Clegg talking cobblers?
Published: 04 Nov 2011
The deputy Prime Minister has this month stated that he wants small businesses to be subject to no more than two inspections a year by all regulators. Speaking to small-business leaders in Shoreditch, Nick Clegg said the Health and Safety Executive, the Environment Agency and other regulators must understand that their roles are to make the lives of small businesses easier.
He told the audience that the country needs small firms to grow and insisted that a culture change among regulators is crucial if this is to happen. He said, "So there will be a major shake-up of business inspection, going through the regulators, asking are they still necessary? Should they still exist? Making sure that, yes, they intervene when necessary, they offer advice and support but otherwise, they let you get on with it."
He went on to say that the Government would impose a cap on the number of inspections that regulators can carry out on any one small company. "Why for example, should regulators be able to turn up at your door whenever they want, and as often as they want? Why can't we limit the number of inspections to, say, two a year, ensuring these bodies co-ordinate among themselves to stick within that limit?"
Commenting on the speech, the TUC pointed out that a new survey of SMEs by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills suggests that employment law and health and safety regulations do not even feature in their list of concerns. General Secretary Brendan Barber said, "Regulation is there to protect us all from businesses that rip us off, trash our environment, and risk our health - or even our lives. However, it is only of use if it is enforced. Enforcement should not be seen as a burden on business, but instead a way of ensuring that good businesses are not undercut by cowboys who disregard the law and cut corners, whether it is on paying VAT, or not polluting our rivers. Cuts in enforcement will put even more of us at risk of damaged health, injury or death in our workplaces."
The Hazards Campaign were more damning in their criticism of Clegg, accusing him of talking "utter cobblers." They continued, "Not only is it cobblers, it is dangerous, toxic, life-threatening cobblers. This is yet another assault launched by the Tories on laws and enforcement that protect workers, now with clear support from the Lib Dems."
Fuelish builder receives Community Order
Published: 04 Nov 2011
A self-employed Lockerbie builder has been given a Community Service Order after he carried out unsafe gas installation work at a house near Dumfries. Kevin Graham was carrying out general building and plastering work during the Spring and Summer of 2009, when he offered to install a new gas fire which he said was relatively easy to do and had done so in his own home. Mr Graham was not a Gas Safe registered engineer.
After Mr Graham had installed the gas fire, it was used regularly until January 2010, when the owner noticed a smell of gas. A competent and qualified gas engineer carried out a visual check of the fire and also noticed a smell of LPG. He identified a gas leak at the back of the fire and immediately prohibited its use. The company then raised their concerns about the fire to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
On 19 February 2010, a Gas Safe Register Inspector visited the property and found that the fitting connecting the gas supply to the fire was loose, causing LPG to leak. The 11-metre supply pipe had also been unsafely installed, as it had been routed around the property without any support, putting stress on the soldered joints of the pipe. The investigation also found that the flue from the fire wasn't functioning properly so there was a risk that smoke and fumes could re-enter the property when the fire was in use.
Within days of the Gas Safe Register inspection, the HSE issued a Prohibition Notice against Kevin Graham stopping him from carrying out any work on or to gas fittings or service pipe work. At Dumfries Sheriff Court, Kevin Graham was given a 240 hours Community Service Order after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing to breaching the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations SI 1998/2451 and the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
After the hearing, HSE Inspector Russell Berry said, "In carrying out this work while not registered and competent to do so, Mr Graham put those living at Greenbank Cottage at risk not only from carbon monoxide poisoning but also from fire and explosion. Any business or sole trader who carries out work on any domestic or commercial gas appliances without being on the Gas Safe Register is breaking the law and potentially putting lives at risk."
All gas engineers have to be Gas Safe registered. You can check if an engineer is registered by visiting www.gassaferegister.co.uk or calling 0800 408 5500.
Fine for farming firm
Published: 04 Nov 2011
CW Dobbs and Son Ltd, a farming company in Lincolnshire, has been fined after a worker broke his leg when he was hit by a forklift truck. Algis Jevsejevas was walking through a potato grading shed when the accident happened. Whilst on his way to collect labels for boxes, Mr Jevsejevas was hit by the reversing forklift truck, fracturing his leg.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the company had not organised the shed so that segregation was in place in order to allow vehicles and pedestrians to move around safely.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations SI 1992/3004 and were fined £7,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,588. The Regulations clearly state that every workplace must be organised so that pedestrians and vehicles can circulate safely.
HSE Inspector Neil Ward said: "This incident need not have happened. The company should have made sure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that there was physical segregation between its workers and its vehicles. Since the incident, the farmer has put up a barrier but has also moved the labels to another part of the shed, next to the grading line, so people don't have to walk across the shed. This goes to show how simple and inexpensive preventative measures can be."
Published: 04 Nov 2011
With the fact that one in three workplace deaths are caused by maintenance failures, the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSE NI) and the 26 district councils have launched a safe maintenance campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of poorly planned maintenance.
Safe Maintenance aims to reduce the number of workers who are being hurt or are experiencing ill health as a result of inadequate and unsafe maintenance activities. It covers all work on buildings, plant, equipment and vehicles that enables them to function normally and remain fit for purpose, and includes preventive routine actions such as cleaning, lubrication, replacing parts, inspection and thorough examination. It also deals corrective actions when a fault is detected or a break-down occurs such as repairs or clearing blockages.
The campaign examines the issue of maintenance, why it is important and how operating to a good level of preventive maintenance can save businesses time, money and lives. In addition, it identifies potential hazards associated with a lack of maintenance which will depend on the work being carried out and where it is being done. The hazards are commonly grouped as physical, chemical and biological and psychosocial, and can vary significantly between planned preventive and repair or corrective maintenance tasks.
The campaign is aiming to make sure that maintenance workers and those supervising the works understand potential consequences of their actions or their lack of attention to detail.
Five basic rules are established which should be followed. These include:
- making the work area safe;
- using appropriate equipment;
- working as planned;
- making final checks.
For further information on the Safe Maintenance campaign, visit http://cedr.ec/maintenance.
HSE bad for relationships?
Published: 04 Nov 2011
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued plans to extend its current cost recovery system so an inspector will charge a fee for an inspection and any subsequent actions when a material fault has been found. The HSE estimates that for an inspection that results in a letter, the cost to business could be around £750.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has argued that such a bill for a small or micro business could be extremely damaging, especially during difficult economic times. The proposal currently states that micro firms will in general receive the same level of fees as large businesses. This raises concerns that such firms may view the proposal as a revenue-generating exercise which could damage the HSE's relationship with business.
The FSB group says it is worrying that the proposal fails to clarify whether the money raised will go to the HSE or to the Treasury. If it goes to the HSE, firms could fear that their inspection has been influenced by the need to raise money - particularly in the context of the 35% budget cut to the HSE.
John Walker, National Chairman of the FSB said, "The FSB has a real concern about these proposals as they stand. Not only could they add to the fear that many small businesses have about health and safety regulation, but could have a serious impact on their relationship with the inspector, which if positive can help compliance to the benefit of the business and society. £750 is a hefty fee for small and micro businesses especially during difficult economic times. Most small businesses do not have the same resources that larger firms have to buy-in expert help and yet they are required to be experts in a wide range of complicated regulations. Instead of penalising them with large bills, the HSE should be there to help and support small firms to be compliant. For many small firms this proposal will be seen as anti-growth."
Rochford files recycling victory
Published: 04 Nov 2011
Households in England broke through the 40% recycling rate for the first time in 2010, however the speed at which recycling rates are increasing has continued to slow down.
Government figures published this month show that Rochford District Council and South Oxfordshire District Council topped the recycling league tables, with recycling, reuse and composting rates of 65.79% and 65.11% respectively. Ashford Borough Council was bottom of the rankings with a rate of just 14%. The average recycling rate for English councils was 41.2% between April 2010 and March 2011, up from 39.7% the year before. Recycling rates have been increasing annually in the past decade, but the rate of progress been begun to slow since 2008, a trend that continued last year.
Minister for waste and recycling, Lord Taylor, said, "Recycling is now part of our everyday lives and we're sending less waste to landfill than ever before. This is good news for householders, councils and the environment, but there is still much more we can all do. By all working together to deliver the recycling services local people want and need, we can achieve our ultimate aim of a zero waste economy."
The Waste Framework Directive 2008/98/EC, requires Member States to recycle, compost or reuse 50% of waste from households by 2020. The UK Government has been looking at a series of measures to reduce waste, including charging people who fail to recycle their rubbish and, in parts of the country, reducing weekly bin collections to fortnightly. The UK still produces more household waste per head of population than many of its European neighbours, with an average of 449kg per year, compared to 406kg for the European average.