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Consultation on new building safety rules

Housing secretary Sajid Javid has published a Consultation on proposals that aim to strengthen fire testing for cladding systems on residential buildings.

The Consultation follows the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety by Dame Judith Hackitt, which was called for after the fire last June at Grenfell Tower on the Lancaster Estate in West London.

The interim report, which was published in December 2017, states that current Regulations and guidance are “too complex and unclear”, which can “lead to confusion and misinterpretation in their application to high-rise and complex buildings”.

Additionally, “the clarity of roles and responsibilities is poor” and even where “there are requirements for key activities to take place across design, construction and maintenance, it is not always clear who has responsibility for making it happen”.

The Government said this Consultation will look into restricting or banning the use of “desktop studies” as a way of assessing the fire performance of external cladding systems. If such studies are deemed appropriate, the proposed changes include improving the transparency of assessments and enabling proper scrutiny of results. Changes also include making sure that only properly accredited bodies can carry out studies.

Javid said: “We have listened carefully to Dame Judith Hackitt and we are taking action to strengthen Building Regulations guidance, which could mean that the use of “desktop studies” are either significantly restricted or banned altogether.

“This demonstrates the tough measures we are prepared to take to make sure that cladding tests are as robust as possible and people are safe in their homes.”

Responding to this Consultation

The Consultation will close on 25 May 2018.

The preferred way to respond is by completing the online survey at:

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/S9V7BMQ

Alternatively, written responses can be submitted via email to:

buildingregsteam@communities.gsi.gov.uk

Or by post to:

Assessment in Lieu of Test Consultation
Building Safety and Energy Performance Division
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2nd Floor SW, Fry Building
2 Marsham Street
London
SW1P 4DF

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HSENI consults on its new Corporate Plan 2018-2023

The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) has launched a Consultation on a new draft Corporate Plan for the 2018-2023 period.

Mission statement

The Plan sets out the HSENI’s mission “to work with others to reduce serious work-related injury and ill health”, and will focus on:

  • preventing the most serious workplace health and safety issues in high risk industries and activities;
  • sensible and proportionate risk management;
  • effective regulation;
  • supporting businesses and the economy.

Shift in focus

For a number of years, the HSENI has been shifting its activity and focus on occupational health issues.

Given the potential short and long term costs to workers and the economy from ill-health at work, the Plan represents a step change in activity in this important area which is devastating many lives and costing the Northern Ireland economy over £238m every year.

When launching the Consultation, the HSENI Chief Executive Keith Morrison said: “Improving health and safety standards is about all of us working together – the HSENI, employers, employees and other partners – to reduce work-related serious injury and ill health. We very much see this document as a shared Corporate Plan and shared targets for industry and HSENI to aspire to.

“The underpinning approach to our strategy is collaboration and partnership. We strongly believe that managing health and safety well has many positive business benefits, and over the course of this Plan we intend to support businesses in improving health and safety standards and outcomes.”

Key outcomes

Over the 2018-2023 period in which the Plan will remain in place, the HSENI hope to reduce, per annum on average:

  • serious and fatal accidents by 10% to no more than 49 (50);
  • major accidents by 10% to no more than 353 (350);
  • over 3 day accidents by 5% to no more than 1701 (1700).

Although these targets are challenging, and are part dependent on the health and safety performance of others, they represent a shared vision between the HSENI, Northern Ireland employers and employees.

In addition, the Plan focuses on a sector based approach, and specifies the challenges and priorities in key industry areas.

The Consultation runs for 12 weeks until 2 July 2018.

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Glazing company fined

A glazing firm has been sentenced at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court, after a worker fell from a ladder fracturing his lower leg.

The Court heard that the window installer, working for H.P.A.S. Limited, and trading as Safesyle UK, was attempting to install a first-floor rear bedroom window at a property on Cemetery Road, Doncaster, when the ladder he was climbing on slipped. The ladder was not footed or tied and the operative fell from a height of over three metres, sustaining a broken knee cap which required surgery.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the company’s system for planning work at height was inadequate, and that it failed to ensure such work was carried out in a safe manner. Windows were routinely not installed from the inside and ladders were used in a way that caused serious risks. There was also no system of monitoring or supervision in place for installers.

Safestyle UK pleaded guilty to breaching the Work at Height Regulations SI 2005/735 and was fined £850,000 with £1,083 in costs.

Commenting on the incident, HSE inspector Stuart Whitesmith said: “This incident could easily have been prevented had the company implemented reasonably practicable precautions.

“Such precautions include having effective and enforced safe systems of work, whereby windows are installed internally where possible, or by using suitable access solutions which provide edge protection, and having a formal system in place to ensure works are appropriately supervised.’”

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Court of appeal cuts “excessive” fatality fine

Wolverhampton truck dealership, ATE Truck and Trailer Sales, has had a “manifestly excessive” fine of £475,000 over the fatality of a non-employee working at its yard reduced to £200,000 by the Court of Appeal.

The company was fined in April last year when a self-employed scrap dealer, William Price, was killed while dismantling a trailer on a section of ATE’s yard that he informally rented from the firm. They admitted failing to provide a risk assessment under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 for similar work carried out by its own workers at the site which was judged to have weakened the safety protection available to Price.  

However, it had denied a charge covering its responsibilities to those other than workers.

The Court of Appeal ruled that the original trial judge had erred when he decided that ATE’s failings in respect of a non-employee were of “high culpability” and a high likelihood of harm. The three Appeal Court judges recalculated the fine under the sentencing guidelines on the basis of low culpability, arriving at a fine of £200,000.

Price had been associated with ATE for around 20 years, dismantling trucks and trailers and then selling them for scrap. He provided his own equipment and his own forklift truck, and performed his work using his own method, with no involvement from ATE staff. At the time of the accident in February 2013, Price was dismantling around one truck a day. He was crushed between the roof and the side of a trailer and died from catastrophic head injuries.

The Court heard that Price’s method involved balancing the superstructure of the trucks on the tines of a forklift, before cutting the supports that held it to the truck’s base.

At the same time on the same site, ATE employees were carrying out similar work in another section of the yard. Their method, however, involved supporting the frames with a crane that took the weight once the frames were cut free.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had argued that, although the second method was safer than Price’s, ATE’s failure to provide written risk assessments for its employees had an impact on Price’s accident. Before the original trial, ATE’s legal team and the prosecutors acting for the HSE had agreed that although the absence of a risk assessment for its own employees had a bearing on the case, ATE held “low culpability” for the accident.

Judge Berlin however, opted to put ATE’s failings in respect of the written risk assessment in the “high culpability” category.

In the appeal, Lord Justice Gross downgraded the firm’s culpability to low, and with a harm category of two (medium), selected a category range of £14,000 to £100,000. The fact that the case involved a fatality, and the need to calculate the fine to “make an economic impact”, then raised the issue to harm category 1. The Appeal Court also took into account ATE’s co-operation with the investigation, as well as their good safety record, with over £100,000 spent on health and safety since 2012. An overall “appropriate” fine of £200,000 was decided.

Pinsent Masons, who represented ATE at the appeal commented: “We had always considered that on the facts of this case, the fine originally imposed was manifestly excessive and that the original approach taken in trying to apply the definitive guideline for sentencing health and safety offences had been flawed. This case also has wider application for the way such cases are dealt with, in particular reinforcing that the courts should have careful regard for any agreed position between the parties as there had been in this case”.

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Record fine for Royal Mail’s safety incident

Royal Mail was handed a record fine of £1.6m over an incident from 12 December 2014, where the company’s yard marshal was struck by a 7.5 tonne lorry in Hounslow, Middlesex.

The company’s employee sustained multiple serious injuries, including broken ribs and a fractured jaw, after he was knocked unconscious by the vehicle.

The court was told that the company had failed to carry out appropriate risk assessments in relation to the work carried out by the marshal, also no adequate training, monitoring, supervision or safety information was provided to their employees regarding workplace transport arrangements.

A spokesperson for Hounslow Council, which brought the prosecution, said: “During the course of the extensive investigations, a number of safety failures were identified at the Royal Mail depot. Royal Mail were served an improvement notice that required improvements to keep staff and visitors safe. These improvements have since been implemented in full.”

During the hearing the judge said, that the company’s failures had resulted in a high likelihood of harm, calculating the initial fine for breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to £2,4m, but it was then reduced by a third because of the company’s early guilty plea, resulting in a £1,6m fine.

The fine also reflects the company’s previous prosecutions, which they failed to learn from. Those included:

  • £250,000 for a worker’s fall from height in 2006;
  • £200,000 for a fatal accident involving a member of the public being struck by a lorry near the parcel collection point in 2003;
  • £90,000 for a fatal accident involving a lorry driver in 2010;
  • £50,000 where an employee’s foot was run over by a reach truck in 2016; and
  • £40,000 for a chemical burns incident, where an employee used faulty cleaning equipment in 2010.

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Violist who sustained life-changing hearing injury wins a landmark case against the Royal Opera House

London’s Royal Opera House lost a landmark case brought against them by their employee, a viola player who sustained a life-changing hearing injury after an incident during a rehearsal in 2012.

Chris Goldscheider who played his instrument during the three-hour rehearsal of the Wagner’s opera “The Valkyrie”, was seated right in front of the brass section. During that time he was repeatedly exposed to high levels of noise exceeding 130 dB, which could be compared to the sound of a jet engine.

After the incident, Mr. Goldscheider suffered irreversible hearing damage, caused by an “acoustic shock” including tinnitus, hyperacusis and dizziness, which forced him to give up his musical career.

The High Court heard, that some of Mr. Goldscheider’s colleagues wore earplugs during the rehearsal all the time, or partially – putting earplugs in during the run up to the loud sections and taking them out straight after them, based on the marks made in their music. However, the musician claimed, that the hearing protection provided was “insufficient to prevent his exposure to a harmful amount of noise”.

The Royal Opera House provides its employees with hearing protection, but does not enforce the use of it, arguing it cannot force musicians to wear hearing protection at all times as “the noise produced by the professional orchestra is not a by-product of its activities, it is the product”.

Justice Nicola Davies disagreed with the statement made by the employer and ruled that the Royal Opera House has breached the Control of Noise at Work Regulations SI 2005/1643, by failing to adequately control the risk of high noise exposure, saying that the noise regulations “recognise no distinction as between a factory and an opera house”, breaching their duty of care, failing to safeguard employee’s health and causing the musician’s condition.

Mr. Goldscheider’s loss of earnings and poor health as a result of the incident could amount to at least £750,000 in compensation, although the final sum is still to be assessed.

For more information on this subject see:

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Safety concerns over White Horse workers

The maintenance of the famous landmark the White Horse of Kilburn has passed from the Kilburn White Horse Association, a charity that has overseen its upkeep for 161 years, to the Forestry Commission, owing to health and safety laws regarding working on steep slopes, and national volunteering guidelines.

The horse lies on land at Sutton Bank, near Thirsk, which is owned by the Commission, and is the most northerly turf-cut figure in Britain. It measures 314ft by 228ft, and is set on a steep slope that is dangerous to navigate without specialist equipment.

A spokesman for the Commission acknowledged the work that had been carried out historically by the Association, ensuring the survival of the horse over many years. After the horse fell into disrepair following the First World War, a 1925 public campaign allowed it to be renewed. When the horse was retouched four years ago, it required 220 gallons of masonry paint, with contractors secured by ropes on the hillside.

John Roberts, secretary of the Association said: “Had such health and safety regulations been in place in the 1850s the horse would not exist. It was laid out by local schoolchildren and cut by 30 local labourers. It couldn’t happen now.”

Margaret Gomersall, the Association’s treasurer, said that as the six active members are aged mostly in their 60s and 70s, it was “inevitable that this was going to happen”. The group will meet to consider its future, as the Commission has said that it can still be involved in fundraising.

“Had such health and safety regulations been in place in the 1850s the horse would not exist. “It was laid out by local schoolchildren and cut by 30 local labourers. It couldn’t happen now.”

Read more at: https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/volunteers-made-to-put-kilburn-s-horse-on-the-hill-out-to-grass-1-9085353

“Had such health and safety regulations been in place in the 1850s the horse would not exist. “It was laid out by local schoolchildren and cut by 30 local labourers. It couldn’t happen now.”

Read more at: https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/volunteers-made-to-put-kilburn-s-horse-on-the-hill-out-to-grass-1-9085353

“Had such health and safety regulations been in place in the 1850s the horse would not exist. “It was laid out by local schoolchildren and cut by 30 local labourers. It couldn’t happen now.”

Read more at: https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/volunteers-made-to-put-kilburn-s-horse-on-the-hill-out-to-grass-1-9085353

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Farmers urged to kick-start health and safety training

Local workshops are being offered by the Wales Farm Safety Partnership (WFSP) to help farmers engage with health and safety in the workplace in order to reduce the high number of workplace fatalities.

The programme will consist of short practical demonstrations on a range of topics, including the safe handling of livestock, working safely at heights, operation of all-terrain vehicles and farm machinery, and the handling of dangerous chemicals.

According to WFSP chairman Brian Rees these are the areas of work with particularly high incident rates. Statistics suggest that farmers are now six times more likely to be killed working on a farm than workers on a building site, meaning that it is important that the industry is fully up to date on all aspects of farm safety.

Mr Rees said: “If more farmers are taught to recognise the risks by attending one of our workshops, and then take the necessary steps to reduce them, we will be making a very positive start on tackling the problem. I would urge farmers of all ages to take an afternoon off to attend one of these events, including students and young farmers just starting out in the industry.”

He added that it may prove to be a “life-saver”, as the events will demonstrate many ways to reduce the risks of accidents to farmers, as well as to their families, employees, and individuals visiting the farm.

The first two events, delivered by Farming Connect, will be held 1-4pm on May 17 at Coleg Glynllifon in Llandwrog LL54 5DU, and on May 18 at Gelli Aur, Coleg Sir Gar SA32 8NJ.

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Ex-UKIP candidate jailed for gross negligence manslaughter

A former UKIP candidate has been jailed for causing the death of a worker who was crushed in a trench.

Keith Crawford was sentenced to 30 months in prison for gross negligence manslaughter and failing to ensure the safety of an employee. The man became trapped under mud after a 9ft trench he was digging for a drain next to Crawford’s swimming pool in Devon collapsed on him in 2015. He was pulled out with a strap around his chest attached to a digger arm, but suffered several broken ribs and crush injuries, and died from cardiac arrest in hospital three days later.

Crawford was accused of ignoring safety warnings and refusing to hire equipment which would have prevented the accident. The costs would have been around £480. The handyman was told: “F*ck that, it’s getting stupid money now. Just carry on with what you are doing”.

Passing sentence at Bristol Crown Court, Mr Justice Dingemans said: “No sentence I can impose can reflect the loss to Mr Clements’s wife Amanda and her family.”

In addition, Crawford was given a concurrent sentence of 12 months for failure to comply with health and safety legislation, and ordered to pay £15,000, to cover the costs of the two prosecution authorities, within six months.

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Fine issued for unlicensed asbestos work

R. F. Gardiner Limited, a construction company, has been fined £28,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,148.80 after pleading guilty to breaching the Control of Asbestos Regulations SI 2012/632.

In October 2016, the company was carrying out refurbishment works in a primary school in Dursley when it removed asbestos in an unsafe manner. Furthermore, the company was not licensed to work with asbestos. As a result, those working for R. F. Gardiner Limited were exposed to high levels of asbestos fibres in the air as no water suppression was used. In addition, the workers had not been face-fit tested for the masks they were wearing.

To add to the list of concerns, an enclosure under negative pressure was not established to contain the asbestos fibres released and workers had no way of decontaminating on-site when the work was completed.

A subsequent investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) discovered that the work was poorly planned, meaning unsafe work was carried out.

Following the hearing at Cheltenham Magistrates Court, HSE inspector James Lucas said: “The company in this case should have ensured appropriate measures were identified during the planning process to include the engagement of a licensed asbestos contractor to carry out correct control measures and safe working practices for the removal of the asbestos. Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards”.

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