Two companies have been fined this week after a contractor suffered permanent damage to his eyesight following a fall.

Dudley Magistrates' Court heard how in April 2016 a contractor, who worked for Kingswinford Engineering Co Limited, had been hired to repair a section of pipework on the roof of a warehouse, owned by James Durrans & Sons', when he slipped and fell, banging his head. The worker suffers permanent blindness to one eye and blurred vision in the other, resulting from his head injury.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found multiple failings in relation to how the work, specifically access to the roof, was planned, managed and monitored. In particular, neither company had undertaken a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, nor had they agreed a safe system of work for the repair of the pipework, which required access to the roof.

Kingswinford Engineering Co Limited pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and has been fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £20,000.

HSE inspector Edward Fryer commented, “this incident highlights the need for contractors to be managed properly. Both the contractors and those engaging them must assess the risks of the site and the specific work to ensure it can be done safely. In this case, no risk assessment was carried out and arrangements made to access the roof put workers at significant risk of falling from height leading to this worker suffering a life-changing injury.”

Network Rail has submitted a planning application for a railway sleeper production facility in Bescot.

While preparing the submission, the organisation engaged with local people and politicians, including briefings, public information events and meeting with residents at their homes to discuss the plans.

The feedback helped shape the final planning application, which will be decided by Sandwell Borough Council.

Changes from the original plan include:

  • relocating the proposed site 600m to the east, putting it further away from local properties;
  • building a link road to improve access and remove the impact of vehicles on adjacent homes.

The new facility is part of Britain's Railway Upgrade Plan. It is expected to create 150 construction jobs locally, and up to 100 permanent jobs at the site and in the local supply chain. Network Rail estimate that 90% of construction spent on the project will be through local businesses.

Anthony Marley, project director at Network Rail said, "this new facility will bring millions of pounds to the local economy and support hundreds of jobs in the West Midlands. We have already seen significant interest in these jobs, with approximately half of respondents welcoming these new employment prospects. We will continue to work with Sandwell council as our application progresses".

Sleepers are currently manufactured at two locations in Britain, Doncaster and Washwood Heath in Birmingham. The Washwood Heath site is due to close, which is why there is a requirement for a new facility.

The common blue butterfly could be booming in the UK thanks to recent spells of hot weather, according to a conservation charity.

Experts are predicting that the July heatwave and Met Office forecasts for above-average temperatures in August might mean that the common blue has its "best ever summer", according to Butterfly Conservation.

The butterfly has been struggling for the last 40 years, according to the charity, but common blue populations increased by 104% in the summer of 2018 compared with the previous year, thanks to warm weather.

Last summer, overall butterfly numbers were up 110% on 2017 in England and 94% in Wales, according to the charity.

The top of the male common blue's wings are bright blue and unmarked, whereas females have orange crescents and dark spots near the edge of their wings that vary from purple to dark brown, with a tinge of blue near to the body.

Butterfly Conservation is urging people to help monitor the common blue by taking part in the Big Butterfly Count population survey. Participants are asked to spend 15 minutes in the sun counting every butterfly they see before submitting their sightings online. This runs until the 11 August.

Corinne Pluchino, chief executive of the Campaign for National Parks said, "this is a great opportunity to help chart the progress of this beautiful blue butterfly and we'd love to know where our top common blue colonies are".

A company that manufactures absorbent products has been fined after an agency worker suffered a life-changing injury to her hand when it was caught in a rotating fan blade.

Manchester Magistrates' Court heard how in October 2017 an agency worker was on her second shift at the NPS Worldwide UK Limited site in Oldham. While removing a blockage inside the filling machine she had been operating, her fingers became caught in an unguarded rotating fan.

The agency worker:

  • lost parts of all of her fingers on her right hand;
  • sustained extensive scarring to her stomach following an unsuccessful attempt to generate new skin growth to save her fingers;
  • continues to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the incident and the injuries sustained.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the fan had not been suitably guarded, putting employees and agency workers at risk. The company had failed to carry out a suitable risk assessment and provide adequate information, instruction and training to workers. No first aid provision was available on the night shift when the incident occurred, and this contributed to the injured person suffering further, as incorrect first aid was administered.

NPS Worldwide UK Limited pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations SI 1981/917. The company was fined £28,000 and ordered to pay costs of £7,771.

HSE inspector Sharon Butler said, "this injury could have easily been prevented and the risk should have been identified".

"Employers must make sure they properly assess and apply effective control measures to minimise the risk from dangerous parts of machinery".

Last month the Environment Agency announced that they were starting work on a new £25 million flood risk management scheme that will better protect more than 1,600 homes and businesses in Carlisle, Cumbria.

Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency officially marked the occasion with the first spade in the ground on 31 July 2019 at Walkmill Crescent in Carlisle.

Phase one of the Carlisle Flood Risk Management scheme will reduce flood risk to more than 1,200 homes and 106 businesses at a cost of £8 million pounds. This is increasing protection from the previous scheme (completed in 2005) to a 0.5% chance of flooding in any one year.

The first phase of the new scheme will involve building and improving flood defences at Melbourne Park, the raising of land at the entrance to Tesco at the junction off Warwick Road, as well as work on and around Botcherby Bridge to improve the flow of water.

In addition to raising and extending the existing flood walls, work during the first phase will also include enhancing wildlife habitats in Melbourne Park and improving recreation facilities, including new park benches and entrance features. The Environment Agency will also be planting extensive wildflower meadows to increase the number of native birds, amphibians, small mammals and pollinators. The habitat will primarily support native pollinators including butterflies, moths and bees, helping to sustain insects that pollinate our food crops.

Bevan said, "this important project will also benefit the environment by enhancing essential habitats and increasing biodiversity across the area, creating better spaces for local people and wildlife. It will do what the Environment Agency exists to do: create a better place".

Stuart Mounsey, the Environment Agency's Flood and Coastal Risk Manager for Cumbria added, "this scheme will have the highest standard of protection outside London and York, and whilst we can never guarantee that there will never be future flooding, we hope that this scheme will bring peace of mind to the public".

The £25 million scheme will be delivered over three phases in total and will better protect 1,600 homes and businesses by its completion in 2021.

The Environment Agency is working towards submitting the planning application for the further phases during winter 2019.

In a letter to new energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng, onshore wind supporters have called on him to back the development of new onshore wind farms to help the UK achieve its net zero emission target at the lowest cost.

The letter:

  • urges the Government to update planning rules to enable the most modern and efficient turbines to be used at suitable high wind locations in the UK;
  • requests that guidance should also be set out to support the replacement of older turbines;
  • highlights that the Committee on Climate Change has recommended that onshore wind should be allowed to compete in Contracts for Difference, the Government-backed auctions for power generation contracts.

The Committee thinks that if the current block is lifted 35 gigawatts, onshore wind could be deployed by 2035 to help to meet the UK's carbon reduction targets.

Signatories to the letter include the leaders of major companies in the sector including:

  • ScottishPower Renewables;
  • EDF Renewables;
  • innogy;
  • SSE Renewables;
  • Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy;
  • Vestas;
  • RES Group;
  • Vattenfall;
  • Statkraft;
  • CS Wind;
  • RenewableUK;
  • Scottish Renewables.

The signatories go on to note public support for wind farms, pointing to the Government's Public Attitudes Tracker, which shows 79% support for onshore wind.

RenewableUK's chief executive Hugh McNeal said, "it's great to see such a wide range of companies and organisations speaking with one voice in strong support of onshore wing. There are shovel-ready onshore projects across the UK that would bring in billions of pounds of investment, support thousands of jobs and even cut consumer bills. Onshore wind is the cheapest option for new power in the UK and it is essential if we want to achieve net zero emissions. We hope the new Government will take swift action to let onshore wind compete on a level playing field".

The call for a new approach that supports onshore wind has also been backed by organisations beyond the signatories, including trade union Prospect, the National Farmers' Union, the RSPB, the Federation of Small Businesses and the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC).

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