Addressing health and safety issues by working with employee representatives
Effective, comprehensive health and safety procedures are not only essential for compliance with the Operational Health and Safety (OHS) Act, they are also important for ensuring productive working environments. However, when it comes to sensitive aspects such as drug and alcohol policies and testing, implementation of policies and procedures may not be altogether straightforward. Organisations cannot simply dictate that they will be conducting such testing, nor can they instantaneously implement it where this did not previously exist. In order to ensure maximum buy-in and minimum friction, enterprises should follow a step-by-step approach, and importantly, work with unions and employee representatives to ensure inclusive, fair and effective safety programs are introduced.
According to the OHS Act, employees may not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs while in the workplace. This is particularly important in industries such as mining, manufacturing, construction and transportation, where the safety hazards are numerous. In light of this, it is essential to implement policies and procedures around these substances. The most effective way to identify the use of drugs or alcohol is to conduct testing using specialised equipment. However, organisations cannot simply implement such testing without warning, and without consulting employee representatives. This approach will without a doubt cause misunderstanding and other issues around testing and related policies.
In order to minimise these issues, organisations should involve the unions and employee representatives from the outset. Policies and procedures need to be clearly outlined, along with any testing component, how the tests will be done, how frequently they will be conducted, the process for testing and more. The selected testing methods should be thoroughly explained, along with the reasoning for their selection, and this should be explained to the representatives.
In addition, education needs to form a large component of any drug and alcohol policy. Organisations need to ensure that employees and representatives understand the rationale behind testing policies and procedures – that this is not a practice aimed at firing people, but rather one that will help to create a safe and productive working environment for all. In addition, education around the dangers of drug and alcohol use, both in terms of their negative impact on workplace safety as well as the financial and long-term health implications, should form part of the education drive.
An effective education mechanism is to use real examples of incidents where people have been injured or involved in accidents. Using examples that employees can relate to, particularly if it involves people they may have known or worked with, makes the dangers of alcohol and drug use in the workplace more real. Organisations should also focus on the positive aspects, such as the improvements to health and financial situation once substance abuse problems can be brought under control.
Organisations also need to provide forewarning and notice before testing can begin. The exact date need not be specified, but organisations should warn employees that testing will begin in, for example, three months, giving them time to come forward with problems or get clean on their own. This once again needs to be implemented by working with representatives to ensure minimal misunderstanding. Furthermore, safety officers must be trained in the procedures that have been developed along with the equipment that has been selected for testing.
One of the biggest challenges to implementing any policy around alcohol and drug testing is a lack of understanding on the part of employees. Without education and buy-in from the unions, employees may feel they are being persecuted, restricted or victimised. Involving all parties from the outset, and focusing strongly on education for both employees and representatives, is the only way to effectively overcome this obstacle. In this way, organisations can resolve any issues up front, ensuring that the process of implementing new health and safety practices and policies is as smooth and well accepted as possible.
Research reveals 164% rise in searches for loft conversions
Market research conducted by building supply specialist Insulation4Less has revealed that searches for ‘Loft Conversions’ rose by a staggering 164% between May and June of this year, while searches for ‘Loft Conversion Ideas’ jumped by 186% as people spend more time on home renovations this summer.
The company also found that the most popular use for a loft conversion is for an additional bedroom, while an extra bathroom was the second-highest search term. Walk-in wardrobes came in third, beating out a home office in fourth while converting a loft into a home cinema round off the top five.
According to a recent study, a loft conversion can add roughly 20% to the value of a property. With the average UK house price standing at £267,000 in January 2021, this represents an average increase in value of more than £53,400.
Johnpaul Manning, Managing Director of Insulation4Less, said: “If the last year has taught us anything, it's that having space is essential to our mental health and wellbeing, so it's no surprise that people are taking the time to focus on home improvements to help them make the most of their home.
As one of the most under-utilised areas in any property, loft conversions represent a great opportunity to maximise the use of space that not only improves quality of life but also has the capacity to add value to the home”, he said.
Manning added that it's important to remember that a loft conversion isn't just your average DIY project, and should never be done on the spur of the moment. “A significant amount of planning needs to happen to make it a reality, and an understanding that life can be disrupted while the build is taking place.
“While it's definitely a worthwhile project, I'd recommend that anyone considering a loft conversion should do some in-depth research to really understand what's needed to make it a reality”, Manning said.
Is Your Loft Suitable For a Conversion?
While loft conversions do look amazing and add an extra element to a property, not all homes may be suitable. Insulation4Less says that this is due to a variety of factors.
“It's important to make sure that your roof is structurally sound enough to handle a conversion”, the company said. Although there are different types of roof structures, they mostly fall into two distinct categories: a traditional roof, and a trussed roof.
A traditional roof: was typically found in pre-1960s houses. Rafters on traditional roofs run along its edges, leaving a good amount of free space. However, they might still need new or extra support. Trussed roofs, on the other hand, have ‘W’ shaped rafters that support the roof and the floor structure. Even though truss roofs may appear to be harder to convert, it’s not impossible; the ‘W’ shaped rafters can be replaced with an ‘A’ shape structure which creates a hollow space. While this can add additional costs, it could be a worthy investment, so take this into consideration during your planning process.
“Another thing to consider is the roof's height and pitch, and how that will impact the amount of space you’ll have. You’ll need a minimum height of 2.2m to ensure proper clearance. While you might be happy to settle for something a little shorter on paper, make sure your happy with the height you have and the effect it could have on the enjoyment of the space”, Insulation4Less advises.
The company recommends doing research before going to an architect or contractor. “Ultimately, look for other conversions on your street or in similar properties, and if you feel comfortable, ask if you can have a look and discuss how their project came together - you’ll find a wealth of information that could really help your own project in the future”.
Information credit: Insulation4Less.