New building legislation
Published: 15 Apr 2010
The new Building Regulations SI 2010/2214 apply to England and Wales and revoke and replace the Building Regulations SI 2000/2531 in order to bring together all the subsequent changes which have been made to them into one piece of legislation. This should make reading and referring to the Regulations easier.
The Regulations aim to ensure the health, safety, welfare and convenience of people in and around buildings, as well as their water and energy efficiency, by imposing requirements on those carrying out building work. They largely contain the same provisions as the previous Regulations, however they update them by:
- simplifying the definition of "rooms for residential purposes";
- removing the requirement, where building work involves inserting insulation into a cavity wall, to submit a statement about the proposed insulating material;
- adding three new types of work that can be carried out under the self-certification scheme;
- revising the list of bodies which are able to register people for self-certification purposes.
The Regulations also set out the procedures for the control of building work by local authorities. A similar building control system for regulating the private sector is established by the Building (Approved Inspectors etc) Regulations SI 2010/2215.
Prosecution of Fermanagh District Council
Published: 01 Apr 2010
On 19 March 2010, Fermanagh District Council was fined a total of £45,000 after pleading guilty to two breaches of health and safety legislation.
The case against the council was brought by the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSE NI), in relation to an incident on 8 April 2008 on the council's landfill site at Drummee, Enniskillen.
A worker was employed by a subcontractor of the council. Under direction of council staff, he was operating an excavator in a flooded area when it overturned into a deep excavation flooded with water. He was removed from the excavator by emergency services, but later died in hospital.
Enquiries by the HSE NI revealed that Fermanagh District Council had neither sufficiently assessed the risks involved when operating machinery in flooded areas, nor developed an adequate safe system of work. The council pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order SI 1978/1039, by failing to ensure the safety of their employees and non-employees.
Mr Kevin Campbell, investigating inspector with HSE NI’s Major Investigation Team said, “It is essential that all work activities are properly assessed and plans put in place to protect everyone from danger. Systems of work should be completed, documented and communicated to the workforce".
HSE NI stress importance of wellbeing guidance
Published: 01 Apr 2010
Reports suggest the cost of working days lost to mental ill health in Northern Ireland could be as much as £125 million a year. Taking steps to tackle work related stress and promote mental wellbeing could reduce sickness absences and staff turnover leading to increased productivity and performance.
Employers are being encouraged to promote positive mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
The launch of new guidance released by the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSE NI) highlights how employers and employees can work together to improve mental wellbeing, by taking a positive organisation-wide approach and implementing changes in ways of working, such as improved line management and flexible working.
Professor Peter McKie, Chairman of HSE NI said, “Generally it is clear how we can go about providing for safety within the workplace. However, some organisations find real difficulties in recognising work-related stress and supporting the promotion of mental wellbeing. Employers should recognise the early warning signs of work related mental health conditions such as stress, depression and anxiety and take appropriate measures to build healthier, more resilient workplaces. This has to be a priority not only for HSE NI, but for all employing bodies, be they in the public or private sector".
Peter Aiken, Chairman of the Northern Ireland Branch of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development said, “There are many benefits from promoting mental wellbeing and addressing work-related stress. These include improved morale and staff well-being, organizational efficiency, customer service, improvements in sickness absence and staff retention never mind competitiveness and innovation. This mental wellbeing guidance produced by the HSE NI will support organisations in doing this".
During the current economic climate, it is therefore even more important that employers, line managers and HR work together to ensure that they maintain a positive spin on the implementation of their redundancy programmes.
For more information, see:
Carry on Corus
Published: 01 Apr 2010
Troubled global steelmaker Corus has been fined £100,000 after an overloaded mobile crane overturned.
On 4 September 2008, a crane operator was instructed to use a mobile crane to load steel blocks into a dumper. However, he had not been trained in how to use the crane and only had experience of operating overhead cranes. Although the machine had been fitted with safe working load alarms following stability concerns, they needed to be manually reset every time the crane was switched on. The worker was unaware of this and did not check that the alarms were operating.
The crane’s maximum load capacity was 10 tonnes and each steel block was to be lifted individually. However, during the first lift the crane’s magnet raised two of the blocks which put the load above that capacity and the burden toppled the crane. Fortunately, the worker escaped with only minor injuries.
HSE inspector Geoff Clark said, “This is a serious health and safety breach by a company that globally employs tens of thousands of people which could easily have led to people being killed. Today’s hearing highlights the importance of having an effective system in place for managing health and safety to stop easily avoidable incidents. In this case the measures in place were simply inadequate. In particular, there was a substantial failure to provide enough suitable training".
A spokesman for Corus said, "The company has significantly improved its health and safety performance in the last ten years, and continues to invest in health and safety initiatives. The company promptly implemented a number of enhancements to its training procedures and plant equipment to ensure a similar incident cannot happen again".
Unfortunately, it was the company's second prosecution in the space of two weeks. Earlier last month, Corus was reported to have been fined £5,000 after a worker suffered a broken leg while trying to clear a production line blockage.
For more information see:
- Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations SI 1998/2307.
Royal Mail fined for crush death
Published: 01 Apr 2010
Royal Mail has been fined £90,000 and ordered to pay £42,500 costs after one of its drivers was crushed to death. Colin Smith was standing between a tractor and a trailer at the Heathrow Worldwide Distribution Centre in Slough, when he was killed on 5 September 2006. A colleague, Ian Wheeler, who was driving one of the vehicles, did not know Mr Smith was there and accidental reversed into him. He suffered horrific injuries and died at the Langley site. Mr Wheeler has since been acquitted.
At Reading Crown Court the firm admitted breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 because it had not anticipated such dangers could exist at the centre, which processes international mail. Sentencing Royal Mail, Judge Stephen John described the incident as a "distressing case". "It has not been suggested that any individual employed by Royal Mail was reckless or displayed a cavalier attitude towards health and safety. It is an additional tragedy in this case that the driver of the tractor unit was a friend of Mr Smith. No-one would ever know why Mr Smith was standing between the vehicles, which was a substantial blind spot area".
Health and Safety Executive inspector Karl Howes commented that Royal Mail could easily have prevented the accident by properly controlling vehicles. "The company failed to adequately assess the risk to shunters working in the yard or to identify and rectify the unsafe system and this contributed to Mr Smith's death".
Safety measures have since been introduced to ensure people cannot be trapped in such a way.
Corporate manslaughter trial delayed
Published: 01 Apr 2010
The trial of Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings, the first company charged under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, has been adjourned until October 2010, because its director Peter Eaton requires urgent medical treatment.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced in April 2009 that the firm would be the first to face a corporate manslaughter charge, following the death of an employee in September 2008. Junior geologist Alexander Wright died when the sides of a trench - excavated as part of a site survey - collapsed and crushed him as he collected soil samples near Stroud in Gloucestershire.
Cotswold Geotechnical is also accused of breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, for failing to ensure the safety of its employees. Mr Eaton faces charges of gross negligence manslaughter as well as a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act, which states that where an offence by a company is committed with the consent, connivance or neglect of a director, the director will also be guilty of that offence.
A pre-trial hearing will now take place in July 2010.