Information about specific safety concerns

This page tackles safety subjects relating to specific risks, businesses and activities.

Here you will find advice and guidance for businesses in the event of a flood.

In the event of a flood warning, it is important everyone is prepared to protect their possessions and premises. Do not underestimate the level to which the flood water may rise. You should:
  • obtain sandbags or other flood defense devices
  • stock disinfectant
  • contact your insurers, who should state the steps you need to take to satisfy your policy requirements
  • move equipment and furniture to the next floor or well above the estimated flood level if possible
  • consider the risks from heavy lifting to the health and safety of your employees
  • switch off electrical and gas installations and equipment
  • make sure drains from your premises are running efficiently
  • place unsealed food that can’t be moved in airtight containers
As the flood waters recede, council staff will be available to offer advice.

Floodwater will often be contaminated by untreated sewage, which remains after the floodwater has gone. Wear rubber boots and gloves in and around the affected property. As a business, you must consider the safety of yourself, your employees, the general public and contractors who enter your premises.

Make sure you comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 when staff are carrying out work activities they would not normally be doing.

Rats’ urine, which can be found in flood water, can lead to Weils Disease (Leptospirosis) if it’s accidentally ingested or comes in contact with open wounds. Initial symptoms are similar to flu.

Consult a doctor if this is a concern and tell them you’ve been flooded and if you have ingested flood water. Wash all cuts and cover with waterproof plasters.

Anyone receiving a puncture wound during flood recovery should have a doctor determine whether a tetanus booster is necessary.
Our health and safety team can offer advice to businesses affected by flooding on food hygiene and health and safety, in particular proper cleaning and disinfection of equipment and the proper disposal of flood-damaged equipment, food and drink.
  • Don’t eat any food that has been touched or covered by floodwater or sewage.
  • Always wash your hands before preparing food.
  • Clean and disinfect work surfaces, plates, cutlery, kitchen utensils, etc. If you have a working dishwasher, this is a more efficient way to clean and sanitise smaller items or use a suitable disinfectant. Throw away any heavily contaminated items.
  • Don’t prepare any food or re-open the establishment until the premises has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
  • All food that may have been contaminated must be destroyed. Initially this must be double bagged and placed in a sealed container to prevent attracting pests.
  • Clean and disinfect the inside of your fridge and food cupboards, if they have been touched by floodwater.
  • Don’t use work surfaces, plates etc. if they are badly chipped or damaged.
  • If your power has been cut off and your fridge has not been working for more than four hours, throw away the food inside. Provided doors are kept closed, food should remain frozen in disconnected freezers for up to 24 hours. If food has defrosted, it should be safe if treated as chilled food, refrigerated and used up within a couple of days. If frozen food has risen above 8ºc for more than four hours the food should be thrown away. Also throw away any food that you would eat frozen, for example ice cream.
  • If you are unable to keep high-risk food under adequate temperature control, you must close your business.
  • If you become ill or suffer any gastric symptoms following the clean-up, please visit your GP as immediately. No-one should handle or prepare food if they are suffering from diarrhoea, vomiting etc.
Contact us if you need a certificate for insurance purposes, or help in disposing of equipment, goods and damaged food.

It is essential all flood-damaged food and drink is correctly disposed of to ensure it cannot be consumed and cause illness. If you are in any doubt about the safe disposal of such items, please contact us for advice.
Health risks can be minimised by taking general hygiene precautions. It is essential that, throughout the clean-up, the health and safety of your staff and any other people who have access to your premises are not put at risk.

Your responsibilities under health, safety and welfare legislation still apply, even during these difficult times.
  • Make sure your staff are aware of these precautions while carrying out the cleaning operation.
  • Anyone involved in the cleaning should wear protective clothing including gloves, overalls, suitable footwear and cover cuts and open wounds with waterproof dressings.
  • All river debris, furnishings, equipment and other items which have to be disposed of must be dealt with as carefully as possible. People must not be put at risk of coming into contact with potentially contaminated rubbish that may contain hidden, sharp or jagged objects.
  • All surfaces must be cleaned with hot soapy water and then disinfected.
  • It is vital disinfectants are used as the manufacturer’s instructions recommend.
  • To dry out your premises, once the mopping up operation is complete, ventilate the building as much as possible and gently heat the affected rooms. Use a dehumidifier if necessary.
Remember - contact your insurers before disposing of any equipment. If you’re in any doubt about disposing of or disinfecting equipment, contact us.
Only when your premises is safe should members of the public be allowed back in.

The flood water may have disturbed rodents, which could have entered your premises and damaged wiring and furniture. If this is a problem, contact our pest control team on 0345 600 6400.

Electrical safety
Electrical equipment and electrical installations can pose serious safety risks if they have been damaged by flood water.
  • Switch off electrical installations and equipment.
  • Do not operate equipment which is in water or while standing in water.
  • Keep away from any live equipment submerged in water.
  • Have any installations or electrical equipment that has been flood damaged checked by an approved electrical contractor before it’s used again. 
  • Contact your electricity supplier if you have any concerns about your electric supply up to your electricity meter.
Gas safety
Gas equipment and gas installations can pose safety risks if damaged by flood water.
  • If possible, turn the gas control valve (usually situated adjacent to the gas meter) to the 'off' position.
  • Ensure all gas appliances are turned off to minimise the possibility of water entering the gas supply pipes in your home.
  • It is crucial to have the appliances inspected by a ‘Gas Safe’ (formally CORGI) registered engineer before being used again. The appliances may look and appear to be working normally, but the flue or ventilation systems which are essential for normal operation may have been adversely affected by floodwater.
  • If you smell gas, or suspect a gas leak, call National Gas Emergency Service immediately on 0800 111 999.
Water supply
The quality of the drinking water to your premises may have been affected. Northumbrian Water will monitor the quality, but if you have any queries or concerns about your water supply contact them on 0345 266 0585.

Any taps which have been submerged in contaminated floodwater should be cleaned using a bleach solution and run for 30 seconds prior to the water being used.

The following facilities may need specialist help following flooding:
  • Lifts and hoists - should be thoroughly checked by a competent person to see that flooding hasn’t affected safety.
  • Swimming pools - must be drained, thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. After refilling the pool, the water should be tested for remaining harmful bacteria.
  • Chemical residue - from open containers for example, can be harmful or become harmful if combined with other chemicals. Consult your chemicals supplier for advice.
You will find information on legionnaires’ disease in the workplace here.

Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia which can affect anyone, but mostly affects those vulnerable because of age, illness, immunosuppression, smoking etc.

If conditions are favourable, the bacteria that causes legionnaires’ may grow, increasing the risk of contracting the disease. It is therefore important to control the risks.

To prevent exposure to legionella, you as a duty holder must comply with legislation that requires you to manage, maintain and treat water systems in your premises properly. This will include, but not be limited to, appropriate water treatment and cleaning regimes.

Legionella can grow in any workplace if the conditions are right - you do not have to work with microbiological agents, e.g. in a laboratory, to be exposed. 

If you are responsible for any of the water systems described in HSE's approved code of practice (ACoP) you will need to assess the risk of employees and others in the workplace.

The Notification of Cooling Towers and Evaporative Condensers Regulations 1992 requires the notification of cooling towers to your local authority.

For more information on legionella, download the document below:
Any building built before 2000 can contain asbestos. Asbestos materials in good condition are safe unless asbestos fibres become airborne, which happens when materials are damaged.

A key factor in the risk of developing an asbestos-related disease is the total number of fibres breathed in. Working on or near damaged asbestos-containing materials or breathing in high levels of asbestos fibres, which may be many hundreds of times that of environmental levels, can cause significant health problems.

When these fibres are inhaled they can cause serious diseases responsible for about 4,000 deaths a year. There are four main diseases caused by asbestos:
  • mesothelioma (which is always fatal)
  • lung cancer (almost always fatal)
  • asbestosis (not always fatal, but it can be very debilitating)
  • diffuse pleural thickening (not fatal)
These diseases will not affect you immediately but later on in life, so there is a need for you to protect yourself now to prevent you contracting an asbestos-related disease. 

People who smoke and are also exposed to asbestos fibres are at a much greater risk of developing lung cancer.
The duty to manage asbestos lies with those managing non-domestic premises. These people have a responsibility to protect others working in the premises, or who use them in other ways, from the risks to health that asbestos causes.

What is the duty?
The duty to manage asbestos is contained in regulation four of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

It requires the person who has the duty (the "duty holder") to:
  • take reasonable steps to find out if there are materials containing asbestos in non-domestic premises, its amount, where it is, and what condition it is in
  • presume materials contain asbestos unless there is strong evidence otherwise
  • make and keep up-to-date a record of the location and condition of the asbestos-containing materials or materials which might contain asbestos
  • assess the risk of anyone exposed to fibres from the identified materials
  • prepare a detailed plan that explains how the risks from these materials will be managed
  • take necessary steps to put the plan into action
  • regularly review and monitor the plan and proposed actions so it is relevant and up-to-date
  • give information on the location and condition of the materials to anyone who is liable to work on or disturb them
There is also a requirement for anyone to co-operate to allow the duty holder to comply with the above requirements.

The Sunbeds (Regulation) Act 2010 prevents the use of sunbeds on commercial business premises by children and young people under 18.

Why restrict sunbed use?
According to the Department of Health, the case is clear - instances of skin cancer are on the rise.
The main cause of skin cancer is over exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays - this may be from sunlight or from using sunbeds and sunlamps.
Skin cancer typically takes decades to develop, so may not become apparent until years after the damaging exposure.
If you run a tanning salon, the Sunbeds (Regulation) Act 2010 requires you to ensure no person under the age of 18:
  • uses a sunbed
  • is offered the use of a sunbed - children and young people are prohibited from being offered the opportunity to use a commercial, on-premises sunbed by the owner or manager, or by any person on their behalf
  • is present in a restricted zone - the act prohibits under 18s from accessing rooms where sunbeds are used. Further information on what is classified as a restricted zone can be found in the guidance produced by the Department of Health (see below).
The act is enforced by local authority enforcement officers.
The following are examples given by the Department Of Health, which are useful to help you abide by the law:
  • Train and advise staff on how to check the age of users, including what document can be used to prove age. This could be a passport, a European Union photocard driving licence, or a photographic identity card bearing the national Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS) hologram.
  • Have written procedures for staff on how to deal with people who may be under 18, train staff in these procedures and keep records of this training.
  • Keep a written record of any incident (and outcome) where a staff member challenges a potential user about their age.
  • Maintain written records for each user for each session.
  • Use till prompts for sunbed use transactions, if available.
  • Display prominent, clear notices that no under 18s are allowed to use sunbeds.
  • Display prominent notices by restricted zones advising that no under 18s may enter.
  • Have a system in place to check under 18s have not entered restricted zones.
  • When sunbed facilities are provided as part of a membership package, such as at a leisure centre or fitness club, make sure access to sunbeds is excluded from packages for under-18s.
  • Provide information on restricted services in brochures and service directories.
  • Train and advise staff who are under 18 on the requirement not to use sunbeds (and explain how this is not affected by the fact they can be present in a restricted zone).
Here you will find guidance on the safe use of flying lanterns.

Considerations for safe use
The risk of fire caused by incorrectly handling lanterns, unspent fuel cells, or other unplanned deviations from the recommended flight or environmental conditions should be fully considered prior to use.

Flying lanterns should always be provided with full safety instructions. Further information should also be available from the supplier or manufacturer through their websites. A list of general instructions is also available at the end of this document.

Users should also consider the local environment for the launch and intended flight path. The following list is not exhaustive but highlights some areas that should be avoided for fire safety reasons:
  • areas with standing crops
  • buildings with thatched roofs
  • areas of dense woodland
  • areas of heath or bracken, especially in dry conditions
Event organisers (and/or managers of venues) subject to The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 must ensure a suitable and sufficient risk assessment has been completed prior to the launch of flying lanterns.

They are further advised to check with their insurance providers that subsequent use will not adversely affect their insurance arrangements or if additional insurance cover will be required.

Northumberland County Council does not endorse the use of flying lanterns but has provided this guidance to help you to safely enjoy their use should you choose to do so. No liability is accepted for any injury, loss or damage that may arise from their use, however it was caused.

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions fully.
This section tells you about the safe use and operation of play inflatables, including bouncy castles.

This information has been gathered from information contained in the Health and Safety Executive Guidance "Safe use and operation of play inflatables, including bouncy castles" ES No.7. It provides information for those who are in control of or are operators of play inflatable devices.

This section does not cover waterborne inflatables used in swimming pools or other types not used by the public for entertainment.

Recognised hazards
A number of hazards have been known to occur through using play inflatables. These include, but are not limited to:
  • blowing away in windy conditions
  • falls from the structure
  • windows tearing or detaching
  • electrical hazards
Duties of controllers or operators
Owners or operators of inflatables will need to carry out a risk assessment of their activities to help avoid risk or reduce risk to acceptable levels. This will be relatively easy to do using the manufacturer’s information and instructions for safe operation. This is a requirement of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
Here you will find advice on controlling ill health from animal contact at visitor attractions.

Visitor attractions such as open farms and petting zoos provide great entertainment and education for young children and families. It is still unusual for people to become ill following a visit, with only a small number of cases reported each year.

People can become ill through consuming contaminated food or drink, through direct contact with contaminated animals, or by contact with an environment contaminated with animal faeces.

Sensible precautions
While our public protection service encourages you to visit attractions, we also recommend taking sensible precautions to help reduce the risk of illnesses such as E.coli. Our advice to families visiting an open farm is:
  • You must assume all cattle, sheep and goats are infected with E.coli O157 bacteria, even if the animals look clean and healthy.
  • If you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, this will greatly reduce the chance of infection. Remember to wash your hands after touching an animal, before eating or drinking, and after removing clothing and shoes worn on the farm.
  • Children should be closely supervised to ensure they wash their hands properly after contact with animals.
Guidance documents The code was produced by various industry representatives and the Health and Safety Executive were consulted.