Construction firm ignored safety warnings
Published: 19 Nov 2012
Peak Construction (London) Ltd has been fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £4,629 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching the Work at Height Regulations SI 2005/735 and the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations SI 2007/320.
The firm was carrying out a redevelopment project in Bristol city centre in order to convert the upper floors of Riverside House to residential accommodation and to add two new timber framed floors on top of the building.
However, members of the public raised concerns about some of their working practices, which led to six site visits from the Health and Safety Executive's (HSE) inspectors. On each visit, inspectors found failings relating to unsafe work at height, including the use of a mobile elevating work platform without worker harnesses, a lack of edge protection and poorly constructed scaffolding. Fire risks were also identified.
Despite being issued with seven prohibition notices, the firm still continued some dangerous practices at the site.
HSE inspector Steve Frain said, "Right from the start of the job, the company was warned about its health and safety performance and individual directors were made aware of the initial failings we identified at the site. The number of follow-up inspections and interventions we made in this case went far beyond what would normally be required. The same risks were clearly pointed out at each inspection, yet still the company failed to take sufficient action."
He added, "These are not minor technical breaches of the law. They show a failure of leadership across the company which led to a high risk of significant injuries."
Worker not feeling too well after plummeting into sewage
Published: 16 Nov 2012
A company has been fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £3,000 in costs for breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, after a worker fell and slid seven metres into a sewage well in Halesowen, Dudley.
The 34-year-old worker, who has asked not to be named, was clearing a blockage for Tardis Environmental UK Ltd at a partially completed housing development when the incident occurred on 26 August 2011.
To remove the waste from the bottom of the sewage well, which consisted of bulky material like nappies, the employee used a road tanker with pump and hose attachments. He opened a grid at the top of the well and stood over it to support and manipulate the hose. As he did, the hose kicked back and hit him, causing him to lose balance and fall into the chamber.
He managed to grab the hose as he fell and slid down it into the waste at the bottom where he stood disorientated for around twenty minutes before he realised he had his mobile phone with him and was able to call for help. He ingested raw sewage, sustained friction burns to his arms, and bruised his elbows, knees and head in the fall. He was off work for a number of days.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the Tardis employee had been trained in the use of the pumping equipment but had not received any instruction or training in how to empty deep, below-ground sewage wells with specific regard to the risks involved with working at height.
After the hearing HSE inspector Anthony Woodward said, "The incident was entirely preventable. The nature of the work meant the worker was right next to, and leaning over, the deep well. Although he was working at ground level the depth of the pit meant he was working at height so reasonable precautions to prevent a fall should have been provided by the company, such as a worker’s restraint or harness."
For more information, see:
- INDG401 - The Work at Height Regulations 2005 (as amended): A brief guide.
Proposal on new F-gas Regulation
Published: 15 Nov 2012
This is in order to ensure a more cost-efficient contribution to achieving the EU’s climate objectives by discouraging the use of F-gases with a high impact on the climate in favour of energy-efficient and safe alternatives, and further improving the containment and end-of-life treatment of products and equipment that contain F-gases.
The new Regulation will:
- enhance sustainable growth, stimulate innovation and develop green technologies by improving market opportunities for alternative technologies and gases with a low impact on the climate;
- bring the EU into line with the latest scientific findings at international level, as described in the Fourth Assessment Report of the UN’s IPCC, e.g. with regard to the substances covered by this regulation and the calculation of their global warming potential (GWP);
- help to bring about a consensus on an international agreement to phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the most relevant group of F-gases, under the Montreal Protocol;
- simplify and clarify Regulation (EC) 842/2006 to reduce administrative burden in line with the Commission’s commitment to better regulation.
Fireworks cause air pollution!
Published: 13 Nov 2012
Guy Fawkes night is a real blast from the past. The smoke from bonfires is reminiscent of times when our homes were heated by wood and coal, while the smoke from fireworks also contains tiny inhalable particles of metals that are used to make different colours. For example:
- red (strontium);
- green (barium);
- blue (copper);
- silver (aluminium and titanium);
- purple (copper and strontium); and
- gold (iron).
This 5 November, the cold, settled weather of the last few months allowed fireworks and bonfire smoke to build up in towns and cities across England and Wales. The north-west of England was the worst affected with pollution in Blackpool, Liverpool, Warrington and Wigan reaching the maximum value of 10 (very high), according to the UK daily air quality index. In fact, the air pollution experienced by those in Liverpool in 24 hours was equivalent to five days' normal exposure.
Barry white hot over green claims
Published: 13 Nov 2012
Mike Barry, head of sustainable business at UK retailer Marks & Spencer, has accused the coalition Government of creating uncertainty on green measures for business.
He said that recent policies had eroded certainty provided by the Climate Change Act 2008, and specifically pointed the finger at the 2010 move to turn the CRC Scheme that financially rewarded companies for increasing energy efficiency into a tax. The coalition also acted last year to cut solar power subsidies by half. Such steps have raised doubts over David Cameron's claims that this would be the "greenest Government ever".
Barry told the Guardian, "When the Climate Change Act came in, we welcomed it. We said this is exactly what business wants. It's tough and demanding. It gives us long-term route maps. If you look at what has happened in the last couple of years, the certainty of the Act has been replaced by the uncertainty of seeing the CRC come and be reinvented as a tax".
He also urged the Government to introduce a plastic bag charge in England, following the lead of Wales, where consumers pay 5p per bag as of last year. M&S introduced a 5p charge in 2008, leading to a reduction in bag usage of 78%, but Barry believes that further improvement will come with legislation.
M&S announced in June that it had become the first major retailer in the UK to make its operations carbon neutral.
For more information, see the:
- CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme Order SI 2010/768;
- Single Use Carrier Bags Charge (Wales) Regulations SI 2010/2880;
- Single Use Carrier Bags (Northern Ireland) Act 2011;
- Draft Single Use Carrier Bags Charge Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012.
School taught lesson on safety
Published: 09 Nov 2012
Alderbrook School in Solihul has been fined £3,500 and ordered to pay costs of £5,000 after pleading guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 for failing to ensure the safety of pupils.
The prosecution came after a year seven student trapped his hand between the rotating face of a bench sanding machine and the machine's table edge. Surgery was required to repair damage to his hand following the incident which occured in October 2011, and the pupil still suffers pain in cold weather.
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that although the machine had guarding, it was designed for adult use. As such, the gap that existed between the rotating face of the machine and the table edge was large enough to trap smaller hands.
The school had carried out a generic risk assessment which identified the risk of the machine, although it did not seek the advice of the manufacturer and it did not attempt to adapt the machine.
HSE inspector Karl Raw said, "Health and safety management for design and technology within Alderbrook was not of the expected standard. Guidance was out of date, risk assessments were generic and concerns raised in a 2010 audit by Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council relating to this had not been addressed. This prosecution is not about schools abandoning or being stopped from allowing pupils to use machines. It is about sensible assessment of risk given the age and maturity of school pupils."