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Public urged by HSE to recycle batteries at recycling points due to fire risk

Members of the public have been urged by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to use the appropriate recycling points to dispose of used batteries.

The recent call made by the Executive comes in the wake of fires that came from the household mixed wastes, in which the batteries were inappropriately disposed of. In a statement made by the HSE, the members of the public need to “safely dispose of batteries at recycling points. Disposing of batteries in waste collections can lead to the risk of injury to refuse workers and members of the public from fires and explosions”.

In East Northamptonshire and Warrington, battery fires caused damage to waste collection vehicles.

Dave Reynolds, group technical director at WasteCare, said: “All batteries present a fire risk as any battery has a potential to spark”. He also added, that certain types of batteries, such as AA and AAA, which are commonly used in clocks, remotes and torches, pose less risk, because they have terminals at both ends of the battery.

“The case is now that some batteries present a higher risk than others. The question is, how easy is to short [circuit] a nine volt battery, for example the sort that are found in smoke alarms? The answer is that it is very easy, with a paper clip, foil or a staple. There are videos on YouTube showing how easy it is to cause a fire, such as when they are placed next to wire wool.” 

Another issue brought up by Mr Reynolds is that the public often discards batteries with attached wires to them, such as toys and other products, which can very easily lead to a short circuit. In the wake of the modern lithium batteries found in mobile phones, there is a greater fire risk due to their high energy release potential if damaged.

Finally, when the people store unused and used batteries at home they “need to be aware of the way they keep batteries for recycling at home. Don't leave them in a drawer where coins and paperclips can cause a short circuit at home.” 

For more information regarding the disposal of batteries and accumulators, see:

  • Waste Batteries and Accumulators Regulations SI 2009/890.
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Phone for lone workers launched

A mobile phone company in Sweden, Doro, has invented a mobile phone specifically for lone workers. The handset is hard-wearing and also contains a “call for help” button on the side which, when pressed, sends a text message containing a GPS location to up to five different contacts.

In the UK, there is a requirement for employers to provide and maintain a safe working environment for employees under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. When it comes to lone workers, the development of safety arrangements through a health and safety policy, safe systems of work and also carrying out risk assessments can reduce the risks faced by lone workers, such as social workers, auditors, builders, traffic wardens and carers. And for those who may have a spare £220, such a mobile phone could help to minimise the risk to those working alone.

The mobile phone also works with Doro's automated care centre, called i-care, though there is a charge for the service. I-care allows employers to closely monitor the status of the phone, including battery power and inactivity. It can also send messages to the phone to make sure the person using it is safe.

For more information regarding the safety of lone workers, see:

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HSE Consult on Fee For Intervention

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are consulting on revising the process for considering disputes under Fee for Intervention (FFI).

Since the introduction of FFI, there have been criticisms of the dispute process, notably that it was not independent of the HSE. Even Mr Martin Temple, Chair of HSE, raised concerns about the process for dealing with disputes in his 2014 Triennial Review Report on HSE.

The scheme and its appeal process were also to be questioned this summer, with a judicial review being brought by facilities management firm in an attempt to have its Fees for Intervention bill overturned and the current system for deciding appeals quashed.

Speaking about the scheme earlier in the year, as well as the upcoming judicial review, Kevin Bridges, partner at law firm Pinsent Masons, said: “A lot of people in the industry are keenly watching this court case, there's no suggestion the scheme will be scrapped but the result could have a big impact for companies and construction.”

It seems that some of these complaints and worries are now being addressed by the Consultation on revising the process for considering disputes under Fee for Intervention (FFI).

The new disputes process is hoped to be fully independent, and the consultation is looking for views on the details of the process, in particular:

  • the information which HSE will provide;
  • how representation can be made;
  • how disputes will be considered;
  • suspension of the dispute process where an investigation or appeal against an enforcement notice is ongoing.

It is thought the revised, fully independent dispute process is to be set up no later than 1 September 2017.

The Consultation ends on 2 June 2017.

For more information, see the:

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South West Water fined 1.8 million pounds after worker drowns

South West Water have been fined £1.8 million after a lone worker drowned in a filtration tank in December 2013.

Robert Geach, had been working to unblock a filter at the Falmouth Water Treatment Works, when he slipped and fell through a hole into over 6 feet of water.

Mr Geach had activated the lone worker alarm system provided by South West Water, but it wasn't until he failed to respond to a call, over an hour later, that someone was dispatched. That person, on arrival, found Mr Geach dead in the tank.

The sentencing judge stated that “no correct risk assessment for the procedure had been done” and that South West Water had been made aware of the dangers of falling into tanks “on a number of occasions”.

A Health and Safety Executive Inspector had raised concerns about railing heights, trip hazards and working alone in 2009.

Dr Stephen Bird, Managing Director for South West Water, said: “South West Water has tried to ensure it learns all that it can from this incident.”

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Council fined a million pound for injury to member of the public

Nottingham County Council have been fined £1million after a disabled 71-year-old man was struck by a council tractor.

The member of the public, who suffered injuries to his arms, legs and head, had been taking part in a guided walk through a park when the tractor collided with him.

The operator of the tractor was moving branches at the time and could not see the man in the path of the tractor.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the incident and found that the council had failed to implement a safe system of work for the activity.

The HSE found that the council had failed to train workers to the required level needed to safely operate the mounted grab and act as a banksman. It was also found that the machine was not suitable.

The council were ordered to pay costs of £10,270 in addition to the large fine.

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Latest ISO 45001 Draft out for consultation

The latest Draft of the International Standard for Occupational Safety and Health Management Systems, ISO 45001 has been released for consultation.

Previous amended drafts of the new standard were rejected, however it is hoped this this may possibly be the last draft before the new standard comes into publication. If the latest draft is accepted by a ballot of National Standards Body (NSB) which is due to take place between May and July, rules allow the NSB to vote to drop the final draft stage, as long as technical changes are not made to the previous draft. This could mean that the standard may be published by the end of November 2017. However if a final draft is required, publication will yet again be delayed and is anticipated to be around February or March 2018.

Richard Jones, Head of Policy at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) commented: ''The terms and definitions have all been agreed and the whole thing has been tidied up.'' He also added that the Annex to the draft Standard which details advice on measures to meet the standard, has been substantially simplified.

The next public consultation on the draft is due to take place on 19 May 2017.

A copy of the draft along with the template for consultation question submissions can be found on the IOSH website.

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Hostel owners sentenced over asbestos failings

Fines have been handed to two families after health and safety failings were found at a site in Manchester.

Hatters Taverns Limited employed sister company Hatters Hostel Limited as the main contractor to strip and refurbish the basement of the former restaurant, in order to be used as a bar venue.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) made an unannounced visit to the premises to inspect the ongoing refurbishments. It was found during this visit that no asbestos surveys had been carried out before tradesmen began stripping out the venue.

Hatters Taverns Limited pleaded guilty to breaching the Control of Asbestos Regulations SI 2012/632 and was fined £10,000.

Hatters Hostel Limited of Liverpool pleaded guilty to breaching the same Regulations and was fined £24,000 and ordered to pay the combined costs for both defendants of £10,232.50.

HSE inspector Matt Greenly said after the case: “Both Hatters Hostel and Hatters Taverns have failed in their duty to protect their workers, subcontractors and visitors to his site from harm. Asbestos related diseases are currently untreatable and claim the lives of an estimated 4000 people per year in the UK. Exposure to asbestos fibres can potentially cause life shortening diseases in the long term and Hatters Hostel Limited and Hatters Taverns Limited should have taken more care to protect workers from a totally preventable exposure. This case sends a clear message to any company that it does not pay to ignore well known risks on site.”

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Electricity supplier fined after worker killed

Electricity supplier, Electricity North West Ltd, have been fined following the death of a worker.

Mr John Flowers, an experienced linesman, died after falling 6 metres while carrying out routine maintenance on power lines. He had climbed a ladder which was resting against a wood pole, in order to trim ivy away from the power lines, and it is thought that Mr Flowers accidentally cut through his work positioning strap causing him to fall.

The Health and Safety Executive's (HSE) investigation into the incident found that the work has not been properly planned. The task of trimming the ivy off the pole should not have been carried out from a ladder, it was not short duration work, so a proper work platform such as a mobile elevated work platform, should have been provided to undertake the task.

The HSE found that there was a lack of information provided to the linesman and employees were not given information on how to safely carry out the work required.

HSE Inspector, Rose Leese-Weller commented: 'Electricity North West failed to ensure that working at height was properly planned, appropriately supervised and carried out in a manner that was safe. Had these steps been taken we may not have had this tragic outcome.'

Electricity North West Ltd were found guilty of breaches of the Work at Height Regulations SI 2005/735, and were fined £900,000 with costs to be agreed at a later date.

For more information, see the:

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Oil company fined 1.7 million after refinery explosion

The owner and operator of the Stanlow Manufacturing Complex in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, Essar Oil UK, has been fined following an explosion at their refinery.

During the start up of the main distillation unit at the site, highly flammable hydrocarbons entered an unused furnace. Heat from a nearby furnace then triggered the explosion. The explosion caused several fires across the site.

Fortunately no one was injured in the incident, however the explosion which led to the collapse of internal structures, caused more than £20 million worth of damage.

An investigation into the incident by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the company had installed a safety critical valve incorrectly, and had failed to properly validate the operation of it. Furthermore the installation of a new safety critical trip was also found to have been inadequately assessed as the system had a bypasss line in place which defeated the operation of the trip system.

The HSE added that although it was company policy to isolate the main fuel lines to the furnace, a secondary fuel line had not been isolated during shutdown. It was this failure that allowed the hydrocarbons to enter the furnace.

Joanne Eccles, HSE principal inspector, commented: “The industry should take notice of this case; there were no injuries but mistakes were made and could have been prevented.”

Essar Oil UK pleaded guilty at Liverpool Crown Court to breaches of the Control of Major Hazards Regulations SI 1999/743 for failing to prevent a major accident. They were fined £1.65 million and ordered to pay costs of £57,645.

For more information, see the:

  • Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations SI 2015/483.
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HSE publish a new business plan focusing on cyber risk, REACH and blue tape

The new business plan published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) outlines the future budget expectations for the 2017-2018 period and sets out the key elements of the HSE's strategy Helping Great Britain work well.

The priorities set out for the coming year focus on:

  • establishment and delivery of a comprehensive three-year Health and Work programme that aims to reduce work-related stress, musculoskeletal disorders and occupational lung disease;
  • new approaches to risk profiling of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to target certain groups that need the improvement the most;
  • improve how the HSE shares learning and influence dutyholders to amplify the impact of their interventions and enforcement action;
  • improve the timeliness of decisions on applications for authorisation of biocides and pesticides;
  • provide support to UK-based companies, (SMEs in particular), with Directive 2006/121 on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) 2018 registration responsibilities;
  • start digitising the provision of the services provided by the HSE, starting with radiological protection registration and licensing as well as asbestos licensing.

The HSE also emphasises on the continuous development of its “usual” duties, which include:

  • engage and collaborate with organisations and individuals to improve work-related health and safety;
  • campaign to achieve improvements in safety awareness and act on the key issues;
  • provide guidance and support through support materials that are easily accessible and tailored to the circumstances for the users;
  • develop science and evidence to support the regulatory activities, provide access to specialist facilities and research to improve health and safety performance.

For more information see, the:

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