Socket covers – are they a danger?

socket protectorsMany clients who have members of the public visiting their premises have acted in good faith to put in place socket protectors (think schools, medical practices, car showrooms and similar).

You’re probably thinking that its a good idea and we would have been inclined to agree but research findings over recent years have led to their withdrawal, culminating in a Dept of Health Alert issued today which advises their removal in all NHS premises.

Why should I remove my socket inserts?

Children will be children and many games are based inserting blocks, sticks and cylinders into various sized holes. We’re all aware of the risk of a child picking up a pen, screwdriver, hair clip or similar and then inserting it into a socket – that’s probably why you purchased socket inserts in the first place.

However, were you aware that sockets produced since 1947 should have an internal shutter mechanism which prevents access to the live and neutral pins until the earth pin (top centre) activates the shutter to expose them.  IET members have argued that there have been no cases of children being harmed from sockets that have been left uncovered since a new generation of sockets were introduced in 1990.

Now consider this scenario, a child picks up a socket insert and places it in the socket upside down – both live and neutral are now exposed.  Also consider the fact that there is no British Standard for these inserts and their manufacturing tolerance is not always suitable – this leads to broken / damaged sockets and an even higher risk.

What should I do?

We have to agree with the findings of the safety alert, these inserts can cause more harm than good, our advice is that if you have them you remove them today.

Notes; don’t forget to still manage your risk but checking on the location and condition of your sockets and removing any appliance plugged into sockets which isn’t in use.

IET Wiring Matters 2012 number 44
Fatally flawed:

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Hand arm vibration – are you doing enough?

vibration white fingerHaving read of a recent case where a company was fined £200,000 plus £27,724 costs for a HAVS incident has made us revisit the vibration issue here in the office.

Each of us already know that the emphasis from HSE and our insurers is now firmly on health as well as safety.  We reported nearly two years ago that occupational deafness has become the new whiplash with claims rocketing and payouts of well over £10,000.

Vibration monitoring and assessment

We liken HAVS to COSHH and DSEAR as one of those areas which many of us know that we should tackle head on but we often find a number of other more pressing things we need to do instead – if this is you read on or make contact with your retained consultant to have a 5 minutes chat and find out more.

The truth is that many of us have made a good attempt as assessing our vibration risks and in many cases have felt that it wasn’t quite s bad as we had feared once we had got started.  However, as its something most of us don’t tackle every day that familiarity soon wears off and we find ourselves back as square one making he same old excuses.  Its also worth remembering that this dates back to the 1990’s and so we have very little in the way of excuses when it comes to defending cases or demonstrating our own safety management qualities to the Board.

Although the risks are certainly real the damage takes a long time to manifest, what we have to remind ourselves of is that this, like occupational deafness, isn’t going to reverse itself and the consequences for the person can be life changing.

You have in essence two choices; complete your own assessments or call in ourselves as external experts to complete this for you.  We can often work from manufacturers data and so costs are competitive and even if you do have specific processes which require vibration to work we can always monitor these individually and arrive at not just an answer in terms of exposure but also good advice on how you can control and reduce exposure.

So, don’t stick your head in the sand and hope this will go away or kid yourself that you’ll get around to it soon – if you need help just ask and if you’re too busy to be able to complete internally just ask your consultant, we’ll be glad to help out.

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Unbelievable, tragic and wholly avoidable

falls from heightA six year jail sentence under gross negligence manslaughter, a fine of £400,000 and £55,000 costs hit Allan Thomson, director of demolition firm, Building & Dismantling Contractors Ltd. The firm who subcontracted this work to them, C Smith & Sons (Rochdale) Ltd, were also fined for breaching both the CDM Regulations and Work at Height Regulations, Director Michael Smith was jailed for eight months, fined £90,000 and ordered to pay £45,000 court costs.

Two of Mr Thomson’s workers fell from the roof they were dismantling on the same day, one suffered life changing injuries and the second person died from major head trauma.

The chain of events which led to these tragic accidents are scarcely believable, read on below to find out more.

Originally C Smith & Sons (Rochdale) Ltd were contracted to carry out demolition of some buildings in Stockport in 2014, this work was then subcontracted to Building & Dismantling Contractors Ltd.

A method known as remote demolition was selected which meant minimal risk to staff as it was to be carried out using machinery.  However, after winning the control Mr Smith decided to dismantle the building piece by piece requiring work at height to remove roofing sheets  prior to the structure being dismantled – this work being subcontracted to Allan Thompson of Building & Dismantling Contractors Ltd.

Repeated failures

In January four men employed by Building and Dismantling Contractors Ltd travelled to Stockport to carry out the task of taking the roof apart piece by piece including a 47-year-old man who would sustain life-changing injuries and 42-year-old Scott Harrower, who died as a result of the negligence of Thomson.

The roof comprised corrugated steel sheets and plastic skylights. The skylights had deteriorated over time and had subsequently been covered with corrugated steel sheets in a bid to repair this damage.

On 20 January 2014, Mr Harrower stepped on a skylight but somehow managed to prevent himself falling 30ft to the concrete floor below.  Despite this very serious “near miss” the men returned to continue their work the next day.

At just after 9am on Tuesday 21 January 2014, one of the group fell through a skylight to the concrete floor below, fracturing his spine, pelvis, right leg, heel and wrist.

Ambulance and police attended the scene which was “deemed to be an accident” and after advice was given regarding the obligation to inform HSE the police officers left the scene.

Near miss turns into fatal fall

Despite their colleague suffering these horrific injuries, the workmen men were ordered to return to the roof just hours later. At 4pm Scott Harrower, the same person who had almost fallen the previous day, fell through another skylight to the concrete below suffering catastrophic head injuries which led to his death.

Detective Chief Inspector Richard Eales commented:

“It is clear from the evidence that both Smith and Thomson saw an opportunity to make a quick profit without any thought for the workers they sent on to the roof, and as a direct result of that greed Scott died and another man suffered life-changing injuries.

Smith and Thomson’s remorse did not then stretch to admitting their guilt, as both tried to hide behind their companies and refused to plead guilty to the charges levelled against them personally.

Thankfully, the jury saw through their attempts and both now can face justice for the decisions that they made, decisions that have robbed one family of a loving partner, father, and son, and another of a man’s ability to live a life untainted by severe physical injury.”

HSE Inspector Sandra Tomlinson, said:

“Falls from height, and in particular falls involving fragile roofs, are one of the main causes of work-related deaths in Britain. The risks are therefore well-known and documented, as is the guidance on how to reduce these risks.

The roof dismantling works were not properly planned or supervised and adequate precautions, such as netting, were not put in place.

This led to two men falling in separate incidents and resulted in one man suffering life-changing injuries as well as the dreadful tragedy of Mr Harrower’s death.”

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Scaffold inspection – a need to know more…

scaffoldBoth industrial and construction sites we visit and support often have scaffolding in place and regardless of if you are a client or an experienced contractor, its nice to have sufficient knowledge to complete a quick assessment or to just be able to spot when something is amiss.

For example, you’re a safety manager in an engineering business but work is being done to the roof, or you’re having an extension completed.  Or perhaps you’re a site manger in construction but you’d benefit from knowing a bit more.

With this in mind the National Access and Scaffolding Confederation (NASC) – the leading trade association for the industry within the UK has just completed a 20 page guide which you’re likely to find very useful.

This 20-page document (free to download from the NASC Website or to be distributed by email to those who need it) is intended for use by anybody with responsibility for the management, use, monitoring and provision of scaffolding.

Sections of the document describe:

  • current scaffolding regulations
  • what to expect from operatives according to the level of proficiency they have attained, i.e. whether they have CISRS Part 1 or Part 2 or Advanced Scaffolder
  • scaffold design requirements and how to tell they’ve been met
  • the minimum personal protective equipment to be worn/used
  • handover certificates
  • scaffold inspection requirements.

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Supervision: How much is enough?

fork lift truckOne of the key things people learn on their first safety courses are key phrases used in health and safety.  We, like all professions, are awash with different phrases and acronyms and one of those is ITIS (as in healthandsafetyitis – a condition which can affect us all as some point on another).

However, the phrases behind this is important; Information, Training, Instruction, Supervision.  We are told in the classroom that no matter what, we never loose that responsibility to keep pushing the safety and health messages out to our staff.  But, the law often sees things in a different and generally quite stark light where things are either OK or not, adequate or simply inadequate.

The case below can therefore be helpful to shed a little more of this light on what a judge might think is appropriate, our only caveat is that this is one case and represents a specific set of circumstances.

A case has recently been heard by the Court of Appeal involving Dean Quantrell and TWA Logistics Ltd.  Quantrell was operating a gas powered lift truck to unload vehicles but somehow managed to end up underneath the truck and sustained leg injuries, exactly how this happened is unclear.

Quantrell asserted that he was travelling at low speed when his left foot slipped from the pedal causing him to overbalance and fall.  However, the judge at the first hearing in Liverpool was seemingly unconvinced by Quantrells version of events and noted that he had been inconsistent in his story during questioning. In addition, a reconstruction showed the events described to be all but impossible when moving at slow speeds.

The judge concluded that it was more likely that the accident occurred due to a sharp turn at high speed which caused it to tip and the case was dismissed.

The case was taken to the Court of Appeal where Quantrell argued that the accident had happened at low speed and confirmed story he had recounted was broadly correct. He alleged that there were several areas in which TWA Logistics had failed including inadequate training as it had not included specific instruction in driving gas-powered FLTs or familiarisation training at the workplace as required by the Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) for lift trucks. He also felt that insufficient weight had been placed on the lack of enforcement over wearing a seat belt.

The court of appeal disagreed with both arguments and then dismissed Quantrells claim. It found that although the training was not fully compliant with HSE ACoP it had covered the “basic” element just not the required “specific” and “familiarisation” parts. HThe Court felt that there was no link between the accident and any inadequacy of training. The question of seat belt usage was also found to have been given sufficient consideration by the business and although enforcement was not rigorous, it had been reasonable.  Evidence being the business supplying buzzers to alert drivers when the seat belt was not used and notices being displayed to remind drivers to use seat belts.

So an interesting conclusion and one which will serve to give some assurance to safety managers and directors alike.  Our advice?  Make sure you keep records of any reminders, toolbox talks or disciplinary action take relating to safety, it great evidence when you need it.

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Client prosecuted under CDM 2015 for failing to appoint a Principal Contractor

A company which failed to appoint a Principal Contractor under the CDM Regulations 2015 has been prosecuted and fined £50,000cdm-2015

Any client who has building work completed which falls under CDM must appoint a Principal Designer and Principal Contractor in writing – this is one of the key requirements placed on any client under the regulations.

The company was developing the New York Hotel in Porth when an investigation found that the company had failed to put in place appropriate measures to control risks from risk on site including fire, asbestos and falls from height.  To compound matters Ziman Trading also failed to co-operate with the investigation and to comply with the enforcement action taken by HSE.

Ziman Trading Limited, of Cefn Coed Road, Cyncoed, Cardiff, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 13(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 and Section 33(1)(G) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of £5,478.

Detail of breaches;

  • Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015  – Regulation 13(1) which requires principal contractor to plan, manage and monitor the construction phase and coordinate matters relating to health and safety during the construction phase to ensure the construction work is carried out without risks to health or safety.
  • Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 – Section 33(1)(G) which is an offence to contravene any requirement or prohibition imposed by an improvement notice or a prohibition notice.

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CSCS Cards; applications, advice and guidance

We have yet to meet a client who doesn’t let out an involuntary sigh CSCS Cardswhen we mention the above.  To be truthful we do have a slight sinking feeling ourselves and often look around the office for the best person to pass the enquiry to!

There is a lot of advice on how to proceed but an awful lot of information is now outdated or wasn’t the best route  in the first place.

First the bad news, the process hasn’t suddenly simplified.  The better news, the process has been better defined and there are some short cuts you can make towards getting the right answer.

Step 1 – Get a test

You need to be able to prove competence and that means sitting through and passing the Health, Safety & Environment Test and it must must be passed within the past 2 years.

However, don’t assume this is your only step – not any more. You’ll also need to show evidence of a relevant professional qualification or membership.  In fact, even a labourer needs a one day Site Safety Plus or an IOSH Working Safely course under their belt.

Step 2 – Use the Card Route Finder

We’d suggest visiting and heading to the “Use our card finder” button, then click “Search by occupation” .

You’ll need to enter what you do, or you could  just view the full list of occupations using the links at the bottom of the web page.  once you’ve done that you’ll see a list of card colours and test types and also some guidance on the evidence which you’ll need in terms of qualifications.

But, be careful

Please be aware that a search on the web may lead you to a number of websites which look to profit off the back of this process. Make sure you visit or you could end up paying more than you need to; a test should cost £19.50 and a card should cost £30.00 if you’re paying more than that you’re most likely on the wrong site.

One final tip is to download the test app from CITB, it only costs £5.99 and includes the answers to mock tests which can be very helpful on those odd questions which seem to have multiple answers.  Check here for more details;

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CDM Regulations 2015; Principal Designers Awareness Day

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations are still raising a huge amount of questions, especially amongst those with new safety duties – designers / architects / structural engineers.

We would strongly encourage you to take the time to get some solid guidance which comes (in part) right from the HSE themselves.

We’ve run several of these events and they are always sold out so please book your place soon.

Event Details

Designer Awareness Day CDM 2015:

  • – prevention through design
  • – risk appreciation
  • – supporting small contractors

The South West Working Well Together (WWT) group and the Health and Safety Executive are inviting you to a Designer Awareness Day.

This is a seminar which will include presentations by the Health and Safety Executive and other experienced Construction industry safety Professionals.

WWT is a construction industry led partnership aiming to improve the standards of health and safety. The goal is to achieve a meaningful and sustained reduction in injury and ill-health in the construction industry.

Many people with design responsibilities are not clear how to address, mitigate or eliminate risk at the design stage and are therefore unable to meet the standards expected of them. Designers have a crucial role in improving the performance of the industry.

This event is supported by the professional institutions and HSE. You will gain valuable information about the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM 2015) which spells out your duty of care – certificates will be provided.

I look forward to meeting you at this seminar.

Pete Creese, Chair Working Well Together South West

Event Programme:


09:15 – 09:30 Welcome and introduction Pete Creese, Chair WWT South West

09:30 – 12:30

  • CDM 2015 overview and your role PD
  • Designing in Fire Safety
  • Pre-Construction Information
  • Preparation health and safety File
  • Red, Amber, Green (RAG) lists and their purpose

During the event industry champions will be on hand to answer questions.  Refreshments provided.


There is plenty of free parking at Plymouth Training Centre. Please park in the car park provided to the left as you enter for the Training Centre.

Do you have questions about Designers Awareness Day – Plymouth? Contact Working Well Together Southwest

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A Survivors Guide to the Construction Industry; WWT Southwest Event (free)

One of a series of free events which we support with WWT WWT PartnerSouthwest, this event specifically aims towards the needs of those new to the industry and preventing accidents – ideal for those taking on younger workers and hosting work placements over the summer months

You’re able to book a free place using the link below, read on for more details of what will be covered.

Event Details

FREE Working Well Together Event

A Survivors Guide to the Construction Industry

This is one of a series of free partnership events run by the industry for the industry, as part of the UK-wide Working Well Together (WWT) campaign

The aim of this free Safety and Health Awareness event is to raise awareness of key health and safety issues facing the construction industry today. Also, to give practical advice on how to avoid risks on building sites of all sizes – in particular for Apprentices.

The South West Working Well Together Group is running this event, in conjunction with MGF to get our message to apprentices and trainees in construction alongside their employers.

Health and safety professionals and specialist plant providers will be available throughout the day to answer your questions and you will have the opportunity to see live demonstrations of the latest equipment and techniques.

There is no charge for the event. You will be asked to complete a feedback form in return for a Certificate of Attendance.

Your feedback form will be put into a free prize draw

The prize will be an IPad Mini donated by MGF

Parking is on the campus

Event Programme:


09:00 – 09:15 Welcome and introduction Pete Creese, Chair WWT South West

09:15 – Finish

The programme will consist of talks and demonstrations on:

  • Detecting Cables and underground services
  • Excavation Safety
  • Silica Dust
  • Working at Height
  • Banksman/Signallers/Traffic Management
  • Behavioural Safety

For further information contact Julia Bone

Tel: 01752 276309


Do you have questions about A Survivors Guide to the Construction Industry? Contact Working Well Together Southwest

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Mock trial event, Exeter Guild Hall 29 June 2016, R v Scott Painters Limited

Have you ever wondered what actually goes on behind those locked doors at a trial for health and safety offences?

HSENow is your chance to see who gets blamed for what and why and how they get sentenced – a real eye opener for all of us and something worth seeing or perhaps encouraging your Managing Director to attend.

This is an event which is run by Working Well Together Southwest, a partnership between the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and a group of construction and safety professionals, including ourselves.

Even better, our MD, Roger Hart, is the person in the dock!  So if you’d like to see him sweating under the glare of the lights and the scrutiny of Pinsent Masons please read more and book your place using the link below.

 R v Scott Painters Limited

The health and safety team at Pinsent Masons will present a half day mock trial based on a fictional construction based scenario.

This event will follow the legal process of a criminal trial through to the passing of a verdict and will help provide delegates with an idea of what it feels like to “have your day in court”. This is a hugely informative and a must-see event, providing a valuable and sometimes chilling insight into the legal responsibilities of all decision-makers who arrange and carry out construction work, especially Clients and their Contractors.The event is essential viewing for:

  • Client decision-makers at all levels
  • Construction Contract managers
  • Construction Site managers

The charge for the event is
£35 WWT Members
£45 Non WWT Members
BOOK NOW as places are limited.

Event Programme

9.00 – 9.30 Welcome and introduction to the court
9.30 – 12.00 The Trial
12.00 – 12.15 The Verdict
12.15 – 12.30 Discussion on the verdict and questions
12.30 – 13.30 LUNCH

Due to the restricted size of the Guild Hall, places are limited so please book early to avoid disappointment.

Exeter Guild Hall
High Street
EX4 3EB Exeter
United Kingdom

Wednesday, 29 June 2016 from 08:30 to 13:30 (BST)

Contact us on 01453 800100 if you need expert help with health and safety for a fixed cost or use contact us above of the form below to request a proposal;

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Please complete the form below and we promise to respond within 24 hrs. If you need more urgent help just call 01453 800109 and ask for Andrea.