On 25th June 2019, at the Nenagh Circuit Court, Judge Tom Teehan imposed a fine of €300,000 on the company Balfour Beatty CLG Limited for a single breach of health and safety legislation. They had earlier pleaded guilty to a breach of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 - specifically on exposing non-employees to risks to their safety, health or welfare. 

The prosecution took place after a fatal incident at Carrigatogher, Nenagh, Co Tipperary occurred on 27 February 2015. The employee of a company, Mr Patrick Horgan, who was subcontracted to carry out work for Balfour Beatty CLG to install a 4000mm gas pipeline from Birdhill to Nenagh, was fatally injured when the pipeline he was working on ruptured while it was under test pressure, which resulted in an explosion.

Balfour Beatty CLG Limited had previously pleaded guilty to a single charge - it had failed to manage and conduct its undertaking in such a way that non-employees were not exposed to risks to their safety, specifically they failed to ensure that appropriate safety measures or precautions were in place to protect such workers from the dangers, those created by piping that had been pressurised for testing.

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

Across the Republic of Ireland, many schoolchildren have attended various "Keep Safe" events to learn safety and community awareness. 

Throughout 2019, the Republic of Ireland has seen a multi-agency roadshow touring their towns and cities with a program directed at schoolchildren - intended to promote safety and community awareness through involving the children in a series of interactive scenarios, all with a strong safety theme running throughout. A range of state agencies and organisations have come together to deliver the programme, directed at 5th and 6th class pupils in the school. The event was set up by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), and has taken place in locations like Carlow, Oranmore, Sligo and Charleville. 

Brian Molloy, an Inspector with the HSA has said, "The Keep Safe programme is specially designed for school children and aims to be an enjoyable and interactive way for them to learn about issues like water safety, electricity, and fire safety.  If children learn how to develop a safety mind-set early, they are better able to cope with all kinds of hazards and risks in life. By bringing together relevant agencies, we can pool our resources and knowledge for the benefit of children in the community.”

The aims of the "Keep Safe" event run in line with the Social Personal and Health Education primary curriculum and looks to help children to:

  • Become aware of personal and home safety; 
  • learn how to react to dangerous situations;
  • foster good citizenship;
  • learn how to recognize hazards and manage risks; and
  • learn how to stay safe within the context of, for example, road safety, water safety, fire and site safety.

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

A Wrap report has revealed that nearly 3.6 million tonnes of food are thrown away or fed to animals each year in the UK. 

This large sum equates to what is more than £1 billion worth of food, once destined to line the aisles of supermarkets, that is instead thrown away or fed to animals before it can leave the farms each year. According to a study highlighting the scale of the waste problem - crops that are rejected by retailers as a result of not meeting quality standards lead to fluctuations in demand or problems during storage and packing that all help to contribute to the whopping 3.6 million tonnes of waste. This, in the process of primary production, sees more than 10 times more food thrown away than that of retailers. 

This includes around 2 million tonnes of surplus edible food that does not make it to a retailer, or any other intended buyer. Instead, it is diverted to feed livestock or to be distributed to charities. The remaining 1.6 million tonnes is disposed of by being ploughed back into the fields, composted, or used to create energy. 

Peter Maddox, the director of Wrap has stated that the government-backed body's detailed study helped to identify key sources of waste and is willing to assist the industry in resolving the issue. The sugar beet is most likely to be thrown away with 347,000 tonnes wasted every year - the biggest value of wasted food, however, goes to the poultry section, which accounted for £85 million in 2017. He added: "There is huge potential to reduce the amount of surplus and waste by promoting best practice, and that’s where our work is now focused. We want to increase redistribution of surplus food as has happened across the retail sector." 

Wrap has set up a network to connect farmers and small-scale producers to identify new outlets for surplus food, including charities. it is also working with both farmers and retailers, to help improve guidance on setting quality standards, something which farmers stress is one of the main issues causing waste. The understanding of the scale of the waste problem and the impact it has on farmers profits is the first positive step forwards a better outcome. 

Large supermarkets and manufacturers have signed up to efforts that hope to drive down the UK's annual £20 billion food waste bill - this is planned to be tackled by committing to halving waste from "farm to fork" by 2030. This could spawn from last autumn's study, when Wrap and the food and grocery charity IGD, set a series of milestones for businesses to reduce waste at every stage of the supply chain.

Scientists have warned that there is an alarming difference between the human-driven season's shifts and animals' behavioural changes. 

Climate disruption is reaching speeds that are outstripping many animals capacity to adapt, warning of a growing threat to even common species, such as sparrows, magpies and deer. Previous academic work has shown species have responded to warming temperatures by earlier by timing their biological processes a lot earlier - laying their eggs, budding plants or the flying of insects - and this new study is examining how effective it is in terms of reproduction and survival. Based on 10,090 abstracts and data from 71 published studies, it has found a clear lag in the majority of species studied. None could be considered safe, the paper has noted: "The probability that none of the study species is at risk is virtually zero."

The authors have said hundreds of thousands of species were not covered by their study, which as a result led to it being biased towards birds in the northern hemisphere. The problems of adaptation to climate change are even more likely to be greater for other animals deemed at risk of extinction. On top of the damage caused to biodiversity from climate change, this rapid pace that species struggle to adapt to is also having a great impact on them. 

This mirrors the similar image outlined by the UK parliament, in which senior conservation figures warned that the nation's natural infrastructure - something being responsible for fresh clean water, air, carbon sequestration and human wellbeing - is being undermined by the climate crisis, pollution, urban sprawl and budget cuts. Ideas for a "nature recovery network" could rebuild woodlands and peatlands, and working with farmers has the potential to protect species and restore soil quality which has the potential to draw away carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

For the first time in the UK, low-carbon energy has been revealed to make the majority of electricity in the grid.

According to official data, a rapid rise in renewable energy, combined with low-carbon electricity from nuclear reactors has made up around 53% of generation through 2018 - this was revealed in the Government’s annual review of energy statistics. Renewable energy sources have set a new record, this time by meeting a third of the UK's power generation, as the UK's capacity to generate power from the sun, wind, water and waste has grown by 10%, whilst the use of coal has fallen to a lowly 5%.

National Grid has earlier said the UK reported their greenest ever winter, due to heavy wind and a dwindling of coal-fired power. This was then followed by the second greenest summer (falling narrowly short of the 2017 record as a result of a heatwave - this can impact on solar panels and the wind speeds are suppressed). 

The rise of renewables has contributed to phasing out the use of coal and gas plants (which only made up 45% of the UK's electricity last year). Steadily over the years, the use of these non-renewable sources has declined as a result of shutdowns and a set of conversions to use biomass instead of coal.

The deputy chief executive of Renewable UK, Emma Pinchbeck has commented that the record-breaking figures: "clearly show that investment in renewables and the Government’s championing of offshore wind is delivering rapid change to our energy system”.

Renewable energy schemes are seen as great for not only the environment, but society as well. They contribute employment, investment, and help to bring down prices for consumers, along with boosting the competitiveness of the business. 

Earlier this year, the Government threw a lot of interest into the offshore wind sector, by promising developers the chance to compete for a share of £557 million of state money, in exchange for industry investment of £250 million over the next 11 years. This deal could help in growing offshore wind to be 30% of the UK's electricity by 2030. This is a good step towards the 2050 net-zero emissions target that just recently has been passed into law.

Unfortunately, ministers have refused to lift a block on support for the new onshore wind farms as they are unable to compete for the state income, despite being one of the cheapest forms of electricity.

Pinchbeck stated, "To achieve its net-zero ambitions, the new government needs to go further and faster - and the first steps should be removing the barriers to onshore wind which is our cheapest source of power, and building on our successes in innovative technologies like tidal energy and floating wind where the UK can be a world leader."

With the publication of the new Radiological Protection Act 1991 (Ionising Radiation) Regulations SI 30/2019 for the Republic of Ireland, new provisions for radiation protection legislation have been released, which require all employers in high radon areas in Ireland to test their workplace for Radon, the naturally-occurring radioactive gas.

Where the levels are above the national reference level of 300 Becquerel per metre cubed, the employers are then required to take action to reduce these levels. At the National Radon Forum (which took place on 8 May 2019), attendees heard from both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) about the requirements of this new legislation. 

The EPA Director General, Laura Burke, has said: "In Ireland, up to 300 cases of lung cancer each year are linked to Radon, which is a serious public health hazard. Employers now have responsibility to ensure that their employees are protected from exposure to this radioactive gas. Radon testing in workplaces is simple and inexpensive and, where necessary, reducing high radon levels in a building is also straightforward. The EPA and the HSA are working in partnership to support employers in implementing this legislation."

The Assistant Chief Executive from the HSA, Yvonne Mullooly has positively welcomed the new legislation, mentioning that, "In addition to the existing general duties on employers to address radioactive hazards, this new legislation provides employers with clear testing requirements for radon gas in their workplaces. The Authority looks forward to continued collaboration with the EPA in highlighting radon gas exposure in workplaces and supporting the ongoing work of the National Radon Control Strategy Co-ordination Group. Our inspectors will continue to raise awareness during their inspections of the potential for radon gas exposures and the need for appropriate risk assessments."

The HSA will continue to support employers by providing information, and by updating the online risk assessment tool BeSMART (which includes Radon as a hazard).

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

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