New HSE enforcement code published
Published: 04 Jun 2013
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published a new Code which is designed to ensure that local authority health and safety regulators take a more consistent and proportionate approach to enforcement. It means that unnecessary health and safety inspections will be prevented.
As a result of the new Code, council inspections will focus on higher risk activities in specified sectors or where there is intelligence that workplaces are not managing risk. As a result, thousands of businesses, such as shops and offices, will no longer face unnecessary health and safety inspections which are not justified on a risk basis.
However, checks will continue on poor performers and at sites where there are higher risk activities, such as cooling towers where legionella can develop.
HSE chair Judith Hackitt said, "Real improvement in safety performance will come from targeting those who put their employees at greatest risk. Local inspectors have a very important role to play in ensuring the effective and proportionate management of risks by businesses, and the Code is designed to guide them to do this."
She added, "It sets out how targeting should be achieved, providing certainty for both businesses and regulators. HSE will be working with local authorities to ensure the Code is successfully implemented."
For more information, see the:
Waste criminal unrepentant
Published: 04 Jun 2013
A waste crime lord has been sentenced to a further three years in prison, after failing to pay back the proceeds of his illegal business.
Hugh O'Donnell is still in prison serving four and a half years for waste crimes and money laundering, but has now been jailed for an additional 1036 days. He had failed to pay the full amount of a £917,000 confiscation order - money he was ordered to repay when he was convicted back in 2011.
Mr O'Donnell's illegal waste business netted millions of pounds in profit by taking skip loads of construction and demolition waste to a site in Aldermaston, Berks, to be dumped in an illegal landfill. He was first jailed in 2009 for possession of an illegal firearm, uncovered during an Environment Agency investigation, and then sent back to prison the day after his release in 2011 for money laundering and waste offences. On 3 May 2012, he was ordered to pay £917,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act, but still owes a total of £578,845.71, which he has refused to pay.
When he completes his third sentence, Mr O'Donnell will have served longer in prison than any other criminal for waste-related crimes.
Angus Innes, Prosecution Team Leader for the Environment Agency, said, "The Agency wants to make sure that serious waste crime doesn't pay, we don't just catch criminals - we want to confiscate the assets they’ve gained from crime. This investigation has been one of the biggest and most complex ever undertaken by the Agency and our partner agencies, in particular the London Regional Asset Recovery Team, to proactively target an organised criminal gang running an illegal waste site."
"This sentence sends out a message that failure to pay proceeds of waste crime is dealt with by the courts seriously and you can and will be sent to jail until the monies are paid in full."
Boss sentenced for gross negligence manslaughter
Published: 31 May 2013
A company boss has been sentenced to three years in prison for gross negligence manslaughter following the death of a worker at Swan Hunter shipyard in Wallsend, Newcastle.
After a four week trial into the death of Kenneth Joyce, Allan Turnbull was found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence. North Eastern Maritime Offshore Cluster Ltd (NEMOC) and one of its directors were also fined for their safety failings.
The incident occurred on 2 December 2008, when Mr Joyce was dismantling a building at the shipyard. He was working from a cherry picker while two colleagues were working from another and a crane to lower steel beams to the ground. While removing a beam brace connecting two plate girders, one of the girders struck the basket of the cherry picker in which Mr Joyce was standing, causing the equipment to topple over. He fell to the ground and suffered fatal head injuries.
Jurors at Newcastle Crown Court were told that a catalogue of health and safety failings led to the death, including the fact that Mr Turnbull did not carry out a specific risk assessment. There were also failures to identify the risks of the job and to take advice from a competent person.
Prosecutor Richard Matthews QC said, "It was high hazard work that required careful planning and close supervision by someone who knew what they were doing. There was an obvious risk of death arising from these activities."
In addition to the prison sentence given to Mr Turnbull, Christopher Taylor, a director of NEMOC, was fined £30,000 (plus £50,000 costs) for failing to carry out his duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. NEMOC were also fined for their failings under the Act, and with the company now in liquidation, ordered to pay £1 for each offence.
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Aberdeen sees the light
Published: 31 May 2013
Aberdeen City Council has unveiled ambitious plans to turn a derelict landfill site into a giant solar power farm.
Working with the Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG), the council are seeking an initial £500,000 in lottery funding to develop proposals to transform the former landfill at Ness Farm, near Nigg Bay, into a multimillion pound solar energy complex. The 120 acre site closed in 2001. The first phase of the project will see enough solar panels installed at the site to generate one megawatt of electricity, which will help to establish the area as a base for research and training for jobs in the solar energy industry.
Councillor Barney Crockett, said the development would enhance Aberdeen's position as a "European-leading" energy city. He continued, "People don't appreciate that the north east of Scotland is quite a good area for harnessing solar energy. I think it is terrific that we can use a site that has been soiled and get new use out of it. Aberdeen is already at the forefront for skills in the energy sector and I think this project can provide great opportunities for research and for our young people to learn new skills."
The city council is seeking funding support from the Big Lottery Coastal Communities Fund, which is aimed at encouraging the economic development of coastal communities. Council officials expect to hear within the next month whether they have been successful.
Farmer fined for friend fall
Published: 30 May 2013
A farmer from County Durham has been fined £3,000 and ordered to pay £4,000 in costs after a friend, who was helping him out on his farm in Stanley, fell approximately four metres through a barn roof and broke his back.
Leonard Laxton, 64, was helping David Barron to remove roof sheets. Both Mr Laxton and Mr Barron were then manually carrying them across the roof to the edge. Consett Magistrates' Court heard that the pair essentially used scaffold boards as a tightrope to prevent them from stepping onto the roofing material below them.
At some point in the process, Mr Laxton must have either stepped or fallen off the board onto the barn roof, which gave way beneath him. As a result, Mr Laxton broke his back in two places, broke some ribs and suffered bruising to his brain, resulting in a five week stay in hospital.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the measures in place to prevent a fall were insufficient and nothing was in place to prevent a fall over the edge of the roof.
Mr Barron was fined after pleading guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
HSE inspector Jonathan Wills said, "Deaths in agriculture are often caused by fragile roofs and advice on precautions to prevent or reduce the risk from falls when working at height and working on fragile material is well publicised. Mr Barron failed to put suitable measures in place to prevent or reduce the risk to both himself and Mr Laxton from falling through or from the barn roof."
He added, "The risk of sustaining serious injuries could have been dramatically reduced had Mr Barron carried out the work from a mobile platform beneath the roof, or if he had arranged for nets or other equally effective fall protection to be positioned beneath the areas where both he and Mr Laxton had been working."
For further information, see:
Man from Moira stewing over fine
Published: 24 May 2013
John Lewis, trading as John Lewis Plant Hire and Contracts, has been sentenced at Laganside Crown Court. He received a suspended six month sentence on each of the five counts he pleaded guilty to.
The case arose after the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) visited a demolition site on the Broadway Industrial Estate following a complaint from the general public. In February 2011, they found a building that was in the process of being demolished, and immediately stopped the work due to concerns about asbestos contamination.
A subsequent survey of the site by HSENI's Scientific Services found large quantities of asbestos insulating board and asbestos cement debris present on the ground and amongst building rubble in an area where demolition work was in progress at the site. The same contractor had previously been stopped in 2008, whilst in the process of demolishing other similar buildings on the site without having an asbestos survey carried out.
Following that intervention, Mr Lewis had a survey of all the buildings compiled, including the building he was demolishing in 2011. The investigation revealed he had this asbestos survey in his possession, which clearly showed that the building he was demolishing contained significant asbestos which required a licensed asbestos contractor to remove. Mr Lewis was not a licensed asbestos contractor.
To make matters worse, employees of John Lewis were found on the site of the partial demolition picking pieces of asbestos out of the contaminated rubble without appropriate protection, such as respiratory equipment and showering facilities.
After the hearing Mr Louis Burns, Principal Inspector for the HSENI's Major Investigation Team said, "The dangers of asbestos are well known. It is vital that buildings are properly surveyed for asbestos and that asbestos is removed by a licensed asbestos contractor prior to demolition. If these vital steps are not followed there is the potential for asbestos to be released and spread in an uncontrolled manner. This potentially gives rise to serious health concerns."
For more information, see the:
- Control of Asbestos Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 2012/179.