Roof workers 6m fall from an unprotected roof into a bush saved his life

A Monmouth roof refurbishment company has been fined after an employee was injured in a six-metre fall from the roof of a house in Cirencester.

Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court heard today (17 September) that 26 year-old Lee Hanson, from South Shields, was using a roof ladder as he replaced tiles when the incident happened on 28 October 2011.

He lost his footing and fell six metres breaking his fall on a bush before he hit the ground. Mr Hanson broke his right wrist and suffered cuts and bruising. He was in hospital for two nights and was unable to return to work for six weeks. Continue reading Roof workers 6m fall from an unprotected roof into a bush saved his life

‘Unjust’ HSE enforcement ban brought firm to the verge of collapse

Norfolk based business AgChemAccess, an international agrochemicals supplier with a workforce of about 65 people, intends to sue the HSE for around £2m in lost business.

The HSE took enforcement action on 10 July, prohibiting the company from moving any of its UK stock, as the regulator believed there was a breach of safety regulations relating to the packaging of a shipment of the herbicide glyphosate.

Nick Gooch, managing director at AgChemAccess, slammed the HSE for being too heavy-handed by imposing a blanket ban on the movement of all its products stored in two warehouses, instead of focusing on the shipment issue in isolation.

Note: Prohibition notices should focus on imminent danger and also be localised to that danger

The company sought a judicial review in the High Court but before this could be heard the HSE agreed, on the 29 August, to lift the enforcement ban.

The company’s legal fees of around £200,000 will now be met by the taxpayer, but AgChemAccess is also seeking damages for contracts lost during the eight weeks of the ban. Ten employees also lost their jobs, as a direct result of the freeze in trading, according to the firm.

“They [HSE inspectors] were told that a small amount of this product had leaked,” he explained. “They didn’t stop and ask any questions – they just ploughed on.”

“This has been absolutely disastrous for us. We have got products left in store, which we can’t sell for another year, and if it had gone on another two or three weeks, we would have gone out of business.”

“Not only have we had to shed 10 jobs, but our UK and international reputation has suffered. We have long-standing customers who have gone elsewhere because we could not deliver to them. Potential new contracts have also been lost.”

Darren Bowen, a partner at Leathes Prior Solicitors, which represents AgChemAccess, said he was surprised by the actions of the HSE inspector in this matter.  He remarked:

“The HSE has an important role to play in protecting the public interest but, as demonstrated in this case, this needs to be balanced against the rights of a business to undertake its legitimate trade. I believe it is fair to say that, on this occasion, the HSE got it very wrong.”

An HSE spokesperson confirmed that there is an ongoing investigation into the activities of AgChemAccess Ltd, as well as ongoing legal proceedings being brought by the company against the HSE. The spokesperson added that, on both matters, “it would be inappropriate to comment further” at this time.

With many businesses are currently preparing for the introduction of the HSE’s Fee for Intervention (FFI) scheme, set to come into operation in just a few days on October 1st, there remain concerns from employers and lawyers about the approach inspectors will take.

Paul Verrico, principal associate at Eversheds law firm, expressed concern that there could be more incidents of regulatory exorbitance once the FFI programme is up and running, commenting:

“One of the chief complaints made by AgChemAccess was the HSE’s complete failure to engage with the company’s concerns about disproportionate use of the HSE’s powers, which effectively meant the business could not trade.

“Next month, companies will also be ineligible for defence-costs orders, even when they successfully defend a regulatory case at court and are found not guilty. This can be seen as further weakening the accountability of regulators and has led to some commentators fearing that more prosecutions could be brought in situations where a conviction is less certain.”

However, our hope is that the AgChemAccess case will help to make inspectors more appreciative of commercial realities and mindful that their actions are necessary and proportionate.

If you would like more information and access to our White Paper on FFI and how it will affect your business please use the contact us link above to request a copy.

Failure to appoint a CDM Coordinator results in £60,000 fine

Sherborne School in Dorset has been fined £60,000 with £13,000 costs for failure to manage the risk from exposure to asbestos fibres and for failings under the CDM Regulations 2007.

(Note: both contractors and designers have a duty to inform the client of their duty to appoint a competent CDM Coordinator for all projects lasting more than 30 days or 500 person days, however, ignorance of the law provides no defence for the client).

The school and a construction company director were both prosecuted after exposing several people to asbestos and for failing to appoint a Construction Design Management Coordinator (CDMC) on a refurbishment project.  Both building contractors and a teenage work experience student were exposed to asbestos fibres after insulation boards were removed in an unsafe way largely from inadequate planning from as far back as the initial design phases in 2009 which resulted in a complete failure to carry out an appropriate asbestos survey.

All of this was despite the fact that asbestos had been previously identified and removed from other parts of the l and an asbestos register being available.

The court heard that despite the project, despite being large enough to require a CDMC, had not had one appointed. A competent CDM Coordinator would have ensured a full demolition asbestos survey (type 3) was carried out before works had commenced.

Sherborne School was found guilty of breaching Regulation 4(8) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 and Regulation 14 of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and was fined a total of £60,000 and ordered to pay £13,000 in costs.

Peter Eldridge, the construction company director, was found guilty of breaching Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act for his neglect as an individual director. He was also found guilty of breaching Regulations 11(3) and 18(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. He was fined a total of £16,000 in fines and costs.

Speaking after the prosecution, HSE Inspector Joanna Teasdale, said:

“Both Peter Eldridge and Sherborne School knew about the risks posed by the presence of asbestos in the school buildings, and yet they failed to manage the risk of exposure to asbestos fibres during the refurbishment project.  As a result several people, including at least one teenager, were put at unnecessary risk. In being exposed to asbestos fibres they could develop a serious and potentially fatal illness.

“Although Sherborne School was the client, it still had a duty to manage the control of asbestos on its site, and to be aware of the requirements of removing asbestos safely.  This incident and the risk to those involved could have been easily avoided if competent people had been engaged during the planning of the refurbishment project to advise the school, such as a CDM coordinator.”

If you’ve got questions or need support on safety in the industrial, contracting or construction sectors please contact us for sensible and proportionate advice on 01453 800100

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