Timber company fined for fatal accident
Published: 01 Jan 2010
A Fermanagh-based timber company has been fined £50,000 for a breach of health and safety which led to a workers death. In 2006, Michael Lukan was crushed inside a machine he was repairing at Balcas Sawmill outside Enniskillen when his supervisor restarted it.
Last year the supervisor, Raymond Alexander Irwin, admitted a charge related to Mr Lukan's death. He had originally been accused of manslaughter, however this was not taken any further. Instead, he admitted failing to take reasonable care. The incident happened when Mr Lukan was fixing a chain inside the machine. Mr Irwin had signalled to two colleagues on a gantry that he wanted the machine restarted. Using hand signals and shakes of their heads, they signalled that the machine could not be started again. However, Irwin went up the steps to the control console and pushed the restart button himself without checking why the other workers had not done so. It also emerged that safety devices which should have stopped the machine being turned on in such a circumstance, had been removed.
The latest case was brought by the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland. Investigating inspector Brian Pryce said, "It is vital that all companies properly identify and address hazards within the workplace and implement systems to minimise and control risks. These systems need to be communicated to the workforce, implemented, maintained and updated when necessary."
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Singer goes Gaga over health and safety
Published: 01 Jan 2010
It has been reported this month, that singer Lady Gaga demanded lambs and hundreds of butterflies on stage for her recent performance on the X Factor.
She astonished reality TV mogul Simon Cowell with her requests, but they were eventually voted out by health and safety officers. She instead opted to perform on the popular talent show surrounded by scantily clad male dancers.
A source said, "She is always way out there with her costumes and dance routines, but even Simon wasn't prepared for what she had in mind. He thought the animals request was a joke, but then he realised it was Lady Gaga. Simon is an animal lover and wasn't against having the lambs running around, but he said no because of health and safety."
The eccentric singer also recently had a request to have lions accompany her to the MTV Video Music Awards turned down.
Cameron buys into elf 'n' safety myth
Published: 01 Jan 2010
In a speech to the Policy Exchange think tank, Conservative leader David Cameron called for an end to the UK's "over-the-top" health and safety culture. He said there were often noble intentions, but added that something had gone seriously wrong with the spirit of health and safety in the past decade.
He commented, "When children are made to wear goggles by their head teacher to play conkers. When trainee hairdressers are not allowed scissors in the classroom. When office workers are banned from moving a chair without expert supervision. When staff at a railway station don't help a young mum carry her baby son's buggy because they are not insured. Where village fetes are cancelled because residents can't face jumping through all the bureaucratic hoops. It is clear that what began as a noble intention to protect people from harm has mutated into a stultifying blanket of bureaucracy, suspicion and fear that has saturated our country, covering the actions of millions of individuals as they go about their daily lives."
He cited the death of Jordon Lyon in September 2007 as an example, saying the 10-year old had drowned in a pond, having rescued his young sister, because officers were told not to intervene as they hadn't undertaken their water rescue health and safety training. Cameron insisted the biggest cause of the UK's health and safety culture was the perception that behind every accident there is someone who is personally culpable, someone must pay.
He also announced that former Conservative Trade Secretary Lord Young would lead a review into how the health and safety culture can be curbed. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 would also be amended to ensure the danger of prosecution does not put teachers off taking children for adventurous activities. A Conservative Government would seek to renegotiate EU legislation, such as the Working Time Directive, which limits our working hours, and prioritise the risk to the public above that to police officers, allowing them to act with their "traditional heroism." There were also calls for changes to the laws governing compensation claims, although there were no demands for an end to the "no-win, no-fee" arrangements.
For Labour, work and pensions minister Lord McKenzie said, "David Cameron's caricature of health and safety is based on myth and exaggeration, and is just a rehash of what previous Tory leaders have said. It flies in the face of the important work the Health and Safety Executive does to tackle precisely those myths. The UK's health and safety framework absolutely does not prevent children from playing conkers, policemen from doing their job and people from leading normal lives. The system is not based on eliminating risk but on sensible and proportionate steps to help manage it."
Fake plastic trees
Published: 01 Dec 2009
Shoppers stared in bemusement as a mysterious giant cone-shaped object, covered in "green doormats", was erected in a Poole shopping precinct. Locals described it as a giant traffic cone, a witch’s hat, an ice cream cornet and a cheap effect from Doctor Who. In fact, the 33ft structure is this year's Christmas tree.
Last year Poole boasted a traditional Norway fir, which cost £500 and continued a decades-old tradition. However, it was felt it posed a hazard to shoppers, since it might fall over in high winds. Town centre officials therefore commissioned the cone tree according to the latest tabloid health and safety principles.
It has no trunk, no branches to break off and land on someone’s head, no pine needles to poke a passer-by in the eye, no decorations and no angel requiring a dangerously long ladder to place it.
Officials defied the recession and bought the replacement at a cost of £14,000, which comes with built-in speakers that play Christmas carols to put shoppers in a festive mood.
Unfortunately, it seems shoppers were left in a foul mood. Michelle James said, "A Christmas tree should look nice on the eye and sway in the wind, this just looks odd." Similarly, Karen Byron said, “It’s horrible. If you are going to have a fake tree then it ought to resemble a tree. You can get some really good fake trees, but this is awful. It doesn't feel Christmassy at all.”
Town centre manager, Richard Randall-Jones defended the decision stating, "People think you can just go into the woods, chop down a tree and put it up in the high street, but if it blows over and kills someone then somebody is liable. We are a coastal town and so we have strict health-and-safety guidelines around making the tree safe due to the high winds we suffer." He said they had to use ugly guy ropes to stop last years tree from falling over and that he was tasked with finding a solution and came up with the cone tree. Mr Randall-Jones challenged anyone to find a better tree in the area.
Scary Carey's catty over health and safety ban
Published: 01 Dec 2009
Mariah Carey had vowed to make her public appearance at London's Westfield Shopping Centre an event to remember.
Unfortunately, the singer was left frustrated after her desire for 20 white kittens to accompany her onstage while turning on festive lights was rebuffed by health and safety officials. The organisers had satisfied many of the diva's demands including:
- a demand for 100 white doves;
- a pink, rather than red carpet;
- a pink podium;
- a ride in a Rolls Royce;
- pink butterfly-shaped confetti;
- using a wand to turn on the mall's Christmas lights;
- a total of 80 security guards.
Carey's histrionics are notoriously outrageous. Previous riders included a request for 20 humidifiers to ensure her bedroom was kept comfortable at all times. However, British health and safety officials have proved that Santa doesn't always deliver. Carey's entourage was informed that on this occasion her demands would not be fully accommodated.
Nonetheless, an insider said, "We managed to source the doves, but finding the kittens in Westfield proved terribly difficult. In the end, it was made clear that due to health and safety restrictions, there was no way we could have the animals."
Safety review of the year 2009
Published: 01 Dec 2009
This year saw the coming into force of the Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008, which increased the number of situations in which people can be imprisoned for health and safety breaches and also raised the maximum fine available to lower courts from £5,000 to £20,000. The changes help punishments match very severe cases, and any employee who fails to take reasonable care for the health and safety of others, or themselves, could face jail. Directors and senior managers whose company commits a breach could also face imprisonment where the offence happened with their consent or due to their neglect.
Significantly, the collapse of conciliation talks in Brussels meant that the UK kept its opt-out from the EU Working Time Directive 2003/88/EC. As a result, UK employees continue to be allowed to work longer than an average 48-hour week. In December 2008, the European Parliament voted to abolish the opt-out clause over a three-year period, but a number of Member States, including the UK, opposed the move. Talks were held between MEPs, Government Ministers and the European Commission throughout 2009 in an effort to broker a compromise deal, but discussions ended without an agreement.
The final round of negotiations failed to find a way of meeting the demands for the scrapping of the opt-out and an offer from Member State Governments of an absolute limit of 65 hours a week in return for the right of employees to work more than 48 hours.
- Working Time (Amendment) Regulations SI 2009/1567;
- Working Time (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 2009/266.
These provisions establish an average 52-hour maximum working week for certain doctors in training from 1 August 2009. An average 56-hour maximum working week applied until 31 July 2009, after which an average 48-hour week maximum would have applied without these amendments.
We have also seen the introduction of new Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations SI 2009/716 and Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 2009/238. They aim to make sure that those supplied with chemicals receive the information they need to protect themselves, others and the environment. Suppliers are obliged to identify the harmful properties of chemicals or hazards and pass this information together with advice on safe use to users by means of labels.
They do not introduce any new duties, but bring together all amendments to previous legislation on the same subject.
Northern Ireland also saw similar legislation with the Explosives (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 2009/273, which deal with the identification of explosives and certain substances which are controlled as if they were explosives (hazards) and the communication of this information to users by means of labels.
Health and safety information
In addition new legislation was published which amended the Health and Safety Information for Employees Regulations SI 1989/682 and Health and Safety Information for Employees Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 1991/105, in order to simplify the provision of health, safety and welfare information for employees and employers.
The original regulations require such information to be provided to employees by means of posters or leaflets in an approved form. The Health and Safety Information for Employees (Amendment) Regulations SI 2009/606 and the Health and Safety Information for Employees (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 2009/192 amended these provisions to:
- enable an employer alternatively to provide information as to how any of their employees can obtain the name and address of the enforcing authority and the address of the Employment Medical Advisory Service;
- and increase the period in which an employer can continue to display the unrevised approved poster and distribute the unrevised approved leaflet, from nine months to five years.
It looks like being another busy year in 2010. Some important issues and legislative changes to look out for include:
- the first ever charge brought under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, which is now expected to begin in February 2010;
- the Notification of Conventional Tower Cranes Regulations, which will require the registration of certain information about tower cranes;
- proposals to reform fire safety regulations in Northern Ireland, which will replace the current requirement to have fire certificates for non-domestic premises with risk assessments, something which is already in place in England, Scotland and Wales;
- the possible early implementation of Directive 2008/104/EC, on temporary agency work, which aims to give temporary workers the same basic working conditions as those on permanent contracts;
- A REACH legislation deadline of 30 November 2010. Known carcinogens, mutagens and substances toxic to reproduction made or imported in amounts over 1,000 tonnes per year, and substances toxic to aquatic organisms made in quantities over 100 tonnes per year are subject to this deadline.
Keep an eye on the Monthly Bulletins for the latest information on these subjects, and we will keep you informed and up-to-date throughout 2010.
We hope you've found the bulletins useful and informative over the past year and enjoyed the slightly obscure headlines. In case you have forgotten some of their "finer" moments, here are a few of our favourites! How many low-budget film titles and 70's classic rock references did you spot...?
"Carrickfergus crane collapse causes considered"
"Chip shop chip chop lead repairs shock" "
Telescopic manoeuvres in the dark"
"Opt-in? Opt-out? Shake it all about..."
"Toner locates problem"
"Ride-on time's up!"