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Company and self-employed contractor sentenced for lift shaft death

A company and a self-employed contractor have been fined for safety failings after one man died and another was left seriously injured after falling six storeys through a lift shaft.

In January 2011, work was being carried out to decommission a lift shaft in a building that was being converted into luxury apartments in the Victoria area, when the chain supporting the lift car broke while two men were working on top of it, causing it to fall to the bottom of the shaft.

Of the two men involved in the incident, one was wearing a harness and survived with serious injuries. The other, who was not wearing a harness, tragically died instantly.

T E Scudder Ltd of Great Central Way, Wembley acted as the principle contractor and employer on site. The company pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, was fined £600,000 and ordered to pay £27,408 in costs.

Patrick Pearson of Broadway, Leigh on Sea, Essex, the director of Intervale Ltd, was the contract manager responsible for planning the decommissioning of lift shafts on site. He pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. He has been ordered to complete 120 hours community service and pay costs of £3000.

Health and Safety Executive Inspector Lisa Chappell said: “The hazards associated with working at height and lifting we re not appropriately addressed in the planning stage of this project. Furthermore, those involved in planning the job did not have appropriate training in lifting operations.”

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DFS fined a million pounds for safety failings

National furniture company, DFS Trading Limited, has been fined for safety failings after a worker suffered serious injuries to neck and head.

On 2 July 2015 the worker was performing a task, which involved unloading from the truck the wooden furniture frames at one of the upholstery sites. While doing this, he was struck by an unsecured furniture arm which fell from an unstable load on his head. The impact knocked the worker unconscious and as a result he suffered serious head and neck injuries.

An investigation carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found, that failure to adequately manage the risks of heavy loads being moved between the sites, lack of supervision of the work carried out on site and a number of near misses reported from unsecured loads eventually lead to this accident.

DFS Trading Limited pleaded guilty for breaching the Management Health and Safety at Work Regulation SI 1999/3242 and Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and have been fined £1 million and ordered to pay the costs of £15,099.

The HSE inspector, Lyn Spooner said: “DFS is a large national organisation. The fundamental and systemic failings identified in their health and safety management systems is far from what would be expected from a company of their size who has the ability to deliver higher standards of safety.” She added: “Unfortunately DFS were unable to do that on this occasion and preventable accident was allowed to occur.”

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“Snoopers Charter” to allow HSE to access suspects’ browsing history

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigators will soon gain new powers under the so-called “Snoopers' Charter” and be allowed to access suspects' browsing history in the preceding 12 months as well as telephone usage data under the Investigatory Powers Act 2016.

The Act, which received royal assent on 29 November 2016, will give the regulators and authorities the power to obtain Internet connection data from service providers such as websites visited, social media activity and information about when emails were sent. 

However, this element of the Act has been postponed due to the lack of certainty over the safe collection of that type of information. The Government and the Internet companies need to co-operate to develop procedures and security systems. The Home Office stated, that it is during the development of plans for implementing the provisions and will set out the timetable “in due course”.

The existing legislation, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) allows the HSE to access certain types of data, such as the name and address of a subscriber to a mobile phone number and their telephone bills. This data allows to distinguish “who, where, when and how” in a communication but not its content.

Along with the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the police, Government agencies such as the Food Standards Agency, Gambling Commission and Competition and Markets Authority, the HSE will be able to access these records upon an issue of a warrant. An HSE spokesperson said on this matter, that the regulator only uses its current powers provided by RIPA “sparingly”. According to the provided information, in 2016 the HSE only made five requests for RIPA communications data.

A typical example of the use of communications data powers by HSE is to “identify the full name and address of an individual who has carried out illegal gas work where only a first name and mobile phone number is known. This is in order to allow the action to be taken to prevent them carrying out future illegal and potentially dangerous gas work”.

The public authorities were told, that to be able to access the communications data they would need to apply to the Home Office for a warrant. Lawful use of this data will be overseen by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner who will be a senior judge. This role will be created under the new Act.

Editor's note

This Act will also amend the Environmental Protection Act 1990, to give similar powers to the Environment Agency.

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Company owners given suspended sentences after worker injury

The two owners of Kidderminster based fencing firm Hoo Farm Fencing have been given suspended sentences after a worker was hit by timber posts and frames which fell from a fork lift truck.

Forty-nine year old Raymond Lainsbury suffered injuries that still require regular physiotherapy sessions following the incident on 12 February 2016.

Worcester Magistrates' Court heard how Hoo Farm Fencing’s method of working was unsuitable for the task they were carrying out at the time of the incident. Mr Lainsbury was helping to dip timber posts and frames in preservative, when they fell from the metal frame on the fork lift truck, striking him.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the company had not been using the suitable equipment for the task. The operator had not been properly trained to operate a fork lift truck. The company also failed to have the fork lift truck in question thoroughly examined up to required standards.

Both were sentenced to 18 weeks imprisonment suspended for two years and fined £10,000 each.

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The Government’s Brexit plan has been published

The Government has published an official policy document setting out its general plans for Brexit.

The White Paper lays out the Government principles, which will make the base for negotiations with the EU Parliament. The Brexit Secretary, David Davis said, that “best days are still to come” for the UK outside the EU.

The content of this document includes statements that the Government will follow when negotiating with the EU Parliament:

  • Providing certainty and clarity – certainty and clarity of negotiations;
  • Taking control of our own laws – ending the European Court of Justice's jurisdiction in the UK;
  • Strengthening the Union – securing the deal between the EU and UK;
  • Protecting our strong and historic ties with Ireland and maintaining the Common Travel Area – commitment to keep the Common Travel Area and protect the historical ties with Ireland;
  • Controlling immigration – taking control over the number of EU nationals coming to the UK;
  • Securing rights for EU nationals in the UK, and UK nationals in the EU;
  • Protecting worker's rights;
  • Ensuring free trade with European markets – UK is planning to forge a new strategic partnership with the EU, including an ambitious free trade agreement, and will seek a mutually beneficial new customs agreement with the EU;
  • Securing new trade agreements with other countries – UK is planning to forge ambitious free trade relationships across the world;
  • Ensuring the UK remains the best place for science and innovation – UK's plans to remain at the vanguard of science and innovation and will seek to continue close collaboration with the European partners;
  • Co-operating the fight against crime and terrorism – UK will continue to work with the EU to preserve European security, to fight terrorism and to uphold justice across Europe;
  • Delivering a smooth, orderly exit from the EU – implementation of phased exit process, in which both the UK and EU institutions and the remaining Member States will have time to prepare the new arrangements.

Mr Clarke, the only Conservative MP to defy his party by voting against the Bill, said the result was “historic”, but the “mood could change” when the “real action” of negotiations with the EU starts.

The Brexit talks with the EU are expected to last around two years, with the UK predicted to leave the 28-member organisation in 2019.

For more information, see the:

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Network Rail fined 800,000 after worker hit by train

Network Rail have been fined £800,000 after a worker was struck by a train at 80mph. The fine was handed down by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) after an extensive investigation.

The man was hit in June 2014, by a Brighton to London express train, as he was leading a team of 12 to repair cracks in the track.

He was hit on the right shoulder and thrown down an embankment.

Guildford Crown Court heard how at the time the accident occurred, the work had been in progress for about 40 minutes.

The other members of the team had completed their work, and the team leader was engaged in taking measurements for the lengths of replacement rail that would be required at the site.

The lookouts had warned the team of the approach of a southbound train, and a short time after this had passed, and before the Controller of Site Safety (COSS) had given permission for anyone to return to the track, the lookouts gave another warning, for a northbound train.

At about the time this warning was given, the team leader began to walk along the side of the line, with his back to the approaching northbound train. As he walked, he moved closer to the Up Quarry line, and the train struck him on his right shoulder and threw him down the side of the embankment.

Other members of the team gave him first-aid treatment and called the emergency services, and an air ambulance helicopter landed on the railway. The casualty was airlifted to hospital, but he had suffered life-changing injuries.

The ORR found the maintenance works were inadequately planned and managed placing track workers in unnecessary danger.

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Company fined 40,000 for life changing injuries to worker

A Blaydon-on-Tyne engineering firm has been sentenced and fined £40,000 after a worker suffered life changing injuries at work.

The worker was moving an 18 tonne steel roll with lifting equipment, when the maximum load was exceeded. This resulted in the lift clutch shearing, causing the load to swing and hit the worker on the head.

The company, H E Realisations Ltd., formerly Hogg Engineering Ltd., pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Lifting Operation and Lifting Equipment Regulations SI 1998/2307. The company is now in liquidation.

After the hearing, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector Laura Catterall commented: “Lifting operations are hazardous and require a competent person to properly plan and supervise them to ensure that suitable and properly maintained equipment is used in the right configuration to avoid exceeding safe working loads.”

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Dirty production of antibiotics for NHS helps to create superbugs

The NHS is buying drugs from Indian pharmaceutical companies, which use dirty methods of production increasing the development of “superbugs” – a type of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Lack of checks and regulations causes the spread of this very dangerous type of bacteria around the World, including UK and NHS hospitals. 

One of the causes of this health crisis is pollution in the drug companies' supply chains. Recent tests of water samples collected from outside of the pharmaceutical companies in India which sell to NHS contained bacteria which was resistant to antibiotics made in that factory. This suggests, that the drug-contaminated waste is leaked to the natural environment surrounding the facilities, which causes naturally occurring bacteria to develop immunity to that type of drug, eventually becoming a “superbug”.

The Department of Health (DoH), in response to these findings, said it would consider developing the new set of rules for antibiotic factories that export medicines to Britain. The investigation also established, that at least three companies licensed to produce and export drugs to the UK have not signed up to a new roadmap put in place following a recent United Nations antibiotic resistance summit, where pharmaceutical firms pledged to review manufacturing and supply chains to ensure control of the release of antibiotics to the environment.

A global review of antibiotic resistance, lead by Lord Jim O'Neil, stated, that the results were “deeply troubling”. The study presented, that superbugs could kill more people than cancer by 2050 if no action is taken, and cited pollution in pharmaceutical supply chains as a major problem.

The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA), which licenses companies to make drugs for the UK market and carries out audits of factories, has currently no regulations around waste, neither does the European Medicines Agency. Both agencies require manufacturers to follow Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) where standards are set to ensure the safety of drugs, but these standards do not cover the emissions to the environment.

India has become the centre of a global antibiotic resistance crisis, due to rampant overuse and misuse of drugs in human medicine and livestock farming, as well as the bad practice from the pharmaceutical companies. Some types of E.coli and Klebsiella found resistant to carbapenems, the last resort antibiotic if the bacteria became resistant to other types of medicines. 

Dr J.V. Reddy, chief doctor at Gandhi Hospital in Hyderabad, said: “Every three days a patient at the hospital dies of sepsis, with antibiotic resistance contributing to these deaths”.

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European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill published

The long-awaited European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill has been published for public viewing.

The Bill sets out the intention for the Prime Minister to have the power to notify withdrawal under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union.

It is interesting to note the timing of publication of this Bill.

The Supreme Court has very recently ruled that Parliament must give the green light before Article 50 can be triggered.

It appears to mean that Theresa May cannot begin discussions with the EU before the vote in Parliament. The Supreme Court also ruled devolved bodies, the Scottish Parliament and Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies, would not be consulted.

For more information, see the:

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A North East company prosecuted after workers were severely burned

A company PSL Worldwide Projects Ltd from Washington, Tyne and Wear, has been found guilty for breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

On 31 July 2014 two company employees suffered severe burns while working at a Hyclone UK ltd site in Cramlington. Workers were cleaning a pipe system using Sodium Hydroxide granules. When performing the task, the chemicals reacted with water, which caused the liquid to heat up and build up pressure within the hose. The pressure caused the hose to detach and sprayed the workers with hot solution causing life-threatening burns to one worker and severely burning the other.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation identified inadequate assessment of the risks for this task and the equipment provided from the employer to perform this job was not suitable for the solution, especially the hose as well as lack of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for it's employees. 

PSL Worldwide Projects Ltd was fined £150,000 by Newcastle Court. No costs were issued due to the company being in liquidation.

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