HSE employee injured
Published: 08 Dec 2017

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the body which aims to reduce work-related injury and ill-health, has accepted a Crown Censure after one of its employees was left with serious burns following an accident at the HSE's laboratory in Buxton.

The employee was working on a prototype hydrogen storage vessel in October 2016 when the accident happened. The prototype vessel was was being tested to see if the design was suitable, and when it was being filled a connector failed and hydrogen escaped under pressure. The hydrogen then ignited, injuring the employee who was close to the vessel at the time.

Following the incident, HM Inspectors of Health and Safety led an investigation which concluded that the testing went wrong because of failings to assess, plan, manage and control a well-known risk of death or serious injury. The investigation found that the incident could have been prevented if recognised control measures were put in place.

HM Inspectors therefore issued a Crown Improvement Notice which requires the HSE to provide a system of work for proof testing and leak testing and an assembled hydrogen line and test tank to ensure the safety of employees and others in the vicinity. This has now been complied with.

By accepting the Censure, the HSE admitted to breaching its duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees in accordance with the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. However, because the HSE is a Government body, it cannot face prosecution in the same way as other organisations, which means there was no court appearance and no financial penalty. The Crown Censure, now that it has been accepted, will act as an official record of a breach of the law.

Director of field operations, Samantha Pearce, said that the law aims to reduce danger as much as possible. She added, "In this case, HSE bear this responsibility as an employer. They fell below the required standard and as the failings exposed workers to the risk of death or serious injury, a Crown Censure is the right course of action. HSE has co-operated fully with the investigation and we are satisfied that action has been taken to put matters right."

Chief Executive of the HSE, Dr Richard Judge, said, "As chief executive of HSE, and on behalf of my colleagues on the Management Board and the HSE Board, I very much regret this incident happened, and especially that our colleague was injured. On this occasion, we did not meet the standards we expect of others and that is deeply disappointing. HSE accepts the Crown Censure. We took early action to resolve the immediate issues identified by the regulatory and internal investigations. In line with our spirit of continuous improvement, we are using the findings from the investigations as an opportunity to learn and to do significantly better.”

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has revealed he wants to roll out a network of water fountains throughout London in an effort to cut plastic waste.

The move would build on the "Refill" scheme launched in Bristol. Using an app, users can locate businesses who are happy to allow people to refill their resuable water bottles.

The ambition for water fountains to be provided in the city is one backed by TV chef Jamie Oliver, who praised fountains as greener alternatives to sugary drinks.

Michael Gove has also indicated that increasing access to drinking fountains is being considered as part of the Government's response to plastic pollution.

Cedrec's take

Free drinking fountains could have a huge impact on reducing plastic pollution but it could also make an impact on the dietary choices of the public.

Providing these drinking stations is a great idea, as is the "Refill" scheme from Bristol. Approximately 1,000,000 plastic bottles are purchased every minute and estimates state that not even half are collected for recycling.

By reusing water bottles, or indeed replacing them with more long-lasting bottles, a massive reduction could be so easily achieved.

Smart grid plans to be unveiled
Published: 05 Dec 2017

Under new 'smart grid' plans expected to be unveiled this week, British households and businesses could soon be able to buy and sell their own energy directly within a local energy market. The plan will see power from solar panels or electric vehicles sold back to the network or perhaps even directly to others using block-chain technology.

This plan is part of year long small-scale trials.

Traditionally, National Grid acts as the system operator for the whole country. However, solar panels and smart home devices could mean that individual households could take on a similar role, and even be paid to do it and could result in an economic benefit as high as £40bn.

This plan could see the biggest overhaul of Britain's energy system ever which, according to the Energy Networks Association, could help networks to balance more complicated energy systems and provide a small cash boost to customers.

Big wheel won't be turning
Published: 05 Dec 2017

A 100 foot ferris wheel erected at Barry Island Pleasure Park will not be up in time for Christmas following a planning dispute with the local council.

The owner, Henry Danter, built the attraction back in October without planning permission. In their original correspondence, the Vale of Glamorgan Council explained to Mr Danter that it was an unauthorised development and there were also concerns about the resurfacing of the funfair and engineering works.

As a result of the dispute, Mr Danter removed the big wheel and confirmed that this Christmas it will be used at Clapham Common instead, though he vows to return it to Barry Island as soon as the planning dispute is resolved.

Mr Danter has since admitted that the big wheel was too high, but has now applied for planning permission. Jonathan Bird, Vale of Glamorgan council's cabinet member for regeneration and planning, said, "At no time has Mr Danter informed the council of the intention to erect a new wheel and no advice has been sought as to the need for planning permission. That aside, it is important to stress that despite writing to Mr Danter to advise him of the need for planning permission for the new wheel along with other outstanding planning issues which remain unresolved, at no point was Mr Danter asked to take down the ferris wheel, neither was any other enforcement action taken against him in relation to the structure."

A 24 mile stretch of coastline in Cornwall has been designated as a marine Special Protected Area (SPA) in order to safeguard its wildlife. The area is home to more than 150,000 rare seabirds, including little terns and black-throated divers. Great northern divers and Eurasian spoonbills are also visitors. All are amber-listed by conservation groups as they have suffered significant losses of numbers and range in recent years.

SPAs are conservation areas concerned with the protection of important bird species, designated under the Directive 2009/147/EC, on the conservation of wild birds, and form part of the Europe-wide Natura 2000 network of internationally important sites. Each EU Member State is responsible for protecting these areas.

This SPA has been created to help minimise disturbance to the birds that feed there and those that use the coastal areas of Cornwall as a safe haven during the Winter months. Rare birds blown off course during migration will also make occasional unscheduled stops in the area. Around 2,500 birds arrive in the UK every winter, with the largest numbers landing in Scotland. A further marine SPA has been announced in the Irish sea, between the Isle of Man and Anglesey. This area is home to the largest known aggregation of Manx shearwaters, with an estimated population of 12,000.

This latest addition to Britain's marine SPAs significantly expands the UK Blue Belt programme, supporting delivery of the UK government's manifesto commitment to provide long term protection of over four million square kilometres of marine environment. The programme provides £20 million of funding over four years to improve scientific understanding of the marine environment, develop and implement marine management strategies, and ensure management is sustainable and long term. The Blue Belt programme already protects 23% of UK waters, and consists of over 300 sites across land.

The BBC series Blue Planet II was cited as an influence on ongoing efforts to expand the Blue Belt, as it has highlighted the importance of protecting our marine environment and the wildlife that relies on healthy seas. The chairman of Natural England, Andrew Sells, claimed that extending the Blue Belt was a vital measure in protecting the UK's wildlife.

Launch of new risk research institute
Published: 04 Dec 2017

The new Thomas Ashton Institute, due to be formally launched in April 2018, will be a new research institute to improve industry's understanding of workplace risk. Jointly founded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the University of Manchester, the institute aims to make lessons learned from decades of previous research and incident investigation more accessible to industry with the hope of incident prevention.

The institute intends to draw on previous research carried out by the University of Manchester in relation to cancer, advanced materials, energy and biotechnology, and the HSE's regulatory expertise to influence and improve international safety practice. In particular its work will focus on:

  • industrial processes and major hazards;
  • human factors;
  • health;
  • the use of data; and
  • the cumulative probability of multiple factors in workplace risk.

Those partnered with the institute say that the evidence generated there in the future will be available at an international level for occupational safety and health practitioners to use to improve conditions and competence in their own countries. 

The HSE's chief executive Dr Richard Judge said as part of the launch, the partnership would be inviting forward-thinking contributors to work with the HSE and the University of Manchester on the institute's future programmes to prevent work-related death, injury and ill health.

For more information see the:

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