A New Sense of Urgency Surrounds This Year's World Day for Safety and Health at Work

Sunday 28th April will see The International Labour Organisation (ILO) observes its World Day for Safety and Health at Work - an initiative which began in 2003 to promote safe, healthy and decent work around the globe. However, a new sense of urgency surrounds the day this year, writes Ben Smith.

How is climate change impacting health & safety at work?

The International Labour Organization (ILO), the body behind the global World Day for Safety and Health at Work, launched a new report "Ensuring safety and health at work in a changing climate". This reveals alarming data on the impact of climate change on workers’ safety and health.

On top of the age-old ‘human behaviour factor’ that directly impacts H&S, climate change is bringing new risks that require us to rethink our assessments of health & safety at work.

Shifting factors such as the increased severity and likelihood of excessive heat, flooding, UV radiation, air and water pollution events are expected to change the geographical patterns we are accustomed to. For instance, certain vector-born illnesses will be able to reach new areas of the world as temperate climates become warmer and wetter. Outside workers may need more protection from UV and extreme temperatures, whilst flood events bring a whole host of challenges.

Air and Water Pollution

Pollution is an issue for human health, with airborne dust, fumes, and water contamination requiring specific action to prevent and mitigate hazardous events.

Mine, quarry and construction sites are responsible for ensuring that water runoff and discharge is compliant with environmental and health standards. Site water is collected in sumps (which should be access-restricted), and then pumped into tanker trucks or onsite water treatment tanks.

Depending on the nature of contaminants, water clarification can be through membrane, granular filtering, hydrocyclone separation, settlement tanks, or active treatment systems such as EnviroHub. EnviroHub is particularly suited for monitoring and treating pH imbalance, and silt content, allowing site water to be safely discharged to combined sewer drains or water courses, under permit.

Dust control is achieved by shrouding mineral processing machinery, and water mist canons. Excess exposure of any dust is a health hazard, whilst some mineral powders are particularly hazardous. Some aggregate sites use EnviroHub to clean surface water for use in dry weather dust suppression.

Noise and fume exposure can be avoided by using electrical pumps instead of diesel ones. Electric motors are far more energy-efficient and result in lower noise and zero site emissions. Of course, they can be run on green-electricity too – helping the health of our planet and environment for the long-term.


Floods can rapidly create life-threatening situations, including hidden dangers such as compromised drain chambers and waterborne disease and toxins.  Whilst specialist high-volume pumps are employed by flood response agencies, industry has a big part to play by maintaining the readiness and capacity of stormwater tanks, flash-flooding drainage, settlement lagoons, and pumps.

Silt from site run-off water blocks drains and gulleys, and can result in fines for the companies responsible. Silt filters can be installed to prevent this, keeping roads, gulleys, and natural watercourses free of contamination and solids buildup.

The Met Office provides extreme weather forecasts for the UK, with flood warnings issued by them and other Government agencies including the Environment Agency (EA). Sign up to receive warnings and have pre-prepared action plans that are triggered before an emergency escalates.

Heat Waves

Drought and hot weather brings risks of UV over-exposure, and heat stroke; especially in outdoor industries like quarrying, groundworks and construction. Dust is another hazard, decreasing visibility and potentially causing acute and chronic illnesses.

Tragically, the UK’s cold water coupled with summer heat waves is a dangerous trap. Man-made water bodies such as flooded quarries and reservoirs can be irresistible to young people who don’t understand the risks involved. Steep sides, cold water, and unseen rocks make these very dangerous places to hang around. Research (WHO 2014 and 2020, Public Health Wales 2023) has shown that young males are particularly at risk of drowning, with around 50% of drownings occurring in the UK during the summer months.

From a business responsibility, preventing unauthorised access to onsite water bodies is key. This usually takes a layered approach, taking into account visitors and trespassers. 

Health & Safety in High-Risk Industries

Atlantic Pumps specialises in industrial slurry and grit pumps for primary and heavy industries such as mineral extraction, water and sewage, civil construction, recycling, and heavy manufacturing. These sites face some special hazards and in some cases are covered by additional safety regulations in many countries, the UK included.

Quarrying and mining are notoriously hazardous by their very nature and have an additional layer of UK health and safety legislation in the form of the Quarries Regulations 1999 and the Mining Regulations 2014. Silica, dust, vibration, blasting, ground instability, rock falls, and heavy plant are just a few of the many hazards faced. 

According to statistics, the highest rate of workplace injuries reported in Great Britain occurs in the water industry; this covers clean water supply to sewage treatment and remediation. Some risk factors are bulk concentrated chemicals, falls from height, moving machinery and vehicles, biological hazards, pressurized systems, and confined spaces. 

Pump Safety

Installation and maintenance of these need to be done by competent and trained personnel.

Atlantic Pumps site engineers and onsite consultants are S.P.A. (Safety Pass Alliance) passport holders, issued by the Mineral Products Qualification Council (MPQC), this is commonly known the ‘quarry passport’.

Some generic safety awareness regarding pumps:

  • Industrial pumps and their components are heavy – risk of muscular skeleton injury, and crushing and entrapment. Use approved lifting apparatus that you have been trained on.
  • Always isolate the power source before attempting any work on a pump, including cleaning or manually clearing a blockage. As well as electric-shock hazard, the pump could restart unexpectedly. Also be aware that backflow can cause the impeller to spin.
  • As pump parts wear down, sharp edges can form, leading to a risk of cut injury.
  • The pressure buildup in pumps and pipe systems can present risk of explosion/implosion and pipe whipping. Always ensure pressure is released under control before opening valves or uncoupling pipes and pumps. 

Reviewing the H&S journey so far

Most countries have made progress in workplace accident reduction over time, with UK workplace fatalities reducing by 22% in the last 30 years

Clearly, 1 is 1 too many.

It’s a sobering fact that even during the pandemic lockdown years, work-related fatal injuries in the UK remained above 2 a week on average. The agriculture and construction industries stand out as the most dangerous, with workers facing multiple high-severity risks.

Injury-wise, the overall statistical picture looks slightly better as the number of reported occurrences has decreased by 47% over the last 22 years. This has taken a dedicated effort by government agencies, charities,  NGOs, businesses and individuals. It shows the effort and investment that needs to continue relentlessly.

Vision Zero, promoted by many industry bodies such as the Mineral Products Association (MPA), is an approach that targets zero-harm in the three dimensions of safety, health and well-being. Adding the third dimension of well-being is something that is being increasingly valued, both financially and morally. Well-being focuses on promoting good mental health and psychosocial conditions in the workplace.

There are a lot of resources available to help staff and managers improve their health, safety and wellbeing in the workplace. Reach out to government agencies, specialist advisors, industry associations and suppliers for help.

Whilst we’re not specialist H&S consultants, Atlantic Pumps care deeply about everyone who might use our products, or be affected by their operation. For pump-specific training or technical data please check out our pump resources or reach out to us personally.