Constructing Better Health News Updates

Changes to RIDDOR

22/10/2013

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published details of the changes to the reporting requirements under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR), which came into force on 1 October 2013. The changes have been designed to streamline the reporting of accidents within the industry and it is estimated that they will result in a net benefit to business of £5.9 million over a ten-year period.

The main changes include:

• The classification of 'major injuries' to workers replaced with a shorter list of 'specified injuries'
• The previous list of 47 types of industrial diseases has been replaced with eight categories of reportable work-related illness
• Fewer types of 'Dangerous Occurrence' will require reporting.

Reportable diseases

Regulation 8 requires employers and self-employed people to report cases of certain diagnosed reportable diseases which are linked with occupational exposure to specified hazards. The reportable diseases and associated hazards are set out below.
• Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: where the person’s work involves regular use of percussive or vibrating tools
• Cramp of the hand or forearm: where the person’s work involves prolonged periods of repetitive movement of the fingers, hand or arm
• Occupational dermatitis: where the person’s work involves significant or regular exposure to a known skin sensitiser or irritant
• Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome: where the person’s work involves regular use of percussive or vibrating tools, or holding materials subject to percussive processes, or processes causing vibration
• Occupational asthma: where the person’s work involves significant or regular exposure to a known respiratory sensitiser
• Tendonitis or tenosynovitis: in the hand or forearm, where the person’s work is physically demanding and involves frequent, repetitive movements

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is caused by compression of the median nerve, which controls sensation and movement in the hand. It is not always caused by work-related factors. Typically, workplace risks are associated with the use of hand-held vibrating power tools, such sanders, grinders, chainsaws etc.

Cramp of the hand or forearm

Where cramp is so severe as to lead to a clinical diagnosis, it can be severely debilitating, and impair a person’s ability to carry out their normal work. This condition is reportable when it is chronic, and is associated with repetitive work movements. The condition is usually characterised by a person being unable to carry out a sequence of what were previously well co-ordinated movements.

An acute incident of cramp which may take place in the course of work is not reportable.

Occupational dermatitis

Dermatitis is reportable when associated with work-related exposure to any chemical or biological irritant or sensitising agent. In particular, this includes any chemical with the warning ’may cause sensitisation by skin contact’, or ’irritating to the skin’. Epoxy resins, latex, rubber chemicals, soaps and cleaners, metalworking fluids, cement, wet work, enzymes and wood can all cause dermatitis. Corrosive and irritating chemicals also lead to dermatitis. Construction work, health service work, rubber making, printing, paint spraying, agriculture, horticulture, electroplating, cleaning, catering, hairdressing and florists are all associated with dermatitis.

Dermatitis can be caused by exposure to a range of common agents found outside the workplace. If there is good evidence that the condition has been caused solely by such exposure rather than by exposure to an agent at work, it is not reportable.

Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome

Workers whose hands are regularly exposed to high vibration, eg in industries where vibratory tools and machines are used, may suffer from impaired blood circulation and damage to the nerves in the hand and arm; the disease is known as ‘hand-arm vibration syndrome’. Other names used in industry include vibration white finger, dead finger, dead hand and white finger. Typically, workplace risks are associated with the use of hand-held vibrating power tools, such as percussive drills and hammers, rotary grinders and sanders, chainsaws etc. Risks are also associated with holding materials which vibrate while being processed by powered machinery such as pedestal grinders, riveting machines, rotary polishers etc.

Occupational asthma

Asthma is reportable when associated with work-related exposure to any respiratory sensitiser. In particular, this will include any chemical with the warning ‘may cause sensitisation by inhalation’. Known respiratory sensitisers include epoxy resin fumes, solder fume, grain dusts, wood dusts and other substances. Asthma is a common condition in the general population.

If there is good evidence that the condition was pre-existing, and was neither exacerbated nor triggered by exposure at work, the condition is not reportable.

Tendonitis and tenosynovitis

Tendonitis and tenosynovitis are types of tendon injury. Tendonitis means inflammation of a tendon, and tenosynovitis means inflammation of the sheath (synovium) that surrounds a tendon. Workers who undertake physically demanding, repetitive work are at increased risk of developing these conditions. Physically demanding work includes (but is not restricted to) tasks involving repeated lifting and manipulation of objects (eg block-laying and assembly line work), and activities involving constrained postures or extremes of movement in the hand or wrist.

Exposure to carcinogens, mutagens and biological agents

Regulation 9 requires employers and self-employed workers to report cases of occupational cancer, and any disease or acute illness caused by an occupational exposure to a biological agent.

Occupational cancers

Cases of cancer must be reported where there is an established causal link between the type of cancer diagnosed, and the hazards to which the person has been exposed through work. These hazards include all known human carcinogens and mutagens, including ionising radiation.

For example, the following diagnosed occupational cancers must be reported:
• mesothelioma or lung cancer in a person who is occupationally exposed to asbestos fibres
• cancer of the nasal cavity or sinuses in a person who is occupationally exposed to wood dust

Reports are only required when the person’s work significantly increases the risk of developing the cancer. In some cases, the medical practitioner may indicate the significance of any work-related factors when communicating their diagnosis.

Cases of cancer are not reportable when they are not linked with work-related exposures to carcinogens or mutagens. As with other diseases, cancers are only reportable if the person’s current job involves exposure to the relevant hazard.

Biological agents

All diseases and any acute illness needing medical treatment must be reported when it is attributable to a work-related exposure to a biological agent. The term biological agent is defined in the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) and means a micro-organism, cell culture, or human endoparasite which may cause infection, allergy, toxicity or other hazard to human health. Work with hazardous biological agents is subject to specific provisions under COSHH.

Work-related exposures to biological agents may take place as a result of:
an identifiable event, such as the accidental breakage of a laboratory flask, accidental injury with a contaminated syringe needle or an animal bite
unidentified events, where workers are exposed to the agent without their knowledge (eg where a worker is exposed to legionella bacteria while conducting routine maintenance on a hot water service system)

A report should be made whenever there is reasonable evidence suggesting that a work-related exposure was the likely cause of the disease. The doctor may indicate the significance of any work-related factors when communicating their diagnosis.

Minor infections common in the community such as colds, bronchitis or stomach upsets cannot generally be attributed to work-related exposures to biological agents, and so are generally not reportable. However, where there is reasonable evidence of a work-related cause, such as inadvertent contact with the infectious agent during laboratory work, you should make a report.

Acute illnesses requiring medical attention must be reported when they result from a work-related exposure to a biological agent, including its toxins or any infected material.

Diagnosis by a doctor

A reportable disease must be diagnosed by a doctor. Diagnosis includes identifying any new symptoms, or any significant worsening of existing symptoms. For employees, they need to provide the diagnosis in writing to their employer. Doctors are encouraged to use standard wording when describing reportable diseases on written statements they make out for their patients.

The self-employed

Self-employed people do not normally obtain written statements from their doctors when off work through illness. To take account of this, for a self-employed person, the doctor’s verbal diagnosis of a reportable disease is sufficient for it to require reporting to the enforcing authority. As with employees, this only applies if their current job involves exposure to the associated hazard.

There are no significant changes to the reporting requirements for:

• Fatal accidents – either online or by telephone within 10 days
• Accidents to non-workers (members of the public) – online within 10 days
• Accidents resulting in a worker being unable to perform their normal range of duties for more than seven days – online within 15 days.


Further information on RIDDOR, including all the recent changes, can be found in the guidance on the HSE website. http://www.hse.gov.uk/riddor/index.htm

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