Working with Asbestos Cement (Asbestos Containing Materials)

Throughout the UK and Europe there are a multitude of workplaces still clad in asbestos cement from roofing to rainwater to any number of other similar items.  Back in the 50’s and 60’s this ‘wonder material’ was marketed as a solution to all building problems due to its characteristics for strength, lightness and fire resistance.

Asbestos training and working safely with asbestos materials

The legacy which we’re left with is having to manage a potentially harmful material on almost every industrial estate and commercial building which was built during this time and, sadly, people don’t always take the right precautions or have the right asbestos training.

A recent case highlighted the use of poorly thought out methods being put into practice which exposed persons unnecessarily to asbestos fibres. Both a manufacturing company and the contractor were prosecuted for using a high pressure jet washer to clean asbestos cement roofing with fine well into the thousands of pounds.

However, help is at hand and HSE have some useful and practical advice for those with asbestos cement roofs and similar.  Use the guidance below to ensure that you or your contractor put the right precautions in place before work starts to ensure the safety of your staff, neighbours and other who could be affected;

HSE Guidance: Work with asbestos cement (AC) (non-licensed) (asbestos training)
Posted by Roger Hart

Controlling dusts in construction

Controlling construction dusts has really hit the headlines as a requirements in recent years – and with good reason.  Deaths related to dust inhalation through COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and the effects of exposure to RCS (respirable crystalline silica) are estimated to be in the thousands each year.  HSE estimates that over 100 people are estimated to die every week compared to 1 person or less per week from physical risks on construction sites (falling from height and similar).

Controlling dusts is often through simple measures such as water suppression and wearing appropriate masks which have been face fit tested but there are times when you can’t use wet cutting methods – in these circumstances you’ll need to capture the dust at source.  The next question is what do you use?  The answer is certainly not a Henry vacuum ( as much as we like them and yes, we do have one in the office!).

Effective capture of construction dust needs something intended and designed for that purpose and capable of withstanding rough usage.  Using a poorly specified extractor will simply makes things worse – much worse – by capturing the dust only to blow large amounts of the fine dust into the atmosphere for you and all around you to breathe in, not what you want to achieve and something guaranteed to get you some attention from HSE and their Fee for Intervention scheme…

Controlling exposure to construction dusts

Firstly, there is some really good information available from the HSE, primarily in the form of the CIS Sheets; Controlling construction dust with on-tool extraction CIS69 – HSE being your first port of call in this case.  This gives a reasonably in-depth summary of what you need to review and consider but for the purpose of this blog we’re going to make things as simple as possible and also aim them at what we think our clients would most like to know.

With this in mind we are working with our clients to address these risks, educate their staff through training courses and toolbox talks and also running free sessions on the risks associated with construction dusts and how to manage them.  Check out this link for the talk which we gave to WWT (the HSE and Construction industry partnership organisation).

Key steps to controlling construction dust

  1. Capture at source: this means having a hood on the machine connected to your extraction unit which is as close as possible to the cutting /abrading point.  It should cover as much of the tool as it can reasonably cover without causing an obstruction as that will make it more effective;
  2. Use the right extraction equipment: this means an industrial vacuum designed for the purpose, there are 3 choices (HML) High, Medium of Low and the choice you make depends on the dust created from high for work which produces hazardous dusts like respirable crystalline silica to low on dusts which are less inherently harmful with plaster and gypsum being good examples;
  3. Remember extraction can’t capture every bit of dust: very fine dust will always find a way to escape and respirable crystalline silica dust is again a good example, it’s so fine even wet cutting won’t reduce it to a safe level and so make sure that you and those trades around you are wearing good quality, face fitted RPE to FFP3 standard.  If you need face fit tests then please call us on 01453 800100 and we can arrange this through one of our Fit2Fit Face Fit testers;
  4. Consider neighbouring trades: consider those around you and also those who might have to clean up.  Don’t control all of your dust exposure at the time of cutting only to expose everyone when the area is cleaned – use wet capture or clean dust using the same class of vacuum and using the same protective equipment you used for cutting;
  5. Make sure it’s used consistently: even short term exposure is hazardous and build up over time, a bit like noise exposure does.  Small repeated exposures without adequate protection build up over a working life to serious health problems and can lead to terrible debilitating diseases like COPD and cancers, so use good practices each and every time, even for short duration work;
  6. Make sure it’s maintained correctly before each use by:
    1. checking it is in good working order (not damaged) before work starts;
    2. following the method of work described in your RAMS (risk assessments / method statements);
    3. using the equipment in the right way. Follow manufacturer’s instructions;
    4. ensuring the captor hood is as close as possible to the work surface;
    5. ensuring the tubing has a good connection to both the captor hood and extraction unit. Use an adaptor if needed, not tape;
    6. emptying the extraction unit regularly. Use the correct disposable waste bags. Seal and place in the right waste container. Do not empty these bags to recycle them;
    7. cleaning the equipment regularly (eg wipe down daily). Do not let dust build up on working parts such as internal motors and associated vents;
  7. Once a week do a more formal look over to check the following;
    1. damage to parts of the system such as the hood or ducting. Repair or replace straight away;
    2. maintaining the extraction unit’s flow of air. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Check that the airflow indicator and any built-in cleaning mechanism work properly. Replace filters when needed;
    3. replacing worn cutting discs.
  8. Once every 14 months have the equipment thoroughly inspected by a competent person, this is known as a Thorough Examination and Test (TExT).

Watch our video to find out more;

Posted by Roger Hart

£100k fine for health surveillance failings leading to HAVS

Hand Arm Vibration (HAVS) is something which we have covered many times before but an area in which many still have a way to go.  The following prosecution illustrates just how many are still getting it wrong and the suffering which is resulting from this.

If you’re a safety advisor or manager within an organisation who feels they should be doing more, the case below should help you justify to your board the actions which you need to take to protect them, your staff and the business.  If you need advice or support on HAVS then please do get in touch – it’s just one of the things we do to help and support our clients under Safety~net.

South Wales based Charter Housing Association fined £100k for health surveillance failings which led to HAVS

Cwmbran Magistrates’ Court heard how Charter Housing Association Ltd. reported six cases of HAVS following a health surveillance programme launched in June 2015. The affected employees were all part of the maintenance team.  Subsequently, the HSE’s investigation found that the health of six of these staff were likely to have been caused or worsened by the use of vibratory power tools while in Charter Housing’s employment.  It was further found that maintenance and refurbishment staff had also experienced significant exposure to hand arm vibration in their daily work which put them at risk of developing or exacerbating existing HAVS.

The investigation also revealed that the company:

  1. neither adequately planned its working methods nor trained or informed employees on the risks to their health
  2. did not limit the duration and magnitude of exposure to vibration
  3. failed to put in place suitable health surveillance to identify problems at an early stage.

Charter Housing Association Ltd (now part of Pobl Group Ltd) of High Street, Newport pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 5, 6, 7 and 8 of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005. The company was fined £100,000 and was ordered to pay costs of £9,896.88.

HSE Comment

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Joanne Carter said:

“An individuals health should not be made worse by the work they do. If Charter Housing had correctly implemented its health surveillance earlier, it would have ensured the right systems were in place to monitor workers’ health. The six affected employees’ conditions may have been prevented from developing to a more severe stage.”

“How people work today can affect their health and wellbeing tomorrow. This case serves as an important reminder of the necessity of task based risk assessments to establish the level of exposure, control measures to reduce that exposure to as low as is reasonably practicable and effective health surveillance systems. In the case of Charter Housing this realisation came too late.”

“All employers need to do the right thing to protect workers’ health.”

Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) is a serious and permanent condition caused by regular and frequent exposure to hand-arm vibration. HAVS results in tingling, numbness, pain and loss of strength in the hands which may affect the ability to do work safely and cause pain, distress and sleep disturbance.

Posted by Roger Hart

CDM Principal Designer avoid HSE enforcement under CDM 2015

You might well find the following report of interest if you’re in construction, particularly if you’re CDM Principal Designer.  For those of you living in the South-west you might be interested to know that Bristol came second in the list for most enforcement notices issued under CDM 2015 (just behind Hammersmith in London)!

We’ve just had a full year of CDM 2015 and the conversations regarding client and designers and their specific role in the new regulations are ongoing.  Coupled to this HSE now have a specialist team visiting designers (architects and similar) to ensure that the message of CDM 2015 and its specific requirements related to the assessment of risk at the design stage are fully implemented by the CDM Principal Designer.

CDM Principal Designer: Take a look at the report below

MPW R&R Ltd CDM Principal Designer avoid enforcement

If you’d like a quick summary please read on below;

  • total number of enforcement notices issued to the construction sector related to CDM 2015: 3155
  • of this number the total of prohibition notices issue: 1793
  • of this number the total of improvement notices issued: 1362
  • number of regulatory breaches these notices listed: 7993
  • Most breached regulation: HASWA: 3391
  • Second most breached regulation: Work at Height: 1790
  • Third most breached regulation: CDM 2015: 1669

Interestingly, there were 99 potential breaches of Client duties under CDM but only 5 potential breaches of duty by Principal Designers and just 2 potential breaches by Designers.

An accurate depiction of the real state of the CDM 2015 Regulations?  We’ll leave you to decide…

Posted by Roger Hart

The clients duties under CDM 2015 – are you complying?

We’ve now had the first full calendar year of the updated CDM Regulations in place with some very big changes in terms of Clients duties.  Some things have changed and designers, architects in the main, have begun to feel the pinch of the regulations.  Contractors seem happy to proceed largely on the same basis as they were and are, by and large, relatively unaffected by the changes if they were used to CDM under the earlier regulations.

One area which has felt the pinch is the smaller contractor and the contractors and designers completing domestic projects such as new house builds for wealthy clients.  There are some surprisingly large practices and contractors serving wealthy clients in the Cotswolds, Home Counties and similar spots who spend a significant sum on their new build homes / renovations.  Up until the 2015 changes in CDM all of these projects fell outside of the scope of CDM and so there has been a steep learning curve for this part of the construction sector.

A second change which has hit all clients and is part of the CDM risk management process is the greater focus on health.  Issues such as vibration and respirable crystalline silica have been known of for many years but contractors at all levels are really feeling the focus both from the supply chain and from HSE in terms of enforcement on these health related issues.

The missing link so far from our perspective are clients.  We have seen some prosecutions but clients are hard for HSE to reach and often quite unaware of their duties under CDM 2015. The key distinction here is between commercial and domestic clients but we’re going to assume (being a business and talking in this blog to our clients) that you’re a commercial client.

That being said, did you know? [source: http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/cdm/2015/commercial-clients.htm]

For all projects, commercial CDM clients duties are to:

  • make suitable arrangements for managing their project, enabling those carrying it out to manage health and safety risks in a proportionate way. These arrangements include:
    • appointing the contractors and designers to the project (including the principal designer and principal contractor on projects involving more than one contractor) while making sure they have the skills, knowledge, experience and organisational capability
    • allowing sufficient time and resources for each stage of the project
    • making sure that any principal designer and principal contractor appointed carry out their duties in managing the project
    • making sure suitable welfare facilities are provided for the duration of the construction work
  • maintain and review the management arrangements for the duration of the project
  • provide pre-construction information to every designer and contractor either bidding for the work or already appointed to the project
  • ensure that the principal contractor or contractor (for single contractor projects) prepares a construction phase plan before that phase begins
  • ensure that the principal designer prepares a health and safety file for the project and that it is revised as necessary and made available to anyone who needs it for subsequent work at the site

For notifiable projects (where planned construction work will last longer than 30 working days and involves more than 20 workers at any one time; or where the work exceeds 500 individual worker days), commercial clients must:

Posted by Roger Hart

Client fails to appoint a Principal Contractor and receives £200,000 fine

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations and its requirement for a Client to appoint Principal Contractor are long-established having been first issued in 1994 but more recent changes in the 2015 update are catching out some clients.  We think that as time progresses HSE will be looking to enforce more regularly on client duties in projects both large and small.

The case below will highlight the potential for clients to become liable when they don’t take steps to ensure their own compliance under CDM.  If you have questions or need CDM 2015 support please contact us and speak to one of our CDM experts on 01453 800100.

Failure by client to appoint attracts Principal Contractor duties by default

The owner of the block of flats has been prosecuted and fined £200,000 after HSE identified serious safety breaches during the demolition of the building in South London.

As is often typical a member of the public was the first to raise the alarm and it was found that the building owner and client had failed to make any appointments under CDM 2015.  Without this in place the duties associated with the Principal Designer and Principal Contractor roles would fall to the client – something which is known to us but was most likely an unpleasant surprise for Mr Selliah Sivguru Sivaneswaran.

In October 2016 HSE Inspectors stopped work at site due to workers being exposed to a range of risks including asbestos, falls from height, and fire. When HSE revisited the site for the second time in January 2017 work had restarted whilst the site was still unsafe – despite enforcement notices being served and advice being provided.

The demolition work continued to be carried out by hand with workers climbing onto the unguarded roof and ‘bombing’ debris to the ground. Workers were at risk of falling up to 4m through unguarded openings in the floors and the partly demolished staircase.

Welfare facilities were not provided and there was a significant risk of fire without adequate means of escape. The Court heard that two days before the sentencing hearing HSE had to return to the site and take further action.

The Court heard that despite the foreseeably large financial return from the project, Mr Sivaneswaran put profit before safety and paid cash in hand to untrained workers, failed to engage a site manager, and provided none of the legally-required site documentation.

Mr. Sivaneswaran pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 13(1) and 4(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM) and was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay £1,421.20 in costs.

HSE inspector Andrew Verrall-Withers commented after the hearing:

“Mr. Sivaneswaran was a commercial client as he was carrying out work as part of a business. When he failed to appoint a Principal Contractor (PC) the the PC duties fell to him.

Thanks to a member of the public reporting the dangerous conditions HSE was able to take action. It was just good fortune that no one had been killed at the site.

Instead of taking the support and advice provided by HSE, Mr. Sivaneswaran continued to let the workers operate in appalling conditions where they were at risk of being killed. He did not even provide a WC or washing facilities”.

Posted by Roger Hart

Bristol Construction firm receives £145,000 fine without an incident occurring

This recent case involving a Bristol construction firm highlights two common misconceptions;

  1. You have to have an accident to get prosecuted and fined by the HSE;
  2. Most inspections come through random HSE visits.

This case disproves both of these assumptions.  Firstly, the case was prosecuted based on the risk of the breach rather than based on any accident or incident which occurred.  Secondly, the visit was prompted by the concerns of a member of the public communicated to HSE through their website which can be accessed here; HSE: raise a concern

Bristol construction firm Ikon Construction fined

Ikon construction had received previous warnings relating to the correct planning and management of construction work but these had not been acted upon.  The fine related to risk without injury during the construction of nine timber framed town houses and resulted in a significant fine of £145,000 plus £2191.20 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Kate Leftly said:

“By failing to comply with the law, Ikon Construction endangered the lives of workers at the site, and neighbouring residents of the complex being developed.

Thankfully, a complaint was made by the public which we acted on very quickly and subsequently thoroughly investigated.”

If you need help, advice and support on any aspect of construction site safety or application of the CDM Regulations as a Designer, Contractor or Principal Contractor please contact us using the links above and below to see how we can help.

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Posted by Roger Hart

Public Tip Off leads to Prosecution and £52,000 fine

HSE often attends sites which have been reported as dangerous by members of the public.  In fact, we hear of these visits quite regularly and they can be as a result of genuine concerns or perhaps as a result of noise, dust and other disturbances causes nuisance to neighbours.

The case below relates to a North London site at which safety management and edge protection were sadly lacking.  Malik Contractors and Engineers Ltd were fined a total of £52,000  plus £4,415 costs after pleading guilty under Reg 13(1) of The Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015.

In response to concerns from members of the public HSE carried out three separate inspections and each time found numerous breaches of health and safety legislation. These included electrical systems, unsafe work at height and no fire detection of fire fighting equipment despite workers sleeping on site.

HSE inspector David King commented:

“This case highlights the importance complying with enforcement action. Duty holders have the responsibility to provide their workers with appropriate training and equipment so they can work safely. In this case Malik Contractors failed to do so.

It is essential those responsible for construction work understand they are also responsible for the health and safety of those on and around the construction site, and ensure

suitable and sufficient arrangements are in place to plan.”

Guidance on protecting the public from construction risks

The project client should provide information about:

  • boundaries
  • adjacent land usage
  • access; and
  • measures to exclude unauthorized persons

This will influence the measures contractors take.

Key issues are:

  • Managing site access
  • Hazards causing risk to the public
  • Vulnerable groups

Check out the HSE guidance page for more information on public safety with construction sites and contact us on 01453 800100 if you need help and advice on protecting the public at your construction site.

Posted by Roger Hart

Site Managers negligence leads to death of person passing construction site

Many construction site managers may remember hearing a statistic being talked about on past training courses that one person a month dies just walking past a  construction site, it often forms part of the CITB Site Managers Safety Training Course

This statistic has been brought tragically to life by an accident which occurred in Hanover Square London on August 2012 when 3 large unglazed windows weighing 655kg fell  to the pavement killing Amanda Telfer.

Site Managers negligence leads to HSE Fine

The frames had been delivered the previous day in line with the schedule but could not be fitted that day due to other programme delays.  The frames were left on the pavement overnight leaning against the building.  No effort was made to secure the frames and no barrier was placed around them.

As Ms Telfer walked past it is believed that a gust of wind blew a door on the building open, hitting the frames and causing them to topple, crushing Ms Telfer.

Several members of the public worked to remove the frames from her but she was unconscious and not breathing she later died as a result of her injuries.

Mr Damian Lakin-Hall (one of the men prosecuted) told officers at the scene that the frames had been secured with a ratchet strap but evidence showed that this had never been the case.

The following were convicted for offences arising from the death of Ms Telfer:

  • Kelvin Adsett – of New Road, Slough, Berkshire was convicted at the Old Bailey on Thursday, 23 March, of manslaughter by gross negligence and offences contrary to Section 7a of the Health and Safety at Work Act. Mr Adsett was the on-site construction site manager for IS Europe Ltd.
  • Damian Lakin-Hall – of Portsmouth Road, Cobham, Surrey was convicted of offences contrary to Section 7a of the Health and Safety at Work Act. He was acquitted of manslaughter.
  • IS Europe Ltd – of Slough, Berkshire  was convicted of offences under Section 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Detective Chief Inspector Andrew Chalmers said:

“The individuals and company who were convicted in this tragic case had a laissez-faire attitude to health and safety and did not take their obligations seriously.

Each had a responsibility for the safety of the construction site but failed to deal with a basic task that very obviously then presented a serious hazard.

Amanda died four-and-a-half years ago and this has been an incredibly long and complex case to bring before the courts with many many hours of enquiries carried out by my team.

 

Her death was completely avoidable and it is satisfying for all involved in this case – and especially Amanda’s family – that the jury have convicted these people and companies today.

 

Prosecutions such as this are so important in enforcing adherence to health and safety laws. This tragic case proves just why employers and employees should take their obligations to safeguard workers and the public seriously.”

Barry and Ann Telfer, Amanda’s parents, said following the verdict:

“Amanda was a bright lovely professional woman living her life to the full and making plans for the future. Her future was taken from her when she was crushed to death by half ton window frames which took two seconds to fall on her. The frames had been left standing, almost vertically, at the side of a public pavement, unsecured to anything, unattended and with no safety barriers around them.

 

If construction companies and the people who work for them are not held to account for such high levels of negligence and incompetence then none of us is safe walking the streets next to construction sites. The Health and Safety training being given is totally inadequate, if risk of death to passers-by is ignored.

It is nearly five years since Amanda died. We would like to thank the police, health and safety officers and prosecution who worked on behalf of Amanda for their persistence and patience. We and all Amanda’s family and friends will always miss her. Nothing will change that.”

In an impact statement for the court they added:

“Every parent who has lost a child to a violent and sudden death knows the overwhelming shock and disbelief which is impossible to describe. We saw our daughter on the morning of the day she died. An hour before she was killed she was with us, telling us about her social plans with friends for that evening and for the weekend, looking forward to some interesting legal work that she was going to be starting that afternoon, planning a weekend in France to see her brother and his family. She was very cheerful, making plans and looking forward.

 

An hour later she was dead, killed whilst walking along the public pavement in central London. We’ll never see her again or hug her again. We’ll never hear her laugh again or enjoy her company again. Amanda was the best company, funny and interesting herself and always interested in and fully engaged with whoever she was talking to. She was very loving, generous and supportive to us and to all her family and friends. We spoke together regularly and she would contribute enthusiastically to every family event, birthdays, anniversaries, full of ideas and energy, however busy she was. We looked forward to her companionship and interest in us. Our lives were enriched by her and our old age will be diminished by her absence. She had so many plans for the future, ever improving her professional skills and for travelling. She was so full of life. It’s still almost impossible for us to believe that she really has gone or to come to terms with the random carelessness of how she was killed.

 

We don’t want retribution for our loss of Amanda, though we will never recover from it. We want accountability established, responsibility acknowledged. Her death was avoidable. She was killed by two half-ton window frames which had been left standing at the side of a busy public pavement unsecured, unbalanced and unattended with no safety barriers round them. The risk to passers-by is obvious. Yet the risk was ignored and our daughter, a bright, beautiful woman with so much to live for, so much she wanted to do with her life, was killed.”

Posted by Roger Hart

Routine HSE inspection leads directly to prosecution

We are all used to HSE visiting site and reviewing our arrangements on safety.  If these fall below expected standards we typically see Fee for Intervention costs (FFI) and the possibility of the serving of Improvement or even Prohibition notices.  What’s unusual is when a HSE Inspection results directly in prosecution.

HSE launches several campaigns each year across the different regions of the UK to check on site safety and hundreds of sites are visited.  We know that the April visits in our own region resulted in more than 50% of sites receiving FFI and/or enforcement action.

HSE Inspection leads directly to prosecution

One site visited in Wilmslow led directly to a court case, an unusual step for HSE.  Read on to find out why these steps were taken.

Despite no specific injury having occurred the site was so poorly organized that the inspector decided that a prosecution was the best course of action. Reference to the photographs above show the poor state of the site and it was felt that a death or serious injury was a real possibility.

Key failings were the missing and removed edge protection and general site debris – this was not removed from site but was tipped to the rear of the plot burying the footings of the scaffolding and making access hazardous.

A prohibition and Improvement Notice were served and the subsequent prosecution saw Skyline Building Services Ltd  fined £20,000 with £4095.60 costs.

Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector Ian Betley said:

“Numerous failings were found on this site, including serious risks of falls from height and site tidiness that could have resulted in major injuries or even death.

Skyline Building Services Limited showed scant regard for the safety of the workers they were responsible for and it was fortunate that nobody was seriously injured or killed.”

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Posted by Roger Hart