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Worker with life changing injury; packaging company fined

A W.K.West Limited driving employee had finished his shift and was asked to work in the factory on the day of the incident. The only training and guidance he received, was a demonstration of the operation of the machinery and his job outline (to push stacked cardboard sheets through the saw to pre-determined sizes). Using no push stick or jig when demonstrating, the supervisor then left the worker unsupervised. As he went to push the cardboard through the blade by hand as the supervisor had, it twisted and pulled his right hand into the blade.

Severe injuries to his hand meant that sections of his index and ring finger had to be amputated, and his middle finger was badly damaged. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the company, found that W.K.West Limited hadn't provided suitable and sufficient training, assessment of the risks and supervision that were necessary to operate a circular saw safely. The company pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined with £120,000 and £849.54 in costs. 

Following the hearing, HSE Inspector Anuja Mistry-Raval spoke. “Circular saws have a well-known accident history of severe hand injuries,” and said: “Employers should make sure they properly assess and apply effective control measures to minimise the risk of personal injury from dangerous parts of machinery.”

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Scaffolding company fined after falling clip injures passing pedestrian

On the 20 March 2017, a pedestrian walking underneath a section of scaffolding on Upper street in Islington (London) was hit by a falling scaffolding clip and was very badly injured. The clip in question, fell around 20 metres (or near to 66ft) and caused large amounts of damage to the victim.

Sustaining many cuts to his head and face, a severely bruised skull and a broken nose; The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the firm over the accident. The company in question, Alandale Plant & Scaffolding Ltd of Beckenham, Kent was fined £160,000 and ordered to pay costs of £7,059.08 and a victim surcharge of £170 after pleading guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

The HSE Inspector Sarah Robinson spoke after the hearing, stating: “This incident could so easily have been avoided by simply carrying out correct control measures and safe working practices.” She then went on to say: “On this occasion the company did not follow their own risk assessments or method statements.”

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15,000 pound fine for fractured arm

On 5 April 2016, at around 7:15 am, a junior employee of John Paul Horgan's joinery business (Unit 6) was involved in an accident which resulted in many minor fractures to his arm. The circumstances following the fall are unknown, but it is known that it occurred when he and another worker went to install an insulation, whilst working on an outbuilding in the defendants home in St Peter.

The 18-year-old apprentice was described as being “relatively immature and lacked work experience generally” and that this had not been taken into account by Horgan; even recently he had suffered an injury to his hand, and was just returning back to work following recuperation from this incident. On top of this, he had not taken the necessary steps to keep his employees safe, for example including a tower scaffold or a protective barrier in the stairwell. Because of the company's failure to provide adequate training and take into account the apprentices lack of training, the young man suffered an injury.

As a result of his mistakes, Horgan was fined £15,000 and forced to pay £2,500 towards costs for the victim. Advocate, Adam Harrison, defending Horgan has said he felt this was too severe a punishment and that he thought it was “not as serious as the Crown suggests.”

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500k fine for Birmingham contractor

MV Kelly Ltd of Tyseley, Birmingham has pleaded guilty to breaching the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations SI 2015/51, after a worker was struck by tipper truck.

The worker was on the development site of over 370 houses at Burntwood Business Park, and was walking along a haul road in order to attract the attention of a vehicle in another area of the site, when he was struck and run over by one of the many tipper trucks delivering material to the site.

The worker suffered several broken bones in both feet and legs, and severe damage to blood vessels as well. 12 months after the incident his right leg was amputated to the knee.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that there was not enough protected walkways across the site and no control over the access to the site; they also found that there was an accepted practice of walking along haul roads and no up-to-date traffic management plan.

The company was fined £500,000 and ordered to pay costs of £30,000 and a victim surcharge of £120. After the hearing the HSE Inspector Katherine Blunt said: “This incident resulted in a worker sustaining life-changing injuries and should serve as a reminder to principal contractors of the need to properly organise construction sites to keep workers and members of the public safe.”

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Proposals to amend the Control of Asbestos Regulations dropped

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have dropped plans to reduce the frequency of medical checks for licensed asbestos workers.

Proposals put forward for consultation in October 2017 would have amended the Control of Asbestos Regulations SI 2012/632 to align medical checks for workers dealing with licensed and non-licensed work for asbestos to every 3 years.

These proposals were rejected by 61% of respondents to the consultation, with Unions claiming that a reduction in the frequency of medical checks for those undertaking licensed work was a reduction in the protection offered to workers.

The HSE had argued that the current regulatory system was well-functioning and protected the health of workers, consequently medical checks every 2 years were not necessary, and reducing the frequency to 3 years would not lead to an increase in cases of asbestosis.

Responses to the consultation showed that 23 of 34 respondents strongly disagreed or disagreed with the plan to reduce frequency of medical checks. As a result the HSE have decided not to pursure the proposed amendments.

The HSE released a statement on the matter: “The HSE values the opinions of its stakeholders and in light of the responses we’ve received on this consultation, has decided not to proceed with the proposed amendment at this time. Licensed workers will continue to be examined by an HSE-appointed doctor every two years and those undertaking notifiable non-licensed work will continue to be examined every three years. The proposed amendment would have had no negative impacts on workers’ health or altered the prognosis of those whose previous exposures may have resulted in asbestos-related disease. CAR 2012 puts in place a robust regulatory framework of management through risk assessment and control of exposure to asbestos in the workplace; it is and will continue to be a key plank in preventing asbestos-related disease.”

Deputy general secretary of the Prospect union, Garry Graham, said: “Asbestos is a silent killer of thousands of workers every year. Frequent medical checks for those engaged in the dangerous removal of asbestos from old buildings is vital to pick up any symptoms as early as possible. We welcome the HSE seeing sense on this issue.”

There was some support for the proposed changes in the construction industry, where some seen 3 yearly checks as a better fit with many of their existing health assessment programmes, and believed alignment of health checks for workers carrying out licensed and non-licensed work would reduce confusion.

For more information, see the:

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Corporate manslaughter charges considered over Didcot power station fatalities

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Thames Valley Police who are conducting a joint investigations into the deaths of four workers who died in the Didcot power station collapse have said they are considering pursuing charges of corporate manslaughter.

In February 2016, part of the boiler house at Didcot power station collapsed during demolition work, causing the tragic deaths of Kenneth Cresswell, Michael Collings, Christopher Huxtable and John Shaw.

On 31 January, a pre-inquest hearing held at Oxford Coroner’s Court heard that charges of corporate manslaughter, gross negligence manslaughter and health and safety offences were being considered.

Lead investigating officer, Detective chief inspector Craig Kirby, said: “As the investigation has progressed, a number of significant witnesses have been identified and interviewed. A number of individuals and companies suspected of committing offences have been identified and voluntarily interviewed under caution.”

Although Detective chief inspector Kirby did not know how long the investigation would take he confirmed that an initial file was submitted to the CPS in December 2017. He added: “Clearance of boilers one and two has been completed, and independent contractors continue to clear boilers three and four. This work is expected to be completed by spring 2018. Thames Valley Police and the HSE remain committed to carrying out a thorough investigation to ascertain if any criminal or health and safety related offences have taken place.”

The company who were responsible for the decommissioning of Didcot when the incident occurred, Coleman and Company, have said they have launched their own investigation into what happened and would be writing to the HSE and police investigating the collapse to share their preliminary findings.

Director of the company, James Howard, said: “We commissioned our own investigations which, in our view, clearly show why and how units one and two of the boiler house collapsed. We believe the findings highlight industry-wide practices that need to be challenged and reviewed.”

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Government seeking communities to host underground nuclear waste storage

The UK Government currently has two consultations on the National Policy Statement and Working with Communities both on the implementation of geological disposal of higher activity nuclear waste.

Local communities around England, Northern Ireland and Wales will be offered a £1m if they decide to host an underground nuclear waste facility, which will be stored there for thousands of years. This method of disposal would involve construction of underground disposal facility and deep investigation boreholes, where the radioactive waste would be safely compacted and stored.

The Government hopes that the financial incentive for the community that agrees to develop the £12bn project in the area will win public support for this project, after previous efforts have been rejected in 2013.

The geological disposal of radioactive substances will include storage of waste from nuclear power stations, waste from medical treatments, research and defence projects. This type of disposal is seen by experts as the safest and best long-term solution to the storage of nuclear waste, the volume of which is currently estimated to be around 750,000 cubic meters generated over hundreds of years. The plan is that this will also be a way to store more waste from future projects, such as Hinkley Point C.

At present, there are around 30 sites in the UK that store nuclear waste above ground, with the majority of sites in Cumbria. The Institute of Directors group said that the “running costs for a geological disposal facility storing the waste 1,000 metres below the surface would be significantly lower [than the costs of above ground storage]”.

Although some of the councils welcomed the revised plan, Greenpeace criticised the plan and called the payments bribes, and commented the new nuclear power plants should not go ahead without a good long-term solution for storage of radioactive waste.

For more information see, the:

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Self-employed safety law exemptions breach European Social Charter

The European Committee of Social Rights has ruled that exemptions in UK safety law for specified types of self-employed persons is discriminatory and breaches the European Social Charter (ESC), also known as the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

On 24 January, the Committee, a monitoring body of the 47-nation Council of Europe, ruled that a change in UK law in 2015 which removed certain self-employed work from provisions under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, breached the UK’s international obligations under the ESC.

The UK is a participant in the original 1961 Council of Europe treaty, which protects economic, social and cultural rights. A revised ESC, which included additional rights, was agreed in 1995 and although the UK has signed this revision it has yet to ratify it. The Charter includes fundamental rights in the field of social policy generally (health, social security, welfare), and specifically in the fields of employment and industrial relations, including the rights to work, to just conditions of work, to a fair remuneration and to organise and bargain collectively.

Whilst the Committee recognised that the exemptions only covered those who undertake less risky work, they added that this still resulted in the UK failing to comply with its ESC obligations. They said: “All workers, including the self-employed, must be covered by health and safety at work regulations as long as employed and self-employed workers are normally exposed to the same risks.”

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New Office for Product Safety and Standards created

The Government has created a new office for Product Safety and Standards following recommendations made by a Working Group on Product Recalls and Safety.

The Working Group which was made up of consumer, fire and product safety experts, were set up in October 2016 to consider how to improve the safety of white goods and increase the success of the recall system.

The new product safety authority will help manage largescale product recalls and identify risks to consumers, supporting the work of the local authority trading standards teams. The Office will also provide advice and support to ensure manufacturers, importers and retailers meet their responsibilities to place only safe products on the market. This will be a welcome move for many following numerous fires which have been caused by faulty electrical appliances – most notably of course the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

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ISO 45001 due to be published in March

The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) has announced that the finalised ISO 45001 standard will be published in March 2018.

A vote on 25 January saw the final draft of the standard approved by 93% of the national standards body, well above the 75% required for adoption.

The new standard will replace OHSAS 18001, which will be withdrawn after the publication of ISO 45001. There will be a three year transitional period for organisations that are certified to OHSAS 18001 to migrate to the new standard. 

Chair of ISO/PC 283, David Smith, welcomed the alignment of ISO 45001 with the suite of ISO management system standards. He commented: “We now have an international standard for occupational health and safety, aligned with other business standards such as ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO/IEC 27001, that helps organisations manage this key risk as part of their business processes. ISO 45001 is a significant improvement on OHSAS 18001, which has established that standardisation using the risk-based approach works across the world and business sectors. Effective application of ISO 45001 will reduce the risk of harm in the workplace.”

Want to know more?

In April, just a few weeks after ISO 45001 is officially published, Cedrec will be visiting London, Birmingham, Manchester and Gateshead with a special Roadshow covering everything you need to know about the new standard.

We'll be providing information, the chance to fire away any questions you have, and of course, refreshments!

Be sure to book your place on our ISO 45001: A Safety Odyssey event.

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