Climate change talks running out of steam
Published: 28 Aug 2009
The UN's top climate official, Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, has said time is running short to agree a new treaty on global warming amid deep divisions over key issues. He was speaking at last month's round of climate talks in Bonn where officials met for talks in an attempt to clear the way for the adoption of a new UN climate treaty in Copenhagen in December.
Mr de Boer said, "We've got a 200-plus-page text riddled with square brackets (where issues are unresolved), and it worries me to think how on earth we're going to whittle that down to meaningful language. You're looking at hugely divergent interests, very little time remaining, a complicated document on the table and still a lot of progress to be made on some very important issues like finance."
One of the toughest disputes is over which countries should commit to reducing their levels of greenhouse gases. The industrialised nations believe that big polluters in the developing world, notably China and India, must be included in any treaty commitments.
Jonathan Pershing, head of the US delegation, said that including India and China was part of the deal. He said, "We see success in Copenhagen as in no small measure a function of what all these major players do. Ourselves, Europe, China, India, Japan - it has to be the major emitters. If we think of a group of about 15 countries, they comprise on the order of 75% of global emissions. We can't solve this without them, you need them all and they all have to move immediately."
However, developing countries point out that most greenhouse gases come from the industrialised world and that societies such as India remain desperately poor. Senior Indian negotiator, Ambassador Chandrashekhar Dasgupta, said half the rural population in his country, "does not have a light bulb in its home or a gas ring. So to describe this country as a large emitter is absurd - there's no other word for it."
While few substantive discussions took place on the most difficult issues, Sweden's climate negotiator Anders Turesson, still believes it is possible to deliver a new treaty in Copenhagen, but conceded it will be difficult with the fundamental issue of who should do what remaining. Mr Turesson acknowledged that progress was too slow and that a dramatic change of gear will have to happen at the next round of talks in Bangkok later this month, if an agreement in Copenhagen is to be reached.
Published: 27 Jul 2009
Building site employer Colin Holtom has been jailed for three years for the manslaughter of a 15-year-old construction worker.
The worker died instantly from massive head injuries when a wall fell on him. The trial court was told Holtom, who traded as Maldon Groundworks, had a "laissez faire" attitude to health and safety.
The worker who was employed as a casual labourer had been left unsupervised to demolish a seven-foot high wall, which had been deemed unstable. There was no proper discussion or instruction on how the wall was to be removed before work started and demolition began with no supervision.
Simon Hester, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigating inspector said, "The management and set-up of this small construction project was appalling. The worker should never have been there at all as 15 year olds have been banned from working on construction sites since 1920. There was a complete disregard for basic health and safety requirements, inadequate personal protective equipment, no risk assessments, no training and minimal supervision."
For more information see:
Firm Leggless after fine
Published: 27 Jul 2009
Dickenson Legg Ltd have been fined £2,000 plus costs after pleading guilty at Ballymena Magistrates Court to a breach of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 2000/388. The case arose following the investigation of an incident which occurred in November 2004 at the Gallaher's Tobacco Factory in Ballymena.
The injured party, Mr Martin Hughes, who was employed by a sub-contractor engaged by Dickenson Legg, was cleaning the rollers on a rotating conveyor belt when his left hand became trapped in the in-running nip point. He sustained serious injuries to his left shoulder and arm.
The Resident Magistrate Mr Perry stated that the company had substantial responsibility for people not in their employment and that this was a serious injury. He also commented on their previous good record and £56 million global turnover.
Following the hearing, Ken Logan Principal Construction Inspector with the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSE NI) said, "This was a serious incident that could easily have resulted in a worker being killed. The system of work employed in this incident was totally unacceptable. This work was being carried out during the commissioning stage of the project and it is vitally important to ensure that at all times safe systems of work are fully employed. The construction industry must learn from this incident and take firm action to make sure it is not repeated."
Chip shop shock
Published: 27 Jul 2009
A catering equipment firm has been fined £20,000 after repairs it carried out at a Milton Keynes chip shop led to the owner receiving an electric shock. Magistrates heard that the man suffered burns and a cardiac arrest when he touched the live lead of a drainage pump in October 2007.
The directors of the catering equipment firm, KLS, based in King's Lynn, Norfolk, pleaded guilty to two counts of breaching health and safety legislation.
The chip shop owner had authorised repairs to the pump to be carried out under warranty by KLS, which had fitted the shop when it opened earlier in 2007. Investigations by council environmental health officers revealed the modifications were of a 'poor electrical standard' to the extent that a plug lead and socket was still live when removed from the wall.
The court was told the injured man was attached to the electrical supply for up to 30 seconds, whereupon a family member managed to prise the lead from his hands.
Robert Kitchingham, who carried out the work for KLS, pleaded guilty under the Heath and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined. Milton Keynes council said the £20,000 fine against the company was the maximum available.
Formwork upset the form book
Published: 27 Jul 2009
A Dungiven firm, PB Formwork Ltd, has been fined more than £35,000 following a breach of health and safety legislation at a landfill site. The case relates to an incident last year at the Cottonmount landfill site, Mallusk, where an employee of Formwork was seriously injured. The court heard a large dumper truck driven by the worker overturned and landed on him. The general labourer suffered serious injuries including the loss of his right leg.
Subsequent enquiries by the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSE NI) revealed the company had not provided the worker with sufficient training or instruction. In addition, no account had been taken of the incline of the haul road which the truck was travelling on. The company had failed to provide an adequate safe system of work for its employees. Consequently, the firm pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the safety of its employees
Imposing the fine, Judge Burgess commented, "This was an accident waiting to happen. It was an accident that was patently avoidable." Describing the injuries as "devastating", Judge Burgess added, "Such consequences and the avoidance of such consequences lie at the heart of this legislation, that is to achieve a safe environment in the workplace for those who work there."
Louis Burns, Head of HSE NI's Major Investigation Team, 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."
For more information, see:
- Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order SI 1978/1039.
Balcas face charges
Published: 27 Jul 2009
Balcas Timber Ltd have appeared before Fermanagh Magistrates Court on a number of health and safety related charges.
The company who are based at Laragh, Enniskillen were represented by Patrick Madigan at the holding of a preliminary enquiry into their case before District Judge Liam McNally. They face four charges in total, three dated 31 May 2006 and one dated 31 May 2009. They are charged with failing to ensure the health and safety at work of all their employees, along with a failure to provide and maintain plant and systems of work that are safe without risks to health.
In addition, Balcas are further charged with failing to provide information, instruction, training and supervision to ensure the health and safety at work of all employees.
The defendants were represented by Ian Turkington, BL. Balcas was remanded on bail to appear before Dungannon Crown Court on 13 August 2009.
For more information, see the:
- Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 2000/388.