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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has launched a consultation seeking views on the proposal for clarification of the statutory guidance (Approved Document B or ADB Volume 1 and 2) for fire safety under the Building Regulations SI 2010/2214 for England.

MHCLG and the Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC) have worked together with the industry experts to produce a the draft that is now published for public consultation which will feed into further work to be completed. This comes after confirmation of the commitment of the Secretary of State on 17 May 2018 in parliament to clarify the Building Regulations fire safety statutory guidance, though there has have been suggestions to review the document previously following past events.

Current guidance relating to fire safety is set out in Approved Document B Volume 1 (Dwellinghouses) and Volume 2 (Buildings other than Dwellinghouses), which provides advice on the approaches to take to achieve compliance.

Proposed changes include editorial amendments to bring the document further in line with European classifications, clarify text to reduce the risk of misinterpretation, and removal of instructions that are outside the scope of the Building Regulations SI 2010/2214.

Although subject to their own independent consultations, there have also been changes made to incorporate restrictions of the use of assessment in lieu of tests (desktop studies) and the use of combustible materials in the external walls of high-rise buildings. The government plans to complete a wider technical review of ADB to improve the usability of the guidance and reduce risk of misinterpretation by those carrying out inspections of buildings following the publication of a Call for Evidence in the autumn for views on issues and priorities. 

The consultation for on Fire safety: clarification of statutory guidance (Approved Document B) is open for views from 19 July 2018 until 11 October 2018.  The final decision will take into account any emerging findings from the Public Inquiry relating to the Grenfell Tower fire. The government aims to publish the clarified ADB and a roadmap for policy changes in early 2019. 

For more information on this subject see:

A consultation developed by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government seeks views on the proposed clarification of statutory guidance on fire safety (Approved Document B) made to support the Building Regulations SI 2010/2214.

The consultation applies to buildings in England and to excepted energy buildings in Wales.

The improvements that are the subject of this consultation involve:

The requirements of the Building Regulations SI 2010/2214 are supported by statutory guidance which provide advice on approaches to compliance. Following the Grenfell Tower fire disaster and findings of the independent review carried out by Dame Judith Hackitt, it has been advised to review the requirements of the Building Regulations SI 2010/2214 and related statutory guidance.

The proposed changes involve improvement of usability of the guidance and reduction of the risk of misinterpretation by those carrying out and inspecting building work.

The clarified draft Approved Document B contains revised guidance on restricting the use of assessments in lieu of tests and the use of combustible materials in the external walls of high-rise buildings.

Responding to this consultation

The consultation is open for responses from 19 July 2018 until 11 October 2018.

The preferred way to respond is by completing an online survey.

Alternatively, written responses can be sent via e-mail to ADBconsultation@communities.gsi.gov.uk, or by post to:

Clarification of Approved Document B
MHCLG
2SW, Fry Building
2 Marsham Street,
London
SW1P 4DF.

The Sentencing Council in England and Wales have published new guidelines for sentencing those who are convicted of manslaughter.

The new sentencing guidelines cover the offences of:

  • unlawful act manslaughter;
  • manslaughter by reason of loss of control;
  • manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility; and
  • gross negligence manslaughter.

Gross negligence manslaughter is an offence which managers and company directors may be charged with if their negligence is found to have caused the death of an employee.

The guidelines set out a step-by-step decision making process for the court to use when sentencing manslaughter offences. Before sentencing is passed the court will have had to correctly determine the type of manslaughter offence in each case, as the proposed steps for each type of manslaughter may result in varying outcomes. 

Culpability factors

In terms of proposed sentencing guidelines for gross negligence manslaughter, firstly the court must determine which of the four levels of culpability apply to the offender.

The culpability factors are:

  • A, very high - this may be indicated by the extreme character of factors which fall under high culpability or a combination of high culpability factors;
  • B, high - which considers the following factors:
    • the offender persisted in the negligent conduct in the face of the obvious suffering of the deceased,
    • negligent conduct was in the context of other serious criminality,
    • the offender was clearly aware of the risk of death arising from the offender's negligent conduct,
    • negligent conduct was motivated by financial gain, or avoidance of cost,
    • the offender was in a dominant role if acting with others,
    • concealment, destruction, defilement or dismemberment of the body;
  • C, medium - this covers cases which fall between the categories of high and low because factors are present in high and lower which balance each other out and / or the offender's culpability falls between the factors as described in higher and lower;
  • D, lower - which considers the following factors:
    • negligent conduct was a lapse in the offender's otherwise satisfactory standard of care,
    • offender was in a lesser or subordinate role if acting with others,
    • offender's responsibility was substantially reduced by mental disorder, learning disability or lack of maturity.

The consideration given to harm is the same in all cases of manslaughter as inevitably a charge of manslaughter is only brought about after a loss of life has occurred. 

The second stage is for the court to determine the starting point and category range for a single offence of manslaughter. At this stage the guidelines state that the court should consider the suffering and vulnerability of the victim.

Sentencing in the second stage covers a variety of sentencing ranging from a minimum of one years' custody to a maximum of 18 years.

Culpability:

A

B

C

D

Starting point:

12 years’ custody

8 years’ custody

4 years’ custody

2 years’ custody

Category range:

10-18 years’ custody

6-12 years’ custody

3-7 years’ custody

1-4 years’ custody

Aggravating factors

Once a starting point has been established, the court must consider any additional factors which may aggravate or mitigate the offence, and adjust the sentence arrived at so far.  

Statutory aggravating factors include:

  • previous convictions;
  • an offence being committed whilst offender is on bail;
  • offence found to be motivated by any of the victims characteristics, e.g. religion, race, disability, sexual orientation, transgender identity.

Other aggravating factors would include:

  • a history of significant violence or abuse towards the victim by the offender;
  • involvement of others through coercion, intimidation or exploitation;
  • significant mental or physical suffering caused to the deceased;
  • offender ignored previous warnings;
  • commission of an offence whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
  • offence involved use of a weapon;
  • others were put at risk of harm by the offending;
  • actions after the event, for example attempts to cover up or conceal evidence;
  • investigation hindered by or others suffered as a result of blame being falsely blamed by the offender;
  • offence being committed on licence or post sentence supervision or while subject to court orders.

Factors which would reduce the seriousness or reflect personal mitigation include:

  • no previous convictions or relevant convictions;
  • remorse;
  • attempts to assist the victim;
  • self-reporting and/or co-operation with the investigation;
  • for reasons beyond their control the offender lacked the necessary expertise, equipment, support or training which contributed to their negligent conduct;
  • for reasons beyond their control the offender was subject to stress or pressure which related to and contributed to the negligent conduct;
  • for reasons beyond the offender's control the negligent conduct occurred in circumstances where there was reduced scope for exercising usual care and competence;
  • negligent conduct was compounded by the actions or omissions of others beyond the offender's control;
  • good character or exemplary conduct;
  • serious medical conditions requiring urgent, intensive or long-term treatment;
  • mental disorder or learning disability;
  • age and / or lack of maturity;
  • sole or primary carer for dependent relatives.

Relevance to health and safety

The new guidelines are based on an analysis of current sentencing practice and it is thought that in most cases, there are unlikely to be changes to sentence levels. However where a death was caused by an employer’s long-standing and serious disregard for the safety of employees which was motivated by something such as cost-cutting, it is believed that sentences will increase in such gross negligence cases.

Sentencing for gross negligence manslaughter has always previously been lower than the overall sentence levels for other types of manslaughter offences, with a median sentence of four years in comparison to eight to ten years for unlawful act manslaughter and manslaughter by reason of loss of control.

Sentencing Council member Lord Justice Holroyde commented: "Manslaughter offences vary hugely - some cases are not far from being an accident, while others may be just short of murder. While no sentence can make up for the loss of life, this guideline will help ensure sentencing that properly reflects the culpability of the offender and the unique facts of each case."

The new guidelines will come into force in courts on 1 November 2018.

For more information, see the:

UN Treaty for high seas
Published: 13 Aug 2018

The UN will begin negotiations between the 4 and 17 September 2018, following a meeting in April 2018 regarding the requirement for a Conservation Treaty for the high seas.  

The high seas are areas of the ocean beyond the control of coastal states. There is little to no legal framework governing the high seas and existing legislation does have gaps. The high seas are outside national jurisdiction that are easy to exploit.  

The oceans provide support for life on Earth and the current initiatives for the oceans are not sufficient to conserve biodiversity. The UN aims to protect marine biodiversity of the high seas in order to relieve the pressure human activities have on the oceans that cause serious harm. The negotiations will be followed by further sessions into the first half of 2020.  

The UN negotiations will focus on:

  • marine genetic resources;
  • area-based management tools, including marine protected areas; 
  • Environmental Impact Assessments; and
  • capacity building and the transfer of marine technology.  

There will also be discussions on the potential establishment for decision-making bodies to support the proposals for the Treaty alongside extending the powers of existing authorities. International and regional management bodies will also be expected to strengthen their governance.  

These meetings arrive after the resolution in 24 December 2017 for an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations: 72/249.

The Environmental Audit Committee has called on the UK Government to introduce a maximum workplace temperature, particularly for physical work, in a bid to tackle employee productivity during heatwaves.

They have published a new report, "Heatwaves: adapting to climate change" in which they provide guidance on helping workers cope in overheating work environments. This includes a review of the Building Regulations to prevent overheating in new buildings, as well as formal guidance from Public Health England for employers to relax dress codes and allow flexible working.

The report notes that overheating work environments can lead to heat stress, especially for those workers involved in heavy outdoor manual labour, as well as employees working in offices built in the 1960s and 1970s with poor ventilation:

"The risk of overheating is not adequately addressed in the Building Regulations and the wider regulatory framework. The health of occupants should be a key priority of the Building Regulations, especially as severe heat events have become increasingly common since 1950 and are set to become more frequent. The Committee on Climate Change has repeatedly recommended a standard or building regulation to prevent overheating in new buildings, however thermal comfort is still not addressed in the Building Regulations."

Mary Creagh MP, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said: "Heatwaves cause premature deaths, from cardiac, kidney and respiratory disease. There will be 7,000 heat-related deaths every year in the UK by 2050 if the Government does not take action."

Trades Union Congress (TUC) general secretary Frances O’Grady also endorsed Creagh's comments: "The law only gives minimum working temperatures, but the hot summer we're having has shown the need for a maximum limit too. It's great to have support for MPs for this common sense policy, and we hope the Government will take quick action.

"Meanwhile we encourage employers to keep on being sensible while the hot weather goes on. Relaxing dress codes and being flexible on working times to avoid the hottest part of the day can make things much easier."

However, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) believes the recommendations are over the top. Duncan Spencer, IOSH's head of information and intelligence, said: "While it is important that employees are able to work in reasonable temperatures, introducing prescriptive legislation around maximum temperatures would be an unnecessary step too far.

"Employers are already legally obliged to ensure workplaces are not too cold or too hot. It is key to note that one size does not fit all, which is what we'd be looking at with the suggested legislation. Every workplace is different and every worker is different, in so far as what temperature they feel comfortable at. So, it comes down to completing a quality risk assessment and acting on its findings.

"Furthermore, employees have a responsibility themselves to ensure they aren't too hot. They can wear appropriate clothing, drink lots of water, take regular breaks and - if possible - move to cooler parts of the workplace."

For more information, see:

Signs warning of a toxic blue-green "algae" have been erected by Kerry County Council following sightings over the past couple of days in Killarney's largest lake, and major tourist attraction.

The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) has advised pet owners that they must be vigilant and keep their animals away from the lakes or ponds that contain the bloom. It was brought into public attention by a social media post with pictures of a pea green-like soup at a number of locations on the lake, this is the tell-tale sign of the toxic substance in question, which is referred to as a "algae", but is actually made from Cyanobacteria which feed on nutrients on water. 

The council (who monitor the lake along with the Environmental Protection Agency) have placed signs around the lake as a precautionary measure, previously in 2016 a major outbreak of the toxic bloom led to the death of many dogs. The Environmental Protection Agency has warned that they have received many queries about the lake, and warn that dog fatalities are likely to rise. These natural blooms are intermittent, the persistence indicates there may be an external nutrient such as phosphates which is feeding them. These outbreaks occur now on a yearly basis, the reason for which revealed in a study 20 years prior. 

Septic tanks, farming and forestry are the prime culprits for causing euthrophication and enrichment by phosphates to the lake; a major programme saw a reduction in these phosphates from these sources, but questions remain to be raised at the Killarney town sewage treatment plant and its efficiency of disposal. Monitoring from last year around The Folly Stream, an outflow from this sewage plant revealed a mildly eutrophic result, meaning there is some contamination - despite the council insisting that the Killarney Wastewater Treatment Plant is "fully compliant" with Directive 91/271/EEC on urban waste water treatment and the Emission Limit Values.

Whilst the algae pops back up again each year, an ever present threat to the health of the surrounding wildlife, an assessment of the suitability of the existing wastewater treatment plant will be carried out by 2021. 

Are you wondering why we're discussing legislation in the Republic of Ireland? Watch this space...


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