The bells! The bells!
Published: 18 Aug 2017

In what has been a particularly controversial move, Big Ben will be silenced for four years whilst repairs to the Elizabeth Tower are carried out. The move is part of health and safety control measures as there is a risk to hearing loss for those working on the tower and who may be particularly close to the bell when it chimes.

This has led to a furious response from certain media outlets and once again health and safety has been blamed for unnecessary regulation. The silencing of Big Ben has even prompted a response from Prime Minister Theresa May, who said that it "can't be right" that the famous bongs from the bell will be silenced for four years, whilst the House of Commons has said it will review the length of time that Big Ben will be quiet.

In response to the negative press around the move, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has commented that people's health should "not be made worse by the work they do and that no worker should suffer any hearing loss whilst working on this project." Whilst the HSE has pointed out it was not responsible for the control measures implemented, it did work with the contractors during the planning stage of the project.

Cedrec's take

This particular issue seems to have been hotly debated in the media, but it is important to consider an important point.

The assessment of the risk posed to workers taking part in the repairs of the Elizabeth Tower has clearly highlighted the noise from the bells as a potential risk, however big or small. Many safety practitioners and competent experts will also be familiar with the safety hierarchy of control, which suggests that if a potential risk can be eliminated, that is the course of action that should be taken before any other control is considered. Furthermore, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations SI 1999/3242 outline general principles of prevention, the first principle being "avoiding risks" (there are also other areas of safety law that are applicable to this story). In this case, stopping Big Ben from chiming is an easy control measure to take and completely eliminates any risk posed to employees by the noise coming from the bell.

It may be an unpopular choice, but by law, the health of those at work must be protected, and it would make sense that stopping the chimes of Big Ben ensures that the hearing of those working close to the tower is not compromised.

Do you work in the safety or construction sectors? Let us know what you think about the silencing of Big Ben by tweeting us @cedrec_news.

For more information see, the:

  • Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations SI 1999/3242.

The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) is consulting on proposals that aim to link compliance directly to the calculation of charges. If implemented, these changes will see non-compliant operators face an increase in fees.

The SEPA has published two consultations featuring proposals that aim to further develop permit charging and the assessment of environmental compliance.

The SEPA's Compliance Assessment Scheme and Charging Scheme consultations aim to consult on the methods used to assess the level of compliance with permit conditions and on changes to the way charges imposed on permits are calculated.

The SEPA's proposal aims to link compliance directly to the calculation of charges for the first time. The proposed link would leave non-compliant operators experiencing an increase in fees. This increase aims to reflect the additional effort required by the SEPA to regulate these permits.

SEPA's Director of Operations, Calum MacDonald, stressed that "compliance with environmental responsibilities is not optional." Both consultations aim to "build on the strengths of the current systems, by providing a greater focus on potential harm to the environment, health and wellbeing."

The proposals, outlined within each consultation, supports the delivery of the SEPA's Regulatory Strategy, One Planet Prosperity. The SEPA's strategy seeks to create a environmental regulatory system which is suited to the challenges of the 21st century.  MacDonald states that "the mot successful businesses in the 21st century will embed the importance of compliance at the core of their operations and, ultimately, enjoy the profitability that comes with it."

Each consultation will remain open to the public until 3 November 2017.

For more information see, the:

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, provided a new supplementary planning guidance (SPG), which focuses on London's availability to deliver affordable housing and increasing the speed of the decision-making process using the planning system at the same time.

The new approach is meant to enable the developers of private land a fast-track route through the planning phase if they meet the condition of minimum 35% of the development as affordable housing without public funding.

The Guidance stresses that:

  • all developments need to be under way within two years of received planning permission;
  • if the development has not started within that period, the company will face scrutiny of financial modelling behind the plans;
  • if the development does not meet the required number of affordable housing, the company will face further scrutiny, and the financial details of the development will be put to public view;
  • local planning authorities and City Hall officials must use their powers to prevent the developers from reducing the number of affordable housing, once the planning permission has been granted.

The new pathway laid down by the Guidance involves a Build to Rent system, which aims to "encourage affordable homes on the development to be delivered as discounted market rent (preferably at London Living Rent levels), managed by the Build to Rent provider" and delivered without subsidizing the project. Housing developments built under that system should offer at least 50 units and be held under a covenant for a period of at least 15 years.

Catholic aid agency Cafod have released figures from research that suggest the UK spent double the amount on overseas fossil fuel projects than renewable projects.

46% of the £6.1 billion energy spend went to developing countries between 2010 and 2014, for oil, gas and coal-fired schemes, whilst a mere 22% went to renewables.

Fossil fuel support has increased by almost £1 billion this decade, whilst calls to divest from such fuels increase from political, ethical and economical sources.

Cafod presented the findings of the study, asking the Government to clarify how it would "bring public support for overseas projects into line with climate commitments under the Paris Agreement".

Cedrec's take

It isn't a huge surprise that the fossil fuel industry continues to get support from the Government. The transition away from fossil fuels will never be an overnight occurrence. Instead, what is disappointing about these figures is the gulf between investment into fossil fuel as opposed to renewables.

Couple this with the figure of a near £1 billion increase in spending on fossil fuels in the last decade, the call to explain the commitment to the Paris Agreement is more than acceptable.

Pressure is only increasing, from more circles. At the time of this story, an Australian case is bringing environment issues to the foreground of business and finance, with two shareholders of the Commonwealth Bank pursuing that Bank for failing to properly address climate change risk in the annual reports, a move that is supported by investors and financial regulators alike.

The attitude to renewables is slowly changing. Let's hope the gap between investment changes more quickly.

The Commonwealth Bank is being sued by two shareholders of the organisation for failing to fully disclose the risks to business posed by climate change.

The Commonwealth Bank made the alleged omission in the annual reports, delivered to shareholders. The suit also includes a petition to impose an injunction on the bank to prevent a recurrence of the omission.

The suit comes six months after the Australian financial regulator stated that climate change posed a very real "material risk" to the financial system and urged businesses to report on climate change-related risks as financial risks, rather than only environmental and ethical issues.

Cedrec's take

This report originates from Australia, where a move to report on climate change as a risk to business and the economy is a growing movement, attracting the support of over 400 investors, with a combined fund of nearly £17 billion.

The idea of presenting climate change as a financial risk has become increasingly popular the world over. Now, sustainability is viewed as not only a way to use resources sensibly and thoughtfully, but also a way to create value for businesses practising it.

The benefit of presenting issues such as climate change as threats to business is that more businesses will pay attention. It is disheartening to realise finance comes before the environment for many, but the outcome will hopefully mean better resource allocation, more "green energy" investment and a larger interest in protecting the environment.

Earlier this month discount supermarket chain Aldi was fined £1 million and ordered to pay £70,000 in costs after a delivery driver's foot was crushed by a powered pallet truck.

The prosecuting solicitor has now revealed that Aldi had submitted 20 RIDDOR reports under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations SI 2013/1471, to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following similar incidents in the years prior to the conviction.

Natalie Osei, a litigation solicitor acting on behalf of Amber Valley Borough Council, revealed that Aldi did not revise its on-the-job training regime until environmental health officers served the supermarket chain with an improvement notice five months after the incident.

Derby Crown Court heard that newly-hired Aldi delivery drivers would simply shadow more experienced workers to pick up all elements of their job, such as how to deliver new stock to retail stores and how to use equipment. The retailer did not have a standardised training programme in place to ensure that all drivers had the necessary skills to operate the equipment.

Amber Valley Borough Council stressed that the discount retailer should have implemented a formal and standardised training programme to minimise health and safety risks.

Aldi has now implemented a new training programme however Osei revealed that a different worker was involved in a similar accident prior to its implementation.

For more information see, the:

  • Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations SI 2013/1471.

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