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The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) has launched a Consultation on a new draft Corporate Plan for the 2018-2023 period.

Mission statement

The Plan sets out the HSENI's mission "to work with others to reduce serious work-related injury and ill health", and will focus on:

  • preventing the most serious workplace health and safety issues in high risk industries and activities;
  • sensible and proportionate risk management;
  • effective regulation;
  • supporting businesses and the economy.

Shift in focus

For a number of years, the HSENI has been shifting its activity and focus on occupational health issues.

Given the potential short and long term costs to workers and the economy from ill-health at work, the Plan represents a step change in activity in this important area which is devastating many lives and costing the Northern Ireland economy over £238m every year.

When launching the Consultation, the HSENI Chief Executive Keith Morrison said: "Improving health and safety standards is about all of us working together - the HSENI, employers, employees and other partners – to reduce work-related serious injury and ill health. We very much see this document as a shared Corporate Plan and shared targets for industry and HSENI to aspire to.

"The underpinning approach to our strategy is collaboration and partnership. We strongly believe that managing health and safety well has many positive business benefits, and over the course of this Plan we intend to support businesses in improving health and safety standards and outcomes."

Key outcomes

Over the 2018-2023 period in which the Plan will remain in place, the HSENI hope to reduce, per annum on average:

  • serious and fatal accidents by 10% to no more than 49 (50);
  • major accidents by 10% to no more than 353 (350);
  • over 3 day accidents by 5% to no more than 1701 (1700).

Although these targets are challenging, and are part dependent on the health and safety performance of others, they represent a shared vision between the HSENI, Northern Ireland employers and employees.

In addition, the Plan focuses on a sector based approach, and specifies the challenges and priorities in key industry areas.

The Consultation runs for 12 weeks until 2 July 2018.

For more information, see the:

Housing secretary Sajid Javid has published a Consultation on proposals that aim to strengthen fire testing for cladding systems on residential buildings.

The Consultation follows the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety by Dame Judith Hackitt, which was called for after the fire last June at Grenfell Tower on the Lancaster Estate in West London.

The interim report, which was published in December 2017, states that current Regulations and guidance are "too complex and unclear", which can "lead to confusion and misinterpretation in their application to high-rise and complex buildings".

Additionally, "the clarity of roles and responsibilities is poor" and even where "there are requirements for key activities to take place across design, construction and maintenance, it is not always clear who has responsibility for making it happen".

The Government said this Consultation will look into restricting or banning the use of "desktop studies" as a way of assessing the fire performance of external cladding systems. If such studies are deemed appropriate, the proposed changes include improving the transparency of assessments and enabling proper scrutiny of results. Changes also include making sure that only properly accredited bodies can carry out studies.

Javid said: "We have listened carefully to Dame Judith Hackitt and we are taking action to strengthen Building Regulations guidance, which could mean that the use of "desktop studies" are either significantly restricted or banned altogether.

"This demonstrates the tough measures we are prepared to take to make sure that cladding tests are as robust as possible and people are safe in their homes."

Responding to this Consultation

The Consultation will close on 25 May 2018.

The preferred way to respond is by completing the online survey at:

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/S9V7BMQ

Alternatively, written responses can be submitted via email to:

buildingregsteam@communities.gsi.gov.uk

Or by post to:

Assessment in Lieu of Test Consultation
Building Safety and Energy Performance Division
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2nd Floor SW, Fry Building
2 Marsham Street
London
SW1P 4DF

For more information, see the:

Treehouse appeal dismissed
Published: 19 Apr 2018

A planning appeal regarding a proposed treehouse in Huddersfield has been dismissed by an inspector, following an appeal on the basis of written representations.

The site in question is on the edge of a woodland area, next to a large garden belonging to The Mansion, a £3 million grade II listed building located in the Huddersfield green belt. The appellant wanted to construct a treehouse on the site, incorporating a raised walkway and decking.

The planning inspector, Stephen Normington, considered carefully as to whether the development would be considered as "appropriate" for the green belt. Referencing the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), Mr Normington explained in his decision that some outbuildings can be considered as appropriate in the green belt if they are "normal domestic adjuncts" in close proximity to a home, such as a garage built close by. However, the inspector concluded that this didn't fit the proposed development.

Considering the other issues surrounding the proposed development, Mr Normington determined that it would impact on the openness of the green belt "to a moderate degree".

Although the development would not cause an issue with the woodland setting, or that of the listed building, the inspector decided that the development was "inappropriate" development in the green belt, in accordance with the NPPF, and would affect the openness of the green belt, and therefore should not be permitted.

For more information, see the:

  • Town and Country Planning (Appeals) (Written Representations Procedure) (England) Regulations SI 2009/452.

Glazing company fined
Published: 19 Apr 2018

A glazing firm has been sentenced at Sheffield Magistrates' Court, after a worker fell from a ladder fracturing his lower leg.

The Court heard that the window installer, working for H.P.A.S. Limited, and trading as Safesyle UK, was attempting to install a first-floor rear bedroom window at a property on Cemetery Road, Doncaster, when the ladder he was climbing on slipped. The ladder was not footed or tied and the operative fell from a height of over three metres, sustaining a broken knee cap which required surgery.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the company's system for planning work at height was inadequate, and that it failed to ensure such work was carried out in a safe manner. Windows were routinely not installed from the inside and ladders were used in a way that caused serious risks. There was also no system of monitoring or supervision in place for installers.

Safestyle UK pleaded guilty to breaching the Work at Height Regulations SI 2005/735 and was fined £850,000 with £1,083 in costs.

Commenting on the incident, HSE inspector Stuart Whitesmith said: "This incident could easily have been prevented had the company implemented reasonably practicable precautions.

"Such precautions include having effective and enforced safe systems of work, whereby windows are installed internally where possible, or by using suitable access solutions which provide edge protection, and having a formal system in place to ensure works are appropriately supervised.’"

For more information, see the:

Wolverhampton truck dealership, ATE Truck and Trailer Sales, has had a "manifestly excessive" fine of £475,000 over the fatality of a non-employee working at its yard reduced to £200,000 by the Court of Appeal.

The company was fined in April last year when a self-employed scrap dealer, William Price, was killed while dismantling a trailer on a section of ATE’s yard that he informally rented from the firm. They admitted failing to provide a risk assessment under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 for similar work carried out by its own workers at the site which was judged to have weakened the safety protection available to Price.  

However, it had denied a charge covering its responsibilities to those other than workers.

The Court of Appeal ruled that the original trial judge had erred when he decided that ATE’s failings in respect of a non-employee were of "high culpability" and a high likelihood of harm. The three Appeal Court judges recalculated the fine under the sentencing guidelines on the basis of low culpability, arriving at a fine of £200,000.

Price had been associated with ATE for around 20 years, dismantling trucks and trailers and then selling them for scrap. He provided his own equipment and his own forklift truck, and performed his work using his own method, with no involvement from ATE staff. At the time of the accident in February 2013, Price was dismantling around one truck a day. He was crushed between the roof and the side of a trailer and died from catastrophic head injuries.

The Court heard that Price’s method involved balancing the superstructure of the trucks on the tines of a forklift, before cutting the supports that held it to the truck’s base.

At the same time on the same site, ATE employees were carrying out similar work in another section of the yard. Their method, however, involved supporting the frames with a crane that took the weight once the frames were cut free.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had argued that, although the second method was safer than Price’s, ATE’s failure to provide written risk assessments for its employees had an impact on Price’s accident. Before the original trial, ATE’s legal team and the prosecutors acting for the HSE had agreed that although the absence of a risk assessment for its own employees had a bearing on the case, ATE held "low culpability" for the accident.

Judge Berlin however, opted to put ATE’s failings in respect of the written risk assessment in the “high culpability” category.

In the appeal, Lord Justice Gross downgraded the firm’s culpability to low, and with a harm category of two (medium), selected a category range of £14,000 to £100,000. The fact that the case involved a fatality, and the need to calculate the fine to "make an economic impact", then raised the issue to harm category 1. The Appeal Court also took into account ATE's co-operation with the investigation, as well as their good safety record, with over £100,000 spent on health and safety since 2012. An overall "appropriate" fine of £200,000 was decided.

Pinsent Masons, who represented ATE at the appeal commented: "We had always considered that on the facts of this case, the fine originally imposed was manifestly excessive and that the original approach taken in trying to apply the definitive guideline for sentencing health and safety offences had been flawed. This case also has wider application for the way such cases are dealt with, in particular reinforcing that the courts should have careful regard for any agreed position between the parties as there had been in this case".

For more information, see the:

At the start of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit, the UK Government announced an end to the sale of plastic straws, drink stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds. Theresa May also called on all other Commonwealth countries to participate in the battle against plastic pollution, committing a £61.4 million funding package to boost global research and help the nations stop plastic waste from entering the water environment in the first place.

A recent study found that in the UK alone around 8.5 billion plastic straws are thrown away each year.

There is also a plan to launch a consultation later this year which will aim to collect views on the proposed legislation banning the sale of "avoidable" single-use plastic items, in line with the Government's 25 Year Environment Plan.

The consultation will also seek the potential alternatives which could be introduced instead of plastic and the appropriate phase-out duration to give the industry enough time to adapt.

The UK Prime Minister said: "Plastic Waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world, which is why protecting the marine environment is central to our agenda at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting."

"The UK Government is a world leader in this issue, and the British public have shown passion and energy embracing our plastic bag charge and microbead ban, and today we have put forward ambitious plans to further reduce the plastic waste from straws, stirrers and cotton buds."

"Alongside the domestic action, this week we are rallying Commonwealth countries to join us in the fight against marine plastics, with £61.4 million funding for global research and to improve waste management in developing countries."

Recently, Her Majesty's Treasury developed a consultation on the possible introduction of charges or a specific tax system, which aims to reduce the amount of single-use plastic waste by implementing the charges, similar to those introduced for the plastic carrier bags. The consultation runs until 18 May 2018.

For more information, see:


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