Read the latest news and blogs surrounding access control, time and attendance systems and integrated security solutions with Tensor plc.
Benefits of Better Health and Safety Standards
The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, in partnership with a network of Euro Info Centres has launched a new website to provide businesses with good practice information on occupational safety and health at work. The website – http://osha.eu.int/priority_groups/business – enables businesses to quickly find relevant information on health and safety legislation and includes a special section for SMEs to guide them to sources of advisory services and good practice to ease the compliance process. Statistics released by the Health and Safety Commission in November 2005 show that in 2004/2005 levels of various workplace incidences fell by eight per cent on the previous year but companies must continue to do more to improve health and safety standards in UK work places. Last year in the UK 220 workers were killed and 30,213 workers suffered major injuries whilst a further 120,346 other employee injuries led to their being off work for more than three days. As a result British business lost 35 million working days overall in 2004/05 and the cost is estimated to run into billions of pounds – 2001 figures from the Health and Safety Executive stated that the cost to business was up to GBP2.8bn from workplace injuries. Hans-Horst Konkolewsky, Director of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work said: "If you run a company, especially a small one, you may be misled into thinking that securing safety and health is difficult and costly. In fact it is the other way round as the business cases we have looked into demonstrate that higher safety and health standards lead to higher productivity. This is the message we would like to send to companies across Europe". Maive Rute, the European Commission’s SME Envoy and Director responsible for the Euro Info Centres network confirmed an increasing interest among SMEs in safety and health issues: "Small companies often find it difficult to ‘translate’ and absorb new regulations into their daily operations. By pooling the resources and expertise of Euro Info Centres and the network run by the European Agency, we are better equipped to address their practical needs." The new website offers firms a collection of good practice examples, which they may easily and economically implement in their workplaces. A directory of national sub-sites provides access to safety and health regulations at the national level. In addition the website offers an overview of recent studies into business aspects of occupational safety and health, such as Corporate Social Responsibility, the impact on productivity and economic incentives for safety and health.
The London bombings have caused immense publicity for UK CCTV. There are very few (if any) other cities in the World that could achieve what the Met Police were able to do in terms of quick retrieval of high quality CCTV surveillance footage from many systems, enabling them to identify the perpetrators in just a couple of days. The ripples from this capability and achievement have spread across the World, we see frequent news stories from America, Australia, South Africa, etc. reporting projects to upgrade their own systems in the wake of the events in London. However, it is also interesting to note that the civil liberties argument remains a strong adversary; in Athens they have 1,000 cameras as a legacy from the Olympics, but the country’s privacy watchdog will not allow them to ‘turn them on the people’ – they can now only be used for traffic monitoring. Fortunately, this is not the case in Britain. Digital CCTV systems are available from Tensor for private and public organisations to improve security and assist in access control.
Transport Coping Without Opt Out
The Freight Transport Association says that the prospective cost to UK industry of losing the opt out to the Working Time Directive and restricting working hours to 48 per week will obviously be enormous. However, lessons can be learned from the transport industry, which has been operating the Road Transport Directive since 4 April this year with no opt-out. Despite the undoubted problems and costs, early signs indicate that the transport sector is coping with the problems. Reducing working hours to 48 will clearly impact on the whole of UK industry, including some workers involved in transport, notably van operators and drivers. During the last two years the Freight Transport Association has been engaged in an education and information process aimed at its members and others throughout the transport industry and designed to alleviate, as far as possible, the operational problems coming from reduced hours and the consequent cost increases. The government’s own impact assessment report suggested a loss of productivity of close to ten per cent, coupled with a cost of around Â£1 billion. FTA negotiations with government resulted in more flexible regulations than had been expected and when combined with a comprehensive programme of training and information, the production of support and advice for record keeping and a general handholding process, much has been possible to help member companies to understand and cope with the problems. Transport has led the way in dealing with the worst effects of the legislation and will provide the most practical and valuable case study of ‘how to live with the WTD’ if the opt-out is finally withdrawn from the UK. Transport operators have already begun to implement the changes necessary for life without the opt-out by installing time and attendance systems, which accurately report employees’ working time. A case in point is Initial City Link who, since installing their Tensor System, have not looked back.
Tensor Gives Helping Hand To Local Church
Churches have been the centre of our communities for centuries providing education and spiritual leadership, so when the St. James Church in Little Paxton contacted Tensor about replacing their organ, we were pleased to help with a donation. Malcolm Howarth, St. James Church treasurer explained how their existing instrument has been in service for over 20 years and was now in need of replacement. "A new organ will cost Â£5,000 and the donation from Tensor is much appreciated! I hope other local companies will follow Tensor’s example and make a donation too," said Malcolm as he told the Tensor reporter how he welcomed help from local firms and businesses. The church of St. James is believed to have originated as far back as the 12th century, of which considerable parts of the chancel walls remain. The church currently serves a population of around 3,000 parishioners. Malcolm concluded, "on behalf of the St. James and the Parochial Church Council a big "Well Done" to Tensor for your generous gift." St. James Church Little Paxton St. Neots, Cambridgeshire
Austria’s Itchy Feet
With three months still remaining of the current British EU presidency, Austria are already making plans for when they take over in the new year. Reform of the working time directive is likely to be at the forefront of the agenda, together with increasing workforce flexibility across Europe as a whole. Austria has expressed that it forsees no deal being made on amendments to the working time directive during the UK’s presidency particularly because of Britain’s acute position on the issue. At the beginning of its presidency, the UK had said it wanted to try and get a deal on the law, but as time drags on this is looking increasingly unlikely especially considering that the directive has also passed through the two preceding presidencies without any compromise being found. London remains strongly opposed to dropping it’s long-standing opt out from this employment law, which has been in place since 1993, and has since sought votes from other EU countries to support its position. Tensor manufactures, supplies, and installs time and attendance systems that fully comply with the EU Working Time Directive, ensuring that your company remains compliant with this highly cantankerous legislation.
Trade Union Amicus has won a difinitive test case ruling that the Working Time Directive should be applied to all UK oil employees working offshore. Amicus has campaigned over many years for its members in the offshore industry not to be exempted from the Working Time Directive. Now, an employment tribunal brought by the union has found in favour of offshore workers and ruled that the directive applies beyond the territorial waters and includes offshore workers. Employers had argued that the directive only applied to the UK and waters within a 12-mile radius of the coastline. The companies involved are expected to appeal. The European Commission had previously upheld Amicus’s claim on application of the Working Time Directive for offshore workers, ruling that they, like other professions, are entitled to four weeks paid annual leave. This new judgement has stated that the offshore workers pattern of one week on and one week off cannot be considered as a period of paid annual leave, and that offshore workers should be entitled to the full four weeks annual leave. The working times of all offshore employees can be easily calculated with a good time and attendance system. It can calculate the number of days a worker has remaining of holiday, and is able to accurately log the amount of time a worker has spent at work during any particular period.
NHS Working Hours
A recent report in the British Medical Journal has warned that many doctors within the NHS are exhausted. A number of UK hospitals have reviewed shift patterns following the adoption of the EU Working Time Directive, and have found that many junior doctors were regularly working a 91-hour week as a series of night shifts. Recent studies in the US have shown a 36% rise in serious medical errors caused by trainees working between 77 and 81 hours per week, compared to those working around 65 hours per week, with the risks increasing exponentially with each consecutive night shift worked. The British Medical Journal has called for staffing patterns to be reassessed and staff scheduled for only a single or double night shift. It has also suggested that the NHS should follow the example of the aviation industry, which has introduced set sleep periods for crew flying overnight. Dr Simon Eccles, chairman of the British Medical Association’s Junior Doctors’ Committee said that "the problem is not necessarily the Working Time Directive itself, but the way hospitals have responded to it". He also said that although the directive was implemented in order to reduce overall working hours, "moving everyone on to shifts is the only way to deal with the problems thrown up by the directive". The NHS must now review its working practices in order to maximise doctors’ safety and efficiency, and to safeguard the interests of patients. An efficient time and attendance system eliminates the problem of monitoring the work patterns of doctors and so ensures that those employees working difficult shift patterns or very long hours are noticed quickly. This enables changes to be made to work schedules, thus ensuring the safety of patients and doctors alike.
Ears Recommended for Biometrics
A British scientist has proposed that the unique pattern inside each individual’s ear could be used as a biometric identifier, in the same way that sub-dermal fingerprints are used. It is a common fact that your ears and nose carry on growing throughout your life, however your ears in particular do not change that much as you get older, unlike other body parts. This gives them a unique advantage for identification purposes in terms of age and expression. The recent Governmental plans to introduce ID cards and passwords has drawn light on advances in biometrics, which is typically taken from fingerprints, teeth, and the retina. Tensor have been incorporating sub-dermal fingerprint technology into their systems since October 2002 in order to register users for its time attendance, access control, and visitor monitoring systems. Facial recognition used by the police has been described as the biggest forensic breakthrough since DNA, however the problems of people’s faces changing has prompted a fresh search for a new source of biometric recognition. The discussion goes on, but you can be assured that if and when a new alternative to the humble fingerprint is discovered, Tensor will not be far behind in providing the equipment to cope with it.
UK Wins Round One
The UK has won the first stage of the fight to maintain its opt out from the European Working Time Directive. EU employment ministers were due to make a decision on removing the clause after the European Parliament voted in May to scrap the opt out by 2012, but it is understood, enough ministers opposed the plan to prevent the vote taking place. The issue can only return to parliament once ministers have voted and the issue is likely to drag into 2006. The European Parliament and a number of EU member states want all nations to uphold a working week of no longer than 48 hours, and with unions claiming that long hours sap creativity while increasing stress, pressure is building on those countries in favour of the opt out to reconsider their position. The UK still maintain that the opt out is vital for competitiveness and job creation, and believe that if employees wish to work longer than 48 hours, they should be free to do so. The issue is not likely to return until next year, especially as the UK takes over the EU presidency for six months from 1 July, and will almost inevitably aim to put the divisive matter firmly at the back of the agenda. What can be certain is that tighter controls will be placed over industry to ensure that accurate clocking times are logged for each individual employee within a company. A good time and attendance system will ensure that your company is able to easily abide by this legislation.