer or service provider), then existing staff are likely to be unable to cope and will require additional assistance.

This will come from the hiring of additional staff members on a temporary contract basis, which will unfortunately nearly always increase the potential for accidents. For starters, an increased number of people operating in a workplace which is likely to be of a size to accommodate the "normal" staffing level may become crowded. When combined with more stock, more customers, and more movement of machinery (e.g. equipment for moving stock about), there is a greater potential for an accident to occur.

There will also be more people to evacuate in the event of an emergency, which means that factors such as the availability of emergency exits, or, more pertinently, the ability of the larger body of people to quickly get out of the building, needs to be considered and amendments to the workplace made if necessary. Managers also need to ensure that emergency assembly areas are large enough to accommodate these greater numbers, as if they are not, a large gathering could end up with people being too close to an affected building or being in the path of oncoming moving vehicles.



Lack of Health and Safety Training or Experience

It also needs to be remembered that those coming into the workplace may never have worked in this industry before, or even worked anywhere for that matter, and so have had little or no health and safety training that is relevant to the job they will be doing, and the risks that they may encounter whilst doing it or moving around the site. This can particularly be the case for retailers who employ young people at Christmas or during big sales events, whom for many this may be their first job. They will need to be taught about the potential dangers and hazards which exist, and whilst they won't need as much detail as a NEBOSH General Certificate provides for instance, they will still need a health and safety course which covers a wide range of different topics related to safety such as fire, hazardous substances, manual handling etc.



Increased Stock and Materials

Whether the company is a retailer or a manufacturing business, increased trade will necessitate an increase in raw materials or stock levels to avoid interruptions in trade. All of this will need to be stored somewhere on site so that it can be accessed easily when required. It does however mean that this extra stock poses a fire hazard as there is more material to burn, as well as being a danger if it is piled up high and can fall on top of someone.

It may be the case that certain items and substances are hazardous to health in their own right, rather than requiring a fire or a fall to become dangerous. These substances will be more prevalent in manufacturing and industrial industries, and include items such as paints, oils, chemicals, free flowing solids and substances which can affect the lungs if the vapours or dusts are inhaled, to name but a few.



A Rush to Fill Orders

Increased demand ramps up the pressure to produce items as quickly as possible in order to satisfy all of the orders that have been placed. As everybody knows, rushing tasks causes mistakes to be made, and workplace activities are no exception. Aside from causing delays and costing money in wasted materials, rushing and making mistakes also significantly raises the likelihood of a person causing injury either to themselves or others around them.

It is vitally important that managers do not abandon health and safety requirements, and continue to enforce and communicate the importance of the health and safety policy to all employees. Whilst it may be tempting to circumvent certain safeguards in order to make things happen more quickly, doing so drastically increases the potential for an accident, not to mention likely being illegal in most countries where health and safety legislation exists to protect workers.



Welfare Issues

Welfare provisions often fall under the remit of health and safety managers these days, who have to ensure that suitable facilities and amenities are readily available to all employees such as toilets, hand-washing facilities and clean drinking water. A major increase in the number of workers on the premises may mean that current facilities are insufficient to handle such numbers of users, and additional units may need to be built.



Environmental Damage from Increased Production

Increased demand and production can also cause harm to the environment. Under normal operating levels, a company may release concentrations of pollution into the air or water which are so low that they do not pose a threat to life (of both creatures and humans). However if output is scaled up, these concentrations could rise to such levels where they do become damaging to living organisms. Careful monitoring needs to be performed by the company at all times, along with possible amendments to current working practices and procedures to ensure that this environmental damage, and the subsequent risk to life, does not take place.




Selected Courses

Please see below for a selection of health and safety courses and qualifications which you may be interested in:

NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety

The NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety is the flagship NEBOSH qualification, and is the first UK vocational qualification to be developed specifically for health and safety professionals.

The NEBOSH National Diploma provides the core health and safety knowledge (transferable across industry, commerce and the public sector) which, combined with understanding and appropriate application, underpins the competent performance of an occupational health and safety practitioner.

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NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety

The NEBOSH General Certificate is one of the most popular and widely-held health and safety qualifications in the UK. It is intended to be taken by managers, supervisors and any other employees who require an understanding of general health and safety issues.

The NEBOSH General Certificate covers the main legal requirements for health and safety in the UK, along with the identification and control of workplace hazards, and the practical application of this knowledge. The general content of the NEBOSH General Certificate syllabus means it is suitable and relevant for those working in virtually any industry, and is often used as a solid foundation for those going on to further study and specialising in a particular area such as construction site health and safety or fire safety.

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IOSH Managing Safely Course

The IOSH Managing Safely course is designed for managers and supervisors of organisations in virtually all industry sectors, in order to give them all they need to know to effectively manage health and safety in the workplace.

Recently updated, the new high impact programme covers key health and safety issues, and includes references to international case studies.

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CITB Site Management SMSTS Course

The Site Management Safety Training Scheme (SMSTS) is one of the most popular health and safety training courses, and is intended for construction site managers, project managers and senior supervisors, as well as proprietors of smaller companies.

Client-based personnel would also benefit from attending the SMSTS course.

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CITB Health and Safety Awareness Course

This course is for those who have entered, or are about to enter, the construction and civil engineering industry as a member of the workforce to help them understand the potential hazards that they face at work on site. It aims to provide a practical summary of health and safety, welfare and environmental health and safety issues.

The course also allows delegates to identify their individual responsibilities for looking after themselves and others, what the employer's duties are and what should be done if they think anyone's health and safety is being put at risk.

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