Hello and welcome to the fifth issue of the Ryder Partnership Ltd 

fortnightly newsletter The Alchemist, in which we will keep you up to date on all the latest developments 
in the world of health and safety.


This issue focuses on –


Manual Handling in the Constructions industry,

Electrical safety,

Prosecution case studies,

Laptop computer Health and Safety issues.

Manual Handling In The Construction Industry.

Straight to it. The Health and Safety Executive are starting 

another new inspection campaign in the Construction Industry but this time it is around Manual Handling.

Although the campaign is aimed at one particular sector they could look at the same activities in any type of organisation should they be on site.

Manual handling is an often neglected topic in respect of HSE involvement and civil law claims are usually where the concerns are concentrated however the HSE are looking to concentrate minds on an activity that can cause debilitating injuries .

Here are the details below…

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HSE’s latest construction health inspection campaign focuses on moving and handling materials. HSE are providing resources in order to manage manual handling risks on site. 

The campaign is raising awareness of health issues in relation to 

moving and handling materials to improve the long-term health of those working in construction. 

When on site, HSE inspectors are checking that employers and workers:


Know the risks,

Plan their work to eliminate or substitute the risks, where possible.


Where that is not possible, use sensible control measures to protect workers from aches, pain and discomfort in joints, muscles and bones known as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).


The free resources include:

visit our campaign website to get advice for employers, workers and small builders

download our poster to use on your site

take our manual handling quiz

Electrical Safety.

Another subject area which an sometimes get forgotten when undertaking 

risk assessments and planning work is that of electrical safety, with concentration tending to be on the requirement for PA testing, and the need for five yearly wiring checks.

However a couple of recent prosecutions due to fatal electrical accidents highlights the fact that contact with high voltage electricity can be extremely serious both inside and outside of buildings.


The first case highlights the danger of overhead powerlines and the wide range of hazards to which farm workers are exposed.



A farm was fined £60,000 after a visiting delivery driver was killed when he was electrocuted by an overhead power line.



On 13 May 2021, 43-year-old Patrick ‘Paddy’ Rice was operating a tipper lorry at VB Farms LLP’s Littlecombe Farm in Crediton, Devon. He was employed by Langford Plant Hire and was delivering stone that was going to be used to repair farm tracks by VB Farms LLP. 

Unfortunately, the hydraulic arm of his tipper lorry came into contact with an 11kV overhead power line. Mr Rice was fatally electrocuted after exiting the lorry.



A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into the incident found VB Farms LLP had failed to carry out an assessment of how the work could be completed safely and did not consider the dangers involved with working near an overhead power line.



VB Farms LLP was found guilty of breaching regulations 3(1) and 4(3) of the Electricity at Work Regulations following a trial at Exeter Magistrates’ Court. The company was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay costs of £11,715 on 17 August 2023



‘This was a tragic and wholly avoidable incident – another sad reminder of the dangers of overhead power lines,’ HSE inspector James Collins said.

The death could easily have been prevented if VB Farms LLP had acted to manage the risks involved and put in place a safe system of work.’



Overhead power lines typically carry electricity at voltages similar to the 11 kV in this case, but can go up to 400 kV. Steps to avoid the potential dangers posed by overhead power lines include:


Avoid or remove the risk by either burying the power lines if in an area of constant activity or contacting the network provider to switch the lines off when activity is taking place beneath them. 

Measure power lines so you know what height they are. Then make sure the equipment you have isn’t going to infringe on those power lines. 


The HSE is particularly concerned about a nationwide trend of farm machinery getting bigger, increasing the risk of contact with power lines. If you have power lines that cross your site, create a plan to show exactly where they are and how high they are. You can then share this with staff and contractors. 

Use goalpost barriers to ensure any vehicle coming onsite does not exceed the height of your power lines. 

Pay careful attention to clearance heights, especially if any land on site has been built up or new hardcore has been laid, reducing clearance.

Be sure that the people coming on site are competent, know what they are doing, and know how to work in an environment like this.


Electrical Death No 2.

This time in a hospital kitchen and in completely different circumstances. The question of reasonably foreseeable risks springs to mind in this case.

Three companies were fined a total of £600,000 after an engineer was electrocuted in a hospital kitchen whilst repairing an appliance. 

Craig Stocker, working for Serviceline (part of AFE Group), died on 13 December 2017 while fixing a macerator (food waste disposal unit) at Bishops Wood Hospital, operated by BMI Healthcare (now known as Circle Health Group Limited) in Northwood, Middlesex.

The 36-year-old, came into contact with a metal section of the macerator that had been electrified as water had entered the machine’s wiring.

Bishops Wood Hospital kitchen area – sink and macerator underneath

Bishops Wood Hospital kitchen area – sink and macerator underneath


The macerator was not protected by an earth wire and there was no residual current device (RCD) to prevent fatal exposure to the electrical current.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into this incident found that Imperial Machine Company’s design of the macerator had serious flaws. 

The earthing wire could be connected in a way that meant it was ineffective, and the equipment was also permanently live.

When the macerator was installed by McFarlane Telfer in 2013, they had not acted on the manufacturer’s instructions, which required that a residual current device (RCD) was fitted.

BMI Healthcare did not identify that the RCD had not been fitted and the machine was operated for several years before the incident occurred.

Following a trial at Southwark Crown Court:


BMI Healthcare (now Circle Health Group Limited), of Cannon Street, London, was found guilty of breaching Section 2(1) and Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act. 1974.

The company was fined £450,000 and ordered to pay £106,895 in costs on 3

October 2023.


McFarlane Telfer Limited, of Westacott Way, Littlewick Green, Maidenhead, was found guilty of breaching Section 2(1) and Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act. 1974. The company was fined £70,000 and ordered to pay £106,753 in costs on 3 October 2023.


On 2 March 2022, Imperial Machine Company Limited, of Whisby Road, Lincoln, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 6(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay £12,945 in costs.


Laptop Computer Health And Safety Issues.

The Display Screen Equipment Regulations were brought onto the statute in 1992 some 31 years ago. Computers were very different then and probably looked like this…

A computer with a mouse and keyboard

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However since then the world of computing has changed beyond all recognition but the Regulations remain the same. 

Now they look like this…

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Many people use laptop computers and their users need to have a DSE Assessment carried. This article looks at the various aspects of laptop use safety.

The potential for injury and ill health among laptop/PCD users can be increased by poor working conditions, the need to carry equipment, exposure to the general public, social isolation and the lack of supervision. 


Companies are required by law to do suitable and sufficient risk assessments and health and safety issues have to be considered for all aspects of laptop /PCD use i.e. suitability for the task and employee, suitability of workspace and working environment, training requirements, procedures and equipment required. 

Managers should also talk to their employees about the health and safety issues they perceive to be significant risks. 

Record the findings of risk assessments and review and revise them annually or when significant changes occur. 


2. Health Risks 

Laptop/PCD users should have information and training on the safe use of the equipment, the specific hazards and risks, and controls put in place to reduce the risk of injury. 


Common health issues that can arise, include: 


Aches and pains (particularly in the back, neck, shoulders, arms, wrists and hands.) 

These can occur if awkward postures are adopted or making the same movements repeatedly.

Neck or eye problems from trying to see the screen at an awkward angle 

Wrist and hand problems from bending wrists to use the keys, or from overusing the other input devices (nipple mouse, rollerball, pad etc) 

Shoulder or back problems from carrying the equipment, or from reaching too far to use it, or from using it extensively in an unusual posture such as slouching, bending over or lying down. 

Over-heating of the groin due to supporting the hot laptop on your lap (despite its name!) 

Visual discomfort – blurring and sore eyes, and headaches. Causes include long periods of time looking at the screen, reflections on the screen, characters being too small, and inappropriate colours.


3. Training 

Employees need to have the information and ability to do ‘on the spot’ assessments to ensure their own health and safety –

Companies must ensure that users of this equipment are able to recognise early warning signs of common work related ill-health conditions, and know how and who to report the problem. 


4. Working at home

If employees work at home for a significant amount of time, the manager must consider the home workstation set-up as part of the risk assessment ,


5. Laptop/Portable Computer Devices 

Laptops/PCDs are not designed for intensive or prolonged use and should not be provided for such use without assessing the risks. 

There is no prescriptive definition of ‘prolonged use’, but portable equipment that is habitually in use for a significant part of normal work should be regarded as covered by the DSE regulations DSE.


Frequent breaks or changes of activity or tasks are particularly important for portable computer users as often poor postures are adopted when in use. 

Best practice recommends separate keyboard, mouse and screen when using this equipment for a prolonged period.it is advisable that its use is

restricted to spells of 30-40 minutes with significant task breaks between. 

A laptop should not be used where a standard DSE workstation set up can be reasonably provided. Beware because this is not often the case therefore in your laptop risk assessment you should justify the business case for their use in respect of reasonably practicable use of control measures.

Additional equipment or accessories are available in order to make laptops safer to use e.g. 


separate monitor screens,

laptop/PCD stands,

tilt adjustable keyboard that are separate from the rest of the laptop/PCD,

sufficient memory and processor speed.


Stop theft!

Many laptops are lost or stolen each year. Managers should ensure that employees:

Are aware of the risk of theft or attack and told to give their laptops and other equipment up immediately and not ‘have a go’, i.e. retaliate against their attacker, Are instructed to store electronic equipment out of sight when not in use, and not to leave it unattended, even briefly, at third-party sites,


Are instructed not store information on the hard drive  of the equipment,


Are advised not to leave laptops unattended on public transport,


Do not introduce measures that may secure the laptop but put them at greater risk of personal injury, such as using lockable cables in risky situations,


Carrying cash or rucksacks provided for laptops do not advertise themselves as computer bags,


Consider any particular hazards associated with their travelling hours – particularly outside normal ‘rush hours.’ Managers must also assess any manual handling hazards that arise from carrying laptops/PCDs and associated equipment. 

Risk-reduction measures include: 


Taking into account the shape and size of a laptop and/or portable device. Lighter models will often be best – the HSE suggests laptops of 3 kilograms or less – but this should not be at the expense of good ergonomic design.


Carrying portable computers and associated equipment, papers etc. can present a manual handling risk to employees. 


The use of specially designed laptop rucksack-style bags help reduce the risk of injury. These spread the weight across both shoulders and the upper body. These bags should also have a carrying handle. Some employees may prefer to use wheeled cases. 


6. PCDs Tablets and Handheld Device (Smartphones) 

Flexible workers are making increasing use of portable DSE other than laptops, such as tablets and handheld devices. 


These units are likely to present similar risks to those associated with laptops. 


The smaller size means that the ergonomic limitations of the equipment, their use in unsuitable environments and the risk of theft will all be increased, though manual handling problems will be reduced. 


Data entry via a stylus, touch-sensitive screen and handwriting recognition software may be preferable to using an under-sized keyboard, but extended use of these is not recommended (even where battery life permits) as they may present the same opportunities for eyestrain and musculoskeletal problems as any other DSE. 


Employees must also be warned not to use handheld equipment while walking, to reduce the risks of slips, trips and falls. 


Managers should ensure that no one habitually uses hand-held equipment for a significant part of their normal work.


7. Selecting portable computers 

Practical points to consider when selecting portable computers: 


Look for as low a weight as possible (for example 3 kg or less), and keep accessories as few and as light as possible. 


Screen – as large and as clear as possible, considering the task to be done. Where available, opt for a detachable or height-adjustable screen. 


Specify as long a battery life as possible. 


Choose portables capable of being used with an external mouse, keyboard and/or numeric keypad, where these are likely to help the user to work comfortably. 


To cut working time and user stress, ensure the portable has sufficient memory and speed for the applications to be used. 


For applications requiring use of a non-keyboard input device, opt for a portable with a touch pad, 


Many users find it more comfortable to use portables whose casing incorporates a space (wrist pad) between the keyboard and front edge. 


Ensure that handheld devices and tablets to be used for prolonged periods are carefully selected for ergonomic features which match the requirements of the tasks undertaken. 

For example equipment to be used outdoors should be adequately waterproof, legible in bright sunlight, and keyboards and screens should be large enough to be used comfortably.


Remember the DSE risk assessment must take into account the way the lap top is used, where it is used and how frequently it is used and very importantly the individual that uses it.

If you have any questions relating to the topics covered in this issue of the newsletter, then please get in touch.

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COSHH Risk Assessment Training – Wednesday 15th November 2023; Telford

Mental Health First Aid, Level 2 – Thursday 16th November 2023; Telford

Manual Handling ‘Train the Trainer’ – Wednesday 22nd November 2023; Telford

IOSH ‘Managing Safely’ – Wednesday 29th, 30th & 31st November; Telford

Safe & Legal Update 2023 – Friday 15th December 2023; Telford


For more information on our training courses, please contact Rebeckah on reb@ryderpartnership.co.uk or call 07956734831.

Thank you for taking time to read the Newsletter. The next edition will be out in late October.

Until then keep healthy and safe!


Please note that we also issue regular newsflashes on whatever we think may be of interest. If you do not wish to receive them, then please contact Jae on 



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