Hackitt review gains support
Published: 29 Nov 2018

Following on from the tragic Grenfell Tower fire, which claimed 72 lives, Dame Judith Hackett began a review into the Building Regulations SI 2010/2214 in order to find legislative and real-world inadequacies with the sector which ultimately allowed the tragedy to happen. The result was 53 recommendations made directly to Government relating to fire safety and reforms which aim to prevent such events occurring in future.

Dame Judith's recommendations included the following key arguments:

  • a new regulatory framework for higher risk residential buildings above 10 storeys should be established;
  • a clear duty holder with responsibility for building safety needs to be identified;
  • residents need clear rights and obligations to allow duty holders to maintain safety;
  • the construction and fire safety sectors should have to demonstrate effective leadership on competencies;
  • construction product testing should be clearer, more transparent and effective;
  • stronger and more rigorous enforcement powers should be introduced;
  • principal contractors and clients should draw up contracts that state safety requirements must not be compromised;
  • the creation, maintenance and handover of the digital record, fire and emergency file, full plans and the construction control plan should be an integral part of the legal responsibilities of clients, principal designers and principal contractors.

Back in October, the "100% Hackitt" campaign was launched. It aims to encourage the Government to adopt every recommendation that Dame Judith put forward, and it is gathering a huge amount of support from organisations and individuals across the construction sector. Supporters include architects, designers, fire safety and building consultants, fire fighters, trade associations, builders and property maintainers.

In fact, the 100% Hackitt campaign claims that some construction industry leaders have already made changes to practice based on the contents of the report, without the Government even adopting the recommendations.

Speaking about this progress, Lorna Stimpson, Local Authority Building Control (LABC) Deputy Manager,  said "We were delighted with the response from industry and Parliamentarians at the launch – and the response since then clearly shows momentum is building for the whole system change the industry desperately needs. Dame Judith has been clear all along that the Government cannot cherry pick her recommendations – and neither can the industry. Many of the recommendations don’t have to wait for Government action. The industry can just come together to get on with it. And that’s why 100% Hackitt is so vital. It’s a space for the industry – the majority who are progressive and forward looking – to get together and make a difference."

Midland Red company which is part of the Stagecoach group in Coventry has pleaded guilty for offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, for significant health and safety failings after an elderly and fatigued bus driver ploughed into the wall of a Sainsbury's supermarket, killing an eight-year-old passenger and an elderly pedestrian.

On 3 October 2015, Kailash Chander, who was retired but continued to work at Stagecoach as a relief driver, mistook the accelerator for the brake before crashing into the shop, which was described in court as gross failure by the driver.

Chander who is the former Mayor of Leamington Spa, was given a two-year supervision order after he was ruled mentally unfit to stand trial due to dementia.

The transport company was fined £2.3 million and ordered to pay costs of £7,214 for allowing Chander to continue working despite warnings and complaints about his driving and previous incidents, putting members of the public and their own staff at risk.

In mitigation, the court was told that the company had a good safety record but accepted the prosecution's case against it in full.

The facilities management contractor Interserve, hired by Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency in Weybridge has been sentenced for failing to appropriately maintain emergency power systems at a high containment laboratory facility.

In September 2014 mains power was lost at a site which handles hazardous pathogens that pose a serious risk to human health and the environment. Interserve facilities management were contracted to maintain mechanical and electrical systems required for the containment of highly hazardous biological agents in microbiological laboratories.

During the power cut, two of the 12 standby generators failed to operate, while two started but subsequently failed and one caught fire. Because of these failures, power was lost to some of the high-containment facilities for several hours, affecting the site's safety systems. Failure of these systems triggered the emergency escalation system and resulted in attention of fire and rescue system to secure the power supply before it was fully restored.

The investigation carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Interserve failed to properly maintain emergency power supply, ultimately exposing employees to a risk from biological agents.

The facilities management company pleaded guilty for breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £93,600 and ordered to pay £32,056 costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Intervention Programme Manager and lead investigator in the case, Dr Keith Stephenson said: "Interserve Facilities Management failed to effectively maintain standby generators that were a key emergency control needed to work safely.

"Fortunately, the consequences of the multiple generator failures were significantly reduced by the timing of the incident, both in terms of the day of the week and the laboratory studies being undertaken at that time.

"Had the incident happened on a different day or when different studies were being undertaken, staff and the nearby environment could have been exposed to high hazard biological agents with serious consequences."

In their Report published 22 November 2018 the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has stated that hydrogen is a "credible" alternative energy source that could be used to cut emissions across the UK economy, but would require strategic government planning.

It finds that hydrogen:

  • is a credible option to help decarbonise the UK energy system but its role depends on early Government commitment and improved support to develop the UK's industrial capability;
  • can make an important contribution to long-term decarbonisation if combined with greater energy efficiency, cheap low-carbon power generation, electrified transport and new 'hybrid' heat pump systems, which have been successfully trialled in the UK;
  • could replace natural gas in parts of the energy system, where electrification is not feasible or is prohibitively expensive.

The CCC warn that hydrogen is "not a silver bullet" and that its role will depend on early Government commitment and improved support to develop the UK's industrial capability.

The reports key recommendations are:

  • the Government must commit to developing a low-carbon heat strategy within the next three years;
  • significant volumes of low-carbon hydrogen should be produced in a carbon capture and storage (CCS) "cluster" by 2030 to help the industry grow;
  • the Government must support the early demonstration of the everyday uses of hydrogen in order to establish the practicality of switching from natural gas to hydrogen;
  • the Government must raise awareness amongst the general public of reasons to move away from natural gas heating to low-carbon alternatives;
  • a strategy should be developed for low-carbon heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) which encourages a move away from fossil fuels and biofuels to zero-emission solutions by 2050.

CCC Chairman Lord Deben stated: "the Government must now decide whether it wishes to develop a UK hydrogen option, taking decisions now that will see the first deployment in the 2020s".

"This must be in parallel with efforts to improve energy efficiency, build further low-cost renewables and get carbon capture and storage underway - the time for the Government to move from theory to practice has arrived".

The CCC highlighted how natural gas is likely to be the main energy source for hydrogen production, which is not a a net zero carbon process, even with CCS. They noted that producing it from renewable energy in bulk is expensive, and warned that switching the gas grid to 100% hydrogen is impractical for zero carbon heat.

They commented: "there remain significant obstacles to the decarbonisation of industry, transportation and heat, even as the UK has focused on cleaning up electricity generation over the last decade".

"The report offers a new impetus for early Government action - hydrogen should be viewed as a credible option in the next stage of the UK's energy transition."

For more information on this subject, see:

Metal recovery company, R S Bruce (Metals & Machinery) Ltd was sentenced in November for safety breaches after a worker suffered fatal crush injuries.

Sheffield Crown Court heard that on 4 March 2013 the employee was working with his son, dismantling a 3-core reactor vessel, when an unsupported metal section weighing approximately 1.3 ton, fell and fatally crushed him between the fallen cylinder and a shipping container.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that adequate risk control measures had not been put into place to prevent parts of the reactor vessel from falling on employees.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay costs of £15,000.

After the hearing HSE inspector Tim Johnson said: "this was a tragic and wholly avoidable incident, caused by the failure of the company to put in place adequate risk control measures to prevent sections of the steel ring falling onto employees".

"A suitable and sufficient risk assessment would have clearly identified the risk of serious injury from falling sections and should have prompted the company to put in place adequate, properly designed support and devise a safe system of work for the employees to carry out the dismantling operation".

Nottingham City Council's new plan to tackle air pollution in the city centre has been Government approved.

For three years the Council has been working with officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for Transport (DfT) to identify measures that would reduce levels of pollution in the shortest possible time.

The plan includes:

  • retrofitting 171 buses with technology to reduce emissions, funded through the Government's Clean Bus Technology Fund;
  • changing the age and emissions policy for Hackney carriages and supporting an increase in low emission taxis, £1 million from the Government will be used to provide a licensing discount, a taxi rank with charging points, fund home charges and expand the Council's 'try before you buy scheme';
  • Government funding will help the City Council replace its own fleet, including replacing heavy high polluting vehicles, such as bin lorries, with electrical vehicles.

A ministerial direction has been issued for the plan to be implemented, which is part of the Government's wider £3.5 billion plan to tackle harmful emissions from road transport across the country.

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